The Second Choice10
By Lakshmi Menon
Serial Novel The Second Choice10. Previous Chapter 9
For the next few days Anu was totally perplexed. There was a great change in her. She was always depressed. She was no more the same old cheerful girl. The children from the neighbourhood came to make friends with her, but she preferred to be alone at home with her mother as if she could not trust anyone in the locality. Her stepsister had kept a wide distance from her. She hardly spoke to her with love.
“Mummy, let’s go home,” Anu said often with disappointment. She considered this house as Indu’s house and that made it like a hell for her. Her little mind couldn’t find happiness there. Anu felt she and her mother were staying there as unwelcome guests in Indu’s house.
She was missing her grandfather’s company. Anu had been more attached to him after she lost her father. Like a butterfly she used to go with her grandfather wherever he went. He would play with her hide-and-seek, listen to her, tell her amusing stories and sing the songs she wanted.
Her grandfather had two kittens at home. Anu had named them Blacky and Dotty. They were her great friends. Since she had no other friends to play with, her grandfather bought a puppy too for her. She called her Julie. Here, in her stepfather's house, she missed their company.
Indu’s dislike towards Anu and her mother grew day by day. Tired of the new life, Anu often harassed her mother to take her back to her grandfather’s house as she missed their company.
Many times Pavithra also felt like going back to her father’s house. Like Anu, she was also unhappy with her stepdaughter’s attitude.
As far as Indu was concerned, it was a great blessing that her father was away from home since morning till night. She spent most of the day with her aunt Vasanthi. Keeping in mind the consequences that may arise, Pavithra decided not to inform Venu about the cold war going on between them.
Venu did not notice much of their problem. He was happy to see Indu’s cheerful face when he returned home. But he was rather worried to see Anu’s unhappy face. “What happened to Anu?” he had asked Pavithra one day. "Is anything lacking here to her?” “It’s only for another few more days,” Pavithra consoled him. “She’d be alright soon.” She didn’t want to upset her new husband in any way when he returned home, tired. “Is she playing with you, Indu?” He turned to his daughter. Indu had a guilty look. She shrugged her shoulders. Raising her eyebrows, she stared at her stepmother for her reaction. She was afraid whether she would interfere in their conversation. When she was sure that her stepmother would not interfere in their matter, she said with confidence. “Anu doesn’t like to play with me.” “She’s a small girl and new to this surroundings. Didn’t I tell you that you must take her and teach her your games? She’s your younger sister. You must remember that.” “What can I do, Daddy? She’s not interested to play with me,” replied Indu bitterly. Immediately she looked at her stepmother’s direction. Pavithra conveniently moved away which was a great relief to her.
The next day when Venu came home in the night he had two packets in his hand. He gave one to Indu and the other to Anu. Initially Anu refused to accept it but, seeing the sign of her mother asking her to accept it, she received it reluctantly.
Indu was quite thrilled at the sight of the new frock. It was a beautiful pink frock with frills. Her father had promised her a pink frock long ago. She waited impatiently to see the contents of the other packet, which Pavithra opened for Anu. That was also a similar type of frock, but smaller in size and light green in colour.
Indu became furious. She had not expected Anu to get a similar frock from her father. After all she was only a stepdaughter to Daddy. How could he give her the same importance? She threw away her frock to show her protest.
Venu was astonished to see his daughter’s rude behaviour. He advised her, patting on her shoulders with both his hands, “Indu, you shouldn’t be like this. Why should you be angry with her? I’ve told you many times that Anu is your younger sister and you must treat her like that. She’s no more a stranger in this house. You must remember that.”
Indu gave him a sudden and disdainful glance and then sat quietly without uttering a word, looking into the distance. “All these years she enjoyed my love alone and now, all of a sudden, to share it with another child is little difficult for her at this age,” he consoled himself.
However, he didn’t take it seriously. Feeling compassionate towards his stepdaughter, Venu turned to Anu with a father’s affection. “Anu dear, did you like the frock? You’ve got admission in Indu’s school. Aren’t you happy now?” He stroked her hair, giving extra attention to make her forget about the pain created by Indu’s attitude.
