She continually honked to get ahead in her hurried frenzy, overtaking a few cars a bit rashly. Diana was sitting by her side in the passenger seat with her daughters in the back. She placed a hand on her elder sister’s hand on the steering wheel. It was cold and was trembling.
Diana looked a long minute at Nina and Nina was acutely aware of her younger sister’s unwavering gaze. She looked in the rearview mirror and wiped her sweaty brow with a tissue she extracted from a box on the dashboard.
“Di, what is up? I have never seen you worried about Mum before today. I had called you many times, requested you to talk to her, come and meet her as she was longing to see you, but you never budged. Then what happened today?”
Nina gave her younger sister a haughty look and opened her mouth to retort back when she closed it. Diana wasn’t wrong. She had never cared, she had given her mother back what she got from her, bitterness and uncaring indifference. Then why today? Nina’s eyes were on the road, but she was back in time, lying in her bunk bed in her bedroom that she shared with Diana back in her childhood home when she was 12, and above her on the bunk was Diana. She had cried herself to sleep when she saw her father let her mother off the hook.
At midnight she got up and went to the kitchen to get water as she was feeling parched and saw the kitchen lights on. She hid behind the door and peered inside through a slit in the door. Her mother was sitting on the kitchen floor and crying holding something close to her chest. Upon looking closely, she saw it was her dress. The one she was wearing when her mother hit her. The dress had her blood stains on it. Her mother hugged the dress and rocked back and forth crying as she chanted only one thing “I am sorry. I am sorry, baby. I am sorry Nina. Forgive me, baby. My darling, I am so sorry” – saying this, her mother kissed her dress over and over.
Nina drew in a sharp breath, and her sigh was heard by her mother who hid the dress in a kitchen closet and came outside. She saw Nina and looked at her with her red-rimmed eyes. She held Nina firmly by her arm and dragged her back to her room. “Why were you outside your bed? Hasn’t the doctor told you to rest ?”, her mother yelled at her.
Nina looked at her mother with compassion and forgiveness which seemed to have agitated her mother even more as she let go of Nina’s hand and said, “Never pry into me again girl. It won’t do you any good.”
“Mom….” Nina said holding her mother’s dress from the back as she turned to leave.
She stopped. Nina could tell she was working hard to control the barrage of tears in her eyes. “Mom…..I need you. Sleep with me tonight.” Nina had asked in a pleading voice. Her mother was taken aback by her innocent request and was about to scold when her features softened and she sat on Nina’s bed. She lay on the bed and made Nina lie by her side. Nina placed one arm over mother’s arm and felt her mother’s warmth fill her with unsaid words and hidden love. Nina dozed off soon but not before she felt a tear fall on her shoulder and wet her dress from her mother’s eyes. She felt a soft kiss on her forehead and a loving caress on her head as she heard, “I Love You both. I am sorry for everything. But I know you have forgiven me already.” Saying this she slept by Nina’s side, and that was the only night when Nina felt loved and cherished.
The next morning Nina had woken up with a hope in her heart that from that day things will get better. That ‘today’ was the dawn of a new life in which she was loved by her mother like all her friends. She went to the kitchen and made a beautiful breakfast of Cheese Toasts and Milkshakes as a pleasant surprise for her mother, and went to take a bath wishing she would see it all and feel happy and would shower Nina with her love. She was waiting for her mother to wake up expectantly, the air seemed to be filled with her palpable positivity. Her mother came outside and went into her bedroom. Her father was already gone on a tour by the morning flight without informing them, leaving a note behind for her mother. Without a word, her mother stormed into the kitchen muttering something to herself. With bated breath, Nina waited for her to emerge with a smile, but all she heard was a scream. She ran to the kitchen and saw her mother standing there in a fit of rage as Nina felt her breath caught in her throat.
“W…wh….what happened Mum ?” She asked her mother tentatively trying to figure out what wrong she did as she saw the breakfast she made lying on the floor amongst broken dishes.
“Who told you to make breakfast?”, her Mum asked with gritted teeth.
“I made this to please you.” Nina managed to say with tears in her eyes, trying to figure out how it was on the floor when she saw Diana hiding under the couch and crying with her hands covering her mouth. She understood that Diana must have felt hungry and attempted to take breakfast on her own and spilt it all.
“You have succeeded in pleasing me beyond my imagination. Let me reward you now”, saying this her mother grabbed her by the wrist and dragged her into her bedroom shoving her in and locking her from outside.
She cried and hammered the door “Mum what wrong have I done!” But no reply came, no one opened the door. Nina was locked in that room for 28 hours before her father came back and opened the door for her. No, she was locked there for last 28 years, she never left that room it seemed.
Today the 40 year old woman was going to return that one gesture of love, to the woman she knew to be her mother. Today her mother needed her, just like that Nina who had needed her mother.
She looked at Diana and told, “I have always given Mum what she gave me. I was not like you. You were much more kind and forgiving. You let her back in your home and heart after father died. But I never let her back in my heart”, Nina said as she was passing the Mysore Palace. “But today I am going to return her the one night of love she gave me.”
The sisters pulled into the Hospital in which their mother was admitted and unbelted themselves. Diana was sliding out her seat when Nina held her hand, “Diana, I always feared that I would be a mother to my child like my mother was to me. So, I never started a family. But I am happy to see you. A great mom you are!” Nina looked at the sleeping Kiara and Riya in the back seat and smiled. “I am glad that these two angels have a mother like we never had.” Saying this she hugged her, and both sisters had a tearful rendezvous in the real sense.
“Come, let’s go inside,” said Diana and Nina nodded taking a deep breath.