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It had been a week of sheer torture. He was drained physically and emotionally. So much time had passed that it seemed they would now need a miracle for her to be returned to them. So he prayed for a miracle to happen. God, give her back to me, I will give you anything you want in return. I won’t smoke, I won’t drink, I won’t ever flirt with that sultry socialite who aspires to be my next mistress. He felt his bile rise at his own thoughts. Are these what I am prepared to give up to have her back with me again? Take an eye, God, a leg, or both, or all my senses, my life. I don’t want to live anymore. Please let me have her back. Please, please. He found himself wordlessly begging, bargaining.

He had walked and walked through the streets like a man possessed these last seven days, looking for her among the faces in the crowd, returning only after innumerable calls to his cell phone. He attended the calls in the hope of hearing some news about her, but always dreading it would be something bad. When it grew dark, there was nothing he could do except perhaps be stopped by a policeman and arrested for loitering. That would not help. So he returned home each day.

The eyes that greeted him on his return were filled with pain. He hated having to face the unspoken question they asked. Any news, anything at all?  His parents seemed to have aged a decade in just a week. Curtly refusing the offer of food and water from his wife, he made straight for his room. Some part of his mind took notice of how haggard she looked, on the verge of a total collapse. He wanted to say something, comfort her, but no words would come. Later when he heard her crying softly in the dark, he patted her back, staring unfeelingly ahead at the wall faintly visible in the light from the street lamp. He felt unable to close his eyes even for a second.

The next morning he was again back to walking all over the city, its nooks and corners that he had not seen until now, hoping all the while of finding something to hook hope on to, however feeble. Each tiny foot, curled fist, lilting laughter made him feel breathless. His phone did not ring the whole day. He wanted it to ring, but was terrified at what it might mean. He paused in his wandering in the late evening as hopelessness overpowered him, and hailed a cab, giving the driver directions to his office.

As he unlocked the door to his office, he found himself short of breath having climbed the flights of stairs instead of taking the lift. He did not know why he decided to come here instead of going home. He went around his desk and sat on his plush chair, absentmindedly fingering the things on his table, shuffling through papers with unseeing eyes. In his mind rose the picture of her sitting on his desk, eyes bright with anticipation, waiting for him to tear open the packet and break off a piece of chocolate for her.

The office phone rang just then startling him. Out of habit, he picked it up. It was the police. No, he did not want to hear this. Darkness swirled around him threatening to pull him into its vortex. Where are you Mr. Joshi? He heard the Inspector ask. We have been trying to reach you since afternoon. It was now 6 p.m. Oh God, was his cell phone dead all this time? We found her Mr. Joshi, the voice continued and once again the darkness almost swallowed him. Was she…? She is with your wife and she is okay.

He did not hear the rest of what the Inspector said about the beggar woman who had kidnapped her having been arrested too, about the newspaper people waiting to talk to him, about signing some papers. His mind had stopped processing information after he heard that his darling daughter Esha had been found and was okay. With the phone still in the crook of his shoulder, he covered his face with his hand and let all the pain of the past week flow down his cheeks.

Written for Write Tribe Wednesday Prompt # 6

file000884219889Picture from here

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