Javed Ansari bundled himself up to go for a walk after the first snowstorm of the season. It was a sunny day, and he always loved sunshine against the backdrop of snow. The walk would do him good, as he was not feeling like himself recently. Although he was lost in his own thoughts, he could not help but notice footprints leading away from his house. Nothing earth shattering about footprints, but since he lived alone, he thought it worth investigating.
All sorts of thoughts raced through his mind. Who would come to his house and leave? What did they want with him? He really had no interest in being bothered with anyone at the moment. What a nuisance. Oh, well. Had to be a logical explanation. No big deal.
Logic guided his life after all. As a professor of chemistry at the local university, the past fifteen years were about experimentation, finding data, finding solutions, winning awards and accolades, and the respect of his peers. Or they said they respected him. He could take it or leave it. He just wanted to do his work.
Well, that was until he met Layla. Layla was on fellowship studying biochemistry. He found her fascinating. Beautiful caramel skin with long, dark hair and hazel eyes. He loved her Mumbai accent, especially since she always made fun of his American accent. His American Born Confused Desi accent. Of course, he would counter and tell her that her accent was just a British knockoff. She never did like that very much.
He smirked when he thought of her annoyance. All the little things they did just to vex each other. She would make fun of his Hindi when he spoke it. Their dinners were a mix of science salon bombastic banter. She was clever and witty. He had an enormous amount of respect for her. The more time he spent with her the more besotted he became.
All he wanted was to marry her. He meticulously went from jewelry store to jewelry store researching. Looking at perfect cuts, sizes, shapes. He wanted the perfect ring for his perfect woman. He chose a halo shape for his angel. He put it aside and tried to put it out of his mind until he saw her the next day. He kept imagining the smile on her face as he placed the ring on her finger. His enthusiasm was short-lived, however. After they had finished the dinner he cooked, he brought up the subject.
“Do you want to get married?” he asked her.
“What?” she asked, taken aback.
“Do you want to get married?” he asked, with a little more hesitation in his voice this time.
She paused. At that moment, his stomach sank, and he wished he could have taken the words back.
“I didn’t know how to tell you this, but my parents arranged my marriage in Mumbai. I just found out a few days ago. I didn’t even know they were looking for me.”
“Are you kidding me? What is it, the 50’s? You can’t tell them no?”
“If I don’t agree, they’ll completely cut me off.”
“Wow, you’ll let them dictate your future for money? I don’t believe it.”
“What will we do for money? You’re still studying, too. I don’t know how to be poor.”
“I do. For you, I would find a way. It’s a shame you wouldn’t do that for me. I understand.”
“I think you should leave.”
Without another word she left. Even now as he trudged through the sun-tinted snow and recalled the memory, it made him sad. He lamented over the broken dreams of the children they could have had. A gorgeous and smart little girl that looked just like her. A handsome, brilliant, and mischievous little boy. A lifetime of missed opportunities.
A cold gust of wind smacked him in the face, and he started to not care who those footsteps belonged to. He didn’t care who it was or why they were there. The one person he wanted it to be, it just wouldn’t be. It didn’t matter to him at this point.
He walked towards the lake he liked to meditate near. As he came closer, he saw a figure. Then, he saw two children running near the water. The figure’s back was turned. So, he didn’t see a face. As he came closer, he saw the face that broke his heart all those years ago.
“Layla? What are you doing here?”
“Raising you and our children.”
“I came back.”
“To a life of poverty with me?”
“To a life of happiness with you.”
After warming themselves up with tea, she showed him their wedding picture, like she had been doing every day for the past month since the concussion that caused his memory failures. He smiled. He smiled at his lifetime of dreams fulfilled.
Sameena K. Mughal, Author, Freelance Writer