Kyra had been staring at the bracelet in her hand for quite some time. It belonged to her mother. The approaching footsteps jolted her back to reality and she quickly put it away.
It was her flatmate, Natasha.
Looking at Kyra’s blanched face, she understood. Her roommate was obsessed with drawing comfort from the bracelet in troubled times.
Only this time, she didn’t poke Kyra about it. Rather, just asked what was troubling her.
“Nothing really, I am just anxious about tomorrow’s interview”, and that was the end of the discussion.
Kyra and Natasha had been staying together for four years now. It had been a smooth ride for them initially until Kyra had the first phone fight with her mother in front of Natasha. It had opened up a hidden part of Kyra’s life to her flatmate. One, that wasn’t pleasant at all.
It had taken another year for Kyra to open up to Natasha. And when she finally did, she opened floodgates. She had wept all night.
Kyra had a troubled childhood. Her parents had a rough marriage and they fought all the time. Kyra had become used to the shouting and the occasional domestic violence. She had grown to have a poor relationship with her father.
When she turned fourteen, she had started pushing her mother to get a divorce. Her mother never did. She was worried about her daughter’s future without a father.
Where her mother was from, divorces were considered a social stigma. In their culture, females were expected not to get divorced, rather work on their marriage, no matter how difficult it was.
Because of that decision, Kyra’s upbringing had been ruined. Gradually, she had started blaming her mother for it.
Her father had set the expectations straight from early on, Kyra expected nothing but the worst from him. Slowly, her expectations of her mother had become the problem. She hoped her mother would understand her grief, that her childhood was getting wasted because of their troubled marriage. By the time she turned sixteen, she had started having ugly fights with her mother that overshadowed her hatred for her father.
She could feel herself drifting apart from the woman who had stood beside her for sixteen long years. They didn’t feel like a team anymore.
It had been four years now that she left the house, permanently. Being good in studies, Kyra had got a scholarship and had taken admission in another continent, five thousand miles away from her old life. She never went back. Every year, she spent the summer and holidays taking up internships and other projects.
Her resume had become shinier than her heart.
She had moved on. Or, so she thought.
Her mother still used to call her once a year. For Kyra, that night used to be sleepless, wet with tears. She couldn’t help but feel a part of her heart tugging at her, smarting, pleading for a hug from her mother.
As a remedy, she always ended up recalling her last day at home. And her ego took over the pain.
On her eighteenth birthday, she had woken up to a decision. She would move out immediately. She didn’t care where she would go, or what she would do. She could legally break out of that hell now.
Even if it meant moving away from the woman who had been protecting her for eighteen years.
Her mother had knocked at her door at seven in the morning, unlike her father who always used to barge in, unannounced. Kyra had hugged her, then ripped the band-aid off announcing her decision to move out the same day.
Her mother had freaked out as if her limbs were being pulled apart.
Kyra’s room had erupted in a fight that just got uglier by the minute. Photo frames were thrown off the shelves, pillows were torn apart and when just about everything was drenched in tears, Kyra had bolted out of the room.
She needed air to breathe. And, at the moment, she didn’t want to share that air with her mother.
She had chosen her freedom over her heart. Every part of her body was stinging at her decision, but she felt a deep, beseeching, desire to break free. She had made her decision.
Kyra’s mother, Meera, washed the dishes and turned to her laptop, an old machine bought second-hand from an acquaintance. She had become more adept at using it now. She had been doing it for over two years.
After Kyra left, her world had come crashing down. She suddenly felt bereft of the only goal of her life, the only thing she was good at.
Saving her child from her husband.
Meera had slipped into depression after Kyra left. She had felt betrayed by her soulmate to whom she had devoted her life. Kyra had hurt her more than her husband ever could.
Sam, her neighbour, her only other friend, had come to her aid in those troubled times. She had pulled Meera out of her hiatus after eight months of self-inflicted pain and torture. It had taken another ten months to make Meera functional again.
Steadily, Meera had discovered that she was capable of more than she had ever imagined. She had managed to get a job in a small firm as an accountant and mustered the courage to divorce her husband after twenty years of painful alliance.
She had even managed to reduce the number of calls to her daughter from once a month to once in six months, and then a year. She had forced herself to move on. She didn’t want to open her heart again. She had nurtured the little dignity left in her to stop herself from contacting her daughter.
Though, she wasn’t sure, if it was pride.
“Do you want some coffee, Ky?”, Natasha broke her flatmate’s chain of thoughts.
Kyra barely heard Natasha, but just moved her head to give a random answer. Natasha felt her friend’s dire need for some hot beverage and prepared some coffee for her.
