I could see her picking up the pieces of her love with extreme care. Her eyes twinkled and her cheeks flushed, as she picked up the love letters and read them with interest. It seemed that only she, in the entire world, had understood love and was now motivated by its power. I could not even imagine waiting for someone for so long with patience. Sometimes, I feel that if love gives pain, then why would people indulge in it soulfully. Amy’s mind whispered into her ignorant ears, as she watched Maria with curiosity.
“Hey! Who are you? Are you new here?” asked Maria, and she paused in perplexity.
“Hey! Good morning! I am Ella and she is Amy. We are your new roommates. Didn’t warden tell you anything about us?” asked Ella, while she interjected in the conversation to speak on behalf of Amy. She gave Maria a puzzled look and kept on staring her until she accepted that both the sisters are not some strangers but her new roommates.
“Ohh! Okay! Sorry, I was not informed about your arrival. Perhaps the warden forgot to acquaint me. Anyways, welcome. Make yourself comfortable,” said Maria, and moved her gaze from Ella to Amy, and her sweet lips broadened to spread infectious smile. Maria made her way towards the shared kitchen and placed her precious love letter in her hand bag to read the last few pages in her leisure time.
“I can’t do it anymore. It is too much. I just.....I am not able to control my emotions. And today, she even questioned our identity. How could she forget us! This is tough. I want to grieve, but I am not allowed to do so. I want to cry my feelings out,” said Amy with her half-suppressed voice. As she paused, a lump formed in her throat and she tried to fight back tears.
“I know, Amy, and I can understand your feeling very well. But, it is not our time yet. We shall wait for our turn, and then we will grieve. We will cry together and let our tears drain our sorrow. However, till such time arrives, we shall stay strong. It’s her birthday. Lots of preparations are to be done. All the same, Capt. Richard must be willing to send her some gifts. Don’t you think so?” said Ella with a wink. Her eyes darted from Amy to the kitchen to check if, by any means, Maria overheard their conversation. She was so carried away by emotions, that she almost forgot that Maria could be somewhere nearby, and she could hear their private conversation.
Both the sisters decorated the place with balloon and colourful ribbons. They prepared collage of photos of Capt. Richard and Maria and hung it on the wall. They even helped Maria dress up. They assisted her in dress selection and also did the cumbersome job of hair colouring. It was Maria’s wish to dye her hair burgundy, she wanted to post photo of her new look to her lover, Capt. Richard.
Maria was delighted to see the decoration. Her heart was bouncing with joy and her burgundy thick shoulder length hair were reflecting a beautiful soothing shine.
“Guys, this is amazing. I can’t get enough of this. You made my day. If Richard were here, he would have picked me up in his arms and have given a terrific swing. For now, all I can do is wait. I am waiting for this war to over,” said Maria, and her emotions drifted from joy to sorrow. She was imitating the swing on her own when she stopped abruptly and her face went pale.
Ella perceived the situation well before it could affect Maria’s mood. So, to handle the quandary, she blurted out, “Hey! The lover boy must be enjoying some me time. He will be back soon. Anyways, weren’t you supposed to get clicked today. Look! You are already crying. The mascara is all over your face.”
"Thank God! you handled it very well, or else we could have been sinking in the mire of our own plan," Amy lowered her voice to whisper, so that only Ella could hear her.
“Yes, yes. You are right,” said Maria. She picked some tissue papers from the dining table, wiped the mascara from her cheeks, and patted her eyes to wipe off tears. “where are the guests? I can't see anyone, it’s only three of us.”
“Th…. they…they must have cancelled the plan. Don’t you see it is raining heavily?” stammered Ella. She was not sure if she could buy Maria into her fake justification.
Maria mused over it for a moment, and then she gestured her hands in order to dismiss the idea of getting affected by anyone’s absence. She moved closer to the wooden cake stand and picked the knife placed beside it. She blew the candles and was about to cut the cake when a powerful gush of wind pushed open the window and a small sized framed photograph fell from above the refrigerator. The white cover withered away in the process and Maria could see the four beautiful figures from the photograph.
Maria approached closer to the picture and observed it for few seconds. She kneeled and picked it up. Few broken pieces of glass pierced her soft fingers, but she seemed unaffected. When Maria did not move for couple of minutes, Ella inched forward to take the photograph away.
Ella was about to lay hold of the photograph when Maria shrieked with anger. She threw the photograph in Amy's direction. Amy ducked forward to keep the edges from hitting her forehead. Bitter sweet moments from past started to show up and made a tornado which was gearing up right in front of Maria's eyes.
“Where is Richard? He is dead. I know, you all have been lying to me. I won’t forgive you for this,” cried Maria. She strutted forward to strangulate Amy, and to protect her, Ella lunged forward and hooked Maria’s both hands behind her back.
“Are you alright, Amy?” asked Ella. Amy nodded her head.
Maria lost her consciousness in the process and her last question, which she managed to ask with effort, was – “What year is this?”
“Her subconscious mind must be trying to snap back to the present. It is normal. I have seen patient exhibiting much violent behavior than what your mother did. They go crazy, break things, and even hurt themselves. Your mother is going through post traumatic stress disorder. It is a mechanism which human develop to deal with loss, consequently their mind faces temporary memory loss. And, sometimes they even create their own world, or they go back into their past and recreate it in their brain and re-live it,” said the doctor.
