The Promise

In continuation of The Walk - Out

“Mom, please … please stop crying mom! … Wake up; it is just a dream … please!” Shreya yelled frantically not understanding how to stop Sneha from crying. It had started with moaning and then turned into sobs. Shreya tried a couple of times to wake up Sneha but she continued crying. Finally, Shreya placed her hand on Sneha’s forehead and repeated the same in a calm tone. That made some difference. Sneha did not open her eyes but the crying stopped and was replaced by moaning again. Shreya tried to remember what Sneha had been muttering earlier but could not recollect. She had been asleep when suddenly Sneha had tightened her arms around her and then after a short interval the moaning had started.
Suddenly she remembered - “I know I should have not said what I said. You know I did not mean it, don’t you?” this is what Sneha had said after tightening arms around her. Moving her hand through Sneha’s hair Shreya whispered, “I know mom, you did not mean to hurt me. I understand, please stop crying and open your eyes.”

The moaning stopped and Sneha opened her eyes. When Sneha saw Shreya propped up on elbow and staring down at her face, she pulled Shreya closer in tight embrace and whispered, “I love you.”
“I know mom.” Shreya said. Mom … that sounded good to the ears. She was not going to let anything or anyone ruin it for her. She knew she had to find a way to convince Smriti’s mother to let things be the way there were. Yes, she was in love with Ajay but most importantly she was in love with Shreya. Shreya had become an important part of her life. Shreya had brought out the mother in her and she was going to make sure she did everything a mother would do for her daughter and keep her away from any harm, even if it meant confronting Smriti’s mother.
“You were fighting with grandma in your sleep, isn’t it? And, what were you saying about hurting me?” Shreya asked and Sneha wondered how much she had disclosed in her sleep.
“Your grandma and I are having some misunderstanding and it is bothering me and since I have been thinking about it before sleeping, I fought in the dream too and about hurting you … I pushed you away unknowingly.” Sneha lied.
“Why were you crying?” Shreya shot another question at her. But before Sneha could come up with an answer, Shreya added, “It is okay; I don’t want you to think about whatever it was. I was so scared when I saw you crying. I could almost feel your pain.” Sneha kissed Shreya’s forehead.
“Go back to sleep.” Sneha said releasing Shreya from the embrace. She then got up and walked towards the door.
“Where are you going?” Shreya asked.
“I am going to the kitchen to make coffee for myself. I will come back soon, just close your eyes and sleep.” Sneha said and turned around to go.
“Mom” Shreya called out and Sneha turned again.
“I love you.” Shreya whispered and Sneha replied, “I love you, too.” and stepped out of the room leaving the door slightly open.
When she climbed down the stairs she saw light in the kitchen, someone was already inside the kitchen, she hoped it was not Smriti’s mother, she knew she would not be able to handle the stress. When she walked towards the kitchen she was glad to see that it was Ajay.
“Hey!” she said and he turned around surprised.
“Cannot sleep?” Sneha asked.
“Yes and what about you? What happened? You look like a mess.” Ajay asked.
How did he do this? Sneha wondered; always know when she was, as he called, a mess.
“Coffee?” he asked when she did not reply to his earlier question, assuming that she did not want to answer it.
“Yes sure.” Saying so, she sat at on the stool near the counter.
Ajay added some more milk in the coffee-pot and looked at Sneha.

“All this conversation, confrontation or whatever you want to call it – it is becoming too much to handle. I don’t just look like a mess, I feel like one. I am a mess, my life is a mess. But, what I am holding on to, that is worth all the suffering. It means a lot to me that I have you on my side and Shreya… she has become special for me. I really love her. I might not be her mother but I feel the bond with her. I want to be her mother and I will be one, whatever it takes.” Sneha said looking in Ajay’s eyes and she was relieved to see the look in his eyes. Placing the coffee-pot on the burner he turned around to talk to her but suddenly both of them saw Smriti’s mother standing at the kitchen door, she glared at them for a moment and then walked back to the guest room without saying a word.
“Shit” Sneha whispered.
“Don’t hate her for this.” Ajay requested.
“Oh no, I don’t. The problem is she hates me and I do understand how she must be feeling about all this. I just wish she leaves Shreya alone.” Sneha said, holding her head in her palms.
“I think she will, at least for a few days, thanks to what happened earlier.” Ajay explained and then added with a smile, “By the way that came as a shock for all of us. I did not know you had that capacity”
Sneha smiled too. “It was a shock for me too. I don’t know what got into me. I just knew one thing; I had to stop her from reaching Shreya. My utmost priority was that I wanted Shreya to rest and get better and for that I was ready to face anything.” She explained.

