It was the night he most awaited for the entire year, the night of celebration, joy, peace and hope. The air was cool, and the winds were making the winters crisper by the night. His hooded eyes searched for someone special. All year this was his only chance to see her. Even when he saw her from the distance, his heart skipped a beat. His life was filled with everything one would desire – money, fame, success a swanky apartment in the heart of city, he had it all. He was the head chef of the restaurant that had chains across the globe. His hands created magic with the raw ingredients and people would pay anything to become his student.
Yet, deep inside the vacuum was unbearable. He felt powerless, he felt handicapped, he felt broken. He was clueless of what life had given him all the luxuries for. All he now wanted was her. They had spent their life together right since they were kids. His foster parents were friends to her family. Their families and friends thought that they were inseparable. People around them knew they were made for each other.
Running he went across the street where she stayed and in between his breath he said, “Sarah, I have made it. I always knew I wanted this, but I wasn’t sure how to tell you?”
She was excited, her heart was pumping blood with double speed now. She had waited for him to realize and say the magical three words for long now. Little did she know how the two were on separate tracks. “Tell me, Frank what is it? I am excited to know,” her cheeks were beginning to turn a color of crimson now.
“I have….I have,” he waited for the air from his lungs to slow down and give him a chance to speak.
“Relax Frank, relax! First take a few deep breaths and tell me what is it?”
“I have got admitted into the culinary school, I always dreamt of. I had applied, but I never told anyone about it because I wasn’t sure if they would accept my form and grant me the scholarship. I have been admitted into the NY culinary school Sarah.” And then e hugged her, he wrapped her into him and on his back, she cried silent tears. She had to accept the fact that his dreams were different then hers. He dreamt of a life he was never blessed with. Becoming a head chef of a Michelin Star Restaurant, he wanted an identity of his own. He had been abandoned by his father when he was three and then by his mother when he was five then. The feeling of abandonment had not left him in all these years.
Understanding his deep need of identity and acceptance she decided to let go of the love she held in her heart for so long. As time passed by, she had moved on with her life. In college, she had found a man who loved her immensely. Sarah had married Henry who she had met at college.
Frank had been busy at university and then with the internship under a celebrity chef. When he got a call from Sarah, he was busy and hence avoided the call. He called her after a week and that’s when he got the news of Sarah’s marriage. The marriage was in two days and he couldn’t attend the wedding. Since then they had never been in touch. Sarah was upset that Frank was too busy to attend her wedding.
Today years later, Frank found himself waiting to have just one glance of his lady luck. When he had succeeded in all hemispheres of life, the only missing thing in his life was love and warmth that only a family could shower him with. Without Sarah, he felt like a bird who didn’t know the way to his nest. Gradually after his success in his professional life he had known how Sarah was the love of her life and just when he had decided to propose her or take her for a date, she had announced her marriage.
Frank continued to blame himself for years and refused to move on in life. He went on date with several women he met, he flirted to his heart’s content, but love was still missing from his life.
Sarah on the other hand was struggling in her own marriage. Henry had become alcoholic and now his wrath was poured not only on her but even their daughter. Sarah did everything to protect her dignity and her daughter from the negativities in air, but she lacked the courage to move ahead in life. She had been a stay at home and finding work now was not her only challenge. Leaving her daughter alone was the bigger challenge that Sarah posed.
Today the entire town would be gathered at the church for Christmas celebrations. Sarah had her plans to go with her daughter and enjoy the festivities. Frank had plans to just get a peek of the love he had lost. This was the only time of the year, when Frank would give himself this opportunity.
Sarah was greeting someone when her daughter ran towards the Santa Claus. Frank was just a few steps away hiding behind a tree when he saw this. He followed the little one with an instinct to protect her from any harm. When the Santa went on his knees and asked her, “What gift do you want my little angel?”
Frank was shocked to hear her answer, “I want my mumma’s smile dear Santa. Papa troubles her, he slaps her too, he has taken away my mumma’s smile, can you get that back?”
