Saturday, April 16
Since Cynthia didn’t set up alarm, she woke up at 8am. Rishi was sitting, on the sofa dressed up. She was very depressed and numb with sorrow. Wish she had a home where door said: All Friends are Welcome. Even she herself was alien in her home. The way his father treated her and her guest last night, it was not a new incidence. She kept on loving him, because who else she had in her life. She had no uncles, aunts or grandparents. Russet Frazier had alienated himself with all relatives especially relatives from his mother’s side when he stole their money to get rich, he had no brothers or sisters.
Rishi came to the bed and sat next to him and held his hand.
“How are you Rishi,” she said wiping her tears with blanket.
“I am fine.”
“How much did you drink? One bottle? Two bottles?”
He laughed. “Cynthia, I cheated him again. I had that sniffing snuff for this occasion. Remember that Muslim friend of mine, teashop man. He gave me it in little milk, when I got drunk with your Pop in Bangalore,” Rishi said, “My friend said it may or may not work but it woks on me. Anticipation another drinking session with your Pop, I brought it here with me.”
Cynthia laughed among the tears. “But your liver is affected.”
“I will be fine in a day or two, don’t worry. I know a doctor is taking care of me.”
She said, looking at the watch, “Rishi, luckily it is Saturday, I have no strength to go to work.”
“We can go to Buddhist Center.”
“And I think I should leave your home today, Pop Russet gave me another day but ….”
Tears were again falling from her eyes. “It is his home, not mine so ……”
“Cynthia, then leave this home.”
“I have no strength, I only wake up each morning and attend my daily choruses and life goes on and on. My life stays the same. You gave me some happiness and you are leaving today.”
“I can stay for one more day for you, but Pop Russet will kick me out tomorrow anyway.”
She wiped her eyes with blanket.
He said, “Let’s leave this home together.”
“OK, I hand you my life today,” she said in surrender.
“Leave behind everything here, just pack up few things. I have room in my backpack.”
“I have a backpack too, I used it only once.”
Rishi smiled. “Attagirl, and who owns your car, you or your Pa.”
She laughed. “My father gave me the Mercedes on my birthday.”
“Then leave it here, we will walk.”
“Yes Rishi, I will walk. Like Mitsuki, whenever he does anything important, he makes it his pilgrimage and walks,” she said, “It is my pilgrimage today, leaving this place on the foot. I don’t know where I will be going next. You decide.”
“I know; if given a chance you will make a home, where doormat says: All Friends are Welcome.”
She shook her head. “Don’t show me cruel dreams, Rishi.”
“Go find your backpack and get ready.” Rishi took her hand and pulled her from the bed.
She went upstairs.
Russet Frazier woke up at the same time. He realized that he was defeated by Rishi again. He could guess that it was his daughter Cynthia, who removed his shoes and shocks, put the pillow under his head and wore him blanket. He rose but uttered a painful yelping cry due to a shock of unbearable pain in his right shoulder. He was very humiliated and had no spirit to let Cynthia know that he was plainly defeated and broke his shoulder again. He stood up. He had a severe headache, like a hammer was hitting on his forehead and piercing metallic sound in his ears. He went to his room, took a dose of painkillers and somehow managed to take a bath and called for limousine, to go to orthopedic doctor, alone because he knew this time damage is grave.
He arrived at the same Orthopedic Surgeon was too embarrassed to tell him that again he fell down, drunk. Neither doctor cared to ask.
Indeed the injury was serious; doctor prescribed him anti-inflammatory medicines and told him that a complex surgery is now unavoidable. After surgery he need to undergo aggressive physical therapy sessions and still there was no promise if his arm will completely recover because surgery may cut some nerves. Russet Frazier returned to his home at 11am, with his right arm hanging on the arm support; again.
Another severe shock was waiting for him at home.
Elysia gave him a letter written by Cynthia by pen.
Daddy, I am leaving this home forever, never to return.
This was not my home. My friends were not welcome here. Bye. Cynthia.
This was not my home. This was – This was – This was. This was not my home. This was not my home. My friends were not welcome here. My friends were not welcome here.
I only objected to one vulture.
“But her car is in the driveway?” He said to Elysia, wondering.
“Sir, she and Rishi walked out, carrying backpacks.”
Russet Frazier did not know what to do. His head was pounding, he didn’t know weather to get angry or weep. He wanted to kill Elysia, he wanted to break everything in his house.
