Story Collection - Uncharted Territories

Chapter 1: Rahkim’s Gambit

Rahkim knew that time was precious. He had spent a lot of it on mundane things in his life. He wished now that he hadn’t. He wished that he had done something better with his life. He had heard that death brings this perspective in everyone’s life but this knowledge did him no good. His feelings didn’t change and he couldn’t handle this burst of emotion that his heart was feeling as it slowed down. It was tired now. He could feel the gap between his heartbeats increasing, slowly but surely.

The screeching sound startled his heart back into a flurry and his weakening resolve strengthened once again. Yes, he was going to die. Yes, he had no more time left. Yes, this is it. But he still had a few moments and if he can conquer these few moments, it just might be a lifetime’s worth of achievement. His mind send out these signals to his body and he got up, his whole body aching.

His left leg was completely shattered. Each step was more painful than the pain he had experienced in his whole life before today. His right leg was holding the weight of his entire crumbling body. The wound in his back had twisted his body to the left. He looked around with a strained neck and saw half his arm lying roughly seven feet away from him, still holding the gun. He was still holding the sword in his other hand and that was the only thing that had held the enemy at bay.

“Seven feet, I can do seven feet,” Rahkim whispered to himself and took one step towards his severed hand. His whole body jolted with pain as he tried to move towards his gun. What he wanted to do now will not work with his sword. In all irony, it was tactically a defensive weapon right now. He had taken two steps when he heard the manic scream again and his remaining hair stood. He knew what was coming next. He felt the heat on his back and a shot of pain as fire covered his body. If not for the sword, he would have been crisp but the sword took a lot of the heat.

“It’s now or never,” Rahkim grunted and hobbled towards his arm. He was still five feet away but close enough to just fall towards his gun. His ribs crushed in his lungs as he fell face first. He ignored the pain, dropped his sword and extended his hand towards his gun. His other hand was still holding the gun but there was enough space for him to pull the trigger. He turned with the gun in his hand facing his enemy.

The brown-scaled dragon looked at him with disdain and prepared for another fire attack. The dragon was almost thirty feet in length from head to tail, slender but with a mean temper. It stood on four legs and the wings remained open even when it landed on the ground. It was bleeding from the one bullet wound and one gash, the two attacks that Rahkim had managed till now. They hadn’t hurt him much but enough to make the dragon wary of Rahkim. Unfortunately, Rahkim had taken mortal damage and was barely breathing. He knew that he had one shot. The bullets were powerful enough to penetrate this dragon’s scales but the wound was not going to be lethal with the thick layer of muscle and fat.

‘Inside the mouth,’ he heard in his head and aimed straight at the dragon. The dragon opened his mouth to attack with fire. Rahkim curbed his instinct to move away from the flame and pulled the trigger as he got engulfed with the fire. With no sword to protect him, he felt the fire’s wrath on each cell of his skin as it burned away. He heard the screeches of the dragon in pain. Rahkim hoped that his shot had reached the target.

His body lay on the ground with no energy, no skin, and no pain. Either the pain receptors were burnt away or his mind was too numb to process pain anymore.

‘The dragon is dead. We won,’ a somber female voice said in Rahkim’s head.

‘Thank God,’ Rahkim said. He thought he smiled but he didn’t know if his face had responded to his mind.

‘Rest now, friend,’ another voice, boyish, said in a tone that relaxed Rahkim.

‘It’s over,’ Rahkim said as he felt his heartbeat increasing and his mind going to sleep.

The void went silent with two bodies – one human and one dragon – lay dead. There were no witness to this battle except for a sword and a gun.

‘Now?’ the gun – called Nisha – asked the sword – called Kabir.

‘Now, we search again. Rahkim was brave.’

‘Yes, I wish we had more time to train him. He would have been a good Slayer.’

‘He would have been. A week’s training was never going to be enough and on top of that, we had to fight a brown dragon.’

