Zuwaina and Henry are long time lovers, an urban couple who is soon to tie a knot. All seem to be a happy journey for this perfect pair until one morning, when Zuwaina receives a letter that shatters her heart and turns her world upside down, after which life takes them on a ride. Our choices, and not the circumstances decide our destiny. But what if the circumstances compel us to make a choice we know we’ll regret for a lifetime and the pain shall last until our last breath.
Read on to know the tragic love story of this ideal duo.
The drizzles drenched the earth and released a soft fragrance trapped within it. The mild breeze spread it far and wide in the city, which otherwise buzzes with the honking of vehicles and whose air is filled with black smoke. A young girl sat by the window pane taking a nap in the midst of this endearing scene. She seemed to be completely detached from the series of events occurring around her. She was lost in some unknown world. As she tilted her head on the pane, thin strands of brown hair swaying over her face…still and calm.
She was not the kind of girl one could fall in love with at the first sight, but once someone knew her, they couldn’t stop admiring her. She had been an aspiration to many. They said she was independent, strong, determined, ambitious and passionate. Although, she was loved by all, there were many others who envied her too. After all, who wouldn’t want to be like her?
While the drizzles slowed down and the blaring city started coming back to life again, there was a knock at the door that broke the tranquillity. She stood up to open the door, knotted her hair, placed the newspaper and the coffee mug aside, stretched her arms and glanced at the things around her. The soft smile on her lips couldn’t go unnoticed. She hurried forward to open the door and as she did, she found an envelope with ‘To, Zuwaina Schwimmer’ inscribed on top. That was for her. She looked around but there was not a single person around. It seemed, someone probably just dropped the envelope and left.
Zuwaina looked down at it. As she was about to open, she heard her telephone ring. It was Henry Allen, her long-time boyfriend. Henry was her college senior and a former colleague. He had a charming personality – a guy of every woman’s fantasy, and quite a contrast to Zuwaina. Carefree, fun-loving, easy going were some of the words that can be used to describe him. Both of them were extremely fond of each other. Over a period of time, they entered into a deep comfort zone.
“Hello. How about a movie and bowling game in the evening?” he inquired.
“Mmm…Ok, well, I’ll be there!” Zuwaina said with a smile in her voice.
“Great, I will come to pick you at 7 pm. We go for a drive in the late evening,” he said.
“Yes darling! See you then.” Zuwaina hung up.
She was to meet him in two hours from then. In the midst of this conversation, Zuwaina had forgotten about the envelope. She had left it on the center table of her living room. She went on to complete all her pending work.
Within an hour, she was ready for the planned date with Henry. She waited for him at the coffee shop right below her apartment. She saw him getting off his car with a bouquet of lilies and hurried out of the café. Both looked at each other for a moment or two, smiled, grabbed each other’s hands, went across the road and headed to the multiplex to catch up for an action packed movie, followed by a game of bowling accompanied by some drinks. As the evening set in, the game went on to become cosier for the duo. They could not take their eyes off each other. There was the obvious playful touching that kept turning intimate with every passing moment. He held her waist as she bent for a strike. She held his hand close to her bosom. One thing led to another. In no time they found themselves in each other’s arms, kissing.
They left the club and went on for a long drive as planned. It was one of the most memorable evening for them.
CONTINUED IN PART II…
Next morning, under the influence of a passionate hangover, Zuwaina went up to make coffee for herself. Henry had left the city for a meeting; he’d be away for over two weeks. As Zuwaina comforted herself on the sofa, she happened to see the envelope that she received the previous day. She carefully opened the cover that read ‘Confidential’ on top. The papers looked like some legal document with a personal note appended. They were from her father, Mr. Larry Schwimmer.
Mr. Larry was an investor and a stock exchange broker. During his lifetime, he always struggled with finances. He kept working hard to pay for the education of his children and to cope with other household expenses. Although he was a jolly person at heart, some unfavorable situations made him lose temper quite often. He lost his wife owing to a heavy economic crisis, as he did not have sufficient money to fund her heart transplant. On top of that, medical expenses had built up a huge debt. He had already lost all opportunities to raise any further credit from the market. Eventually, his wife succumbed to her illness leaving behind two children – Zuwaina, who was in her early teens, and her younger brother, Philip.
Mr. Larry had great management skills. That took him a long way to get through the crunch that his family was undergoing. Not just that. He also ensured that both his children got well-settled. As a consequence, Philip now had a rewarding job in the USA as a management executive; Zuwaina herself was an established business executive in a globally recognized multinational, in addition to all her interests in the creative and social fields.
