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“Would you care to explain your reaction back at the restaurant when you saw that girl?”
“Mom, would you please give it a rest. It had nothing to do with her. I don’t recall making any reactions that you so badly want me to explain”.
“Don’t lie to me Nicolaus, we were in a middle of a very serious conversation and all of a sudden you spilled yourself with wine when that waitress arrived with our food. And I observed a very cold reaction on the girl’s face when she looked at you. Don’t tell me you are befriending all the downtowners in this city...”
“Mom please, she just looked like someone I knew back in my college days. That’s all...”
“Okay honey. I’m just concerned about your future. You know how much the Andersons family has helped your father in his business. You barely listened to what I said after you saw that girl. Anderson’s daughter Jenna has taken quite a liking for you. I have called her to our residence tomorrow. Would you please stay back and engage her. She’s a doll Nicolaus and I’m sure you will tell me the same after you see her tomorrow.”
“I really don’t have time to play house guest Mom. Why don’t you two ladies talk? Don’t involve me in this. I’m not ready to see anyone right now.”
“What do you mean you are not ready? You are 28 and the most eligible bachelor in our social circle. Of course you are ready to settle down Nicolaus. What’s gotten into you lately? I hope you are not on some dingy drugs...”
“Think what you like mom but don’t expect me to stay back tomorrow.”
Saying so, Nicolaus stormed out of the house, got into his car and drove all the way to the restaurant they had just come from.
Parking his car right beside the brightly lit “Four seasons Restaurant”, he watched her as she carried out food trays in and out of the kitchen.
Where were you all these days Caroline?
His mind wandered back to a memory that took place 6 years ago.
One late night, Caroline had called him saying there was something she needed to talk to him about. They were both studying at the same university and they were dating from four months.
“Hi baby, what’s so important that you called me to meet you at this hour?”
With her head bent down she said slowly, “Nick, I’m pregnant...”
The news had shocked him but he didn’t show it. He needed to handle this very carefully. There was no way he was ready to father a child at this point in his life. His father was the CEO of a top Marketing Company and a lot of responsibilities were waiting for him back at home.
He hugged her and whispered, “Its ok Caroline, everything will be fine. I promise you...”
She looked at him in surprise and said, “Really? This is fine with you?”
“Yes of course, there is no need to panic. Tomorrow let’s go to Doctor Martha and she will take care of everything. She is a close acquaintance with my family and we can let her do her thing and in two weeks everything will be back to normal. You can attend your classes and we can go back to dating...”
As he saw her hopeful eyes change from shock to anger, he knew he had just said all the wrong things.
“I’m keeping the baby Nick. I don’t need your help. I made up my mind last week itself. Yes, I knew this news from one week. I found courage to let you know today. I hoped you would react to it differently and I almost believed you will help me raise the baby when you said “everything will be fine”. If killing the baby is fine, then I don’t want fine. You get it?”
Anger still burning in her eyes, she backed away from him and said her final words, “Good-bye Nicolaus”.
He had been a coward to call her back and hold her hand and give her his support. Deep in his heart, he wanted to be there for her but the thought of letting his father and mother down made him stop in his track and just turn away.
He had always wondered where she was and whether his child was a boy or a girl. But he had put these issues behind him as he slowly rose above the business ladder.
But when he saw her tonight, that was the first time in six years he was brought back to the ground.
How selfish I've been all these years. Because of me, she left her education to raise a child. We both are responsible and I selfishly backed out. That look she gave me a couple of hours back. I know she will never forgive me. But how selfless of her to not bring the issue up in front of my mother.
Then he saw her coming out of the restaurant with her coat and scarf on. As she waited by the curb for the bus, he gathered his courage and approached her.
“How have you been Caroline?”
“Nick!! You startled me... what are you doing here?” Her eyes were reacting with his, furiously searching for answers.
“I didn't know you worked here... I thought you moved back to Jersey to your parent’s home after you told me the news...”
“Well, my parents weren’t exactly supportive with my decisions either. Like you, they were ashamed of me. So after a month there, I moved back to NYC... But why do you care Nicolaus, you must be happily married by now as per your parent’s choice”, she scoffed at him.
“Caroline, I’m really sorry. No, I have no right to apologize. I know you will never forgive me...” After a moment’s hesitation he finally said the words he had wanted to say all night, “I never should have left you Caroline. I should have supported you and our child. I’ve been a terrible boyfriend and now a terrible father too... please can I see our child? I don’t even know whether it’s a boy or a girl. I have no right to ask you this... but...”
Caroline held up her hand and cut him off, “Save the apologies Nick. I don’t need it. I’ve moved on and even though I work part time at a restaurant, I’ve saved enough money to finish my education. Emma and I are doing absolutely fine. I’ve told her daddy is not here with us as he is away on a trip. She is too young to understand. When she grows up she’ll know...”
“She doesn’t have to know Caroline. I want to see her and be with her. I want you both in my life. I know I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life. I’m not going to make another one again. I love you Caroline and I always have...”
“You can see her Nick, I will not deprive you of that. But please don’t enter my life again. Life is tough but I’ve learnt a lot along the way. I’m content with how I am. We don’t need you Nick. I didn’t need you back then and I don’t need you now”.
“I know Caroline, that you are rightfully angry at me, but I’m rightfully sorry too and I want to make things right again. I don’t care what my parents think anymore. It’s you and Emma that I want in my life...”
“Let’s not talk about that now. Come I’ll take you to my home. You meet her once and you please leave and don’t ever enter our lives again”.
“Why Caroline... Why are you being so aggressive? I really do want to be a part of your life. I want to raise my child with you. I deserted you because of fearing my parents. I was a coward until now. I’ve come to realise, no amount of power and money gives happiness in life. All these days, I lead a robotic life. I was empty inside. My decisions have made my parents happy but I certainly am not. When I saw you tonight, the past memories that I tried so hard to hide came back to me and I feared they will torture me from inside. But no, I found new hope Caroline. Seeing you tonight after all these years, has given me new hope...”
She shook her head slowly and said,” Our daughter is crippled Nicolaus, from waist down. She was born that way. That’s the reason, I never really called you. You left me when you heard I was having your baby. Would you have really come back if you knew your daughter was crippled?”
She wiped away her tears and spoke, “It’s ok Nick. I love her so much that she doesn’t need a father figure. You don’t have to disgrace your family with a crippled heir you know...”
Unconfined tears rolled down Nicolaus's eyes.“Caroline, please... I’m not a monster to turn my back even after hearing all these”.
Nicolaus took Caroline’s hand and lead her to his car. “Please take me to my daughter and not one more word above that.”
As he looked into her now surprised yet happy eyes, he knew she had found her answer at last.
Shared with: Theme Thursday
P.S: Sometimes when I least expect it, I end up writing a short story in one sitting. Two months ago I had some characters in my mind. I had visualised a restaurant and a couple seated at a table. I had planned to let the female character tell the male character that she was pregnant, but before she can do that the male character would tell that he had fallen in love with someone else and that he was leaving her. That’s all I could come up with 2 months ago and I really didn’t know how to weave a starting and ending to such a plot. I had almost given up on this story. Today, I happen to stop by at the Theme Thursday blog and the theme was “reaction”. I’m still bewildered, how the word reaction caused me to write up this story. I guess I reacted to it at last!!