Read the first part of this story here.
No one spoke with no one in my house after that. I rarely saw Eddie, and whenever I saw him, he was too drunk to see me. And mother lost all her beauty in that one day. She sat forlorn and sad, up in her room, hardly ever moving out of it.
No one had ever visited our house much anyway. The front door rarely opened, except for Eddie going in and out as he pleased. There wasn’t any food prepared in the house either. When I felt hungry, and asked mother about it, she would not respond. On the third day, when my stomach began to growl with hunger, I walked up to the kitchen myself and tried to get whatever I could.
I hoped and prayed to Jesus to make everything all right. All these things, despite all those Sunday Masses… was this because we were all living in sin in some way? But Jesus is all-forgiving, isn’t He? Yes. Hadn’t Father Jacob said at Mass that Jesus knows all and forgives all?
Would he forgive my father? Or my mother?
I do not know. I would not have forgiven them even if I were Jesus. But I wanted their forgiveness. It was the only thing that would make things better in the house.
The loneliness began to eat me up. Being undesired is one thing; being unwanted is entirely another. I would probably understand one day why my mother had not desired me before my birth, but how could she not want me after I was here? How could she shun my very presence when I was here, in front of her, in flesh and blood?
I think all her silent brooding was repentance for her evil thoughts.
Finally, the day arrived when I knew I could not stay in that house any longer. What would you do in a house where no one spoke a word to you, much less prepare food for you, or involve you in anything they did? Of what use are their tears and silence? Grandma had left the home, and then I suddenly realized—no one had ever taken my name in the house except her.
In the darkness of that night, I made an important decision.
I decided to run away from the house.
I knew exactly what to do. So, when both of them slept that night, I walked up to the door, opened it as silently as I could, walked out in the same clothes I had been wearing since the past three days, and closed the door behind me.
The night was dark, but I hadn’t expected anything else. I had chosen the night for I did not want to bump into anyone my parents knew, for there would be uncomfortable questions I did not have answers to. Thus, I stole away, my hands in my pockets, braving the cold and the horrors, and walked along the single road, which was all my village had. I hoped I was going in the right direction.
And I knew in the morning that I was right.
When the first light of dawn broke in the sky, I saw the thatched hut where the village seemed to come to an end. And the moment I saw it, I whooped with joy.
I had seen this hut only once before. That was when I was four, I guess, the time when my mother had come to this house—Grandma Grace’s house—to fetch her to her house. I remember she had desisted back then, but my mother had insisted and had prevailed.
What was the use of that?
My Grandma Grace was once again in that same house. Nothing had changed.
I looked around for her, and found her quite easily. She was sitting in her garden, and digging up something. I knew how much Grandma Grace loved her gardens. She had a green thumb for sure, for she knew exactly what needed to be done with her plants. As I moved ahead, I saw her digging up something in the soil, probably preparing her farm to bear fruit once again.
I did not want to disturb her. And so I sat for a long time in silence, at a little distance from her, watching her work.
Then, when the day started turning to noon, I could take it no longer and softly spoke to her.
Her ears immediately pricked up. She looked in my direction, without seeing me, and said, “W’at’s dat noise? Dang dese eyes. Can never see as I used to.”
I walked up to Grandma Grace. All I wanted to do is to hug her and let her ruffle my hair. I surrendered myself into her arms, but she was stiff. Still as a statue. Why did she not respond?
Then I got my answer.
“My Immanuel! My dear Immanuel! Look at w’at t’ey did to you. ’ow will I ever get back de Immanuel I loved?”
I looked up at her, “Do you mean you do not love me now?”
There was no answer to that. Instead, her eyes filled with fresh tears and she looked away.
I walked into the hut and saw something that surprised me.
It was that suitcase. It was still packed and placed on the bed. It was evident that she hadn’t opened it yet, and that nagged me. “What has she brought in that suitcase that’s so precious?” I wondered.
But then Grandma came inside the room and I fell silent. Soon, absolute sleep came over me and I moved on from one world to another.
The next morning when I woke up, I again found Grandma Grace in her garden. She was doing something with twigs and digging up weeds, or whatever it is that she did in the farms. I went and sat next to her, hoping that she would talk to me at least today.
But another day passed in almost silence. Was she angry with me? I really would not want to think so. The tears in her eyes gave evidence that it was not anger that deterred her from speaking with me.
Even the slightest provocation moved her. I asked her, “What are you doing, Grandma?”
And just that much brought a fresh flood of tears in her eyes.
Then that afternoon was the last time I saw my Grandma Grace.
It happened all so suddenly, but had been a long time coming.
It must have been lunchtime—I do not know for sure because we did not eat anything, nor did she prepare anything—when she got up from her garden and walked into the room.
She came up to that suitcase of hers and took it off the bed. That relieved me, and I told her as much, for finally we would have a proper place to sleep. The bag seemed to be more difficult to carry now, or probably it was because she was burdened with something else now.
With a thud-thud-thud, she lumbered the suitcase through the house and brought it out of the door.
What was in it that she wanted to use in the garden? Was she trying to hide her gold and jewels in the soil like she had told me once? I wouldn’t disbelieve it if that was indeed what she was doing.
“Grandma, what’s in that bag?” I asked.
But she did not answer.
All she did was take the bag out into the open, and pull it all the way to her favorite place in the garden where she had been working.
Then she placed the suitcase next to the new patch, and even as I stood behind her, I saw her opening the lock on the suitcase.
What was inside the suitcase? Now I wanted to know it all the more.
And then I saw it.
When Eddie had fired the shot that night, it had been a thunderously deafening noise and nothing more. But I should have felt more. After all, the bullet had been shot right at me, right in the heart. It was an accident, everyone would like to believe, but since when has death been partial to accidents?
And I had not felt anything because death had accorded me with its infinite mercy—the mercy of painlessness. When you are dead, pain is the first thing that you stop feeling.
And that’s what Grandma Grace had rushed to fight for—to make them know that they had killed me. But when she saw that no one cared for me, perhaps she knew she had to take me with her.
That suitcase. The perfect size for my little body.
“Is mine! Is mine!” I laugh at it now. That’s not what she was saying. She was saying, “He’s mine! He’s mine!” with her dropped ‘h’s, the way she always spoke.
That is why she wouldn’t talk to me. Can she even see me?
When I came back from the reverie, my gaze fell upon the little cross she had made out of the twigs she had been sizing up all morning.
On those twigs, in her handwriting, were etched the words:
My Dear Immanuel
R.I.P. with Jesus
(2006 – 2016)
I wanted to hug her, tell her that I was there with her, but it wasn’t to be. The cross was a sign that it was time for me to leave. And as I left, I saw two things. One—the dear, dear face of my Grandma Grace, the only person who truly loved me; and—two—my own decaying face as she opened her brown suitcase.
For more psychological thrillers and horror stories from Neil D’Silva, check out Right Behind You, a collection of 13 stories that will make you sit up and read them a second time.