One in you

It had been a long tiring day for Martin, a professor at a prestigious business school. He had given three – hour long lectures and had faced a volley of questions from the students. He loved his job. He was good with words and that made him more endearing to the students. However, today’s sessions had made him tired. He longed to get back to the comfort of his home.
Just then his phone buzzed, it was his wife, Tammy. “Marty, can you come home immediately?” She sounded tensed. “It is Aria. She has locked herself in her room and refuses to talk to anybody.” He wondered what had happened, as he raced home. Aria was his youngest daughter. Tammy was a great mother and did everything to make a great family. Normally, the chief trouble maker would be his elder daughter Ria. He was used to getting complaints on Ria, but he used to laugh it off, as all of her pranks were quiet similar to the ones that he used to pull on his neighbors when young. But Aria, the younger one, She was more like Tammy, Quiet and Smart. She never got into trouble unlike Ria. The sudden aberration made him feel a bit tensed.
He walked in as fast as he could. He found Ria sitting out, she had been crying. Tammy was tired, shaken but still looked beautiful. He walked to Aria’s room. He could hear her sobbing. He knocked on the door, and called her out. There was no answer for a few minutes, and then slowly the door opened and out came Aria. The next minute Tammy ran in and hugged her. The relief in her face said it all. “You almost killed me was all that she could say as she held her tightly. Ria was noisier, cursing her and hugging her at the same time. He walked back to the couch and sat down. Martin was silent. Aria walked over to him and sat there with him. She did not saying anything, but he could see that she was crying. Tammy wanted to know what was wrong, but Martin gestured her to leave it to him. Tammy went to make tea for everybody. Ria too joined her leaving them alone. Martin looked at her and asked, ” It is like I have run a marathon….., age is catching up I guess. You want to tell me what that was about?” She nodded.
Martin got up and took her out for a walk. She walked in silence for a few minutes. She took out a slip of paper and handed it out to him his hands started to tremble as he read it. It took a moment for it to sink in. Tammy had a complication after Ria’s birth and the doctors had to do a surgery which meant that she could never have a baby again. Here was the statement which he had signed, approving the surgery. She had found that paper somehow, when she was trying to hide Ria’s necklace at the basement. She didn’t say anything. She stood there expecting him to give an answer. For the first time he was at a loss of words. He walked ahead, took a few deep breaths.
“The First time I saw you, you were so small that you could fit in the palm of my hand. Today I can see that you have grown, you have every right to know the truth”. He told her about her parents, his friends. He had been to a trip with them, when they were research associates. Martin was driving. A van, had veered to the right suddenly, Martin reacted a second late and the impact had thrown the car over. Martin managed to wriggle out of the car with their baby. Her parents had not survived the crash. He had brought her home to Tammy. “This is…Started Martin” “Our daughter” finished Tammy. Since that day that’s the way it has been”.
Martin felt his eyes moisten. He had always held himself responsible, for Aria’s parents. He had not talked about the accident to anybody, not even to Tammy. He looked at her. She just walked up to him and hugged him tight. That said it all. Father and daughter as always. She said. “Dad, and that’s the way it would be. I was sad when I found out that I was not a part of this loving family, but when I saw Mom, Ria and you outside when I came out, the look on your faces told me how much I meant to them. What more can I ask for in life? ” As they walked back home, Martin could not throw out the words in his head – His little girl had just grown up. “Family isn’t about whose blood you have. It’s about who you care about.”
Tammy and Rhea were waiting for them at the door, a tad anxious. They looked at him expecting an explanation. Martin, Martin’s question was directed at Ria – “You would not miss a necklace, will you?”. Rhea let out a “What..that..did she lose it……..” and started to chase Aria. “They are still kids, aren’t they” says Tammy and walks in. Martin smiles and says “How about that cup of tea?”

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