Author's note: As much as would like to say I did, I did not write this story. I received this from a friend of a friend, and after a little bit of editing here and there, I've decided to let this be in the same form as it came to me. The real author remains unknown, but the disclaimer that came with this asserts that this is just FICTION!
I listen to the last, fading strains of the lullaby for my baby boy as his mother rocks him to sleep. From my position on the bed, all I can see is the silhouette of mother and son, related in more ways than one. The light outside filters in through the windows, profiling the nude body of the Goddess who bore my son.
She sets him down on his cradle, and I hear him start to cry, only to be soothed for the sudden loss of warmth by his mother's loving pats into sound sleep. Convinced that the little one is truly asleep, his mother adjusts the blanket and looks one last time at her child.
Then she turns to me with a smile that I have realized I can't live without. "He has all your features, Daddy."
I embrace her as she settles on the bed, right on top of me. We kiss for some time, just savoring the feel of the other's lips on ours. Hers, soft and red, are so delicious that I often wonder how it is that I was fated to enjoy my own daughter. Sometimes, I think I will wake up and find that it was all a wonderful dream, but her weight against mine tells me that it isn't. The scent of her body, the heat of her loins, the tickling of her hair... it is all real.
My daughter. My lover. That's the reality.
Noticing my thoughtful expression, my daughter Poornima draws up against me, placing her elbows on my chest and resting her beautiful face on her palms. She nibbles on my nose for a couple of seconds, before dropping her hands to her sides and downing her face into my chest.
"What are you thinking, Dad?"
I kiss her forehead lovingly. The forehead that I had kissed many times as a father - the forehead that now belonged to me, her 'husband.'
"If someone had told me three years ago, that I would be living like this with my daughter, I would have clobbered him. And now..."
The plane took off, and I sighed, waving like a little child at the lifting bird. For the seventh time in eleven years, I was seeing my wife off to her nursing station at a distant hospital in Saudi Arabia. And in spite of the fact that we had hardly been together for the last ten-fifteen years, I missed her terribly. I loved her as much as our daughter Poornima did.
I could never understand my wife Anita's motivation for looking for a job abroad, especially when the family property that I had inherited as an only child and my own income as a freelance writer for movies were more than enough for an above middle-class lifestyle. She was adamant - she had studied nursing, and she did not want to let it go waste. I allowed her.
On this particular day, though, it seemed to me that I was more expressive about my sorrow than my nineteen year-old daughter was. That was strange, because I had always had the impression that she loved her mother more, evidenced by her joy when Anita came home almost every year. Maybe it was just resignation, I told myself, and perhaps a little of anger.
The anger I could empathize with - Anita had missed our anniversary this year, and she would be missing Neem's (my nickname for her) birthday the third week. And as much as I wanted to rail at her and command her to leave her goddamned job in that goddamned nation, I couldn't. I knew how much it meant to her, and I didn't want to be the villain in her life.
It was Poornima who broke our silence on the way home. "I don't want a party."
I pretended not to know what she was talking about. "What party?"
She gave me a look that was meant to say, You can never fool me, Dad, I know you too well. I smiled at her and ruffled her hair. Silken and smooth, it was jet-black and the envy of the hairdressers at the corner of our locality.
"I mean my birthday party - I know you have been planning one - you always do - and as much as I really appreciate it, I don't want to spend the last birthday in my teens with a bunch of giggling idiots who think that real fun is a cup of Coke and a piece of cake."
"And what do you want instead of the party, my dear daughter?"
"Just some time alone with my father... We hardly spend any quality time other than dinner together. I would rather spend one of my most special birthdays with my handsome hunk of a father."
I have to make a slight clarification here - they say beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, and I decided that her eyes needed some serious testing. Hunk would never be synonymous with Rajiv Matthew, and vice versa was just as true. But I didn't want to burst her bubble, so I just ruffled her hair some more. I agreed that I wouldn't plan the party.
At that time, I had thought she wasn't serious. It was only when she pestered me for two whole days that I got it into my thick head that she really wasn't too keen on a party, and instead, wanted to waste the day on her dear dad. I wouldn't complain - I loved her company, and save for my wife, all the family I had.
Two days passed. Anita had called upon her arrival at the Saudi capital, and promised to call again in a week's time.
And then... the atmosphere in our house was suddenly saturated by a strange kind of monsoon. Of the sexual kind.
People in the US, and probably the Europe, wouldn't find anything strange in short, scanty dresses at night time, but out here in conservative India, girls are brought up believing that modesty is tantamount to character, and I don't differ from that view of thinking. While I am an open-minded fellow, it's always been my contention that family values viz. decency and modesty are intrinsic to our way of life.
On the other hand, being a single parent makes it difficult to lay down the rules - Anita's absence was often for so long that it almost made me feel like a single parent - especially to an only child, and that too, a girl as well-behaved as my daughter. I was proud of her; she had that mixture of inner beauty and outer innocence that is so lacking among the rest of the youth who look to channels like MCM and FTV for guidance.
So, even though I was a little alarmed when I walked into her room to wake her up the third morning, only to find her having slept in an old shirt of mine and her panties, I decided to say nothing about it. It was, after all, the summer, and Indian summers, as anyone who has been in India at this time of the year knows, can get pretty hot. The shirt had ridden up her flat stomach, and now lay just a few inches below her breasts.
I was disturbed to find that it was getting a rise out of me. And it wasn't one of anger, either.
I suppose I could excuse myself with the two years of abstinence from sex - the last time Anita had visited, we had been too busy visiting relatives that we hadn't had time for anything else - and the sight of a young, rich body would definitely be antagonistic to platonic thoughts, but then again, I realized it was not just lust I was feeling. Not the mere physical attraction - even as I stared at her long legs, with their supple thighs and dainty feet, I knew the attraction went deeper.
Thankfully, I woke my daughter up without revealing the tumult of emotions raging inside my head. She smiled at me as she stretched, obviously expecting me to say something about the lack of clothing she wore to bed, but she didn't look too disappointed either when I ignored the bait. Instead, I just kissed her on her forehead and asked her to get her ass out of bed.
That seemed to have set the precedent. In fact, it set the pace for the descent.
Poornima took my silence to mean that I was okay with her independence, and given her maturity and tastefulness when in public, I really couldn't find fault with her. On the other hand, when I found her asleep in her underwear a week later, in just her bra and panties - I knew I had to talk it out with her. Unfortunately, I never found the heart to do so.
"Machamma went home," she said one day.
Machamma was our maidservant. "It isn't noon yet," I asked, puzzled. "Isn't she well?"
"I sent her home. For good. She wanted a raise, and I told her she didn't deserve the amount she claimed. She started shouting at me, accusing me of being... a bad girl, but I guess I lost it when she called you a cheapskate. After what you spent to save her husband. The bitch-"
"Language, Neem," I warned. That was the first time I had heard her call someone that.
"Oops! Sorry about that."
I nodded. Not that Machamma did not deserve the insult - she was a lazy busybody, and no one knew it better than she did. She flaunted her laziness, that woman, and quite frankly, it made my blood boil that she had had the nerve to call my daughter a slut. Neem was as beautiful as anyone could be, and that spoke more of her compassionate and loving nature than her evergreen face or the fantastic structure of her body. A body that I was increasingly becoming very aware of.
"Guess I'll just have to put out an ad for another Machamma," I sighed.
"You don't have to, you know. I could manage the chores myself."
.... There is more of this story ...