An Eternal Preparation

She scans every passing stranger, without exception. She frowns as she looks up at them with tired, sorry eyes. Her countenance is an epitome of her struggle for survival.

Lately, she seems absorbed in perpetual angst. Her duties as a mother have been excruciating. With life on the streets and 3 mouths to feed, every last morsel and every sliver of hope counts. She has to find new ways and new places to gather food.

Meanwhile, the kids jump around playfully. Nudging, pushing, shoving. Jovial brawls are commonplace, but they should’ve known better than to piss off their mom with them. They remain oblivious to her struggle and she remains detached from their fun.

It’s way past their bedtime; the streets were crowded today. All the 3 huddle together, tired after their brawls. They push, they nudge, they shove again, in an attempt to get comfortable.

They cuddle during sleep to stay close for warmth and look adorable while doing so. Loads of cuteness cramped into a small space. But only their mother sees, their chest heave to reveal their ribs, announcing the fragility of their bodies.

So she’s watching out for them, hoping that people won’t attack. Safety of her kids supersedes her will to fight. Motherhood has made her more controlled and patient.

It’s an act of eternal preparation. Preparation for a better future. A future that never comes. A preparation that never ends. But it leaves her with no choice. She cannot turn her back on a battle she didn’t pick.

She howls into the night, her sound breaking the silence of the streets. She has to spend yet another sleepless night staying vigilant, as her pups rest assured. Care-free and innocent.

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An Unletterd’s Letter

She woke up way before the alarm. At this age, she was getting used to it. The sole purpose of the alarm was to provide her respite from aimless wallowing in the bed on nights she’s afflicted with insomnia.

Things had gotten really tough for her after her husband had passed away about a month ago. Ever since the house seemed too empty, the front-yard looked unkempt, the television set turned rusty and the backyard grass had overgrown. She was a lonely inhabitant of a decrepit house whose existence seemed next to insignificant in the well-to-do neighborhood.

Yet still, she isn’t on her own in this world. She has a beautiful daughter and a 5-year-old grand-daughter. But she hasn’t heard from them in over a year, specifically from when her husband had a spat with her son-in-law. Her husband had turned callous after the feud and had built an invisible barrier for her too. She didn’t have the courage to transgress it by herself, even after he’d passed away. She submitted to that sickly feeling long ago and now vainly hopes for the ice to break from the other side.

It’s just another day in Brookside Avenue, and she withdraws from her bed to do her usual chores. Her feeble limbs barely support her senescent frame. Her once vivacious spirit lately seems to have no impetus to be so. The pedestrian tasks of the day drain her both physically and mentally, yet she wills herself to live on.

She steps out the door, looks at the unkempt front-yard and sighs. The front-yard, like herself, either had no one to take care of or had no one who had cared enough. She walks to the mailbox, as she does every day, with a tiny flicker of hope. She opens the rusty lid and half expects to find it empty. But it isn’t.

She finds some junk advertising mails about a world tour that she’s least bothered about. She almost throws them away in the garbage can when a lavender envelope catches her eye. She halts, holds it cautiously making sure she doesn’t crumble it and walks inside as fast as she can.

She forgets about the chores and even forgets about her morning coffee. She hasn’t missed one in the last five years. She sits on the sofa down the hall and carefully opens the envelope. It has small lavender hearts embossed on it and smells like sweet perfume and baby powder. She pulls out the letter inside and starts to read it.

Dear Grandma,

Its me!! I am dieing to see you. Mom says we’ll all come and tell sorry to grandpa next week. Then we will go have fluffy candy you promised me in the exhibition last time. Can you pleese get me the pony too?

And guess what grandma?? I can right write! I don’t need mum to call you now…we can talk ourselves. We can share…umm…what did you call it? Seacrets? Yeah! Seacrets!

I can tell you about school, my new english teecher. But she’s always scollding me for no reeson. I don’t like her.