He bellowed in helpless tone, “Why didn’t you stop her, bitch. Why didn’t you stop her bitch?”
Who is this Rishi. He is relentlessly provoking him and then slapping on his face. Now he is gone but took away his only daughter too. He must pay the price.
He called Cynthia.
He roared, “Cynthia.”
“I left your home daddy, we are busy right now. Bye.” She disconnected the phone.
He called her again and again and again but each time she disconnected the phone and finally turned it off.
His helicopter was scheduled to arrive in one hour; he called the pilots to bring it immediately. In half hour he was looking at the road from the sky, looking for his only child Cynthia. He called her hospital; they said she took a day’s leave.
Rishi and Cynthia left the home, at the gate Cynthia begun to turn to look back.
“You have shed enough tears Cynthia, don’t look back.”
“Yes, I have shed enough tears here,” she said turning to the road.
“Can you walk, Rishi, you are sick.”
“Like, I am always sick.” He laughed.
He was walking slowly because each step was giving him a pang of pain in the liver area, she understood. They walked for one mile.
Russet Frazier was calling her in frenzy; finally she turned off her phone.
“You are not in good shape Rishi, I am calling a taxi.”
A car stopped at the curb.
“Hello Mike McDonald, how are you?”
“Want a ride?”
“Sure,” Rishi said, “meet my friend, Dr. April.”
Mike said, “Welcome in my car, Rishi and Dr. April. Please hope in.”
“Where are you going?”
“At the nearest BART station but you can drop us just anywhere you feel convenient.”
Mike McDonald’s phone rang. He stopped the car on the shoulder to talk.
“Rishi and Dr. Cynthia, would you mind, if I made a quick visit to my home, it is only one mile.”
“Sure, we have no problem, Mike.” Rishi said.
Mike McDonald made a U turn and after passing a tunnel of trees, he made a right turn to the road leading away from the ocean and entered in a tree lined driveway. He owned a big property full of trees and a little house standing in between the trees. Place was alive with the chirping of birds. He had installed many bird feeders and birdbaths. Many birds were taking baths and many were waiting in queue. Rishi laughed.
Cynthia said, “Lots of trees?”
“I love them like my children; I planted each and everyone by my hands.”
“Why you want to sell this property.”
“I am 67; want to move near my grandchildren. I am unable to sell this property because of my own terms.”
“Everybody will jump to buy this property,” said Cynthia.
“I want a clause in the sale contract that no tree would be cut till I am alive and nobody wants to buy it. I live here along. My wife expired three years ago.”
“Sorry to know that.”
Mike McDonald wiped tears from her eyes. They all got off from the car.
“How about a cup of coffee?”
They saw a helicopter was moving in the sky.
“Could be your Pop, looking for you?” Rishi whispered in Cynthia’s ears.
“It was our helicopter, I mean his, not ours anymore.”
They didn’t go inside but sat on the picnic table under the tree.
“I have never seen so many trees in my life.”
“This is so beautiful, Rishi. How you find these nice friends.”
“Same way as I found you.”
Mike McDonald brought a portable electric coffee maker outside, placed it on the picnic table. Walked to the wall where a large extension cord was hanging next to an outdoor electric receptacle. He uncoiled the cord and plugged the coffee machine. Rich, coffee began brewing in a minute. He went inside his home and returned with a large apple-pie. They drank coffee and ate the pie. Helicopter made several circles on the main road and then went away.
Rishi said, “Thank your Mike.”
“No Sir, thank you Mr. Rishi, for showing me, Mean Russet Frazier’s home. I was wondering how you gained the entry there. Probably you were accompanying that monk; I heard his daughter is Buddhism nut.”
Cynthia burst to laugh.
“Yes his daughter is Buddhism nut,” Rishi said, “She is eating your apple-pie right now.”
Mike McDonald jumped as if he saw a scorpion.
“Oh my God, you are Dr Cynthia Frazier; please forgive me my bloody language.”
“It’s all right Mike, you got a very nice and peaceful place.”
“I built it myself, spent years, grew each and every tree, and built my home too.”
“How much are you asking for it?”
“Two million dollars is a reasonable price but these trees,” he said, wiping his tears from the back of his hands. “I want to see them as long as I live.”
They ate most of the pie, rest of it and shreds Mike threw it for the birds. He took back coffee maker and coiled the electric cord.
“Did you see the birds waiting in the line to take a bath?”
