“It’s a Sapphire…”

No, Samir, it’s not. More like a sparrow” She replied indignantly as she placed the cup of tea in front of him noisily.

‘It’s a Sapphire honey. See those blue wings…” Samir pointed out to Alka who just looked at him firmly.

He sighed expressing his defeat as he looked across at the window sill where a small bird with blue feathers tweeted a series of high pitched tones. He knew the bird belonged to the Sapphire family. Birds used to be his hobby much before he got married. He had his best friend would often find themselves trekking in the wilds of the jungles to explore the surroundings. He sighed again wishing to completely erase the memories of the past…

“All of us live with our past. All of us allow it to shape our future. But some of us know how to shrug the past. I think that is who I am…..” he thought to himself as he lovingly looked across the room at his wife Alka. He had managed to shrug off his past to completely delve on the present and the future. They had been married for 20 years and had a beautiful young daughter Tara who had turned 18 just last month. His beautiful sweet daughter, so loving, so calm, so mild, so jovial as he took in her picture that hung on the wall.

“Just once Tara, just once tell me, why you don’t love me.” It was Abhay desperately pleading for an answer. Tara looked at him and then turned her eyes away. She couldn’t look him in the eyes and lie. How could she lie to him, he who was her best friend since her school days and now final year college mates.

“Please Abhay not now…”

“Then when? You know Tara I love you like crazy.”

“Abhay, you are my friend and will always be one.”

“Damn you Tara, I want to be more than friends with you.” Abhay roughly caught her by her arms. “I love you, can’t you see that?”

“Please Abhay, you are hurting me.” She gently pried her arm loose and looked at him earnestly. “I don’t love you Abhay, please try to understand that. I do like you but…” She let her voice trail away.

“Is there someone else?” His voice was sharp.

She shook her head.

“Then what is it?”

She looked at him desperately hoping he will stop the discussion.

“What is it?” He yelled aloud.

Without another word, Tara turned around and walked out of the garden, trying hard to control the wave of emotions that was looming in her eyes wanting to crash out. She ignored him as he called out to her repeatedly.

She decided to walk back home. Her mind was in turmoil. There were so many conflicting ideas in her mind, she didn’t know what to do. She had to inform someone or else she would spend the rest of her life in misery.

The sun was about to set behind the looming mountains in the distance as Tara walked inside her building gate with weary steps.

Her ordeal had just started with Abhay and no sooner did she set foot inside the house, her mother’s screeching voice stopped her in her tracks.

“Tara! Where had you been all this while?”

Tara looked at her mother, trying to control her emotions.

“Mom please…”

“Don’t Mom me…!”

Samir stopped fiddling with his laptop to look at his daughter. Something was bugging her. He could read it in her eyes as they met his.

“Mom, I was with Abhay.”

“Not that idiot Abhay again”

It was enough to set free her emotions. “Stop it Mom, he’s my friend.”

Samir quickly got up and took Tara in a mild embrace.

“Hey, is everything okay?”

“Yes Dad.”

“You can tell me. I am your father.” He gently goaded her.

Tara looked at him, her eyes brimming with tears. She broke free from her father’s arms and took a step backwards so that she could face both her parents. Taking a deep breath, she look at her mom and then her father.

“Mom, Dad I have something to say to you.”

“Don’t tell me that you’re pregnant!” Her mother said indignantly.

“Alka please, let her speak.” Samir firmly told Alka.

“It’s about Abhay.” Tara manage to mumble. “Dad he proposed to me today…”

“There I knew that good for nothing boy was up to some mischief.” Her mother blurted again.

Samir gently latched his fingers with Tara’s. “Tara, you are old enough to take your own decisions.”

“Old enough my foot. Let me lay my hands on that son of a bitch.” Her mother’s voice cut through the conversation.

“Would you stop it Alka?” Samir demanded.

“Yeah that’s what I’ve been doing all these years.” Alka  wailed trying to stifle her tears.

“Mom, Dad Abhay loves me a lot and wants to marry me.”

“And you?” Her father looked at her enquiringly.

She didn’t know what to say. “I don’t know…” Tara hesitated. “For me he’s just a good friend.”

