A hand in hers

"I'm HUNGRRRYYYYY" he exclaimed again loudly, tugging at the seat belt.
The fact that he had eaten almost half a cake just twenty minutes ago didn't seem to change anything.
For an eight-year-old, he was still much smaller than most of his counterparts in his age. So his feet didn't reach the floor of the car. Far from, and they were now kicking at the seat.
Anna knew another silent tantrum was coming up. So she tried to mentally calm herself and concentrate on the road.
"Just a haircut, and I'll get you ice cream" She tried
"I don't need a haircut. It's fine. I need food" He declared
It wasn't fine. It was at least six inches long.
"They'll cut it really quick Noah. If not, your head will itch"
"It won't. You're making that up. You just want to punish me." He said and went quiet.
It wasn't loud or exclamatory this time. He sounded like he believed it.

Noah had come into their lives just about two weeks ago.
Josh and Anna had tried and finally accepted that they will not be able to have children of their own. It had been a long journey from that acceptance to considering adoption, But things had gone quickly from then. A little too quickly since the priest had recommended Noah - a bright and spirited kid - the priest had said, and earnestly requested them to give the little boy a home.
They had spent a long sleepless night considering it. It was a fact that when considering adoption, they had believed it would take a lot longer and that they would be getting an infant - not a fully grown child. And she had secretly hoped for a baby girl. At dawn, they had finally decided to go meet the boy and decide. They made that very clear to the priest as well.

Noah was a scruffy little kid who had said nothing and just stared at them. He hated haircuts, they were told. He didn't seem to look happy or sad about meeting them. Just a little impatient. He had liked the car that Josh had picked up for him and all but grabbed the chocolate from Josh's hand even before it was offered.
It had been love at first sight for Josh, and she had reluctantly agreed.

They had brought Noah home a week after that meeting. None of the adoption formalities had been completed, but the home administrators were more than happy to let Noah go to his "New Home"

In the two weeks that Noah had been with them, Noah had been rather quiet the first week. Not saying much. Over the last week or so, he had started demanding things.
It was always "Do this, or take me back". She understood that he felt insecure about his presence there, and was probably unsure about the permanence of this new arrangement. She wanted to give him time and make him comfortable. But no matter how much she tried, she didn't seem to have that rapport with him that Josh had already built. Noah and she seemed to tread on egg shells when dealing with each other. And today was the first time she was taking him out alone.

To her, that was a huge event, and it was not at all going as planned.

"It's just a haircut, Noah. How can that be punishment?" she asked as she backed into the parking slot.
He said nothing.
When she undid her seat belt, he made no move to get out. So she went around the other side and opened the door for him.

"Is it because I broke that plate yesterday?" his little voice shook
"What?"
Anna had always believed she was good with kids and that she was ready to be a mother. After Noah coming into their life however , she doubted every maternal instinct she ever believed that she had felt. What sort of a monster mother wished she hadn't had the child she had been given? - This thought had plagued her along with the all the helplessness and disconnect she was feeling.

All that doubt had probably seeped into her voice.  That or something else made Noah quietly get off the car.
She offered her hand. He didn't take it but stayed close when she let the hand fall and walked on ahead.

As they sat, she looked at the little head that was downcast now. She had forgotten about that broken plate. It had been a nice plate, but nothing important. She had known that he had dropped it by accident, and had just given him another plate of food. She was certain she had not expressed or felt any anger then.

When they were called in for the appointment, she took his hand and stood up. This time, he let his hand stay in hers.

They walked together quietly to the high chair for kids. She helped Noah sit on it, and saw the tears in his eyes. They seemed quietly resigned but so sad at the same time. She wanted to hug him close and tell him it's okay. He was her baby now. But she didn't know how he would take it. If he pushed her off, she didn't know how she would take it. Josh would have probably done this better, she thought sadly.

Just when she was about to step back to the couch to wait, Noah caught her sleeve. His eyes were swimming with tears now.
"Can I hold your hand? Will you stay"

With her throat choked, she could only nod and manage a small smile as she picked his hands up.

He held on tight the entire time and had his eyes closed.

When it was over, she tugged at him and asked him to get off.

"It's over?!" he seemed surprised
"Yes, it's just a haircut. Why do you hate them?"
The look he gave her was solemn, a little too old for his age, and serious. He seemed to be considering her.
"Back there, the older kids cut our hair. And when I do something wrong, they guy who cuts my hair snips my ear to punish me," he said matter of factly.

The urge to pull him into that hug was back. But he didn't look ready yet.

"I won't let anyone snip your ear or hurt you" she promised, softly stroking his little ear.

He looked like he might consider believing her. That she decided was a huge step forward.
Not bad for first time out alone.

"So we're going for ice cream now right?"
He looked like an eight year old again. A smiling one at that.

"Obviously" she smiled back.

This time, it was him who placed his hand in hers. She held on tight.




Comments

mahesh said…
A good tale indeed, a bit of a tear a lot of smiles, hope and faith and a positive end :)

Look forward to reading more of your short stories.
Sugadev said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sugadev said…
Nice! Love it!

Quick question though- when was the last time you saw a woman 'back' her car into the parking slot? Lol.

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