It was raining heavily. The pitter-patter of the raindrops seemed to break away all the windowpanes. Never before had the winds blown so strong and never before my heart wept so bitterly. I was feeling butchered, as if my own body had deserted my soul and I did not want to live any further.
Daniel was getting ready for office. Dressed in the lovely grey suit with a crimson checked tie, my only son looked as handsome as ever. In front of the mirror he sprinkled some cologne, gelled his hair, straightened his tiepin and flashed a brilliant smile onto his image. I looked at him getting dressed up and smiled to myself, without him noticing me. How well did I remember the similar way he used to dress himself up for kindergarten? At that time he knew nothing of cologne or a hair gel or a tiepin, yet he adjusted the school batch, neatly combed his hair and tied his shoelaces in the salmost the same manner. Nothing except his age had changed. My son was still the same baby with similar innocence.
“Daniel, Daniel…how many times have I told you not to put that silly cologne on…. it intoxicates me…change it for heaven’s sake…and look at you…. your tie in crimson looks horrible. I wonder how bad a dressing taste can it be!”. As always, this was Samantha shrieking.
Samantha is his beautiful but arrogant wife. I mean, my daughter-in-law. Though she seldom behaves like one. I often get the feeling that she does not like me. But since my husband Neil passing away, I have preferred staying with them than putting up all alone. I had already exhausted all my savings for Daniel’s higher education and now could no longer contribute in their living. Besides my paralysis had left me a lifeless soul.
“Its 8 already and you are getting late Daniel. On way to office do you remember what are you suppose to do? You have promised me this now…you cannot back out or else I’ll leave you. Fuck off now and don’t be back home without doing my work.”, she grumbled.
I did not know what Samantha was talking about. All I could see in front of me was a lovely pair fighting like kids…nothing new…in fact; it is typical of a married couple. I had so may fights in my life with Neil. We fought on our anniversary when he came home late, fought when I was pregnant as he kept insisting his presence in an important office meeting even during my last days of delivery, fought when Daniel was to be sent to a school that I thought was just too far away and even fought when Samantha was to be Daniels wife as Neil thought she was not the right one for him! At times it’s hard to believe but we even fought on the last day when we were together. Neil wanted to attend “The Eagles” sing live and despite the heavy tornado he was still was eager to drive uptown. I requested…insisted…stopped. And fought…yes, fought for the last time. That evening as Neil went out, he never ever returned. Doctors say it was a major accident that broke off his ribs to trashes. I did not weep at all. I froze!! And that was all I did for the entire year to end up in partial paralysis of limbs.
By the time I came to terms with Neil’s death, I found near me a yet another reason to live. This was a priceless gift that Neil had left for me. Here stood in front of me my only son, Neil’s shadow and my heart, our Daniel. He was a reason geed enough for me to live on another few years.
As Samantha spoke to Daniel, he looked perturbed. I saw that worry in his eyes, I saw him trying to convince her in private and I also saw him failing to do it.
He moved towards me.“Mum…would it be possible for you to accompany me to office today? I want to show something to you. I have specially ordered it for you. Please! Come along. I am waiting for you in the car…and yes…its cold outside. So take an extra shawl to wrap around you…. come soon…………”
I wondered. What was it that Daniel wanted to show to me? What was it that he had brought and Samantha was furious about? What day is it today? Good Lord! How could I forget this? Its my wedding anniversary!! So what if Neil isn’t here…. this day is still a testimony of the fact that we ever were together…. that we ever made love....that we ever together brought this gem to the world…..am I suffering with amnesia? Why did I forget this date…. To Hell! Daniel remembers it …he has even brought something for me…I only wish Neil could be here to see all this.
Daniel drove off the car and did not utter a single word out for quite some time. The weather seemed to go ghastly. There were dark sinister clouds surrounding all over and it could rain any moment.
The wind had already begun to blow hard on the car's window pane and it now began to give jitters to me. “What is it that you want to show to me???” Silence engulfed me again and he ignored. He seemed lost.