“You know….you need your mother, Ky”, Natasha advised while handing over the coffee mug to Kyra.
Kyra shot her eyes up at Natasha. They had suddenly welled up at her friend's declaration.
“Why would you say that? I definitely don’t need any more of that grief….I am not going back ever again!”
Watching Kyra babble more to herself, Natasha kept her face blank,
“Are you telling that to me or yourself?”
A tear broke through and trickled down Kyra’s cheek that had lost its pink. She couldn’t argue anymore.
Kyra had been able to survive these past four years with anger, more towards her mother than her father. But she wasn’t sure anymore if it was hatred, or just love gone sour.
She had seen her mother’s selfish side the day she left. She always put her mother before everything. And the day that she put her dreams first, her mother had retaliated.
She couldn’t let herself become soft again. She turned to Natasha with a stern face and announced,
“Natty, this is my decision. The moment I let my heart thaw, grief will take over. I am not going to give in, not yet…I know I have been a little low on energy lately..” ,
Natasha pursed her lips to show her disagreement,
“…but I will bounce back. I don’t need my mother, I need you, my friend.”
Meera shut her laptop and put it in her bag. She brushed her freshly cut mid-length hazelnut hair and let them loose. She put on a crisp white shirt and knee-length grey skirt. She had started wearing heels again. She pulled out the two-inch high black ones and put them on. She was ready for another day at work.
‘What would Kyra say to this combination?’, the thought escaped the mental prison she had created for every feeling that reminded her of her daughter.
She pushed it away, just like every other time.
Her workplace was just three miles away. She drove her second-hand Sandero to work every day and parked a few blocks away from the office building.
She was satisfied with her second lease at life, but it didn’t take away the embarrassment of driving such a humble vehicle.
While walking towards her office, another thought appeared,
‘I bet Kyra would love this bookshop.’,
Meera frowned at it. Pushing away thoughts that belonged to her daughter had become a daily exercise for her.
At least now she had become better at it.
She took the elevator and bumped into two colleagues on her way in. They complimented her on her attire.
‘Hmmm…she would have said the same…’,
Meera just sighed at this thought. She needed to save her energy for the day at work ahead.
Four hours passed by in a jiffy. Work had become the perfect distraction for her. It helped her stay afloat.
“Here’s your coffee, Meera.”
One of her colleagues had brought it for her today. Her appetite for food had deserted her four years back. She had managed to start gulping down food in the morning and evening, but not during the day. She hadn’t started mingling with her co-workers yet. Taking eyes off from work, even for eating, meant giving herself time to think.
And she couldn’t afford that.
She thanked her colleague and picked up her coffee. Relishing its warmth, she stood up from her chair and walked to the window on her left. She liked the hustle of the city. She had started relating to its busyness now.
She felt her lips curve up. Life was smiling at her now. She was moving on. The desperate need to see her daughter had dampened in the past few months. She had become used to nurturing her ego instead in the past two years.
Abruptly, something in the sky wiped the smile off her face. It seemed like a ball of fire at first. Meera squinted hard to fathom what it was.
An aeroplane had blasted mid-air and its burning remains were headed towards the city, towards her building, swiftly.
The coffee mug left her grip and crashed on the floor. She ordered her legs to start moving right away.
They didn’t listen to her command.
Kyra put on her blue hoodie and headed out. It matched the colour of her mood. She carried her laptop in her backpack to prepare for the interview scheduled in the evening.
It took her less than five minutes to reach the nearest café. Fortunately for her, the seat in the extreme corner was empty. She grabbed it without a second thought and went back to being a fly on the wall, invisible to everyone else.
She turned on her laptop and opened the browser. She had to study more about the company she was interviewing for.
The name eluded her. She pushed her head back to the wall thinking hard. She had to push all other thoughts away.
The TV screen on the other end of the café was on. The news was talking of an aeroplane blasting mid-air and its remains crash-landing in Manchester. Some building in Deansgate had reduced to ashes from the crash.
Reading the area name shook Kyra. She glared at the television screen wide-eyed.
She sprung to her phone and speed dialled her mother, again and again. No matter how much she tried, Kyra’s pride had failed to push her mother away from the list of important numbers.
Meera’s phone was switched off.
Shaking, Kyra dashed out of the café. She couldn’t breathe. She found her fingers dialling the only other person who could tell her what to do.
The moment Natasha picked up, Kyra burst into sobs. In the next ten minutes, Natasha reached the café where Kyra was and found her friend sitting on the pavement shivering.