“We did things exactly as per your instructions, Doctor. We separated mom from our relatives and acquaintances. We moved to Shimla, and started to live in a small house, which was further restructured to look like a hostel. Because, we understood that mom mentally travelled back to year 1978 when she was a college going girl and my father used to send her love letter from his post,” told Ella.
“We even recreated her world. Wrote fake love letters, and also bought gifts. We even dyed her hairs fortnightly, so that she could not gauge her age. Even after that, she attacked. She even forgot us,” Amy sobbed and a thick stream of tears soaked her cheeks.
Ella gestured meaningfully with fingers to demand Amy’s silence.
“Doctor, it is clear that mom recalled something traumatizing from past. What do you suggest? what should be our next step?” asked Ella.
“Ella, we are left with no choice but to wait. It has been only two months and as per my experience such patients don’t recover until they are ready to face the reality. But I am afraid, if this memory loss experience continues, your mother may suffer from amnesia. For now, all we can do is pray. Hope is a powerful thing. Hopefully, she will get well soon,” sighed the doctor.
Both the sisters left the hospital with hope that one day their mother will remember them. While they were en route to their home, they maintained a comfortable silence. Their house was at walking distance from the clinic.
Maria’s husband was an Indian Army Officer. He met Maria in year 1977, in a family function. He liked her very much thereafter both started dating. He used to meet her every time he came home on vacation. When they could not meet, he wrote her lovely letters. They tied nuptial knot in year 1979 and Maria gave birth to twins – lovely baby girls- in year 1980.
Unfortunately, in year 1999, Col. Richard was martyred while fighting for his country in Indo – Pakistan war – also known as The Kargil War. This news shattered Maria; for couple of weeks she did not utter a single word. She would sit quietly at one corner and tears would flow incessantly from her beautiful eyes.
When she finally spoke, it was evident that she had mentally travelled back to year 1977.
Both Ella and Amy, scrubbed the mud from their shoes by rubbing them against the foot mat laid in front of the main door. They pushed open the door and searched the entire house for Maria.
Maria was sitting on dining chair and was folding all the love letter and was placing them one over another into a pile in her usual neat fashion. She then clutched the pile and dumped it into a wooden box.
Both the sisters, being unaware of Maria's mental state, observed her from distance for a while. Once, it was clear that Maria's present disposition was harmless, Ella asked Amy to handle Maria, and she went to use the bathroom.
Soft sound of approaching foot steps tipped off Maria of her daughters presence. However, she did not disengaged herself from the petty task whish she was doing, and without lifting her head, she asked ,“What do you think, Amy? Is it right for a wife to live painfully with her husband’s memories or to die peacefully by going insane in his love?".
Amy gaped at her mother in silence. She scrutinized her, and instantaneously, felt that Maria was up to something. She covered her mouth with trembling fingers for the question seems a bit unnerving. Amy could not find answer to the question. Perhaps, she wasn’t mature enough to understand love and loss. She kept quiet and the question stayed afloat in her mind. Amy wanted to update her sister of the latest development, but was distracted by something else.
That night all of them dined together.
“Ohhh! My dear roommates. Come let’s have some chocolate cake from my birthday,” said Maria. She invited both the sisters and all of them were served a large piece of the cake.
The chocolate cake tasted amazing and all of them were found sucking remains of the cake from their fingers once they licked clean their plates. Thereafter, they hit the hay earlier than usual.
Next morning, when Ella went to Maria’s room, she found her dead body hanging from the fan.
On the bed side table, she found a note which read:
Dear Ella & Amy,
Mom loves both of you very much. Sorry I could not be a good mother. I made both of you suffer a lot and because of me you could not even grieve on your father’s death. I Wish, I could realize it sooner that when parents are stressed, their tension and trauma can easily rub off on the kids. It was my responsibility to support you, my babies. Perhaps, Mama needs some rest now. I hope you could forgive me. I am about to meet your daddy.
After reading the note, Ella let out a loud cry and she tore the note into small pieces. Her wailing woke Amy and she rushed to the location. She found Ella sprawled on the floor, her hands were twisted, her face was drenched with tears and sweat. After few seconds, she saw the dead body of her mother hanging. She wanted to cry but this time she stopped herself and decided to support Ella.
“Hey! Come here,” Amy pulled Ella by shoulders and hugged her tightly. Her eyes got welled up with tears and she pressed her sister against her chest. “It was my fault. I ignored the signs; yesterday, after a long time, mom implicitly asked for help and I considered it a usual dialogue. I perceived it as one of the rare occasions when her mind tried to snap back to present. But I was wrong, it was her heart crying for support and sympathy. I should had convinced her into believing that it is all right for a wife to live with her husband’s memories. If I had tried, she would have been alive.”
Ella did not say anything but kissed her on the cheek then hugged her back. Ella knew that nothing could had been done in that situation because it was better for their mother to die sooner instead of going through unending sufferings.
Both of them cried profusely and grieved over the loss for it was their turn.