“What’s it dear…. what is worrying you…speak up!!"
He looked back at me…. his mute eyes told me that something did disturb him….“Keep patience mum…I am driving you to a place…it’s a surprise…”
Our car stopped at an eerie looking place. A forbiddingly looking house in bad shape, amidst untrimmed bushes surrounding it, stood tall but horrific. It filled me with discomfort. Nobody was around. Not even a bird, as if even the vegetation had abandoned the place. Why had Daniel brought me to this uncanny place? The question troubled me.
“Step our mum…we have reached…wrap your shawl.” He held my hand and helped me step out of car.
He then took me inside that house that from inside seemed to be a rest house made away from the arduous city life. But who would come to rest in this shit? I wondered.
Daniel introduced me to a grim old man who sat at the reception of the rest house and made me sit while he clandestinely talked to him.
“Mum, Please be seated here for about twenty minutes. I would attend my friend hospitalized nearby and be back. I will then take you to my actual surprise in store for you.” I wanted to leave the place immediately but I understood Daniel’s commitment and conceded to stay back.
While Daniel went out, the old man offered me tea. I sipped it and watched the dreadful rain out side as it reminded me of the day when in the similar weather I had lost Neil.
One hour passed. Daniel was not back. I got petrified. What was it that had stopped him to be on time? I looked for a telephone around but lost hopes as I was told it was out of order. The electricity had gone off and the battery backup for the day was coming to the point of exhaustion. Two hours went by and the clock was still ticking with no cues of my son coming back.
I prayed and prayed hard. It now filled me with weird and undesirable fears. Had my son met with a similar accident as his father had? No! No! For heaven’s sake…I will not be able to bear it anymore…. What else could be the reason…I only wish that there was any reason other than this…. Amen.
A car stopped outside the rest house. A man in his mid forties entered the reception room.
“Mrs. Joan …Hello…. You are Daniel’s mother. Are you not? Well I am here to talk to you about your son.”
I crossed my fingers. I did not want to hear what I should not.
“Please go ahead…” I reluctantly said.
“Well, your son had called us up about a week back. He felt that you are too old enough to stay with them and that they would no longer be able to manage your expenses. You seem to be too tough and stubborn to be handled and taken care of by them…so they entrusted you to us. Welcome to this “Old Age Home” for senior citizens. We run this on voluntary charity and let me frankly tell you that we will not be able to suffice your luxuries here. But we do promise you a safe life with people less butchers than your son…”
Someone pinch me…. what piece of trash was this man speaking?
“Please send me back Home IMMEDIATELY..I don’t want to hear any thing else.” I lost my temper and infuriated.
“ I know it would be hard for you to believe it in the first instance”, he continued impersonally, “ but let me put it hard across you. You cannot move out of the place as per our deal…you will have to serve this home for a minimum of three months just as nine other unfortunate older people like you in this house are. Thereafter it will be your wish to stay or leave. Trust me, nobody does leave. After all, where will you go? You don’t even have a house and not a single penny either. Your health and paralysis, I wonder will allow you to work anymore…I suggest you stay with us. Spend the hardly leftover years of your life serving a cause…. we will take care of you…at least we are not that wicked and unfaithful like your son…so go to your room, will you? Take rest and we will see you at the dinner table…” He turned around and curtly left.
The winds blew harder, the night deepened and the battery backup exhausted darkening the place completely.
Daniel had ripped me apart. He had indeed given me a surprise on my anniversary. It was in the morning that I had seen the “innocence” in the eyes of my baby…seen him like a ‘gem’, seen him the same way when he was a little child….as a testimony of the love between me and Neil… and now…every thing had changed. While the winds banged the windowpanes, I cursed Neil for the day. I wrapped the shawl around me firmly, went up the stairway to my room, wept and thought…. I know why the rain had worsened today. That fearsome night two years ago my husband died and today, my son did.