“How farther will you go?”
Adun’s voice is unmistakable to me even with the naked acrimony that permeates every syllable. I stare sideways at her and manage a weak smile. The innocence of my smile often brings a momentary relief to her but not this time. Her expression remains as taut as a guitar string while two silver lines streak down her smooth face.
I know she has been crying all day. I long to pacify her but I cannot breach the military protocol. I simply stretch out an arm and caress her dishevelled hair as I have always done. My elder sister weeps like a baby by my sick bed. It reminds me of the common tears we shared when she revealed my father’s whereabouts to me.
Only that this time around, she weeps because she will be all alone after I lose this battle. She knows I am going to die. She also knows that our mother is not coming back and that she cannot go to our father. Adun will be alone when all this is over.
Our mother is like a mirage.
She was everywhere granting us succour and protection in this cruel world. With Mama around, I was assured of a secure future but she vanished into thin air as if she never existed and with her went all the vista of comfort which occupied my thoughts. I had always shared my dream of constructing the most impressive bridge the world would ever see with mama. I even dared to envision my future family of five and shared the dream with her but all of these dissipated with her demise.
It all seems a cruel mirage now. It was my fifteenth birthday. Mama and Adun were standing by my bed side when I woke that morning with mischievous smiles creasing their oval faces. Their hands were hidden behind them. I did not understand the unusual occasion as I had not celebrated a birthday in the last four years. Sensing the confusion on my face, as I propped myself up on one elbow and searched from one face to another, Mama shared a knowing look with Adun and together, they blurted out “attack”!
In that instance, it all rushed back to me. They had resuscitated our old tradition of celebrating birthdays. Before I ducked out of bed, I was fully drenched in water. I darted for the door which was left ajar and ran towards the sitting room to escape the accompanying “beating with broom-sticks” while they chased me relentlessly.
The strange celebration was initiated into our home by Adun who claimed that it would remind the celebrant of how he was wet and cried at birth. Mama endorsed it only to add flavour to our bland and boring life-style. After a sumptuous breakfast and our special medicine which I was accustomed to by then, Mama left Adun and me at home with a promise of going to get the bicycle I requested as birthday gift.
We were still washing the dishes and cutlery when we heard frantic knocks on the front door. Adun and I rushed to the entrance to see a panic-stricken young man who blurted out the news.
“Your mother,” he stammered.
“It was a ghastly accident as she crossed the road to the supermarket.”