He was once again following her today. He took the same path from his home to hers. But her destination was unknown to him. Today she was wearing the same white tights which he had been seeing her wear for the last three days. Though, she was wearing a different long shirt. She sat in the rickshaw and he followed her behind in his red BMW.
The rickshaw stopped at the entrance gate of a school. He saw her telling something to the rickshaw driver and then she walked inside the school. Minutes tick by and she was still inside. He takes in a deep breath and rests his head on the window of his car. So much had changed since she left the home on that rainy night. He still remembered the letter that he had to read with a heavy heart. Of all the days she chose the one when she was born without even thinking how much it meant to him.
He straightened up as soon as he saw her stepping out of the school. She had a frown on her face which clearly meant that today again she was rejected. She gave some instructions to the rickshaw driver and he ignited the engine. He followed her while the destination remained unknown to him. While he drove behind the rickshaw he felt blessed to finally find her. After a year of search he finally knew where she was living, what she was doing, though that terrified him more. But still it was a blessing.
The rickshaw stopped in front of a salon. Bemused, he looked around for some clue. Maybe there is an office nearby. She was again talking to the rickshaw driver and there was some disagreement between them. She furiously opened her tiny clutch and handed him two red hundred rupees note. She straightened herself, closed her eyes and inhaled the combusted air and rang the bell of the salon. He giggled softly. She was still the same in terms of her anger. Half a second later realization hit him that she was applying for a job at the salon. Oh no, this is not what she had dreamt of. He felt helpless and knew he could do nothing other than to just follow and observe her. He didn’t want to lose her again.
Half an hour later she was outside the salon gazing at her slippers. The strap of one of her slipper had come off. She bent a little to take them off and started walking barefoot. He wanted to offer her a ride but he didn’t want to lose her. No, he was not selfish but just considerate enough to not cause her any embarrassment. With a heart full of guilt he stepped out of his car, took off his black Adidas shoes and continued following her on foot. He always reminded her to check her slippers and sandals before stepping out of the house and she always forgot to do as he said. Eventually once in a while she had to do with a broken foot wear when outside and he used to lend her his large shoes for her small feet. He always loved the smile on her face while she was wearing his shoes. It’s true that old habits die hard.
Today he couldn’t borrow her shoes but gratefully a cobbler appeared on the street and she quickly rush to get her slipper mended. He stood behind a pole, pretending to type a text on his cell phone. This was the same cell phone which she had gifted him on his 50th birthday and on which she had first expressed her wish to become an art therapist. He was so happy that day that she had finally come to a decision.
She was now walking towards a restaurant, probably hungry. He followed her now with his shoes on. A sign read, ‘ Vacancy for waitress’ outside the restaurant. It was an expensive place with dim lights and comfortable leather sofas. He was glad to find a cool place after walking in the scorching heat. He took the nearest table and looked around to get hold of his daughter’s sight.
A waitress appeared with a menu card, “What can I get you sir?”
Her voice, it was her. He looked up with shocked eyes. She can’t be doing this, no not a waitress. His face was well hidden by a fake French beard and the new track suit made him unrecognizable. Disappointed, he answered, ‘Chocolate milkshake please.’
She instantly headed towards the kitchen and he knew this was his chance. He peeped into his wallet which held nine thousand rupees for the monthly grocery which he was supposed to purchase before going home.
She appeared with the milkshake. He hated chocolate milkshake, it always tasted too much like chocolate but never was chocolate and he loved munching chocolates, not sipping them. He took a tiny sip, and asked his daughter, the waitress to get him the bill. She shortly arrived with a small leather folder. He had a look at it and quickly inserted the nine thousand rupees. As she arrived to collect the money, he stood up and left the table leaving an unfinished chocolate milkshake on the table.
She again found him waiting in his shiny red car outside her tiny cottage. Even after so many years he was good at disguising himself. Today he was disguised as a young man with a track suit she hadn’t seen him wearing before. She stopped a rickshaw and asked him to take her to one of the schools in a posh area. The red car followed her and she felt protected. If she had only considered this a year ago life would have been a lot different.
The rickshaw stopped with a jolt in front of the school disconnecting her from her thoughts. She asked the rickshaw driver to wait for her outside. She knew the interview would hardly take much time after all she was an ex-student of this school. They cannot refuse to give her the job. But she was wrong because her degree wasn’t completed. Disappointed, she stepped outside the school and got into the rickshaw. She asked the rickshaw driver to simply drive, there has to be a place where she can work.
After a little while she came across a beauty salon. She was quite good with grooming she can get a job here. She asked the rickshaw driver to wait for her but he wasn’t ready. He wanted his fare and leave. She was mad at him. How can people be so heartless? She took out the money and gave it to him. A quick glance into her clutch and she knew she only had another five hundred left and then no more. She quickly had to get a job. The red car was parked a little further away. The rickshaw had left but she was safe with her dad following her.
She was rejected for her unprofessional skills. Just as she stepped outside the salon she felt her left slipper getting loose. The strap was broken and she had again forgotten to check it before leaving her home. She knew getting into another rickshaw will cost her another hundred rupees. She took off her slippers and started walking. Maybe she could find a cobbler nearby. Her dad was following her barefoot and as much as she wished to turn around and hug him, she couldn’t. She cannot face him after what she had done to him.
Fortunately, a cobbler was sitting at the corner of the street. At least now her dad would wear back his shoes. She knew he was pretending to look into his cell phone. It was the same one which she had bought from her first salary. Salary, money, she needed to earn, there has to be some place. Then her eyes caught sight of a paper stuck outside an expensive restaurant, ‘Vacancy for waitress.’
She gave the cobbler a ten rupees note, put on her slippers and rushed towards the restaurant which was on the other side of the road. She knew her dad was following her and he will soon find out what she is up to but she had no choice.
The manager of the restaurant was a soft spoken man. Since she had no experience she was given a day’s chance to prove herself so she can get this job. She had to prove herself. The first customer came and she had to attend him. He was her dad, she cannot face him. But she needed this job. With small steps she stood next to his table and asked him what he would like to have. He must have been thirsty after a long walk in the heat.
The shock and disappointment on his face broke her heart. Even with his fake French beard he was recognizable. She can never forget those eyes which she had seen into all her life. Despite lost in her thoughts she heard him say, “Chocolate milkshake please.”
She instantly turned around to place his order. She loved chocolate milkshake. It had always been her favorite. She loved chocolates and anything that had to do with chocolate was her favorite. The order was served and he took a sip of the milkshake. He asked her to get the bill. She placed a brown leather folder on the table and left to attend to another customer. When she returned to take back the folder he was ready to leave.
The glass was still full. She opened the folder and there was a hefty nine thousand rupees inside. She knew he had left it for her. She knew it was hers. She handed the cashier a thousand rupees note with the bill. The cashier was a disabled man but he was so hard working. She had heard him talk about his daughter’s marriage date approaching fast when she was picking the order a while back.
Eight thousand and seven hundred rupees left. It was her dad’s money and it was for her. But no she didn’t deserve this. She didn’t at all deserve this money after leaving her loyal father for a dishonest man. She didn’t deserve to be happy after giving him so much pain and trouble. She deserved to live in poverty so she can learn a lesson for good.
“Hey! You were talking about your daughter’s marriage. Some man there left this money for you,” the cashier looked at her, stunned.
“M…me? Really?” His eyes was sparkling with excitement, “May he be blessed with all the happiness of this world.”
She beamed at his happiness and sipped through the chocolate milkshake. It was her father’s and nobody deserved to sip from it but her.