Samir looked at her with a smile. “Then you don’t have to worry about anything. I am sure he’ll understand.”

“He doesn’t. He wants to know why I don’t love him back.”

“Well you must have a good reason not to. Let him know.”

“He won’t understand. I was hoping you would…” Her voice went to a faint cry.

Samir took Tara’s hand and led her to the sofa.

“Is there something you want to tell us?”

Tara pondered for a few moments looking at her parents in their faces and then nodded slowly.

“What is it Beta?” Her father’s soothing voice asked.

Tara averted her eyes to the floor. “You might hate me.”

Her father gave her a hug. “Tara, there is nothing that you say or do that will make us hate you. No matter what, we’ll always love you.”

Tara quickly hugged her father tight, tears flowing freely down her cheeks.

“Oh Dad, I love you.”

Taking a control over herself, she detached herself from Samir and got up. She looked at her father and then at her mother.

“Mom, Dad, I… I don’t like boys.”

“There you go. Now I won’t have to worry about you having a boyfriend till the time of your marriage.” Her mother exclaimed gleefully.

But Samir was thinking hard. “And…?”

“Dad, I think… I think I am not straight if you know what I…”

“What?” Her mother’s scream resonated in the room.

Samir raised his to stop Alka.

“You sure?”

“Yes I am.” Tara replied now with full confidence. How she loved her dad for being so understanding.

“Samir, have you gone out of your mind? Tara what the hell is this?”

“I am sorry Mom…”

Tears loomed in her eyes again. “Dad Mom, I love you both and I just had to tell you this.”

“Oh god. Samir, tomorrow first thing in the morning, we are taking her to the doctor.”

“This is not something for the doctor Alka. We are talking about  our daughter’s feelings.” Her father sternly asserted.

“Then we are taking her to my Baba. He’ll…”

“Will you stop it Alka.”

Samir got up and started pacing the room.

“I am not stopping. Tomorrow we’re going to the Baba and that’s final.”

“Mom, I am not going anywhere.”

“Did you see that Samir, it’s all because of you. Because of your behavior, you have made her sissy.

“So what do you want me to do Alka? Beat her, treat her like a pariah?”

“Please I am sorry…” Tara pleaded.

“Sorry? When the world comes to know of this, we’ll become a laughing stock.” Alka was hysterical. “Oh my god, oh my god.”

“I am sorry Mom.”

“You don’t have to be sorry Tara.” Her father was being understanding again.

“Oh yes”, her mother blurted again. “like father like daughter.”

“Shut up Alka, not another word.” Samir angrily took a step towards his wife. His mind was in turmoil. All the past that seemed so buried threatened to reveal itself.

“Why should I shut up? Your daughter should know it’s all because of you. You are responsible for this Samir damn it.” Alka screamed.

“Please Alka don’t…” His voice was now merely a whisper as if full of guilt.

“What does she mean Dad?”

“Ask me Tara ask me… “ Her mother had taken hold of her arms and turned her around to face her. “My mistake I should have walked out of this marriage the day you were born.”

“Please Alka for God’s sake…”

“What are you talking about?” Tara asked bewildered looking from the anguish face of her father to the hateful look that her mother gave him.

“Tara, you have inherited your father’s genes.”

“Please…”

Alka continued, fire spitting out of her mouth. “Your daughter should know of your past.”

“What past Mom?

“That your father is gay!

The words stung her like a bee.

“What?”

“And he kept it hidden from me.” Her mother continued.

Samir slowly lowered himself to the floor. He looked at Tara earnestly. “I had no option. I was under pressure to get married.”

“You should have told me before marrying me. I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t chanced upon your boyfriend’s letter.”

“Please Alka that’s all past now.”

“Past? I should have kept Tara away from you. See the price I have to pay today. Like father like daughter…” Alka’s voice nearly broke as she said the last line.

Tearfully, Tara too lowered herself to the floor not believing what she was hearing. Quickly Samir dragged himself towards her and hugged her.

“I am sorry my baby, I am sorry… Everything is not what it seems.”

“Mom, dad, if Dad… if… what about me then?

