Amrita picked up some pastries and muffins from their favorite bakery and proceeded to her friend’s place. Sakshi had been a sole friend in the town ever since she came to live here post her marriage. They had met as client and vendor in her first job at a web designing company and hit it off almost immediately. What Amrita appreciated most about Sakshi was that despite being a single mother of a 14 year old boy, she never played the sympathy card in any of her commitments. Instead Sakshi was a bad-ass woman, who knew what she wanted from life.
“The father of my child, my then boyfriend doesn’t know that I gave birth to this child. I decided to bring my child into this world and raise him all alone. And I have no regrets about my decision”, Sakshi was often quoted saying to her friends.
Unlike Amrita, Sakshi had friends galore in the town. She had grown up in this town and decided to stay and work in her birthplace.
“I do not see the point of wandering around the world with work on your back. I’m lucky that I have a decent running business here in this city. Now if I wish to see the world, I’d rather travel like a tourist.” Sakshi didn’t have any family. No not that she didn’t have parents or relatives in the town, it’s just that her parents decided to abandon her the day she announced that she was going to be an unmarried mother. But Sakshi did not care a dime about what her family or relatives or for that matter anyone in the world thought about her life. It was hers to live.
But what could be the matter? Amrita thought worriedly as she honked her car behind a lorry that refused to budge even after the signal went green. Sakshi had called her this morning telling her that she had taken a day off from work and asked her if she could come over and spend some time with her. Amrita was alarmed at Sakshi’s effort to camouflage her distressed tone. She was not the one to miss work for no reason. Definitely not due to a trivial mood swing or PMS. Something had to be really bothering her enough to take a day off.
““How are you girl?” Amrita asked cheerfully, placing the pastries and muffins on the centre table infront of the sofa where Sakshi was sprawled. She engulfed her friend in a bear hug, before proceeding to the kitchen to get some plates and spoons. As she had predicted, some green tea enough for two of them was already brewing in the kitchen. Sakshi’s maid really is very proactive. Amrita thought with a tinge of jealousy.
When she came back to the living area, she saw a disheveled Sakshi already gobbling up one of the muffins right from the package. Amrita frowned. It was so unlike Sakshi. She was known to be the obsessed over table manners.
“What’s the matter sweet heart? You look quite disoriented.” Amrita helped herself with a pastry on the plate. Skashi nodded, her mouthful as she found momentary bliss in the amazing muffins from her favorite outlet.
Once her mouth was empty, she sighed deeply, “It’s Ayush!” Amrita’s heart sank at the mention of Sakshi’s 14 year old son. Only a fortnight back, Sakshi after a lot of contemplation had told Ayush about his birth and his father. She did not exactly tell him about his identity but more about the nature of her relationship with his father and his birth. Ayush’s response to the revelation had been very laconic and Sakshi feared that it might have some serious repercussions. The last thing that she wanted was for Ayush to want to meet his father.
“Has the inevitable happened?” Amrita asked Sakshi in a very low voice. By inevitable she implied Ayush’s demand to meet his father. She was almost instantly relieved when Sakshi shook her head in negative.
“Last evening he came home with his clothes torn and soiled. He had a brawl with another boy at his football club.” Sakshi’s eyes were brimming with unshed tears, “I have not been able to sleep the entire last night. When I asked him why he had to fight with somebody, he had the galls to tell me that the other guy had been resorting to cheating for past few weeks. He couldn’t take it anymore and thus punched him in the face. It resulted into a face off between the two of them and were separated only when the coach came back after his meeting with the team sponsors.” Amrita for some reason could not fathom why a 14 year old getting into a fight with a peer should bother Sakshi so much. Till date she had known the mother who was extremely care-free as far as it came to her son’s mistakes. She encouraged him to take his own calls and learn from his mistakes. “I have lived my life on my own terms and am not complaining, then why shall I stop my son from making his share of mistakes.” She often responded with a cool head whenever she was reprimanded for being a lenient mother.
Amrita took Sakshi’s hand in hers and rubbed it softly. She didn’t want to push too far, but couldn’t let go her friend in distress, “What is it Sakshi? You might be over reacting. Ayush is growing up and such things are very common amongst boys his age.”
Sakshi sniffed and shook her head vigorously, “You have no clue what it did to me. He looked so dark and determined when he told me how the other boy had been cheating. He swore infront of me that if he found that boy cheating another time, he would kill him. I was so scared.” Sakshi was rocking on her seat while she hugged herself. Amrita moved closer to her friend and took her in her arms.
