"Armaan, where have you been?"
Shilpa stood up from the couch and watched him enter through the door. He shut the door completely and took a deep breath before turning around to look at her. She stared back with cold eyes, demanding answers.
"It's almost two in the morning, where have you been?" She became impatient not receiving an answer from him.
"Not this again, Shilpa. Let it go." Armaan tried to back away from the oncoming storm that was about to start from both ends.
"What do you mean 'not this again'?! You're the one who refuses to answer my question!" She shouted, her voice resonating through the house. "It's every single night with you! You never seem to be able to come home on time, do you?"
Armaan sighed, trying not to explode back at her. He walked into the kitchen wanting a glass of water. But she stomped in behind him continuing.
"Don't walk away, Armaan!! Answer me!" She snatched the glass out of his hands and placed it back on the counter. Armaan clenched his jaw and looked back into her eyes with his enraged ones.
"You want to know why? It's because I need to stay away from the house for a while!! Every time I come you start an argument! I'm sick of it Shilpa. All of these fights over such small things." He shouted back at her. Shilpa stared back as anger boiled within her. She grabbed the glass in her hand and threw it across the kitchen.
"Me? I start the fights?!" She spat back at him with equal fervor. "I wouldn't start them if you actually did something right! Do you think I like starting these arguments? Huh? I don't, Armaan. I hate them! But you leave me no choice but to start them!!"
"Oh cut the bull crap, Shilpa!" Armaan scoffed as he walked out of the kitchen and into the living room grabbing hold of a picture frame as he did.
"Armaan, I told you to stop walking away!" Shilpa followed in behind him.
"Just shut up Shilpa!!!" He screamed and was about to toss the picture frame towards her. Shilpa glimpsed at the picture within the frame and everything came to a halt. Memories of her childhood came rushing back to her. Her mother, her father, their fights with each other, the broken relationships...
"Mommy, when is dad coming home?" Shilpa questioned her mother as she tucked her into her bed.
"Soon, Shilpa." She answered with a small smile that was supposed to reassure her but did the complete opposite. She saw her mother's eyes moisten as she got up from the bed and hurried out. Shilpa sat up in bed watching her retreating back.
After sometime she removed the blanket from her body and got out of bed. She tip-toed down the stairs and peeked her little head around the archway where she saw her mother sitting at one end of the table with tears running down her face. Shilpa's eyes then glanced over at the other end of the table to see a plate with dinner served on it, resting there untouched, for her father. Her mother got up with a heavy heart and took the plate, emptying the food into the trashcan. She took a deep breath before hastily running out of the kitchen and to the living room window that overlooked the deserted driveway outside. Shilpa tip-toed back up the stairs and into bed, not being able to do anything.
A young Shilpa runs into the room where her father was talking on the phone with a painting she drew in her art class.
"Daddy! Look!" He grabbed the picture from her gave it a glance and then tossed it onto the ground, continuing his conversation. Shilpa's eyes which were once filled with happiness became dark with sadness as she bowed her head and walked out disappointed. Before exiting from the door she glanced back and saw her father stepping all over the painting. Her eyes welled up as she ran out from the room.
"Mom!" Shilpa entered through the front door, returning from school. "Mom, where are you?" She rushed around the first floor of their home searching. She threw the backpack off of her back and ran upstairs. She approached her parents' bedroom but stopped when she heard sobs from within. Making sure not to make a sound, Shilpa quietly walked over and leaned onto the adjoining wall to her room. Looking around the corner of it she saw her mother sitting on the bed taking in anti-depressant pills. She soon fell back onto the bed, continuing to cry her heart out after, which Shilpa assumed, was another fight with her father.
She watched from afar at the raging war going on between her mother and father in the living room. Her tiny hands held the railing of the stairs as she quietly sat there on one of the steps with her teddy bear in hand. Her grip became firmer with every scream and shout that could be heard. Her father raised his hand and slapped her mother causing Shilpa to shut her eyes in pain. She heard a loud crash and opened her eyes leaning down to see what happened. An overturned table was what Shilpa saw along with her mother collapsed on her knees, crying.
She saw her father pull out of the room two suitcases. Her eyes widened with shock realizing what was happening. She rushed down the stairs just as her father opened the front door and grabbed his luggage. Tears streamed down her face as she ran out the door, down the porch steps and to the car where her father had placed his luggage to open the trunk of the car.
"Daddy, don't go! Please!" Shilpa pleaded as she grabbed hold of one of the bags and tried to pull it back to the house with her small hands.
"Shilpa, let go!" Her father harshly pulled the bag out of her hands and tossed it into the back of the car. Desperate to keep him from going, she got up off the ground and wrapped her arms around his legs.
"Please, don't." Shilpa begged her father, sobbing uncontrollably. He pried her off of his legs and pushed her back as he got into the driver side of the vehicle. Shilpa ran to the car door and banged on it with her tiny fists as if it would stop him, but he just pulled out of the driveway. Shilpa ran behind the car for some time before he turned the corner and was completely out of sight. Her steps slowed down and she just looked off to where she last saw his car with emotionless eyes.
Snapping back to reality, she quickly ran to Armaan and grabbed the wrist of the hand holding the frame preventing him from tossing it. He looked back at her with softened eyes as he saw her tears fall from her eyes. Shilpa held the picture against her chest as she fell to the ground crying. When Armaan kneeled down in front of her, she sprang up and threw her arms around him, taking him into a tight embrace. Armaan, who was stunned for a few seconds, then wrapped his strong arms around her as well.
Shilpa pulled back and wiped her tears before turning her head and looking at the doorway to the room. Armaan followed her gaze and saw what she was looking at. He helped her stand up onto her feet. They both walked over to the doorway and Armaan picked up his young daughter who had nothing but fear in her eyes as she held her favorite blanket closely against her body.
"Hey there Princess." Armaan greeted her with a smile.
"Daddy, you won't hurt mommy right?" Shilpa held back her tears as she glanced from her daughter to Armaan, who looked right back into her eyes. The anger had disappeared, as he shook his head no and then shifted his gaze back to his daughter.
"No, I will never hurt her." The tears Shilpa held back spilled as Armaan pulled her closer to him by wrapping his free arm around her. Shilpa hid her head in his shoulder, wetting the fabric of his shirt. Their daughter leaned on his other shoulder closing her eyes. Armaan pulled them even closer to himself fearing that he'd lose them at any moment.
Shilpa rested her head on his shoulder as the tears subsided. She lifted the hand that held the picture frame of Armaan, her daughter and herself.
"I will never let the same thing happen to my family. I promise, Mom." Shilpa whispered as her eyes moistened once again when she placed it on the nearby stand. She felt Armaan kiss the top of her head and she closed her eyes taking in his delicate touch.