Really Short Stories: Saving Grace

“But he has completed his work!” Pacing around with her cellphone stuck to her ear, Shalini was exhausted.  She weakly concluded the call. “There is nothing more I can say.  Your conscience will speak up some day.  God help you to live with your self.”

Neha rushed up to hug her.  Mother and daughter quietly sobbed from all the week’s misery.  The maid continued sweeping the floor, being as unobtrusive as possible.  But she could not help overhearing Neha’s insistent questions.

“When will dad be home mama?  What do the doctors say?  Was it the doctor?”

She was silenced by the ringing phone.  With a sigh Shalini faced the same questions.  “He is still critical.  He is in the I.C.U. .   Yes, I know… the hospital has been calling me.  I have to arrange for funds  by evening.  The deposit has run out…  I don’t know Anish!  I don’t know where to get the money.  In seven days, all the savings are gone.”  She listened silently with growing frustration as the caller gave her unwanted advice.  “Yes, you are right.  We should have been more careful.  Yes, we don’t have any business sense and we are naive to believe in people.  Does that make you happy?”

She shook her head as she received even more admonitions.  Eventually she shouted, “Yes!  You were right!  The partners have turned out to be con-men!  They think Manish will be dead tomorrow so they aren’t paying up his dues.  Manish and I were foolish to believe it’s a fair world.  To believe that when you are good, others are good with you!  I was wrong alright!  How is this helping Anish?  Can you give me fifty thousand by 4 pm?  Because if you can’t, then I don’t want to waste my time hearing about how impractical we are.  I have no time for this!  I have no energy, I have no faith – right now Anish – I have no hope of seeing my husband alive tomorrow. So unless you can help me, spare me!”

Shalini threw the cell across the room.  Seeing Neha’s terrified face, she felt even more miserable.  Hugging her tightly, Neha cried to her, “ You can have the fifty rupees from my angelbank Ma.  Don’t worry.  Haven’t you always said we are looked after?”  Shalini nodded absently as the maid took her leave, torn between despair and awe over Neha’s reaction.

The minutes ticked away and so did Shalini’s hopes.  All the calls were in vain.

When the doorbell rang at 3.00 pm, she was eyeing her gold wedding ring and wondering how much she would get for it.

She opened the door to find her maid handing her an envelope wordlessly.

“What is this?”

“The fifty thousand you had lent me two months ago.”

 “But… how could you?  Where did you get it?   You said it would take you two years to repay this!”

The maid shyly replied, “Don’t worry.  It is yours. Right now you need it more than me.  I borrowed it from another employer.” .

As Neha clung to her, Shalini smiled through her tears.

“You have not given me back my money.  You have restored my faith.  In God.  In life.  In people.  I can never thank you enough.”

Neha smiled happily, “Didn’t I remind you?  We are always taken care of!”

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