All her emotions, her love, her feelings, pent up for so long rushed out…her eyes grew misty, sobs racked her body. She screamed soundlessly..
By Antara Bhattacharya
She sat alone on one of the leather-upholstered couches in the impersonal hospital waiting room. Leather couches and vinyl flooring…she laughed aloud at the incongruity. It was after visiting hours, but she wasn’t keen on leaving. The cold empty cottage held no appeal. All she wanted was to be alone, freedom even from the memories which were haunting her. She filled herself a cup of coffee, and settled down for a long night. The window across the room looked down on a glittering city. Her thoughts carried her back to her sixth birthday.
Mother and Father had arranged a big birthday party for her. All their neighbors were there, so were Grandpa and Grandma. Their little house looked alive with the sparkling lights and soft music. The cake was from the big shop around the corner.
She was having so much fun showing off her pretty, new dress and the lovely new doll her parents had given her. Marsha had decided to call her Angela. “She looks like an angel”, she declared. Grandpa was looking for Father.
Marsha ran into the house, and stooped. Through the closed living room door, she could hear voices talking about her.
Mother: Times are bad. We really can’t afford all this, the dress, the doll and even the cake that we got for Marsha.
Father: She’s just a child, honey. We can’t ruin her happiness. We’ll manage.
Mother: And, such a lavish party! She’s got to learn, Carl. You mustn’t spoil her.
Father: Don’t Susan, not tonight. We’ll manage somehow. We must. Marsha should have the best of everything, always. She must not suffer.
Marsha knew she shouldn’t listen in on other’s conversations. “Eavesdropping is terrible”, Mother had told her. She ran out, sobbing. Mother didn’t love her, she didn’t. If she truly loved her, would she have said such a thing? No, Mother didn’t love her. But, Father still loved her…yes, he did. Oh! How she hated Mother.
The clock on the wall sounded. It was really getting late. If only she could sleep. Marsha stretched her legs…she was already beginning to feel cramped. It had got darker outside, with fewer people out on the streets now. I must be going mad, Marsha thought. I really need to sleep. But sleep was a long way away.
“Mother broke my heart that day. She hurt me.”
Marsha remembered the day her Father died.
She was eighteen, in college. She’d been away from home three years now. She still missed her Father so much. Holidays with him were so much fun. But, Mother was always interfering. Mother, coldhearted that she was, couldn’t seem to bear seeing Marsha’s love for her Father. Everytime he would want to buy her a gift, new clothes or give her money to spend with her friends, she’d object. “You’ll spoil her. And, anyway, we cannot afford it. And, must you give a young girl so much money?”
Father wasn’t keeping too well either. Marsha was worried, but he would just laugh it off. “Oh, I am hail and hearty. I’ll live to be hundred, just wait and see.”
She remembered her Mother calling up. “Father is ill, he’s asking for you.” Marsha would never forget the journey back home. She could barely keep her mind off her ill Father; all alone. Well, not strictly alone, but Mother could hardly be heartbroken.
She arrived just as they were taking Father away to the Hospital.
“You’ve come, my dear. I was waiting for you. There is something I must tell you. I want you to know that Mother and I love you very much. Marsha, I want you to try and understand your Mother. You are so like her, baby. I love her, and so should you. I’m afraid I have always over-indulged you. I couldn’t help being a little weak. But, honey, your Mother is the practical one. We aren’t poor, but we aren’t rich either. Love your Mother, dear. She’s always wanted the best for you.”
Marsha cried, “But, Father…”
She remembered thew awful helplessness she felt when they took him away.
Evening passed slowly. Mother tried making conversation, but Marsha had nothing to say. Her heart was crying for her father. Late that night, there was a call from the hospital. Father had died. Marsha left early next morning; she couldn’t bear to stay for the funeral. That was almost five years back.
“Yes”, thought Marsha, “Mother must have been awfully lonely all these years.” She had her college, then her job and now her family, too. She’d come a long way from the angry, hurt teenager…but she hadn’t forgiven her Mother yet. How could she?
Yet, when she got her Mother’s letter asking her to come, she couldn’t stay away. She read the letter again.
My dear child Marsha,
It has been so long since I last saw you. At least your Christmas cards tell me that you are doing fine.
Honey, I am not trying to manipulate you, but I have been so lonely since your Father died. You didn’t understand me then. Maybe, now that you have a family, you’ll understand. I loved your Father, Marsha; but he was a weak man. I had to be strong enough for both of us. Maybe you found me too harsh; but I was only trying my best.
I have not been keeping well lately. I don’t know what the doctors call it, but they have moved me to the Hospital. I feel so weak…could you come and see me?
With all my love,
Yes, she did understand her Mother now. It still hurt, but she could understand why her Mother had done what she did. Why the restrictions, why the disapproval’s…Poor Mother. She must have been so lonely. She got up and peeped into the sterilized Hospital room. Mother looked so peaceful in her sleep. Reassured, Marsha sank back into the couch. Tired as she was, it didn’t take her long to drift into an undisturbed sleep. The demons had been exorcised from her mind.
The early rays of the sun lit up her peaceful face. She woke up slowly, and then remembered where she was. She went to check in on her Mother. The room was peaceful as before. She tiptoed to her Mother’s side. And, then she realized that her Mother had gone, died peacefully in her sleep. The monstrous machines surrounding her monotonically spelt out her death.
All her emotions, her love, her feelings, pent up for so long rushed out…her eyes grew misty, sobs racked her body. She screamed soundlessly, “Mother, you betrayed me again. You went away when I wanted to hold on to you the most.” But, a reassuring little voice whispered in her heart, “Forgive me dear, but I am only human. I tried my best.”
Marsha fell to her knees, at her Mother’s side. “I love you, mother. I love you.” She had lost and found so much.
This teen story was first published in Meghdutam.com (between 1999 to 2003).
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