Victor’s there. The doorbell rang again-longer this time.

Victor’s room was a mystery to his
family. The fact that it was at the end of their flimsy structured house only
added to the air of mystique about it. The house was probably as old as his
father, and merely there because no one in the family other than his father
wanted anything to do with it. It was a calm, balmy evening in the outskirts of
Birmingham. Residents of Harborne walked home after a weary day at work. He
knew something was going to happen that evening. He knew that the aftermath of
last night’s argument would be unbearable. Victor had finished his homework
beforehand in anticipation of what was to come. He waited for the doorbell to
ring. It would be any moment now.

Like clockwork his father left at six
in the evening, and it was hardly a fifteen-minute walk from the clinic to
their house. Victor heard the doorbell, he knew that this was the ideal time
for him to run to his room and ignore everything about to happen out there. The
doorbell rang again-longer this time. ‘He never gets this restless when he’s sober’, he thought
with dread. Nadia ran towards the door from the kitchen.

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“Go to your room and don’t come out.”

Nadia’s voice was firm and
authoritative but Victor knew far too well the fear that was buried beneath the
facade of strength. Victor had witnessed countless uncouth arguments between Nadia
and Jacob, but something told him it was going to be different this time. He
slammed the door shut and dragged his table to prevent it from opening. The
fear was overpowering his senses now.

The room did not have a bed, just a
rusty old mattress on the side. He rushed to his “bed” and tucked himself in
his blanket. The heat outside was scorching, but nothing felt safer than being
covered with a blanket. It was a hug that didn’t ask any questions or tried to
‘console’ you, all it offered was its quiet embrace. It didn’t take long for
voices to rise. He could hear it. He didn’t want to, but he could.

“Why can’t you own us like your family?
For God’s sake, Victor is seventeen now. Why do you have to come back every
single day like this? Why can’t you love our child the way he deserves to be
loved?”

Jacob was unmoved in the face of
Nadia’s accusations. So deeply engrossed in a blissful world of his own that it
was too troublesome for him to even pretend to care.

“Listen here Nadia, I’ve had enough of
this. It’s my life and I will live it like a king. No one has the power to
change my mind. You understand that?” Jacob’s voice slurred, making it nearly
impossible for Victor to make sense of his father’s words- yet experience had
trained him well.

“This is it Nadia. I’m done with you.
I’m done with the child you claim to be mine. Just take your stuff and leave my
house right now”

A few moments of dreadful silence
followed and the next audible sound was of his mother crying followed by the
noisy affair of Jacob clumsily slamming the door of his room. It didn’t make
sense at times. After all, he was only seventeen. He was very young to go
through all of this. He closed his eyes and recalled everything he could from
the last seventeen years. Every suffering that he had experienced in his life.
He could never keep friends because every time a friend visited him, Jacob
would insult them and scare them off. Even their relatives did not visit them
because of Jacob’s unacceptable behavior. Nothing made sense, every door was
closed.

The next day Jacob asked his family to
leave and never show him their faces again. Victor could not forget his
mother’s last words to his father.

“Jacob, please don’t do this.”

“It’s too late Nadia, the door is now
closed.”

Victor and Nadia shifted to a hostel
and tried their best to continue their life. Nadia was a nurse at a local
hospital and it didn’t pay well. Most of the times she had to bounce around
places looking for extra work to pay Victor’s tuition fee. What Nadia didn’t
know was that Victor was a tough cookie. And all his experiences had led to him
promising himself he would give Nadia the happiness she deserved but never got.

It was the summer of 1999; Victor had
secured an admission at Cambridge with a 100% scholarship. It was time to
leave. Victor kissed Nadia on her forehead.

“Thank you for everything. I promise
I’ll be back one day”.

Nadia stood by the gate as her son went
off to face the world on his own. ‘Can he manage it? He has never been without
me. Have I made a mistake by letting him go?’ Questions and uncertainties kept
nagging her.

Victor walked to the closest railway
station and got himself comfortable on the soft seats of the train. It was
going to be a bumpy ride, but he could not care less with the amount of ambition
in his head.

“Excuse me? Do you mind if I sit here?”

A young girl was standing next to
Victor. Judging from her appearance, she was almost the same age as him. He
nervously agreed to her request, noticing her large, brown, almond shaped eyes
that seemed to ensnare him. It did not take the two youngsters long to hit it.
Her name was Emily, she was nineteen years old. She was also going to
Cambridge. Her father worked for the government and she had a younger brother
whom she adored more than any living being. He learned all this as he continued
to be mesmerized by the depth to those chocolate brown eyes.

A week later, Victor ran into Emily at
the library. They exchanged awkward smiles and continued with their work.
Victor knew that he was attracted to her, and he was unable to get over that
smile which was almost as appealing as her, but he could do nothing about it.
They belonged to different backgrounds. It would be crazy to get involved.

“Hey ma, I hope you’re well. Just
wanted to let you know that I’ve found the woman of my dreams. Her name is
Emily. Yes, I told her about my situation and she says that she is ready to be
with me in spite of it. I really love her and I don’t think I ever want to
leave her” Nadia read Victor’s letter and wiped a tear off her cheek. It had
been three years since she had seen her little boy. Emily had healed Victor in
more ways than she ever could. She had made him believe that he could have a
family one day. A real one. Not the mess she had brought her son into. She made
him believe that he deserved to be happy too, and although she felt envious she
couldn’t be the one to give her son that, she was also grateful to this girl.
 He was right after all; it was crazy to fall in love with her. Crazy
good.

Victor and Emily started living in
their new house with their four year old girl, Susan, and they asked Susan’s
grandmother to come live with them too. Victor was a well-established lawyer by
now. He had fulfilled the promise he made to himself, his mother was finally
content. It was another rainy afternoon in Birmingham, people running around in
desperate bids to find shelter. But despite the raging storm around him,
Victor’s heart was as calm as the summer sea. Victor heard the doorbell in bed.
His wife was sleeping with her hand on Susan’s head. Victor ran his hand softly
through Emily’s hair and got up to answer the door.

“Victor, my boy”, Victor saw an old man
with a shabby beard standing on the door. It did not take him long to recognize
the person.

“Dad?”

The man hesitated for a while.

“I’m sorry son,” he rasped, “my life
has been pathetic ever since that day. My second wife left me. I-I just can’t
take this anymore.”

Victor stood by the door remembering
everything he could. He could see Jacob’s voice shaking with fear. Victor smiled
softly, he didn’t know why, but he did, and just before gently closing the
door, he said

“It
has been a while dad, but I’m sorry. The door is now closed.”

x

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