Three

"So what's your name?" I ask her, getting over the fact that she is so freakingly like me.
She smiles and is about to answer when there's a sound of the front door opening and closing accompanied with the jingling of keys.
"Ann! I'm home!" says the voice.
It does not take me too long to figure who it might be.

"Quick!" Ann exclaims, mischief on her face, "hide behind the couch!" she smiles and her eyes crinkle. It's a genuine smile, but it seems like it's weighed down by something. I don't argue with her. It's been ages since I played hide and seek with Sharon! Actually, we've been playing that since the last decade or so, it's just been "hide" all along until today, when I finally decided to shed Ego and seek her. So, I quickly duck behind the sofa, following her instructions. She leaves after whispering to herself, "She is so gonna love this!" I stifle a giggle. It's been quite some time since I felt young. It feels good. I hear Ann walk out the room and say, "Mum, you'll never guess what surprise is waiting for you!" she says excitedly. I imagine Sharon making her wide O face with arched eyebrows that go all the way up.

"Oh!" I hear her say like a five year old who's almost jumping by now, "Is it ny birthday gift? Already? Oh, I told you not to buy that dress! It was beautiful, but it was just not worth all that money, don't you think? But it's okay. We can so share it! It's a perfect investment!"
I roll my eyes as I imagine Ann doing the same. So typically Sharon, always jumping to conclusions. Just like the other night.. Memories flood my mind and I push them away, yet again. I didn't want bitter feelings for her now. I really didn't.
"No, MOM, it's even better!" Ann says, exasperated.

I can hear their footsteps getting closer and as soon as Ann shouts "SURPRISE!" I jump out from behind the couch like an awkward rabbit.

Oh, and her expression is priceless. She surveys me from top to bottom as her eyebrows threaten to reach beyond her forehead. She frowns because she does not understand why I am here just two days after she wrote an email to me. Realization strikes her, and she looks at me, her eyes plead with mine. I get all awkward because I don't know what to do. I don't even know what to say. She tells Ann to leave us alone for some time, a smile plastered on her face. After that, she sits down with a sigh and does not say anything for around five minutes.

"So you told her?" she asks me looking so beaten and weathered, I could've hugged her tightly just then, but I don't.

"Told Ann, you mean? About what?" I ask, genuinely confused.

"That I am.. dying.." she says it in a way that it convinces me that even she has not accepted it yet.
"No, I didn't. I assumed she knew. Wait.. she doesn't?" I exclaim in surprise.

"No. No, she doesn't." she says, not bothering to give me an explanation, as usual.

"Wait, Shar, why does she not know? Why didn't you tell her? You told me!"

"Sam, you don't know, okay. Never mind."

"Listen, I came all the way to your house to know. To try and understand for once, and you aren't even trying!"

She seems to surrender and she sighs, and then she takes a long breath and lets it all out.

"Nick left us when Ann was four. Since then, I've been her only pillar.. and, I don't know how she'll react to this. I've read about teenagers going into depression and never coming out. Drugs and booze. It's a bad world out there, Sam. I don't want to leave her. I guess, but not telling her, I didn't have to face the fact that I was dying and I could.. ignore it. So, I thought maybe if I ignored it long enough, it would change.."

This was role reversal. I was always the one who would expect things to change just by my belief. This was a first for Sharon. She always thought that unless we worked for something, we'd never get it. Which, is practical. But I can never think that way. So that way, she always helped me out when I overreacted to a problem..

"But, wait. Don't you think she deserves to know, Sharon? She is a strong girl, you know. Stronger than you think she is. Maybe she'll understand. She will hate it, but she'll have to understand, right? There's no other way.." I say with bitterness in my voice. Perhaps that bitterness is for me. For wasting away Time. Time that is so precious that we don't even realize how fast He has travelled till He's almost out of our sight. His path is a straight line, and it ends beyond infinity, so He never comes back to us. His cousins drop by, but they're all different. They belong to different phases of our lives. But this particular one, he never comes back. Not even if we beg him, bribe him, plead him to. He doesn't. It's a hollow feeling to know that. But this time, I don't push my thoughts away.

"Sharon, I am really sorry. I hope you know that." I whisper, suddenly letting go of all the burden that I have carried all along. In this one moment. Letting go of the fear, anxiety, hatred, depression and all else that have made me regret who I was, who I am.

She looks up at me, blinking her eyes because she doesn't know why she's crying. Maybe it's because she knows she can't hide from things. It was never her way to do what she did. Maybe it's because I've come back to her and she knew all along that I would, one day. Maybe it's because we'll spend her last moments together, just like we promised we always would. Maybe it's because she knows that even if she's not here anymore, I will still look out for her daughter. Or maybe, it's because she has finally accepted it and these are the tears of Acceptance. Maybe it's because of all the above and the turmoil of emotions that have risen inside of her.
How do I know all that? I know her too well. Still. So it's not a surprise when she lifts her arms and pulls me in for a long embracing hug, that promises to bridge a huge gap of fourteen years in one go. A little hard to pull of, but it's possible, isn't it?

The End

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