Are you too busy for your family- spouse and children?
Whom do you allow in to take care of your family when you are not around, while in your businesses or career?
Do you know what that might translate to?
And when the unexpected happens, how do you react? How do you do to fix or solve the problem?
Do you take up arms? Or do you just move out?
And then thereafter, how do you feel- victorious and peaceful or do you feel guilty and as a failure?
HOW A GOOD FAMILY DIES?
The world was a glorious place, full of strange new sounds, wonderful smells, dazzling lights, bright faces and fantastic creatures of every shape and size. To Tommy this was a far better place than that dark, warm and claustrophobic place he had considered home for the last nine months. Or was it longer than that? Still he had made it out alive and what awaited him was exciting and fun to boot. New colours assaulted him from every angle. It was a kaleidoscope of firsts, it was all too much of course , for his comprehension. At first everyone was too loud , too inquisitive for our little hero’s liking. But in time he discovered that this was only their way of showing their affection and love to the newest addition to the clan. There was gran, as gay as they came, with her silver crown of neat hair, forget- me-not hazel eyes, white set of pearly teeth and a little nose. Mirth abounded around her, and she had the kindest gaze and voice.
Then next came aunt Loise, who was not as kind as gran but never the less, still as cordial. She was a mousy lady of nervous disposition, always looking around her as if she half expected a great bird to swoop down on her. It was all very funny to Tommy, and even though he liked his aunt very much she could sometimes be a little odd. Patricia his mother, was always within earshot, a little lady with delicate features. Which were complimented by her calm nature, and elegant poise. She had passionate brown eyes, which danced as she spoke. Indeed a paradox compared to the rest of her person. She had an athletic figure, a testament to her earlier days when she was a swimmer. She had competed in international competitions, and was considered to be among the finest in her generation. That is how she had met Tommy’s father, her prince charming as she fondly referred to him.
Stanley was a senior in campus, he had it all. Good looks, tall, intelligent, well cultured and was from a wealthy family. His great grandfather had started a printing house, which soon grew into a media empire. He was in the fast lane to becoming its president, as had his father and grandfather before him. Now in his final year and with several offers from the other media outlets, it was all his for the taking. Only one little matter gnawed at him, his father was against his relationship decisions. He increasingly felt like a pawn in this universe of his father’s. Every decision he made had to have a positive outlook for the company, lest his father’s political allies got caught up in another scandal.
As he was turning over these thoughts in his head, he looked up just in time to catch a glimpse of a lithe figure breaking the water’s surface. His world froze, his breath caught, an epiphany unfolded before his eyes and he was spellbound. He scanned the surface of the pool so that he could see her emerge, when she did their eyes locked for an infinitesimal moment. And he was certain, for the first time in his life he was sure of what he wanted. After that meeting, a whirlwind courting took place. And before the end of that semester they were holding hands down the corridors. Attracting envy and admiration in equal measure, as they looked like the perfect couple.
After that everything went by so quickly as if it were a blur. Stanley’s father was taken in by Patricia’s open and genuine character. Her parents were delighted at having such a charming man as their son-in-law. It was smooth sailing; however smooth seas do not make fine sailors. For no one outside their union knew of the stormy exchanges they often had many a night in their apartment. When Tommy came along it only served to hold back the flood gates which were threatening to break down at any moment. For a brief moment, everything returned to as it was, laughter rang out in the house again and all Tommy could see were smiles and happy faces. This was why Tommy thought his home a haven where all the noise from outside was safely locked out. He loved snuggling up besides the warm bodies of his parents. A loving arm draped over him and the cooing of his mother’s voice slowly sending him off to sleep.
Now Tommy was four, growing bigger every day and had started going to play school. His teacher was the highlight of his day. She was a petite lady with shoulder length black hair. With a mellow voice, she would allow him to sit on her lap on occasion. He would squeal in delight much to the annoyance of his friends who wanted to do the same. This was his kingdom, and he loved it with all his heart. He would make sure that no one would ruin it, running with his bag to his mother’s arms at full tilt. He would then tell her animatedly of the day’s happenings, as she held his hands in her gentle grasp. Looking at him with her piercing gaze full of love. His father’s voice would call out from the doorway, and he would have a present in his hands, a shiny new toy- car, an action figure of one of his favourite comic heroes’ book or a ball.
