At the dinner table, Shekhar was lost in a pool of thoughts. He was finally ready to begin his manuscript. Freelance writing had been hard on him - he always knew he was meant for something big. The book that he was planning was his only chance. He would finally prove himself to the world. It would make Tara the happiest person on earth. He glanced with longing at his wife’s pretty face.
She still looked as pristine as she did in college. Their bond had only strengthened with time. Words failed when he tried putting his love in words. They got along like magic. How many relations get past the initial fervor of young love? Theirs did. They were still the cupid-struck-madly-in-love couple and could never be apart. Oh...they did have those little tiny fights, but it only strengthened their bond. Shekhar was pretty sure she could have found a better guy than a freelance writer, but she never complained, she always supported his dreams.
“Mumma, can I have ice cream before finishing off my meal?” Roohi asked, flashing her sweetest little smile at Tara.
Her voice ended Shekhar’s reverie and he drifted back into his world, his cozy little haven.
Roohi never bothered talking to her dad at the dining table. Dinnertime was exclusively a bonding time with her mother. She craved for her mother’s attention. Tara stayed away from home for most of the day, unlike her father. Her dad was a stay-at-home-dad and by dinner she already had too much of him. She loved playing their little games together, but she missed her mom all day.
He looked at the mother-daughter duo and smiled. What was happening? Had Roohi demanded something outrageous again?
“Very clever sweetheart! If you have the ice cream now, you would lose your appetite. Let’s finish our dinner first and then mumma will give you a scoop of ice cream. I promise”, Tara replied mimicking Roohi’s voice.
Roohi frowned, but gulped down the vegetables and curry with an I-am-about-to puke expression.
“Somebody is feeling angry haan?” Shekhar asked, contributing to the conversation, “Alright my bunny, if you can finish your meal before me, I promise that your mumma will give you two scoops today.”
Surprised, Roohi smiled and then narrowed her eyes noticing his plate was almost empty!
“Not fair pa, you are cheating,” she said, but munched her food at sonic speed. Her swinging ponytails made her look like her favorite Disney princess.
Tara smiled watching Roohi and the appearance of her lovely dimple warmed his heart.
He had fallen in love first with her dimples. He believed he was the luckiest man in the world. Didn’t he have the prettiest wife and the best daughter possible? He would barter the world for them. Even though Tara had a career that demanded too much time and attention, she had always taken care of Roohi just like a perfect mother.
While he was lost in his thoughts again, Roohi had finished her meal.
“I won! I won!” She screamed.
Tara rolled her eyes in mock anger but served the promised two scoops to Roohi. Smiling, Shekhar caressed Roohi’s cheeks with love and put a light peck on her cheeks.
“Do I get to have a tiny portion of that ice cream from my bunny’s share?” he asked with a grin.
“No pa, it’s mine. You should finish before me next time to get that extra scoop for yourself.”
They could not help but laugh at the innocent answer of their child.
“Hon, my typewriter is waiting for me. I have so much work to do. Yeah, I know you will ask me to switch to my laptop for the sake of advancement or technology, but I just love to write with the old thing," he said, blowing a kiss to Tara.
Tara blushed crimson at that simple romantic gesture from her loving husband.
“I’ll put Roohi to sleep and will wait for you,” she said, meeting his eyes with a mischievous twinkle in her eyes.
At that moment, he wanted to go ahead, lift her in his arms, take her to the bedroom, and make love the whole night. But with Roohi awake, it seemed like an impossible dream. And his priority was to begin with his manuscript, no more procrastination. With an involuntary sigh, he walked towards his study.
Once inside, he double-checked the door to confirm that it was secured.
His eyes lingered on the framed photo of Tara kept on his table. It was from the night he had proposed Tara. All he did was create a scrapbook of all their moments together. It was her birthday and she thought it was just a birthday gift. He had kissed her cheek with every page she turned. She was smiling and even laughing at some of their crazy photographs together. It was the last page which brought tears to her eyes. There was a ring pasted neatly in the center and the title read ‘Will you marry me?’ She had nodded yes and then, he had kissed on her lips. With his Polaroid, he had captured her showing off the ring, pressing the ring finger on her cheek. That was the first page of their new journey together.
More than anyone else, he wanted to be successful for his wife. She deserved to live with a more successful man.
Lifting the typewriter, Shekhar pulled out a small envelope. He pulled out the prints he had taken out the previous night.
“When my book releases, the world will be shocked,” he murmured, with a grin on his face, “This will be my biggest success and I won’t need any more in this life.”
But in order to do that, he had to protect his manuscript from all prying eyes. If Jennifer came to know about how he was using the information she shared with him on their secret firewalled network, she would stop sending further information or photos altogether. He couldn’t risk it.
He checked the door again to see if it was locked.
The sound of the typewriter began its monotonous performance in the silence of his room the very next minute.
Shekhar kept typing for long hours, it was almost near midnight when a glare piercing through the glass window distracted him. He looked up towards the window. It was unusually bright. Baffled, he rushed towards the window. The glare became weaker and weaker with every step he took towards the window. By the time he pushed open the glass panes, the glare or the source of the glare was gone. Where did it go? What was it?
“Did the words I was typing manifested that? Or was it …,” he thought aloud, wiping off the sweat from his forehead.
Fear conquered him as the possibilities ran riot in his mind. With shaking fingers he rushed back to his type writer and gathered the sheets of his typed manuscript.
“Could it be real?”He murmured, and shrugging off his doubts, he hid the pages in the safe locker of his cupboard.
Locking the door behind him, he returned to his bedroom. His wife was asleep. Looking at her calm face, partially lit by the soft moonlight shining through the window, he guessed she was having a serene dream.
Lying down by her side, he softly planted a kiss on her forehead. He did not want to wake her up this late at night. It was a frenzied night and somewhere during the early hours of the morning, he slipped off into a dreamless sleep.
When he woke up, it was noon already. The clock on the wall told him that he had slept through the morning. On the bedside table, he found a note from his wife.
Good Morning Sweet Heart,
You were probably working through the night and I did not want to disturb you. I have made breakfast and make sure you eat it when you wake up. I’ll drop Roohi to school today. By the way, what did you burn in your study last night? I found ashes lying on your table.
He was shocked to read the last line. Shekhar rushed to his room, rotated the locker dial of his cupboard and opened it to find that it was empty. His manuscript was gone. The waste bin was about a quarter filled with ashes and some bits that had escaped the flame.
Stunned, Shekhar stood rooted to the same place holding the few charred remains of his manuscript.
Update: Read the next part by clicking on this link.
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