In continuation of The Connection
The three of them sat in the living room with saying a word to each another, each one of them lost in his/her own thoughts. Out of all the people, Ajay was the one who seemed to be most relaxed. Smriti’s mother on the other hand was fuming. According to her, not only did Sneha try to corrupt Ajay, she had even connected to Shreya thus making it easier for both Ajay and Shreya to forget about Smriti. Smriti’s father had his own experience in the hospital regarding Smriti. Hence, he was not surprised when Sneha had connected with Shreya. He was ready to accept whatever supernatural stuff he came across. He had never believed in any of this earlier but Smriti’s connection with him was the beginning. Having accepted Sneha in their lives, he had now accepted that she was here to stay forever and he had also accepted Sneha’s love for Ajay.
Sitting next to Shreya, Sneha was lost in the world of her own thoughts. She really did not understand what had gotten into her. Why had she behaved the way she had, with Smriti’s mother? She had never meant to be rude to the old woman even though the old woman loathed her. Her anger, was it because of the suffocation she felt because of not being able to express her love for Ajay? She wanted to scream out loud that she loved Ajay, she needed him. Her desire to hold him, kiss him was growing stronger day by day. She wondered what would have happened next if Smriti’s mother had not interrupted them, she knew she was ready for that.
Sneha tried to put a stop to her thoughts but the voices inside her head continued. Was it right that she felt connected to Shreya because of what had happened between Ajay and her? If it was so, was she supposed to take that as a hint that this was how it was supposed to be? Who was going to explain this to Smriti’s mother? Was it really worth telling her that she had connected with Shreya? How would she handle that? Sneha had lots of questions on her mind but no answers. Sneha was glad that she could feel Shreya reaching out to her when Smriti’s mother and she were having a showdown. She was happy to be out of there. But, the fear that Smriti’s mother might talk to Shreya had followed her to the room.
Now, after putting Shreya to sleep again, when she was alone with her thoughts, she tried to figure out how to stop Smriti’s mother from talking to Shreya. She did know that she had somehow intimidated Smriti’s mother earlier but she did not know whether it would last. She had to approach her diplomatically. Finally, making up her mind she got up to go downstairs.
When she walked out of the room, she saw the three of them silently sitting on the couch and Sneha instantly knew that Ajay had told them about the connection. Smriti’s mother looked up at Sneha, the hatred still there in her eyes, but apart from that, there was helplessness. Sneha did not know she still had the capacity to feel sorry for the woman but she did. She felt really very sorry for her. Sneha walked down to the sitting area and said to Smriti’s mother, “Please let Shreya get well first, I beg you – please do not tell her about Smriti right now. She won’t be able to handle it. Whatever I said earlier about not leaving, I don’t know what had gotten into me, I should have not reacted in anger, I am sorry for that. Please let a few days go by and we will figure out a way out of this.”
Smriti’s mother did not say anything in reply. She turned to look at Ajay and said, “We are staying here till Shreya gets well.” and then she got up to go to the guest room. Smriti’s father stood up too.
“Thanks for understanding dad.” Sneha said and Smriti’s father nodded. He did not seem surprised that Sneha had called him dad. When he went inside the guestroom and closed the door behind him, Sneha sat next to Ajay and rested her head on the backrest. Without saying a word he held Sneha’s hand in his and a lone tear trickled down from the corner of Sneha’s eye.
“Everything will be fine, trust me.” Ajay said and Sneha nodded. She knew Ajay was not saying this to console her, he really meant it. They sat there on the couch, holding hands, not at the least bothered by the presence of Smriti’s parents. This was how it was supposed to be, they both knew it now.
At dinner time, when Sneha walked to the kitchen to cook, Smriti’s mother joined her and both of them worked in the kitchen without saying a word to each another. Whatever Sneha started, Smriti’s mother finished it. Finally, Sneha walked out of the kitchen to go to Shreya’s room. She woke up Shreya for dinner and told her that her grandparents were staying with them; she asked her whether she would like to eat in her room or would be there at the dining table. When Shreya said she would join them for dinner, Sneha walked ahead to pick her up even though her arms were already aching on carrying Shreya’s weight earlier. Sneha said she was feeling better and won’t mind walking. So, both walked out of the room. Smriti’s mother had already kept the bowls and plates on the dining table and when Shreya and Sneha walked to the dining table, the men joined them.
