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You are 21 and you are in love. With the petite girl next door. She isn’t beautiful by any conventional standards. But there is something about her that makes your world stop. To your utter disappointment, she doesn’t reciprocate your feelings. But you don’t give up. Two years of persistent chasing later, she finally admits she is in love with you too. 


Adding drama to your blooming love story, her father gets transferred to another state. But that doesn’t stop you from meeting each other discretely. You have your life plans ready. You want to go to New York, study business management and build a niche of your own instead of joining your family business. In fact, your father is very supportive of your plans. Life has other plans though. Her father finds out about your relationship. You go and ask him permission to marry his daughter. He rejects your proposal saying his daughter is too young to marry. Your father doesn’t agree with your idea either, but his reasons are more practical. He wants you to complete your studies and settle down somewhere before you think about marriage. You both get married anyways. You start working as an accountant in a small company and she gets a job in a bakery. You start your life, blissful and happy. 


From outside, everything looks fine. You are married to the girl of your dreams. Then you discover that you aren’t happy with the direction your life is taking. You are restless, fidgety. Your job might help you bring money home, but it stops there. You don’t enjoy what you do. Then your wife tells you that she is pregnant. Of course, that news makes you happy. At the same time it brings a question to the front –– is this how you want your children to see you?


You spend your days and nights thinking about what to do. Your wife is oblivious to your moods and you try hard to keep it that way. You decide it’s time to go and ask your father for some advice. You know he is angry with you for going against his wishes and marrying too young. But you are willing to take a risk. You expect him to show you the door. Instead, he takes you straight to his office room and shuts the door from inside. After you both are seated, he asks you. “ Are you happy?” 



You are quiet because you don’t have an answer. 


“Is this the kind of life you want to live?” 


You don’t have an answer to that either. 


“You are an ambitious boy. Go after your dreams. If your wife truly loves you, she will let you go with a smile.”


And you realize, that is the best advice your father has ever given you. Ironically, the worst too. 


You go home with a heavy heart. You think about your father’s advice over and over again. You know he is right. You can’t continue living like this. You will destroy yourself and then everyone around you. You speak to your wife. She flinches when you tell her that you aren’t happy. You know it will hurt her. But if you don’t tell her the truth, you will regret it forever. Then you give her a summary of your conversation with your father including the dreaded advice. She doesn’t yell at you for thinking of going away. She doesn’t beg you to stay. You are surprised at her calmness and you startlingly realize that your father probably knows her more than you do. 


She knows if she pleads, you will stay, out of guilt. But you will continue to live a depressed life. She loves you enough to let you go so you find your happiness. Selfishly, you accept her kindness. 


You promise her that you will come back but also regretfully add that you can’t tell when exactly. You move to New York after securing an MBA seat in one of the prestigious universities. Soon you become aware of the weight of the challenges awaiting you at the other end. You immerse yourself in studies while doing some odd part-time jobs to survive. After passing the course, you decide to open up a restaurant with a friend. It doesn’t work out as per your plans. You lose all the money along with the friend. But you don’t give up. You keep trying your hand at everything you can. Some click. Some don’t. You are a father now. Your wife says she has named your daughter after your mother. You grow more desperate because you know time is running away from you. 


***


You are 30 and you sit in your dingy apartment in New York looking at the eviction letter from the landlord and wonder where has it all gone wrong. You think your life is the result of your choices –– questionable and morally difficult. You decide you have had enough and you want to go back to your family. To your wife and your daughter. You are going to fall at their feet and beg them to take you back. You know they will. You start putting your clothes in your suitcase. Then you notice the envelope lying on top of your bed. Your wife’s latest letter to you. Along with the letter, there is also a photograph –– of your five-year-old daughter. You look at the photo and your heart stops. Do you want your daughter to see you like this –– broken and dejected? Your old insecurities resurface and you tell yourself you need one more chance.


Your turning point arrives in the form of a Japanese businessman whom you meet in the park on one of your low days. After hearing your story, he quotes a famous proverb to you –– ‘we learn little from victory but a great deal from defeat.’ He gives you a job. He is a slave-driver, but that just pushes you to work harder like a man possessed. You learn and grow. 


