“Hey Anora, wake up! Let’s go play”
Anora kept her eyes shut tight. She was too afraid to see who the unfamiliar voice belonged to. She felt a slight tug on her blanket and her eyes flew open against her will. She stared into the eyes of a boy. He was around her age. He smiled but she tried not to move a mussel.
“Come Anora, come with me. Lets play”
Anora shook her head.
“Please. Come play with me”
Anora shut her eyes tight again and started praying. She couldn’t remember the prayers her parents had thought her.
Jesus, Mary, Joseph, I love you. Jesus, Mary Joseph I love you. Jesus Mary Joseph I love you.
She kept repeating over and over until she fell into a disturbed sleep.
The man sat very still with Anora sitting in front of him. Pa and Mama sat by her side. Mama had her arms around Anora patting her gently.
Anora, 5 years old, had been feverish for over a month now. Pa and Mama had taken her to almost every doctor in that small town they lived in and then on to the bigger town 70 miles away. They had been prescribed every drug from the pharmacy. But the fever persisted. Sometimes hitting a high of 40 degrees Celsius. Sometimes higher.
During these bouts, Mama would be crying silently, sponging her with ice. Alena and Azuri her sisters would be left to fend for themselves as Mama couldn't seem to function normally. Anora didn’t mind the attention though it made her too sick to play outside.
As the man started chanting and murmuring, Anora inched closer to her mother. He scared her and she wanted to cry. But she knew that would make things worse. So she sat there as still as possible and waited for it to be over.
Anora woke up to her Mama lifting her up and they left. As she sat in the backseat of the car, she tried to make sense of the conversation. The windows were slightly open and the sound of the wind drowned out most of the words.
Some spirit, a kid, had been visiting her at night. Asking to play with her. But she had not followed the child which was a good thing because they could have lost her.
She dozed off again.
That is one vague memory she had of her very young childhood. Most of the vivid ones are of her sisters bullying her. Being the youngest, and probably Mama’s favourite annoyed them. It is true that she could ask for anything and get it, but it is also true that her sisters wouldn't and they shouldn’t blame her for it.
She remembered so clearly when they had taken her diary when she was 11 and read it. She was so angry. Sometimes it still made her angry because she had written some secret thoughts in there.
So on the very next page she wrote:
“If you are reading my diary right now STOP!!. If you continue, you and your seven generations will be cursed”. She wasn’t sure if her sisters ever did take her diary again, but she also hid it so well, she was sure they never found it.
She remembered the day when Mama suddenly dropped to the floor and started shaking violently. All hell broke loose. Her sisters were crying, she was covering her ears, sitting in a corner rocking back and forth, and Pa was trying to get the neighbors to help.
The next time it happened, Pa wasn’t even at home. Her sisters were trying to turn Mama on her side, yelling for her to call Pa. Her fingers kept getting caught in the holdes on the dial and she had to dial the number 9 times before he answered. His voice was a quiet hush, firm and professional. She stammered what was going on.
“I'll be right there” he said, not losing his composure. And then he was back within 10 minutes because his place of work was close to home. Mama had fallen asleep on the floor by then. He carried her to the bathroom and they could here the water running.
All three girls sat waiting for Pa and Mama to come out and when they did, it was like the whole episode did not even happen. Life continued as per normal. A tween turning teen soon. Her sisters Alena 16 and Azuri 14 were thick as thieves. And she was still the odd one out.
Anora tried very hard to tag along with her sisters everywhere. It annoyed them immensely. They felt she disrupted everything and she couldn't understand their games. They would sometimes gang up against her, ostraching her, telling on her, and blaming everything on her.
Anora looked exactly like her Ma. Long, black hair which Ma would always plait. Her eyelashes were so long, her sisters called her Snuffleupagus from Sesame Street. They would then have conversations while blinking ever so slowly and slurring like the elephant did. Anora would cry and Ma would talk to her sisters about calling her names.
Azuri and Alena would also play board games that were meant for two. Sometimes they would let her play but it never lasted long becasue she couldn't understand the rules. They would then play without her and she would get Mama to help.