Cynthia found it very funny, she laughed at the scene.
“I guess you are in hurry?” Mike said.
“Not really, we can spend one hour under your trees if you permit us.”
“You just made my day. I have to visit a realtor, back door is always unlocked. Feel free. Not much in refrigerator though.”
“Thanks Mike.” Rishi said.
Mike McDonald went away.
“He is so good man, Rishi.”
“Cynthia you are lucky, you left your home and made a first good friend, it is an omen.”
Cynthia was absorbed in watching the birds. Rishi walked under the trees, it was apparent that Mike had begun cleaning the yard but then gave it up because he was too old. Rishi took all dropped branches and made a heap, in a corner near driveway where Mike could dispose them off or use them as firewood in his fireplace. When he was finished, he went to Mike’s kitchen to wash his hands and face and returned with a glass of water for Cynthia who was now sitting on the grass, doing meditation.
“Hey Rishi, two hours just flew away here.”
“It is so peaceful and serene place.”
Mike McDonald arrived with a large pizza.
“I brought only cheese pizza, assuming you may not eat meat etc.”
Cynthia said, “Thanks Mike. We were very hungry.”
“It is a pleasure, Dr. Cynthia.”
“Please call me Cynthia.”
Mike McDonald drove them to BART Station.
“Wish I could drive you to town but I am too old, I get nervous in the city.”
“Thanks Mike,” Cynthia said, “thanks for everything.”
“You sure, you want to take train?”
“Taxi will be too slow.”
“I agree. BART is best to go to city.”
Mike said, writing his phone number on a scrap of paper, “Feel free to visit me at anytime. I love anybody who loves my trees.”
They waived him goodbye.
Cynthia was sad again; she was thinking, wish she had a home, her own home, where she could invite and welcome friends. Rishi bought two tickets and caught the train.
They were at Buddhist Center at 3.30pm.
She broke the news to Mitsuki that she has left her home, he was worried. He arranged a decent room for her.
Rishi went to his room and she went to her.
Russet Frazier called Mituski and asked for his daughter. Mitsuki had no habit of lying so he told him that he gave a room to Cynthia. Russet also inquired about Rishi.
He knew that Russet Frazier will be marching there soon and may create a nasty situation but he only worried but had no courage to tell it to Cynthia or Rishi, and it was only his guess that Russet Frazier would be arriving there.
Two professional assassins, Tony and Pete, both cousins, boarded a flight from Palermo airport, Sicily. Italy. In one hours and ten minutes they arrived in Rome to catch a non stop flight to Newark, NJ, from there they were to board at another non-stop flight to Oakland International Airport in San Francisco vicinity. Total travel time was to be about sixteen hours.
In their professional standards it was a soft job. There was only one problem; they had to make it look like an accident. That was no problem either; they had the victim’s phone number and address. That was enough, no picture was necessary. They were to draw some Rishi outside the Buddhist Center and hit him with car. They had some notes about the victim, he used to work or still worked at some LaserGear in India, they had a list of some of his colleagues. Drawing him out on the road was a piece of cake, they had done it before.
Russet Frazier arrived at Buddhist center, he came to Mitsuki’s office and summoned Rishi and Cynthai there. First Cynthia came, he pleaded with her to go home but she flatly refused, then Rishi came.
“So your price to leave my daughter alone was three billion dollars. You were always an agent of LaserGear.”
Nobody spoke a word.
Russet Frazier pulled one envelope from his pocket, opened it, and took out two bank drafts. He handed one to Mitsuki and other to Rishi.
“These are one million dollar each. One is for Rishi and other is for this Buddhist Center. There is one condition; both drafts must be cashed simultaneously from the same bank. Otherwise they are worthless.”
Mitsuki said, “Thank you Mr. Russet Frazier, I will issue you a receipt.”
Rishi slid his draft to Mitsuki. “See if you can third party it to this Buddhist Center.”
Mitsuki used to own a bank. He said, “A million dollar draft can not be third partied.”
To get the reaction from Russet Frazier and to make him angry, Rishi said, “Russet Frazier, I cheated you again last night. I vomited off most of the liquor.”
Russet Frazier was in a rage now, needlessly he ruined his shoulder for whole life. He prevented himself from creating a scene. His head was pounding due to the hangover, his hand was shaking. To look inside of Russet Frazier, Rishi made him react and angry.
Rishi slid the bank draft back to Russet Frazier.
“Goodbye, Mr. Russet Frazier.”
