Lost!

I knew this would change everything - but I just stood there transfixed - I felt helpless.


It was a weird, out-of-control, out-of-body experience, with my brain screaming away.


Do something!

But I just watched, and waited…..

What are you waiting for? Do something, you idiot!


Normally, I have a lot of respect for the voice in my head. But this time it was over-reaching itself. There was no call to be rude. I was just 12 years old, just out of junior school, and just so transfixed with the in-just-ice of it all! How was I to know how to react?


Throw up! Scream! Anything!


Nah uh! I wasn’t made of such stern stuff. I simply didn’t have the guts. That was my mother, for crying out loud! Sobbing all over the very crumpled collar of a very handsome, very lean man!


I immediately knew things were never going to be the same. This would most certainly change everything, but I was paralyzed from the toes up.


I didn’t want to be the one to ‘find’ out. I was no good at that sort of thing. I would rather be an ostrich.


Show yourself now or for ever be silenced!


Silence….

Yeah! That was more my style. Like skulking around in dark corners instead of coming out in the open and speaking my mind.


I’d been like that for ever. Ever since I discovered my father had abandoned us. He didn’t even know I existed, apparently.

It did something to my confidence, though I never admitted it to anyone. Not even my mother knew that I knew.


But it had irrevocably changed me. From a bubbly eight year old who believed her father had died gloriously just months before she was born, I had become a recluse, an abandoned child.


My mother thought her baby was growing up. I could tell she imagined I was getting secretive and quiet just like adolescent girls are supposed to be. But I was broken, shattered. Why had she lied? More than him, it was she - whom I adored – that had hurt me.


Your father was in the Army. He died trying to save his country.

Why did she have to lie? How could she defend a deserter?


I hated my aunt Gogo for a long, long time after she told me. She said I was old enough to know the truth. She said, since my mum saw fit to pretend, it was up to her to tell me. I hated what she told me and I hated her too. Illogical of me, I know.


When I refused to believe her, she stumped me with evidence.

Why do you think nobody from your father’s family has ever visited?

That stopped me cold. Aunt Gogo had to be right!

Unlike my friends, I had no dada, dadi, chacha, taya, and no cousins from my father’s side!


The proof was irrefutable. Why hadn’t I ever noticed?

Aunt Gogo stopped visiting after that. She was my mother’s best friend, but I figured she felt she had done her duty and could move on.


Before this, my biggest fear had been whether acne would strike me this year or the next. Now it was replaced by that of losing my mother.


Suddenly I didn’t have a charmed life any more. I had been abandoned once. What if my mother wanted to get married again? What if my step-dad sent me off to boarding school?


This morning I had woken with a sense of foreboding and now my fears were all coming true!


For days now my mum had been absent minded, her eyes misty, and she kept jumping at sudden noises. I thought she was working up the courage to tell me something. Every time she would start and then change the subject. My senses were on high alert for the last few days.


So I awoke with dread in my heart, and that’s when I heard her crying!

I ran downstairs in my bare feet, heart thudding. And stopped short at the sight that met my eyes.


I stood for a while, transfixed, feeling helpless. Then I slid, defeated, to sit just out of sight on a step. It had happened. It was curtains for me! I would be banished for sure.


I peeped around the banister and found my mum kissing the man’s neck, and face, and ... eew ... his lips.


He held her in his arms, and lifted her up, kissing her gently as if she was the most precious thing in the world.

It was disgusting to say the least.


Then he made for the stairs, carrying my mum as if she were a feather. The voice in my head barely managed to utter a squeak of warning.

It was too late. I was discovered.


I expected embarrassment, consternation, even an angry reprimand from the man. Instead he melted into tears! Gently, he set my mum down, and sat down a step below me, caressing me with his eyes. I should have hated it, but it made my bones melt.


He must be the devil, I thought.

The voice in my head was struck dumb, so I had to do my own thinking.

He must be the Devil. He has hypnotized both my mum and me.


Peachie, my mum whispered. This is daddy!


A considerable time later I knew everything.

His body had never been found. He had been a prisoner-of-war all these years, locked up in a nameless jail in a soulless country.


He and others like him had been discovered quite by accident by a newspaper reporter, and intense negotiations had begun for their release.


My mum had read in the papers that ‘some’ soldiers were being brought back but the army couldn’t confirm their identity till they actually got their hands on the men.


So my poor mum had been on tenterhooks. She had wanted to share the news with me, but couldn’t risk me losing a father twice, if it turned out he was not amongst the returning men.


And aunt Gogo?

She and my mum had fought over something and the 'best friend' decided to get even.


My mum was shocked at first, but says to forgive her - she has had a hard life and that has made her bitter. Thank God my mum didn’t turn bitter - she has had the hardest life ever!


And why don’t I have relatives from my father’s side?

Because they disowned him when he married my mum.


Hah!

You should see them swarm all over him now. And over my mum, but especially over me. Seems they don’t want to lose a son, and a bahu, and a granddaughter, twice over in the same lifetime!


I knew this would change everything and it did!

I no longer skulk in the shadows! I talk, and I sing, and I dance! I'm no longer lost....



Author note: this story was originally published on Sulekha.com where I used to blog as Seeingeye