Mr. Larry passed away two years ago, leaving the virtue of courage and patience to his children, using which, Zuwaina and her brother both had conquered many tough situations and came out victorious each time. Luck, time and money, all favored them now. With every rising sun, they came closer to success in all forms, living a life which others aspired for but few could afford.
Without paying much heed to the legal documents, Zuwaina hastily started reading the letter written by her father. The letter was dated 21st July 2015, exactly two months before Mr. Larry died. She realized at once that it was the ink of the same pen which she had bought him last summer as a souvenir to her achievements. That was the last day when a daughter embraced her father with all the love and respect in her heart, the last night which she could recall when they laughed out loud remembering the funny moments with Zuwaina’s mother and wetted their eyes wishing she were still with them. Tears rolled down her eyes as she read the first few lines of the letter.
Mr. Larry wrote:
“My loving daughter Zuwaina,
How proud I feel to have you and your brother as my children! You both have been appraisingly supportive during all the odd times. If it were not your love and care, I don’t know where life would have taken me. After your mother left for the heavenly abode, my heart was torn to pieces. I constantly kept thinking of ending my life as I could not see any motive to live then. Yet, when I looked at your sparkling faces and deep eyes, the hope was ignited again. You both gave a new meaning to my life. Besides, with your marvellous insights, you taught me to translate all adversities into opportunities.
Though there have been many failures at my end, yet I feel accomplished from within. Now, I just wish to have a happy ending with all my children by my side, bidding me a farewell to eternity. And therefore, I feel that this is the right time to let you know of certain things that I kept secret from everyone. Even from my wife – Fiona. It’s a long kept burden. Now I am tired of having sleepless nights for the past 35 years.
While I was in high-school, I was dearly in love with a girl named Sarah. Sarah was simple, fun-loving, yet a very ambitious girl. She had dreams to fly and her heart was a gem. Each day we used to meet after school and spend the most memorable time of our lives. One morning Sarah didn’t come for school. I tried to inquire through her friends but no one really knew why. I called her up in the evening. I left several messages on her answering machine, but there was no reply from her. I was restless. Next morning I reached the school early, hoping to see Sarah but unfortunately, she did not turn up that day either. When I couldn’t reach out to her even on the third day, I decided to go to her house. The house was locked! I probed to know the whereabouts of Sarah and her family from her neighbors and discovered that they had left the city four days ago.
I was devastated and broken. It was impossible for me to imagine my life without Sarah. For the next few months, I was lost in an emotional storm of separation. It took me a long time to face it and accept that Sarah was gone for good. Yet, the possibility of meeting her again in this life kept hovering in my mind. Nevertheless, as you know that time heals anything and everything. Sarah’s memories did not fade away but were kept well-preserved beneath the golden grains of time.
Seven years later, I met Fiona. She was just the right woman for me to spend the rest of my life with. Within six months we got married. We were happily weaving our lives together, soaked in delight, when we got to know that Fiona was carrying our first baby. We were celebrating our joyous moments together. That’s when, suddenly the phone rang. It was from St. Louis orphanage. They called me to inform about some three-year old boy who was very ill. I was puzzled at first but then chose to meet the child out of courtesy. As I entered the orphanage, the caretaker rushed to me saying that my son wasn’t well and needed me by his side. I followed him quickly to the child’s room. In the midst of all the chaos, I realized that he had called him my son!
CONTINUED IN PART III…
I was taken aback. Still, I kept moving and went up to the boy who was suffering from high fever. As I stood by his side all muddled, I was given a message that Miss. D’Souza, the head of the institute wanted to see me in her office. I was petrified and nervous. I asked her what was happening, who was that boy, why was I called to the orphanage and what was I to do with him? She requested me to have a seat. In a gentle and low voice, she affirmed that the boy was indeed my son! Her words did not sink into my mind easily. I was speechless. The lady handed over a small folder to me that carried a photograph and a small note. It was Sarah’s photo! The memories wrapped in the blanket of time and locked forever started to flash very clearly once again. The note said,
That evening when I reached home after school, I was horrified to learn that I was pregnant with your child. My parents and family thought it best to leave the city before anyone would know about it. We were hardly children then; I didn’t know what to do next. I followed as my parents suggested. I never wanted you to know of our child. I myself did not have the audacity to be a single mother. My parents decided to terminate my pregnancy but the doctor advised it could be fatal for me. Therefore, my parents gave away our child to this orphanage. Miss. D’Souza knows everything about our story. I asked her to let you know about our child only when our baby really needs his father. I am in the last stage of a terminal illness and will soon depart. Please forgive me. I loved you a lot but could not gather the courage to fight against this cruel world.
