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While Amitav sat sipping tea, admiring the wonders of the tranquil and gorgeous sunset, Aarav returned home with the football in his hands. With a big, broad curve on his face, Aarav said, "Dad, I scored 5 goals today. 5 GOALS. I'm improving, Dad." His smile helped to exude an extreme sense of happiness.
Planting a kiss, Amitav said, "That's great, Aarav, I'm proud of you. I'm making you some toast, go change, and come down quickly."
"Dad, my head is……….."
In a jiffy, Aarav fell down, dashing against the ground.
Sprinkling some water on his face, he screamed, "Aarav, get up Aarav." With his eyes half opened, he gently wiped his face and said, "I'm alright, Dad. Help me in my room, please."
As he laid on his bed muffled up in a glisteningly pure blanket, Amitav lulled him to sleep. Picking up the cell phone, he dialed Aparna's number.
"Hello Aparna, Aarav fell unconscious once again. Let's take him to Dr. Shetty, what do you think?" "Okay, I'll talk to Dr. Shetty about it. I'll be home in an hour, take care of him."
With the aid of her site tho, Aparna listened to the 10-year-old's heart. "Aarav, Mamma is disappointed with you."
Wrapping his arms around Aparna's waist, he said, "I'm sorry, Mamma. I'm sorry."
"Amitav, I have talked to Dr. Shetty, let's take him for a blood test."
They hurried him to Dr. Shetty's clinic. As Dr. Shetty was occupied with his needles and scalpels, Amitav and Aparna waited for him in his cabin.
With a gravely calm voice, Dr. Shetty said, "Hello Dr. Aparna, there's nothing to worry about. There might be a small fall in the blood sugar level. He will be fine."
When Aarav was completely absorbed in his story, Dr. Shetty nonchalantly pricked the needle through his delicately bronzed skin. Resting her palms on Aarav's shoulders, Aparna said, "Thank You, Doctor. Do give me a call once his reports are out."
The next day as the sun rose, decorating the East sky with an orange-yellow hue, Aparna walked to the window to feel the rays of the sun. While she stood there feeling the breeze on her face, Amitav walked to her with a mug of black coffee. As she sat sipping her favorite coffee and went through the columns of the newspaper, her phone vibrated.
"Hello Aparna, Aarav's reports are out."
"Okay, Dr. Shetty, I will be there in 15 minutes." As her lips moved in prayer and her mind was lost in prayer, Aparna hastened to Dr. Shetty's clinic.
"Hello, doctor. Where are his reports? Is everything fine?"
"Aparna, Aarav is diagnosed with Leukaemia."
Plopping herself down on the nearest chair, Aparna wailed, "NO, this can't happen." As Dr. Shetty drove Aparna to her house, he said, "Aparna, Aarav is in his initial stages and we need to immediately get started with his treatment. Stay strong."
Initially, Aarav couldn't get into his head that he had Leukaemia and his throat tightened at the fact he was diagnosed with cancer. His initial reaction of disbelief was followed by a period of distress characterized by mixed symptoms of anger, anxiety, and depression. But Dr. Mehta's treatment had helped him enter into an adjustment phase.
One day when Aparna walked to Aarav's room with his favorite French toast and a glass of apple smoothie, she found him standing in front of the mirror with a trimmer in his hand.
Clasping him in her arms, she whispered, "Bald is beautiful. You are the strongest, my son."
As Dr. Mehta capped his final chemotherapy, he asked, "How do you feel now that you're done with your chemotherapy?
In a low and quiet voice, Aarav said, "I feel my exhaustion has ended with the last infusion. Thank You, doctor."
15 years had elapsed and Aarav's anaemically pale skin had turned flawlessly fair. With a narrower facial shape, Aarav looked handsome in his browner skin and darker eyebrows.
"Aarav, your tickets are here", said Amitav.
As Aparna helped him with his bags and suitcases, Amitav made him his favorite French toast and smoothie.
"Take care, Aarav. Dad and I'll miss you", she said in a quavering voice. Embracing him warmly for one last time, Amitav and Aparna bade him goodbye.
Gradually, Aarav, Amitav, and Aparna saw less of each other and as years rolled by, the miles of distance hindered their friendship, severing their ties.
As Aparna kept herself engrossed with her scalpels and scissors and Amitav kept himself engaged in his terrace garden, sowing the seeds and watering them, they watched every sunset together holding onto each other through the highs and lows of the rut, missing their bond with Aarav.
Struggling with her life on her death bed at 80, with her finger swaddled around Amitav's palm, Aparna maffled, "Amitav, don't let Aarav know that we are his foster parents. We chose to love him and we chose to adopt him. Don't tell him about his adoption. Take care, Amitav. Tell Aarav that Mamma loves him the most."
While Amitav caressed her soft black hair, Aparna breathed her last.
Since the day he had lost Aparna, the sunsets didn't seem as tranquil and gorgeous as they used to be.
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