HAIL FELLOW WELL MET
Story by Vikram Karve
“Your daughter is really cute…” the man says to the woman.
“She’s yours’…” the woman says.
“What…?” the man says – surprised.
“She is your daughter – she is our daughter – you are her father and I am her mother…” the woman says.
“You’re joking…” the man says.
“I am not joking. Don’t you remember the week we spent together in Switzerland…? The woman says to the man.
“Yes – after the training workshop in Geneva…” the man says.
“Our daughter must have been conceived at that time…” the woman says.
“But – how is it possible…? We did it was just once or twice…” the man says.
“Not once or twice – we did it six times – we almost lived like a newly married husband and wife on a honeymoon…” the woman says.
“Didn’t we take precautions…?” the man says.
“I am sure you are the father. We met 4 years ago – and my daughter was born 9 months after our passionate “affair” – I hadn’t slept with anyone else during those months – before – or after – so I am 100% sure you are the father…” the woman says.
“I am really sorry…” the man says.
“Sorry…? Why should you be sorry…? I am quite happy. Whatever happens – it happens for the good...” the woman says, “when I discovered I was pregnant – I decided to have the child…”
“Did you marry…?” the man asks the woman.
“No. I am a single parent…” the woman says.
“Single Parent…?” the man says.
“In the place where I live – it is okay for an unmarried woman to have children…” the woman says.
“Don’t you have to tell them who her father is…? Have you put my name in her birth certificate…?” the man says.
“Don’t worry – I haven’t told anyone – no one knows that you are her father – even she doesn’t know…” the woman says.
“But you will have to tell her sometime – or – they may ask when you put her in school…” the man says.
“It’s optional for single mothers to disclose their child’s father’s name – so – I won’t disclose your name – unless you want me to…”
“No. No. No…” the man interrupts, “I am married now…”
“Oh. When did you get married…?” the woman asks the man.
“Actually – I was married when I met you in Geneva – I got married 5 years ago…” the man says.
“Oh. I don’t remember you telling me that you were married…” the woman says.
“I thought…” the man stammers.
“You thought I would have qualms making love to a married man…?” the woman says.
“Yes…” the man says – sheepishly.
“Doesn’t matter – don’t feel bad – we had a lovely time together – and it gave us such a beautiful reward too – our daughter…” the woman says – she points to the cute girl – and says: “isn’t she adorable…?”
“Yes…” the man says – looking the lovely girl – who – he has just discovered – is his daughter.
The woman looks at the man and asks him: “So – you are married for 5 years – I am sure you have children…”
“No…” the man says.
“No children…?” the woman asks him.
“We are trying…” the man says.
“Your wife – she works…?” the woman asks.
“Yes…” the man says, “she is also a teacher…”
“A Teacher married to a Teacher – that’s good…” the woman says.
“And you…” the man says.
“I still teach – but at a much better school in Auckland…” the woman says.
“So – you are doing well…” the man says.
“Yes – I am doing quite well in life…” the woman says.
There is an announcement on the public address system of the airport.
The woman says: “Ah – my flight has been announced. I think I should do to the boarding gate…”
“Yes…” the man says, “there is still some time for my Mumbai flight. Should I walk with you to your boarding gate…?”
“No…” the woman says, “we’ll manage…”
The woman looks at her 3 year old daughter – sitting nearby.
The girl is engrossed in the cartoon film she is watching on the smartphone in her hand.
“Won’t you introduce me to our daughter…?” the man says.
“No…” the woman says.
“If you don’t want to tell her – you can just introduce me as an “uncle”…” the man says.
“No…” the woman says, “Our meetings were sheer coincidences – then – and – now. We seem to have a “hail-fellow-well-met” type of relationship – let’s keep it that way. Goodbye – till we meet next…”
The woman walks towards her daughter – and tells her to come.
And – as the man watches the woman and his daughter walking away towards their boarding gate – he hopes the woman will turn around and look back at him – a last “goodbye” – at least with the eyes.
But – the woman doesn’t look back at him – no “goodbye”.
The man keeps looking as the woman and the girl disappear from view.
Copyright © Vikram Karve
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This story is a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the story are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
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