There was no sound during the whole conversation. The two weapons were connected telepathically as they were forged from the same metal by the same person at the same time.

‘Let’s find another Slayer,’ Kabir said and the two weapons vanished from the void along with Rahkim’s body.

Story Collection - MSPM39

Story 39/39: Repeat

Kunal opened his eyes and looked at the world with marvel. Everything was new, everything alive. He checked his whole body and smiled at its composition. He touched his smiling lips and giggled at the moving facial muscles. He stood up and fell down, stood up again and slowly learned to walk, and walked towards the table in front of him. The table was not huge but it looked good enough for some writing and it had a pen and a paper on it as well. Kunal sat down on the chair and picked the pen.

The pen was blue on the outside and had blue ink as well. Kunal scratched and scribbled with the pen a few lines and realized that he didn’t know anything further. He looked around and saw a couple of books on the right side of the desk. He picked the one closest to him and opened it. There were several scribbles on the pages of the book along with the shapes that those scribbles denoted. Overjoyed, Kunal started turning the pages of that book, learning what each of the scribbles meant and sounded. He kept moving from one book to another as his vocabulary increased. He learned that each of these scribbles can be combined to form words which can be spoken through sounds.

Kunal opened his mouth to make the sound that was expected according to the book. He looked around to find a way to verify and saw an instrument which he promptly switched on. Sounds started to flow from the instrument which consisted of the words that he had learned just now. He started practicing them and within a few hours, he was speaking the language.

“Beautiful,” Kunal said hearing a particular melody and sang along. He picked up the pen again and copied the scribbles from the books. Initially, he failed but soon, he was able to copy them exactly as the book suggested. With joy, he started scribbling down one word after the other. His wild imagination creating characters and beings that he had never heard about or seen but he could feel them in himself and he tried to put each and every one of them on the paper.

One word followed by another word, Kunal continued writing with hand and then looked at his creation. Unimpressed, he tore the paper down and went back to listen to the music and words to learn more about them. He focused on the meaning of the words and then went deeper on what more can they denote. Hours went by and he continued to read, listen, talk, and write. After many torn papers, he looked at a single piece of paper and nodded.

“Perfect. Finally, something that I will enjoy reading tomorrow. Maybe, I will continue the story and see where these characters go.”

Kunal kept the paper gingerly on the table and put his pen on it.

“Act as a paperweight and don’t let this story go anywhere. I’ll meet you tomorrow my little tale,” Kunal said fondly to the piece of paper and went back to bed. He closed his eyes and went deep into slumber.

“He’s asleep,” a voice whispered through a mic and a few people started gathering around the room. A sleeping gas was passed in the room and the door of the room was opened.

A couple, now in their fifties walked slowly towards their son and sat by the bed. The doctor came and sat next to them and started measuring the medicine.

“Is there no way?” the mother asked the doctor, for the hundredth time.

“I wish there was mam. This is the only medicine that keeps him alive.”

“But can it not be given to him every alternate day? Or at least, can we not meet him when he’s awake.”

“You can meet him but he won’t recognize or even understand you, sir. You know that.”

They knew. They tried that initially but the blank eyes that stared at them were more painful than looking at their son from afar. A nurse used another syringe to pass nutrients to Kunal’s body. The food in the room was also replaced with fresh food. Some days, he would recognize that his body needs food, while other times, he would forget about food completely.

“How long? It has been two years doctor.” Kunal’s father asked.

“He’s showing signs of improvement. He is learning the skills faster. But unless his disease goes away completely, we can’t take the risk of stopping.”

Kunal’s parents nodded. Two years ago, their son fainted and didn’t wake up for six months. His brain fluids, which were supposed to relieve him and create long-term memories had started acting in a weird cleaning mode and started eating his brain. On further checkup, it was identified that if this continued for a few more days, he would collapse completely and die.

