This story is by Raghavendraprasad Ragothama Rao and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“Hey, Mark. This is James. How are you doing? Having any plans for the fall? ”
James is my close friend who lives in Philadelphia. I know him for the past seven years. We searched jobs together, he had been my roommate for a few years, and later he got a job in Philadelphia. I started my work in New York City about eight years back. We usually meet once a year along with family.
“No plans as of now. Not going anywhere.” I said as I did not even think of going for a trip now.
“Oh. My wife and my two sons are going to my in-law’s place in Canada. My kids will be there for this fall. Let’s go somewhere! How about New Hampshire? ”
“Well, I have not been there recently. I can join! Who else is coming? ”
I was not entirely interested, and I just wanted to kill time for some days.
“I will have to check with my other friends at Boston. Let’s do some fishing and barbeque there. I can book a cabin at a cheaper rate from my uncle who owns it. Give me some time to plan. I will call you tomorrow or after that. ”
“Sounds good. Talk to you tomorrow!” I just disconnected the phone.
My life has been pretty catastrophic in the past four months. I am going through a divorce now. Katie and I knew each other from the college days, at least about ten years. We were best friends, dated and finally got married about seven years back, blessed with a daughter who is four years now. Life was going on smooth until that incident happened.
Incident – a kiss.
Kiss that created a butterfly effect in my life. An unexpected ecstasy that lasted only for a couple of seconds created a bigger impact which is still lasting for the past four months. I moved out of my house. I was homeless for few days, got a temporary accommodation in a friend’s house, now I found a place to stay in a small rented place in Queens, NY.
Katie, my wife, left me all of a sudden. My 4-year-old daughter is also with Katie now. I could not talk to my wife, and more importantly, I missed my daughter very much. Every father loves their daughter so much more than anyone else in the world. The childhood talk, the curious questions, the wheels on the bus, Cinderella story – everything had been shattered and vanished in the past few months. I felt that I lost the child within myself. I still regret why that few seconds came in my life.
It all happened on the final day of the intern completion of Malena. Malena joined as an intern for our team about eight months back. She learned a lot of technical skills from us, and she liked working with us. Every day at least I would discuss with her for about half an hour to train and get her up to the speed. I did not know that she was attracted to me.
Exactly four months before today – Her final day of intern came, and it was a dinner and a happy hour arranged at a stylish restaurant in Upper East. She had a lot of drinks on that day. We almost finished our drinks and came out. Before we bid adieu to all, she gave a kiss to me. She had too much, and it was too late before her friends made her realize her mistake. Seriously, I was not trying to hit on her.
That day Katie took an Uber to home as I had the car. The unfortunate Uber driver just drove on the same street the restaurant was, that made Katie witness the kiss from Malena. Well, wives are wives.
It started as a tough question – “Who is she?” and ended up with a heated statement – “Get out of my place.” Even after so many explanations of not my mistake, I had to take the suffering.
I slept in my car that day. The next few days were terrible; I slept in the car parked in the perilous places in Bronx, NY. Finally found a rented apartment in Queens, NY.
I did not hear back from Malena. She must have realized her mistake. Her Facebook post mentioned that she moved to Seattle. I deleted her number and also blocked her on Facebook.
Every time I see a kid boarding a school bus or playing in the park my daughter appeared in front of me. Every time I saw couples, I missed Katie much. It was not completely my fault, but still, I had to pay for it. I regret I should not have gone for the dinner that day.
I was unable to focus on my work. I was about to miss a few deadlines, and thankfully my team saved me. I thought that the New Hampshire trip could at least bring the old me of me.
A couple of days later, James had made all the booking, and we were ready to start. It was all set for the fall trip. James took a rented convertible and picked me up from Queens.
“So, how many of your friends are coming?” I should have asked this question at least when James made the booking. I did not ask before, neither had I the interest to ask.
“Two of them are coming. Both are coming in their cars as it is closer to them from Boston”. Our conversation continued with office work, movies, New York Yankees, Taylor Swift’s $1 accusation case, Despacito, I-95, recent traffic ticket, etc. Never had he asked about my wife or my daughter.
We reached Concord, New Hampshire. The yellow and red foliage welcomed us with a cold breeze as James opened the convertible head. He had made a booking for a quick night stay at Holiday Inn before we headed for the cabin. We checked in and got the keys. He just went for a minute to check where our room was and he came back. We started walking. While we were on our way to our room, James said that he forgot his phone charger and had to get it from the car. I entered the room and sat on the bed. I turned on the TV and relaxed for some time.
I heard someone entering our room. By the person’s voice, it was not James; it was another girl who was on the phone. She opened the door and came in. It was none other than Katie and my daughter Emily. She was shocked to see me in the room and so was I. Katie dropped her phone which fell on the carpet floor.
“What the hell are you doing here?” Katie asked as soon as she entered.
“Daddy” was the cheerful sound that I could hear from my daughter. She ran towards me, and she climbed onto me. That’s my daughter! I see her after four months, and the child inside me came out all of a sudden. We hugged each other.
“Hey,” Katie asked again. “What are you doing here? Elizabeth booked the room for me and her along with the kids. How did you get in here?” Elizabeth was James’s wife.
“Wait, what did you say? Elizabeth booked the room? James booked the room for him and me. We are in here to meet our friends. ”
The argument could not continue for more than a minute, and all of sudden there was an alarm ringed on the table. Katie and I looked at there, and there were two envelopes – one addressed to me and the other to Katie. We opened each other’s envelope and started reading:
We know each other as a family for the past ten years. I understand that you are going through a tough time. It is not a right decision for you and Katie and more importantly for your daughter. You and Katie had a strong determination to get married and live together for many many years. You both know each other, stood as an example for others on how to stay in life together both during good and bad times. We have envied you a lot. You would not believe me, a lot of times Elizabeth and I have spoken about your family to many of our other friends who were about to break-up. A breakup is not good, for you, for your wife and more importantly for your kid. Your daughter needs you to be with her now. My father left my mom when I was 2. I know how hard it is to grow up with a single parent. Before you sign the divorce papers, think of your daughter.
James and Elizabeth.
It was the same letter that James and Elizabeth had written to us with the names exchanged.
I fell again in love with Katie and Emily!!!