***


You are 55 and you are the owner of a textile company that employs around 1000 people. Your wife still sends you letters and photographs. When you see the graduation pictures of your daughter, doubt starts creeping into you. You have started it all as a quest to find yourself, your true worth. But have you lost your soul somewhere along the journey? Your achievements — have they started to lose their charm? A year has turned to a decade and a decade has turned to three. You are so close to your success that you can almost taste it. Will it taste sweet or sour? You ask yourself.


You haven't made amends with your family. You haven’t met your daughter yet. She doesn’t even know of your existence. Your wife is right about that. It is not going to be an easy task to make the poor girl understand why her father has taken the cowardly route out. In your head, you have composed hundreds of letters– each and every one of them full of apologies. You are afraid to send them because you don’t think you are worthy of their forgiveness. You fear that it’s too late and they have learnt to live without you. 


You send your wife an email telling her that you are ready to come back. She replies saying she is happy about your decision but she wants you to take a step back and decide if you are completely sure because there is no going back. You know she is not to be blamed here. You are the one who caused the mistrust in her. 


You decide you have waited long enough. You fly home. Check into a hotel and call your wife from there. Her brother answers and he has some news for you. He doesn’t recognise your voice. Before he asks you anything, you disconnect the phone. You don’t want to tell him that you are the undeserving husband of the woman who is just laid to rest. 


You go to the church where your wife is resting. You cover her grave with fresh lilies. You sit near her feet and seek her forgiveness. You plead with God to send her back, just once, so you can apologize properly.


You don’t go and see your daughter. You think you want to let her grieve in peace. You think she wouldn’t want you barging into her life like this when she is already suffering from the shock of losing her mother.


You go back to your hotel and collapse on your bed. You want to cry over the losses and regrets, but you don’t know where to start –– the conversations you have never had, the birthday parties you have missed, the smiles you have never seen. There is a lifetime full of them. 


But you don’t like that your demons are winning again –– the demons who have ruled you throughout your life. For once, you want to see them lose.




You pick up the phone and dial your wife's number.


“Hello’’. A soft voice answers. You have this weird feeling in you as if you are jumping off a high, rocky cliff. Looking down, the ground below looks impossibly far away. You close your eyes and envision it –– the adrenaline rush, the icy air stinging your eyes. You prepare yourself for the crushing impact. Your breath hitches. Goosebumps flood your skin. A moment later, you are flying and then you are falling.


“Lina, this is your father.”



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105 comments

Nirosha P
07:04 Jul 07, 2020

I love the way you leave the story hanging like that. That's an amazing story and what makes it even more beautiful is that the you, the father realizes at the end, that he should call his daughter. It's a beautiful ending even thought it's tragedy. Keep up the amazing work! Also could you check out my stories? I would really appreciate if you could comment or follow me. :)

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Roshna Rusiniya
07:14 Jul 07, 2020

Thanks Nirosha! I just checked out your profile and I remember reading your first time. Will read the latest one soon. If you have time, please read my latest one too. Thank you!

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Nirosha P
07:18 Jul 07, 2020

Thanks Roshna! Sure I'd love to check out your latest story! :)

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23:22 Jun 25, 2020

Wow, Roshna. This is so heavy --really heavy. It starts off blissful and I go on a quest and get defeated countless of times and get up, I'm good now but when I want to come back to the person I started it for, she's gone. I enjoyed the tradegy of the story (I hope you don't think I'm twisted or something) I just find beauty in tragedy sometimes. This story is really great. Keep it up! Could you please check out my story, Silent Betrayer and give me feedback? I'd really appreciate it.

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Roshna Rusiniya
05:15 Jun 26, 2020

Thank you Kelechi. Appreciate it. I submitted the story at 2 am and went to sleep thinking I will come and delete it next day if I see any negative feedback. Ha ha. I don’t usually write stories like this. I personally feel there is a beauty in tragedy too. Not the stories that make you scream in your head. But the ones that leave you with a melancholy. I am not sure which category my story belongs to.

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06:57 Jun 26, 2020

Why would you have deleted your hard work because of negative feedback? You'd never grow as a writer that way. Luckily, this story is great so no negative feedback from me. At least it wasn't my words that would've removed this beautiful story from the contest. Keep writing and don't pay attention to negative feedback. Yes, critique is good, but as long as you're the greatest fan of your story, you're good.

