He woke up screaming. “Maman…Maman…!” The shrill cries turned into a steady whimpering as he frantically groped for someone in the dark.
A pair of hands reached out and grabbed him before he fell off the bed. “I…I can’t see anything!” The corner lamps sprang into life.
“Maaaamannnn…you are late! AGAIN!” The child wailed. Cradling him in her arms, she rested her tired back against the wall. “I had to finish my chores, baby!” She kissed him.
“Every night …you are late. You know how scared I am of the dark.”
Maman traced her fingers on his forehead. “Calm down. Daddy will fix the star lights tomorrow.”
Clutching her tightly, Avery hid his face in Maman’s hair. He loved the fragrance of her freshly shampooed hair.
“Do you remember me in the middle of your chores?”
There was silence. The little boy could feel the heaviness hanging around him. Maman let out a long, deep sigh. “Darling…Put your head on my chest. Now do you hear something?”
“Yes yes, that’s your heartbeat.”
“Right! You are here…deep inside me. A part of me… Always in my mind. We are two entities inextricably linked forever.”
“Maman, teacher was saying something about a cord….um..um..umlical..”
“Ha ha….umbilical cord?”
“Yes, Yes, Maman. You know… that cord binds us forever.”
“Woah, my intelligent boy! Listen, when you miss me, feel your heart beat. Here….let me show you. That’s me beating inside you. Now lie down next to me and let’s feel each other’s heart beat.”
Little Avery let out a whoop of joy as he felt his heart beat and then his mother’s. “This is so exciting!”
“Now sleep. You have school tomorrow. Let me sing a song – one of your favourites.”
Picking him up, Maman walked around crooning it. She realized that Avery had grown bigger. A child is never too big for his mother, she smiled to herself. Her baby was soon fast asleep.
She put him down gently, pulled the covers around him, tucked his favourite teddy beside him and kissed him on his nose. How he loved these tiny, fluttering kisses! My child…my child…if only…
* * *
In the next room, slept her husband. Curled around the bolster which she loved, he was in deep sleep. Wrinkles around his mouth, deep creases on his forehead – the man had aged in a week. A sharp pang of guilt overtook her, followed by a wave of melancholia.
If only….she had not misunderstood him….If only she had given a thought to her little boy…. If only… She looked out at the Eucalyptus tree. Its slender white branches stood in stark contrast to the darkness around beckoning her just the way it had a week ago.
She hurriedly scribbled a reminder for the lights and floated out. The tree spread out its branches for its sole occupant. Her new abode….her checkpost from where she could keep an eye on her child, on her house and her beloved.
If only…she had not….
* * *
Note: In memory of a young mother we lost two weeks back. She took her life. The if-only’s will keep haunting her and us forever.
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