“Dad”, my daughter’s quivering voice sent shivers through my spine. I look up from my book to see her vivid brown orbs shining with unshed tears. The infancy of her teenage years is clearly visible. I reach for her hand but she flinches. My heart would have been broken by that action if I had one. My stony exterior seems unfazed by the emotional dam that threatens to overflow any moment. I peer into those hazel eyes now marred by a red puffiness. She shies away, turns her face off from me. I can see her brown hair now; they remind me of her mother, her beautiful angel of a mother. A kindred soul, with compassionate eyes, just like her daughter, and voice, ready to pulverize me any moment my guard is down, a voice that always spoke to me with a certain disdain.
I slowly lift her chin to face my own countenance that now is weathered with the grey tint of experience. Her tone is weary and her voice is hoarse as she intones her next words, “Is Maa going to leave us?” My words forget their way to my mouth at the innocuous question that is now posed in front of me. ‘Was she?’ I have no idea how to answer that, I doubt that I even had an answer to that particular query.
Why won’t she? Any sane woman would have left me by now. Any same woman would have forsaken the husband who wasn’t allowed to touch her. A husband who was forced to stay celibate for the last thirteen years of his marriage! A loveless marriage! I haven’t slept a day in those long thirteen years that have passed. My smiles and my laughs were all focused on my lovely little daughter. I’ve strived in every moment of my solitude to find, every single second, my wrath, hate focused on her. I taught myself to sneer, to lay off snide comments, but all that came out was a smile, a painful, mournful smile that could melt the heart of a stubborn God. I found love from all those hours of introspection, ingrained deep within, what I was surprised to discover, my heart.
“Heartless filth” my wife has an interesting choice for an expletive, which she hurls at me in short intervals. My reply to all her invectives was always the same, a throaty chuckle. Hiding the pain, which her scathing tone ensued, with a cheeky smile! I smiled every time she brought her lover and his partner home, laughed when they insulted my family; take their ribbing as if they were a sport. It was good to see her smile, even if the cause was me getting insulted, hear her laugh, because the joke was on me. I felt alive when she was delighted. But these smiles, her ringing laughter were all momentary. They take her smile with them as they leave, always do. Then her face resembles that of a puppet, her smiles are artificial, aimed only at our daughter, my daughter.
She was growing, getting observant. She now can see these invisible tears that my eyes are filled with, but she isn’t old enough to understand my pain. I doubt she’ll ever be. She’ll always see my situation as a torture. Her hazel orbs will lack the love that it held now. They’ll be filled with remorse and pity for her father. She’ll never understand the evils of love, trials of choosing the convoluted path filled with the irremediably monstrous love. No. She must not understand this. For her love should be, must be adorable, poetic to be found in the lyrics of Keats and Shelley. For her love must be full of knights and princesses. Her love has to be reciprocated, something that my feeble heart yearns for. She must not learn how to love, for love can’t be learned. I’ve experienced it firsthand.
When I married her, accepted her to be, in heart and soul, my lawfully wedded wife, I knew what I was getting myself into. My well wishers, my family, were none too happy with the situation. But I didn’t have it in my heart to deny a woman her life. The timorous rays of early sun had an ability to extract a poetic couplet even out of a vagrant. It has a penchant for something outlandish. It only touches those whose beauty rivals that of the Gods. Its heavenly beams reflect on those who are born from the union of gods. Any feeble human, like me, can only gape at the amalgam of the beautiful transmutation created by the rays and the pulchritude of the one whom the rays touch. Even when the veritable god is showering curses faster than the speed of the aforementioned rays.”You’ll never touch me, You Demon!” She’d said that day and I haven’t tried to yet.
I smiled, when they professed their love for each of them, all three of them. I lost my love for her the day they made love while our daughter, My Daughter was writhing with fever in the next room. Still I turned a blind eye to the love affair of the three. I did nothing to impede my wife’s audacity just so our daughter, MY DAUGHTER can lead a normal life. I loved her dearly, even though she wasn’t mine by blood. Yet, our spirits were joined; I was more of a father to her than her sperm-donor could ever be. It was her spirit, her soul that gave me the power to go on forward. She couldn’t know the truth yet. To her ours was a perfect family, complete family, with a loving father and an equally loving mother. A loving uncle and aunt that were frequent in their visit and were closer to her mother as the uncle was her brother; this is the truth that she knows. The facade of family that I’d conjured was all for her. It wasn’t an illusory playground for Sandman to wreak chaos. It was her life. She was oblivious to the fact that this veneer of a proper family hid behind it a dark, hated father conniving to keep his daughter happy, irrevocably in love with the vain adulterous mother. My cold heartless soul isn’t frozen enough to obliterate the fantasy that his daughter considers life. I was playing the Creator and almighty here. I was the ruler of this realm. It was my responsibility to keep the sanctity and sanity her mind alive. It was all for her that I replied with the same stony exterior, “No. No she isn’t.”