The only way was an experimental medicine that was to be injected every night when Kunal went to sleep. The fluid would stop eating the brain and feed on the fluids injected. Unfortunately, as a side-effect, his brain would wipe off itself from all the memories. The doctors guessed it was due to a reaction between the medicine and the cranium fluid.

Every morning, he would wake up as a newborn. No pain, no experience, no memories. It was not difficult for him to learn anything as his muscle memory was still there and his brain was still the brain of an adult. According to the doctors, it was also possible that the memory wipe was only superficial and Kunal might recall everything in a few days if his brain wasn’t doing the everyday cleaning.

In the initial days, they would leave the place as it was the last night but Kunal wouldn’t identify anything and would simply tear away the papers before starting afresh. It was hard for him to value the stories until he learned to speak and write which usually happened by late afternoon.

His mom and dad started picking up these stories every night from his desk and kept them as souvenirs – proof that their son was not gone, even if he was far from them. They even published some of them and they had found success – both fame and money. Despite his illness, Kunal was still earning enough money to take care of both himself and his parents. Kunal didn’t understand that or even know that but his parents hoped that one day, this cycle will break and their son will find out that he is a beloved author.


The room was cleaned and everyone got out. Kunal’s parents went to sleep at their house which was nearby. The next morning, they were back, looking at their son who was just waking up.

Kunal opened his eyes and looked at the world with marvel.

Story Collection - MSPM39

Story 38/39: Encore

Monica heard the screech ringing in her ears and turned to see the dragon just a flick away from her. The dragon swiped its tail and Monica was thrown away with Alara falling out of its reach. The dragon moved towards Monica, its pace increasing with each passing step. Alara was towards the dragon and if she ran towards it, she will definitely be devoured by the dragon but if she ran the other side, she may never be able to reach Alara. Monica had a split second and she made the decision. She ran towards Alara picked it up and pointed it towards the dragon which was one chomp away from eating her and shot.

The bang of the gun woke Monica up. She realized that she was sweating and she picked a tissue to wipe herself. She was also hungover from the drinking last night.

‘Not the same dream again,’ she jaded herself. It had been almost six months since that incident but she would get the same nightmare at least once a week.

“Not a dream, a memory,” Monica said to herself. She checked her mobile and it was almost morning. There was one message from Kane from last night.

‘Is the sober you a better decision maker?’

‘Not really. :P’ Monica replied

‘Do you remember the conversation we had last night?’

‘Yeah. I may have forgotten everything else but I’m surely going to remember that. Lol!’

‘Still no?’


‘Cool. Lunch?’


Monica had met Kane a few weeks ago through a friend. Last night, he had asked her out and she had said no. She was not ready to date right now.

“Not in the right place,” she said to herself. Monica got up from the bed and went to her bathroom. She looked at the mirror and couldn’t help but smile. ‘Kane is crazy,’ she thought and picked her toothbrush, and put it under the automatic toothpaste dispenser. This small piece of technology had been marvelous to her and she loved it. She went to her kitchen and picked up some bread and juice for breakfast.

Monica was thinking about her dream when the doorbell woke her from it.

“Rachel! What are you doing here?”

“I woke up early and was missing you so came here. What’s up? You look dead.”

“Yeah. Last night had a bit too much to drink and woke up with a hangover.”

“And a bad dream, I suppose.”

Monica nodded. Rachel knew everything. She and Monica had been buddies for years and it was hard to lie to someone with whom you had shared a gun, let alone two.

‘Hey, Monica.’ Alara said after being neglected for some time.

“Hey, bud. How are you?”

‘I’m good. Thank you. We just slew a dragon.’

“Shhh… No work talk right now.”

“It’s fine Rachel. I gave the dragon hunter life willingly. I don’t miss it at all. Trust me,” Monica said raising her arm which was not holding the juice glass. It started from the shoulder joint but ended in a stub just before the elbow. She had been able to shoot the dragon but before dying, it was able to bite off her arm which was holding Alara. ‘Still better than dying,’ she had said to herself then and every day since then.