“Shhh! It’s ok dear. You can talk some sense into him once he cools down. He is just a 14 year old teenager.” Amrita tried to console her friend.
“No Amu! You have no idea. It was like a scene straight from my past. He looked absolutely like his father’s reflection. I was horrified.” Sakshi gulped a lump of air down her throat. One look at Amrita and she understood that Amrita wasn’t getting much of her ranting. How could she? She had never ever discussed Ayush’s father with anyone. All that even the closest of her friends knew about him was that he was a friend from her paternal native town and they had had fallout over some differences.
Sakshi got her balls in control and blew out her lungs.
“Sarvesh was my childhood friend at my grandmom’s native place. Our friendship turned into passionate love when we were just 15 years. At that age, we kinda believed that we were made for each other and that nothing could do us apart.” Sakshi let out a sly smile while Amrita looked on.
“How could we have known that life was not a bed of roses or dreams for that matter. As I went to college, I became this ambitious young girl who wanted to carve a niche for myself, break free from the shadow of my extremely successful father businessman. While he turned to politics and went on to join the students union in his college and turned into a hooligan. I tried to dissuade him from walking that path and tried to convince him to come to my city and join my college. I thought that like that I could keep a leash on him and secure our future.” Sakshi was looking continuously at some point on the table while she spoke. Amrita not wanting to disturb her friend while she vented out her darkest fears only sat there rubbing the back of her hand.
“Whenever I asked him why he had to spoil it all for them by getting into these brawls, he often replied that someone had to take responsibility to set things straight. Initially I believed him. But slowly I figured that that was just an alibi. He had actually started enjoying his time being a hooligan. I became so desperate that I did the most foolish thing that a 19 year old could have done.” Sakshi blinked and turned her gaze towards her friend. She was looking at Amrita so earnestly as pleading her not to judge her for what she was about to say.
“On one of nights when we were together, I deliberately had unprotected sex with him.” Sakshi saw Amrita’s eyes go wide as the meaning of her words sunk in.
“I thought that nothing matched his love for me and that once I told him that I was going to have his baby, he would leave everything and dance to my tunes.” Sakshi shook with noiseless laughter in her throat.
“I was wrong. He told me to get rid of the child as he had to focus on his political career.” Ridicule was evident in Sakshi’s tone, “ I decided to walk out of the relationship and later sent him a message saying that I had aborted the child, but did not want anything to do with him anymore. And yes that’s my story.”
“He didn’t come back for you?” Amrita asked softly, half knowing the answer.
“He did, but I went into hiding for a couple weeks to my friend across the country. I had already been abandoned by my family, after I refused to reveal the identity of the guy who had done it to me.” Skashi looked much calm now, but some lines of worry reappeared on her forehead immediately.
“Last evening when Ayush came back all tattered; it brought back the past demons for me. He suddenly resembled his father so much that I was taken by shock. My only fear of bringing up my boyfriend’s son has been that he might grow up to be his father’s shadow. That would be an absolute failure of my life.” Sakshi said, for once contemplating her choices in life.
Just then the door bell rang and the maid opened the door. It was Ayush back from school. Amrita saw a cute teenager, set to turn into a young man with killer looks. If as per Sakshi, he did take on his father’s looks, he was set to be quite a rage among girls, in his coming years.
“Hello Amu aunty. How are you? And mom! You didn’t go to work today? Are you sick?” Ayush sounded concerned and worried.
“No Ayush dear, I had some important things to talk to your mother and thus requested her to take some time off from work.” The reply seemed to have satisfied Ayush, because he turned around to hand over his empty tiffin box to the maid and turned to retire to his room.
Something might have been playing on his mind, because just before he shut the door to his room behind him, he turned around and looked at his mom biting his lower lip.
“Mom! I am extremely sorry for yesterday. I do realize now that I was in the wrong in beating the other guy. There were other better ways to resolve the issue. I promise I will not repeat such behavior.” Amrita turned to look at Sakshi who finally let go of the tears that she had held for so long. While Sakshi nodded in approval, Ayush gave his boyish grin,
“Also I am going to give my football a break and focus on my board exams now on. I promise, you will be very disappointed because I am going to win the bet by beating my previous score and coax you into buying me that playstation.”
As Ayush shut the door behind him, Sakshi nodded vigorously and closed her eyes in a short prayer of gratitude.