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Roshna Rusiniya
07:29 Jun 26, 2020

That’s a great piece of advice Kelechi. Thank you for that. I agree I had some doubts about how my treatment of tragedy would be perceived. But you are right. I shouldn’t let anyone’s negativity kill my hard work.

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07:39 Jun 26, 2020

You're welcome. I got that advice from A.j Blink on this community (you can check her out on my following list) I was really depressed that 'bleach' wasn't approved after the contest and I didn't write for the next contest because of that (I later contacted the reedsy supports team and they sorted that out) But Blink told me what I told you. Because writers will face more troubles ahead so the sooner we learn to be the greatest fans of our work, the better. I hope you can check out her stories in case you haven't already.

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Roshna Rusiniya
08:29 Jun 26, 2020

Oh I am sorry to hear about ‘Bleach’. I remember reading it. It was a beautifully written piece. Yes I agree. A writer’s journey is never smooth and it shouldn’t be. I have faced many rejections too. It does dampen my spirits for a while but then I get up and try again.

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A.j Blink
21:09 Jun 26, 2020

Geez Kelechi. Thanks for the kind words. This almost brought me to tear. You're really great Roshna. Please keep writing.. Blessings! Live love!

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Syeda Fatima
11:31 Jul 04, 2020

the true picture clicked of the daring, dark society. I am personally amazed your observant skills are fantastic, just wow! I ain't got no words... 💙💜 p.s would love it if you peek in my story too.

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Roshna Rusiniya
12:28 Jul 04, 2020

Thank you Syeda! That was a lovely feedback. Really appreciated!🌹 I remember reading you story and clicking ‘like’. Will read again and leave a feedback ok? And have a look at my latest one too if you get time. Thanks!

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I think that the ending really nailed this! Well done on a story! To be honest, I think this has the potential to win!

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Roshna Rusiniya
13:24 Jun 28, 2020

Lol! We have much better writers here. But that’s so sweet of you to say!❤️

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Haha, I very much doubt that Roshna...I think that your stories may win one day!

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Roshna Rusiniya
13:49 Jun 28, 2020

One day. Insha Allah.

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Siddhi Amrale
09:08 Jun 28, 2020

This short story was no lesser than a fleshed-out novel. All the emotions in less than 3000 words. It was a dramatic ride. Playing with our emotions- they were really in your hands. I loved it. Just makes us realize that listening to our heart is so important...

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Roshna Rusiniya
09:52 Jun 28, 2020

Thank you for your wonderful feedback. Really appreciate it.

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22:22 Jun 27, 2020

This is such a deep and beautifully written story Roshna! I like how you take us through the years of the character. He went away to pursue different things, but he never really found happiness, and all along he never forgot his family. He just decided too late. It is important to do what you can while you can, and do not wait too long is the message I took away from it. A great read✨🤩

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Roshna Rusiniya
03:10 Jun 28, 2020

Thank you Elizabeth for reading! I am glad you liked it. Yes you got the message correct. No matter what you achieve, if you are never happy your achievements just feel empty. He was flawed. But he wasn’t a bad guy. So I gave me a chance to reconcile with his daughter. Thanks again. Take care!❤️

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Kathleen March
20:42 Jun 27, 2020

Heartwrenching, but the husband is also a complete idiot. Get rid of him and the story will improve. (Just kidding.) I liked the way this was structured. You kept the years moving past.

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Roshna Rusiniya
03:02 Jun 28, 2020

Thank for reading Kathleen! This story was quite heavy on the emotions!

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Annora Chen
04:45 Aug 02, 2020

Omg, this is very sad, but i think the father was right when he said, its too early for marridge, coz then he had to wait for so long, and in the end, he missed out more than he thought. Amazing writing!!🥰

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Roshna Rusiniya
05:04 Aug 02, 2020

Thank you Annora! There is a sequel which I posted last week here where the dad finally meets the daughter.

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Annora Chen
08:17 Aug 02, 2020

Ohhh, i seee, i'll check it out ltt! Uwu, thxx for telling mee

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Um e Hani
19:48 Jul 29, 2020

Oh my God! I read the second part first and then this one and I just loved it!! It is so beautifully written and reading it in this order made it even more spectacular! I love how this part has such a fast pace: years flying by in matter of minutes but when it came to the actual meeting with the daughter, in her point of view, time seems to stand still and everything is explained in detail! Just the same way as the man has spent his life in the fast forward mode and the daughter must have felt each and every day in slow motion. Incred...

