This is Sowmya Johnson Aka Berdilla.
Almost six months.
Add nine months to that turn the clock back fifteen months, and see where the boys were. Should be simple to find out what was going on a year ago last March. That is if one of them was involved. It was hard to imagine any of the boys being so careless. Damn it, he’d lectured them often enough. Mayank examined the birth certificate again, this time looking for where and when the boy was born.
Abhi started to cry, and the woman had him out of the seat and into her arms within seconds—- she obvisously cared for the boy. Mayank turned away from them and made his copies. He handed her the original. I’ll look into this, he said motioning for to her precede him into the hall. Why is he crying like that?
He must be hungry.
Do you, ah, have something to give him?
I have bottles in the cooler in my car. I also brought his fold-up bed and high chair, plus two boxes of clothes. Would you take him, please so I can get him something to eat?
He didn’t want to take the child, but before Mayank could protest, Abhi was thrust into his arms. He’d changed more diapers than he could count. He adjusted his grip on the boy. Hey, kid, go easy on my eardrums.
Abhi hiccuped and stared up at the stranger. Two tears ran down on his red cheeks, but he stopped screaming.
Thanks, Mayank told him. It’s the end of a long week, and i could use a break, all right? You’re going to have your dinner, and pretty soon I’m going to have my dinner. Then in the morning I’ll find your father and figure out what to do about you. Mayank walked over to the window and watched as the woman fumbled in the back seat of the Fords Taurus sedan. She didn’t seem like the type to run off and leave the kid, but it wouldn’t hurt to keep an eye on her, just in case.
She might be telling the truth. Or she might not. He wasn’t going to take any chances. Badi was a small town. Peopled talked. And he was sure not going to give anyone anything more to say about the Sharma family.
RAGINI HURRIED TO THE CAR and retrieved a bottle and a blanket. The inside of the farm house had been airconditioned. She didn’t want Abhi to catch cold. Meeting Abhi’s handsome father had been an experience, especially since the man seemed sincere when he’d said he didn’t even know he had a son. What on earth had Gunjan been thinking, if she hadn’t told the father that he was a father? And the fact that he was married had been another surprise, but maybe Padma would fall in love with Abhi and want to keep him.
And maybe Santa would put diamond in her stocking this year too.
Ragini arrived back in the living room to find Abhi comfortable and quiet against the Mayank’s wide chest. Yes, Gunjan hadn’t exaggerated. From his dusty boots to those chiseled cheekbones, the Sharma man was clearly the kind of cowboy that would make a woman like Gunjan salivate.
He settled right down, Mayank said.
Abhi’s probably happy to be out of the seat. Ragini lifted her gaze to Mr. Sharma’s chin. Sure enough, there was a cleft there. Abhi had it already. In fact they had the same dark brown hair, the same questioning expression in their dark eyes as they looked at her.
What’s wrong? Mayank asked.
Nothing, Ragini attempted a smile. I need to heat this bottle.
He led her out of the room, past an enormous dining room filled with thick pine furniture and down a hall to a bright kitchen. Life wasn’t fair sometimes, which wasn’t exactly a revelation. She hadn’t wanted to get involved in this situation. She knew she could have called the state authorities and let them handle this, but she couldn’t risk Abhi being put in foster care. Early this morning she spent an anxious hour drinking a pot of coffee and wrestling with her conscience. Her conscience had won. She had promised Gunjan to deliver Abhi to his father and that is what she would do. Had done.
If Mr. Sharma refused to raise his own son, he would have a fight on his hands. Abhi deserved to have a father. His own father.
Padma, Mayank called. An old woman, her gray hair hanging in a braid, stood by the stove stirring something in a streaming pot. The woman turned and stared the baby in his arms.
Ah, she sighed, reaching one bony finger to the child’s chin. Another Sharma. Whose?
I don’t know, Sharma muttered. This Ragini Bhushan. She has quite story to tell. He didn’t smile. Ragini, come meet Padma Gupta. She runs things around here and also makes fifty-eight different kinds of chilli.
Fifty-nine. the woman said. She smiled at Ragini but didn’t move from the stove. You’re staying for supper miss?.
No, but thank you for the invitiation, So Padma wasn’t the wife, after all. Ragini knew she had to stop jumping to conclusions. Can i put this bottle in some hot water, please? Abhi whimpered and squirmed when she held up the bottle, but Mr. Sharma didn’t seem to be the least uncomfortable holding him.
Sure, he said, moving out of the way so she could reach the sink.
A pot, the woman said, placing one battered pot in the sink. Ragini filled it with water and put the bottle in side to warm.
Where are you going?
Back to Chennai.
No. I am going to Bhuvaneshwar tonight. I always wanted to see the AL——
With or Without this child?
Without, Her gaze dropped to Abhi, who gave her that where’s my supper look. She ignored the pang in her heart and turned back to the bottle. It would be warm by now. She sprinkled a few drops on her wrist just to make sure. I’ve done what i promised to do.
He put the baby in her arms while Padma watched with undisguised interest. No lady I don’t think you have.
Meaning? Ragini didn’t wait for an invitation to sit down. There where several pine chairs arranged around a long trestle table so she sat in one and gave Abhi his bottle. Mayank took a chair and placed it across from her, then sat down.
Meaning, I’m not the boy’s father.
You want dinner now? Padma called.
No not yet. Not till i get this straightened out.
Hah the cook snorted. You will have to wait a long time for that. That boy has the chin, he does. And there’s no telling where he got it, either. She shook her head as she looked at Abhi, then she went outside through the back door.
To be Continued……
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