Tara wants to re-unite with her father, after all these. This short story is about second chances and trying to put your trust on someone, after the dark past you’ve had with them.
The first Friday of every month were usually reserved for our sleepovers. Meghna and I had made this pact when we were about thirteen years old and since then, have never broken the pact. It was about 7:30 in the evening. Meghna, her father and myself, were sitting at the dinner table having our supper. Her mother wasn’t able to make it for dinner because she had to stay back at the office to complete some work. Her family always had their meals early. While there are many people who might find this unusual, I found this habit admirable. Meghna was the only child her parents possessed. While she shared a very loving and close relationship with both her parents, she was closer to her father. As we sat eating our dinner, I watched the way Meghna and her father spoke with each other. I often found myself observing the way they were with each other, when I was in their midst. Feelings of admiration and jealousy collided during these moments of observation. I was about 6 years old when ma and pa decided to separate. I have very few memories with him. Ma didn’t want him to be a part of my existence, mostly because he was an alcoholic. He had come home drunk one night, his entire being drowned in alcohol. He had tried to become violent with my mother and me, that night. That particular incident had pushed her to separate from him.
Tara, don’t you want to meet your father? We were sitting in Meghna’s room, after supper. We were sitting on the carpet, on the floor, fidgeting with our phones, when Meghna suddenly shot this question at me. For a few seconds I did not say anything and simply stared at her.
I…I…I don’t know. She kept her phone aside. She came closer toward me and snatched my phone, keeping it next to hers.
The thing is, you do know. You know that you want to meet your father. I looked deep into her eyes. She gave voice to the very words stuck deep within my heart. I’m right, aren’t I? I nodded my head, indicating a yes. Go meet him!
I’m not sure how to do that.
We’ll figure out a way, don’t worry.
But ma won’t allow this to happen.
You know, I love and respect aunty a lot but he is your father Tara. You deserve to give him a chance. You never know after all these years, he might’ve changed.
It’s a very far-fetched possibility.
Maybe it is. You’ll never know unless you give him a chance, will you?
No, I won’t.
So first, go speak with aunty and then we can figure out what to do.
It has been 10 years since pa moved out of our lives. In these 10 years there have been a few times when I did ask ma about him. But these conversations would only end with her changing the topic or simply remaining silent. After a while I’d just stop asking her anything regarding pa. I figured it was based not knowing. I figured that maybe she had a reason for not telling me anything about him because she knew him more than I did.
It was around 8 in the evening. She was in the kitchen cooking dinner. Hindi music was playing in the background. This was her method of relaxing after a long day at work. I slowly walked toward the laptop which was sitting on the dining table and turned down the music.
Tara! She called out to me. Yes, ma?
What happened to the music?
I turned it down.
I want to speak with you. She walked out of the kitchen and came into the living room, where I was sitting. She came and sat with me on the couch. My heart was pounding hard. My hands were shivering.
Tell me. I’m all ears.
Ma, I want to meet pa. She remained silent and looked at me. It felt like she was framing what and how she wanted to tell me what she was about to say, in her head. Ma, he’s my father. He’s half of me and I deserve to know him, talk to him, so does he. I know I shouldn’t be asking this of you, but—She cut me off before I could finish the speech which I’d mentally prepared to convince her.
I’m allowing you to go meet him, is what I’m saying.
Are you sure?
If I don’t, I know you’d find a way to meet him behind my back. So to stop that from happening, I might just allow you to do this. I smiled. Words were substituted by the tight hug which I gave her.
After speaking with her, I immediately called up Meghna. Meg, ma allowed me to meet with him. I could hear the excitement in her voice. Really?!
She will speak with him tomorrow morning and fix a date, depending on when he is free.
Wait, they’ve been in touch with each other through all these years?
Yes, they have. He keeps asking her about me.
She never told you about this?
No, not at all. She had her reasons and honestly, I respect that.
Anyway, let’s see what happens.
I put on my favorite pair of light blue jeans and the short white kurta, which I wore for the many important occasions, like this one. Along with the feeling of excitement, there was this feeling of apprehension which clutched on it as well. It was around 11, on a Saturday morning. Ma was sitting in the living room reading a fashion magazine. She looked up and put down the magazine when she heard my footsteps enter the living room. Our eyes met and we simply smiled at each other.
