Lara would have committed to remarry when her daughter was nine, but the child was heartbroken, threatening to never talk to her mother again if she made a new family. “Am I going to lose my mommy,” she wailed. Lara had to choose. It pained her to be in such a predicament – it had not been easy for her to get around to the idea of having another man in her life. And when she found someone like Gagan to open her heart to, her daughter threw a spanner in the works.
Single but not available
A bitter divorce had left Lara drained emotionally and financially too – she had to pay off her (wealthy) husband to buy her freedom. But she was back on her feet soon enough – with a successful venture of her own. She marked a space for herself as a businesswoman, and a woman in every sense of the word.
She found herself surrounded by men – they treated her with respect but assumed she would be willing to going out with them. They were mistaken. Lara was still healing, and certainly did not subscribe to the ‘single equals available’ adage. She limited her interaction with the opposite sex only professionally unless they were her trusted personal circle.
And then she spotted Gagan
Gagan was a serial entrepreneur, and was building a new venture from scratch after his partners cheated him out of the previous one. His reputation as being ambitious, quick-witted and strong-willed preceded him. His drop-dead gorgeous looks, straight out of a bestselling romantic novel, sent women into a swoon. They sought his attention, but he rarely took his eyes off work.
Exception was spotting Lara across the room at a busy party. The two worked in the same industry, and would often get invited to the same social and business networking events. She also spotted him from afar; all evening, both their eyes followed the other, stealing furtive glances, without either being aware of being admired. The evening ended, and they both went home without exchanging a word. Or knowing each other’s identities.
Gagan’s face kept playing in front of Lara’s for days, and she could not help wondering who he was. Why didn’t she go up to him for a chat? What if she never sees him again?
Of course, Gagan did not have a reputation for nothing. Lara learnt it for herself when a notification popped on her phone – it was the good-looking man across the hall who had found her on social and sent a friend request. She smiled, more like grinned, and tried to act coy but could not resist accepting the request almost immediately. He was on standby too, and an exchange of messages followed right then.
Custom-ordered for each other
It did not take long for them to realize that they were both cut from the same cloth. They hailed from similar personal backgrounds, liked being entertained the same way, their work had many parallels and they laughed at the same jokes. He was five years younger to her, but was the one who provided the protective wing. She found comfort in being able to discuss everything about her life with someone she could trust – and love.
But Gagan knew she was still being tentative about a commitment to another man, and he respected that. He kept a distance to let her be in her comfort zone, even as he provided the shoulder whenever she needed one. He knew she did not deserve what she had got in her marriage, and he was determined to help her come out of her shell. Months passed in patience, and anticipation of a promising future together.
A personal crisis takes her away
Lara’s mother was diagnosed with blood cancer, and doctors gave her a maximum of six months to live. She cried in Gagan’s arms all night, and he dropped her to the railway station the following morning to travel to Gwalior, her hometown. They hugged, for the last time ever.
Lara got caught up attending to her mother – it would be late evening when she would get to text and talk to Gagan on the phone. He was the balm her soul needed to end the day, even when she was blowing off steam.
The child throws a fit
Her daughter and only child, Divy, came over too when school broke – she wanted to be by her grandmother’s side, understandably so. The granny was the much-needed mother-figure when her own parents were going through an acrimonious break-up. Divy would notice her mother leaving the room they shared every night to talk discreetly to someone. The inquisitive child could not help going through her phone one late night – and read the complete exchange of chats with Gagan.
The nine-year old had seen enough in her own family to react the only way she could – with fear. There might be no space for her if this man made a new family with her mother. Divy struggled from within for days – she did not know what to do. And then she confronted her mother – and babbled through her tears, expressing her fears as best as she could.
Lara tried to address her misgivings, assuring and promising that her daughter was irreplaceable, and no one mattered more. Divy was not to be swayed, and delivered an ultimatum when the tears had dried: her mother had to choose between Gagan and her. For days after that, Lara tried to convince Divy but it was always the same reply: if Gagan came into their life, Divy would go to her father and never see her mother again.
A painful choice
Lara could not risk losing the most precious person in her life even if she believed Divy would eventually come around; she was just a child after all. But Lara could not leave anything to chance; she did not want to give her ex-husband the perfect opportunity to take her daughter away for good.
Gagan was in the dark all this while about the goings-on, and was perplexed when Lara ghosted him. She stopped responding to his messages and calls. At first, he attributed it to her being stressed with her mother’s condition. But when he couldn’t hold back any longer, he texted to say he was coming over – to check on her, and to also facilitate the meeting of families for their union in marriage.
Lara realized she could not allow that. Gagan would use his charms and persuasive powers to try win Divy’s support, but it would only complicate matters. She had no choice but to nip the relationship where it was; there could be no coming back.
With tears rolling down her cheeks, Lara messaged him to say she could not trust any man to be around her daughter, not even Gagan. And this lack of trust meant they could not be together. She was cursing herself for all the lies she was typing; she knew there would be no man safer than Gagan for her daughter to be around with. He would love her like his daughter, perhaps even more than her biological father. Theirs could be the perfect family, but she could not risk Divy carrying out her threat.
Gagan was insulted more than he was hurt at Lara’s opinion of him. He did not let his disappointment get the better of his conduct, and he slinked away into the shadows with grace and dignity. He knew Lara well enough – she could not have meant what she wrote, but he respected her decision without making her uncomfortable about it. Lara knew the loss of Gagan was a regret she would take to her last days.
It took only two years for Divy’s thinking to evolve. The eleven-year old started urging her mother to get a man into her life. She located Gagan on social media, and tried to play Cupid by sending him a friend request. He did not accept it but was still willing to settle down with Lara.
She was not.