The Come Back – Chapter 4

by Anita Menon

If you want to know what happened in the last chapter

Professor Reed opened the desk drawer again, like he had done a dozen times already in the last half hour. He felt strained partly due to the pain and partly due to the flood of memories that refused to ebb. Why did he have to do this to himself? Each time? What did he get by hanging on to the traces of his past life? He kept going back and forth, from his present to his past, his past and back. He never ever gave his own future any thought. There was no point unless he was able to figure out the past. He had answers to the most complex of questions that his students at the university asked him, but he couldn’t figure out the answer to the question that changed his life forever.

There was a knock at his door. In a gruff voice he spoke,” Come in”.

Anna peeked in and smiled. Prof. Reed smiled back and felt relieved to see her. Her company would cheer him up and get him to stop thinking about all the unnecessary things. But soon he realized Anna wasn’t alone. A frail figure stood behind Anna, slightly hunched, slightly like someone he knew.

“ASH!!!” exclaimed Professor Reed.

Ash rushed forward to greet her father. Both of them embraced and wept. All the angst and the pain gushed out in tears. It took them a while before they composed themselves. Prof. Reed couldn’t’ take his eyes off his older daughter, Ashwariya. Everybody called her Ash as they found Ashwariya way twisted for their simple tongues. So was the case with his younger daughter, Anna was Anamika. These were such lovely names, with beautiful meanings for his beautiful daughters. He surveyed Ash and decided that she hadn’t changed much except for the addition of few of her own body art. The sight of them repulsed him but he decided to let it rest for a while. He could take it up with her later, or maybe never. Right now he was a happy father, relieved to see the apple of his eye back. His face fell, when he realized it had been more than 8 months that he last saw her. What was he thinking? He could have called for her; after all he knew she was in the same city. What stopped him from doing it? He knew the answer to this one. But not a single day had passed by when he hadn’t thought about her, wishing her to come back silently in his prayers. He laid his hand on Ash’s head and ran his fingers through her hair. With black hair and black eyes, she looked so much like him. She even hunched like him now. But they bore resemblance only in physical aspects whereas temperamentally they were like chalk and cheese.

Ash felt the weight of her Papa’s hand on her head; the familiar weight, the familiar scent, the familiar voice. It was comforting and unsettling all the time. She had almost started to lament about the lost time and the incidents of the past that led to the estrangement, but her thoughts were interrupted with Anna excusing herself from the room. She saw Anna leave and close the door behind her. Ash turned to face her Papa and held his large hands in hers. She kissed them silently and rested her head on his hands for some time. Then when the moment of anguish passed, she looked up at her Papa and asked him in a matter of fact voice, “Have the reports come in, Papa?”

To this Professor Reed shook his head indicating the reports hadn’t come in.

“They are due in evening, I hear.” He offered to let her head rest on his shoulder.

She pretended not having taken the cue and continued her bout of questioning.

“Why didn’t you tell me you had a Tumour?”

Prof. Reed smiled and replied, “I thought it was better not to bother anybody with such distressing news.”

“You sound like you are losing it every day, since the day I left home, Papa?” Ash mocked her father.

To this Prof. Reed laughed weakly and nodded in agreement.

“Don’t worry, Honey. I won’t die before I get a few answers.”

Ash looked away and pulled herself away from her Papa. All of sudden a tidal wave of bitterness swept past her and she felt she going to drown again.

“Why do you care, Papa? WHY?? DO I CARE? DOES ANNA CARE?” shouted Ash. She couldn’t help herself. She immediately realized that she should keep her tone in check and calm down.

Prof. Reed expected this outburst and didn’t react. He waited patiently till he felt; she had done with her chiding.

In a lowered voice she said, “Papa, you should rest now and I think I should get going. I’ll come by tomorrow.”

“Ash, sweetheart, don’t go. Why can’t you stay here? With me and your sister? I have missed you and so has Anna”, pleaded Prof. Reed.

Ash chewed on her lip and closed her eyes. Then with a audible sigh she dropped her rucksack on the floor and sat down besides her Papa.

Anna stood outside the door that she had just closed behind her. She smiled sadly to herself. Nothing changes, nothing will ever change, and things always remain the same. It doesn’t matter whatever she did, but things remained as they were. She started to walk slowly when she met Mrs. P at the landing of the staircase. She related the news of Ash’s arrival to which Mrs. P literally did a dance and rushed to meet Ash. Anna felt worn out, felt like she had been over stretching; extending herself beyond what she was capable of. Nothing mattered, nothing will ever, nothing. She climbed the stairs that lead to her bedroom. She reached her room and fell on her bed. Tired, yes she was tired. She needed to sleep.