After 8 years, I am on way back home now. I was sent away to hostel for studies. Now my high school is over, and, I am going back home; home to Charlie, not to Naina and Phil.
Eight years I had been living with my mom, Naina and her new husband Phil. Naina got divorced from Charlie, my biological father when I was nine. It was hard for me, leaving my ever-loving and caring Dad, to move in with Phil and Naina. I didn’t want to, but we had to go and live with Naina after divorce, so I had no choice; but neither law nor Naina could ever coax me to accept Phil as my dad, or to address him such. Same went for my elder brother Jasper. We held no animosity towards Phil, but the relationship of a father and child never flowered between us. Jasper and I loved Charlie and it was conspicuous.
Well I am 18 now (or going to be in 1 day) and free to make my decisions, and move in with anyone I want.
It had been a tradition of Jasper and me, that whenever we came back from hostel for our holidays, our first stop was always at Charlie’s. We would spend a day or two with him before going to Naina’s.
Jasper moved out 4 years ago, and since then has been living with Charlie .Charlie being a busy businessman, didn’t have much time for us (or what the common belief was) but whenever I was at his place, Jasper and he made sure to spend most of their time with me. Jasper joined Charlie’s business a year ago. But he used to come with me, over to Naina for holidays for few days.
Jasper has everything a girl could ask for in an elder brother. He is loving, caring, passionate, teasing, and jovial……….. (The list never ends). He never left my side either in good or bad. Although he moved out, he still came with me to Naina’s so that I wouldn’t felt lonely. He treats me like a princess, but teases me mercilessly too.
Well I am at airport now, and can’t find either Dad or Jasper. It is unlikely of them to forget I was coming back today.
“Ana mam, the car is here”.
I turned around to see Charlie’s driver Robert standing beside a black Volvo. I tread toward him, “Where is Dad and Jasper?Didn’t they come?” I was perplexed and a little upset. It never happened, they never forget to come pick me up from airport.
“I don’t know madam, sir asked me to pick you up from airport at 8”. I nodded, as he loaded my bags in the car.
We started our journey back to home.
We reached home and I still haven’t received any call or message from either of them. Now I was getting a little worried.
I got out of the car and reached the porch, there were no lights on .The house was shrouded in darkness, and silence, as if no one was at home. “What the hell is happening here? Where are they?” I murmured and opened the front doors.
I stepped inside, everything was engulfed in darkness, and not even a single light was on. I fumbled for switch on side wall. The chandelier of the main hall turned on and I gasped.
Though the light was not enough, as the light of chandelier was dimmed, but still you could make out the decorations. The hall was decorated in blue and white balloons, flowers, lilies and roses maybe. Sofas were pushed back making wide space in middle of the hall. But before I could find out something, somebody swore and lights dimmed further. The voice sounded like Jasper’s, but before I could say something a video started, and a hand draped around my shoulders, a touch I would recognize even in deep slumber. Dad pulled me towards sofa and we sat there.
But before I could ask him anything , the lullaby Charlie used to sing to me to sleep, started in the background. A voice spoke, Jasper’s,” Now let’s take you all to a journey through my little sister’s life, soon to turn 18”.
On screen came the photo of my birth. I was cradled in the hands of Charlie, who was kissing my forehead, with Naina on hospital bed in background. The photo was captioned as” My princess”. I looked at Dad bemused, as he kissed my forehead and smiled. ”Well this marks the birth of my headache, called sister ,who irritated me by her tantrums and still does, a constant thorn on my side” Jasper said teasingly and I threw cushion, from where I expected the voice was coming .
”Aw!!See she is doing it again “and I hurled another pillow at him.
“Okay! Okay! No, she is the most precious person in my life, my dear little sister. I was very happy when she was born. I used to take her to my room and sleep with her cuddled next to me. But she used to wet my bed and I had to send her back.” I poked my tongue at him and he chuckled “But whatever, she was and still is my little sister for whom I can do anything. So boys out there, be careful while going after her”, he said last part as warning and I blushed, shaking my head at him. I heard laughing and realized there were other people seated around as well.
“And now considering this to be a graduation present and, marking the start of her birthday, let’s look back at her teenage life before she enters adulthood “.
And the video started. Jasper came and sat beside me putting one hand around my shoulders.
The presentation went on, showing my pictures as I grew up, and ended after 20 minutes, with the last photo of my graduation party, taken just now when I entered the house. With clapping, lights flicked on. There were my friends, Dad’s and Jasper’s friends as well, some relatives and cousins too. I was overwhelmed to say the least.
“So this is the reason why neither of you came to pick me up. Huh?” I asked Dad and Jasper. They both exchanged a secret smile and Jasper took my hand pulling me up. I stood up and looked at both of them, they were still smirking.
“What?” I asked. I hate it when they keep secrets from me.
“This is for you. Now go get changed.” Jasper said, handing me a package. I gave him a look.
