It was late into night. Malhaar stared at the baby’s crib; it was still, with a thin moonbeam hitting the end where the baby’s feet were. Without realizing, he took a deep breath in, trying to fill his lungs with air, hoping to calm down the mild restlessness in his chest and in the pit of his stomach.
He had woken up moments ago from a dream, and now sleep was far away from his eyes, mind, and body. On the contrary, his mind and body seemed alive with a restless energy. Involuntarily, he recalled his dream. His shouting match with Anupriya, her sobbing narration of her side of the story, her reasonings behind every event from the past few months, and her solid answers for all of his questions. Yet, what made him restless was the dejected look in the eyes of a silent Kalyani, who merely looked at her mother with an exhausted and hopeless look.
” Forget it Aai” she had eventually said in a low voice. ” He knows everything about you, me, Sampada, and Atharva. He knows about all their deceit and disloyalty. Yet, he chooses to believe the lies in that one letter, blames us for all his miseries, and has no understanding of who is capable of doing what. He wants to bash someone. We are the ones available. He has power over us for now, so we have to get tortured by him. Accept this like I have, and save your energy, so that you can bear the pain he will give you and me in future.”
She had held Anupriya’s hand after her little speech and dragged her away from his sight leaving him a little numb and rooted to the spot. He had wanted to hurl hurtful words at her again, but his mouth had seemed frozen. He had felt a sinking feeling in his gut and a restlessness in his chest. The unpleasant sensations had grown and stirred in his body and he had been forced by his pent-up energy to open his eyes.
It had been 10 minutes since he had lain in that position, staring at the crib, letting the awaken state sink in, and trying to differentiate between what had been a dream, what reality was, and where exactly he was!
“He was in his room,” he thought, “in his bed, alone. He was alone because Sampada had abandoned him and their baby by cheating and eloping with another man. Sampada and Atharva who had been heinous, dishonest, deceiving, two-faced, unscrupulous liars with no conscience and ethics. That crib had his baby whose mother had abandoned him. When he had found that baby, he had found that hateful letter that had broken and humiliated him. That letter was written by the two-faced, lying, pretentious Sampada, who he knew, along with her mother despised Kalyani and Anupriya. Kalyani and Anupriya, the kid and the lady whom he had believed to be good, the lady for whom he had had utmost respect…until the moment he had found that letter that was written by the cheating liar Sampada.”
His brain now going into an overdrive, Malhaar felt a rush in his head and racing thoughts and all scenes from his recent past flashing in his mind at breakneck speed. Feeling a stabbing pain in his head, he sat up with a jerk and held his head tightly with both hands. Just as the throbbing headache started to subside, a voice from his dream rang in his ears,
“He knows about all their deceit and disloyalty. Yet, he chooses to believe the lies in that one letter, blames us for all his miseries, and has no understanding of who is capable of doing what. He wants to bash someone. We are the ones available. ”
It was as if a curtain had slid open in front of his eyes and everything seemed clear as daylight now. In his ragged state of mind, Malhaar stepped down from the left side of his bed and walked around it’s corner. He looked at the moonbeam gently bathing in soft light the foot of his son’s crib. His eyes rested on the beam for a second and then followed it’s path further down until in a thin streak, it partially illuminated the face of the nymph like figure lying on the floor. Looking at her face l, in that light, in that moment made his heart sink as the rude awakening hit him with complete clarity.
“She was framed.” escaped a whisper from his lips as he slowly sank down to his knees a couple of feet away from her face. A cold sweat broke out on his forehead as he felt sick to his stomach.
” I have been torturing an innocent …” he whispered in an even lower voice than before.