Rachel nodded.

“What about joining M.A.I.D. again?”

“I thought about it but I think I’m done with the whole gunslinging thing for a while. Just want some peace.”


“No guns, no Godzillas, no guys.”

Rachel laughed and Monica joined her. Rachel and Monica had met one the first day at M.A.I.D. around four years ago. They joined together and worked on many missions together for two years before Monica was chosen by Alara to be its guardian. For two years, no bullet or knife could touch her, she wasn’t ever caught, and she finished almost all her assignments but dragon-hunting was a different level. For one and a half years, Monica diligently fought dragons of many shapes and sizes before meeting the one small and fast one six months ago. A meeting that left her without her one arm.

Monica decided to pass on the mantle to Rachel and for the past six months, she had been trying to heal and adapt to this new life.

“What’s the plan for lunch?”

“Meeting Kane for lunch.”

Rachel looked at her mischievously, a look she immediately shot down.

“Remember what I said – no guns, no Godzillas, no guys – for some time.”

“Then why lunch?”

“He asked me.”


Monica realized that she didn’t give it any thought.

“Food is food,” she said to Rachel hoping she’ll believe it.

Rachel shrugged. “If you need to get out, ping me.”


Monica met Kane for lunch and before she knew, more than three hours had passed with both of them talking about random things on random topics. Monica liked that he didn’t gaze at her missing arm like other people did, including Rachel at times. She told him as much and got the weirdest reply she had ever heard.

“Of course. Too narcissistic to look at anyone else.” Kane said and continued the original conversation.

Finally, after hours, he dropped her at her home.

“A couple of more hours and we could’ve had dinner too,” Kane said as Monica got out of the car.

“Yeah. But I think you’ve had enough of me for the day,” Monica said.

“Not even close, but I know the sentiment is not reciprocated,” Kane said and stuck his tongue out at Monica. Monica laughed and stuck her tongue out in return.

She entered her home and started to change clothes. An activity that she never thought about six months ago. After a bit of jumping and wiggling, she managed to change into her comfortable clothes and ordered some food. She had started to order her dinners now. She had enough money from her M.A.I.D. days and she had started to appreciate the things that eased her life now.

She dozed off on the couch while watching a movie with the pizza on the table. The dream was back. Monica fought her hardest but like the reality, the dream also ended up with the dragon biting her arm and her waking up with a scream.

“Twice in a row. That sucks!” Monica said, wiping her face. “And my body is now aching from sleeping on the couch,” she groaned. She turned and twisted to improve her pain and checked her phone. It was dead.

“Urghh!” Monica went to her bedroom and put it on a wireless mat. Once she rebooted it up, a message blinked on it from Kane.

‘Reached home. Good night.’

Monica checked the time. It was around 1 am. She replied.

‘Sorry. Dozed off. Good night.’

The phone blinked again. Monica checked.

‘Still certain?’ The message said.

Monica smiled.

Story Collection - MSPM39

Story 37/39: Protégé

Amar was getting tired. This was the longest he had spent in this dimension and for once, he was afraid.

“It’s taking too much time,” he stuttered.

‘I know. This is one strong dragon.’ Alara responded.

“I don’t understand. We have killed dragons ten times as big as this one.”

‘I don’t know.’ Alara said.

In front of them was a dragon with a torso the size of an elephant. On first look, Amar had considered it a five minutes job. He had been a dragon hunter for almost three years now and he had become quite good at it. It wasn’t unusual for him to defeat more than one dragon at a time as well. This was the first time, in his mind, that he was truly struggling.

The dragon had black scales and had a smaller wingspan than other dragons of its size. However, the dragon was quite fast and was able to turn and get off the ground in almost a heartbeat. This had made Amar’s main hunting strategy redundant. Usually, the dragons needed some time and boost to get off the ground due to their bulky size. Amar would utilize this time to injure them and ensure that they were ground-bound. If they remained grounded, it wasn’t too hard to eventually get a shot in their weak areas.

