For a moment, I felt the wind knocked out of me. I stood there, trying to comprehend what he was trying to tell me.
“Ira..” He took a step towards me.
“Wait,” I stopped him. I wasn’t ready to accept him as yet. “Did you know about me?” I didn’t beat around the bush.
“No,” He said. He looked me straight in the eye and just as I was about to believe him, he looked away.
“You knew?” I tried to hide my disappointment.
“No,” He said, a little too vehemently. “I had my doubts, but I didn’t know for sure. And then Mili,” He hesitated. “Maybe we should go somewhere and talk.”
I looked around at the people walking by, going about their business. He was right, this was no place to be discussing my most personal thoughts.
I nodded slowly, “We can go to the room,” I suggested.
“No.. I have to get back..” He said. I tried to hide my surprise, was he running away from me again?
“Oh.. I understand.” I was guessing this was the last time I was going to see him.
“No.. Its not like that..” He interjected, looking at the expression on my face. “I have to get back,” he explained, “because, Lyka might litter today, and I should be there.”
“Oh..” I didn’t know what else I was expected to say.
“So, why don’t you come down to this address, whenever you are ready.” He handed me a card.
“Uh..” I don’t know why I was hesitating. All the answers I was looking for were with him.
“Look,” he said, sensing my apprehension, “This is difficult for me too.”
Slowly, I nodded. “Okay, I’ll come down in a while.”
“Okay!” The relief on his face was apparent. He turned to leave, “Please come. Don’t disappear on me.” With a quick smile, he was gone.
I stood there, waiting for the moment to pass me by. Did I imagine it all? I looked down at the card he had handed put to me. It was no figment of my imagination.
I went upstairs and waited for Prachi. I didn’t think I could go alone. I needed someone with me. I tried her number a couple of times. Her phone was out of coverage. There was nothing I could do but wait.
After, what seemed like eternity, Prachi walked in nonplussed. She didn’t pay me any attention. She hummed to herself as she poured water into a glass.
“Prachi, I’m so glad you’re back..” I walked towards her.
“I bet you are,” She said curtly. “Don’t ask me what happened, because I’m not going to tell you. You didn’t want to know remember?”
“I met him.” I said simply.
She looked at me curiously, “Met whom?”
“What? He came here?” She asked surprised.
“You know who he is?” It was my turn to be surprised.
Prachi hesitated, “I might as well tell you,” she said after a while, “That lady told me everything.”
I waited in silence.
“God Ira, that lady Mili, she had it really rough. I feel so horrible for her.” Prachi settled down on the bed and looked up at me.
“What?” I asked.
“I honestly, don’t know what to say anymore.” I felt devoid of any emotions. I managed a smile, “So, what’s the lousy reason I was abandoned?”
“Don’t talk like that. At least not before you get to know the whole story.” She admonished.
“So, tell me.”
Prachi took a deep breath and started talking, “Apparently after her father passed away suddenly, and her brother wilted away, Mili took over her father’s work, or tried to. She met Vishal,” Prachi stole a glance at me, “at her father’s firm. And things were going great between them, when the firm collapsed, leaving both Mili and Vishal penniless. Things became bitter between them and they split up. And then Mili realized she was going to have you. She went to her friend for help, who took her in, cared for her and loved her. Once you were born, she took you far away, so that Mili could live her life, without the burden of a child. She didn’t tell anyone where she had left you. Mili went crazy looking for you. Mili never forgave her.”
Prachi paused, to look at me. “And then, a year ago, Mili sent a letter to her friend blaming her for keeping her away from her daughter. I don’t know what happened to her, but a couple of days after the letter was received, Mili..” She hesitated.
“I know..” I said softly.
After a while I spoke , “And the friend?”
Prachi smiled a little, “No prizes for guessing who it is.”
A rap on the door surprised both of us. I walked over to the door and pulled the door open.
It was her, the friend. The neighbor.