For a while, I did not know what to do. All I knew was that he was my son. I could not abandon him. Nor was I brave enough to tell this to Fiona. I loved her deeply but she was not in a state to understand or accept my circumstances. I had to take a call. I made up my mind of not disclosing anything to your mom, and at the same time, shouldered the entire responsibility of my son. I visited the orphanage every weekend to ensure that there was no shortcoming in his upbringing. This continued for two years, after which I began to face massive financial crisis. Life grew stressful with each passing day. The pressure was unbearable.
One evening I was sitting with a very close friend of mine, John. I vented out my entire situation to him. It felt like a momentarily relief. A week later, John’s wife Alena called me saying that they wanted to adopt my boy. I was astounded! During prolonged discussions, she told me that they were longing for a child since many years. What could be better than adopting John’s best friend’s baby? She assured to keep the whole thing a secret. She would adopt the child directly from the orphanage. I was convinced with the proposal. Also, I trusted John and Alena to the core. The legal paper you see is the adoption paper of HENRY ALLEN.
Yes, Zuwaina, he is your brother! My last wish is to let him know of his real father. I want to apologize for my cowardly approach towards life. I know you love me a lot. I anticipate that you shall understand me. This was all about the love for my wife and family, and the fear of separation from you all.
Your loving father,
Zuwaina trembled. She was shattered. It was like her greatest nightmare coming true.
Henry Allen? The guy who she had been in love with for over a year is her brother? How was that possible?
She didn’t knew not what should be done next. Her heart was racing. Her throat was choked. She isolated herself completely for several days and didn’t answer any phone calls, texts or emails.
A week had passed. Zuwaina had not overcome the trauma yet. One afternoon her doorbell rang. Zuwaina gathered herself to answer the call at the door. It was Suzan Fleming, Zuwaina’s high school friend.
“Come in Suzan. How have you been?” inquired Zuwaina in a low voice, preparing herself to pretend to be fine.
Suzan held her hand and asked, “Are you ok, Zuwaina?”
“Yes, I am well. You tell me, what made you come to the city after so long?” replied Zuwaina.
“I have been in the city for past few days and planned to meet all the old friends.” Suzan retorted.
“That’s nice,” Zuwaina answered with a little smile.
“So how’s Henry Zuwaina?” Suzan queried hesitantly. “What have you decided now, Zuwi?”
Zuwaina was dumbstruck. “Did you read the letter?”
Suzan seemed surprised too. “What letter? What are you talking about?”
Zuwaina paused for a while and looked straight into her eyes with numerous questions. “How do you know about it?” she finally asked, still breathless in a state of shock.
“Zuwaina, I am the one who mailed you your father’s letter and the legal adoption documents. Don’t get me wrong Zuwi, but you know that I admired Henry since high school. I gave up to the fact that he was in love with you! I found this letter in Mr. Larry’s study when I came for his memorial service. I was shaken. Trust me; I never spoke a word about it with anyone. Not even to myself. But three weeks ago, I heard from a friend that you and Henry are planning to get married. I began to think whether it would be the right thing to do! I kept questioning myself again and again but I didn’t get any answer. The definition of right and the wrong became so relative that I finally made up my mind to make you aware of the facts. I know it’s the toughest thing to do and is extremely heart-breaking, but you have to take a call all by yourself.” Suzan spoke from her heart.
Zuwaina listened to every word carefully. Her facial expressions portrayed her of being decisive now but she refrained from making any counter statements.
Henry was supposed to arrive in the city two days later. Zuwaina was waiting from him at the airport. She could see Henry coming towards her with open arms and a huge smile on his lips.
“Hey, Zuwi!” Henry came close to Zuwaina when she stepped back.
“What’s wrong Zuwaina? Are you fine?” Henry asked startled.
“Everything shall be fine soon.” Saying so, Zuwaina gave him her father’s letter of confession.
Henry read the letter from scratch till the end. He was expressionless. He looked at Zuwaina once, then turned his back and sat on a bench. He seemed severely upset.
Zuwaina went up to him, “Henry, I am going to the USA. Forever. It was nice knowing you!”
Suzan stood by Henry’s side, with her hand on his shoulder, as they both watched Zuwaina walk away.