“Well, you ought to have thought through your decision before running away from home,” said Ira.
I sat on her bed contemplating my next move. “Nope, I’m never going back to that house again,” I said. “I have had enough. All I said was I wanted to go on a long drive at night. How is that a crime? I am old enough to take responsibilities for myself. Who does he think he is? My father?” I ranted. “If only I had not forgotten my wallet! I would have been away from all this mess by now. How dumb am I!”
“Pretty dumb, I must say,” laughed my best friend as she messed up my short brown black hair, “I think his decision to not let you out alone was right. After all your mother too agreed with him, didn’t she?”
“Should I call your father to come and pick you up?” asked Ira’s mother. She looked worried.
“No, I think I should be the one calling him to rescue me,” I said, not willing to worry her further and spoil everyone’s sleep.
“As always,” quipped Ira, an evil glint in her eye. I knew how badly she wanted to laugh, but controlled herself.
“Hello…umm, Baba. I am at Ira’s place, could you please come, get me?” I called my father.
“Sure, I’ll be there in an hour,” he replied, “just let your mother go to sleep.”
“Maa? Does she know I am not at home?” I asked apprehensively.
“No, she still thinks you are studying,” chuckled Baba, “and I intend to keep it that way.”
I felt a little relieved but was also surprised as how calm my father sounded when I called him at one in the morning from outside home. It’s like he knew all along what I had intended to do after the huge spat earlier that evening.
“Would you like some hot chocolate while you wait for him?” asked Ira’s mother. Suddenly I was full of gratitude for her. It felt so safe and warm in their house. No matter how late or how often I went over to her house, I never felt unwelcomed. She was always there, smiling, and getting us something to eat every now and then. Perks of being best friends, I guess.
Soon a car honked outside and I knew that was my cue. I said my goodbyes to my friend and her mother and walked towards the car.
I got into the car silently and waited for him to scold me.
“So, what happened to your long drive?” asked Baba, completely unflustered. “Did you run out of gas and forget your wallet as well?”
I looked at him and, even though he was serious, his eyes were laughing. Not in a mocking way, but the way how fathers look at you when they know you are silly and headstrong, and will surely do what you are told not to; but love you anyways. I felt so ashamed of myself as the events of the hour, when I was so angry with him, came flooding back. He loved me, worried for me, and wanted the best for me like all fathers.
“I’ll tell you what, let’s go on that long drive now, shall we?” asked Baba, interrupting my thoughts. “But you have to promise me your mother will never know of this. This will be our little secret, okay?”
“Yes, yes, yes,” I literally screamed with joy and hugged him tight. As he hugged me back, I felt my eyes well up. He never let me feel like we were not related, my stepfather.