Nina decided to have a quick cup of Java before the meeting commences. She went to the vending machine and made herself a cup of Espresso and sat down in the waiting lounge with her styrofoam cup. Her mind wandered as she sipped the steaming cup of coffee. It wounded through the mist of time, travelling through the fog of memories to her 12th birthday. She had been a girl full of life and lustre, but her shine was dimmed by the dust of a loveless home and uncaring parents.

She had been sitting in her home’s sitting room, wearing a new dress, waiting for her father to come home with her birthday cake and presents. She had especially asked him to get her an easel, as she loved to paint and a box of the extensive choice of oil paints. Her li’l sister Diana was skipping around her, brimming with palpable excitement. She was hungry and could not wait to taste the many delicacies her mom was preparing in the kitchen. She went to their mother and hugged her midriff as she was frying piping hot Samosas in a wok.

“Mommy, when will we eat?” Little Diana asked as she eyed the food on the kitchen counter.

Her mother smiled at her and told: “Let Daddy come home with Nina’s birthday cake, and we will all eat together.” But her mother took a plate, kept two Samosas on it and gave it to Diana and told her to share it with Nina.

Both sisters were eating the Samosa with delight when the landline rang, and their mother came from the kitchen with a ladle in her hand to attend the call, wiping her sweaty brow on her apron. She talked on the phone for a while, and as she hung up, the sisters saw that their mothers body language had changed completely.

She came to them and said in a stern voice “Come Nina, Diana, let’s sit down to eat, it’s already very late.”

Nina looked up at her mother with wide eyes “But why Mommy, Dad is yet to come ?”

Her mother turned to her with anger in her eyes “You are a fool if you entertain your petty mind with such ideas that your Dad will come early tonight with arms full of presents for you. No one is coming. He will get late.” She told full of angst.

Nina was in tears upon hearing this, and she sat down with her head in her lap. “I won’t eat. I will wait for Dad. I have been waiting for this moment a whole month.” the 12 yr old Nina had revolted brazenly.

“Nina don’t be difficult. I am already on the edge of my patience with you Dad; now you don’t get on my nerves and add to my woes. Just come and eat so we can all sleep.” Her mother shrieked, and Nina cowered with fear.

“But Mom, I want cake too.” Diana had said in her sweet sing-song voice.

“This is my last warning to you both. COME AND HAVE DINNER OR SLEEP HUNGRY.” their mother said with a threateningly low voice as her lips trembled with the effort it took to control her anger.

“Mom please don’t scold Diana. She doesn’t know.”Nina had wanted to defend Diana when her mother had raised the ladle and brought down her hand on Diana’s head. Nina had thrown Diana out of harm’s way, and the ladle came down upon her head as blood gushed out from her forehead and she fainted.

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As she was losing all sight and sense of sound, she could hear faint calls of ‘Nina, Nina, wake up, Nina!!!’

Nina jolted and looked around feeling disoriented. What was she doing here in this suave lobby? Wasn’t she just hit by her mother on the forehead? It took her few seconds to get hold of her surroundings. She saw a woman standing by her side and calling her name. “Ms Nina Parker. The meeting is about to commence, and they are all waiting for you.”

Nina nodded and got up from her seat as she straightened her skirts and shook her head to clear it from the haunting memories of childhood.