The dinner was finished in silence, Smriti’s mother taking the initiative every time to serve, especially Shreya. After finishing the dinner, Sneha offered to take the plates to the kitchen and when was emptying the leftovers of the plates in the bin, Smriti’s mother walked in. Sneha did her work and let Smriti’s mother do hers. Sneha knew she had a few days in her hands to convince Smriti’s mother to not talk to Shreya about Smriti’s death. Sneha knew she had to be nice to Smriti’s mother; she had to do all that she could to win over the old woman. How-much-ever difficult it was Sneha knew it was not impossible.
Sneha tried a couple of time to start a casual conversation with her but Smriti’s mother ignored her. “Get out of my way” Smriti’s mother yelled suddenly and Sneha realized that she had been standing in the old woman’s way in an attempt to start a conversation.
“Sorry mom” Sneha apologized and Smriti’s mother froze and then exploded, “I am not your mom!” and walked out of the kitchen. Sneha rubbed her forehead. She couldn’t believe she had called her mom. What was she thinking? Sneha heard the guestroom door being banged shut and she continued with her work. Ajay joined her after a while and helped her clean the kitchen counter.
“I will sleep with Shreya in her room.” Sneha said and Ajay nodded.
When Sneha walked to Shreya’s room, she found Shreya sitting in bed, deep in thoughts.
“Hey!” Sneha said as she walked close to Shreya’s bed.
“Why is grandma so angry with you?” Shreya asked. Sneha did not know how to answer that. Finally she shrugged her shoulders.
“Don’t worry, she will come around.” Shreya said and Sneha hoped her words would come true. Sneha smiled. She gave medicines to Shreya, checked her temperature and then tucked her in bed.
“You do know I love you honey, don’t you?” Sneha said kissing Shreya’s forehead.
“Yes.” Shreya replied.
Sneha pulled a chair close to the bed and sat on it but Shreya shifted in bed and asked Sneha to join her. After hesitating for a while, thinking about how uncomfortable it would be for Shreya, Sneha finally got into the bed and Shreya snuggled close to her.
“I love you mom” Shreya said and fell asleep.
It was morning, Sneha was in the kitchen when Smriti’s mother entered and started abusing her. Sneha tried to calm her down but failed. Smriti’s mother slapped her and finally Sneha had no option but to walk out of the kitchen. However, Smriti’s mother was not satisfied; she followed Sneha out to the living room and continued yelling at her. Sneha tried to calm her down saying that Shreya would listen to the shouting, she tried telling her that Shreya had questioned her earlier as to why Smriti’s mother was so angry on Sneha and to this Smriti’s mother replied, “Good. Let her know that I am angry on you; let her try to figure it out herself. Once she knows that you are not her mother, she will reject you. And, then you can forget all about the connection.”
Sneha’s anger flared up but before she could say or do anything she would regret, she walked out of the house.
For the second time in her life, she entered a bar. She was not a regular drinker but she had taken drinks with her friends a couple of times and she knew that getting drunk was the best way to forget what a mess her life was.
She picked up yet another dart and threw it in the direction of the board. She hit the center for the third time, straight! She took another sip from her mug of beer and picked up the fourth dart. She looked towards the board, her vision blurred for a moment, she squinted and after a while she could see clearly again. She threw the fourth dart and like the previous three it hit the perfect score. She emptied the contents of her mug and signaled to the bartender to fill it up again. Two more darts remained in the tray. She picked up both and played her game. The perfect shots! The bartender filled her mug. This was perhaps her third or the fourth mug, she was not sure. She knew she should not but she gulped down the beer and emptied the mug as soon as it was in her hand and she walked towards the dart-board to remove the darts. The effect of beer showed in her gait. She smiled. Nice, she thought. The headache had started but she still remembered every detail of her messed up life. She still heard Smriti’s mother abusing her, she still remembered the frustration and the helplessness. She still remembered kissing Ajay. She ordered another refill; the bartender hesitated but started to pour beer in a new mug.
It took her some extra effort to pull out the darts. She walked back to the spot and got ready to throw the darts again. From the corner of her eye she saw a familiar figure enter the bar. She concentrated on the dart-board. It was unsteady. She squinted. The headache worsened. She shook her head and squinted again. The dart-board seemed to be moving. She threw the dart anyways. She missed the center. She took the second dart and threw it; this time she missed the dart-board. Before she could throw the third, she felt a strong grip on her wrist. The other hand pulled out the remaining darts from her hand. She struggled against the grip, trying to free herself but she failed. The grip was too strong and she was too drunk. Just the way she wanted to be. She wanted to be drunk. But she had not expected him to be present near her. She wanted to be close to him, wanted him in her life, wanted to grow old with him but right now she wanted to be alone. She wanted to be so drunk that she would forget what her life was like. She wanted to forget the pain, she wanted to forget the sweet ache she felt gripping at her heart whenever she looked at him and realized that he was looking at her but seeing someone else. She wanted to forget that she was being a mother to someone even without giving birth, forget giving birth, she was being a mother to someone even without going through what it took to conceive in first place. She wanted that very much. Not from any random man, she wanted it from him. She sadly realized that her attempt to get drunk to forget everything had been in vain. She was drunk, true but she still remembered everything.
