Blossom looked a bit creepy with only one of her eyes in place. I had tried searching for her missing eye everywhere, but all in vain. Maybe I can untie her braided hair and pull them in front of her face, covering the missing eye.
It started raining while I was combing Blossom’s hair. As the petrichor hit my senses, I couldn’t stop myself from rushing towards the balcony. The fiber sheet mounted on the roof was preventing the rain from falling on the balcony, but I could hear the sound and enjoy the slightly chilly breeze running through my hair. For a moment, I forgot that daddy wasn’t home yet and began humming my favorite song.
Life’s like a road that you travel on
When there’s one day here and the next day gone
Sometimes you bend and sometimes you stand
A sudden lightning accompanied by a thundering sound startled me and I rushed back inside. My heart was thumping loud. I wrapped the blanket around me and picked up Blossom, embracing her close to my heart. Why couldn’t it rain without lightning? Why did nature conjoin such a beautiful thing as rain with the terrifying lightning?
I picked up my bottle and began sipping the water. It calmed me down and my breathing muted down to normal levels.
I looked around me. The walls were empty except a wall clock facing my bed and an abstract wall painting above my bed. Daddy had told me that it was a child sleeping on half a moon. I couldn’t fathom the explanation because all I could see were sharp random lines with pastel splatters. It was supposed to bring me good dreams, he had said.
We used to have a full-length mirror in my room and a couple of photo collages prior to the accidental fire that broke into our house three months back. Apparently, daddy had forgotten to turn off the knob on the stove. The horrifying accident was still fresh in my mind. Mama and I had returned home after my dance class. I was feeling hungry and had asked her to make me pancakes. A little spark is all that was needed. With a loud blast, the fire had swathed both of us. It had caught my skirt first and before I could do anything, the flames had enveloped my entire body. I couldn’t see anything and soon my skin was burning. I kept shrieking in pain as blisters appeared on my arms and legs, but so was mama. Luckily, a neighbor had called in. The fire department had arrived and we were taken to a nearby hospital.
I had been admitted for weeks. Daddy was always by my side, but under all the medication and painkillers I was usually in partial consciousness only. I could hardly remember anything except how he had kissed me each time the IV was changed or I writhed in pain. However, mama never came to see me. Daddy told me that she had also suffered grave burns like me and was constantly under observation.
On a certain day, he told me that I was allowed to go home and I was happy. While bringing me back, he told me how mama had fought courageously before leaving the world. Several of her organs had been damaged in the fire. The doctors had done everything they could, but it wasn’t enough to save her.
The first thing he did after reaching home; he shattered all the mirrors. More than half of my face was burnt in the fire and he did not want me to look into the mirror. “It will get better with time, I promise,” he had said, kissing my head.
I had mourned relentlessly for mama. It was difficult to adjust to the new routine. She was the one waking me up every morning and dressing me for the school. She packed my lunch and waited for me outside the school in the afternoon. She helped me with my homework and read bedtime stories for me. With her gone, daddy had taken up all the responsibilities. He told me that the doctors had suggested rest for a few months and therefore, there was no school. He let me sleep till late and prepared whatever I wanted for breakfast. We watched my favorite cartoons and movies together. Sometimes, we also played hide and seek in the house. I would often remember mama and cry, but he always held me close and gave me strength. At night, he stayed beside me until I was asleep.
The walls were now empty and the soot on them could still be noticed. “We would get it painted again,” daddy had assured. I missed mama, but I had one of her pictures beneath my pillow. Every night before closing my eyes, I looked at her pretty face and kissed her. Daddy would kiss my forehead in return. The daily ritual helped me feel that we were still together.
The pendulum of the clock gonged and brought me out of my reverie. I noticed the time and it made me anxious. It was 11 pm and daddy hadn’t come home yet. He was not his usual self in the morning. It had all begun with the phone call in the morning. Right from the moment, he had kept the receiver down, he was restless. I had tried asking him about it, but he hadn’t reverted with a satisfying answer.
Before leaving the house, which he rarely did now, he had made me my favorite pancakes and banana shake with chocolate chips. He had kissed my forehead, which was mandatory, but there was something different in his eyes this time. They were wet.
Almost twelve hours had passed now. It was getting late enough to be worried. I once again stepped into the balcony and looked down. Except for a drenched street dog that was lying down miserably near the gate, there was not a soul to be seen anywhere. Rainwater had puddled under the lamp post. A breeze ruffled the mango tree in the courtyard and a few twigs fell down and broke. Thunder rumbled in the distance. Did I hear a soft knock at the door? I turned back.
I waited for a while and saw the doorknob turning. If I hadn’t been standing on the balcony, I wouldn’t be alarmed. Daddy always used the front door to enter the house. In fact, after the accident, the back door had never been used. Who could it be? I closed the sliding door and stood behind the wall. Someone entered the room and when I peeked inside, it wasn’t daddy. I couldn’t see the face, but the stature was short, about half a foot shorter than him. I closed my mouth with my hand to limit any noise, but the lights of the room were on and even a fool would have turned straight to the balcony after finding no one in the brightly lit room.
I looked down the balcony. The fall was fifteen feet steep and I was sure I wouldn’t survive that. I looked around myself and couldn’t find anything that could be used as a weapon except a small pot with two roses blooming in all their glory. I tiptoed towards the pot and picked it up stealthily before returning back. My throat was dry by then and my heart was ready to burst out of my chest. The cold wind was not helping either. Lightning thundered again, but I managed to keep calm by biting my hand with my teeth. I was ready and determined to hit the intruder with all the strength I had. The door slid open and I gripped the pot firmly in anticipation.
