“Life gives us too many choices my dear, thus so many opportunities to make the wrong ones, I made a wrong choice, you can blame me for that, after all these years, I have realized that no one can live a life filled with regrets, I’ve been living with an empty space in my heart,” said the old man, he looked at the woman standing by the door. It was quite obvious from her expressions that she didn’t like his company in her house, almost resented him for being there. The man might have looked over 60 but it was impossible to deny his charm, he would have been a fairly handsome young man in his early years but naturally became the subject to decay with time. Wrinkles covered his face; his white skin had become pale-looking almost bloodless. Two ladies were giving him company. The ladies were both caucasian; in their early 30’s dressed in casuals. One of them had beautiful blond hair and the other had subtle red locks. They were having a conversation in the well-organized living room of a city apartment. The room décor clearly stated their taste in various cultures from all over the world. In the middle of the room was a Turkish ottoman which looked quite old but valuable; coffee-table in front of it with a crystal flower vase; daisies in them, walls decorated with floral Hesperian wallpapers, several book-shelves holding paper-covered novels of varieties. From the right wall hung a painting of a beautiful maiden sitting in an arm-chair whose resemblance reflected on the woman with blonde hair. The lady with red locks sat very next to the old man.
“We have had enough of this, you should leave now,” said the lady with blond hair quite hastily.
“Sarah, don’t you want to know about your mother; how she fell in love with this man, enough to never fall out of it,” the woman with red locks said politely.
The lady looked at the man as Sarah didn’t intend to reply.
The old man continued anyway; “Petunia and I met on one of my leisure trips to Italy. She was there with her friends “exploring Europe” as she said. I first saw her when I was in Rome in front of that fountain; now, they say if you make a wish and throw a coin in the fountain, it comes true. I knew what I wanted; I wanted to get to know your mum. Gosh! I was mad about her from the moment I saw her. She was different from all the other girls; sitting in that coffee-shop reading a novel and her eyes peeking through her spectacles; the sunlight on her golden hair; porcelain skin covered in a beautiful red dress; pearl cheeks with a tint of pink; she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen in my life. She looked just like you.”
Sarah remained quiet so the man continued with the story, “I didn’t have the nerves to go and just talk to her so I went to a friend of hers and gave her a piece of paper on which I wrote, “If you ever looked at me once with what I know is in you, I would be your slave” and when her friend gave it to her I waited eagerly for her to look back at me but she didn’t. I was nearly heart-broken. The very next day I went to the same spot at the same time hoping she would be there but she hadn’t come, although her friends did. That one girl to whom I had given the paper previously gave me another piece of paper on which your mother had written: “A person who has not done one half his day’s work by ten o’clock, runs a chance of leaving the other half undone.” I was quite embarrassed but impressed by her wit; she was exactly how I imagined her to be; a fairly smart woman. I came back the next day and there she was; no piece of paper from both sides, I walked straight on and asked her name. We started talking and well she was quite disappointed with my life’s story; I guess she didn’t expect a man who has read ‘Wuthering Heights’ to be a doctor by profession. Possibly she was expecting me to be an Artist or a Literature student; I don’t know…” the man smiled grimly, “She was way out of my league and me, never in a million years thought that I could become her interest of love but it happened; I wouldn’t know if it was my destiny or fate but we fell in love. We couldn’t even think of staying apart…” he took a pause, “My trip was only of three months so I had to come back to London but within that time Petunia and I had come very close to each other…”
“She got pregnant and you left her there Mr. Walker, you were less of a man,” Sarah said in a harsh tone with furious rage in her eyes.
“No, I left her there as I had no other choice, I was a married man but I didn’t know she was pregnant, she never told me”
“You could get a divorce but you were a coward. My mother was brave enough to take care of me alone; she didn’t need anyone’s help. You see, even being a woman she was stronger than you”
“Yes, Petunia is a strong woman, I don’t deny that; I know that for a fact but trust me I didn’t know even after coming back to London I tried to find her but I couldn’t find a trace of her as if she had vanished”
“She couldn’t come here after a lousy trip like that now could she? You left her there with a child to bear, you never loved her enough”
“I still love her, she has been the love of my life, this is why I’m here; I’ve come to visit her. I don’t want to let her go away from me; I wouldn’t make the same mistake again”
“It took you 32 years to find her? That’s a shame; it’s a shame that she picked you and she loved you truly and never wanted another man in her life; it’s a shame. She didn’t want to cause you any trouble. She didn’t want to ruin your marriage”
“You should have told your wife everything,” said the other woman.
