The Come Back – Chapter 1 – Anna (fiction)

by Anita Menon

If this is your first visit here then do read the Prologue before you go ahead and read this chapter.

The day had begun with the alarm clock going off at 5:30 am. Anna woke up with a start and grumbled a bit when she saw a stack of books piled against the table next to her bed. She forced her eyes open and shut off the alarm. She was half a mind to pull the covers and go back to sleep when there was a knock on her bedroom door. Papa peeked in a little and then came in when he saw she was awake. Papa always woke up early no matter when he slept at night. Papa’s reading glasses were dangerously close to slipping while he balanced the cup of hot milk in one hand and some papers in the other. He must be reading his notes which he always did before going to his class.

Anna smiled a little and saw him breaking into a sweet one too. He handed her the cup of milk and silently moved out of the room. She would have preferred a cup of coffee instead but didn’t have the heart to tell her dad so. He always brought her a cup of milk. The milk was warm and sweet. She felt it pass through her throat and all of a sudden all the fuzziness seemed to disappear. She finished it quickly and jumped out of her bed to go to the bathroom. Her bathroom still looked exactly like how she had left it last summer. Shivering a little, she noticed her skin forming goose bumps. It reminded her of Jai. She found herself blushing when she looked at herself in the mirror. She saw a that her curly brown hair had over grown the length that she usually kept and she needed to tend to her eyebrows soon. With this thought she started rummaging the small cupboard next to the wash basin for the essentials. She never had to bother to bring her toothbrush or tooth paste or any of the toiletries with her. A fresh pack was always ready for her to use. It was such a bliss to be back home and began to think about the breakfast she was going to eat. She was sick of the cereal and the cold milk that she had every day in the hostel. It would be good to have some homemade crepes or will it be pancakes, she mused to herself while brushing her teeth.

When she was done brushing her teeth, she rushed back and made her bed. She pushed her study table chair out and switched on the lamp to continue studying from where she had left last night. She felt intimidated but excited all the same. She loved to study and it was her favourite subject. Her thoughts turned to Jai and what he must be doing. She imagined him curled up in bed with his comics and iPod. He would then wake up late, go for a run, play with his dog and go back to sleep again. It would be late in the evening when he would start panicking about letting the whole day go without studying. She decided to give him a call after about 11 a.m to remind him how much of studying was in front of him. The world outside her window had started to get brighter and she concentrated on completing the chapters she planned to study.

By 8 a.m, the bell rang for breakfast and Anna realized she had fallen asleep with her head on the book that lay open before her. She felt a mild irritation at the low resolve she had shown. But hunger pangs got better of her. After changing from her pyjamas into a short summery dress, she quickly glided down the stairs to the Kitchen. Mrs. P had laid the table down for breakfast. Anna quickly moved up from behind Mrs. P and hugged her tight. Mrs. P turned around and hugged her back.

“So wonderful to see you, my dear! It seems like forever. I have missed you so much”, exclaimed a joyous Mrs. P hugging her tighter. She then ushered Anna into a chair at the kitchen table. The table was covered with checker blue and white table-cloth and beautiful patterned plates. Those were the plates from a long time ago. Mrs. P used them on special occasions only. Today was one such with Anna returning home from her college after six months. Anna felt the comfort sink into her bones as she eased herself further into the chair. The familiarity of everything around her was the reason why she chose to come home even during her study holidays, while almost everybody back in college preferred to stay on in the hostel. She also had to come down to make sure her Papa was keeping well and that the home was being looked after. It wasn’t that anybody held her responsible for it but she had taken it upon her to do it. Who else would, if she wouldn’t? She worried about Papa all the time and called him up every single day to make sure he was doing okay. He always teased her and called her ‘Mommy’ sometimes but she didn’t care.

Her thoughts were interrupted with Mrs. P serving her some warm toast, butter and marmalade. She sat down in a chair next to her and started to spread some butter on her toast. Anna seemed a little disappointed to see only toast as her breakfast but she was too ravenous to refuse or make excuses. She stuff one piece into her mouth and tried to cover her overstuffed mouth with her other hand while trying to suppress giggles. Mrs. P laughed heartily and got up to go to the stove. Next she brought out another plate with some more warm toast and sizzling scrambled eggs. Anna’s eyes sparkled with joy as she set herself to devour the sumptuous breakfast. She looked at Mrs. with anticipation, if she would serve her some coffee from the coffee pot. Mrs. P took a cue and told her, “No coffee for kids!!”  Then she got her a glass of piping hot chocolate to wash the remaining toast down.  Anna felt conflicted as her heart desired some coffee but the hot chocolate looked delightful. She guzzled it down with ample satisfaction and to her dismay found she was drowsy again. She yawned and got up to hug Mrs. P again. It was her way of saying thank you for everything. Thank you for the breakfast, for looking after my home and for taking care of Papa.

Having done with her breakfast she quickly turned her thoughts to Jai but decided against phoning him since it was just about 10 a.m. She would give him an hour more and then make the call. She decided to check on Papa and see if he needed anything before he left for his class. He taught Advance Mathematics at the college in London and was one of the most revered professors. All the other colleges vied for his attention and wanted to get him onboard their academia. He chose to keep with the one he had been working for the past 30 years. He started off as a PhD student at the same college and love the institution like his own.  Students, colleagues came and left, but he was still around, serving his alma matar with unwavering loyalty.

She knew he would be in the library, all dressed with his suspenders and bow tie reading some manual or the other. Even though she was his daughter, she felt conscious of the aura of erudition emanating from wherever he was. She coughed a bit and then knocked on his door very subtly so as to not startle him. He looked up from his horn –rimmed glasses and smiled ever so sweetly. What was it about his smile that made her heart melt with mixed emotions? It was bitter-sweet, like he was happy yet sad. She felt herself going to the uncomfortable territory and checked herself immediately. Her therapist had been very specific about not going to that territory for there was always the fear of her spiralling back into that darkness. She had asked her to condition herself into thinking only sunny thoughts, thoughts about the happy present and the future.  She forced herself to smile at him and ran to give him a hug.

“I hope you have had your breakfast Papa? Mrs. P was ever so kind to make some wonderful scrambled eggs.” She then adjusted his tie while he mumbled something of a yes to her query and then said, “Anna, darling, don’t waste time chatting up on the phone. You have plenty to study. Don’t take the pressure off now when you have a gold medal in the offing.”

Anna stiffened a bit when she felt she had forgotten about the studying part altogether. She felt a nervous tension rise through the soles of her feet and reach her heart that had started quickening its pace. She withdrew herself from Papa and kissed him a good day. He left her standing in the Library where she saw dust particles play against the sun beams creeping in through the heavy blinds. She turned around to start walking out of the study, a little defeated but solemn in her resolve to make the most of her day and not let Papa down. She entered her bedroom and closed it shut. Inside, she felt tears welling up in her eyes and she squeezed her eyes shut. In doing so, she felt some relief and that a familiar pain fading away. She looked at her books and sat down to start the study session for the day.

work in progress…..