One day he raced into the house to find a stunningly beautiful lady chatting with his father, this caught in surprise. He made a loud gasp enough for the two adults to notice him; the lady shot him a wide smile, which immediately made him feel at ease. She stretched out her hand and said, “I am Dolores and pleased to meet you.” Her voice had a musical tone to it; still not sure of what to say or do, Tommy held out his trembling hand and introduced himself. Afterwards during dinner Dolores’ visit became clear, she was going to be his governess. Not entirely sure of what this meant, he later asked his mother through half-closed eyes. “What’s a gover-ness mommy?” She smiled as she often did, the moonlight streaming through the bedroom window made look even more beautiful. “Well it just means someone who will keep an eye on you when mommy or daddy is not around.” With that she kissed his forehead as she tucked him in. That night he had strange dreams, and they all concerned Dolores, she kept shifting in and out of focus always smiling and patting his hair.
Tommy’s life became a lot more exciting and eventful. They took picnics, walks and she taught him how to bake. He soon came to admire her, and was always beside her; she shone in his eyes and thought the world of her. His days in school seemed to drag on forever, he longed to see his Dolores, and he wondered what she was up to. As soon as the bell rang quick as a flash, he would find himself in the school bus waiting to arrive home.
He also noticed how happy his father was, since Dolores arrived. He would often embrace her amid giggles. Tommy thought how wonderful it was that she brought such joy into their lives. He noticed his mother often casting disapproving looks at his father during dinners. This perplexed him but was soon pushed to the back of his mind by other boyish and childish pursuits. After all he had too many things to discover in the back yard. Such as a colourful bug or a little frog splashing around in a puddle. He just didn’t get mommy sometimes, how mysterious they were in his little eyes. They were many things that were being set in motion by the universe that he did not quite understand. Soon enough he would though. The subtle and deft body language of the adults around the dinner table revealed that there were new developments in the household. A supremacy battle was being waged right in front of Tommy’s eyes. A sinister plot to snatch his kingdom, and throw his life into turmoil.
A day before Patricia had decided to clock out of work earlier than she normally did. She had been planning to be at home before Tommy arrived from school. For she often found him asleep by the time she got off from work. Today she was planning to make it up to him, and get something prepared for dinner. Just as she was thinking about it, she decided to pop in the neighbourhood supermarket. As she was casually moving among the aisles, she happened to overhear one of the clerks. “Did you hear the latest news? Turns out that Mr.Perfect isn’t as great as we all thought he was. Hear he has been carrying on with Miss two-face while the wife and kid are away.” This was punctuated with some high pitched laughter from her colleague. “Yeah I wonder what the wife will do when she finds out. I bet there will be hell!” Replied the other in a conspiratorial voice, which betrayed the fact that she was enjoying the news. “Ahem!” Patricia cleared her throat much louder than she meant, turning the other two’s attention to her. They seemed mortified, as their eyes grew wide with some kind of terror that seemed to be lurking along the shelves. Patricia was unsettled by their reaction, as though she stumbled upon something that she was not supposed to. They quickly excused themselves with some muttered apologies. She half wanted to run after them to apologize or seek out some explanation as to what had happened. But she decided not to go against her better judgement. “ Hmmph ! Serves them right for talking ill about other people’s husbands!” She said to herself sententiously, at the thought she at once wondered what hers was up to. He always seemed to be happy whenever she arrived home, and had a good mind to ask him what it was that was making him so cheerful. Anyway she would be there to cheer him up today, and with any luck make it up to him for all the time they had lost.
When she arrived it was still early, for Stanley’s car was not in the drive way. She decided not to park in front of the house, for he would soon be arriving at any moment. So she left the car across the road from her house. She looked up at her bedroom windows, and thought that she saw a flurry of movement. Maybe it was a trick of the light, she got out and grabbed her shopping bags and started for the front door. Then she decided to first check on the back door, for she had found it ajar on so many occasions. And frankly, it worried her with the growing crime rate of the capital. Sure enough it was open, she would have to have a serious talk with the others later.
The house’s air was cool and inviting compared to the oppressive heat outside. She felt an ominous tension rising within and sought to dispel it with a glass of wine. After shutting the door she walked over to the drawer where the wine glasses were kept. Slid it open and extricated one, she held its slender stem and inspected it. A telltale sign of lipstick clung onto the mouth, this was strange. As she herself never wore any, she tried to remember if Dolores wore any. She drew a blank, but since she was craving a drink she took no further notice and poured a glass.