Rishi walked out of the Mitsuki’s office.
Russet Frazier said with icy tone, “Hay you, Rishi, you listen.”
Rishi said, turning, smiling “Yes, daddy.”
Russet Frazier had sudden urge to assault Rishi with his left hand.
He won’t be alive tomorrow at this time, why bother.
Russet Frazier looked at his watch, it was 5.30pm.
Let this be lucky time, I want it to happen at 5.30pm tomorrow exactly.
Rishi looked at his watch, it was 5.32pm.
Russet Frazier said, with a sinister smile on his face, “Bye-bye. Mr. Rishi.”
An angry man, in rage but with a menacing smile on his face, revealed enough to Rishi. He knew his life was in danger. Some thing was to happen tomorrow, around 5.32pm or before or after.
Russet Frazier played the trick of giving two drafts on the condition that Mitsuki may peruse Rishi to accept the money so monastery too gets the money. Had Rishi accepted the draft, Cynthia would have hated him, had he not then he was unwelcome in the Buddhist Center. Anyway Russet left both drafts in the office. He hoped Rishi may open up an account in the same bank, where monetary had their own and present the check. In that case he would call off the assassination. Once a person accepts money he is bought, and easy to manipulate.
Rishi sat on a bench, under the trees and had a bowl of herbal tea. After some time Mitsuki also came, sat with him. They had more tea.
“What to do with the drafts Cynthia’s father gave us. We badly need the money.”
“Hold on for a day, you may get lot more money.”
“You really think so?”
Rishi again had playful smile on his face.
Rishi walked out of the monastery and sat in the park. Later on Cynthia came and sat with him.
“Dr. Kiyoshi should be coming to get you.”
She sobbed, “I don’t feel like going.”
“Look if he feel like taking you out, yours saying no is like hurting his feeling.”
“But I am not in the condition to go with him.”
“Please try sincerely Cynthia. Today is your turn, unless you want to stay single, forever.”
“No,” she said, wiping her tears with a paper napkin, “I want to marry and have my own home.”
Cynthia liked the Japanese movie, she told Dr. Kiyoshi everything, that she has left her home. He was worried about her; he understood her and her state of mind. He was trying hard to sustain her.
To cheer her up he said, “Cynthia, you please feel free to propose me anytime. I will be celebrating that moment.”
She said with tears, “You want to marry a wrecked up woman, I have nothing much to offer except my tears.”
“Please don’t say that, Cynthia,” Dr. Kiyoshi said her with moist eyes. “Be happy now.”
“Thanks. Will you marry me?”
“Yes, of-course Cynthia, I will marry you. Please don’t rush. Think it over again; take your time, my answer stays the same but you can change your mind anytime you wish.”
They took the BART train but to walk more, they left the train two stations before. Ate Chinese food in a smile restaurant had some ice-cream and walked to Buddhist Center.
“You can stay in home Cynthia if you want; I can go to my friend’s home.”
“But I am given a room at the Monastery.”
“Home is a home.”
“Yeah, I know. Thanks for the offer. I will have another walk with Rishi and then I got to go to work.”
“You have no car, how you would to go to work?”
“I will take a taxi.”
“I will drop you at your hospital.”
“That does not fall in your route.”
“Like all airlines have a hub, you are my hub. My all routes pass through you.”
They were at the Buddhist center entrance.
“Take care, doc.”
“Take care, doc.”
They kissed each other’s hands and split up and turned, he to his home and she in the entrance of the monastery.
“Hey Cynthia, listen.”
She turned to face him again. “Yes doctor.”
“At my entrance, at the right side, there is a red croton plant in a big pot. Door key is always there. You cannot miss it.”
“And listen, friends are always welcome, even if you don’t accept my proposal, you are always welcome there.”
“Thanks and bye doctor,” she turned to hide her tears, tears of peace and joy.
He went to his home and she entered in the monastery.
Rishi asked, “So how did it go?”
“Very good, actually he proposed me.”
“Did you accept?”
She said, merrily, “Yes I accepted but he gave me more time to think.”
“OK, then take a reasonable time to think, where is he taking you tomorrow?”
“Nowhere, we will walk around here.”
“You are becoming a tramp like me.”
She had a fit of laugh at the tramp word. “Yeah, because I got no home to call my own.”
“Let’s go, and steal, Dr. Kiyoshi’s door mat. I will put it outside my room.”
