This work of fiction is my entry for the WOW Prompt this weekend by Blogadda. The prompt is : ”The seat beside her was empty…”.
“Next!” the bored nurse barked at no one in particular.
Anu looked at her exasperatedly. Three more to go. She wondered if she was exaggerating or whether she had actually been sitting in that pale-looking waiting room all her life. Ironically, hospitals made her sick and this time around, especially, it had taken all her might to set foot in it.
She wasn’t sure if God was allowing her to bide some time with this delay to rethink her decision. As she looked around in the room she couldn’t help feeling a pang of jealousy. “I’m good enough to do everything on my own, but a helping hand wouldn’t hurt!” she thought enviously.
Anu was in her early twenties and the younger one of two daughters born in a traditional conservative Maharashtrian family. Her father was a strict disciplinarian while her mother was a typical housewife who looked after them. Her elder sister, Sandhya was the ideal ‘good girl’ who always followed rules. Anu wasn’t a rebel per se, but she did manage to sweet-talk her father into getting things done her own way many a times.
Both girls were well-educated, able and made up for the son their family never had. Their world was complete. There was a catch though. They were girls. Their feet were only allowed to go as far as their doorstep and their freedom was tied down to their father’s wish and will.
Sandhya’s forced marriage to the guy of her father’s choice and the subsequent episodes of domestic abuse shook Anu to the core. While she arm-wriggled Sandhya’s husband into divorcing her and brought Sandhya safely back home amidst her father’s stark disapproval, this whole thing left Anu’s own belief in the institution of marriage completely shattered and convinced her of the meaninglessness of love.
…until Ravi turned her life upside down.
Ravi was Anu’s old college friend and a lawyer. He had constantly been by her side during Sandhya’s case and had greatly helped her in getting justice for her. He never expressed it outright, but from his gestures and the attention he gave her, she could make out that he fancied her, probably since a long time. Fresh out of the hellish trauma she had been through; much against her will Anu found herself drawn to him too.
Both of them started finding ways to be around each other. Although it did require their presence, the case became a mere motive. Casual glances soon became intent stares. Accidental touches transformed into deliberate caresses. They were heading into dangerous territory but both seemed oblivious to it. The intimacy she had started craving for, predictably, crossed all boundaries.
Long after Sandhya was back home they kept meeting each other covertly. Anu was proud of Ravi for taking full responsibility of his family after his father’s untimely death. She felt comfort in the fact that he loved her unconditionally. The only time she had ever seen him upset was when she casually broached the marriage topic. His family was paramount to him and he didn’t want distractions. She let it go.
But not for long. Their meetings might’ve been clandestine, but their result was soon going to be out in the open. She was pregnant! The news came as a blow to her. Sandhya was divorced and childless and her father had become particularly difficult for Anu. Her mother, as usual, simply obeyed him. She didn’t know how Ravi would react to it. She didn’t have anyone to guide or support her.
Confused, scared and anxious, she booked an appointment with the gynaecologist. She decided she wasn’t ready to commit herself to a new life, but felt the need to inform Ravi about it. She messaged him and asked him to meet her there, hoping he would take the hint.
Another “Next!” call by the nurse brought her out of her trance. She had been there almost an hour and Ravi had neither replied to her message nor showed up. Just then, a barely one-year old baby girl who seemed to have learned to take her first few steps, came up to her and held on to her hand to avoid falling. Their eyes met and the baby girl smiled at her. At that instant, Anu knew that the fate of another baby, probably waiting for a chance at life, was sealed.
The seat beside her was empty, but her heart was filled with a steely resolve. She wouldn’t let anyone’s wish or presence affect her life and that of her baby. She was capable and complete!