The Come Back – Chapter 6

by Anita Menon

Previously on ‘ The Come Back”

The home nurse moved the heavy drapes away from the window to let the morning sun in. The sudden brightness burned Professor Reed’s eyes. He felt heavily sedated but knew why it was good for him. The sedation kept his pain at bay. It was a new day, and he was still alive. Hurting but alive, he thought. Bouquets and cards filled his room and he knew they were from his students who would have stopped by to see how he was getting by. This was the year he was to retire; couldn’t the darn tumour have waited a bit more till he got his retirement formalities out of his way. With more than 40 years of teaching and research behind him, he felt he deserved to savour his special goodbye from the University that was more than just a work place for him. He sighed a little when he felt the pain come on a bit and the home nurse came rushing to his side to adjust his pillow upright to get him to sit. His breakfast was already laid down but he had no appetite. He sat there staring at his food and the glass of juice. His throat felt parched so he picked up the juice and gulped down. His food pipe burnt from the heat and the citrus fluid made his mouth taste bitterer than it already was. He was almost on the verge of spitting it out but with the home nurse around he had little chance.

Prof. Reed felt for his glasses by the desk table next to the bed and found them. He fumbled a little before placing them almost at the tip of his nose. He asked the home nurse for the day’s newspaper and started to flip pages one after the other. The Sunday edition had the extra supplements and he quite enjoyed reading about the happenings in London. He made his way from the top of the literary section and checked on the newest books that hit the stand. His heart racing while his eyes searched for something specific. Failing to find what he had set out to search, he began to read the section all over again, not wanting to trust his weak eyesight. Somewhere, mid – way he found what he was looking for and smiled. He tore the section out crudely and put the scrap away in the desk drawer and slammed it shut.

Hours passed and the home nurse called it a day. Ash and Anna came over to visit him every hour or so, but never together. He felt disappointed that things were still the same between the sisters. But he realized that there was little he could do to change it. He could probably emotionally blackmail them into talking to each other.  With the pain and his failing strength gaining on him; he felt like he was slipping into a sleep – like state. He wasn’t sure where he was anymore. Visions and dreams flashed before his eyes and he couldn’t decipher whether they were real or just a figment of his heightened imagination.

He heard a familiar twinkling sound of anklets and he got up to search for the sound. He walked up to the room and found her bent in concentration upon her desk, writing furiously. She did not have the slightest inkling of his presence in the room. She was playfully thumping her heel to the floor while she paused to think in between her writing. Her hair, long and brown, ending in curls. He trod silently towards her but in a sudden movement she turned to face him. Her dark eyes rested on his face, expressionless.

Suddenly, the scene changed, he saw Anna barely 6 months old, trying to sit on her own. Her face a picture of concentration and then she smiled the brightest of smiles like she had accomplished the most arduous of tasks. He wanted to rush towards her to pick her up and celebrate her success but he found himself staring at Ash. A 6-year-old Ash whose face was tear-stained and her hair in shambles. He moved to hold her tight but she ran off, up the stairs, and shut her room on his face.

He woke up all of a sudden in more pain than he could handle.