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 She is here! The tall woman in the long form fitting black dress, standing at the back of the crowd, several meters away from everyone else– that’s definitely her, Sarah. It’s been thirteen years since I last set eyes on her, but that’s one face I would never forget. The years had taken a toll on her– her cheeks look hollow, her eyes lifeless and the thick black hair that once framed her face is mostly silvery white now. She didn’t come alone. A man with long grey hair pulled back in a ponytail stood next to her and he had his arm around her shoulders protectively. In her hands, she held a small bouquet matching the one in mine. Pink carnations. Papa’s favorite. I am surprised that she remembered. I returned my attention to the dark cherry wood casket in front of me where my Papa Lay, looking calm, serene and finally at peace. There isn’t going to be any miracle that would make him rise again and come back to me. This is real. He is gone. And a part of my soul went with him. 

 

Prayers were read, hymns were sung and eulogies were delivered. People talked about how brave Harry, the friend was–to fight against cancer knowing it was a losing battle. I hated it when people said that about him even though they hadn’t intended to disrespect his struggles. Harry, the father fought every single battle in his life with the same passion including his last one– the most ruthless of all. He would sit through the gruesome chemo sessions and then come home and pretend to enjoy the dinner I cook for him. Then the next day he would dress up and go to work as usual. The weaker his body got, the stronger his mind became. And I foolishly believed he would continue growing stronger until I saw him lying on the floor one day, cold and stiff.

 

 As I watched the casket disappearing into the dark pit of emptiness, a lone tear fell down my cheek. Through the corner of my eye, I saw Sarah dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief too. I hadn’t expected her to come today. Why today? After all those years? Did Aunt Lily know Sarah was coming?

 

Sarah stayed at the back and I knew the exact moment she spotted me because her face had lost all its color and she looked like she had seen a ghost. Her husband/boyfriend was instantly beside her, rubbing her back soothingly to calm her down. 

 

Thirteen years ago, I would have begged her to join me in the front. Holding hands, we would bid farewell to the man who loved both of us more than anything else in the world. But today it’s just me, his daughter, the only woman who loved him enough. 

And Sarah...she stayed where she was, with the man whom she chose over her husband and daughter. 

 

***

 

When I was 8, I thought Sarah, my mom was the most beautiful woman on earth. She looked exactly like one of the expensive dolls in my collection–fair skinned with long black hair and bright, sparkly eyes. I would look at my dark skin and corkscrew curls and wonder why I don’t look like her. Papa was not conventionally handsome, just a normal man of an average build. But I didn’t look like him either. My friends also started asking why I don’t look like my parents. 

Unable to contain my curiosity any longer, I went to my mom.

 

“Mom, why don’t I look like you or Papa?”

 

Stunned and hurt, she sat in silence, trying to figure out how to answer my question.

The silence lasted for about a minute. Then she pulled me slowly towards her, cupped my face in her hands. And when she spoke, her voice was full of emotion. 

 

 “That’s because...honey, you didn’t come out of my tummy. But I still love you the same.”

 

I was deeply saddened by what I just heard. I wanted to come out of her tummy. I didn’t want anyone else. 

 

As if sensing my distress, she hugged me tightly and pressed a kiss on my forehead. A kiss that didn’t come with a promise…

I learned a new word that day. Adopted. I also learned that cultural myths aren’t always true. Someone doesn’t have to be a birth mother to love a child dearly. My mom loved and cared for me like I was her own. With Papa away for work most of the time, she took care of the house and me. And I didn’t miss Papa at all. 

 

***

 

It was my sixteenth birthday and I had been waiting for it for months. Papa said he had a surprise waiting for me at home. When I came home, it was just Papa and Aunt Lily, his sister. Mom was nowhere to be seen. Had she gone out to get my cake? But looking at Papa’s glum expression, I sensed something was wrong. Did mom have an accident?

 

“Can someone tell me what’s going on here?”I was nearly hysterical. 

 

Papa had a small piece of paper clutched in his trembling hands. I snatched it from him before unfolding it to have a closer look. It was a note written in mom’s slanted handwriting. 

 

I am leaving Harry. I have to. I am sorry.