“What? Go” he pushed me towards stairs. I huffed and went upstairs to change.
I came back downstairs dressed in powder blue sleeveless dress, with black high heels, my hairs in high ponytail.
There were Dad’s colleagues, to whom Dad introduced me. Then I was off with Jasper’s and my friends and our cousins, enjoying the evening.
All evening I danced with practically everyone starting with Jasper and Dad. By the end I was so tired, I went back to my room, even before last of the guest went back home. I changed into my night-clothes and fell on my bed for a blissful sleep. After 5 minutes approx, I heard Dad entering my room, he kissed my forehead, whispered good night and went away, turning off the lights. I snuggled deeper under the covers and slept peacefully. I was home finally.
Next day I woke up a little late and went down for breakfast. Martha, our housemaid told me that Jasper went out for some meeting but will be back before lunch and Dad went to office to finish all his meetings before lunch, so that he can spend the rest of the day with me. And since I woke up late, it would be not long before he is back, and there is a car in garage with driver if I want to go out. I rolled my eyes at last statement, thanked Martha for breakfast and went back to room. I was going to spend my whole day lazing around.
After sometime I went to back garden, for watering and pruning the plants. This trait I inherited from Naina, she loved gardening so there was a garden at Phil’s place as well.I went for bath and then helped Martha with lunch.
As promised, both Jasper and Dad were back for lunch. We spent lunch chatting and sharing stories. Then whole day was spent playing scrabble, monopoly and video games. In evening we went out for little excursion to beach, and had dinner at our favorite restaurant.
At 10:00 pm approx., Dad retired to study with Jasper to discuss some office works, while I went to the library to read. Around 11:30 I came back downstairs to find hall in darkness. I went to Dad’s study, no one was there. Strange, I thought, no one slept before 12, and it was not plausible that they forgot my birthday. Going back, I heard tick-tick sound coming from one end of the hall but as soon as I moved forward, there was a loud sound and lights flicked on, with Dad and Jasper singing birthday song. They were standing in middle of hall with a cake in front of them.
I looked up at them grinning “But there are still 15 minutes left”.
“No my little sis, the watches are fifteen minutes late” Jasper said hugging me and pushed me towards the cake.
“Oh. Now make a wish and blow the candles”.
I knelt down, made a wish and blew the candles on cake. Then as I stood up with piece of cake for Dad, Jasper covered my face with cake, from behind, shouting “HAPPY BIRTHDAY little sis”, laughing hard at my cake covered face. And the cake fight commenced. At end, the amount of cake we ate was half of what covered our faces and floor. Dad, Jasper and I went to change, while servants and Aunt Martha cleaned up.
After changing I hurried downstairs.
“Dad my gift” I demanded from Dad, who was standing near front doors. He laughed at my childish eagerness, pulling me outside.
“Come on. Your gift is waiting outside.”
There a sleek metallic black Lamborghini Gallardo stood in front of me. My jaw dropped to the floor, and then I squealed jumping up and down.
“Dad that’s mine” I turned and hugged him tightly, getting him by surprise “Oh I love you so much dad”.
He laughed at my enthusiasm.
“Yah!! Yah!! My princess it’s yours, and I love you too” he kissed my forehead but then added in a stern tone” But you are not be allowed to drive it alone, until you are 19”.
I pulled away from him to see if he was kidding, but he was serious.
“Dad that’s not fair” I whined, pulling puppy dog eyes, that will surely melt him. I could see the internal battle going inside him but he replied shaking his head slightly.
“No!! Please for old man’s sake. I don’t want you to getting hurt”.
“Dad’s right An, we don’t want you to get hurt and” Jasper said putting a hand around my shoulders “you are getting a car at 18, while I got mine at 20. So at least accept his one request”.
“Oh come on, let’s go for a ride in your new car” and with a wink Jasper pulled me towards the passenger’s seat. I pouted but got in reluctantly.
I had been craving for this car for so long. It was not fair. I sulked as we drove out of the driveway.
“Oh come on An stop brooding. You got the car you have been craving for so long. Be happy”.
I refused to reply, and looked out of the windows with my hands folded.
We stopped when we were two blocks away from house, I looked at Jasper. He was smirking, I raised an eyebrow.
“What, you don’t want to drive your brand new car?”
I still looked skeptically at him.
“Oh come on An, you don’t want to give Dad a heart attack by your speed or showing you can drive. Come on” he grinned.
I jumped out of the car and went to driver side. Jasper came out and I gave him a hug squeezing him, well as much as I can with his muscled body.
“Whoa! Whoa! An…. need air “Jasper said laughing.
I let go of him and got in the driver’s seat, with Jasper on the passenger’s seat. Before starting I turned to him, and kissed him on cheeks.
“You are the best brother ever”.
“Oh!! I know that” he said airily, lifting the collars of his button up and giving me cocky grin.
I punched him on shoulders, and then we were off for a long drive.
