Thomas woke up disoriented. The room was spinning. He closed his eyes and tried to clear his head. Ugh. The pain. It came from his left arm.
“Hey,” someone cried out from a long way off, “He’s awake.”
Two heads appeared. One was a man in a white coat with a stethoscope around his neck and the other a woman clad in nurse uniform.
“Hello; Mr. Thomas, are you alright?” the man asked.
The darkness was coming back again, and through it he remembered flashes of what happened. The curve. The lorry. The crash. Her.
“Mr. Thomas, Mr. Thomas. Are you alright? Your injuries are minor. You don’t have to worry about anything.”
It wasn’t himself Thomas was worried about. The darkness threatened to engulf him completely. I need to know.
“Ho..how..ugh..guh.. she..?” Thomas spat blood.
“Mr. Thomas, be calm. Don’t exert yourself. Give him a sedative. Its all going to be just fi…”
He drifted back to sleep.
He woke up again. Everything was silent. The lights were off, but someone was dozing nearby.
Thomas felt a wave of thankfulness. They had been friends since kindergarten, and John had stuck to him through thick and thin. Now, at this critical point of his life, John was here too. How will I ever repay him?
John woke up hearing the disturbance.
“Oh, you’re awake” John stood up and came near him without switching on the lights. “I’m sorry about the accident. But your only injury is a broken hand, other than that you are unscratched.” John put his hand on Thomas’ and seeing the look on his face said, “now don’t exert yourself. Go back to sleep. We’ll talk in the morning.”
“Maria?” Thomas managed to croak out. The darkness was starting to return.
“She’s alright. Don’t worry. Go back to sleep. We’ll talk in the morning.”
That didn’t sound good. He felt himself fall back into sleep.
5 hours before the accident.
Maria was still asleep.
Thomas looked at her daughter. She looked so…innocent. The ECG machine behind her bed was keeping a record of her erratic heartbeat.
Why? He found himself asking again, Why God? Why?
A nurse peeped into the room.
“Mr. Thomas?” I looked at her.
“Dr. Sriram is asking for you.”
I nodded and followed her, closing the door to Maria’s room behind me.
He had vowed to never enter her house again.
But circumstances had changed.
Ann . His wife. Maria’s mother.
She was seated opposite to him on the couch, legs crossed. A glass table separated them with an empty and sad looking flower vase set on it.
She had dyed her bobbed hair a sickly green and had got an eyebrow piercing. Other than that she hadn’t changed. Even that high and disdainful look that he hated so much was still as present.
“So, what brings the great Thomas here?” she asked, a smirk on her face.
Thomas felt a familiar anger, but he controlled it. He was thankful she lived alone, he would rather have died than suffer this humiliation in front of another human being.
“You have heard about Maria, haven’t you? Her condition is getting worse.”
A single word. Devoid of all emotion.
Ann was born into the lap of luxury and had stayed there. As far as he understood her, the only things she loved were clubs and diamonds.
She had never been a mother to Maria. True, she had given birth (even if it was premature caesarean), but had left them both the very same day. She didn’t have time for a child, apparently.
Thomas had always told Maria her mother died in childbirth.
Right now his blood was boiling, but Thomas calmed himself. He wanted to tell Ann a million things, but none of that would serve the purpose he came here for.
“The doctor says she has six weeks. I want her to know she has a mother.” Thomas paused to look at her, “No matter how painful that truth is.”
Ann didn’t bat an eyelid.
“Thomas, I haven’t seen that kid in in what, twenty years? And I’m pretty sure I don’t want to see her now. Further, I can’t come. I have a very important meeting with Miss Aiswarya today evening to discuss her cousins…”
Thomas lost it.
Grabbing the vase with his left hand he smashed it into table. The glass shattered into a million pieces, shards flying everywhere. Ann screamed.
“What are you doing? You maniac. I’ll get you arrested for…”
“SHUT UP!!! JUST SHUT UP.” Thomas was holding the vase pointed at Ann, “This kid you are talking about is my daughter; our daughter. And she’s dying. DYING; for God’s sake.” He shifted the vase to his right hand, “I need your help. You are coming with me; and I’m not asking.”
“Thomas, wake up. Thomas. We have to talk to you. Wake up Thomas.” A familiar voice was talking to him. His body still hurt. Thomas slowly opened one eye. The doctor was standing there, as well as an older and more dignified looking man.
