If you had missed the previous chapters of the story, please click here: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4
Maureen sat on the couch with her hands clutching her skull. She had become accustomed to the intense migraine she suffered when in stressful situations and she had surely been under a lot of stress while at work with her boss. But this was because of Steve..of herself and their complicated relationship in the recent past.
She didn’t want to go near him, she didn’t want to ask him why, she felt that it was not a crime to be promoted at work. Her guilt for Steve had converted into anger. She had opinionated that Steve was fuming due to sheer male ego that had been roused due to her promotion at work. She sat there sipping from her can of cola, half expecting him to come back and explain the cause of his sudden outburst. But no, he did not turn up for the next few hours. By that time, Maureen had complicated things by thinking more about that issue. She waited on the couch with her fit of rage gearing up by every minute. She had sat there, clutching her head tightly, the whole of that night. It was 6:00 A.M in the morning, Steve stirred in bed stifling a sleepy yawn.
He woke up to find that Maureen’s side of the cot was untouched. He slowly went up to the hall to know what had happened to her. He was a bit apprehended to find her still sitting there in the same position as he left her last night. He slowly approached her “Maureen, didn’t you sleep?” he voiced. She sat there as still as a rock without responding to him, but her eyes were wide open. “Mau, what happened?” his voice came out as a whisper as he slowly neared her to embrace.
She shunned away his hands in a brutal force and screamed “You know what is happening Steve! You know. And you aren’t ready to tell me about it!” her eyes had reddened with anger and she breathed slowly with her hot breath rubbing his cheek. “Mau… nothing has happened between us, hun! I was just tensed up with some work yesterday and that’s why I screamed at you. Now, we’ll talk about this later on. I’ll have to report to office very soon today.” He told, all at one go, not giving any time for Maureen to retort or even respond. After having his say, Steve rushed inside to take a shower.
Maureen glanced at the clock which ticked nine past five which made her shriek in spite of her mood. Maureen brushed and washed herself in the swiftest way possible and tucked into her unironed coat deeming ironing an unnecessary waste of time and drove the shortest route to her office.
It was the lunch hour when Maureen flipped her cell-phone on and dialled Steve's number. It was answered in the first call. "Maureen. I am in a team lunch...Could I talk later?" whispered Steve and before she could answer, the call was cut off. "What is up with him? Why is he not talking to me in office?" wondered Maureen.
She picked up her phone and dialled another number. The call was answered "Hi Ronny.... How are you doing man?" she voiced. Ronny was a mutual friend of Steve and Maureen and he was in Steve's own team at the office. "Heyaa... Maureennnn.. I am fine fine fine fineee" he fiddled with the word. "So what's up? You've caught up after almost a century. It is a surpriseee" he twisted it with his queer accent.
"Ah that... I was caught up with the wretched Larson, buddy. He drills me out every day that I've lost my social identity!" she laughed with guilt thronging her every part. If Maureen had wanted to, she could have called Ronny a million times but she had never cared about anybody...even Steve. "Mmmmm.. yeah. I got that already from Stevey. Is everything alright between you both?" he asked all of a sudden.
There was an embarrassing silence on both ends of the call.
As they reached George town, Maureen was the usual cheery self and had almost forgotten her worries under the presence of Steve's undeterred efforts to make her happy. As they reached the hospital, she breathed hard in worry and silence enthroned their faces.
They hurriedly paced through the different wards of the hospital and Maureen found her father leaning on the walls of one of the rooms. When Maureen saw her father's face, her's became pale grey and her voice quivered when she addressed him "D..Dad.. How is mum?" He answered after an effort to bring out his voice "she might not be keeping very well, dear. You have to go and visit her." Maureen rushed in and was there for a long time. At last, she came back to the crew of two standing outside, waiting for her.
As soon as Steve saw her, he recognised from her reddened cheeks and narrow eyes that she had been crying all along. He hurried out to her, wrapped his arms around her shoulders and led her to an empty room in the ward. "I can understand you very well Mau... But it is you who shall stay strong and console your dad and strengthen the spirits of your mum! This might be a grave time, yet there is hope... Hold on to it with strength, dear. Celebrate the hope and exasperate.. This time of your life shall definitely pass. Bring out the summer in you Mau..now go and console your dad!! Go ahead!" he told.
After hearing him, Maureen started crying all the more with mixed emotions surging abut the state her mother was in and Steve’s love for her. She smiled a feeble smile at him and hugged him tight mustering up the little warmth she had in her. He hugged back, his hug was caressing and warm and it drenched her in good hope.
Maureen walked back to her father with enduring strength and new-found hope, while she tightly clutched Steve’s hands. On seeing her in a better state than before, her father arched a wide smile at her. “Dad… You know about mum, right? Hasn’t she fought out the worst of problems in life? We very well know that she is a strong woman and can fight back.” she said as she glanced at Steve.
Steve nodded his head in encouragement. There was the trace of new-found tears on her father’s eyes. He smiled feebly and said “My little girl knows so much… Maureen, you’ve given me such hope in a few seconds that I almost feel that Mary has been cured. You are such a wonder, dear child.” He said, as he caressed my hair with his fingers.
She smiled back and continued to convince her father of her mother’s favourable chances of recouping from her current state of health. When she had finished, her father clutched at her and hugged her tight with tears brimming in his eyes. “Mary shall be alright… She will be back home and knit my sweaters and … we shall all celebrate this Christmas together, in joy!” he said.
Maureen glanced around to find that Steve wasn’t by her side, anymore.
READ CHAPTER 6