 

I was screaming and cursing everybody and everything for making my life miserable. Aunt Lily kept trying to pacify me while Papa just sat there, numb and motionless. He looked like mom leaving us didn’t shock him at all. It was as if he knew she was going to pack up and leave one day. And that made me angrier. Maybe she would have stayed if he came home more frequently. Maybe she wouldn’t have left us if he showed her that he really cared for us. And just like that, I turned into a rebel teen overnight. I stopped going to school. I stopped speaking to Papa. I would stay locked inside my room for days without eating and speaking to anyone. Occasionally Aunt Lily would come to help out. It was through her that I slowly started seeing a different perspective of mom’s abandonment. She said mom was in love with another man before her marriage, but she was forced to marry Papa because of her family. And now her old boyfriend came back and she left with him. Papa knew she was leaving and he quietly signed off the divorce papers. 

 

I never thought mom was unhappy with her life here. Once in a while she complained about Papa going away for weeks. But when Papa came, she looked happy and excited. I hated her for leaving her daughter. I hated her for betraying an innocent man. Above all, I hated that I still loved her, despite everything…

 

The aftermath of her abandonment was melodramatic and chaotic. But over time, it improved my relationship with my Papa. We decided to start over with a clean slate and rebuild and repair the broken bits of our past. Papa found another job near home, with a lesser pay than his previous one. A part of him blamed himself too for driving mom away with his lack of attention. 

He never dated again.

 

“What do you want to do with your life Papa? “I asked. “Surely this is not the end right?”

 

“I like my life as it is.” He said affectionately. “I have you with me. The only woman who loved me enough.”

 

When I was 21, Papa was diagnosed with stage 2 prostate cancer and that news altered our lives forever. The years followed were a blur with me bouncing between pain and acceptance– pain of seeing him silently suffer and the slow acceptance that he didn’t have much time left. 

 

***

 

“Noorie! I have been looking for you.” Aunt Lily grabbed my hand and pulled me to the small crowd of people waiting for me. After briefly thanking everyone for being here to pay respects for my Papa, I slowly started walking towards the car, Aunt Lily tagging along. 

 

“I didn’t invite Sarah.’’ She whispered, distraught. 

 

“I know. I didn’t think you would. But to be honest, it doesn’t matter anymore. She came. Out of obligation or choice. I don’t know. Like I said, it is not important. And now she is gone.” I replied in a dejected tone.

 

“No. She is not.”

 

Yes. I saw her too. She was standing in the parking lot, looking in my direction. I shook my head, indicating that I am not ready for whatever she has in mind. 

 

Today isn’t the day for a stranger who left me with memories. Today is for my Papa who was just laid to rest. 

 

Her intent gaze lingered on me for a moment, she then gave me an uncertain smile–a smile that said she was sorry for my loss–before she turned around and walked towards her car and the man waiting inside.

 

She lost him twice. I wanted to say I was sorry for her losses too. But I am not that person anymore. Between then and now, a lot has changed. I have learned to forgive and forget. Hand in hand, Papa and I fought our demons and made peace with them all. He was my rock and anchor and I was the only woman who loved him enough...

 

 

May 29, 2020 07:40

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51 comments

Laura Clark
06:18 Jun 01, 2020

I really enjoyed the line about today being about her dad not the mother that left her - I think that stood out as the best in the whole story! What a beautifully nuanced tangle of relationships to portray!

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Roshna Rusiniya
06:32 Jun 01, 2020

Thanks a lot Laura! That was my favourite line too. I thought that described Noorie’s relationship with both her parents.

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19:19 May 31, 2020

Wow! This was beautiful! I don't know what to say that hasn't already been said. I loved the subtlety at the end. I loved how real the characters were. I loved Noorie's voice. I wouldn't change anything. Really great story!

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Roshna Rusiniya
03:04 Jun 01, 2020

Thank you Magnet( is that your real name?) for taking the time to read and comment. I love your realistic stories too.

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15:07 Jun 01, 2020

No, it's not. ;) It's a nickname.

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Roshna Rusiniya
04:52 Jun 02, 2020

Ah I see. Cute nickname btw!😁

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13:28 Jun 02, 2020

Wow! This story was amazing! I enjoyed the style of your writing, along with the storyline! I know what it feels like to have someone you love 'sick', and to have someone you love pass away. You captured that feeling perfectly! Keep writing and stay safe! -Brooke

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Roshna Rusiniya
17:07 Jun 02, 2020

Thank you Brooke for reading and commenting. Appreciate it. You stay safe too.

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01:45 Jun 03, 2020

You're welcome!

