The family portrait was taken a year back, as he looked at it for a while. Sally had his eyes, while Tom was everything he found attractive in Martha. The kids, the wife, the room seemed a little too bright, full of shiny decorations, so many colors, frills, balloons and what not. So much joy in one portrait, so many smiles, the intensity almost hurt his eyes. His weary eyes, aching for some rest.
Martha was his love, a metalhead too, and together they had raised a fine pair of kids, with equal, hell, even better appetite for rock music. Tom had picked up the keyboard pretty fast, he could master the arpeggios by the time he was 8. Sally had a great voice coupled with the skills for the guitar, and she had begun performing at school by the time she was in 6th grade. Interestingly, he played the keyboard while Martha played the guitar. A perfect passing of talents, one would often comment when they’d see them play together. He was suddenly missing the dual with Tom over keyboard-plays.
They all had decided to go for King Crimson tees, the day the picture was taken. He almost felt the urge to cry, and a push from within to stop himself from doing so. It was a funny moment, and in that one frame, world seemed to have stopped for him as he could see his life to be more complete than ever, which he realized now more than any other day before.
They were visiting Paris, and a gig was due that day. The concert tickets were quickly booked, four passes with them, a very exciting evening was due ahead. Not a big band, but a promising one nevertheless, was to play that night. The entire afternoon they had spent discussing and debating over the music of the band. A typical gig-day afternoon for the family.
He was frantically marching in the room, anxiety filling him up more than ever. The tv channels were worked up to their limits. He threw the tab on the bed, it bounced over and the portrait flashed on the screen. Soon later, he fell on the bed, his head would hurt. A good number of people had gathered in his room, desperately trying to do their best to make him feel comfortable and hopeful. Many of them had local contacts, and were trying to call up wherever they could. Description of Martha and Sally was being read from hand-written pamphlets, so that not one of them missed the features that’d be helpful in tracking them down. Tom was quiet yet restless. The sense of being a teenager and not being able to take control of the situation was being hard on him. He wanted to hug his father and cry and tell him that everything will get fine, but tears were for the weak, he wanted to believe. He went over and sat beside him, shook his head down, fists clunched in silence.
He tried to dial their numbers once again. The call log flashed the count of unanswered calls in two digits. Rings. Nobody picks up. Nobody did so that night. On that long, wintry eve of Christmas.
* * *
The patient was stabilised. His proper post-operative pain management had helped him be a part of a delivery process for the most beautiful pair of twins he had ever seen. The past 18 hours had been critical, as his team aided the surgeon into a fairly complicated operation. As an anesthetist, he was thankful to God today.
It was Christmas morning. The family of the twins and the mother had gathered in the hall, as the father brought the twins out in his arms, careful and caring. He saw from a short distance, as doctors came by and shook his hands , congratulating him. “It’s a Christmas miracle!” yelled an elderly woman, as everybody clapped incoherently.
It’d been six years since that fateful night in Paris, as he remembered the passing of Martha and Sally. Both had died of internal organ bleeding, gunshot wounds. He had wept a lot that night. Tom had been on his side, almost as tall as him as he had felt the tears of his son falling on his shoes. Six years had gone by, and he was a responsible father, with Tom growing up to be a fine son. Life was letting him live, with his regrets reducing everyday.
“Graceful , beautiful.”
“They have your nose and Emma’s eyes!”
“What should we call them?!!”
“What should we name them?!”
The joyful screams and chaos of questions brought him back to the present as he looked on towards the family with his eyes gleaming with euphoria.
“Martha, and Sally..” he whispered to himself, smiling, while wiping a tear from the corner of his left eye.
Soumya Mukherjee: Progressive rock snob, lives with wordplays, his keyboard, unfinished copies of novels and with a day job as a techie. Aspires to be a movie connoisseur.