Ties that bind

Ties that bind

A Story by Nwang

Ties that bind

 

“Thomas, are we there yet?” asked Megan. Her voice unenthusiastic and her eyes looking bored.


“We will reach there in ten minutes, fifteen tops,” I said trying to sound eager. “You can finally meet with Grandma and Aunt Tina.”


“I’m bored,” she said looking out of the car window, watching the houses as we drove past them.


Last night when I had told her that we were going to visit her grandmother she had been over the moon. She had woken up an hour early, and in her excitement she had woken me up too. When we had started the journey she was all smiles and full of energy. After sitting in the same spot for two hours, her energy seemed drained and she looked sore and glum. Maybe it is the same with every six-year-old everywhere. They go ‘woo’ one moment and go ‘boo’ the next.


My mother lived in a large house, detached from the town. She had lived there alone since my father had passed away last year. My father had been in an accident eight years ago which had left him paralyzed from the waist down. My mother had worked day and night taking care of him, till he finally died last year from a heart attack.


I never liked my father very much; he was a domineering man who cared more about social presentation than he did about his family. So when he had passed away I was not sad. My younger sister Tina had chastised me over the fact that I had not shed one tear or told one apologetic word during his funeral. One would call my behavior cruel or even ungrateful, but death is not a surprise package that only a few receive, it happens to everyone. Death is a part of life; if you live you die, so I find it pointless to be sad over death. It’s just like falling asleep, and maybe the dream is better on the other side.


My mother felt otherwise; she fell into depression after my father’s death and started drinking heavily. Maybe all the incidents of the past couple of years were finally catching up to her. Tina became worried about mom’s situation and told me that we should convince mom to sell the house, and move in with either one of us. When I told mom about the plan she had been furious. She told me how ungrateful I was to not respect the hard work put in by my parents in building the house, and cruel in my part to even think of selling the place I had called home for the earlier part of my life. In turn of the events Tina and I had decided to visit mom often, that is once every month.


We had finally reached our destination, judging from the red Chevy parked in front of me, Tina had already arrived. I stopped my engine and said, “Megan we are here.”

Her exhausted eyes suddenly began to sparkle, and the smile that I had seen that morning returned to her face.


“Tom?” I heard my mother call my name.


She was standing in front of the yard wearing her favorite grey sweater. I got out of the car, walked towards her and pulled her into a hug.


“I missed you,” she said hugging me back.


“I missed you too.”


“Oh, if it isn’t little Megan!” she exclaimed happily as her eyes fell on her grandchild. “My you have grown since I last saw you.”


“I have been eating my veggies,” Megan said triumphantly.


As I watched the interaction between grandmother and grandchild, I could not help but smile. My mother had always been the sea of affection; raising three children when her husband was rarely home must have been a tough job, raising Megan I could feel her predicament. My mom had never left us with anything lacking and we never felt the absence of our father.


“Are you coming Tom?” my mother asked.


“I need to get the bags. You can take Megan inside.”


She nodded and held Megan’s hand as she led her inside.


“Grandma has made your favorite food today.” I heard mom say as they disappeared behind the door.


I turned towards my car and saw Sarah leaning on its side. Seeing her beautiful and smiling face, I could not help but smile.


“Ma has never looked so happy,” remarked Sarah.


“Of course she would be happy. Her son is finally home,” I joked, opening the trunk to take out the luggage.


Sarah let out a giggle and playfully slapped my arm. “She is growing up very fast,” she said thoughtfully.


“Who?” I asked.


“Megan.”


“She reminds me of you every day.”


Sarah smiled and kissed my cheek. “Welcome home baby brother.”

          

                                                                                   ****

After keeping my bags in the room I went to look for Tina. I went to her room but she was not there, so I decided to wait for her in the living room downstairs. I was going down the stairs when I heard the bathroom click open. Tina exited the bathroom, she did not notice me as she was busy talking over her cell phone.


“Tell that b*****d I will see him Monday,” she shouted angrily into her phone.


“Language. We have kinds in the house,” I said trying to sound stern.


Tina yelped in surprise as she took notice of me.

“I will call you back later,” she said into her phone and disconnected the call. “Tommy when did you arrive?” she squealed giving me a crushing hug.


“Just now,” I said rubbing my back. Either my sister was getting stronger or I was getting weaker. Anyways, I think I needed to start hitting the gym.


“So how have you been?” she asked animatedly.


“We talk on the phone almost every day,” I groaned.


“But talking to you when you are physically present is totally different. You look thin have you been eating properly.”


I had a strong urge to slap myself on the face. “Megan and I just eat fine.”


“By the way where is the little squirt?”