“That is a room, dummy, a storage room,” she said, “not a home.”
“Oh yeah! Oh yeah!”
“How is your tummy?”
“Contents are still under pressure.”
She laughed. “Let’s go, time to give you medicine.”
“Hello Risheeeeeee, how are you.”
“Hello Rariiiiiiiiiiiisa, talk with Cynthia.” Rishi handed his cell-phone to Cynthia. Both ladies talked for forty five minutes.
Rishi wanted Cynthia to develop friendship with her or at least only she was available there at that time.
Rishi went to his room, was sleeping till Cynthia woke him up, with medicines and water.
Dr. Kiyoshi was lying in his bed; he hugged his pillow and pressed his face into it. He was thinking that he proposed Cynthia too early and too fast but he was not regretting for it. She left her home and had no relative, to make her feel that she is related he proposed her. To make her feel she belongs to someone and someone belongs to her, she is being loved by someone and she loves someone, he proposed and he knew that she accepted it.
This time dream was not distant but a possibility. He was prepared to face Russet Frazier or anyone in the world if he had to; he decided to fight for her if she agreed and wished. She came in his life in just three days ago and he proposed.
He rose and burned an incense stick at the picture of Buddha and felt its aroma. Cynthia shared her secret to him that she had the first experience of timelessness with fragrance of incense stick. He tried to meditate on the smell and didn’t know when sleep knocked him down.
He was still not convinced that Rishi was Buddha, may be for her or for Mitsuki but Rishi was a good man. That was enough for him. Rishi fooled him by putting a rubber ball in his hip pocket; he also made a plan to fool him to prove to Cynthia that he too was a funny person.
Cynthia was lying in bed and thinking about the events of the day. Her first day out of her father’s home was not so bad after all. She enjoyed walking with Rishi, and then very strange thing happened, Mike McDonald took them to his home and she had one of the best times of her life at such a peaceful place. She had coffee, apple-pie and then lunch there with Rishi, watched birds taking bath. She again laughed remembering how birds were behaving like humans, waiting for their turn to take bath. They were enjoying their baths and grinding their beaks, looking at her and Cynthia in curiosity.
She though about Rishi, how he can find such nice and peace loves people like Mike McDonald and Dr. Kiyoshi. Mike McDonald kept his back door open always. And Kiyoshi kept his key in the croton plant pot.
She was not missing her father, but was related to people. Dr. Kiyoshi proposed her and Rarisa was already treating her as her sister-in-law. She was not alone anymore, even if Rishi returns back to India. And then India was only a day away, he can return or she can go see him.
We can go see him.
Who are these we?
I and doctor Kiyoshi, who else.
She laughed and fell to a dreamless sleep.
Mitsuki was on his bed, was thinking about the events of the day. Since Rishi came to his world, things were happening. Everybody’s life was changing.
“What to do with the drafts Cynthia’s father gave us. We badly need the money.”
“Hold on for a day, you may get lot more money.”
“You really think so?”
Mitsuki remembered Rishi’s mischievous smile, it was saying something but what?
He badly needed the money to pay bills, monastery always needed money badly. Running is was worse then running his own billion dollar business that he quit. Rishi hit me there correct, he was always running things but running a monastery was more stressfully. Sessions of Vipassana and meditation were keeping his sane, otherwise he was burnt out.
Russet Frazier had just arrived at his home. Elysia took two days off fearing his anger; agency didn’t send any replacement for her because Cynthia used to deal with household things. He was very angry, tired and frustrated. He never had such a worse day in his life. His home was empty; his only daughter was walked away with just a backpack, stolen away from him. His own home felt empty to him, empty without soul. Brutal pain in his shoulder and head was killing him.
He took a bottle of scotch, made a half mark on it with his diamond ring to remind him to quit when the mark came. After alcohol made way to his brain, he thought about the situation again. It was a temporary setback. Rishi would be dead by this time tomorrow in a staged accident. Mafia boss was sending two most skillful Italian cousins, his own nephews, to take care of him. Both cousins were fluent in English and spent three years in San Francisco area and had done some jobs there. Russet Frazier himself spoke with the Mafia boss, no advance payment was demanded because his words were good as gold to Mafia. It was not the first time Russet Frazier contacted or contracted him. Even if Rishi accepts the money, job would be done. His acceptance of money would only serve one purpose to prove to his little girl Cynthia that her best friend Rishi was not an ascetic but a person who could be bought, was bought.