Mama preferred to take her into the kitchen and give her some chocolates to pacify her. It worked. Mama hardly ever scolded any of them, allowing them to just be whoever they wanted to be.
There was one time though Mama punished all three of them. Her sisters more than her. They had climbed up the ladder on to the roof and she was too scared to follow them. But her 9 year old self wanted so badly to join her sisters up on the rooftop. They were forming a secret club they had told her. And she wanted to be in the club too. So she kept calling out to them to help her up.
They had a notebook with them. The notebook they were going to write all their secret missions in. They started tearing the papers out one by one, crunching them into paper balls and throwing them down at her.
Mama did some part-time sewing to make ends meet. And she was in the kitchen tring to finish some projects she had committed to. Suddenly Mama walked out of the house and in a glance took in what was going on. She walked up to her and smacked her on the shoulder.
“Go and take your nap now!!” she said in the sternest voice she had ever heard. Mama would take afternoon naps sometimes and Anora would join her. But since Mama was up and her sisters were forming a club, she didn’t want to nap by herself.
Then Mama walked off and came back with a thin stick, taken from the coconut leaves. Mama had made a broom earlier in the morning to sweep all the leaves from the backyard. Anora quickly ran into the house and hid behind the door watching them from the crack between the door and the wall.
“Girls, come down now!!” Mama had never looked this angry. “NOW!!”
Alena and Azuri didn’t move. They were too afraid to. Mama got up on the first rung of the ladder. Anora started crying. It was scaring her to see Mama so angry. She had never seen Mama like this before.
“Don’t make me come up there.” she threatened them. Then she whacked the side of the ladder, and the sound reverberated in slow motion. All three girls were terrified, unsure if Mama would follow through with her threat.
Then suddenly she started banging her head on the ladder and started crying. “You girls, please let me finish the dresses I am sewing. Please!!” she said to herself and got down from the ladder. She broke the stick in to two and walked back into the house without another word.
Anora stayed behind the door, too scared to be seen. After Mama went back to her sewing machine, she quietly went to the bedroom. She was sure Mama could see her, but she kept her head down and just went straight in and lay down quietly.
Alena and Azuri came in after awhile.
“Move in” said Alena. “She wants us to take a nap too so she can finish her work.”
Anora slid all the way to the end. Her sisters lay down beside her. The house belonged to the government and their staff of a certain ranking were given the house to stay in as long as they were working. Pa had gotten a promotion a few years back and they had moved in.
Half the house was on stilts with the back portion, on the ground. The house had one hall, then a family hall and one bedroom which they all slept in. The bathroom was as big as the room, on the ground with the kitchen and the storeroom and an extra room beside the kitchen.
The kitchen also had two airwells where the rain would come in. One part of it was used to dry their clothes. When they were younger they would play in the rain. This was when they first moved in. Now Alena and Azuri didn’t enjoy it as much. They had grown out of it.
As all three girls lay on the bed staring at the ceiling trying to get over what had happened. Alena and Azuri were irritated with Anora. They felt if she hadn’t been whinging and crying, Mama wouldn’t have gotten so mad.
Azuri, who was sleeping in the centre turned to look at Anora.
“You know that friend that came to visit you when you were a kid? Aunty Mindy said it’s that spirit that’s gotten into Mama. That’s what made her sick. It’s your fault. You should have just gone to play with him or something. Maybe then he wouldn’t be so angry and leave Mama alone.”
This was the first time she was hearing of this. There were times she wondered if it had really happened or was it a story she had heard. Anora felt tears pricking the back of her eyelids. But she didn’t want to give Azuri the satisfaction of seeing her cry. If they had helped her up the roof, then everything would have been okay.
She turned on her side to face the wall. Azuri turned her back on her too. Anora tried to remember all the things that had happened after the boy stopped coming. But everything was a blur. She knew Pa and Mama were happy they had gone to see that strange guy because she started getting better. The boy had also stopped visiting and asking her to come out and play.
All three girls slowly dozed off into their afternoon nap.
To Be Continued
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