“Do you think you are a Stephen Hawking? Move away from the computer!”
Ria pushed the wheel chair roughly away. Nikki held on to a table to prevent his fall. Ginny shouted from the kitchen.
“Ria! For God’s sake! I’ll get you another computer soon. Till then allow him to use yours, baby.”
Suddenly Ria started screaming, “What have you done to my facebook profile? Mom! He’s made it a profile of a dog by name Ria!”
Ginny came inside the room and saw Nikki shaking with mirth and mischief and Ria shaking her fist at him. For all the misery and anxiety Ginny suffered due to Nikki’s deformity, Nikki compensated by being a brilliant and lively boy, and the house was far from being dull as he kept playing his pranks.
“Mom! I ‘m out.” Ria was slipping on her new shoes when Ginny came out.
“Will you be home for dinner?”
Ria frowned. “No, I don’t think so.”
“Take care Ria, it’s a bad world out there,” Ginny’s concern weighed down on her voice.
“Oh stop treating me like a kid mom. I know. I can’t stay staring at the blank walls when everyone is enjoying out there.”
Ginny’s eyes dropped down to the hem of Ria’s dress. “Oh Mom! Don’t start once again..” She mimicked Ginny’s voice,
“But your skirt is far too short, oh my God!”
She grabbed her bag and trotted out, her new high heel shoes giving a swish to her shapely hips before Ginny could ask her whose gift were those shoes. That was Ria, reckless and pleasure loving, just like Bob, her father.
Bob had left Ginny heart broken a few years back, for another woman. Ginny didn’t file a divorce suit. She had no one to support her. Her parents had died early before she could complete her degree. She had no relatives. When Bob proposed to her she was on cloud nine. A hundred times she told herself that she was extremely lucky and sometimes wondered if it was all a dream. But soon their relationship became strained and she thought it was due to Nikki. Then she understood Bob. He needed a carefree life. He feared responsibilities. One day he announced that he was leaving and that was that. At least she had her parents’ house and she and her children were not on the streets. Her taking up a job as a receptionist in a hotel and fending for herself was no big story to narrate.
Ginny could not afford to educate Nikki in a special school for children like him. Getting him a wheel chair itself was a great expenditure on her meagre income, as Ria’s education consumed most of her salary. She wanted to educate Ria in a good school. Not that Ria was that interested in getting educated. Her interests lay in good clothes and boys. Try as she might Ginny could not wean Ria from her pursuits of peppy life.
Ginny made two cups of tea and called Nikki.” Nikki baby, come and have tea.”
She started slowly to sip hers and looked at her reflection in the mirror that hung in front of her. She could see visible lines of age on her face. She had been trying her best to hide them everyday with make up. But make up can’t work miracles. She needed her looks for her profession. But separation from Bob, tough life and lack of cash had taken their toll on her beauty. She suspected that her days were numbered in that hotel. What would she do if they fire her?
She sighed and saw that Nikki’s tea was getting cold and he had not come out. She got up with Nikki’s cup and walked inside the one bedroom they all shared. Nikki was busy writing something. From the day Ria started school, Nikki looked at her books with interest. When she was out playing, he was busy working out sums. Ginny had brought note books for him also. When he started using them a lot, Ginny gave him Ria’s old notebooks which had leftover pages.
“Here’s your tea Nikki,” she handed it over to him and he took it without looking up from his writing. At least he kept himself busy without getting depressed over his lot, she thought.
Though Ginny could see it coming days ago, she broke into tears when the proprietor of the hotel broke it gently to her. He knew her family and how much she needed the job. Ginny had started to work in his father’s time. About a year back he had taken over the business – his father had passed away quite suddenly. He consulted experts on how to improve business. He did not want his hotel to become a liability. Every aspect of the hotel was studied, including the value addition of the employees. Not that Ginny scored less in her commitment to work; it came to light that a younger one would suit the post better.
Ginny was surprised to find the door open when she came home. She was back early that day. Her friends in the hotel had given her a sweet send off – only it was not so sweet for her. She got a compensation of three lakhs and odd.
“It will earn some interest in the bank,” she thought. “But I have to invest at least a small amount in some thing that would give me more returns. What would I invest it in?” she wondered. “A sizable portion of it will go off in repayment of the loan I have incurred in getting Ria aborted after her reckless relationship with that wine shop owner’s son.”
Terrible time, it was. They had come to know of the pregnancy well after three months of gestation. The abortion was a surgery. The money spent was as high as her mental turmoil.
She heard Nikki’s voice inside. He was seated at the dinning table with a girl of Ria’s age. She was writing something furiously while he was guiding her with an open book. Ginny raised her eyebrows at him. He smiled sheepishly and kept looking at her for sometime. “I shall explain it mom,” he said at last. Ginny entered the kitchen. She broke into tears a second time that day. After she had thought that she had cried enough and had dried out all her tears, that she would not cry afresh in front of her children, she came out to see what Nikki was doing. He was seated alone now – the girl had gone.
“Well mom, I have been making some money, without you knowing of course,” he said sheepishly. Ginny could not understand him. She had not yet got out from her low. “For a month now I am trying out coaching a girl for her maths exams, for a fee,” Nikki continued.
“How can you?” was all Ginny could say.
“Well, I can,” Nikki laughed.
As the computer and net connection helped Ria multiplying her social connections Nikki had been multiplying his neurons. Ginny looked at him incredulously and hugged him impulsively. He hugged her tightly. She wondered when was it she had hugged him last. She had forgotten. The tears that she had thought had dried welled in her eyes with fresh force, once again. She sobbed violently.
Now Ginny understood where she would invest her money. The returns she would get was more valuable than money. “You missed school, darling, coz of momma’s oversight. But by the looks of it, you can straight go for a college course. You want to do a college course by correspondence, Nikki?”
For the first time after years, her heart fluttered with happiness, when she saw the glow in Nikki’s eyes.