The smaller dragons had to come close to Amar to attack them, even with their fire which made them vulnerable to his gun – Alara. Their skin was also not tough enough to handle Alara’s magic-laced firepower.

This black dragon was different. It got off the ground almost immediately and it could shoot fire from a large distance. To make matters worse, he was on occasion able to through a ball of plasma which was much hotter than the fire itself and much more accurate, and at least two times, it managed to attack Amar with lightning. The lightning wasn’t as strong as the original one but it was still enough to shock Amar to the core. Even Alara was shaken.

“How do we defeat it?”

‘We keep fighting until it gets tired and comes back to the ground.’ Alara suggested.

“Haven’t we been doing this for the past thirty minutes?”

‘The dragon has stamina.’ Alara said plainly.

Amar groaned and continued dodging the dragon’s fire and plasma attacks while trying to shoot it with Alara. With the dragon’s flying speed, it was hard to get a good shot, and even the ones which had hit most had either hit the scales which wasn’t too bad for the dragon. Painful? Perhaps. But not lethal. The rest had grazed off without making any impact whatsoever.

“You think we will survive this dragon?”

Alara didn’t give any response which didn’t improve Amar’s confidence.

“How many dragon hunters have died before?”

Alara gave no response.

“What happens when a dragon hunter dies? Tell me Alara.”

‘If you die, we will go back to the Earth and I will start finding another human being as quickly as possible and then come back to attack the dragon again.’

“Oh Wow! That’s dedication.”

‘The dragons never rest. Neither can I.’

Amar dodged another fire attack and fired at the dragon. The dragon was hit but didn’t show any sign of weakening. However, it did slow down a bit in its flying which enabled Amar to get more hits on the target.

The dragon wailed and its screech filled the void. Amar closed his eyes for a brief second to handle the scream and when he opened them, the dragon had vanished.

“What happened?”

‘It went back! It’s rare but I think the dragon decided to go back to its realm. We can go back as well.’

Amar sighed with relief.

Amar and Alara came back to Earth at Amar’s house. It was empty as Amar moved to start living alone when he got Alara.

“Tell me Alara. What happens if you die? You can be destroyed, I presume.”

‘I don’t know. Perhaps there are other weapons as well and the next one will take my place. The work is never-ending.’

“Whosoever made you really gave it his all. So much dedication and so little ego.”

‘I suppose I have the advantage of knowing my purpose. I don’t have to think about what to do next as I’m driven by my goal and purpose.’

“Nice jab, Alara. Let’s assume that my purpose is to kill dragons, the same as yours.”

Amar picked his phone and called his friend Jonah.

“Hey, buddy. Can we meet today?”

“Sure. Lunch?”

“Cool. Meet you in an hour.”


‘You think he knows something.’

“He’s a phoenix. If anyone knows about that dragon, it’s him.”

Amar and Jonah met at lunch and Amar immediately told him about his tryst with death.

“You’re joking!” Jonah said on hearing about the dragon, almost choking on his water.

“You’ve heard about it.”

“Yeah! It is called the Black Death and is the leader of the dragons. I’m impressed that you even survived the encounter.”

“Yeah, the three years of experience helped me survive.”

“Yeah. Maybe.”

“So, is there any way to kill it?”

“There must be. We haven’t found it though.” Jonah replied. “Black Death is a legend. In fact, I’ve also only heard about it. I think there are only perhaps a handful of living Phoenixes who have seen Black Death and only one alive who had actually fought and live to tell the tale.”

“Aren’t you immortal?”

“Yeah. We can live a long time and we can come back from planned death by being reborn with our memories. But we can be killed. It’s hard but it can be done. And Black Death has done it more than once.”


“What do I do?” Amar asked.

“Frankly, I don’t know. Perhaps I can come with you but I’m not sure if that would be enough.”