You can tell me your seacret recipeas recipies and I won’t tell anyone, not even my Barbie. She told me she likes boys now…..ewwww! So I want a new Barbie too!

I miss your pickles grandma. I miss grandpa. I miss you.

Do you miss me????

Okay mum’s calling me….Sea you soon!!!

Love,

Your Marshmallow.

She pushes the paper away from her face to keep it from getting wet. Tears stream down her face uncontrollably. She doesn’t contain herself anymore, she doesn’t feel the need to. She knows a crisis is about to befall, but that seems the least bit troublesome. She thinks of an innocent 6-year-old who looks up to her, and she would face the storm for her.

It may be tumultuous. But like any other storm, this will pass too. She kisses the letter in her hand and thinks of her marshmallow. Her tiny glinting eyes and her slyly playful smile. She curses herself for being so craven. She never stood up for herself. It wasn’t fair what happened to her, but she felt like she had no choice. No one to help her.

But she was wrong.

She’s had a month to ponder over it by herself. Only now, she is sure. She has a newfound meaning for life. She hopes to present her life as a lesson to her grandchild. She knows she may have nothing to inspire the little kid. But she does have a lot to teach her. She may not be able to tell her what to do, but she can tell her what not to.

She’ll keep her strong. She’ll make her brave. She’ll teach her to be independent. And when she says, “When I grow up I want to be like you grandma!”. She’ll say, “You will child. You will be as wise as I am today, but without having to face the troubles I went through yesterday.

And I will be here to hold your hand and guide you for as long as I can.”

Hope for Convalescence

Candace woke up early and sat upright. She never was a morning person, but as the due date came closer, she couldn’t help insomnia. Today was ‘The Day’, but she didn’t feel ready for it. “Nobody ever does“, the doctor had told her and after deep thought, she had acquiesced to his suggestion of getting the operation done.

 

It would’ve been a usual Tuesday for anybody else, but it seemed extra gloomy to Candace. Lately, her pensive demeanor had been apparent to anyone who had cared to notice. From people around her, sympathy was plenty but empathy was scarce. Having been a loner all her life, Candace didn’t feel the need to have someone to share her melancholy with, but having a shoulder to cry on, once in a while, would’ve been nice. Her pet dog ‘Chase’, with its heart-melting eyes, and intoned whimpers and whines, provided her with occasional solace.

 

Her appointment was due 3 hours from now, but she decided to get out of the house early and get some fresh air. After a quick shower, she took a look at herself in the mirror. Her neatly shaven head accentuated her once plump face which was now gaunt from all the chemotherapy. Dark circles draped her eyes but she still, somehow, managed to look good. She was quite the show-stopper back when she was in high school, but all that seemed superficial now.

 

She stepped out of the house in an attire that was dull and insipid on a day which was bright and vibrant. A prickling sense of inequity impinged on her but by now she had learned to parry it. In a meek attempt to take the most circuitous route to the hospital, she decided to walk across the park and then take a bus.

 

She entered the park and found it scarcely populated. “Perfect!”, she mused for it was in perfect harmony with her mood. She chose to sit on an empty park bench overlooking the pool. This way she wouldn’t have to face the happy strangers who gave her hapless looks as they passed by. She didn’t need their sympathy. She didn’t need another reminder of her life. She didn’t need their ephemeral concern. She was fine by herself.

 

When she finally finished wallowing in contemplation, she realized that a little girl had come to sit beside her a while ago. She was probably only 5 years old and had her hair tied in adorable pigtails. She was completely immersed in relishing a cone of strawberry ice-cream, smiling after every lick, and swaying her legs in excitement. Now it took her a while to notice that Candace was watching her. And then instinctively, with her outstretched elfin arms, she offered Candace what little was left of her strawberry ice-cream. And as she giggled, a mischievous pleasure was radiant in her eyes and she wanted Candace too to experience it.

