Mukesh Kumar
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Tasha fought the urge to straighten the painting on the wall. It was what made her notice the
man sitting below it. He was tall. She could tell by the way his frame folded on the low
seating. Good-looking too, despite the creased brow. She surprised herself by her
observations and returned her attention to the painting. Drew rubbed her back to let her
know he was there. She turned to look at him, her son, her beautiful sixteen-year-old. Then
the nurse walked in …
The man unfolded himself. Tasha stood up. The nurse waited. Then a doctor came up to
Tasha and said, ‘I am sorry, Mrs Miller … we did all we could.’ Tasha sank to her knees.
The nurse took over, while the doctor walked over to the man. He didn’t have to say
anything. The man’s deep voice resonated across the hospital’s waiting room, ‘Not even
The doctor shook his head. The man just stood there, arms loose by his side.
It took a moment for it to make sense to her, then Tasha just launched into the man,
hammering his chest. It was ineffectual. He just stood there, taking it like it was deserved.
Drew dragged her away, apologizing to the man. ‘She killed him … she killed him!’
Tasha screamed. She looked into the man’s face and saw the tears, her own eyes were dry.
She wanted to cry, too.
That’s all she remembered of the fateful night she lost her husband. The man, Brad King,
she later found out, had lost his wife and daughter that night. One accident ended all three
lives. Greg was heading home from work and Brad’s wife and daughter were heading out
for some ice-cream.
The week after the funeral Tasha went to the GP for a review of her prescription for sleep
medication. She saw Brad sitting in the waiting room of the surgery. Her heart skipped a
beat. She didn’t want to face him but her GP’s room was just past where he was sitting. He
looked up and as their eyes met, Tasha knew she had no choice. She took the seat next to
him. Brad shifted uncomfortably.
‘I just wanted to apologize for my behaviour that night,’she began.
Brad didn’t say anything, just nodded his head.
‘Is everything okay?’ Tasha continued.
‘I can’t sleep …’ Brad finally spoke.
‘Me neither.’ His eyes met hers in understanding. A strange arc of awareness shimmied
down her spine.
The doctor popped out and signalled to Brad. He rose and walked into the office. The
door closed.
Brad’s eyes were red when he came out. The doctor patted his shoulder and asked Tasha
to come in. As she brushed past Brad, he put his hand out. She looked up at him. ‘Will you
have time for a coffee after?’ he asked. She nodded and walked towards the doctor.
The waiting area was empty when she came out. Tasha was angry at her disappointment.
What had she expected? She searched the pocket of her cashmere coat for her car keys and
marched out of the surgery.
Brad was in the parking lot, leaning against his Bentley Ghost. He straightened up as he
saw her. Tasha walked towards him.
‘I have to pick up my prescription from the pharmacy,’she said, as she fiddled with her
car keys.
‘Me too. I’ll follow you there. Then we can go to the Fox and the Hound,’ his deep voice
was smooth.
‘For coffee?’she arched her brow.
‘Just need something stronger right now,’ he said.
Brad was already following the waiter to the table when Tasha walked in. She weaved
her way to him. Brad helped her out of her coat, and then held her chair as she sat down. He
was a gentleman, like Greg.
The waiter took their order and left.
‘How’ve you been?’ Brad asked.
‘I don’t really know … Right now, it’s all about getting through the day, one moment at a
time,’ Tasha felt the tears begin to gather and blinked furiously to fight them, ‘What about
‘Am back at work … it’s busy right now,’ he looked into her eyes. A tear rolled down her
face. He wiped it with his thumb and cupped her cheek.
‘It will get better. It has to get better …’ he murmured.
The waiter came with their drinks. Brad dropped his hand and Tasha touched her hair
self-consciously. They were both still married—to dead people.
Even though they did not actively seek each other out, the weekly visit to the surgery and
the stop at Fox and Hound became a ritual. They didn’t talk much. It was an odd connection,
where the shared pain didn’t need to be explained. Once they drove away from the pub, they
went back to their separate lives.
Two months later, Tasha stirred her Pimms absently as she looked out of the window.
‘Something on your mind?’ Brad asked.
She turned toward him and said, ‘I’ve made a decision.’
Brad leaned forward.
‘I’m going home,’ Tasha looked into his eyes.
‘Yes, I’m going back to India,’she said.
‘Why?’ he reached over and placed his hand over hers. She turned hers around and laced
her fingers through his.
‘Family … Drew … It’s so difficult without Greg …’
Brad’s fingers tightened, as a muscle twitched in his jaw. ‘You seem to be doing okay,’ he
‘Look at me, Brad. I’ve lost more than twenty kilos. I struggle to get through the day. The
bank wants the house back … I just can’t do this anymore!’ Her eyes filled up.
‘Is there anything I can do?’ he asked.
‘No,’she said with conviction.
‘Tasha …’
‘It’s done, Brad. I’m leaving next week.’
The waiter came to the table and Brad withdrew his hand.