“Do you know any other phoenixes who might be interested in helping?”

“Nope. I doubt anyone would risk facing the Black Death.”

Amar nodded. He understood. He had faced Black Death and even though he felt that his attacks were hurting the dragon, he was nowhere close to being at even footing with the dragon, let alone winning.

“Can I suggest something?” Jonah said.


“I think you should pass Alara on now.”


“If Black Death comes back, I don’t know what will happen. Let someone else deal with it.”

Amar smiled.

“We both know what will happen. But I can’t let anyone else take the burden. Not when they will need time to train. Not when there is an unkillable dragon around.”

“Can you start training someone right now?”

“That’s an interesting thought. Alara?”

‘It hasn’t happened before. Whenever a previous dragon hunter had trained the new one, it was only after passing me over.’

“But it can happen, right?”

‘I can be handled by only one person at a time. So, the new person can practice everything but he or she won’t be able to use me till either you die or you officially pass me on.’


“Alara said it can happen with a lot of caveats.”

“Great! Let’s find you a protégé then.”

“Yeah. Hopefully, I will be able to pass this gun without dying.”

‘Unless Black Death comes tomorrow.’ Alara said.

Amar laughed.

Story Collection - MSPM39

Story 36/39: Mom

It isn’t often that the world changes. It isn’t often that it changes for the good. Therefore, it wasn’t surprising that Nehal didn’t believe that what was happening in front of her was true.

“You’re not joking?” She asked her father once more. He nodded with affirmation. She started to sob.

“Hey, sweetheart! Don’t cry. This is what you wanted, right?” her father said.

Nehal nodded as she tried to wipe tears from her eyes which continued to get wet with her overflowing eyes. Her father hugged her tightly.

“Thank you! I’ll pack my bags.” Nehal said and her father nodded with a smile.

He stood up and saw her daughter run back to her room. She had been asking for this for more than six months now and it was only now that her wish had turned into a reality. Six months ago, her mom and dad got divorced. At the age of ten, it was hard for her to understand all the reasons for their divorce but she had seen them fight enough to know that they weren’t happy together. She had accepted the divorce better than both her parents had anticipated, except for one thing. Her father had gotten custody whereas she wanted to be with her mom.

She tried to accept it but in truth, her mom was more fun. So, for the past six months, she had been trying to convince her dad to send Nehal to her mom.

“You know it will be easier for you to get girls if you didn’t have to show them a daughter.”

“You know a growing child needs a mother.”

“You know I will come and meet you often.”

“You know…”

“You know…”

“You know…”

Each day, a new ‘you know’ would pop up over breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Nehal knew that the key to success was persistence and eventually, she succeeded. Her father relented, on the promise that she would meet her thrice a week. Nehal intended to keep her promise. She loved her father and if he was as fun as her mom, she would have stayed.

She packed her bags in record speed. She didn’t need to pack everything as this was going to be her room anyway. Just her favorite clothes and toys.

“Nehal, sweety! Your mom is here to pick you up.”

“Awesome! I’ll be down in a bit.” Nehal said checking her room for anything she would need urgently.


Nehal checked her room and once satisfied, she carried her bag outside. Her room was at the right angle from the living room and she heard her parents talking before they could see her.

“You couldn’t keep her for six months.” Nehal heard her mom’s laughter. She had missed this laughter.

“Yeah! Just, take good care of her.” She heard her father say with earnestness. She heard a hint of sadness in his voice that she hadn’t recognized before. At that moment, it hit her that she hadn’t thought about how her father felt until then.

‘It’s okay. It’s not like I’m leaving him forever.’ Nehal said to herself.

She strained her ears to hear more.

“You know what Kartik, I have changed my mind.”

“What do you mean?”

“The amount you are giving me isn’t enough to take care of your spoilt brat.”

“She’s your daughter too, Kashmira.”