It was certainly not happy news for Anu, as her stepfather had expected. She was not interested to stay at Bangalore any longer. Even though she was a small girl she was hurt. She wanted to go to her grandfather’s house as soon as possible, which Venu was not aware.
She put the new frock on the chair and went to her mother. “Mummy, I don’t want to go to school here. Please take me to grandpa. I’ll go to school there.” Pavithra controlled her temper. “Look dear, now this is our house. You shouldn’t worry me all the time asking me to take you back to grandpa’s house.”
Though she told her daughter that they must stay back, at heart she too wasn’t happy to continue there. But she couldn’t show it like her daughter. It was not because she had forgotten that until three weeks back Anu was very happy in her grandfather’s house. Now she had become an unhappy child by staying in somebody’s house as an unwanted guest.
“If Indu doesn’t want us here we don’t want to stay here any longer. I think it is better for me and Anu to go back leaving you free.” Pavithra wanted to tell Venu many times. She had only thought but made no sound. She felt stiff and frozen like a statue at the very thought of her sincere promise to Indu’s mother.
“Didn’t I give assurance to Soumya that I’ll take care of her daughter just like mine? How can I just get frustrated with a little girl’s behaviour? I need to be more patient,” - a voice from within told her whenever she thought of leaving them and going away.
As Venu saw Anu clinging to her mother in disappointment, he was filled with grief. With a throbbing heart, Anu looked at her new father.
To escape from the scene, Indu went to bed early without having her dinner, complaining that she was too tired after the day’s play.
Venu knew that things were not as good as he had expected. Since he was too busy with his office work he couldn’t notice much of the unhappiness prevailing at home and hoped that it would settle down soon. He had developed faith in Pavithra. He believed that she would be able to handle the minor problems without worrying him.
Venu went and stood behind Anu. She was frightened like a deer and was standing by the window staring out. While her mind was so absorbed in thoughts of her grandfather’s house and her school there, she didn’t realize her stepfather’s presence next to her. He put his arm around her and asked her the reason for her unhappiness in his house. When she got the much-needed fatherly affection from Venu she decided to confide in him, with tears in her eyes.
“This is not our house. Our house is grandpa’s place in Kerala. We want to go back there. Why are you keeping us here? Why did you bring us here? I was so happy there.”
Venu was taken aback. He felt very bad at her innocent questions.
For a few seconds, he looked at her sympathetically and said with assurance, “This your house, Anu. This belongs to all four of us. I’m your father now. Why are you hesitating to call me Daddy?” “No…. I won’t call you.” “Why? Don’t you like me?” “Indu chechi …..told me that this is her house and ……my mother and I should go back to Kerala ….at once,” Anu said amidst sobs.
Venu was startled at this. He left her free and asked Pavithra. “Now I know why Anu is looking very upset here. She told me everything, poor child!” He sighed helplessly.
Indu was sitting on the bed pretending to read the newspaper, but she had heard each word her father and stepsister spoke. She bit her lower lip tightly in anger, and expected her father would summon her at any moment.
Smiling faintly, Venu took Anu in his hand with all the love of a father, kissed her and wiped her tears. Then he made her sit in his lap.. “Don’t cry Anu.” He clasped her in his arms, enveloping her with his tall body to give her all the security of an affectionate father.
“Don’t worry, my child. You’re my sweet little daughter. I won’t allow you to be hurt like this. Tomorrow I’m going to punish Indu for telling you all such nonsense. I love you so much as I do Indu,” he consoled her.
It brought the desired effect on Anu. She was very happy to know that Indu was going to be punished. Her face was illumined with a peaceful smile when he released her. “I love you Daddy,” Anu told him with a smile. Venu hugged her more tightly and kissed her. He could very well understand the little girl’s feeling in a place where she was not welcome.
Imagining the morning welcome that awaited Indu from her father with scolding and beatings, Anu’s mind was filled with joy, and she slept peacefully with her stepfather. Venu felt very sorry for her.
Continued here......... Chapter 10 continues here