Amidst Sandcastles – Chapter One

August 29, 2011 by Sana Rose  
Published in Motherhood

So here’s the first chapter… :) Hope you enjoy it…

Dr. Selena Rosche had never failed at motherhood. But now after twelve years of it, for the first time she had a feeling she was losing it all as she gazed at her twin daughters’ faces filled with questions. Questions she didn’t want to answer. Not yet.
“Mom,” Rene, the older-one-by-five-minutes, spoke emphatically. She sounded so grown up suddenly. And the word ‘mom’ felt deliberate. “It’s not like ‘Oh, Mom! My dress is so torn that wearing it is equal to not wearing anything!.’ It’s like ‘Mom, I would like to know if this is my dress.’ We are not trying to hurt you.”
Selena sighed again for the umpteenth time. Rene called her ‘mom’ when she was dead serious. She knew she was in Rene’s court tonight. 
The girls were compatible and bright all right. She had known it. But they were more than just bright. She knew now.
Pris laid down her spoon in her plate and it made a clattering sound reminding Selena that they were at the dinner table. She looked at Pris blankly.
“Sorry,” Pris mouthed with a reassuring smile.
Pris looked no different from Rene, but they were different in the way they talked. Rene had always been emphatic and strong in her opinions. On the contrary, Pris had always been As You Like It, Mama. Rene was confident and fiery and Pris was patient and tender.
Even when they were three, if they scraped a knee, Rene cried in her full voice even if there wasn’t much damage, but Pris would sit silently watching her mother with some tears welled up in her eyes, as her Doctor Mother cleaned the wound and dressed it. 
“For Heaven’s sake, we are twelve, Mom!” Rene probed. “And we are frank to you! We asked only what we wanted to know. Nothing more. Only about that old man who visited you this morning.”
Rene saw the same expression in her mother’s eyes she had seen that morning when she and her sister had asked who that tall handsome old man was. Her mother had been much tensed after he left. And Rene and Pris had overheard something her mother had said to him, as they were bustling around the living room, getting ready for school and happened to pass the door to the drawing room. 
“Not now, Dr. Gomer, I have to leave for the hospital in fifteen minutes,” their mother had said. “I’ve got to drop the girls at school and run to the hospital today. And I request you not to visit me here when the girls are in. We’ll speak later, though I don’t have anything to say about -” But Rene had called out in between, interrupting her mother. “Mama…!”
Yes! They had overheard the best part! Selena knew it; Rene and Pris knew it, too. But no one showed it.
Then Rene decided to attack directly.
“Are you ever going to tell us who he is, let alone why he came to see you?” she asked choosing her words very carefully. 
“I don’t know,” Selena replied, putting down her fork in her plate. 
“I guess not,” Rene said. “Because, if you would, you wouldn’t have told him not to come when we were in.”
Selena felt blood rush to her ears and head. She shut her eyes and then snapped them open and gave Rene a sharp look.
“Why don’t you just leave it up to me whether I should tell you or not?” Selena asked sharply. “Pris is not asking anything. Why don’t you, too, follow that idea, Rene?”
Pris got up from the table and crossed the kitchen to the sink and started filling the sink with water.
“I see Rene’s asking enough for two,” Pris said trying to concentrate on the water falling from the tap. “I’ll do the dishes, guys.”
“We’ll talk later,” Selena announced and got up, too.

Rene didn’t say anything. Silently, she stashed the dishes in the sink and cleaned the table. Selena cleaned up the counter and put away the cans and tins back in the cupboards. Then she sat on a chair and watched as Rene dried the dishes Pris rinsed. 
Outside, it was raining incessantly. And as she gazed at the girls, memories clouded her eyes and the rain was just a background sound…


The gurney was rolled out to the hallway and stopped in front of the four young people. Dana’s face was pale and her eyes closed. There was a calmness about her face as she lay oblivious to the shock and tears her stillness had caused around her. Selena stood petrified unable to believe that her best friend was dead. Two streams of tears made their way down her cheeks as she felt the world around her crumbling into flotsams in the ocean. She felt numb. She didn’t move when Noah put his arm over her shoulders and held her close. The loss was inexplicable. 
Zinnia had fainted into Jean’s arms when she saw Dana’s body and hadn’t returned to consciousness until three days later. Selena thought it must have been easier that way, because she was fighting with the reality of the loss with full consciousness and unable to believe that she would never see or hear or feel Dana again.

