Authors: Sara Hooper
Their flight departed at two o’clock in the afternoon of a beautiful, sunny day. They were quiet during the quick jaunt from Los Angeles to San Francisco, each lost in their thoughts and fears of what would face them in the Singh household. Shane had decided that he would take it all at face value, follow Gina’s lead and hope for the best. She was geared to a defensive state of mind, hoping against hope that her father might just accept this man that she had found and wanted in her life for a long time, forever even. When they arrived at San Fran, Shane tried to make light of the situation. “Well, the time draws nigh,” he casually observed. Gina cut her eyes at him, taking his jest more seriously than he had meant it to be. “I’m kidding,” he offered in explanation for his comment.
“It might be true,” she answered. “I hope he’s in a decent mood.” Her tension was obvious, physically and emotionally.
“It’s going to be okay, Gina!” Shane said directly to her, trying desperately to shield her from the anguish she displayed. “I’m a big boy. Trust me on this.”
When Gina knocked on the door of their very modest home, her mother answered in full animation. “Oh my Gina,” she poured out, grabbing her daughter in a tight hug. “I am so excited to see you. It’s been months!” It was evident from the mutual hug that Gina and her mother were close. “And, you,” she said, moving toward Shane. “You must be the nice man Gina has spoken of. Shane?” She took his hand in a modest handshake.
“Yes, I’m Shane, Mrs. Singh,” he answered, “It’s nice to finally meet you.”
“Come, Gina, your father is in the living room. Let’s introduce them.” Shane didn’t miss the reference to “them” as being the two main characters in this family meeting. He followed the two ladies down a narrow hallway and into an even more modest room. “Amlan, this is Shane, Gina’s friend.” The man kept sitting, but looked up at Shane. “Shane, this is Gina’s father, Mr. Singh.” No first name mentioned; a lesson Shane didn’t miss.
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Singh,” Shane quietly said, while extending his hand to shake.
“Hmmpff,” the aging man grunted. That was it, no handshake, no words, just a casual dismissal as he continued watching the television.
Shane felt the awkwardness come over him immediately. Silence hung in the room as thick as fog. Ms. Singh cleared her throat noticeably. “Ah, Gina, why don’t you bring our guest to the kitchen? Dinner is almost ready. We can converse while I finish.” Gina took Shane’s hand and led him to the kitchen where they sat on barstools at the small counter. “So, tell me about yourself,” the mother requested. “I want to hear all about this man that my daughter has been smitten by.” Shane sensed her earnestness and began to talk. While he left out the part about having been married, he easily shared most of his life with the mother who so wanted this relationship to work for her daughter. Happiness depended on it.
As the Indian fare was shared at the table, Mr. Singh said directly to Shane without even calling him by name. “You do understand that we follow the customs of my country in this family, don’t you, Sir?”
Shane looked across the table at Gina for a signal before replying. She stared at him without making any indications. “Yes sir.”
“Do you understand that we frown on intercultural relationships for our daughters?” he pointedly continued. “Gina has been promised.”
Gina’s face flushed, her eyes narrowed and her head slowly turned left to face her father. “Father, this is not the time or the place for this. We have had this discussion many times. You know how I feel; you know what I want and how I want to live. I am of age in this country, Father. You need to accept me for whom and what I am. I do not recognize myself as being “promised,” and you should forget it yourself.” Shane was very surprised by her reaction; he was witnessing this soft, gentle woman come out of her shell for, probably, the first time in her life. It spoke volumes to him about how she viewed the “us” of them. She was dead serious about him.
“Gina!” her father exclaimed. “You do not speak to me that way!”
“I have to, Father,” Gina continued fiercely. “If I don’t speak up now, you will forever try to run and ruin my life. I don’t want a showdown with you or an interruption to our family, but you are not going to destroy everything that might bring me happiness! That, you should know from now and forever. I won’t let you do it, no matter what!”
“Then you won’t be my daughter,” the father said too easily.
The tears welled in her eyes immediately as Gina rose from the table, threw her napkin on her plate and headed for the hallway, followed closely by her mother. Shane cleared his throat, and rose from his chair. “She doesn’t deserve that attitude,” he calmly, but firmly said. “And, I won’t listen to it! I love your daughter, Mr. Singh! I won’t hurt her. She deserves what she wants, not what you try to dictate! Thanks for dinner,” he mumbled, as he walked from the room.
“Leave her alone!” her father said. “You don’t belong! Gina knows that.”
Shane joined the ladies on the front porch. He could hear the soothing voice of the mother trying to calm her upset daughter. “Shhh…” she cooed encouragingly. “Your father is just like that, Gina, you know this. He’s too old world; just give it some time.”
“He’s done it before, Mama, he won’t ever change.”
“I know, but you will do what is best. You always have.”
“I love him,” Gina quietly said, but the tone of her voice was not convincing.
Shane was surprised by the words, but he was also uneasy. Her emotions matched his. He had fallen in love with this beautiful girl just as deeply as he had loved Amanda. He didn’t want to sacrifice this chance at happiness again. He stepped through the door and joined the women. He reached out to pull Gina close to him; she stepped back towards her mother. “It’s okay, honey,” he whispered to her. “Let’s go home.”
Gina hugged her mother goodbye and left without even speaking to her father. It was a long, quiet flight back to L.A. When they arrived at his house rain was pouring, they sat in the car for a few minutes in silence.