She sat next to her and put her arms around her friend who had collapsed,
“Ky, listen to me. You need to collect yourself. We will call your mother again and see if she picks up. If she doesn’t, which I am hoping against, we will do something. Call her office, the nearest hospital in Manchester, or maybe, your dad…”
Kyra stopped sobbing and looked at her friend. Her father had been dead to her for many years now. She didn’t want to change that.
But her mother needed her. Or, maybe, Kyra needed her more now. The gnawing feeling in her stomach was overpowering.
They tried thrice and the third time, the phone started ringing. Light returned to Kyra’s eyes momentarily, but there was no response.
She tried again and again, but no one picked up. She looked at her friend sitting next to her. Natasha was browsing on her mobile, reading news about the crash.
The line ‘5 people presumed dead’ made Kyra skip a heartbeat.
The pain in her chest took over and she closed her eyes. She found herself praying after a long time. She felt a desperate need to rekindle her relationship with the divine to make her pleas heard at least.
In between her sobs, she beseeched,
‘Oh God, if you are listening, please…please let my mother be alive. I know I have been angry with her, but isn’t that just another form of love? I love her too much to hate her. I love her too much to ever be able to overcome the grief of losing her. Please don’t take her away from me….please.. I am not ready to let her go….will never be. I promise….I promise, if you let her live, I will resolve all my issues with her…I will make amends and never hurt her again. I need her…I need her more than I ever cared to accept…please dear Lord, please…let her be safe.’
She felt her friend’s comforting touch on her shoulder. She opened her eyes and saw Natasha from a vision blurred by tears.
They tried to reach her mother a few more times but to no avail. Kyra wasn’t sure if the universe had even heard her prayers, let alone grant them. The emotions she had locked away came back crushing. She realised she had messed up badly.
She had hurt the one person she cared about the most. The reason for her being.
Natasha dragged her home, but Kyra hardly slept that night. Every time her eyes shut, a vision of her mother’s mangled body in the debris flashed across, causing her to wake up panting. She used to dial the number again but in vain.
Clutching her mother’s bracelet, Kyra didn’t realise when she drifted off to sleep. She woke up the next day, the sun shining on her, hurting her eyes. She looked around for Natasha, who was fast asleep. She had missed her interview the previous evening, but it didn’t matter.
She looked at her phone, unsure what to do. There was an unknown numbness in her heart.
She was headed to the bathroom when her phone rang. She turned around and lashed at the ringing instrument. Natasha woke up with a start and leapt next to her.
It was an unknown number with a +44 country code. Kyra picked it up instantly. She wanted to speak, but all she managed was a bleak “He..llo..”
She held the phone glued to her ears, waiting for the voice that she was dying to hear since last evening.
The voice that she died to hear every day, but refused to accept.
A few moments later, that voice emerged.
“Kyra…baby, is that you?”
Kyra felt her eyes close and relief pour over her. She could breathe now. Her mother’s voice sounded like raindrops on parched earth. She felt a tingling sensation on her skin as if dreadfulness was slowly evaporating from her body.
“Yes, mom. It’s me. I..I saw the news.…I was worried for you…”
She could feel her mother smile teary-eyed on the other side of the conversation. After a brief pause, which seemed like an eternity, Meera spoke,
“I am sorry, baby. When the plane crashed, it skipped my building by barely a few inches and struck an empty warehouse a few feet away. We were lucky. The people presumed dead were the ones who worked in that warehouse. Luckily, no one was there at the time…..and…I am sorry, I couldn’t pick up your calls yesterday….when my phone rang and your name appeared….I went blank. I was numb anyhow from the blast…when I saw the plane approach my building… come towards me, I thought I would never get to see you again...”
Meera’s sobs had a life of their own now. She forced herself to continue. She had to tell her daughter how she felt. It was long pending.
“I have missed you terribly, baby. I wish I get to see you soon. You know, I cannot live without you. I barely survived when you left me. I was hurt, as if my heart, my body was torn apart. But then I got up and started nurturing my ego so I could start living again. And, I need to tell you something….I…I divorced your father two years back…”
Kyra froze. A million questions arose in her head.
‘Why didn’t mom tell me sooner?’
‘Did that man let go amicably?’
‘How had she been surviving alone all this while?’
But the only question that mattered was,
“I hope you are doing okay, mom?”
Meera responded with a half-hearted “Uh-huh..”. Kyra felt weight building in her chest again. But it was time for her confession. She had suppressed it for far too long,
“I am sorry I left you, mom. I have been dreadful, living an incomplete…a half-life ever since. I am coming home, mom. I can’t….I don’t want to stay away from you any longer.”