A Request

The sky was overcast with ominous black clouds. The sun hadn’t set but the darkness didn’t give way to either sun’s light or warmth. Forcing himself to focus on his laptop screen, he began tapping on the keys soundlessly and thunder rumbled outside. The conference being tomorrow he didn’t have a lot of time to finish the presentation, though he had done a majority of it a few things remained incomplete. Unable to concentrate anymore, he walked to the window sighing because the weather added to the gloom of his situation. Though being in a hotel room was better than being at home where every single thing triggered a memory.  After many hours of self restraint, he picked up his phone and called the person he had been thinking about.

“Why did you call?” a cold voice answered in place of a greeting

“Ella” he was relieved to get an answer despite the coldness of her response “How is she? And please don’t hang up.”

“You can’t call anytime, you know.”  She said angrily “I’m busy here.”

He could hear crying in the background and then Ella cursing under her breath. The pressure must be wearing off her patience. “Please just tell me if she’s okay.” He pleaded

“She’s still the same” she replied curtly “Now I have to go, Bye.”

He was left with a beep to inform him that the call had been disconnected. They had separated a month ago, which explained her unfaltering cold exterior. He had offered to stay together till Emma was no longer a toddler but anything he said did nothing to cool down the tension. Emma’s wailing in the adjoining room did little in lightening the atmosphere.

“Why to stay together even a day when we no longer have feelings for each other?” she fumed

He wanted to say that it was him who lost the feelings for her but he knew better than to say that.

“I know this stage is particularly hard, and I am equally responsible as her father.” He reasoned but seeing no change of expression on his wife’s face, he sighed “I just want to help out Ella.”

She took his offer to be condescending and infuriated by her own misjudgments began pacing impatiently.

“You don’t think I’m worthy enough to raise my own daughter?”

Our he corrected in his mind.

“Ella” he placed his hands on her shoulders which she shrugged off in irritation “Please let me help raise our child.”

“No.,” she said with steely determination in her eyes “I don’t need you. We don’t need you.”

He tried hard not to let the hurt show on his face but failed miserably.

“I’m leaving in the morning.” She said quietly and left the room, letting him feel guilty for being honest with her.

 

He felt his eyes moisten as he remembered that night. Emma had been waking up every single night with colic and Ella had been sleep deprived since a month. Just because they couldn’t make it work as a married couple didn’t stop him from worrying about her and their daughter. Out of the two of them, Ella was the one who would keep grudges. Forgiveness never came easily to her and he feared it wouldn’t, even in this case. He was afraid that because of the way he had hurt Ella, Emma might never know what kind of a father he could be. He crawled under the covers as exhaustion took him over, pushing him into a deep sleep.

He woke up to the familiar ringing of his daily alarm. Most people had trouble waking up early ad did it only because it was some kind of compulsion but he found peace in organizing his day as the sun climbed the horizon.

Within an hour and a half, he had completed his presentation and showered. Not having much of an appetite because of the constant worrying, he decided to skip breakfast and eat something after the conference. Seeing an infant in a pram as he entered the elevator, his thoughts wandered back to his own daughter and gave way to the hopelessness once again.

Halfway through the meeting, a receptionist burst in through the door

“Is Mr.Turner here?” she asked, anxiety marking her features “There’s a call for you. It’s an emergency.”

I practically ran to the reception without bothering to excuse myself before leaving the conference. My head was whirling with scenarios that made my gut twist, each one worse than the last.

Panting, I breathed a hello into the phone.

“Chris?” May sounded panic-stricken “Thank God I could get to you. I tried to call you on your cellphone so many times but you didn’t pick up.”

“Yes, I was-“

“Emma is really sick.” She rushed her words “Ella took her to the hospital and they’ve admitted her.”

“I’m on my way.”

“But aren’t you-“

“Yes, I’m out for a conference but Emma needs me.” I said decidedly “I’m coming.”

“Oh dear, that’s a great relief. Ella is under so much pressure, she really needs your help.”

I didn’t mention that I was offering all the help I could, it was Ella’s ego was the problem. Besides, May already knew the situation well and she was the one keeping me updated even when Ella had accused her of disregarding her own daughter’s wishes. She told her that she was just being a good grandmother and mother in law.

The time the cab took to reach the hospital combined with the flight’s time was 3 hours. As he searched the corridors for Ella or May he was only greeted by unfamiliar faces. Taking out his cellphone, he called May.

“May?” he said anxiously “Where are you ? I can’t find any of you in the hospital.”

“We’re at home, Chris.” She said, tiredness lacing her voice “They discharged her, she’s better now.”

“Can I visit?” he asked expectantly

“Yes,” she said, “I think you should.”

Half an hour later he was standing at May’s door. He was hesitant about visiting Emma because of Ella’s reaction. May opened the door for him, she looked just as he remembered from a few months ago. Silver hair pulled back in a bun, wrinkles made her look wise more than old, but her eyes were sadder than how he remembered them. They used to be twinkling, kind.

She ushered me in and asked me to wait in the living room. I had been seeing those yellow walls almost every holiday because Ella always insisted on spending them with her mother. I understood and complied because she lived alone and needed company.

“Chris?” came Ella’s quivering voice “What are you doing here?” This time it the tone of her voice was surprised rather than the accusing one I had been accustomed to.

He was shocked to see her looking so tired, with bags under her eyes and a new wrinkle forming between her eyebrows. On instinct, he walked to her and enveloped her in a hug. Surprisingly, she slumped and wound her arms around him too.  Feeling her sniffle he forced her to look at him. Her tear stained face was piteous, he wiped the flowing tears from her cheeks and pressed his lips to her forehead.

“Let me help, please.” He whispered

She nodded soundlessly and both of them heaved a sigh of relief after a long while.

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