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Over The Face Of The Water

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Lucky doesn't have any memories of his father. He has flashes, bits and pieces from his father's infrequent visits. Rainy days, with the wind making the trees bend and sway, traces of gray at his temples, the scent of cologne lingering in a room, a head bent in sorrow. They're not very substantial, especially compared to the anger he'd felt and the pain that seemed permanently etched onto his mother's face. He still holds onto that anger, because he likes it better than the sadness.

Ram has plenty of memories of their father, though. He has a whole lifetime of memories. He has hastily scrawled notes and children's toys and old, worn photographs that Lucky has never seen. After the incident at the school and before commencement, he goes with Ram back to the old house, the one he barely remembers. What he does remember is jumbled and incoherent. It's almost strange to think of it as a real place, a place with walls and floors and servants. He could have grown up here, he thinks, if things had been different.

It's a lot to take in. Ram has to introduces him to the staff, and Lucky feels self-conscious wearing his ripped jeans and his black t-shirt with the skull and crossbones on the front. The house is almost too much for Lucky to process, but Ram keeps him grounded, a hand at his shoulder.

"Where are we going?" Lucky asks as they climb the central stairs.

Ram smiles. He always seems to be smiling, even when Lucky is mocking him or when he's humiliating himself in front of Ms. Chandini. It makes Lucky think that he's still just that dork who's too old and too square, not some crazy James Bond action hero, and certainly not Lucky's half-brother. He's a lot more than he seems to be at first, and Lucky's beginning to realize that's true for a lot more than just Ram. He hadn't noticed Sanju for years, and she had been right next to him all along. "His bedroom," Ram says. "We have some cleaning to do."

The master bedroom is quiet, neat, sparse. An adult's room. Lucky misses the clutter of his own room, the posters of Kareena Kapoor and Aishwarya Rai on his walls, the stereo system he wired up all by himself when he was twelve, the window that looks out over the street. Lucky liked to spend the mornings at that window, watching the cars and bikes and rickshaws as they went past, the morning haze lingering over the trees. The only windows in this room look out over the garden.

There are photographs on the nightstand. Some are of Ram, Some are of his paternal grandfather, the one Lucky has never met. One is of his mother, holding a tiny baby in her arms. The newest picture is of Ram and his father -- their father. Lucky picks it up and runs a thumb over the rough wood of the frame. It can't be more than a year old. His father smiles up at him from inside the photograph, an arm around Ram's shoulders. They are both dressed in military uniforms. The sight of them still stirs up old anger, the memories of his mother crying herself to sleep each night, even though Lucky understands that his reaction isn't entirely fair to Ram and the rest of the military.

"It was taken the day I received my promotion to Major," Ram says from behind Lucky's shoulder. His smile is softer now, sadder. "He gave me a hug and told me he was proud of me."

Lucky snorts out a bitter laugh. "Of course he did." Lucky may have forgiven Ram, but he still hasn't quite forgiven their father. After all, Ram was the one who came back for them when they were being held hostage by terrorists. Ram is is totally innocent in his father's infidelity. Lucky thinks he might always resent Ram just a little, but Lucky does genuinely like him. Ram is a pretty cool guy.

"All we had was each other," Ram says. His smile fades further, his whole body sagging with the weight of his words. Then he brightens, ever so slightly. "But you're here now." Lucky knows what that must have been like, to only have one other person to count on. For the longest time, all Lucky had was his mother.

"Yeah," Lucky says, smiling back. "I am." He throws an around Ram's shoulders and squeezes.

"He would have been proud of you, too," Ram says, wrapping his arms around Lucky's body and pulling him into a full hug.

"I've failed to graduate three years in a row," Lucky says. He has a hard time believing that the stern, military father he's constructed in his head is the same one Ram is talking about.

Ram laughs against Lucky's shoulder. "This is the only year that counts," he says. He rubs Lucky's back.

And for some reason that's all it takes. Lucky starts crying, tears streaming down his face. He'll never get to know the man Ram is talking about. He'll never get to talk to him, to understand why he made the choices he did. He'll never be able to find out if Ram is lying right now in order to cheer him up.

Ram pulls him in a little tighter until the sobs subside, and then he lets go and steps back. "Come on," he says as he pulls the closet doors open. "We've got work to do."

Lucky wipes his eyes on his forearm, swiping away the snot underneath his nose with his thumb. "Okay," he says. "Let's do this."

A week later, he stands in the Ganges next to Ram, their hands on the urn that holds their father's ashes. The water is warm and the sun is high, and their mother looks on from the shore. There are other mourners on the shore and a bit further down the river. Lucky can hear their words and feel their sorrow. A few ducks swim past them, navigating between the petals and lamps that float on the surface. He and Ram tip the urn over together, letting the ashes fall. They splash the water with their hands, pushing the ashes away, and then they stand there for a moment, quiet. Lucky tries to follow the path of the ashes with his eyes, watching as they drift away on the face of the water. Ram rubs the back of his head and places a hand on his shoulder.

And Lucky finally lets go.