The temperature of the room is quite low, as it has been raining since the previous afternoon. You stretch your arms as you sit up on the bed when the alarm goes off. A thought about how you used to be the last one to wake up when you were younger crosses your mind, as you get up to begin the day.
The rattle-tattle of the rain on the roof of your building and on the windows makes you feel calm; so does the cup of coffee which you take with yourself to the balcony. You feel thankful for covering up the balcony from above, or else you wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the rains as you are doing now.
The mildly hot coffee down your throat helps you to keep warm. You take in a deep breath, loving every bit of the stress-free moment before you have to begin your hectic day as the head of pharmaceuticals at the Lifeline Hospital. There was only one reason you accepted the job four years ago–money. Fresh out of college with a bachelors degree in pharma, you had aimed to pursue your education in the field and enter research and development. However, money was the need of the hour, and you started as a junior in the hospital, and climbed up the ladder of authority within a short span of time. Now, as the department head, you are responsible for for the entire hospital’s prescription drugs.
After washing the cup, you put a shrug over your body and open the door of your apartment. The neighbour’s doors are shut tight, and you hear nothing from their flat. You smile as you remember that it is a Sunday, and their day usually began around your lunch time. As you walk down the stairs to the ground floor to pick up your mail, you make sure not to get wet from the heavy downpour.
On reaching the ground level, you go straight for the dark red coloured mail box, open it with your keys and grab your letters. The teacher who lives on the second level enters the building, entirely drenched in the rain.
“Hey, Linda! Are you okay?” you ask.
“Oh, I’m pretty sure I’ll catch a cold in two hours,” Linda replies, putting the wet grocery bag on the ground.
“Come on, you should get home and dry yourself quickly. Take a hot shower, and steam yourself, okay? Here, let me carry this bag and you go ahead,” you say.
With the envelopes from the mail in one hand and Linda’s bag on the other, you climb the stairs behind her protectively. On reaching her apartment, you put down the bag on the floor, wish her a good day and walk further up the stairs to the fourth floor. You keep flipping through the letters and envelopes; amazed by the popularity of them in the age of text messages. There are the usual health magazine subscriptions, a couple newsletters from pharmaceutical companies and some letters.
As you reach your apartment, you notice a weirdly familiar envelope. Your heart begins to race a thousand times faster, it seems, as you open the door and throw all the other contents of the mail box on the couch carelessly. You don’t bother to check on the water that you had kept on for your bath. It’s as if time stopped moving ahead, and you feel clueless as to what to do. Your hands are trembling as you see the name on the back of the envelope.
Your breathing becomes haggard and unstable, and you are not able to realise how eagerly you had waited for this letter since the past three years. Tears want to flow down your cheeks, but nothing seems to come out at the moment. You follow the advice doctors gave the nervous patients in the hospital; take deep breaths, and if that doesn’t work, breath through your mouth and try to calm down.
The envelope lies on the floor innocently, probably unaware of the effect it had on the recipient. You look at it with eagerness, wanting to talk to the writer and ask a million questions about the subject of the letter: your daughter.
Your hands shiver as you pick up the envelope and remove the flap with care. The letter is in your hand and is addressed as “Dearest sister”. You smile sadly as you remember the letters your sister used to write when you were kids. She used to address you with all different kinds of sweet nicknames. This time, it was just “sister”.
You read the letter to yourself. It says,
I hope you are safe and in good health, wherever you are. I know you must have been waiting for this letter from me since long. Before I let you know about the events that have happened in the past two years, I want to say one thing.
I am sorry.
I am sorry you are going through the toughest time of your life all alone. I am sorry I couldn’t be there for you because I chose our family’s reputation over you, which will always be a decision I shall regret for my entire life. Now that two years have passed, I wish I could go back in time and undo all the things that happened to the both of us, and I wish that I had simply told the truth to my in-laws instead of making you look like a bad person.
You close your eyes as the first set of tears finally make their way down your face. Rubbing your nose from the back of your hand, you take deep breaths again, but flashes of that dreadful night come across your eyes. You remember the both of you in the back of the taxi, heavily pregnant, you with your first and only child and your sister with hers. The menacing accident comes to your memory as if it had happened the previous night. You hear the wails of your sister as you lay on the adjacent room, getting to know about the sad news from your sister's nurse.
As you shake the night’s events away, you continue to read.
Your daughter is now three years old! I can’t wait for you to see her photos. If you look at her, she is entirely a little version of you. All her weird actions and expressions, I can see you in her every time I look at her.
By the time you are reading this, she must have started her first day at the preschool here. I am so excited for her first day! Imagine her short ginger bread hair, that cute two-teethed smile and those pure black eyes peering into new people, looking to make new friends just like you used to. I know for sure that wherever you are, you must be surrounded with people who love you because you have helped them in some way or the other. And I hope that you remain the same for as long as you are alive.
She uttered her first words two months ago; mamma. It brought me to tears, as it will remain a fact that you are the person she unknowingly referred to as her mum. Everyone at home got thrilled, and we celebrated the day with lots of sweets and treats. She, on the other hand, enjoyed as if it was her birthday!
I want to say one last thing to you. I pray everyday to God that you get well as soon as you can. I want you to come see your daughter, because I know the sacrifice that you did for her. People might say that you left your daughter to fend for herself, but I know what you did.
And it’s the bravest thing any mother would do in the world.
All my love and prayers,
You heave a big sigh, and that becomes a trigger for your coughing fit. It lasts for a whole of five minutes, and you are careful not to let the letter get stained, not even accidentally. After settling down on the floor, you take the envelope and look inside.
There are more than a couple photos of her inside. All of them are at intervals of six months, and you can’t help but feel proud of the little human being that carried the hair colour of her late father and the eye colour of her mother. Your sister was right, she is a replica of you and it makes your heart warm. For a moment, you consider the possibility that you might actually live to see your daughter one day, which is interrupted by a second coughing fit, as if to remind you that you won’t live that long.
The letters are now folded and safely kept inside the security deposit box. You close the cupboard and walk into the kitchen, fill a glass with warm water and drink it slowly to sooth your throat.
As you close your eyes, the rain stops falling all of a sudden, making your home go eerily silent as before.