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I really liked this. It was emotional, full of hints of the past but not a full on ‘plunge in’. I am actually adopted, and my dad had cancer, so it makes it very interesting. Everyone’s story is different and this one is spot On. Of course my family didn’t experience drama like this, but from different views it works. Thanks for writing!

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Roshna Rusiniya
03:09 Jun 01, 2020

Thank you Rose for reading and commenting. Sorry to hear about your father. I have a friend with an adopted son. I have relatives who died of cancer. I based this story on the recent news articles coming up from the place I grew up. Parents, especially the mother leaving husbands and kids to be with their lovers. It’s quite sad.

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It is very sad, cancer, coronavirus, and divorce are all splitting families apart. Thankfully my dad recovered.

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Roshna Rusiniya
04:51 Jun 02, 2020

Glad to know that your father has recovered. Yes, we are going through terrible times!

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Emma Lin
15:41 May 31, 2020

Roshna! I enjoyed the storyline! Thanks! Looking forward to reading more from you!

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Roshna Rusiniya
04:49 Jun 02, 2020

Thank you Emma!

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Sandeep T
08:06 May 31, 2020

It flowed naturally.. I found myself as a part of Mr.Harry's funeral. "Today isn’t the day for a stranger who left me with memories. Today is for my Papa who was just laid to rest." It's fascinating when I find sentences that hold the gist of the story. Interesting read.

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Roshna Rusiniya
08:13 May 31, 2020

Thank you for your wonderful feedback! Have a great day.

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Kathryn El Assal
16:16 May 30, 2020

Moving response to "the relationship between a parent and child that spans several years" prompt. Character-driven, realistic fiction is my favorite, so I'm a big fan of your stories. My best friend's oldest daughter was adopted and when she was in her twenties they tracked down the birth mother in Mexico. My friend died of cancer in December and her daughter is now connected to a whole network of relatives south of the border. They went to visit those family members on three separate occasions. I may have to draw on their experience for a...

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Roshna Rusiniya
18:26 May 30, 2020

Thank you for your kind words! Highly appreciated. I have a friend with an adopted son. My father in law died of cancer too. I like to write about real people and real emotions. I want people to relate to it when they read my stories. I want people to think ‘ Hey, that’s me’ or ‘ Oh! I know someone who experienced the same.’

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Anushka Binoy
12:52 May 30, 2020

Beautiful storytelling! I love the contrast between her relationships with her parents!

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Roshna Rusiniya
13:38 May 30, 2020

Thank you Anushka. I really appreciate you reading and commenting. Just curious. Are you from Kerala?

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Anushka Binoy
18:47 May 30, 2020

Yes I am! How did you know?

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Roshna Rusiniya
18:51 May 30, 2020

From the name. I am a malayali too😬

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Kathleen March
23:56 May 29, 2020

A lot of deep feelings here. I can see tightening up the narrative, to tell less and show more. It could enhance the impact of a good story like this one. Also, in my writing I've been told to use the passive voice less: "Prayers were read, hymns were sung and eulogies were delivered." eg, "There were prayers, hymns, and eulogies." Or: "People prayed, sang hymns, delivered eulogies." Only suggestions, nothing more.

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Roshna Rusiniya
02:44 May 30, 2020

That’s a very valuable suggestion Kathleen. Thank you so much. I am learning a lot after joining here and it has improved my writing too.

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Kathleen March
04:03 May 30, 2020

I am glad. Making suggestions is as useful ss saying ‘nice story”. They aren’y intended to be negative at all. That is the value of this forum.

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Roshna Rusiniya
08:00 May 30, 2020

Yes. I appreciate all the suggestions here. I personally try to stay away from making suggestions though. Because I feel that I haven’t reached that stage in terms of writing where I can add inputs to someone else’ writing. Lol

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Kathleen March
13:07 May 30, 2020

A reader always can ask questions, though, such as why the writer chose a certain way of describing or why the first person was used instead of third person.

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Roshna Rusiniya
13:44 May 30, 2020

You have a point there. At the moment I read as many stories as I can, to understand how different styles of writing work. And I click ‘like’ for the stories I read as an acknowledgement. Maybe I will also start leaving comments in every story I read.

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13:04 May 29, 2020

Interesting tactic to gradually reveal Sarah's identity. I would have loved to see Noorie and Harry's relationship 'shown' even more so that the contrast between Harry and Sarah's approach to Noorie would be driven home. I got the impression that Sarah still cared for Noorie, but maybe that's not what was intended?