 

The innocence and naivety of the little girl bemused Candace and eventually suffused with a heartwarming feeling. She refused politely and patted her on the head tenderly as she watched her finish the cone. The little girl’s cheeks were now flushed pink from all the ice-cream she had smeared on her face. She gave a satiated giggle after completion and waved Candace goodbye.

 

After she left, Candace couldn’t fathom why the place suddenly felt so empty. “Wasn’t this what I had hoped for?”. She was already missing the little girl she had known from minutes ago. The question puzzled her, but there was no mental turmoil. It felt happy. It felt right. Her reclusive lifestyle has robbed her of experiencing the little nuances of life that made it interesting. Although, now she was reminded of her own childhood. The friends she had. Her family.

 

But she wasn’t nostalgic and neither did she crave for something new. She had reached a vantage point in her life which made her see things differently. All her life she had taught herself to be independent. To be strong and ready to face tides. And today is just a test of time. She only needed someone to jerk the negativity off of her cluttered brain. And the little girl’s naivety had hit it out of the stadium.

 

Candace walked across the park with her head held high. A palpable smile arching on her lips. She boarded the bus, took a seat by the window, and was humming all along the journey. She closed her eyes and could still picture the little girl, with her ice-cream smeared cheeks, giggling at her mischievously. And then she smiled too. For the first time in a long time, she felt happy. She was finally ready.

 

 

 

 

Hope 3/3

Moments flash. Memories haunt. She has horrific visions of her mom tied to a tree and being pelted with stones to death. Her mom twists and contorts in agony, gathering all that was still left in her for futile cries of help. Her spirit deteriorates with time, and so does her energy. 

Nightmares continue to terrorize the little girl. Sleep was not as pleasant anymore. Ghastly images of her mom covered in blood keep lingering in her subconscious. She remembers the last time she saw her, it was right before her mom closed her eyes. She was blinking, but she was looking directly at her daughter. There was hardly any eye contact, but that transient pleasure seemed heart warming. She willed a faint smile and then gave up the fight.

The little girl wakes up to find Uncle Stan dozing off in a lean old chair, seated right beside her hospital bed. She’s told by the nurse that she’s been there for a week now. She wishes it was all just a terrible nightmare, and then she pinches herself, only to find out that it wasn’t. She tilts her head a little to look at the only family she had left, Uncle Stan. 

Soon after her discharge, she’s approached by a local NGO. They promise her food, shelter, and most important of all, education. Weeks later, she’s welcomed into the orphanage. She receives a cordial welcome from a group of kids who were just like her. They all had nowhere to go and had nothing to lose. 

Things around her had changed pretty fast, but she couldn’t shake things off just as quick. She regrets all the times she had been rude to her mom. She misses her bear hugs. She misses all her soothing lullabies while she cozily naps in her lap. She even misses their petty fights. 

She dearly misses her mom. 

The unpleasant hangover seemed to persist. The new surroundings heralded a new beginning. It was definitely a new start. Of what? She didn’t know. Can she now talk to boys? Now that her mom was gone, would it make them any better? Can she now talk back to elders? Will she ever own a smartphone? She knew not the answers and she knew no one to ask. 

But she eventually began to make friends. Wounds were now scars. The orphanage was the tiny thread of life that she was now hanging on to. In fact, it was the only thread. She was still hurting, but she knew that she was growing. She now had a new appreciation for life. She nurtured the flickering flare that kept the cold away. A ray of light in a world of shadows.  An undying spirit in the face of adversity. She had the will to live on. She now had……….hope. 

Hope 2/3

After a long tiring journey, the bus finally reaches their village. The young girl didn’t know if she was fatigued by the prolonged journey or was just ravenous. It was both.

The young girl’s chest heaves as she embraces the fresh air. Her mother’s face hints a sign of relief. They were finally home, ready for a fresh start. With a new take on life.

They start walking slowly towards the old house they call home. People shoot scornful looks in their direction, she doesn’t understand why. Her mom clasps her by the arm and quickens her pace.