“Oh! Jennifer quit telling, the man never wanted to jeopardize his married life just for a fling in Rome; that’s just the kind of man he is”
“Won’t you stop Sarah? You have blamed the man enough all your life but it didn’t help; now did it? We cannot change the past. Ms. Smith chose to stay true to her love regardless of his betrayal, we should respect her decision”
“It’s not something I can forget easily Jenny, growing up without a father when all the other kids made fun of me; living without a proper identity. Well life’s a farce; I grew up without a father and I have turned out quite all right so I took the decision of choosing the same for my daughter”
The man kept his head down but suddenly he looked at Sarah, his eyes were filled with tears; almost sobbing; he asked: “What do you mean by that?”
“My daughter is going to grow up without a father, she doesn’t need one. I and Jennifer are enough for her”
“I am sorry for everything, all this time I hadn’t known I had a daughter so I couldn’t be a part of her life but I want to be there for my grand-daughter, can I meet her?”
“We adopted Lily 2 years back. Well she is in school now but she’ll be back by lunch-time,” Jennifer said in a polite manner.
“Oh! No, I couldn’t, could I?”
“I think it’ll be better if you leave now,” Sarah said in resentment.
“Let the man stay Sarah, he wishes to meet Ms. Smith”
“Yes, my Petunia, where is she? Please take me to her”
“You shall but I cannot allow if Sarah doesn’t want to…”
“I don’t, what’s the point?” Sarah said despondently and left the room.
“Will I ever get to see her?” There’s remorse felt in the man’s voice.
“Would you like something to eat or drink? Perhaps tea for you…?”
“You don’t have to be nice to me you know, I know I’m a terrible human being. Sarah treats me all right”
“But I’m not Sarah. I can understand her pain but blaming you is not going to bring her childhood back”
The man looked at the painting on the wall, “Right you are! You know I was there when that was being painted, in the very room; in fact, I asked the Artist to make that painting. The young fellow was quite eager to replicate that beautiful face on the canvas. She looks so innocent. I have heard you too are an artist, am I right?”
“Yes, I do magazine art mostly”
“Well young artists must pave their way to Art by drawing pictures for magazine stories that young authors write to pave their way to Literature – I read that somewhere”
Jennifer curved her lips slightly in reply.
“You know I regretted all my life, making that decision. I never wanted to leave Petunia. I haven’t been happy since. My wife died a few years back; I have a son who lives in the States with his wife and kids whom I haven’t met face to face yet, I guess it’s just the Irony of life. I don’t deserve my children’s respect nor love nor to play with my grandkids…” before he could finish his sentence Sarah entered carrying a little girl of about 4 years in her arms, “she hurt her ankle at school so they decided to send her back home and here she is. Take care of her Jenny now would you?”
The little girl blinked her small beady eyes. She had dark hair; wore a school uniform and a pink hairband; she looked at Mr. Walker suspiciously then asked him, “Who are you?”
“Well I’m your grand-pappy” as he went to hold her, Sarah took her away.
“Come on Sarah, don’t take Lily away”
“I want to go to Grandpa,” Lily said in a loud tone.
As Mr. Walker took Lily in his arms, she pressed his big nose; counted his white hairs, and asked him about the wrinkles on his face. They both looked in bliss. Sarah and Jennifer silently walked away to arrange for luncheon.
After lunch, they all sat in the living-room again except Lily who was taking her afternoon nap. Mr. Walker started the conversation, “can we go see your mother now? I came here just to see her face one last time then I promise I will never come in your way unless you want me to”
“How did you get to find out about us?” Sarah asked in a curious tone.
“I met Petunia’s friend a few weeks ago; the one I met in Rome; who worked as our messenger for a while. At first, I didn’t recognize her but she knew it was me, she told me everything that happened after their trip. Petunia stayed in Rome for the next 6 years. Then she told me about you. It took me a while to find your current address. She also said that Petunia has been a patient of Alzheimer’s for the past 4 years. I want to meet her”
Jennifer gave a cold look to Sarah. Sarah shrugged her shoulder followed by a sigh. They went in another room. Sarah pointed at an urn and said “You are just a bit too late”