This is part six of a story that I am writing in collaboration with some very talented writers on Blogadda.com. Our team name is 'Tete-a-ten'.
Read the previous part of the story here
3 am, Ballad Estate
The trees around her looked as mournful and dark as the night into which their fate had driven them. As Tara sat down gingerly behind the bushes to relieve herself, she could smell the pain of the moon. Though it had dutifully turned its face away, going behind the clouds in a rare display of gentility, Tara felt a rush of gratitude towards Shekhar who stood between her and the car, thereby according her the privacy which she needed not. Coz the darkness was terrifyingly intense and it was only the silhouette of the sky which was visible under the stars. But his gesture which, even though could have been passed off as a mundane code of propriety, didn't go unnoticed and touched her in a way she had fathomed not.
And then she heard his voice; a soft hum and though their lamentable situation didn't offer any occasion for such a cheerful burst of singing, it did forge a small smile on her face. Though no one, not even the trees which sat nearby in loneliness, neither the stars that twinkled above gently and nor Shekhar could see that smile, she felt surprised with its suddenness, and more importantly, with its exuberance. She knew, with a sudden wave of happiness, that she had smiled in so natural a fashion after a long time and even though the day was a harrowing one and the night ahead seemed long and sad, she felt that she had earned something back; something which she had been missing all these years without actually knowing what she was missing. The humming may have seemed inappropriate to some and a way to vent out tired emotions by many, but Tara knew the real reason behind it. Shekhar's few seconds of singing and whistling thoroughly coincided with her relieving herself against the dry leaves and she fell in love with him, once again after so many years, for saving her the embarrassment of the noise made by the water's rustle.
The beauty of that moment was evanescent. She was up on her feet in no time, and once again her heart relapsed into the mournful mood of before. But this time, there was a spring in her stride as she tottered back towards Shekhar, her fingers wrapping themselves around his, as they walked back to the car. Each of the two had lost a daughter and found a partner that night. Yet the night was not over yet. And with it, there was hope and with hope, there was a deep sense of sorrow for a loss which seemed more and more prominent with every passing hour.
The night had begun with Jennifer’s account and her description of the man and the place where she had seen them. She had a photogenic memory and her portrayal of the man helped the cops to create a rough sketch. Tara and Shekhar and their friends, of course, had to search every inch of the place and the surrounding areas till the night was consumed or the child was discovered.
As the two slipped back into the car, their sleepless eyes met the sleepy ones of their friends who had sacrificed their happy night in order to be with them in their desolate one, so what if the search so far had been nothing but futile. The car started from where it had stopped, gathering speed with every step it took as it entered deeper into the death of the night.
In the past few hours, they had already scanned all the hotels and inns where they thought she could be found. Of course, there was the police which must be on guard and could be expected to check all these places but the parents of a nine-year old cannot be expected to sit at home when their child may be writhing in some grave danger.
"Shekhar, where do we find our small Roohi in such a big city," the pain was inherent in Tara's voice.
Shekhar smiled dolefully and pressed her shoulders, "We will find her there. Look."
There was an old decrepit mill which stood straight ahead of them. It had a haunting look about it and looked in perfect concordance with that deserted place.
"Can Roohi really be there," Tara played along, both of them quite tired of their painful search and creating a false hope to cling for survival.
"Yes," Shekhar said. His words, though held no conviction of truth, had never felt so warm and endearing to Tara than they felt at that moment.
The car was driven right till the point it could access. It parked itself and the search party alighted hurriedly. The mill was ransacked in minutes but no, she wasn’t there.
"We are looking at the wrong place. There would have been a vehicle of some sort if that guy had brought her here," chipped one of Shekhar's friends wisely.
"Yes, but now that we are here, we should scan the area thoroughly," said another from the hunt party.
The team spread in every direction, the couple running towards the back side of the mill into a boring-looking warehouse without actually thinking where they were going.
"Roohi Roohi," screamed Tara at the night in a desperate attempt to satisfy her soul. Little did she know and little hope had her heart cultivated of the response her voice was searching for. And when it came, it was bliss.
"Mummy, what are you doing here," came a voice followed by two pudgy steps. "Oh wow, dad is also here."
Read the next part of the story here