The Come Back – Chapter 7

by Anita Menon

If it is your first time here, you might want to catch up 

Sitting in her room, Anna mulled about how life was doing a roller coaster ride every single day. With books open in front of her, for the first time, she did not feel like studying for her exams. She started to evaluate if it was time to call to her therapist and tell her about what was going on. She hated losing her demeanour and she always wanted to be ahead of her game. Twirling her brown curly hair with her forefinger and thumb she began to assess her life and her plans for the future.

For Anna, everything was a conquest, even people. She set high expectations for herself and victory had to come at any cost. As a child, she grew up looking up to her scholarly father and wanting to be like him. She was the school topper, the head girl, the drama club secretary, took ballet, played the piano, was the sports secretary and studied French, Spanish, German and Chinese. She was a stunner to look at with dark eyes, brown curly hair, and a lithe body. She had an exotic brown hue to her skin that turned bronze after a tan. She was always found in the front benches of her class listening attentively to the teachers and taking down notes. She was the quintessential ‘good girl’. But Anna did not have any friends. All the while she was in school; she sat alone, had her lunch alone in the cafeteria and walked back alone from school. She did not feel the need to have friends. She was fiercely competitive and that put off all her classmates. She merely thought them jealous of her achievements. She was her own friend, advisor and confidante. She did not have any boyfriends growing up despite the fact that many boys wanted to court her. She wanted to make Papa proud of her at all times. She never gave him a chance to complain about her at all. But Papa seemed to take littler interest in her as she grew up. He seemed to grow more and more distant, aloof and uninterested. He did participate in her success but not to the extent that she expected him to.

Then when she managed her way through Cambridge, he was elated. They had a small party at home and for the first time, she felt, she had bridged that gap. When she moved to the hostel she realized it had a detrimental move. She never felt so isolated from him before. She was looking for a lee way to get to him, to let him know that she was around and she was not going to let him go. But soon she felt, she was falling into a deep chasm of depression. Her grades started to fall and she couldn’t get a grip on what was happening around her. On her own, she willed herself to seek help and turned to a therapist. She related her life story and her deepest concerns. She wept copious tears in the therapist’s couch. From then on she felt a lot in control and decided to keep on with her conquest.

With Ash, her equation never really matched. Though they were sisters they had nothing in common. Ash was older to her by four years but she never took responsibility for anything. She never felt she needed to do anything to make Papa proud. She always got into trouble because she had to rebel about every little thing in life. It was Anna who always donned the big sister’s garb and had bailed Ash out from many nuisances that she had got herself into. From a point onwards, Anna did what she was supposed to, dispassionately. Ash never supported her in anything nor was she interested in building a relationship with her. She felt cheated at times because Papa always favoured Ash over her. Anna knew, Papa felt protective about Ash for various reasons but in that process, he managed to completely ignore Anna.

This made Anna work doubly hard to impress her Papa but her efforts always seemed to be lacking somewhere. Their dining room mantle was adorned with her trophies and prizes that she had won as a student. She loved to lurk around them, blowing away any dust that might have collected on her precious accolades. She arranged and rearranged them many times and reminisced her happy moments. Success made her very happy but her Papa’s approval and his smile made her happier. With her Papa’s sickness, she felt torn between being around him and going back to college to finish her term. She had more or less made her choice. She was going to stay back. She had to make sure Papa got well and was able to attend his retirement ceremony at the University.

Her only worry was the tense atmosphere that Ash was so adept at building around the house. She had hoped that Ash wouldn’t accept Papa’s invite to stay over. But to her surprise Ash did. She felt nervous about Ash stealing all the thunder away from her and that Papa was going to be raving about his favourite daughter. She noticed that Ash seemed different for some reason; a lot subdued and sober. Had Ash changed? When did she start caring about Papa? She had to find out.