“You are my daughter Tara. And that’s the truth.” Samir pleaded with her, crying inconsolably.

Tara looked at him. She could see the truth in his eyes.

Her father continued, “The day I held you in my arms in the hospital, that very day I cut off all ties with my past. The letter your mother found was an answer to my last goodbye to my friend. Trust me…”

Took slowly wiped her father’s tears. “I trust you dad.”

Her father took her face in his hands. “You were one of the most beautiful  moments of my life to happen to me. And my priorities changed after you came in this world, came in our lives.” He looked lovingly at his wife. Their eyes met and she too seemed to soften up a bit.

“But now she is just like you. Damn you Samir.” She said remorsefully.

“Stop it Mom! Stop it! Dad I love you and I am proud to be your daughter…”

Her mother gave a mock laughter. “You both have gone nuts…”

“Mom, we are what we are and if you say he is not a normal human being, then it’s fine with me.”

Her father’s words joined in the chorus, “And it’s fine with me with who she is.”

“What? Oh my god… Oh my god…”

“Stop it Mom! It doesn’t change the fact. And let me tell you that I truly believe in my father unless you have someone different to name… or blame for me.”

“What?” A tight slap left its mark on Tara’s cheeks. “What? How dare you? Are you trying to say that…”

A faint smile appeared on Tara’s face. She had caught her mother temporarily unguarded. “All I am trying to say is I love my dad and I believe in him.”

“Oh my baby.” Samir held on to her. “I love you too.”

Alka realized that she was at a crossroad where here family was the only source of happiness. She looked at her husband and then her daughter. They were no hatred in their eyes for her harshness but only love and warmth and a desire to be accepted. She broke down. “Oh God, what am I to do?”

Samir extended his hand to cover Alka’s. “Believe in your daughter as you have believed in me all these years.”

“But what will the world say?”

“For me, you both are my world.” Tara replied as she took her mother’s other hand in hers. Their fingers interlocked. They looked at each other trying to give some strength, some semblance to their suddenly disrupted lives.

“Alka, I was afraid to open up to you but we should be proud of our daughter who had the courage to open up to us.”

The sound of the doorbell brought the small family out of the cosy little world.

As Samir walked towards the door, Alka called out. “I do believe now that it was the Sapphire that visited the house in the afternoon trying to spread a little cheer.”

Samir stopped to look at her. “And when it flew away, it took away our blues. We should rejoice in that.” He replied as he opened the door to find Abhay outside.

Without a word, Abhay rushed in.

“Oh there you are Tara.”

“Abhay, can we talk tomorrow in college?”

“It’s okay Tara.” Abhay said winking at her and then turned towards her parents. “Uncle, Aunty, I have something to say, I love Tara and wants to marry her.”

“I am sorry Abhay but I can’t marry you.” Tara intervened.

“Come on Tara, don’t be ridiculous. You won’t find a better boy then me.” Boasted Abhay.

“Abhay…”

“Yes…”

Tara took a deep breath. As if to give her the courage, Samir walked over and put his arm around her.

“Abhay, I… I don’t like boys.”

“What? Come again.” Abhay looked at her not believing what he just heard.

“I said I don’t like boys. I like a girl.”

Now more confused Abhay looked at her and then at Alka, followed by Samir and back at Tara.

“What? What? Is this some kind of a joke?”

Samir, Alka and Tara just watched him silently. It took a while for Abhay to realize that Tara was serious and the next moment, Abhay broke into a laughter.

“Oh my god. This is one hell of a surprise. And I thought… Oh my  Lord. Wait till the others find out. I’ve been taken for a royal ride all these years.” He said laughing hysterically.

Samir without a word quickly walked up to Abhay and taking him by his collar flung him out of the door. Abhay went flying and landed with a thud in the corridor.

“Stay out Abhay I don’t think you deserve my daughter even as a  friend.” Samir told him sternly before banging the door close. He turned around to find Alka and Tara eyeing him mischievously before breaking into a thunderous laughter.

“Well Samir, today I can say, I am proud of you for being a protective father.” Alka said forcing a silly grin on Samir’s face.

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