The Come Back – Chapter 5

by Anita Menon

The story so far..

Ash left her Papa to his own devices and closed the door behind her. She went straight to the kitchen to find Mrs. P steadily stirring something in a cauldron. It had to be her favourite lentil and pea soup. Mrs. P must have known that she was back and would have started right away. Ash tiptoed towards Mrs. P and then in a sudden movement lifted Mrs. P off the ground with her hands. Mrs. P shrieked and then started laughing fitfully. Ash joined her too and turned to face her, after putting her down. Mrs. P with her rounded cheeks, her fair hair tied up in a bun, face more wrinkled than she last saw her was wearing a smart dress with a black fitted belt. She seemed to have become plumper than she last remembered seeing her. Nevertheless, the same old Mrs. P, all elegant and homely at the same time. Mrs. P was assessing Ash pretty much the same way. She observed that Ash had turned a lot paler and thinner. She was even hunching a little like her dad. But her raven black hair was long and shiny. She reminded herself that she had to run a bath for Ash as she looked extremely unkempt and dirty for some reason. She could see some dirt in her finger nails which seemed like they hadn’t been to a manicure salon for months. Mrs. P went to make a mental list of all the things that she needed to do for Ash.

“I smell something delicious in the pot. Isn’t that my favourite soup simmering away?” Ash enquired with a bright smile.

Mrs. P rushed forward to greet her and kissed her forehead.

“Yes it is my dear! When I heard your voice inside the Professor’s room, I couldn’t believe my ears. I rushed to the door and was in half mind to barge in to see if it was really you. I couldn’t have made a mistake, I was sure. Anna told me that it was indeed you so I wasted no time in putting a pot of your favourite soup on the stove right away.”

“How have you been Mrs. P? Dad has been so sick! Nobody told me. Did you know?”Ash asked sadly. Her voice was almost cracking and she tried her best to swallow the lump in her throat.

Mrs. P led her to the table in the kitchen and pulled out the chair for her. She made Ash sit down and poured some hot chocolate in mug. Mrs. P needed this time to arrange her thoughts. Everything had happened so quickly that there hadn’t been much time to ponder over why something had happened. She then handed over the mug to Ash and wearily sat down in a chair next to her.

“Dear, we didn’t know about how sick he was until all of this happened. Anna didn’t have the slightest inkling as well.” She started tearing up and took a handkerchief to blow her nose.

Ash put on a brave face partly she because wanted to console Mrs. P and partly due to the comforting hot chocolate.

“He’ll be alright Mrs. P. Don’t you worry! I am going to be around until he gets well.”

Mrs. P seemed to relax on hearing this statement and got up immediately to stir the pot of soup. She felt exhilarated that finally everybody was back and everything was going to be alright.

Upstairs, lying in her bed, Anna tried to get some sleep. She tossed and turned for a bit. Unable to lay her mind to rest, she flipped open her cell phone to call Jai. This was the third time today and he hadn’t answered her call. She felt an irritation rise through her which was so unlike her. She always liked to be pleasant and ever smiling. But today was different.

The phone rang for a seven times and then automatically went to a voicemail. For once she decided to leave him a voice message but then words failed to come out. She did not want him to believe that she was feeling desperate. He should have got back to her by now. He didn’t like her hounding him about his whereabouts. She resisted the urge to call again and shut her cell phone. She looked at the open text-book on her study table and despaired about the amount of studying that remained. With Ash around, she knew she was going to spend a lot of time shut inside her room.

Ash climbed up the stairs after her conversation with Mrs. P. She had hundreds thoughts clogging her brain at the same time. But they all had to wait. Right now, she was home and it was all that mattered. She reached the door of her room which still sported “DO NOT ENTER” sign. She turned the knob and stepped inside. It still smelled of old comic books and maybe a little pot too. She chuckled to herself and flopped down on her bed. Such a cosy bed it was and had missed it so much all this time. She made a quick survey of her room and realized nothing was touched or changed. She liked that about Papa and Mrs. P. They would never let anything go. Even when she tried so hard to make them all put it behind them; they wouldn’t let anything go. She made herself comfy and pulled out the drawer of the table near her bed. Her diaries were still there in neat piles. But now she didn’t need them. They were as useless as the memories of a distant past. But she felt compelled to pull one out. They had pages and pages of her hand writing, curvy and beautiful. There were poems of how she felt on certain days, stories about people who made her happy and of memories that made her sad. She shut the diary immediately and pushed it back into the drawer. She felt an urge to light up a cigarette but knew she could not as long as she was inside the house. It saddened her to see that Anna hadn’t changed much towards her. Probably she had grown colder than ever before. She did not know how she was to thaw this frozen relationship. Papa’s tumour news had shaken her up and she felt afraid for some reason.

‘Anna must be feeling as lonely. I have to be there for her, differences aside.’ She decided.