Santa stroked the little one’s hair and pulled her cheeks. Santa was certainly not expecting this and tried to convince her with a happy doll. Removing the doll from his bag Santa smiled behind his beard and said, “Show this smiling doll to your mumma, the doll’s smile will bring a smile to your mumma’s face too.”
Little one believed the Santa and happily walked with the doll in her hand to her mumma. Frank sat there on the walkway and while the cold numbed his body, what he heard had numbed his brain and mind. He wondered if this was the Sarah he knew. Sarah who fought for herself, who was strongly opinionated and who had led her life on principles of self-respect.
He cried blaming himself for the mess in Sarah’s life. Had he not been a mean person lost in achieving his goals, he wouldn’t have made Sarah vulnerable enough to marry a wrong person. Sarah’s pain and the pain in her daughter’s eyes had taken Frank on a guilt trip. Sitting there and crying for long, he had decided to make amends. He drove to Sarah and Henry’s house. He sat outside and waited for Sarah to come. When he saw the car being pulled into the driveway, he waved out to grab her attention. When Sarah saw Frank there, she stopped the car with a jerk. At the back, her daughter was startled from her sleep, but the car seat protected her from getting hurt.
Sarah got down from the car and ran towards Frank. “How are you? I am so glad to see you here. How have you been all this while and in which part of the world have you been Frank?”
Seeing the innocence on her face and her curiosity to know every detail about him, Frank smiled. Last time they had met it was him talking in between breaths and today after all these years it was Sarah talking in between breaths and the tears had now begun to roll down her eyes.
He wrapped her again into her arms and this time the tears weren’t silent. She wept her heart out and held no bars.
The lights on the front porch flickered and pulled them back into reality. Henry walked aggressively putting Sarah into a defensive mode. She stood ahead of Frank to protect him from her husband’s wrath. Henry barked, “You slut, what are you doing with his man here in the darkness of the night?”
Frank could not stand the language that had been used and pulled Sarah behind him and held his hand on Henry’s shoulder to stop him from going near her. “Stay where you are gentleman, that’s no way one talks to his wife.”
“She is my wife and I will talk to her in any way I want, you are no one to interfere into our lives.” Henry’s mouth was stinking alcohol. He was clearly not in his right senses and Frank wanted to protect Sarah now.
“She is my friend, and no one harms my friend. Neither with their words nor with their hands,” Frank’s voice was stern and firm. His blood boiled to feel his Sarah hiding so timidly behind him.
Henry who was intimidated now raised his hand and took a hit on Frank. Without much delay Frank got back at him and punched him right in his gut. Henry lay on the ground in pain and that gave Frank enough time to call the police and rescue his Sarah and her daughter.
The police reached there, and this time Frank’s presence had given Sarah enough courage and strength she needed to take corrective actions for her life. The police cuffed Henry’s hand and that made Sarah feel free.
She went to the car and unbuckled her the car seat. The little one had been a witness to everything that unfolded in past few minutes. She hugged Sarah who comforted her and said, “Everything is going to fine from here my little angel. Don’t worry mumma is here.”
Next morning when the little angel woke up, she carried her doll in her tow and walked down into her mumma’s bedroom. Seeing her mumma smile, she smiled back to the doll and whispered in her ear, “Your smile is contagious, and you are my lucky doll. See how my mumma is smiling back just like before,” and she kissed her doll.
“Santa never lies,” said uncle Frank from behind who had once again had the chance to hear the little one say something like last night.
“Haww, you eavesdropped on my conversation with Santa uncle Frank? Not good, mumma says we should never eavesdrop on someone’s conversations.”
Frank held his ears and lipped a sorry to the little princess. “You got my mumma’s smile back uncle Frank, so I love you too and I forgive you,” she said.
The Christmas was merry for all three of them and Santa’s doll indeed had a smile that was contagious.