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HER name now became a great part of the home and when they spoke of her, he saw how their eyes lit up.
“She is nice,” said Aashi, “She has pretty brown eyes.”
“And she knows to bake awesome cookies,” Aiden added pausing a little before continuing, “Just like mom.”

The father froze in his work and did not say anything for a long moment, such was the deep effect of his son’s words. Then he responded with the hint of a smile, “That’s nice.”
He did not sleep well, again, that night, the children’s joy replaying in his mind, knowing how much they missed having a mother. For the past three years since she was gone he had never thought of another woman until now. Someone the children became attracted to, who in their little hearts was special.

“I wonder, though,” he mused, “How can she embrace them in her heart when she is battling her own problems?”
A few streets away, Shamita laid in bed sleepless too, thinking of the children. She just couldn’t get their sad faces out of her mind when they mentioned the loss of their mother.
“Such a great loss,” she thought, “Their father must have been…”

She turned her face in the pillow to shut out the thought of him, but the children and the puppy would bring the father close to her.
One late morning, whilst the children were at school, Crystal ran away from home again and Shamita hearing the barking opened the door for her. During the lunch period, she heard a familiar car at the gate and knew the children’s father was looking for the puppy.

Prasad photography

“Come on Crystal,” she urged her “You have to go home.”
The puppy lying comfortably on the rug in front of the TV paid no heed and Shamita picking her up gently, let her out the door. She barked in protest and did not run to the father, not until Shamita stepped out the door.
He was standing patiently at the gate and raised his hand a little to say “Thank you,” but she turned and walked in the house. Somehow she did not feel that intense fear on seeing him and in her mind she could not deny his casual good looks that any woman would notice. She sighed deeply as she stood in front the mirror and pulled off the veil, letting it fall slowly to the floor.

“One day at a time…”
That evening she called her younger sister, “Can you come when you have the time? I need a hair cut.”
She had her hair cut in a different style so it partially hid the scars on her face, giving her a new look. A change had begun much to her tearful mother’s relief and, now, since that horrific attack, she saw her daughter smile.
“Thank you, dear Lord,” she whispered, “For sending two little angels in her life to help her heal.”

The thoughts of the children’s father were no different, for since his children met Shamita, something changed for them. They were more cheerful, not because he wasn’t a good father, but because they missed the love and care of a mother. Sitting alone on the upper verandah, an empty chair next to him, he thought of the young woman,
“She seems nice and kind but she lives with such fear, I can’t even talk to her.”

But fate had designed their lives to cross for their life stories were similar. The intrusion of tragedy of a different nature leaving trails like scattered leaves of sadness, fear and loneliness. Neither knew yet how much they needed each other to exile the fear and loneliness and that love was waiting on a threshold.
The mirror on the wall knew.

Shamita drew the curtains open halfway and light streamed into the little country house, fresh air through the open windows seeming to breathe new life into her.In the afternoon, the children stopped by Aashi bringing a picture for her she had drawn in class. As the children enjoyed the special chicken dish she had prepared for them, Shamita noticed the little girl’s paleness.
“Are you feeling okay, Aashi?”

The child shook her head, “Not too good.”
Shamita checked her temperature and the reading showed above normal.
“I think you’re developing a fever.”

The child stretched her arms out to Shamita, “Can I stay with you, please?”
“Yes you can,” she said hugging her, “But I think your dad would need you home to take care of you.”
When the father came for them, she watched the children go, concerned about the little girl, sorry she couldn’t have the child stay with her. Aiden stopped by in the morning before he went to school to give her an update on Aashi.

“Her fever got a little higher, so dad is taking her to the doctor.”
But two days passed and the child still had not recovered from the fever despite the doctor’s treatment. Shamita made a healthy vegetable soup for her and gave it to Aiden, “This should be good for her.”
The boy took the soup but hesitated for a moment then asked, “Why don’t you come and see her?”

“I can’t go out looking like this” she answered pulling the hair over the one side of her face.
“My dad can take you in his car,” he suggested.
A glimmer of fear flashed in her eyes and the child asked, “Why are you so afraid of him?”

She did not answer, not sure what to tell the child, but he was a smart kid and at the door he said to her,
“My dad’s a nice guy, he never hurt my mother.”
Sleepless again, that night she sat up in bed writing in her diary when there was a rapping at the door. The sound startled her and for a moment she froze, wondering who could be at the door then she heard the children’s father’s voice.

“Can I speak to you, please?”
She wondered how he got in, then remembered giving Aiden a key to the gate and opening the window she answered ih a concerned tone, “Yes?”
“I’m sorry to disturb you so late, but Aashi’s temperature has risen again and she’s calling for you. I don’t know what to do, can you come, please?”
The quiver in his voice and the tearful look on Aiden’s face touched her heart deeply and she said without hesitation, “Just give me a moment.”
To be continued…

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