Determination – Part 5
By Thiyam Ningol Dr. Nalini
The whole night she lay awake. She never dreamt of such a moment. He had changed a lot in his appearance-became very mature, far more fatter then she imagined, and above all very graceful. If the announcer had not mentioned his name, perhaps she would have not recognized him. Long forgotten memories started flashing back in her mind. To her shame, she found she still had the same admiration, same feeling towards Alex as she was in her early teens. She tried hard to erase the memory but the more she tried, the longer it lingered. On top of that, just one appearance of Alex had made such an impact on Arnold’s mind. If by chance he found out he was the father, what would happen! Besides the confusion, a faint hope of meeting him one day triggered somewhere in one corner of her mind. She promised to herself if by chance it really would happen, then Alex would find her the way he had left her- only his.
Arnold completed his Form IV with first division and was celebrating his 18th birthday. Grace thought he was a man enough now. There was nothing to be ashamed of letting him know about her past life. She gathered all her strength and disclosed everything about her, her and Alex to Arnold on the night of his birthday. She made it very clear to Arnold that Alex did not know about him and it was not his fault either. In no circumstances he would approach him and do something which would make them regret in future.
The following days they did not speak much. Each continued with the daily routine but Grace noticed Arnold’s absent mindedness.
He stayed longer hours with Suzy. When his friends came to visit him, did not show enthusiasm as before. Grace did not like to disturb him. Once his classes start, things would go back to normal. Suzy had been a good company in time. Sometimes Arnold would drive her to her office and spend some time with her co workers.
Grace was content with her position and situation, economically and socially. She had discussed with Suzy about possibilities of sending Arnold abroad for studies. Suzy had been trying to get sponsors for him. They received very encouraging and promising responses. They were waiting for Arnold’s completion of Form VI.
Arnold was doing his own homework. He found out about Alex’s educational qualifications-economist. And that was what he was going to become also. He even found out whereabouts of Alex and his family.
After Suzy had given the confirmatory information about his scholarship, he got relaxed and started planning how to spend the two months after his examination, before the exam results come out.
He bribed the house boy of Alex to say that he had some emergency at his home village; he had to go for 2 months. He would ask his cousin Arnold to take over his job for those two months; that Arnold was a perfect house boy, he knew English also because he worked for Europeans and lots of lies. And the house boy was tempted because he would be receiving double salary, one from Alex and another from Arnold.
Arnold started working at Alex’s house. It was a perfect plan. He wanted to know Alex and his family closer. He wanted to experience a whole family- a family with a father, mother and younger siblings. He was determined to prove worth. But he lied to Grace and Suzy that he was busy with a project, something to do with the orphans.
Alex felt something strange. This new houseboy was too perfect. His manner was polished; his language was that of a learned man; he was Jack of all trades. He treated his wife with respect; helped the children in their studies. If he was so perfect then why he was working as a servant -Alex wondered. He never gave any chance of complaints. Alex was determined to find out the motif of the new servant. He discussed with his wife. She waved away easily and even accused Alex for being suspicious instead of being happy that they had, at last, a reliable servant.
It was not suspicion to Alex, it was inquisitiveness, wanting to know him better; wanting to be together for a long, long time.
Only one week remained to the agreement of his stay. Despite of all the work he had to do everyday, every time he was cheerful. The last few days, Alex noticed the gloominess in him.
One evening Alex asked him to accompany him for a drive. They went to a small pub, at a suburb from the city center.
-So Arnold! this is your last week with us. I have liked you. If you can, I would like you to continue working for me. When Bakari comes back I will give him another job. What do you think?
Arnold was not prepared for this unexpected suggestion. He could not answer immediately. Alex continued
- You seem to be very intelligent. I want to help you getting some education. Which class you finished? Standard seven? You can attend some evening classes and may be if you are lucky you can get a better job like a secretary or something better even. I will give you enough time to study and will help you to pay the school fees. I don’t like to see your ability wasted.
Arnold’s ambition was to become an officer, an executive. He felt uncomfortable with the mention of secretary. A sudden urge of blasting out disturbed him, but controlled himself. Instead, requested to wait till the next day as he would like to show him some documents first.
Arnold felt that night as the longest night ever experienced. He wanted to see his mother immediately and tell her everything but decided to wait till the final revelation. His mother would understand.
He collected all his certificates, the correspondences about his scholarships.
When he came to work, he learnt that Alex had gone on an official duty to the neighbouring country for 3 days. He missed the chance of telling Alex about himself. But he consoled himself may be it was boon in disguise. He was not sure how he would have handled the direct encounter.
On his last day of work, Arnold came with the same bundle of papers- photocopies of his certificates, letters of correspondences about his scholarship and a hand written letter addressed to Alex. He put all the papers in an envelope and requested Mrs. Alex to give the envelope to Alex.
In the letter he wrote:
I am sorry that I had to leave without saying goodbye to you. I am leaving for Australia to study a Degree course in economics.
I apologize for not revealing my true identity but you also never bothered to ask.
I was conceived 20 years ago, on a September stormy evening, under a mango tree, in a remote village of Bombo district by 13 years old, primary school student, Grace, as a result of a single romantic episode with her dream boy. I have no regrets that I worked in your house under those circumstances. Had you known my identity, perhaps, the story would have been different.
Now at least, if I will be asked by my friends to describe my father, I do not have to imagine.
I salute you and your family. When I can prove myself to be a worthy son of a worthy father, I will, for sure come to show my gratitude to you.
If you will forgive me for my behavior and mistakes, I will be more than happy to receive at least a few words from you. You can get my mailing address and physical address from the restaurant “Grace’’ in the city center.
If you decide not to correspond with me (us), I will understand and will respect your decision.
You are my idol. I promise, one day I will be like you. That is my determination.
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