THE GOOD MAN
No, you are married now.
Anna had told him this minutes ago.
So what, Anna?
Prem had asked her this, as if he was a small boy who didn’t know what it meant to be married.
Don’t touch me, Prem.
How does my marriage change what we have, Anna?
We don’t have anything anymore.
I can’t believe this, Anna. A lifetime of love…16 years…Anna.”
You can’t betray your wife, Prem!
She can’t know, Anna.
And Anna had gulped her drink and collapsed on the couch.
She lay there now with her eyes closed and mouth open.
Anna had passed out.
Seconds ago, she was pushing him away.
He had shouted at her:
You tore my pocket…Anna…what’s with you?
Don’t touch me, Prem.
I am not a dog, Anna. Don’t shoo me away like this.
Anna had laughed.
How I wish you knew more about dogs, Prem. See my old Frodo? 16 years. Blind and limping. But still here, with me. Loyal and loving. My beautiful Frodo.
Prem looked at the dog now. Frodo sat on a rug near Anna and stared in his direction.
Could the dog still see a bit? Did he sense much?
The silver locket on Frodo’s collar glinted, like a heart full of hope.
Prem had gifted Frodo to Anna years ago when he first met her. He had married Uma to please his parents, but Anna held the key to his life.
She mumbled something and turned. Her head flopped against a cushion as she brought her knees to her chest.
Prem wanted to gather her in his arms and hold her face and…
He would do it.
Uma wouldn’t know. Anna loved him so she wouldn’t mind. She was just sad. Maybe mad at him too. But she definitely loved him.
Prem sat on the couch with Anna’s semi-conscious body on his lap.
“I have loved only you, Anna.”
Prem touched her lips and pushed her brown hair back. He ran a finger across her long black eyelashes.
His breath ran like a storm as he bent to kiss her neck, but the sound of Frodo’s locket made him stop.
Frodo had managed to limp towards the couch but he lay on his side now with his paws paddling in the air. His old body jerked wildly.
Prem left Anna on the couch and sat next to Frodo. He held the animal and spoke gently.
Frodo’s muscles twitched as he frothed at the mouth. The dog looked up at Prem for the last time.
“You have been such a good boy, Frodo.”
And just like that — within seconds — Prem saw a lifetime of love slip away into nothingness.
Anna’s beautiful Frodo was dead.
Had the dog tried to protect Anna from Prem?
Prem unhooked the locket from Frodo’s collar and called a pet ambulance.
He then left Anna’s house.
The phone rang as he drove through the silence of the night.
“Where are you?”
It was Uma.
A minute passed before she answered.
Prem parked the car at a side of the road when Anna’s message appeared:
Thank you for holding Frodo.
Prem closed his eyes. Anna didn’t know that he had tried to…to…
He wrote back:
Frodo may have lived on had I stayed away from you. The poor dog wanted to protect you…till his last breath, Anna.
Prem exhaled all the guilt that rose to claim his tired soul.
“Prem…what happened?”asked Uma.
Prem wished someone would hold him like he had held Frodo. He wanted someone to look into his eyes…and tell him he could be a good man.
“Will I be a good father, Uma?”
“Of course, Prem.”
He knew she was smiling. But all he could do was lean back and cry as Frodo’s silver locket slept in his half-torn pocket, like a heart full of hope.