The slight evening breeze gently pushed the branches of the apple tree, heavily laden with the ripe red orbs. With a cup of warm tea in one hand and a book in another Sandhya slowly made her way to the chair under the tree. She felt like the tree herself. Heavy and clumsy. She was entering the ninth month of her pregnancy and was at the stage where she felt she waddled more than walked. Settling herself in the chair and resting her legs on the little stool in front of her, she looked up at the red globes hanging there, ready to take their plunge downwards, proving time and again to the world, the concept of gravity, irrespective of the fact that they may be squashed, scarred or broken, pecked away at, by birds, trampled by foot or even if they survived all this, taken away, sold and eaten by humans.
“Impulsive little ones”, she teased them good naturedly.
She remembered another time, when she, herself, brimming with happiness, was somewhat like the same apples she teased, unknowingly, setting herself up for hurt.
She had had the life she had wanted and planned. She had done well in academics, married well, and had a good job.
She was in love with her husband and had no doubt that he loved her too.
All she had wanted was a baby. Their baby. And it seemed even that was on the way.
But somehow, it was as if, after the perfection of her life till then, it had been time to balance it with heartbreak and unhappiness, as if some cosmic balancing mechanism wanted to put right the mistake it had made by providing a single entity with so much happiness, by raining down hurt.
Usha barely noticed the breeze lifting the strands of her black tresses and playing with them. Nor did she notice the world walking past her. The world spinning around her. It was as if she was trapped in a time wrap. A time wrap which hung only on the medical report in her hands. The medical report which in simple, cold, clinical terms said that she had leukemia, in its advanced stage.
She broke out of her reverie as a vehicle honked behind her.
The last visit to her physician regarding some routine fatigue problem had led to blood tests revealing an increased blood count of white cells.
Too shocked to think anymore, she slowly made her way to her car.
She knew it was time to subtract many years from her hypothetical assumption of the time span of her life. How was she supposed to do all the things she was supposed to do in her life? More than that, how was she supposed to figure out all those things before her time ran out?
Slowly the shock wore off as tears, as she slumped against the steering.
Sandhya walked back to the house, her mind engulfed in the memories of the past. She had always loved reading. More than humans she found pleasure in the company of books. Silent, giving, reliable and faithful books. All the peaceful and pleasant memories of her childhood were related to books in one way or another. She had graduated in library sciences. Hence, her job, which she applied for after her marriage to Ajit, was perfect for her. Her profile was of a book reviewer. She was supposed to read the book and prepare a review for it. She could not think of anything better. Reading was a pleasure and writing a hobby. Picture perfect.
Even her family, her parents and her in-laws, were glad for her. The job did not require much traveling and she could conduct her work from home.Ajit had seemed happy too.
But somehow, when she thought back now, she realized she never knew what was going on in his mind. The husband whom she had come to love and thought she knew had turned out to be someone else altogether.
He had been her father’s friend’s son. After the initial matchmaking ruckus by their parents, they had finally met and decided to get married. He was a mechanical engineer by profession, who had dreams of setting up his own business.
She had been attracted to his dynamism and energy; he in turn to her calm demeanor and simplicity.
Their marriage of 8 years had also been normal, with its usual ups and downs. She had thought he was satisfied with life, and she herself had been content.
Though she did not fancy their relationship to be the epitome of romance, she had had realistic expectations of harmony and satisfaction.
Why had he then felt the need to go to another woman?