“And then the sun does a somersault, and suddenly it’s night.”, said Mariah to her daughter Julie, who had just dozed off to her Wonderland.
Closing the story book, she gently kissed Julie on her forehead, got up and closed the door behind her. As she walked down the corridor, tears welled in her eyes.
It was a dark night again. No breeze, no rain. Just bleak emptiness. Emptiness, that would soon engulf Julie’s life. Emptiness, that should never be seen by a child.
Ever since Allen had left them 5 years ago to pursue his dream of becoming an artist, things had gone downhill for Mariah.
Alone in the city of Manchester with a 3 year old, with no home and no money, Mari was fortunate to be taken in by her mom who was still living at their family house in London. Mari shared an estranged relationship with her ever since her marriage to Allen.
Her mom had always been skeptical about Mari’s life choices; when she chose to pursue Arts over Science, her mom kept singing what a bad decision that was; when she chose to move to Manchester to work, her mom grumbled about how bad the decision was. Allen, obviously was not an exception.
“Incorrigible” Allen used to say when asked to describe his mother-in-law. The feelings were obviously mutual. Mari’s mom constantly kept finding fault in anything he did, whether it was regarding how his work didn’t generate enough income or how he doesn’t know to drive a 4-wheeler.
And her opinion of him didn’t turn any sweeter when he left Mari and Julie behind. No day ended without an angry word for Allen.No day ended without a tear from Mari’s swollen blue eyes.
London can be a very irksome place for women. Especially in those dark alleys through which Mari had to walk everyday from her tailor shop, the only source of income for the family. Dirty looks, seering from the eyes of the tramps, seemingly penetrating through, leaving behind a sense of nakedness. Allen’s presence; a man’s security, was one that Mari missed immensely, every second of every day.
Julie had always been dependent on Mari for anything. She’d always tag along, her tiny, pale hand in Mari’s, wherever she went. About a year ago, Mari started getting throbbing headaches, around 4 to 5 times per day. The local doctor diagnosed it as migraine and gave the necessary medication. The pains did not subside; more pills were taken.
Around the same time, Julie she had seen a Disneyland commercial on TV and asked, “Mama! When can we both go to Disneyland? I wanna go!”. “Soon, Jules. Real soon.”, she said giving her a hug. That was when it happened for the first time. Mari’s grip loosened and she fell, limp on the floor. Scared out of her wits, Julie screamed. Her Grammy ran in to see a petrified Julie standing over a motionless Mari.
She was rushed to the hospital nearby. Initial scans revealed a tumour. Further probing stated the dreaded.
Mari was diagnosed with Grade 4 brain cancer, with the malignant growth spreading at a very fast rate. The doctor set her expiry date. 5 more months.
Panic was the first reaction Mari showed. Not because she had just under half a year of life left. The fear that enveloped her mind was, “What about Julie’s future?”
The next few months saw Mari trying to secure Julie’s future as well as keep her happy. Grammy won’t be alive long enough to support Jules and the savings in the back account would not be enough to feed and educate her.
Mari could not afford to work overtime, her cancer wouldn’t let her. She also had to deal with sudden black-outs due to overexertion. Grammy decided to sell all the the woolens she had weaved during her spare time and thus gain some money from that. Since the day Mari was diagnosed, Grammy stopped her nagging. Perhaps she too felt bad for the time spent bickering, time which could have been spent with a smile instead.
One Sunday, with around 1 more month left for Mari, she decided to take Jules to Disneyland. It was a wish Mari wanted to fulfil before the D-Day. Julie had the time of her life, trying out the variety of rides and water games. Mari accompanied her in all the rides. The view from atop the Ferris Wheel, with Julie right beside her, with a wide grin, would be one of her fondest and last happy memory in Mari’s life.
2 weeks later, Mari lapsed into semi-paralysis. She had lost control over her limbs and her condition was deteriorating fast.
“Grammy, why is Mama always in bed?”, asked little Julie. “She is preparing for a long journey now. she needs the rest.”, replied Grammy, holding Jules in her arms.
Lying on the bed, frail and devoid of colour, she watched the minutes tick away. The pain in her head began rising quickly and strongly. She knew it would end soon. She knew it was the day. “Julie. I’m sorry. I wish I could’ve done something for your future. Sorry…”, her mind kept chanting, tears pouring down her cheek.
“Grammy, I wanna play Hide and Seek with Mama!”, Julie’s voice echoed from afar. “Not now Jules. Mama is sleeping now.”, she could hear her mom reply.
Just before midnight, an unexpected visitor rang the doorbell. Julie opened the door to a handsome man in his mid 30s. “I’m Sorry I’m a little.. late. I heard. Had to come.” “Wha..What are you…doing here, Allen?”, asked a stunned Grammy. “Max, your gardener told me about Mari’s… condition.”, a glistening tear slipping from the corner of his eyes.
She led him to Mari’s room. She was breathless and in immense pain. “Mari.”, he said softly, sitting beside her head, holding her head as he used to many years ago. Mari opened her blurred-out eyes to focus on his visage. “Was it a dream? Am I already dead?”, she wondered.
“Allen. Is, is that you?” He smiled. “You.. you rascal. You came!”, she said with a smile and tears in her eyes. “Yes. I couldn’t leave her in emptiness.”, he replied, pointing at Julie.
They shared a kiss. “I love you. And thank you.”, she stuttered.
A gasp and she closed her eyes, one final time.
— — —
“Julie. This is your Dada. His name is Allen.”, Grammy told Julie.
Julie looked up, at him and asked, “Where is Mama?”. “She has gone for a long vacation, Jule. But she’ll always be, in there.”, he said as he rested his palm on her heart.
As he tucked Julie to bed, closing the story book, he said “Julie. Remember, Light and Day is just another sun’s somersault away.”
— — — — —
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