The Giving Up

In continuation of The Heaviness

“Smriti’s mother is right. I got selfish. I did not have any right to, but I did and now I want to correct my mistake. I cannot do it anymore. I am sorry. We need to figure out a way to tell Shreya that I am not her mother.” Sneha said wiping her tears.
“Please, I understand that you have been immensely hurt but this is not the right time to take decisions” Ajay pleaded.
“I need to talk now or else I won’t ever be able to say it. All this is suffocating me.” Fresh tears left a warm trail of emotions on her cheeks again. Damn it. She needed to stop crying, Sneha told herself.

“I really cannot do it anymore. I have been thinking for a long time, sitting in the bedroom, I did not have the right to be in. I think I know how we break the news to Shreya. She’s is ten. She can understand things; she is really observant and notices things we never knew she would. We definitely cannot tell her that Smriti is dead, no of course not; I am with you on that one. I understand that it was too much pain to expose Shreya to a Smriti covered in wounds, bandages and tubes and it would hurt Shreya immensely to know that Smriti is already dead and she did not get a chance to say goodbye but we can give her a chance to say goodbye to the Smriti who is dying of sickness. Smriti’s parents are right, they were always right. We cannot do this to Shreya anymore. I know we have already cheated her and I am feeling really guilty about the whole thing, I know it is a little too late to feel guilty now but I want to make things right.” Sneha said in one breath, focusing on her hands. She was not really sure what she was saying, she was not able to put her emotions in right words, she was suffocating, she was hurt and she wanted this to be over. She was selfish. She accepted that.
Ajay held her hand in his and she knew she should have pulled her hand out of his grip but she let it be. Her hand in his felt good. It comforted her, gave her strength and she took a deep breath.
“I won’t say I understand what you are going through. I can never understand it. I have wronged you, I have wronged Shreya and I promise, I will set things straight, but please, for now let it be the way it is. Let a few more days pass, let me figure out things with a calm mind.” Ajay requested. Sneha nodded. Once again she let her heart rule. She believed Ajay when he said that he would take care of things.
Finally Ajay let go of her hand and she got up. She walked to the kitchen to prepare lunch and Ajay stayed in the gym. He had asked Smriti to guide him, perhaps this was the answer. Sneha did not want to be in this relationship. The relationship was suffocating her, she wanted out. That was the right thing to do. But then, why, in some corner of his heart, the answer was otherwise.

He did not love Sneha, he told himself. He was perhaps merely attracted to her, a voice in his head suggested and another voice simply laughed at him. He could not believe Sneha had given up. He did not really blame her. Had he been in her position, he would have been tempted to give up much earlier. She faced and accepted too much hostility from Smriti’s mother.
He really hoped that the time he had asked for setting things straight was enough for Sneha to change her mind, for her to be comfortable once again and be happy to live this life. He wanted her to stay, not temporarily but permanently but in no way was he going to force his decision on her. He wanted her to have her free will. Meanwhile, he intended to talk to Smriti’s parents. He knew, now was not the right time, he would have to wait till Smriti’s mother calmed down because if he talked now, she would never understand.

Finally, he walked down to the kitchen. Sneha had almost finished making lunch. He looked at her from the distance before entering kitchen. One major differentiating point between Sneha and Smriti was that Smriti was not that good in cooking as Sneha was. Was it a unique ingredient she added that made the difference or was it the pouring of her pure love and affection into the food she made that made it special, he was not sure but he loved the food she made, right from day one when he had first eaten food cooked by her at Smriti’s parent’s house! He still remembered seeing her smile, her eyes on her plate, when Ajay had hinted that he liked what she had made. He never liked garlic much, now he did. Eating meals made by her always reminded him that she was Sneha and not Smriti. He was so lost in thoughts that Ajay did not realize Sneha had turned to look at him and was staring at him. He stared back at her. He could feel the connection once again and he was sure Sneha felt it too because immediately she turned around to break the bond.
He walked towards her and standing beside her he held her hand again.
“I am really sorry for what happened today. I promise it won’t happen again!” he said. Though he promised not to repeat what he had done, he did not really feel it was a mistake. Sad, Sneha thought of it as a mistake. He knew, she loved him and he did not know what it was that he felt for her but unfortunately, neither of them was going to let it happen.
Ajay knew that Sneha had given her best shot despite the fact that it hurt her. She had agreed to sacrifice her individuality and he could not ask her for anything more from her.
They finished their lunch in silence. When Sneha walked up to the bedroom to rest for a while, she saw that there were several missed calls on her cell phone, all from the same unknown number. When she called back she realized that the call was made from the police station. She was told that she had to be present in the court of law as her case was supposed to be put up the next day.

She had almost forgotten about it amidst all the personal mess. The call brought back the memories of the attack on her. Walking to the bathroom, Sneha splashed cold water on her face and looked into the mirror. Her eyes were still swollen from crying. The redness was still there, too. She did not know how she was going to hide from Shreya that she had been crying. The little girl was too observant. She had to find some explanation for the crying. Yes, she decided, she will tell the truth to her. She would tell Shreya that she had a fight with her mom. That seemed the right thing to do. Sneha found little comfort in knowing that she was at least being partially truthful to Shreya.
She loved the little girl. In just the few days she had really become a mother to her. Holding Shreya close to her bosom filled her with immense love for the girl. Sneha did not mind being mother to Shreya for all her life. However, she would never force this on Smriti’s parents or on Ajay who still loved Smriti very much. Of course, he loved her. They all knew that Sneha was in his life because she looked like Smriti. She loved him but he did not.
She knew that if Ajay asked her to stay, she would. Earlier, when she had spoken about walking out of their lives, Ajay had said that he would find a way to set things straight, he wanted Sneha to give it a few more days. Few more days, that is all he had asked for. Sneha closed her eyes. Not a single tear escaped this time, but the heaviness in her heart was there, just as it was before.

She decided to walk down and tell Ajay about the call from the police station. Before she could climb down to reach Ajay, who was watching television, without really watching it, Sneha thought that she heard Shreya’s voice. She panicked and looked at the wall clock there was still time for her to come home. She continued walking towards Ajay and she heard the whisper yet again. She asked Ajay whether Shreya was home and he said she was not. When she told him that she heard Shreya’s voice, the expression on his face changed.
“What’s wrong? What happened?” Sneha asked. Then she abruptly started walking towards the main door. “I need to go to Shreya’s school, she needs me!” she said and Ajay stared at her. Sneha had explanations for all the earlier behaviors and he really hoped he had explanation for what was happening right now.
“Why do you want to go to her school? She will be home in a couple of hours.” Ajay said and wondered what her answer would be.
“No, she needs me now. She is sick, she is calling me, I must go.” These were the last words Sneha uttered before walking out of the house.