Ajay poured the coffee in mugs and handed one to Sneha. She thanked him for the coffee and took a sip. She felt better.
“I am glad you are here.” Ajay said and she looked up at him and smiled not sure whether he meant here in the kitchen right now or here in their life. She remembered how he had held her hand earlier. It was an unspoken promise of forever.
“Ajay” she had called him by his name for the first time, she realized and Ajay noticed that too. She continued, “I know you must have already assumed it, actually everyone already knows it to be true but I want to tell you that you mean a lot to me. Right from day one when I saw you at the hospital, I felt a weird bond with you. It was love at first sight for me. I love you, a lot and I don’t care if anyone thinks that it is wrong, I know it is not a mistake. I am not sorry for falling in love with you even if it means you cannot love me back the way I do, without really thinking about Smriti. And, I am not asking you to love me back.” Ajay kept his mug on the counter and was about to say something when Sneha added, “Please let me talk.” And Ajay nodded.

“You mean a lot to me but Shreya means the world to me. I love her more than I love you. I have felt that love growing stronger in me every single day and after connecting with her, it is like – nothing else and no one else matters. I can confront Smriti’s mother for her, even though it is exhausting, I can do that. I can take upon me all the blames and abuses if it means that she would leave Shreya alone and I can do and I will do anything to convince her that I am here for Shreya. I have been thinking about this and I think I have come up with a way to convince her that I am here for Shreya.” Sneha knew she was playing with words, she was finding it difficult to tell him exactly what she was thinking. Ajay waited.

“I am going to tell Smriti’s mother that whatever she saw happening between us earlier would never happen again if she leaves Shreya alone.” Finally she said it and looked away. It hurt her so much just to say, she was not sure how she was going to keep her promise if she made one. In first place, she was not sure whether Smriti’s mother would believe her or accept what she was saying but she was going to try. When Ajay did not say anything she turned to look at him. There it was, once again, the face with unreadable expression. Damn it, she thought. And then she made up her mind. She got up from the stool and walked closer to him.

“Before I talk to Smriti’s mother, there is something I want to do.” Saying so, she placed her lips on his and kissed him. Ajay kissed her back and then he held her tight against his body. They stood in the kitchen in each other’s embrace, forgetting the coffee, forgetting everything.

Finally, it was Sneha who moved back and walked out of the kitchen and towards the stairs without turning back to look at Ajay. She knew he was watching her. She walked to Shreya’s room and saw that she was sleeping. She was about to step inside when Ajay, who had come rushing up the stairs, held her hand and stopped her and then he covered her mouth with his, right there, outside Shreya’s room and Sneha, unwillingly, had to push him away. Ajay held her hand again and started walking towards the master bedroom and Sneha followed him. Shreya turned in bed as they both walked away from the room. Neither of them knew that Shreya had seen them kissing. When the door of the master bedroom closed, Shreya sat up in bed and switching on the bedside lamp took out her diary from the drawer and started writing.

Once inside the bedroom, Ajay kissed her again and she let him. However, she did not kiss him back immediately. It was when Ajay placed his hand on her waist that she finally gave in and kissed him back passionately. For tonight, she wanted to forget about her decision. She knew she was ready to offer herself to Ajay; she had always been, actually. It was Ajay, who was now ready to take her. She hoped his passion, the kiss and the caressing had nothing to do with the face she had. Even if it did, she wanted to believe it to be otherwise. She wanted this to be her special moment.

