Love Me Tomorrow – Part IV

She sniffed her nose and wiped away the drop of tear that was holding on to her eyelid.
They were just joking. She didn’t need to get over emotional about it. They didn’t know what they were talking about. And like her father said, they were just kids. That’s what kids do. They taunt other kids and tease them for the littlest things.
They didn’t mean it.
She tucked the bunch of hair that was hanging by her right eye behind her ear and started to walk away. Home was just few steps farther. All she had to do was, stay calm until then.
“You mother likes to sing,” she heard one of them say.
She didn’t turn around. She didn’t care who it was.
“Your mother likes to dance,” she heard it again.
She tried not to listen. Twinkle twinkle… she tried to recite but it was getting hard to concentrate.
“Your mother is a …” they were singing in chorus now.
Little star, like a diamond in the sky. No, that wasn’t right. Twinkle twinkle, little star… She tried to focus.
Twinkle twinkle, little star… how I wonder what you are…
“Who…” she shut her ears tight so that their words wouldn’t touch her. They were laughing as they sang.
There laughter was rattling her brain now. She couldn’t tolerate it anymore. Her mother was sweet and beautiful and she loved her very much.
Mandy dropped her bag and turned around to look at the nasty boys.
She didn’t know all of them. Jack from school, Justin from across the street, and two other boys she had seen in this street before. They laughed merrily, their heads rocking back and forth, unable to hold the delight from the mockery they were throwing on her.
They were mean and were nothing like her father said they were. They needed a lesson in manners. She bent over and picked up some dirt from the landscaping at Mrs. Adam’s and threw it on Jack’s face. He was the closest one and had the meanest most ugliest face she had ever seen.
The dirt filled his mouth and he seemed to gag.
The others were stunned for a moment.
Jack spit the dirt and looked at her. Beneath the muddy and gore, Mandy could see anger surmounting on his face. He wiped away the dirt and charged at her, as if, about to hit.
He was about few feet away from her and all she knew, she had to run like hell. Mandy turned around and started to run, not caring where she was headed to. She knew she had to look for her home, but right now, every house on the street looked the same. Things were going blurry and she couldn’t make out anything distinctively. She was looking down, but she couldn’t see anything. The sun was too strong and her head was heating up. She couldn’t see anymore and she fell.
Hands under her body, face hid by the grass, she wept silently. She couldn’t let anyone see her tears. Her father had once taught her. Never allow others let in on your fears. Be strong, act as if you don’t care. They would try to pierce you but if they believe you are not being hurt, they’ll leave.
She rubbed her face in the grass and hoped her tears were dry or at least, soaked up by the earth.
She turned around and looked up.
They were standing right there. Grinning.
Jack folded his shirt sleeve up his elbow and smirked. She knew he was going to hit her. Bad.
Her mind froze.
Her dad taught her all sorts of confrontations but none like this. He never taught her how to fight a bunch of tough guys.
She didn’t know what to do. She lay there, staring into his eyes, not allowing the tears to come out. They’d have to wait.
“Why don’t you pick someone your size?” she heard an unfamiliar voice, coming from behind.
Mandy steered her neck to look at the person talking.
Looking upside down, she couldn’t see his face clearly. But she saw enough to recognize.
It was the boy from the family across the street. The father-son duo moved in to the house next to hers. She didn’t know his name but she had seen him the other day. She had thought he was cute.
If she had been dreaming, she could have said she saw light above him. She’d still do, but nobody would believe.
“Mandy,” she heard her father call out.
His voice jerked her out of her thoughts. She forced herself to the present. It was hard, but she did.
She lived in the worst prison of the world. She wasn’t allowed few moments to herself. Especially when it involved her Tim.
“Yes, papa?” she said, halting her circular motions on the bowl of pea soup.
“This letter came for you today,” he said.
He was holding some envelope in his hands. What could it be? Could it be from her Tim?
As if firecrackers bursting within her, she lighted up in joy. She dropped the spoon in the bowl and rushed to her father.
His face dropped, as if he expected her to act otherwise. What? What did he expect? Was it not from her Tim?
Or was the sadness a proof of the fact that it was coming from him. For her father always negated the idea of her Tim coming back. Maybe, he didn’t celebrate the thought of being proven otherwise.
If it were so, she’d be dancing in joy for the whole night and the whole day until the sun came to melt the ice away.
Oh! Damn!
There was no ice but she’d still welcome the sun play with the rusty wind and sing with the birds.
That would be, if her Tim was on the way.
“Where is it from, Papa?” she asked.
“New York,” he said.
Her heart sank. The last communication she got from Tim was twelve years back, from Anaheim. New York wasn’t close.
Maybe, he moved.
“It’s from the Poetry Association.”
No! Why couldn’t it have been Tim?
She couldn’t breathe. The air around her was being sucked out. For a second she had thought it was from him. And the thought itself was so wonderful. Why was God playing with her so bad?
Why? Oh why?
“They are having a fifteen day conference with some training sessions, few exercises, and some discussions. I thought you could go and share your work.”
She looked up at him. He was staring back at her with his big eyes, full of love and hope. He really wanted her to go.
And it was her dream. To write. To share. But what if Tim came and left while she was away. Could she take the risk?
“What do you say?” he asked.
She didn’t know. How could she leave for fifteen days? Besides, who’d look after her father?
“It sure sounds exciting but you know I can’t go,” she said, clasping her fingers together, and walking around the kitchen.
“Why?” he asked.
She bit her lip and looked back at him. She didn’t know what to say. She was certain he’d not be very cordial after hearing Tim’s name again, two times in a row, in a single day.
“Who’ll take care of you, Papa?” she said.
“I have looked after myself, since…” his voice choked. “Since your mother left,” he said. “I think I can take care of myself for few days.”
She looked at his limp legs sitting on the wheelchair. He had trouble getting his pants on, how was he going to manage the whole day.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” she said.
“It is. You have such beautiful poems in that little book of yours. You have a spark in you, an art. It’s time you hone it and let it shine.”
“I don’t know. What if Tim comes?” she said.
He closed his eye for a second and nodded his head. She knew he was not happy. He didn’t like the ‘T’ word.
She kneeled down beside him, her hands over his knees and her head dipped low, watching the floor. She shouldn’t have said it.
“I’ll tell him you have gone…” she heard him say.
She lifted her head and looked up at him. Was he meaning to say that he’d ask him to go away?
“…and that you’ll be back soon.”
Finally the air was free. She could breathe again. She pulled in a deep breath and smiled.
“You have waited fifteen years, I think he can wait fifteen days,” he said, clasping her palms in his.
She smiled nervously. Should she take the risk? Leave town for fifteen long days?
“I trust you honey…” she heard him again. “Do you trust me?” he said.
His eyes sparkled and she knew the tear was ready to advance.
She wanted it to roll down in glee.
“Of course, Papa,” she said as she clung on to his arms. “I’ll go,” she whispered in his ear.

Read More: Love Me Tomorrow – Part V
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