Present day - 1.45 pm
I almost spill the orange juice on my dress as my mind and body is trying to adjust to the revelation in front of me. I feel a million things going through me. I wanted to walk away, but my legs wouldn't give way. I wanted to yell, but no voice came. I wanted to cry, but tears remained frozen. I wanted to feel angry, but felt emotionless. I slowly placed my glass on the table and stared into nothing. Mom was wiping her tears on the tissue now, leaving trails of kajal on it.
“It is too much to take, I know. Sorry.” She said in between sobs.
I look up at her and feel the world spinning. I hold my head right in between my palms and look down. I feel an arm on me soon after.
“Here, have some water.” My mom stood next to me.
I gulp down the entire glass and hand it back to her staring coldly into her eyes.
“So, dad is not my father?” I manage to ask.
“He is your father in every way. He loves you more than I do. You need to understand him.” She walks back to her seat.
“Then my biological father is?” I give a blank look again.
“Not important Maya, he left. He doesn’t even know you exist. Varun has been your father for twenty years. That is the truth.” She picks up her spoon.
“Does dad know this? Or did you….” My eyes open wide in shock.
Mom drops her spoon in anger.
“You think I would do something like that? Varun knew it, that’s why he married me so that I would not face any humiliation.”
“Why didn’t you both tell me this until now?” I question.
“We wanted to Maya. But Varun was worried that you might not understand us.” She says sadly.
“I’m twenty, Mom. You should have told me, before deciding to leave.” I argue.
Mom looks away without knowing what to say.
“Tell me Mom, why did you not tell me the truth?” I clench my teeth.
“Would that have made any difference? Tell me Maya, now that you know the truth, is Varun no longer your dad?” She wipes her tears again.
“Of course he will always be my dad. But still….” I stop to take a deep breath.
“I know it’s a lot to happen in a day my darling. But, Varun being your father or not is not the question here.” She pours me another glass of juice.
Her risotto is all dried and pasty now. She moves the plate aside and pours herself a glass too.
“What do I do now mom? Tell me. I’m so confused.” I ask.
“Nothing. I cannot stay with a man who could not fall in love with me for twenty years. I’ve waited a lot Maya. I cannot see him struggle for his lost love anymore. I cannot bear it anymore…….” Her voice trailed off.
I go sit next to her now and rest my face on her shoulder.
“Why is all this happening?” I ask slowly.
“May be this is how it was supposed to end Maya. Varun couldn’t move on, but I’m going to try to move on.” She puts her arm around me and I can suddenly smell her fragrance. I realize how much I have missed her as I hug her tight.
“What about me Mom? Where am I supposed to stay?” I feel my voice choke.
“Varun needs you Maya. You are all he has. You need to stay with him.” She fondles my hair.
“You? You do not need me?” I look at her angrily.
“That’s an unwanted question Maya. You know better than that. I have your grandma and grandpa. Varun has no one. Of course, I shall come and visit you often. Just that, I would not be staying there. Nothing shall change between us and you Maya. Only our relationship with each other shall change.” She explains.
“You lived twenty years with dad without him loving you back?” I feel a tear drop down my cheek.
Mom wipes it away and smiles sadly.
“Not his fault Maya. He never got out of his first love. He still is living there. I moved on, he didn’t. I can’t blame him.”
“Will you be able to forget dad?” I rest back on her shoulder as I ask this.
“I shall try my best to. I’m just 40 now, I think I can move on. Right? Unless you get embarrassed or something.” She chuckles.
“Mom, you are awesome. I’m so proud to be your daughter.” I hug her tight.
We just hold each other and sit in silence, with tears flowing down both our cheeks. The people around look at us weirdly, but we do not care. We remain locked in a forever embrace.
Present day - 4 pm
When I step in to the house, I’m welcomed with darkness. Dad was not back yet and I could smell and feel the emptiness in the house. I open the curtains and let the sunlight in. I can still see the two coffee mugs on the balcony. I take a deep breath and walk into my room. After a quick shower I change and put another pot of coffee on the stove. When I go to the balcony to collect the coffee mugs I hear a car honk. I look down to see my dad’s white Honda City entering the basement parking lot.
“Good, he’s here.” I say to myself.
Soon enough, I hear the doorbell ring and I rush to open it. Dad stood there and is surprised to see me.
“So, you’re here! Thank God!” He hugs me as if he is seeing me after ages.
“Why? Where should I be?” I question.
He walks in and feels the smell of the freshly brewing coffee. He smiles wide.
“I thought after knowing the truth, you might not come back to me.” He says plainly.
Before I open my mouth to answer, he interrupts.
“Let me go freshen up. Pour me a cup, will you?” He says pointing to the kitchen.
I nod and walk towards the kitchen and I realize that I’m hungry. I open the fridge and take the pink and peach cake out. The strawberries on the icing looked tempting and I was amazed as to how good a cook my mom is. I slice the cake and it looks more tempting than ever. It was a white sponge with pink layers. I was drooling by the time I cut the second slice. I place two slices in a saucer and walk out to the balcony. I come back and take fresh cups of coffee and settle it down on the table in the balcony. The giant Buddha statue in the corner seemed to smile at me. I look at it in awe.
“What are you smiling at?” My dad’s voice filled the air.
“Nothing, dad. Just like that, you know.” I am embarrassed.
He picks up the coffee mug and the slice of cake. He bites into it and open his eyes wide.
“This cake is amazing. Your mom is a genius cook.” He takes another bite.
“I do not understand your relationship at all. Mom says you are amazing and you say she is. Yet, you guys do not want to live together.” I shake my head.
“Come, sit next to me.” He pats the empty seat next to him.
I oblige and sip on to my coffee waiting for him to speak.
“She sure is amazing Maya. We respect each other. But we cannot survive on respect alone. We need love too.” He takes a long sip of coffee.
“Can’t you try to love mom?” I ask slowly.
He looks at me with his eyebrows raised.
“It doesn't work that way. I tried, believe me. But I couldn’t forget my previous love. I can never forget her. It’s difficult Maya.”
“But mom could. Why can’t you?” I argue.
“He left her pregnant. Cheated her. It was easier for her to forget.” He explains.
“What made you marry mom, dad? Especially when you knew she was…. you know…” I pause.
“It just felt like the right thing to do. I had just lost my love and she was lonely. Plus she had you. We decided to start a life together around you. For you. Without any expectations. But your mom wanted more. I couldn’t give that to her. She has all the right to move on today. I’d be happy for her.” He says.
I watch him in admiration as he says this.
“Thanks for coming back Maya. Even after knowing the truth. When your mom called me to tell that you know it now, I was worried.” He sounded upset.
I snuggle up close to him.
“No matter what happens, you shall always be my dad. And mom is right, you are an awesome person.” I say happily.
“So are you. Now finish that slice or shall I?” He teases me.
I grab it and start nibbling on it as he sips on to the coffee.
“Dad, what about her?” I manage to ask.
“Whom, darling?” He questions.
“Your first love. Where is she now? Why did she leave you then? Why can’t you find her now?” I was spewing out questions.
“I can’t Maya. She’s dead. She died in an accident when we were together.” His voice breaks.
“Oh, sorry dad. Did not mean to hurt you.” I hold his hand.
“It’s okay my child, I've accepted the truth. But I want to live in her memories. And die with them.” He wipes a tear from his eye.
“She must have been a great lady eh?” I chide him.
“Oh yes. She was. Just like you are now.” He pulls my ear.
“What was her name, dad?” I wanted to know.
He looks at me for a long time before his lips break into a smile.