Ma, am I doing the right thing?
You mean meeting by meeting him?
Yes. Why do you ask?
I’m a little scared.
Don’t be. Whatever it is, you’ll have to figure it out.
Did he sound excited, when you told him that I wanted to meet him?
Yes, he did. He’d been waiting for this for a very long time. I smiled, in response. I said my goodbye and walked out of the house.
We had decided to meet in a small Chinese restaurant near my house. I was sitting at the table which was placed in the center of the restaurant. The walls of the restaurant were painted in off-white. The décor was simple and nothing to jazzy. I was the first one to reach. I was early, about 10 minutes early. It was all these feelings dancing within me, which brought me to the restaurant early.
I kept sipping glasses of water and my eyes were fixed toward the entrance. About half an hour had passed and still there was no sign of him.
I ordered for a plate of dumplings. I hated sitting in a restaurant and not ordering anything. I kept making up reasons in my head as to why he was late. I kept giving him the benefit of the doubt. I kept calling him on the number which ma had forwarded to me.
I waited for nearly two hours, he did not turn up. I paid the bill and left.
Tears rolled down my eyes, as soon as I got out of the restaurant. I put on my ear phones and walked briskly toward my house. I continuously rang the bell till my mother finally opened the door. I ran into the house and then into my room. I jumped onto my bed and cried my eyes out. Ma entered the room and lay on the bed beside me, holding me tight.
He didn’t show up, did he? Through my tears, I uttered a soft “no”.
Tara, it is okay, don’t be hard on yourself. I slowly turned my entire self to face her. It isn’t. It really isn’t. I started crying again. I buried my face in her and began crying again. She slowly moved her hand on my head. Cry all you want. I won’t stop you. After a few minutes and lifted myself and wiped the tears off, of my face.
You knew that he wouldn’t show up?
Part of me did and the other part was hoping that he would show up and not disappoint.
Why did you not stop me from meeting him after all these years?
Honestly, I wanted you to see for yourself what kind of a person he is. You deserved to figure that out for yourself and I wanted you to.
He hasn’t changed at all, even after all these years.
You know, when you were in the first year of kindergarten, you were part of the fancy dress competition. That year, your father had begun his heavy drinking. He just seemed so far away from the both of us. I was trying to do everything I could, to keep him with us. To not let my marriage and our little family fall apart. I asked him to come for the fancy dress competition, to support you, but he never showed up. Finally when we reached home, we found him on the floor with an empty bottle of rum. I remember how you hid behind the curtain of our room, while I picked him up and put him on the bed. I’ve forgiven him a million times, in all the years that we’ve been together. But these are the certain incidents I will never forgive him for. There came a point when it didn’t matter if he hurt me but I couldn’t stand him hurting you. I know that I have been stopping you from meeting with him, all these years. But when you told me that you wanted to meet him, a few days ago, I realized that you were ready for this. Ready to not only meet him but make a decision of how you feel about him. And I’m glad I let you and you went.
Thank you, ma. She kissed me on my forehead and hugged me. Tara, even if he does meet you some day, give him that chance. Maybe he has his reasons as why he decided to not show up today. And even if you decide not to, I’m here for you.
It has been six months since the incident. Every time I pass by the Chinese restaurant, I see the girl sitting at the table placed in the center of the restaurant, waiting for her father to show up. I’d imagine him showing, creating imaginary conversations and instances of how it would be. The tears would almost come tumbling down, but I’d immediately brush away these thoughts and walk away. The next day, he did try calling me up to apologize. He left a few text messages on my phone and on Facebook, but I never reverted back. Not even now after six months have passed. It is hard, to forgive him, for leaving me waiting for him like that. Maybe ma is right. He might have his reasons for abandoning me like that. But for now I wasn’t ready to understand or to forgive him. Maybe someday I will. Someday I will listen to his side of the story and give him a chance. But for now, I’ve decided to do otherwise and not give him the opportunity to hurt me again.