“She is in the kitchen with mom.”


“Probably waiting there to meet her favorite aunt,” she said with a grin.


As we walked to the kitchen Tina spoke rapidly, updating me about her life. I did not pay much attention to her but nodded every now and then to make her believe I was listening.


Tina’s ramblings suddenly stopped when Megan crashed into her, encircling her hands around her waist. 


“Aunt Tina!” shrieked Megan. Her smile spreading from cheek to cheek.


Hey there little squirt,” said Tina with a smile on her face. “Did you grow shorter? Last time I saw you were a lot bigger.”


Megan huffed. “Thomas says I grew this much,” said Megan, signaling with her little fingers.


I laughed watching the exchange between them. Tina had always been the fun one among us siblings. Maybe being the youngest she had to be something different from her elder siblings. Sarah my elder sister had always been the firm, motherly one whereas, I was the nerdy, idiotic one. She must have realized that a funny, prankster was needed to complete the family.


While we were growing up, my sisters and I had always been a close-knit bundle. Sarah was two years older than me and Tina four years younger, but our age gap did not seem to matter and we always remained best friends. Even when we hit our teens our relationship never faltered, the sibling rivalry and awkwardness never came in between our relationship.


When my father had passed away last year things had been very tough for our family. At a time when emotions seemed to be running high, Tina had stood up to the occasion. Given the situation mom was in Tina took over the role of the mother in the family. The way she had handled things had surprised me. The little sister who cried every day when she had to go to school had now grown up to become such a fine woman.


I signaled to Tina that I was going out for a smoke. Leaving Megan in her care I walked out to the backyard. The sky was a sullen grey, obscuring the sun so that the light was heavy and diffused. I reached inside my jacket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. I took one from the pack and lit it. As the smoke hit my lungs, I finally felt relaxed.


“Those things will kill you.” I heard Sarah say from my side. I let out a chuckle thinking of the irony of her words.


“Don’t laugh. I am being serious.”


I gave her a knowing smile. “I will quit one of these days.”


“You better start from today,” she said in a commanding voice, her hands on her hips. “You are taking care of Megan now. Have you ever thought of the impact your smoking might have on her.”


Sarah, always the authoritative one. I took her hand into mine; it felt like touching the breeze on a cold autumn afternoon. “I miss you.”


“I miss you too.”


I felt a few drops of rain land on my hand, I looked up and saw the sky was covered by sinister looking clouds. I turned back to Sarah but she had already disappeared.

                                  

                                                                                       ****

The rain had come down the whole afternoon. The roads, the trees; the flowers, the birds, all drenched as the heavens poured upon them.


We were all holed up inside the house and I was hoping that it would be a nice quiet afternoon, but Megan had other plans. Her antics had kept all of us busy and by the time she was tired it was already time for dinner. She is a wonderful child, but sometimes I wish she was less active. I think mom and Tina also realized how handful she can be.


After dinner I was helping Tina clean up the kitchen, mom had grabbed her drink and had gone to the living room to look after Megan, who was busy playing with Max, our cat. I had wondered where that cat had disappeared all day, I inwardly cursed him for not showing up earlier, he could have saved me a lot of trouble as Megan would have been busy with him.


“Mom has been drinking again,” Tina said in a low voice.


“She drinks a glass of wine every time after dinner,” I said nonchalantly.


Tina raised an eyebrow at me. Her face saying ‘I know that stupid.’ “I found a couple of empty liquor bottles behind the shelf.” Her attention back on the task at hand.


I turned my head and looked at mom. She was sitting on the sofa, the glass of wine in her hand, her eyes staring into nothingness. At that moment my heart-felt a slight wrench, I felt like I was stuck in a void and time had stopped moving. I turned away trying to get rid of the feeling and quickly started drying the plates.


“So?” Tina asked.


I simply shrugged. “Whatever keeps her happy.”


Tina dropped the plate she was washing. “What the hell is wrong with you?” she said angrily. Her face perfectly matching the tone of her voice.


“What do you want me to say?” I asked blankly.


“I just want you to show a little bit of concern d****t.” She smashed her fist on a plate breaking it into pieces.


“Is everything all right there?” cried my mother from the living room.


“Fine,” I quickly replied.


I noticed that Tina’s knuckles had begun to bleed. I quickly grabbed the first-aid kit from the cabinet and started to tend to her wounds.


“If you keep distancing yourself from us you will lose everyone,” she said with concern in her voice.


“I will never lose Megan.”


“She still calls you Thomas for god sake.”


“So what is wrong with that?” I said bandaging her wound.


She lifted my head and brought my eyes in line with hers. “She is not Sarah, Tom.”


