Breaking Loose (2)
But up to now she had known almost nothing about India. At first, her search for her own past seemed to put a distance between her and Akoto, the African. But this was what he had talked about - digging deep, finding what was real. So in a strange way her search also brought her closer to him.
The world seemed a smaller place when she went back to university. Smaller but exciting; full of people doing their best, fighting, loving, staying alive. And she was one of those people. People who were locked into their own histories and customs were like prisoners, she thought. But sometimes the old patterns were broken, and things changed - lives changed, the world changed. She was part of that change, she decided.
A month later Yasmin's father was lifting boxes in his shop when he felt a pain in his heart. The doctor was called, but arrived late, and by then Yasmin's father was dead.
Daniel Akoto came to the funeral. He sat on the ground among the men, sweating and uncomfortable, trying to sit with his legs crossed. A black face in a sea of patient brown Asian faces. Someone saw how uncomfortable he was and put out a chair for him by the wall. From there Akoto could see clearly across the room.
Mrs Rajan sat beside the dead man, crying. When she looked up, she saw Akoto through her tears, and lost control.
'You!' she screamed. 'What are you doing here? What kind of man are you, who comes to take away my daughter, even in my sadness? Who asked you to come? Go away!'
People turned to stare. Akoto gave an apologetic smile.
'Go!' said the woman wildly, pointing a finger at the door.
No one else said a word. Akoto stood up, bent his head respectfully towards the dead man and left the room.
A week later Yasmin knocked at his door late in the evening and found him in.
'Come in,' he said, putting away his pipe.
'I've come to apologize for what happened at the funeral.'
'It's all right. People aren't at their best at a funeral... but perhaps they're more honest.' He watched her face carefully.
'You must think we're awful. You're a professor - you know so much - you're a great man...'
'No, I don't think you're awful. And don't call me a great man!'
She began to laugh, a little wildly. They both laughed.
'And you, I respect you.' He spoke calmly. 'You are brave. You left that crowd of girls that day at the dance, and since then you've done it again and again. It's brave, what you've done. Trying to break away from family, friends, the old customs, the old ways... trying to find your own path in life... Even coming here like this. I realize that and I like you.'
'Well, I like you too!' she said, too quickly. There was a silence between them. 'You know, it's not going to be easy... with my father dead, this will be the most terrible news for my mother... it will kill her, it will...' Tears were running down her face.
'Now, now.' He went up to her, put her wet face on his shirt. 'We'll have to do the best we can, won't we?'
- THE END -