Too Late For Atonement
“Read the previous part of the story here – Prologue, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3,Chapter 4 , Chapter 5, Chapter 6, and Chapter 7”
Shekhar kneaded the muscles on his neck. Working on a laptop all day long was taking a toll on him. It was a perfect afternoon though. The day was sunny and clear, and at this time of the day there would be no disturbances. Roohi was asleep too, which helped. He loved the little girl to bits, but having her constantly twittering about made it difficult for Shekhar to concentrate on the task at hand.
He made himself a cup of ginger tea. Nothing could lift his mood like a good cup of tea. This was another point of conflict between him and Tara. Tara loved black coffee, strong black coffee. He on the other hand, loved his adrak wali chai, sweet with full cream milk. He remembered the time when Tara still had some time for the family. They would mock argue about the virtues of their preferred choice of beverages. He smiled at the thought.
How I wish those days would come back, he thought.
He began typing away on his keyboard when he heard the phone ring.
Who could be calling at this hour?
He wiped his mouth on the sleeve of his T-shirt and went to answer the phone.
There was silence at the other end. It seemed as though the caller was searching for words to say. Shekhar knew that it most certainly wasn’t disconnected because he could hear the breathing sounds of the caller.
“Hello?” he asked once again.
“Hello. I want to speak to Roohi.”
The finality in that voice was familiar. Shekhar knew instantly where he had heard that voice before. His mind went back to that day in the hospital, the day his beloved daughter was born. He remembered the uneasy confrontation.
“This is my baby. Do you think that you can prevent me from meeting my own child? If you think so, you my dear friend, are the biggest fool I have ever met.” Shekhar remembered how he had belittled him.
Still, he couldn’t believe that it was him calling back after all these years.
“Who is this?”
He heard the click of the phone. He knew, he knew it had to behim. How could he? He had the nerve to call after all these years!
Shekhar’s heart was beating loudly. After all these years, when he had finally felt at ease, when he had finally felt that there was no way that he would ever call and set his claim on Roohi, he had come calling again. Would he be able to snatch his daughter for him?
Shekhar felt the hot sting of angry tears in his eyes. He opened the door of Roohi’s room and saw her sleeping peacefully. His little angel, she slept without a care in the world. Her silky wavy hair fell all about her face like a halo of innocence. Shekhar sat down on the bed beside her. As if on cue, Roohi turned towards him and put her hand on his arm.
Shekhar felt helpless. If he really wanted, he could take Roohi away from him. But how could he even think of doing this? To him, to Tara… To Roohi.
The only thing common between him and Roohi were a few genes. What did he know about Roohi? What did anyone, for that matter even Tara, know about Roohi?
He wasn’t the one to hold his little baby when she cried through the nights with colic. He wasn’t the one to stay up with her putting cold compresses on her hot head, taking temperatures every hour, trying to help her cope with fever. He wasn’t the one to have wiped snotty noses on his shirt sleeve. He didn’t know which was her favorite food in the world, or the teddy bear she hugged for comfort every night before going to bed. He didn’t know which was her favorite blankie, or the song she loved to hear over and over again.
He didn’t know any of this, because he had never done anything for her except for given her his set of genes.
Don’t you worry sweetheart. I will not let anyone come anywhere near you. I will never let him take you away from me.
Whatever it takes.
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