The few moments of silence between us was undefinable. A wave of emotions rushed through me, my mind was in a haze. I suddenly blurted out. “And you are not her either.” 


I could swear that I saw the colors of her face change. First it turned crimson, followed by purple and finally pale white. I saw her raising her hand and felt a sting when her hand connected with my right cheek.


“Do you think you were the only one affected by Sarah’s death,” she said angrily. “Megan was four when she lost her mother. Mom was devastated. I was devastated. But we held our own. You are not the only one who lost someone they loved.”


The corner of her eyes were brimming with tears threatening to flow, the anger in her face had vanished and was replaced by a veil of sadness. I knew I had wronged her but I could not find any words to reciprocate that thought so, I simply stood up and left.


Things had not been the same after Sarah’s departure. Everyone in my family had been struck by grief. My father’s health started deteriorating more. Mom started drinking, and Tina became more serious. It was like the people I knew disappeared in a day. I was depressed and angry, the changes were happening too quickly. On the day of Sarah’s funeral, unable to cry I watched them bury my sister. My best friend, the woman that had meant the world to me. At that moment Megan had clutched my hand. Sweet little Megan, the only thing that was left of my sister. The innocent girl who never knew her father was watching her mother be buried under the cold dark ground. I wanted Megan unchanged, I wanted to preserve her smile. I knew what I had to do.


My thoughts broke when I realized that I was standing in the front yard. The sky never looked clearer and the stars never shined any brighter. The drops of water on the blades of grass sparkled under the moonlight.


I reached inside my pocket and pulled out a cigarette. 


“The night looks beautiful,” said Sarah standing beside me.


I sighed. I took a drag from the burning cigarette. “Do you think trying to replace you with Megan?”


She did not reply, instead she laid down in the wet grass and started gazing at the sky. “Lie next to me.”


“It’s wet.”


“Come on, it will not kill you,” she insisted. 


I lay down next to her, feeling the dampness of the ground quickly spreading through my back.


“Do you remember when we were kids? We used to lie down just like this and look at the stars,” she said dreamily.


I remembered those times very well. Once they had been pleasant memories, now they woke me up in haunted dreams. “You used to say that if one listened carefully they could hear voices from the stars.”


She nodded. “When you are lost in the darkness of the night. Listen carefully the stars will tell you the way,” she said in a mesmerized voice.


“Sarah…”


She put a finger on my lips. “This night is beautiful Thomas. So just for tonight let us look at the stars and talk about nothing.”


I looked up at the sky. A few clouds were still scattered on its face, and the half-moon was shining brilliantly. The night sky still had the bluish tinge that I recalled from my dreams, and the stars still held their place.


“You will catch a cold if you continue to lie there.” I heard Tina’s voice say.

Not removing my gaze from the beautiful view in front of me I asked, “Have you ever thought about the reason Sarah killed herself?”


Tina did not reply. Her silence telling me that she was not comfortable.


“I think about it sometimes. I come to conclusion. Then forget about it and start all over again.” I stood up from the ground and extinguished my cigarette. I moved up to Tina and gently squeezed her shoulders. “You are a very brave girl Tina. You have fought on when everyone was down. Even though you had your own scars, you have not let that take over you. You have grown into a great woman. I am proud of you. Mom is proud of you. Sarah is definitely proud of you.” 


Tina’s eyes were brimming with tears as she smiled. “Well you have been a lousy brother.”


“I will admit I was a bit lost,” I said sheepishly.


She hugged my tight and buried her face in my chest. “Don’t get lost again,” she muttered.


“If I do. I know that you will find me.”


The night felt immense just like I was in a dream. I was lost in the darkness when I heard voices crying out my name. Just like Sarah had told me, the stars were showing me the way. I knew I had to listen and find my way home, but deep down I felt that I wanted to be lost in the darkness for a little while more.

 

 

 


© 2016 Nwang



Author's Note

Nwang
An idea that was in my head for a while had to write it down. Constructive criticism always appreciated and please review.

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Very nice.... I almost felt Sarah was there :). And very nicely done..
It's beautiful how even after the passage of your loved ones they guide you... you should be publishing your work :) maybe the book you are working on...

Posted 10 Months Ago


Nwang

10 Months Ago

Thank you for your wonderful review. But I still think that I am a little green in my work. But than.. read more

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Added on November 25, 2016
Last Updated on November 26, 2016

Author

Nwang
Nwang

kolkata, west bengal, India



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"When you can't change the world and you don't want to change yourself. The only thing you can do is create a new world." I write to express myself, my views and my opinions. So this is my world. .. more..

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