Short Stories

Embrace in Autumn

Humans often project their emotional turmoil onto nature, this the reason that we see rain as an outpouring of grief or cool breeze as a sign of relief. It is entirely possible that nature too has its own spectrum of emotions. Flowing with this stream of thought, Autumn seems to represent the notion of letting go of the occurrences of yesterday and embracing the forthcoming life. One fine Autumn evening, a young man sat anxiously over a park bench gazing into the horizon. Surrounded by leaves, tainted by rusty crimson, bright orange and yellow, waiting on branches for wind to take them to their final destination. Young Ron Howard sat on a bench waiting for his fiancee Jenn Smith. With beads of precipitation on his forehead Ron was fiddling with his cuff buttons, he had a terrible burden on his conscience that casted a looming shadow on their relationship. While he sat their fiddling with his cuff buttons, his mind raced over and over, showing him all the possibilities that were not in his favour. Maybe he deserved this anguish for the misdeeds he committed willingly. As the slow and steady setting of sun began, Jenn reached near the bench which carried Ron, who had drifted away in own thoughts.

Jenn placed her hand over his shoulder, which tore Ron out from the web of his own thoughts.

Jenn – How are you Ron, you sounded disturbed when you called ?

Ron – I’m just fine, hope I did not bother you with the phone call.

Jenn – Had to run some errands but coming here to you was more of priority.

Jenn smiled and held Ron’s hand while Ron shifted so that Jenn could sit beside him.

Ron – I wanted you to meet someone and let you know somethings that I hesitated to discuss.

The look on Jenn’s ashen face was of bewilderment for she was worried about the revelation that Ron would lay in front of her. Ron spoke in monotone after a brief pause

Ron – I wanted to introduce you to my aunt, the one who raised me.

Jenn – But you were an orphan, weren’t you?

Ron – My parents left for heaven while I was just a boy but I was never an orphan, Aunty Sarah took me under her wing.

Jenn’s eyes widened as she heard her life partner lay his heart bare in front of her. Ron continued in the same monotone.

Ron – Back in the day, when my parents came to this town, they knew nobody. The first person who welcomed them was Aunty Sarah. She came to my parents’ apartment with a cake in a covered dish and welcomed them into the neighbourhood. Ever Since then she became a regular feature in their life. While my father went for his job in the factory, Mom and Sarah would spend time together, cooking or watching telenovelas on TV, this was before I was born of course. My mother would go and play with Sarah’s daughter Annie, who was toddler then. 

Sarah was a single mother to Annie, her husband was not a good man. This was all she’d tell us. Anyway things were going great for my parent’s and Sarah. Then a couple years later I was born. My mother told me that Sarah and Annie spent the entire days with her during the last trimester while my father would be away at his job. Years passed, Sarah and Annie were family to us, we’d celebrate everything together, our birthdays and anniversaries, their birthdays. When I was five, my father got involved in an accident at the factory. The accident was fatal and he left me and my mother alone. Sarah was the first person my mother called and she came running. She was the one who arranged the funeral and wake. After my father’s passing, my mother lost her smile but Sarah always tried to cheer her. She got my mother a job at a local cloth mill. She had a lot of connections from the corner grocery shop she owned. She used to get us stuff we needed as gifts so that my mother would not be burdened with expenses. Whenever I used to go to her place, she’d pass me 10 or 20 bucks. She got me more candy than my own mother could. Years passed by and my mother’s health grew worse. When I was about 10 or 11, my mother left me alone because of her sickness. With tears in my eyes, I called Sarah. She came running again. She arranged for the funeral and wake. The whole neighbourhood came, most of them were there to just kill time, argue with each other. No one was there for my poor mother except for Sarah. The others came and told me that they’d be happy to help me or cried fake tears for my mother. It was Sarah who sat motionless seeing my mother’s lifeless body in that open casket. When everyone left, the night before the burial. Only me and Sarah sat in the funeral parlor, She rose from her seat and went over to her friend. She started patting my mother on her head as if consoling or relaxing her. She wept silently and told my mother that she was a younger sister to her and that she promised to be always there for me. She promised that she’d make sure I became a decent person. I made my own promise at my mother’s funeral to make her and my father proud, to become affluent. After the funeral, I started living in Sarah’s home. She accepted me as her own son. I got everything Annie had and to be frank it was fun having Annie as my elder sister. We used to hang out all day long. Annie was never very bright in school or perhaps anything but she was very kind hearted, while I did well in school. As years passed, Annie started to work at the Grocery shop that Sarah owned. I went to college and Sarah was the one who paid my tuition fee. When I completed my graduation, I wanted to go abroad for learning the trade and earning more wealth. Sarah got my plane tickets and I went for my sabbatical. For the first few months, I used to call Sarah every week from the payphone their. I told them everything that I did during that week. I even sent Annie some gifts and postcards from there. Eventually I started to get more work, more success and more money but that meant less time. I started missing weekly calls. The weekly calls became monthly calls. Eventually I stopped calling her altogether. After about three months, one afternoon I called Aunty Sarah from the payphone and as I said hello, she started to curse me and wail. As the call went further, she told me that one day, someone tried to rob the store and shot Annie in the process. She told me how she lost her only daughter and I lost my elder sister. She cried, how she tried to reach me but I had no address or contact number. She told me how I wasn’t there for her while she had always been there for me or my mother. My heart sank as I heard all of it, it felt like a kick to my chest. I can not imagine how she buried her daughter without anyone who would support her or how she arranged the funeral or wake. I was crestfallen to learn that I wasn’t there for someone who had made my life and without whom I’d probably be dead. I was ashamed, how I had let down my parents, I had let down Aunty Sarah and Annie. I broke my promise, while she kept hers all along.

When I came back to town, I tried to meet her. The first time she wouldn’t see me, she was livid that I had the gall to even reach out to her now. The second time, laconically she said that she had forgiven me but she still cannot find the compassion in her heart to embrace someone who had betrayed her. 

Yesterday, I left a letter at her shop, telling her about you and once again begging for forgiveness for my misdeeds. If she were to come, she’d be there in about quarter of an hour.

As Ron finished narrating the entire episode, Jenn was teary eyed. She embraced him for a moment and then both of them sat still watching into each other’s eyes. After about 5 minutes or so a familiar maternal figure appeared from the horizon, approaching them. Aunty Sarah had finally come, with her white hair neatly tied in a bun, wearing a burgundy coloured shawl. She poised a warm smile.She looked divine, afterall she had come to meet her future daughter in law. Ron got up and held Aunty Sarah, with tears in his eyes and smile on his lips. After a moment, Jenn got up and joined Sarah and Ron in their embrace, for she knew that it was family.

 The sun had clasped the horizon and sky was decorated with a multitude of colours and this eventful day was nearing its end. 

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