“Wait” Sneha whispered against Ajay’s lips and he stopped kissing. She walked to the window, closed it and pulled the curtains closed. Then, she walked back towards him but continued walking past him towards the switchboard and switched off the lights. The room was suddenly thrown into total darkness. Sneha walked back to Ajay once her eyes adjusted to the darkness and as she pulled Ajay’s t-shirt over his head Sneha whispered, “No lights” and kissed him again, her hand resting on his bare chest.

They made their way towards the bed in darkness, undressing each other on the way. The room was dark, neither of them could see each other’s face clearly but what mattered was that their hearts beat fast together in rhythm as Ajay made love to Sneha giving her memories that would last forever.
When Ajay found his release and rolled over to his side of the bed, Sneha closed her eyes and this time, no tear rolled down her cheek. She smiled. She felt happy, she was happy. She felt complete. She turned to look at Ajay. He was looking at her with a smile on his face. A sudden fear gripped her heart that he would ruin the moment for her on recognizing her face but he did not say a word and she was thankful. She turned on the side to face him and moved close to him and he pulled her in an embrace. She placed her head on his chest as he moved his hand over her bare back and then slipped his fingers in her hair. She lifted her head and kissed him on the lips and whispered, “I love you.” And the last words she heard before falling asleep were, “I love you, too.”

When Sneha woke up in the morning she was still in Ajay’s embrace. She stared at his face for a while before kissing his forehead and shifting away from him. Ajay smiled with his eyes still closed and let her go.
“Good Morning” he whispered and turned on his side to face away from Sneha. It was morning but still darker in the room because of closed curtains. Sneha looked at the bedside watch; they had slept past their usual time. She hoped Shreya was still asleep. Sneha pulled the cover closer to her chest and was about to wrap it around her body when suddenly the bedroom door opened and she was startled.
“Shit!” she whispered, all of a sudden realizing that because of her worried thoughts of Ajay seeing her as Smriti, she had switched off the lights but had totally forgotten to lock the door. As she pulled up the covers up to her chin, the door opened further and Smriti’s mother appeared at the door. The old woman covered her mouth with her hands as she saw the scattered clothes on the floor and Sneha and Ajay together in bed. She turned around on her heels and walked away leaving the door open. Sneha hurriedly wrapped the covers around her and got up. She closed the door, remembering to lock it this time and got dressed. She shook Ajay who woke up lazily and smiled at her. She did not wait for the look of realization to come over his face; she did not want to see it.

“Smriti’s mother saw us” She said matter-of-factly shattering her special moment on her own. Ajay looked around and Sneha handed him his clothes. He took them from Sneha and put on the t-shirt; Sneha turned around and walked out of the door as Ajay put on his jeans.
Sneha walked to Shreya’s room to see whether she was still asleep and was shocked to see Smriti’s mother sitting in her room. Shreya was still asleep. The old woman turned to look at Sneha and seeing the menacing look in her eyes, Sneha was scared.

“Please” Sneha whispered not sure what more to say. The woman did not say a word but kept staring at her. Sneha realized she had started trembling. Tears gathered in her eyes as she repeated, “Please” she did not want to say anything in Shreya’s room fearing that Shreya might overhear.
Sneha moved back, hoping that Smriti’s mother would get up and walk out with her but she did not move. Ajay joined Sneha at the door and both of them stared at Smriti’s mother.

What were they supposed to do? How were they supposed to convince Smriti’s mother to not say anything to Shreya? Sneha wondered. Then, taking the risk of Shreya overhearing, she finally whispered, “It won’t happen again, ever, I promise.” And then she bent down on her knees. Ajay stood silently watching Sneha. Smriti’s mother continued staring at both of them, finally she got up from the chair on which Sneha had sat the previous night and walked out of the door, past Sneha without uttering a single word. Sneha took a deep breath and rushed towards Shreya’s bed. She saw that Shreya was still sleeping. She checked Shreya’s temperature. It was normal. The fever was gone. She sat down on the chair and watched Shreya. Ajay stood at the door, watching both of them. What was he supposed to say or do? He did not know anymore. He had allowed his emotions to guide him and they had led him straight into Sneha’s arms.