Flip or Free

Flip or Free

“Coffee?” He asked and I decided to celebrate my freedom.

“Yes, please,” I answered and rummaged the innards of my tote bag. My hand hit the bottom and there it was, taking refuge inside the torn lining. I showed no mercy in snatching it and handing the culprit over to the man who was waiting expectantly. 

“Good riddance, Sumi!” I heard her. Was it sarcasm? I wasn’t too sure.

I took, the paper cup from the vendor’s hand, and smiled but he had already lost interest in me. 

The train would be here soon. I had made my choice. No one would stop me now. No, not even Anu.

 I looked around. Many prying eyes confronted me. I knew Anu had many accomplices. I moved away.

 A lone bench invited me to the farthest corner of the railway platform. I sat down. For no reason today I was missing my mother.

 I could never match up with my widowed mother’s ideals. They sounded so hollow to my ears. I had stopped listening to her a long time ago. Anu had told me, mother didn’t care.

It was only Anu with whom I could share my fantasies. “Slow down.” She would laugh at my nonstop chattering. She and I had nothing in common apart from being identical in appearance but she kept me under control. She taught me my favorite game. ‘Flip the Coin and Decide.’ She and I always made our choices by flipping the coin. It was so much fun. At least in the beginning. 

Mother’s watchful eyes were always following me but Anu knew how to deceive them. She and I were inseparable till that fateful day when mother brought home an ugly man with bloodshot eyes and unkempt hair. “Sumi, come here.” She called.

“Go. Don’t worry, I am right behind you.” Anu whispered. 

“Baba, please cure my daughter.” I heard her pleading as I entered the room. She quickly wiped her moist eyes and beckoned me. “Touch his feet.” I obeyed. His stern looks scared me. I looked behind. Anu had disappeared. Baba must have seen her for his face contorted in anger. Suddenly my ears were whirring and my cheeks burned. He kept on hitting me. “Where are you hiding? Come out.” He yelled at Anu. I looked at my mother accusingly. “Anu is right. You want to kill us.” I screamed.

A tea hawker broke my reverie by noisily clanking on his kettle, trying to catch my attention. He stopped and looked at me closely, challenging my lone presence. I knew I was in danger. I opened my tote bag and looked for the coin. “Again?”  Her disapproval was evident. I ignored her.

I found one and wasted no time in flipping it. It left me with no choice. I picked up my bag to return.

 The afternoon sun’s hostile glare blinded me for a moment as I came out of the railway station.  Someone tapped on my shoulder. 

“Madam, can I drop you in my auto-rickshaw?” He countered my suspicious looks with a smile. I nodded and followed him.

He pointed towards a shiny, brand new auto rickshaw. I was about to step in when I saw her.   I was completely immobilized. 

I heard my mother whispering softly. “Were you trying to run away like the last time?  Remember, you forgave me for calling that exorcist. I can never forgive myself for causing you so much pain.” Her words brought back many bitter memories. 

I stood there, shaking my head. I couldn’t breathe. A scream escaped my lips. Someone caught me from behind as I fell unconscious.

I opened my eyes in the hospital. A torrent of memories was floating around. Overwhelmed, I began to cry bitterly.

“Sumi, I am here, my child. Don’t worry. Look who is here. You remember Dr.Raghu? You passed the test today.”

“Ma.” I mumbled.

“This is great progress. In the last two years, this is the first time, she acknowledged your presence.” Dr.Raghu’s voice sounded familiar.

I looked at her. My mother was smiling at me. I clung to her. She held me tight, mumbling reassurances. I felt safe. 

“Sumi, I am proud of you. You chose to return.” Dr. Raghu explained. Remember you did not kill your twin sister. It was an accident.  You deserve to be free from guilt and lead your life happily.” 

I let the coin slip from my fist. I chose to be free.
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