She took out her phone from her purse, and began going through her E-mails, making mental notes to contact a few of her clients later. A noise from upstairs broke her concentration, now what was it? Letting out a breath in exasperation she decided to investigate, creeping up the stairway and craning her neck for a better view. It sounded like things were being moved around, the sound of delightful chatter and squealing. She could not make head or tail of the sounds and they seemed to be coming from the direction of her room. This worried her, only Dolores was in the house at this time and she did not appear to even be around. Gingerly, she placed her fingers around the door knob and held her breath as she peeped between the narrow space.
She did not feel her legs giving in nor did she hear herself giving out a cry of surprise. Her world was turned on its head, everything was swimming around her eyes, and she felt her stomach doing a somersault and could not make out what was being said by the two figures on the bed. Shock, surprise, anger, resentment, betrayal and disgust welled up inside her and tried to find an escape. They became tangled up and amalgamated to create a chasm so deep that it threatened to engulf her.
Fast forward two days later, here they were, all sited around the dinner table breaking bread. As though nothing had happened, a clean slate was thrust in their lives. Only Tommy was not privy to this charade of the perfect family in suburbia. He kept on shifting his gaze from one end of the table to the other, something did not quite add up. Everyone was oddly stiff with perfunctory smiles and talking in a hollow manner. What was happening? The adults around him were obviously concealing things from him they had conspired against him. He felt lonely and no longer wished to be treated as though he were a clueless child.
Now he was six, and quite inquisitive, always probing wanting to know more about the world that lay all around him. He had felt the icy atmosphere at times, but pretended that it did not bother him. He had sought refuge and solace at gran’s house during the lengthy visits that had come to dominate his school holidays. Putting on a brave front was much harder than he had thought it would be. Around his friend he was the charismatic and slightly goofy Tommy, but at home things were the polar opposite. He felt as though he were walking on egg shells the whole time, the silent exchanges of the household members.
The glazed look of his mother’s eyes, it seemed as though whatever fire those eyes of hers held before. It was long extinguished, and even when he would be talking to her she always seemed to be in a reverie, nodding and acquiescent to all his demands. In contrast his father always seemed to be away from home for increasingly long stretches of time. And walked about with his head hung low, as though in perpetual penitence. Dolores was also not spared, skittish and wearing a look of apprehension at all times. Despite what they all claimed; that nothing was wrong. Tommy was no one’s fool, and he clearly understood that his kingdom was unraveling. All he could do was sit at the sidelines and cross his fingers waiting for the inevitable. He did not have to wait for long.
One cold, dark, wet February morning as they were sited around the table having breakfast. The air hung heavy between his father and mother and could not have been made any better by the weather outside. “Honey this breakfast tastes great, don’t you think so?” His father said between a mouthful of toast, casting an appealing look at his mother. In a barely audible voice, with gritted teeth she said, “Good for you. She is also great at other things why don’t you just stick with her.” At this Dolores coughed and hurriedly excused herself from the table, while his mother continued giving his father a smouldering glare.
“I demand a divorce”, exploded his mother leaving the table in a shower of juice. Looking like a defeated man, his father could only utter a weak, “okay”. Tommy’s ears were ringing, no! He must have misheard; he was now old enough to understand what the word divorce meant, as he heard it thrown around a couple of times in school. It seemed to elicit fear and panic among his friends, as if it were a calamity. Now he was hearing it at home and from his parents no less. Tears welled up in his eyes, and he let out a loud scream until he was sure there was no more air left in his lungs. Then waves of sadness washed over him leaving him sobbing uncontrollably, tears gushed from his eyes and poured onto the table cloth.
He felt his parents embracing him, but he was too distressed to tell them anything. Even Dolores joined in the embrace, but it did nothing to calm him down. He had always been a sensitive soul, if not slightly temperamental. For the next two weeks his parents did not leave his side. As they were worried that the situation would wreck him emotionally, and felt that they had too much strain on him in the recent past.
He managed to bounce back and even stoically accepted the fate of his parents union. Now what interested him most was the seaside, the outstretched beach sands, the rolling waves and the myriads of birds. In their never ending calls and flight he wondered if they had a previous life similar to his. He had moved away with his mother to a remote fishing hamlet, far removed from his previous city life.
His father had remained behind and decided to remarry to Dolores. This somehow made Tommy less resentful towards his father, and gave him comfort to know that he at least knew his father’s new wife. Now it was just him and his mother, it was rather peaceful and lovely. He had made new friends here and the village was pretty and quaint. The people around were warm and lively. How could he have traded this new kingdom with the old one which was built on a lie? Finally he had a real kingdom, of love and tranquility.