When they finally reach, they find their house much worse than what it had been a year ago. It was more of a rural shelter than a concrete structure. It barely qualifies to be called a house, but it sufficed. No wonder why no one had cared to occupy or demolish it. Nevertheless, it would be their haven now. But God knows it wasn’t meant to be.

A faint knock on the door catches their attention. “We have visitors already?”, they wondered in amusement. The young girl hoped that it would be uncle Stan. He was a long time family friend and had been the pillar of support for their family. The faint knocks stopped and loud thuds took over. Her mom and she were now scared.

She went to the rotten wood door to unlatch it. It was uncle Stan, and behind him was the entire village. An angry mob ready to take charge. Her mom was perplexed, unaware of what was going on. She steps on the front porch and sends the little girl inside to take care of her sister. And then the shouting begins.

“You brought shame to our village”

“You were knee deep in adultery that’s why your husband left you.” Her mom had a sudden moment of realization. “So that’s what Harry told them to keep himself alive?”. The village was more inclined to believe men, so she’d have no use trying. Only uncle Stan knew the truth, but apparently, he couldn’t convince anyone.

“You’re not fit to stay here. Have you no shame to come back?”

“She’s not even worthy of being alive. Better kill the two-faced bitch.”

“Yeah. Yeah. Let’s kill her!”

Then they charge on her. The little girl sits inside shocked at the sight of her mother being dragged away. Her mom’s blood-curdling screams render her motionless. Her mom struggles to look back and orders her to run away. But she was too baffled to move.

“Of what use are these little bastards? Let’s kill them too!”

Some of the villagers rush inside to get the kids. Uncle Stan tries to intervene, in attempts to save them. After all, it’s what her mom would want him to do. He suffers a number of blows but he doesn’t back down. After a long struggle, he feels a little relieved that he could at least save the girl, a redemption of sorts. But that feeling was only short lived. It begins to dawn on him that he couldn’t save her little sister.

Hope 1/3

Luggage is strewn across a little corner in the bus stop. Her clothes are all raggedy and her hair’s rubbish. People feel irritated by their presence and give them despicable looks occasionally. A little child wails in her arms, in want of milk. But she doesn’t have any. The child’s elder sister isn’t much of a help to her mother. In fact, she’s a burden. She’s busy staring at a stranger’s smartphone, gaping at it in fascination. She was once close to dreaming about having it, and that’s about the closest she ever got to owning it.

 

Long before she could fully marvel at it, her eyes fell upon yet another luxury. This one, she could never have dreamt of. She saw a girl, only a few years older than her, who had her arms wrapped around a guy’s arm…..her boyfriend. She had always despised men, more correctly, she was taught to. What her dad had done to their family was unforgivable, and her mom was quick to generalize her dad’s malevolence to all men. All men are the same she had said. Her mom had warned her to keep away from them, and so she did.

 

It was easy until she began to develop feelings for them. “Ehh! They’re not that bad”. But her mom’s vexed remarks still echoed in her head. “Men!”, she’d say with a sigh…..eyes rolled upward. She struggled to suppress the infatuation. She begged to differ from her mom, but couldn’t dare talk back to her. She felt crushed between her mother’s ideals and hers. But she decided to give up hers, cause her mom was always right.

 

Her thought train derails when a dog starts barking loudly at her mom. She tries to shoo it away, but the dog seems adamant. What a pity? Not even the dog was afraid of them. Earning respect in the society was becoming costlier than earning money. Those who didn’t know them despised them, and those who did know, just pitied them. Every passing day was a bitter reminder that they were on their own.

 

Amidst the shouting and noise, a bus comes to a screeching halt. It was what they had been waiting for. The bus was getting cramped and crowded as more people tried to get in. They quickly grab their belongings and board the bus as fast as they can. But not surprisingly, they were the last to get in.

 

They didn’t seem to mind. They had gotten used to it. But now was not the time to worry….cause things were about to change for good. The bus would take them to their village. They were going home.