I felt as though a great weight had been lifted off my shoulders. This is what I wanted.. This is what my sister would have wanted me to do.
I spent the rest of my afternoon making arrangements. Calling schools, checking up on day care services in my city. I was even redecorating her room in my head. Walls the color of honey, a doll house on the side, a book shelf on the other.
A sudden creaking noise caught my attention and I peeped down from the window. There she was. Pia.. I waved at her but Pia’s attention was else where. She was dragging her feet while walking. Occasionally, she would lift her hand and rub her eyes. What could have upset Pia? I rushed down the stairs.
My mum was calmly wiping away her tears saying something softly to her. Pia nodded a couple of times and then held out a piece of paper. My mum took the paper and put it in her pocket without reading it. Then, she leaned in closer and whispered something in Pia’s ear.
Suddenly Pia's face lit up with a sunny smile. Had my mum told Pia about what we had discussed in the morning?
I went a little closer. No.. they were talking about food. Something that my mum had made for Pia. I tried to hide my disappointment but my mum must have noticed.
All in good time. She mouthed.
“Hey Pia,” I pinched her cheeks. I know how much she hated it when anyone did that. She frowned at me and then, when she saw me laughing at her reaction, flashed that lovely smile of hers. She clutched my hand in a seemingly innocent gesture, but it meant the world to me.
“Do you know what nani made for me??” She called my mum that, nani.
Pia was looking at me expectantly.
“Not really, she didn’t tell me. What is it?”
“Its awesome!! You have to taste it!! Come…” She tried to pull me along as she rushed inside the house. My mum slipped the note into my hands as we passed her. I resisted the temptation to open it and read it.
Once inside, Pia left my hand and darted to my father evoking a hearty laugh from him. He picked her up, holding her high, leaving her squealing with delight. My mum touched my arm and we both exchanged a smile. She beckoned me to follow her. We left quietly, careful not to disturb the playful banter between my father and Pia.
“Did you read it?” My mum asked me once we were out of hearing range.
“No, what is it?” I asked, even as I opened the note.
My mother didn’t answer. I scanned through it quickly. It was a teacher’s note.
“Pia withdraws into a shell when she enters school. She stays quiet, refusing to participate in any discussions or games. Although I understand the great tragedy that has befallen her, it is worrisome behavior and I recommend that she is seen by a psychologist as soon as possible.”
I looked up, confused. “Is this why Pia was crying?”
“No.. It was much trivial. Some students were calling her names in school.” She paused, “But this is something serious. Every day her teachers send a note. Some days Pia refuses to talk, some days she bullies other kids, some days she deliberately tries to disrupt classes.”
“Pia??” I was shocked, I could not imagine Pia bullying other kids. Or being disobedient.
“You never know what’s going on inside a child’s brain. I haven’t been able to understand her behavior.” My mum shook her head.
Frankly, I wasn’t too concerned. Of course, it was a little weird, this erratic behavior, but Pia would be okay with time. I was sure of that.
“Don’t worry ma, I’m sure she’ll be fine in some time.” I reassured her. My mum smiled at me. I don’t know whether she was smiling at my naiveté but she didn’t comment on it further.
Instead she said, “When are you planning to ask Pia whether she wants to live with you?”
“Couple of days.” I felt an uneasy dread.
It had never occurred to me to ask Pia.
I hadn’t even considered the possibility that she could refuse.