I still remembered the first time we entered this house. My parents had built it after my father’s retirement. This house, had seen us through so many joyous occasions. My parents fiftieth wedding anniversary, my sister’s wedding, my niece’s first birthday. This house was always some place I could come and be happy. Never before had it been so unwelcoming.
There was this time when my sister was working in some other city and I was staying with my parents. One day my sister called me and said “You remember , you met my colleagues the last time you had come to visit me?”
“Yeah, what about them?” I was wondering which direction the conversation was heading.
“Well, one of them asked me to marry him.”
I had burst out laughing then and asked her “What did you say?”. I was fully expecting her to burst out laughing too.
“I said yes.”
“You said what???” I was stunned.
“I said Yes.” I could hear her smiling over the phone. “I’m getting married!”
And that had been it. Within a month, my sister was married. How happy we all had been that day.
Coincidently, it would have been their tenth wedding anniversary today, but there was no celebration this year.
I don’t know how long I stood there.
“You came..” The spell broken, I looked around. My mother was standing in front of me. She looked tired beyond her years. I put down my bags and walked into her open arms.
“I wasn’t sure you would come.” She said.
“I had to.” My mother nodded as though she understood. But how could she? How could she know what I was feeling.
“Are you eating properly? You look thin.” I smiled. Despite everything that had happened, my mother’s questions were the same.
“I’m fine ma.. How are you and dad?”
“Getting along. You should visit us more often. We are old folks now.” My mother was trying to make me feel guilty for not visiting her. And it was working.
“I know. I wanted to.. But something came up.”
“Something always does.”
I was struggling to ask the question, I didn’t want to know the answer.
“Pia?” My mum asked, “Poor kid, doesn’t talk much nowadays, doesn’t go out to play. Her teachers say she doesn’t interact with anyone in class. I’m worried.”
“She’ll be fine..” I tried to reassure my mum, but I didn’t believe she was going to be fine.. I was 24 and I still wasn’t fine, how could I expect a eight year old to be fine.
“Where is she?” I wanted to see her, I wanted to hold her and apologize to her for deserting her when she needed me the most.
“She might not want to meet you.” My mum was pretty blunt about it.
“I’ll take my chances.”
I went looking for Pia.
She was so tiny the first time I saw her. An exact replica of my sister. I remember not wanting to hold her, because she looked so delicate. My sister had laughed at me then and taught me exactly how to hold her. And I had. Pia was just two months old then and she had wrapped her fist around my finger. I still have that picture on my desk at work. With the three of us smiling into the camera.
I opened the door to what used to be my room. Pia was sitting at the far end of the room. She didn’t turn around.
“Pia?” I called.
She turned suddenly, her eyes wide open in surprise. Then she saw me and the spark in her eyes disappeared. She got up and stood there looking at me.
“Pia..” I said again.
She took one step towards me and then hesitated.
Was she going to run away from me?