It was the familiar doctor who spoke “Thomas, Dr. Iype here is the head of the neuro department here. He has something important to talk to you. Doctor please.”
Dr. Iype stepped nearer to the bed and spoke in a low voice.
“I’m sorry Mr. Thomas but the lady you were travelling with yesterday, we couldn’t save her. We tried our level best, but the injury to the head was too massive. To put it bluntly, she is brain dead. I’m sorry.”
The news took time to sink in. Brain dead.
“Ann” I murmured.
“Pardon me sir?”
“Ann. Her name’s Ann.”
All of us were quiet for a while. Finally Dr. Iype spoke up again.
“Sir, I know this is a most unfortunate time, but my job dictates this.” And he then spoke to Thomas about organ donation. The lady’s organs could be used to give hope to others, she could live on like that. No other relative could be reached so her husband’s permission was required.
Thomas heard him out, and was silent.
“I agree…” He finally said.
“Thank you sir. This gesture is very much appreciated. But now I must go sir. Thank you sir.” The doctor turned, to leave in a hurry.
“On one condition.” Thomas completed the sentence.
The constable knocked on the door before entering. The C.I looked at him.
“Sir, regarding that accident day before yesterday, the one involving the lorry and the car. The lorry driver insists that the car crashed into his lorry on purpose.”
“All of them say that.”
“Yes, sir. But this guy seemed more sincere. So I checked.” The constable placed a file on the desk, “That is the lady’s autopsy report sir. It says here that cause of death was a blow to the back of the head. This is unusual considering it was a head on collision, the injury should’ve been to the forehead. Also the time of death puts it around ten and ten thirty, whereas the accident happened at eleven.”
The CI looked through the files. What he said was correct. The inconsistency was glaring.
“Hmmm.” The CI said after thinking for a while, “Look here Ganeshan, I know you are honest, we all are. But some rocks are best left unturned. It’s not like we do not enough troubles already. This woman in question donated her organs to eight different people. Any inquiry would be dragging all of them through the courts and you know how efficient our courts are.”
“I know Ganeshan, it is unethical. But in the larger interest, I think this is best. For everyone. You understand right.”
Constable Ganeshan hesitated for the shortest time, and then said, “Yes sir.”
“Good. Now go look into that sand mafia case. I want a report by evening.”
Ganeshan saluted and left, just as the phone rang. The CI picked it up.
“Hello it’s the DGP here. You are C.I. Vikram right?”
“Yes sir, good morning sir.”
“Good morning. Vikram, what about that favour I asked of you?”
“It’s taken care of sir.” Vikram crumpled the autopsy report and threw it into the bin.
“Ummm. John sir, my promotion….”
There was a laugh at the other end. “Don’t worry. I’ll see into it.”
“Thank you sir, thank you.”
The line went dead.
Maria opened her eyes slowly. It had been a whirlwind the last few days. But now, it was the calm after the storm.
Her father was there, so was his friend, John. They both were smiling at her. Her father’s left hand was in a sling. She had heard from him that he had slipped in the bathroom.
But something wasn’t right. Yes the curtains were drawn, there was the familiar smell of antiseptic, the hurrying footsteps of the nurses, the creaking wheels of stretchers. The erratic beeps of her ECG…
The ECG behind her was giving out steady beeps.
It was music to Maria’s ears. She felt her chest.
“Dad..” her voice was hoarse. Tears sprung to her eyes.
Thomas put a hand on her shoulder, and smiled down at her. He remembered what Dr. Sriram had told him a few days ago, on that morning:
“We are losing her Thomas. At best I can give her six more weeks. Her heart is failing fast.”
“Is there nothing I can do doctor?”
“I’m afraid not. A heart transplant is our only option. But donors are in short demand. We will need someone who matches Maria’s height weight, blood group and all. And also brain dead. The chances, I’m sorry to say is extremely low. But even the there is a waiting list. But don’t give up hope. A miracle just might happen.”
Thomas left the room in tears and went to Maria’s room. She was still sleeping.
She looks just like her mother, he thought.
And that’s when he was struck by that morbid idea.
Maria still had her hand on her chest, feeling the rhythm of her new heart.
“Everything’s fine now, Maria. Everything is going to be alright.”
“Who..?” Maria asked.
Thomas hesitated. The truth? He thought. No.
“Someone whom you don’t know Maria,” he finally said, “Someone who loved you.”