“Let’s go have a drink. You need it,” he casually said, taking her by the hand.
“I just need to go home,” she said to him. “I have to get my head screwed back on and make some decisions. I’m confused, torn and too upset to sort it out now.” Gina got out of the car and headed toward her Nissan with Shane close behind. The rain continued to fall.
“Wait, Gina! Look, I understand,” he said to her back. Gina put her hands up without even turning around.
“No, don’t do that. Don’t make this even harder for me.”
“Make what harder?” he asked, shocked at her actions.
“This, us,” she answered, turning to face him. “I don’t know what will happen here. Maybe we’ve rushed things; maybe this is too perfect. Maybe it’s wrong.”
“Wrong? What are you saying? How can love be wrong?”
“Sometimes, it just is,” she quietly said, getting into her car. “You’ve made your mark on me, Dr. Ryden, a big mark. I don’t need for it to be any deeper. Don’t force this on me.”
Shane stepped to her door, holding it open as the shower continued. “Gina, honey, I’m not forcing anything on you. I thought we were what you wanted; I heard you tell your mother you loved me. Why can’t you let that happen? Let us happen?”
“And I heard what you said to my father, Shane. That was rude. If nothing else, we respect others; it’s part of our culture. The culture that belongs to me, not you. We’re different. I’m going home.” Gina cranked the car and tried to pull her door closed. “Let go,” she said in a firm voice that Shane had never heard before. “I’m going to my home where I belong.”
“You don’t have to do this,” he pleaded. “Please stay so we can talk this over. Don’t be impulsive.”
“Impulsive?” she quickly retorted. “I’ve been impulsive; this is where it got me.”
“Gina, calm down!” he snapped at her. “You’re being ridiculous is what you’re being. Come in and let’s talk.”
“Nope, talking will get me in the bed with you. I don’t need any more of that, either!” She jerked at the car door again; he reluctantly let go of it.
“Well, call me when you feel like you’re ready to talk,” he yelled through the closed window, water droplets flowing down the glass.
Gina glared at him. Shane waited in the driveway soaking wet, watching as she turned left at the stop sign on the corner. The overcast sky giving him a gloomy feeling, his heart sank as he realized how serious she was; he might never see her again.
Three weeks passed without a word from Gina. Shane didn’t call her either, but he had been on pins and needles wanting to hear from her but reluctant to make the first move for fear he would hear what he didn’t want to hear. He had never been faced with such a decision as Gina was struggling with, and his opinion would only be self-serving, at best, so he left her alone as long as he could. As he sat alone in his office, working on patients’ charts as a means of filling the void of her absence, Shane picked up his cell phone and punched “1,” her auto-dial number. The phone rang at least ten times, but she didn’t answer. He envisioned her holding the phone, watching his name flicker wirily on the little screen the way LED characters do. Finally, he hung up. Now, he knew her answer. It was time to regroup. He called Don; nothing like a good beer-drinking buddy to help drown one’s sorrow.
Just as Shane finished with his last patient of the day, his receptionist stepped into the treatment room. “You have a call, Dr. Ryden. The lady said she would hold for you.”
“Okay, be right there,” he answered, assuming it was a patient with a question, not an uncommon call.
“Hello,” he quickly said.
“Hi,” she quietly answered. A pause, then, “Can you come up today?” That was it; the voice he had longed to hear reverberated through his heart.
“Do you want me to?” he asked just as quietly. He was pressing her, but he desperately needed to hear her say it.
“Yes,” came her simple answer. “I need to talk with you.”
“I can be there about three o’clock or so. Will that be convenient for you?” Shane forced himself to be cool and without emotion. He didn’t want to press his luck or his chance at what might happen. “I look forward to seeing you,” he added, and he meant that.
“Okay.” That was it. She hung up the phone.
Three hours later, he knocked on her door; she answered immediately. As he stepped into her kitchen, she stood in front of him with her hands by her side as if waiting for him to make the first move.
, he thought. He reached for her hand and pulled her to him, holding her tight, transferring his approval directly to her. Gina’s hands remained by her sides.
She stepped back from him and began what seemed to be a practiced speech. “I don’t know if I can do this,” she whispered. “I don’t want to lose my family, my father that is. He has worked all his life to let me become who I am today. I can’t turn my back on him, on that, what he’s given me.” She looked down at the floor as she talked; Shane was still mesmerized by her beauty and her softness. “Maybe he’s right,” she continued. “Maybe I do belong more with my own kind, my culture. People think we are after Americans for what we can get, and my father sees this intercultural thing as a slap against my heritage. He has a point.”
Shane waited for her to go on, but she didn’t. “I want what is best for you, that’s all,” he returned.
“I know that,” Gina admitted. “I know you are that kind of person.” She lifted her eyes to him. “But, I also know that you have lost at this love game once, and I don’t want to put you through it again. I can’t separate myself from my family, but I don’t want to lose what we have in the process. It’s an impossible situation for me, and I just can’t sort it out.”
“If you want to give it a try, we will work through the thing with your father. I promise I’ll be with you through it all, if that is what you want me to do. There’s no rush. Trust me on that. I’m not going anywhere. It’s taken me two years to find someone worth wanting to share my life with. You are that person, Gina. I can wait. Just tell me what you want me to do, and I’ll do it. I’m here for you, for us.”