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Roshna Rusiniya
19:52 Jul 29, 2020

Aw! Thanks for the great feedback. This was a sad story. When I finished writing it, I really felt for the protagonist and I really wanted him to meet his daughter. And I wrote the sequel. Thank you for reading both stories! Where are you from? Your name sounds Arabic. I am just curious.

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Um e Hani
19:54 Jul 29, 2020

I am from Pakistan and yes, the name is taken from Arabic!

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Roshna Rusiniya
19:56 Jul 29, 2020

Ah I see. I am from India :)

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Adah M.m
13:31 Jul 26, 2020

This is a really beautiful and we'll written story

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Roshna Rusiniya
13:47 Jul 26, 2020

Thank you Adah! :)

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Jn Park
00:21 Jul 24, 2020

Wow! I'm so thankful that you told me this is a sequel. The whole story looks different! I can't tell if Lina's father made a wrong choice or a right choice. Between family and ambitions is an eternal struggle without any definite remedy. I think the best way is to keep balance between them. I'm very sorry for the protagonist and his wife and his daughter, but I'm glad he learned his lesson at last. (This story, by the way, reminds me of LA LA Land and Cinema Paradiso.) :)

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Roshna Rusiniya
06:55 Jul 24, 2020

Thank you Janey! This one was quite heavy on the emotions. Ha ha. I like writing about people and their raw emotions. This is based on some of the women I knew back home who were forced to stay back home and watch their husbands leave for Singapore, Malaysia etc. for making money. Some of the men came back to their families. Some never returned.

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Jhumki r Vincent
05:48 Jul 06, 2020

A vivid pictorial piece! Awesome :)

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Roshna Rusiniya
03:52 Jul 07, 2020

Thank you!

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Tina Laing
00:48 Jul 05, 2020

A very nice story.

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Roshna Rusiniya
03:49 Jul 05, 2020

Thank you!🌹

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Jessie Nice
10:28 Jul 04, 2020

One of my favourite stories on here. Very cleverly written. A beautiful tragedy.

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Roshna Rusiniya
12:38 Jul 04, 2020

Thank you Jessie for your kind words. Really appreciated! 🌹

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Alana Lawlor
15:29 Jul 02, 2020

Cool story. You write some really great descriptions and I like your writing style a lot. It would have been nice to have the characters fleshed out a little more, especially at the start. I think it would give more weight to the ending if we knew more about the characters' individual personalities or why they fell in love in the first place. But I know you have to keep it short. Great work anyway :)

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Roshna Rusiniya
03:04 Jul 03, 2020

Thank you Alana. Appreciate you reading and commenting.

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James Ashton
03:49 Jul 02, 2020

I loved the pace of this story, especially how you see yourself gradually getting older and older. Then to have it all lead to you finally talking to a daughter who you've only know in letters! Amazing!

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Roshna Rusiniya
03:17 Jul 03, 2020

Thank you James! Appreciate you reading and commenting.

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Sadie Black
01:30 Jul 02, 2020

Whew, I just lived an entire life on fast forward! Really interesting to see this kind of story from this perspective. Thanks for the ride.

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Roshna Rusiniya
03:26 Jul 02, 2020

Thank you Sadie for reading and commenting. Really appreciate it!

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Andrea Smith
23:12 Jul 01, 2020

Not realistic at all

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Roshna Rusiniya
03:37 Jul 02, 2020

I am sorry to hear that you have felt that way. I wrote this story based on the real life experiences of some women I knew back home who were forced to live alone because the husbands decided to go to other countries for a better living. Some of the men came back. But some never did. lnstead of writing from a woman’s point of view, I thought to write about what goes through a man’s mind when he leaves his family.

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Kirby Povilaitis
18:15 Jul 01, 2020

Such a journey to go on in so few words! Truly a pleasure to read

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Roshna Rusiniya
19:18 Jul 01, 2020

Thank you Kirby! Appreciate you reading and commenting.

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Khizra Aslam
15:37 Jul 01, 2020

This story is really amazing😍❤

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Roshna Rusiniya
16:33 Jul 01, 2020

Thank you for reading Khizra! ❤️

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