Tomorrow we will be off to Naina’s place.
Next day early morning we bade goodbye to Charlie. He never showed, but he always got teary-eyed and sad when it was time for me to go back to Naina; but he hid it well. But this time I was going to return pretty soon.
Jasper and I started from Dad’s house early, and reached Naina’s by 4 in the afternoon. Although we slept late last night, the thrill of birthday, graduation party and driving my new car, kept us energized and we reached there without any hint of tiredness. We took turns driving, but knew, at night when this tiredness will take toll on us, we will pass out in a minute. But right now we were carefree and were enjoying our time.
Naina was waiting for us at front gates. I was in driver’s seat, she tutted and a flicker of disapproval and unhappiness passed on her face. But soon it was replaced with happiness and love, as I hugged her. She wished me birthday and then hugged Jasper. Then we went inside with one more disapproving look from Naina directed towards the car.
Naina never liked Dad giving us expensive gifts. She always disapproved of them, but never commented much. When Jasper got his first bike, she restricted him to drive it for the time he was at her place. So he left for Dad’s place after two days. Since then Naina stopped saying much. According to her, Dad was spoiling us. But both of us knew he never fulfilled our useless wishes, and had his own restrictions, but who will explain it to Naina. She had her own perspective regarding Dad, and refused to change it. Albeit she allowed us to live with him, she never talked to him. And if they ever met, there was always certain animosity between them.
There was a party for me at the house, and all our friends and acquaintance were invited. Even Nanny was coming, but as usual Charlie was not invited.
He never came to Naina’s house. I remember his last visit vividly, it was when I was 10 and Naina decided to send me away to boarding school. Charlie was furious to say the least. He didn’t want me to go, he came over and there was a huge row between them. Charlie wanted to take me away with him and Jasper, but Naina refused and prohibited us to meet Charlie. But Phil intervened and allowed us to meet Charlie. That’s the main reason I never gave a cold shoulder to him. He is a polite, wise, level-headed man who could control Naina’s short temper. But since then Naina and Charlie never talked and I want to end this cold war.
Naina very well knew that, I just like Jasper will move in with Charlie, and she will not stop me. But before that, I want this coldness between them to end, this was my birthday wish and only Jasper knew about it.
Jasper and I sneaked up to our rooms, to get a little rest before the party. Naina came to my room before the party, to give me the dress she bought for me. I changed and was ready by 7.
I went downstairs, guests had already started coming. Jasper was in garden with his friends, goofing around. Naina was off attending guests with Phil. Nanny had arrived and was talking to my aunts.
I felt a hand on my shoulders, I looked up to see Phil smiling down at me. I smiled back.
“Happy birthday Ana. You are looking beautiful. The color suits you.”
“Thank you. You look not bad yourself” I said smiling.
I was then swept away by my friends. I turned around, to see Naina had joined Phil and they were smiling at me.
My relationship with Phil has always been complicated. He was a nice man, he neither asked me or Jasper to call him Dad, nor tried to take his place in our lives. He always gave us our space, and fulfilled our wishes if we asked. Overall he was a nice, supporting person in our lives, who engaged himself in our banter, played with us and advised us as a guardian, as a friend. He held a small, albeit an important place in our lives.
The party went on smoothly, cutting the cake I wished Charlie was here with us. Sometime during the party I moved out to beach. There were not much guests left. I went through the back door to the beach. The moon was shining overhead, the tides were low and soft breeze brushed through my hair, the tranquility of the place was soothing. This was one thing I was going to miss about Phil’s house.
Whenever I was upset, or wanted to think I came down to the beach. The ocean, wind and serenity of the place helped me to clear my mind. I am officially 18 now, and a week from now I’ll move in with Charlie, and leave this place forever. Though I’ll miss this place, I yearned to live with Charlie. I know it might look a little selfish on my part to leave my mom but I was doing this for her sake too. Phil is a businessman and had to travel a lot because of it, while Naina had to stay back because of me. I know she missed going out with him, and I don’t want to hold her back for my sake. I want to set her free now.
Naina and Charlie got divorced when I was 9, while Naina was 31. She was too young for their relationship, for the responsibilities. I used to blame her for breaking up with Charlie, but now I understand. It was the love that made her move out. Charlie was 8 years older than her. When Phil came in her life, she realized what she had missed all along, she was too young when she got married to Charlie.
She fell in love with Phil, he rejuvenated her, made her feel alive and young. This made her move out with Phil, and Charlie understood, thus never forced her, but was shattered by the idea of parting from his children.
At that moment I hated her, but now I know, there was nothing left in their relationship and it was better this way. It was love, an irresistible feeling that made her move out and it was right for her.
Suddenly a servant came up to me and took me out of my reverie. He handed me a note and went away. It was from Jasper. He left.
Where? Why? It said nothing.
To be continued in chapter 2…read on to find where did Jasper went and why?