“Only because you wanted a kid. I never had an interest in one. I told you that before we got married.”

“Yeah. I know. I’m sorry that I tried to convince you. I had hoped that with time your mind will change. I’m sorry.”

“You should be. You tried to hold me down when I’m made to fly. And now, you are again clipping my wings by tying this kid to me.”

“She loves you.”

“Of course, she does. Unlike you, I know how to have fun. Even I would have stayed if you weren’t this boring.”

Nehal heard the conversation with a chill flowing through her whole body. The conversation continued.

“If you hadn’t forced me, I would have gotten an abortion and we could have been happy together Kartik. Why did you force me to have a kid that doesn’t even love you now?” Kashmira’s voice was now louder than normal.

“Shh… She might hear you. You know Kashmira. Once I knew that you were pregnant, I couldn’t let go of her. She’s my daughter.”

“It was just an accident Kartik. You let our relationship die for an accident.”

“Please Kashmira…” Kartik pleaded.

“You know what’s funny Kartik. You chose her over me and now, she’s choosing me over you. For all you being a dad, you failed both me and her.” Kashmira said, her voice getting haggard.

“I know. I’m sorry Kashmira. Just, please take care of my baby. I will give you any amount you want. Just, don’t let her down. She wants a mother. She needs a mother. Please, be her mother.”

“I will try Kartik but she will always be the reason who killed our relationship. If you didn’t force her on me, we would have been together. I will try to look past that but I can’t promise that. I loved you and you chose her.”

Nehal couldn’t take it anymore. She walked slowly to the living room. Her father was sitting on the couch with his hands on his head, defeated in every way. Her mother’s face had tears on them, the same way she had some time back. She looked so much like her mother. ‘How could she hate me so much?’ The pinching thought hit her heart.

Kartik realized first that Nehal was in the room.

“Hey, sweetheart! All set to go home?” Kartik said in his best neutral voice. He tried to have a smile on his face but faltered. Her mom quickly wiped her face with a tissue and smiled at her.

“Hey, love! My baby is ready?” Kashmira cooed at Nehal. Nehal broke down.

“I’m so sorry mom! Dad! I’m sorry you both are divorced because of me.”

“No love. Don’t even think like that. It was my fault and my fault alone,” Kartik said picking Nehal up in her arms.

“I’m not going to push myself on you mom. I’m sorry. I will stay with dad.” Nehal said between her sniffles.

“No. It’s fine. No trouble.” Kashmira said, uncertain on how to handle the situation.

Kartik wiped Nehal’s tears.

“You are troubling no one Nehal. What you want is the most important thing. Tell me. What do you want and that is what will happen.”

“Yes, Nehal. Your dad is right,” Kashmira added.

Nehal continued sobbing for some time but eventually, she calmed down. Kartik and Kashmira sat in front of her.

“Will you be able to forgive me, mom, ever?”

Kashmira looked at her with an aloof kindness.

“I will try love. I will try my best.”

“And dad? Will you forgive him for… for me?”

Kashmira looked at Kartik who looked at her. They both knew what she was going to ask.

“I don’t know love,” Kashmira said with honesty.

Nehal nodded.

“Then, I have decided. I will stay with dad. I don’t want to be a burden on you. But I have a request mom. Can you spend time with us one day a week? Maybe someday, you can forgive both of us?”

Kashmira nodded.

“We can try that but I can’t promise you anything.”

“Just promise me that you wouldn’t leave me… us forever.”

“I can’t…” Kashmira started but then stopped.

“I promise you, Nehal,” Kashmira said and opened her arms towards her. Nehal hugged her and once more broke down. Kashmira looked at Kartik uncomfortably. He pulled Nehal towards him where she continued to cry.

“I’ll meet you on Sunday then?”

“Yeah. We can go to Disneyland.” Kartik said, tentatively.

“Sounds like a plan,” she said with a nod and then turned to Nehal.

“Bye, love.”

“Bye, mom.”