The grip on her hand was hurting her. More than that, his presence was hurting her as if someone had cruelly squeezed the air out from her lungs. She was suffocating.
She saw yet another figure walking towards her. This one was much shorter and feminine and called her ‘mom’.
“Mom, please let’s go home.” it said and all her frustration burst out like a volcano.
“I Am Not Your Mom” she screamed, too loudly even for her ears. The shorter, feminine figure moved back and the grip on her hand loosened. He had loosened his grip. He was moving away from her. The scorching heat of the desert was too much to bear, she was sweating profusely, and the sun singed her skin. He was walking away from her; he looked like a tiny dot near the horizon. So much distance to cross, so much hot sand to walk on, she thought. She squinted, cleared her head and looked around. She was in a bar. He was standing next to her; the shorter figure was now standing closer to him. Memories came rushing back. She was drunk, just like she wanted to be. She smiled.
She turned around to walk away from them and the world blurred out.
The next thing she knew, she was in the master bedroom, in Smriti’s bed. She got up. Her head was spinning. She was having a horrible headache. Even before she could really get used to her surroundings she had to rush to the bathroom. She bent on the commode and vomited. She fell on her knees as she felt weak all of a sudden. She vomited again. Why did it have to end like this? Getting drunk had not helped her, everything was still clear in her mind and here she was vomiting in commode.
After one more episode of vomiting into the commode, she got up and rinsed her mouth, at the same time looking into the mirror over the washbasin. She was a mess. For a change she looked different. She looked like someone even she failed to recognize. She smiled. She was happy. She looked different, just the way she wanted to since the day she realized she could not love him as herself when she had this face. She pressed the flush before walking out of the bathroom. Wish it was possible to vomit out certain memories, certain hurts, certain thoughts and flush them out of your life, she complained as she got into the bed. The world spun yet again and she had to hold her head with her hands. The shorter feminine figure, which she now clearly recognized as her daughter Shreya, entered the room with a glass.
“I brought you some lemon juice” the girl said placing the glass on the bedside table. The girl stood staring at her, waiting for her to say something.
Sneha cleared her throat and tried to speak. Words betrayed her. She remembered her last words before losing consciousness – “I Am Not Your Mom” she had said to this little girl. The little girl who had brought lemon juice for her, this girl who loved her so much, this girl whom she loved so much! The girl who called her mom! She could not look into the eyes of the little girl who was not her daughter but who was more than a daughter to her. She had never really believed in blood relations. As in, she never thought that love had anything to do with blood. A family for her had always been someone she cared about, someone who cared for her. Family was all about love and this little girl and her father were family.
She had no trouble accepting that, the problem was accepting to play a dual role in her life. She was tired of playing Smriti and Sneha. She did not remember when was the last time she had heard someone call her name. It seemed Sneha had died. Smriti was still alive, even though she really was not.
By getting drunk, she had wanted to run away from this aching and equally frustrating tragic fact of her life. She now realized it was a bad idea. It was a pathetic attempt of running away from the truth and what had she gained? A few hours away from the house, temporary distraction, temporary short term memory loss! But in exchange of all this, she had hurt the little girl, something that she was not at all happy about. She wanted to go back in time and undo and redo things. She wanted to correct her mistake, she wanted to go back in time and even in her drunken state, she wanted to hug Shreya and tell her that she was her mom and she loved her very much.
The girl was still staring at her. All she had to do was spread her arms and the little girl would come rushing into her arms.
She knew it was the right thing to do and hence she spread her arms and just as she had expected, Shreya came rushing into her arms. “I am so sorry Shreya” Sneha whispered. “I know I should have not said what I said. You know I did not mean it, don’t you?” Sneha clarified as she ran her fingers through the girl’s hair.
“I know mom” Shreya replied. The door of the master bedroom opened and Smriti’s mother stepped in.
“Get away from her.” She yelled and pulled Shreya away from Sneha.
“She is not your mom.” The old woman said and Shreya looked at Sneha. Sneha was speechless for a moment and then she burst into tears
.. The Promise