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Roshna Rusiniya
13:12 May 29, 2020

Thanks for reading Emilie. Sarah did care for Harry and Noorie, but not enough to stay with them as a family. I wanted to focus on Noorie’s grief over losing her father. Like Noorie said ‘ Today isn’t the day for a stranger who left me with memories. Today is for my Papa who was just laid to rest.’

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14:42 May 29, 2020

You're welcome! I'm glad Noorie formed a relationship with her dad; those lines you quoted bring out the different ways Noorie relates to her parents ('papa' versus 'stranger,' for example)

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Annora Chen
04:00 Jul 30, 2020

Woahh, this is amazing!! I love the sentence "I hate how I still love her despute everything she's done." Someting like that, that is very relateble, nice story!!! Then and now, things have changed while other things stayed the same. Hope u have a good day!! 💖

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14:26 Jun 07, 2020

Wonderful story Roshna! You are one of my favourite writers😁 I like how you portray the feelings of the main character, and the different stages of those feelings - the anger and eventual acceptance of the actions of her father and mother. The way you wrote the story drew me in and flowed nicely. Exquisite and heart-felt writing Roshna😍🎉🌹

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Roshna Rusiniya
14:39 Jun 07, 2020

Ah! Thank you! I am humbled. I like reading your stories too. They always give me warm and light-hearted vibes. Keep writing! And stay safe❤️🥰

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15:21 Jun 04, 2020

This story is amazing! The storyline was described nicely and I love it! Looking forward for more stories from you Roshna! Keep writing and stay safe....

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Roshna Rusiniya
15:41 Jun 04, 2020

Thank you Harshini! Really appreciated. If you have time please read my new story too. ‘ A nice little stroll down the memory lane and the people we run into’. Thanks!

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Daryl Gravesande
13:37 Jun 01, 2020

I have a new story! Tell me what you think!

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Roshna Rusiniya
04:49 Jun 02, 2020

Will do.

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Vrishni Maharaj
10:44 Jun 01, 2020

Wonderful story!

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Roshna Rusiniya
04:49 Jun 02, 2020

Thank you

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Caroline G
23:21 May 31, 2020

I can't believe how much time and emotional breadth you showed us in these flashing scenes. Great job!

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Roshna Rusiniya
03:03 Jun 01, 2020

Thank you Caroline for reading and commenting. Really appreciated!

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Asposhto Prakash
10:09 Jun 04, 2020

A loved the way it ended, i could picture it.. And very well put.. You may want to take a look at my story An Unwanted Issue

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Roshna Rusiniya
10:33 Jun 04, 2020

Thank you! Appreciated. Will have a look at your story right now. I have a new story if you would like to read.

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Kelechi Nwokoma
00:32 Jun 01, 2020

This is really wonderful. I enjoyed the whole storyline and loved reading it to the end. The drama was there, and the tragedy was also there. However, I feel you should've written more on the relationship between the main character and her father, preferably over a longer year span. Because at the age of eight, we saw the relationship with her mother, then at the age of sixteen, we started seeing a relationship with the father. There's a huge gap difference between those two, and I felt it shoukdve been better if you wrote more on the relati...

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Roshna Rusiniya
03:02 Jun 01, 2020

Thank you for your honest feedback. Very much appreciated. This story was based on the prompt’ how a character’s relationship with the parent has changed over the span of years.’ I just wanted to show that in the past her mom was a beautiful and loving woman and her Papa was someone who was away a lot. She loved the mom even after she abandoned the daughter. In the present when she finally came back, all the daughter feels is dejected. So she just dismisses her as a stranger with memories, focuses on her father instead.

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Kelechi Nwokoma
03:10 Jun 01, 2020

Okay. I understand that, and you portrayed that relationship clearly. But I want to make a correction- the prompt said 'write a story between a parent and a child that spans several years'. I think the part you made a mistake in was writing about change, which the prompt didn't say. However, your approach to the prompt was really interesting- it didn't spoil the story at all. It was just a personal opinion wanted to include. Great work, again!

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Roshna Rusiniya
03:13 Jun 01, 2020

No problem at all. I welcome all the suggestions. Highly appreciated. I will keep an eye on finer details from next time onwards. Thanks again Kelechi.

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Kelechi Nwokoma
03:15 Jun 01, 2020

You're welcome. I'm more than happy to help :)

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