Before I could throw the pot, I heard my name being called. It wasn’t my name that surprised me, but the voice. It was my mama’s voice.
She stepped on the balcony and noticed me standing dazed with a flower pot in my hand. I noticed her face. The pinkish tint suggested that a major part of her face was still recovering from severe burns. For a moment, she was flabbergasted as well and then I noticed a pool of tears brimming her eyes. She rushed towards me and picked me up, hugging me firmly in her arms. “Mama,” I cried, hugging her back. I could not understand anything, but I was happy and my emotions began flowing freely through my eyes.
“Mama, where were you? I missed you so much. Daddy told me you died. I hate him for lying to me. I missed you, mama. I-,”
“Shhhh… I’ll answer all your questions. But you’ll have to be brave, my love. I can’t believe, you’re in my arms. Let me kiss you.” She kissed my head, my cheeks, and my forehead repeatedly. I let her caress my back as I stayed embraced in her arms. “I can’t tell you how many times I had wished I could hug you again.” The bellowing weather had no effect on me now. I knew I was safe in her arms.
Ten minutes later, we were sitting in my room. Mama’s eyes were a bit swollen and red with all the crying. “You are my strong baby, aren’t you?” she asked rhetorically. I nodded. “I don’t know how to tell you this and therefore, I have decided to show it to you instead. Just wait for me and remember, your mama is here with you… And she believes you will handle the truth bravely.”
I was dumbfounded when she left the room, but she emerged almost immediately with something in her hand. With tears flowing freely down her cheeks, she flipped the object and I noticed it was a mirror. I screamed at what I saw in the mirror.
I couldn’t see myself. The mirror was facing me and I could see the bed I was sitting on, but not me. I jumped up to my feet and snatched the mirror from her hand. I was invisible. I picked up Blossom and found her suspended in the air in the reflection. The world began spinning around me as the realization hit me.
“The doctors could not save you, my love,” Mama said. “I always blamed your dad because it was his carelessness that had snatched you away from me.”
“But you can see me,” I cried, wiping tears from my eyes.
“Because your soul stayed. It’s something I cannot understand and beyond science, but your soul stayed. Your dad told me and I called him crazy. I thought he was living in a delusion. I drove here yesterday because I felt I could help him move ahead in life, but while I was parking my car, I saw him talking to you on the balcony. You were right there in front of my eyes and I was shocked. I didn’t know what to do. It was too much for me to process and so I drove back. I spent the entire night thinking about it and reached a conclusion that hurt me more than I could bear. Your dad has restricted his life around your soul. Maybe, it is his unconditional love and grief that has held you back. However, it is unnatural and therefore, I decided that you need to go. As much as it pangs my heart while saying this, you must go, love. Your soul belongs in heaven. Your dad has left his job and he does not want to stay away from you. He does not want to move on, which is why he hid the truth from you.” She began sobbing loudly, turning her face away from me. “But I needed to meet you first,” she added, looking back at me. “To hold you close to my heart.”
“Where’s daddy?” I asked in a hoarse voice.
“I locked him in my car,” she said.
“Can I meet him?”
She took out the keys from her pocket. “Of course, darling. I just needed to talk with you alone and-”
I grabbed the keys and rushed towards the back door before she could complete. The truth had been laid open. I was dead. Even though I couldn’t believe it, I was dead.
He lifted me in his arms the moment I opened the car. “Don’t listen to your mother, sweetheart. You belong with me. I love you!” His voice was trembling and I could feel his tears on my neck.
“I love you too, daddy!”
Mama had come running after me. She stood at the door for a while before rushing towards us and hugging us both. I thought daddy would ask her to stay away, but surprisingly, he didn’t mind at all. It was a perfect moment. All of us were together under a moonlit sky. At that instant, I made my decision.
“I’m so lucky to be here right now,” I broke the silence. “I’m so lucky to tell you both how much I love you. I’m so lucky to be in your arms before I said goodbye to you for the last time,” I added.
“No! Don’t even think about it,” daddy retaliated, releasing me from his arms and cupping my face.
“It’s alright daddy. I’m happy. Though I would have loved to spend a lot more years with you, to look at you hiding your tears as I walked down the aisle in the future and to see you being kiddish while playing with your grandkids, I believe it wasn’t meant to be. At least, not in this life. I absolutely cherish the past few months spent with you, but this is not real. It’s not natural.”
Mama was crying profusely now with her hand covering her mouth. I could still hear her whimper. Daddy was blankly staring at me.
“I want you both to be together. Please don’t let an accident ruin what you shared because it was beautiful and made me proud. Can you promise me that?” Every passing second, it was getting harder for me to speak without breaking apart.
Mama was the first to push her hand towards daddy’s. He looked at her and then at me before holding her hand.
“Always,” he said.
“Always,” she repeated.
There was a brief moment of silence where we just looked into each other’s eyes with tears blurring our vision and then, I began walking away from them. As I did, I noticed my body turning into glittery golden particles gradually. For one last time, I looked back at them. They were staring at me. Their eyes were streaming, but their arms were around each other. I felt happy. I was moving away from the mortal world; from the people I loved, but I was extremely happy. Maybe, it wasn’t daddy’s love or grief that had held me back. My soul had another purpose and I had realized it at that moment.