Brad rested his hand on the small of her back as they walked to their respective cars. As
she made to walk away, he tightened his hand. ‘Tasha …’
She turned toward him and looked straight into his grey eyes. She couldn’t read them in
the dark but something told her they were stormy.
He touched her face gently, pushing back a tendril of hair from her forehead. ‘Don’t
‘Brad … I have a home in Delhi, people who’ll help me get back on my feet and right
now, what choice do I really have? I have to think of Drew.’
He said nothing, just leaned in and placed his warm lips on hers. They tasted of his
favoured single malt. Tasha felt a pleasant tingling before stepping back. She had been
kissed by only one man in the past eighteen years—Greg. Her guilt got the better of her and
she ran to her Jag, fumbling her way in. As she reversed, she saw Brad still standing where
she left him. Her heart wrenched.
She could not take the leap. She understood that neither could he. They had been brought
together by circumstances, not desire. Kindred souls. The yin and yang of personal loss. The
healing was yet to begin.
She didn’t see Brad again before she left London. The memory of him standing in the
parking lot of Fox and Hound was etched in her mind.
It had taken two years for her to gain some semblance of sanity after Greg. Setting up
roots, getting Drew through school and reintegrating with family after many years away.
Every day was a challenge. It did not help that she loathed Delhi with unbridled passion.
She thought of Brad and wondered how he was doing apart from the girls, parties and wild
abandon she saw in his Facebook posts. Sometimes she thought he was doing it to thumb his
nose at her … but at others, she understood that his pain must be harder to contain than hers.
She at least had Drew.
One night as she worked late on her laptop, Skype messaged Brad was online. It was
quite alarming how much they were connected even though they did not talk to each other.
She tried to concentrate on her work but Skype’s familiar ringtone filled the silence. Tasha
hesitated, before clicking on the call.
‘Tasha …’ the deep echo of his voice saying her name sent a frisson up her spine.
‘Hi, Brad … All well?’she replied as if they talked every day.
‘Sort of. Have been thinking of you,’ his disembodied words made her shift in her seat.
‘Activate your video, I want to see you,’ Brad had never been this forward in all the time
she had known him.
‘Can’t, sorry, the call quality drops … Are you drunk?’
‘Not yet, but that is the aim,’ he replied.
‘Maybe we should talk some other time, Brad.’
‘You are always leaving … Don’t go. I have something important to tell you.’
‘I’m here, not going anywhere. What is it?’
‘I’m moving to Delhi for the next three years …’
‘Tasha … you there?’
‘Why, Brad?’
‘Work … The recession’s a bitch. We bankers are having a pretty rough time,’ he sounded
‘Good,’she didn’t really know what else to say.
‘Bad … I don’t know a soul in Delhi. You’ll be there to hold my hand, won’t you,
‘Of course, tell me what you need …’
They talked for a long time after. Made plans, something she hadn’t done in a long time
… In fact, there had been no plans after Greg. It was just one day at a time.
That changed when Brad arrived. It was like a whirlwind had swept her off her feet.
Every day, something or the other turned up. He found a house close to hers. She helped him
settle in—furniture, curtains, domestic help. It was a welcome distraction from her usually
staid life. Drew did not take well to the change. She sensed his aggravation over how Brad
had invaded their lives.
‘You’re going out again?’ he’d say petulantly.
She discussed his anger with Brad. ‘I want him to understand that there is nothing
between us.’
‘Isn’t there?’
‘Stop it, Brad. Just understand. I am his mother.’
‘I know, Tasha. Just want you to know that you’re also a very beautiful woman and most
importantly, not dead. At least, not yet.’
‘Brad …’
‘Want me to talk to him?’
Brad had reached out to Drew several times since he had come to Delhi, but the boy had
shut him out.
‘Do that. He just doesn’t listen to me.’ Tasha left it that.
The following week, Brad and Drew returned from playing rugby with a group that got
together on Saturdays. Drew blustered in and threw things around. He turned on Tasha,
‘What’s wrong with you?’
Tasha was surprised into silence.
‘It’s my time—my time to have girlfriends and fun. Not yours!’ he screamed and marched
Tasha was distraught. Brad gathered her into a hug and let her cry.
When she could think again, she moved away from him and asked, ‘What did you say to
‘I told him I was in love with his mother and as the man of the house, I needed his
permission to ask for your hand in marriage.’
‘Get serious, Brad. What did you say?’
‘Just that, honest. He should know I am going to be here a long time and needs to get used
to the idea of having me around.’
‘Get out, Brad! Now!’ Tasha walked to the door of her flat and held the door.
Brad walked slowly up to her, reaching out with his hand, ‘Tasha!’
‘Are you kidding me? Just go, Brad.’
It took all of the next week to get Drew to even talk to her. She had no time to process
what Brad had said, all she wanted was her boy back. The flowers came every day, holding
little notes of apology. He called but she did not want to talk to Brad.
Two months passed by. One day, Drew came home with Brad. ‘Mom, marry this man.
He’s not Dad but he’s a good man and he loves you,’ he said. Then, smiling mysteriously at
Brad, he left the room.
‘Brad, explain …’
‘For the rest of my life, my dear.’

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