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Before the Sun Sets...A Short Story
Another Time...Another Place!
A sharp, bright beam was incising the thick sheet of darkness in her room. Myriad of tiny, shiny specks were seen dancing along the bright path as if celebrating the bright, new day! Unaware of time and place, Sophie was lying still in her bed with her gaze anchored somewhere far away… far away in another day, another time and another place!
Little Eliza...Lizzy, her only daughter was hopping here and there all over the place. Sophie was running after her with a glass of milk which Lizzy had refused to drink…and then Dave and Sophie were driving Lizzy to school…Lizzy murmuring sweet nothings in Sophie’s ears…
“Good morning Mrs. Dave! What a lovely day today!” With Martha's robotic greetings, everything around Sophie shattered into innumerable pieces. Oh! She hated Martha for that. And within no time, Martha swished swashed the heavy curtains wide open. Sunlight came flooding in, wiping away the traces of her beautiful memories. A lot more crescents appeared on her already wrinkled face, as Sophie covered her eyes with her bony, fragile hand. She was brought back to reality. Again, Martha was to be blamed for this, she thought.
Sophie…a widow who has seen 68 springs in her lifetime…was now living in her country house with Martha, the aide...appointed by her daughter. Sophie had been in bed for the last fourteen months since she had a stroke. Her right limbs were paralyzed and her speech was affected. She couldn’t speak anymore. But she could think. And she could feel. And she could dream. She could not go to places but she could fly back to revisit her life…and that was the most amazing thing…in fact, the only amazing and colorful aspect, of her otherwise dull life. Her memories!
Sophie was still struggling to lift herself up when Martha appeared with her breakfast tray. “Mrs. Dave, Eliza would be here in an hour. You have to speed up and finish your breakfast before she’s here.”
Turn Back the Windmills of Time...
Eliza was very excited. She was bringing her Mom home. At last, she succeeded in convincing her husband on that. She assured him completely and promised that it won’t interfere with their life. But she knew... it definitely would! It would make her feel happier…happy to take care of Mom… “the way Mom used to, when I was young and totally dependent on her...” Eliza thought as she hurried her two little girls to drop them at her friend’s house before going to Mom's.
Deep down in her heart, Eliza had a strong feeling…a feeling of guilt that was eating her up. “Mom had a stroke because of me… If I hadn’t left the girls with her that day… If I had taken her complaints seriously….she had been complaining about headache and dizziness…If I had listened to her…taken her to hospital on time…If I hadn’t ignored…if…”
“Oh Lord! There are so many ifs…If I could only turn back the windmills of time,” she thought.
Saturday was the only day which gave Sophie a feeling of being loved and wanted. Lizzy and her little girls visited Sophie every Saturday. She just loved Saturdays.
“Eliza…my Lizzy is coming?…So it’s Saturday again!” Sophie thought. Strange, very strange! She couldn’t feel the excitement of it anymore. That craving to see the girls…her Lizzy’s girls...and that sweet satisfaction of holding Lizzy’s hand…No, it was not there. She couldn't feel it anymore!
Eliza had told Martha that they would pack up and move Mom before dusk. “Mom always had this thing about going out after dusk…she was never easy with it. Martha, I don’t want to do anything that would upset her. I just want everything done her way… we’ll move her before the sun sets”, she had informed Martha on the phone.
Eliza was dying to tell Mom about this arrangement. She had kept it a secret till now. She wanted everything to be finalized before she told Mom about it. And the time had come!
With sparkling eyes and flushed face, excitement oozing through her gait …Eliza entered Sophie’s room. “Hi Mom”, she whispered in her ear.
Sophie opened her eyes. She wanted to smile back at her Lizzy but couldn’t find the spirit in herself. It was all hollow…empty in there…She looked gravely at Eliza!
Eliza could feel her heart sinking down…With shaky voice she called Martha…”Mom doesn’t seem to be herself…didn’t she sleep well?”
Sophie heard Lizzy but it was all echoes...coming from far away…and it all started to sublime…floating away…turning to silhouettes!
And there she was with her little Lizzy…putting her to bed. Lizzy’s arms were wrapped around Sophie. She kissed Lizzy on her forehead. “It’s time for Mommy to go”…she walked away towards the door…it was all dark out there…she drifted back to Lizzy…held her hand tightly…
Eliza sank back in her chair. “Mom!” she whispered. With a flickering ray of a dying hope, in Sophie’s estranged eyes she sought the spark of life and affection….affection, which defined her gaze… But there was a fearful stillness in them.
Eliza could feel her heart fluttering wildly inside and just when she thought Mom was gone…Sophie gently caressed Lizzy’s hand. Eliza, shaking all over…hope glistened from the corner of her eyes and trickled down her cheeks. “Please Lord… not now,” she prayed.
From a soft caress to a hurting clench, Sophie’s grip tightened on Lizzy’s hand…her form jerked lightly and with a last departing look at Lizzy, Sophie drifted into the dark folds of eternal silence.
Martha closed the curtains.
Sun was dipping down in the horizon...