“Mama, why are you crying?” Rene and Pris’ voice spliced into her thoughts and she stood up with a start. The girls were peering at her curiously standing close.
“Umm… nothing,” she wiped her tears on the sleeve of her house coat and smiled. “I just went back time.”
“How back?” Rene was the first to shoot as always.
“About ten years ago…”
“When you had us?” Pris asked earnestly.
Selena held out her arms. “Yeah, when I had you, sweethearts…” Rene and Pris hugged their mother together. “I love you…”
“We’re sorry, Mama,” they whispered. “We shouldn’t have asked you too much.”
“It’s okay, honeys,” Selena kissed the top of their heads affectionately. They were hers. “I have nothing to hide from you. Only that I’ll choose the time. Don’t fear by then it’ll be late.”
“You know what’s best always,” Rene said and Pris nodded. 
That night as Selena lay in bed, she realized a new feeling rising in her heart. Fear. Fear for her baby girls. They were twelve, an age which could understand enough truths not to understand life. An age which wouldn’t tolerate being lied to. She wished Noah was there with her tonight. She hadn’t wished it for long ten years about anyone, let alone Noah Sehnor. They had been in love once. It was another lifetime ago. But after Rene and Pris, she had known who really loved her, and who did not.
She was sure Rene and Pris was not a mistake in her life. It was the rightest thing she had ever done in her life. But she wasn’t sure about letting Noah leave her. She wasn’t sure that it was even a right thing to do. It seemed right at the moment to announce stubbornly that she needed only those who understood her and accepted what she was doing. Noah Sehnor was not a selfish man, but he was a practical man. But at that time it didn’t suit the situation when he said to her, “Honey, I don’t think it’s practical to bring them up when you are not even settled,” Noah wrapped her palm with his as he said it, “Couldn’t we think of giving them up for adoption?”

Selena had stood up with a start snatching her hand away from his as if he had just given her an electric shock. She was young and vulnerable. She had believed Noah would be there for her for everything. And she asked as much.
Noah stood up with a slight frown on his handsome face – unforgettable face – it hurt her to remember it even after ten years. “But, baby, think about it! We have a whole life before us to build!”
Selena didn’t have a choice but to say to him, “I have always loved you, Noah, but now I realize you never understood me really. I think we are not meant to be.” Tears welled up in her Hazel eyes when she told that, refusing to flow down. Her eyes still said “I love you, Noah, please…” The blend of feelings was impossible. Everything together. Giving up, wanting, letting go and still loving… A lump formed in Noah’s throat and he clenched his jaws to suppress the pain he felt despite wanting to agree with her and not wanting to at the same time.
There was shock registered on his face when Selena showed him the epilogue of their five years together for – for a pair of twin girls? She knew that Noah knew it wasn’t just about the babies. But he didn’t know what it meant to her either. So that was it.

Noah Sehnor lay idly in the wet sand. He knew he had to go back to his hotel room because it would rain any time. Rain never bothered to tell you to take an umbrella, not that he would have taken one if it told. He wanted to be washed away by the rain and the wave and the wind. He couldn’t do anything more to change things that happened ten years ago. He couldn’t write the prologue to a story for which the epilogue was announced ten years ago. He couldn’t tell her he still wanted her badly and that he was sorry. Noah grabbed a fist full of wet sand in despair as he stared unendingly at the ghastly clouds in the night sky. For once and for all, he wanted to push the clouds that choked his chest away and breathe again. For a funny moment, he imagined Selena beside him trying to resuscitate him by CPR. That was just what he wanted now. 
He pushed himself up to sit up, feeling the sand grains that stuck to his back through his wet white cotton shirt. He dusted sand grains from his dark wavy hair and stood up. He never drank, but he felt wobbly all right. He had never smoked. He didn’t want a cigarette now either. He wanted her. Only her.

When Selena woke up, she sighed in relief, it was only a dream. Noah Sehnor wasn’t there in front of her. She felt a strange longing. She wished he was right there standing in front of her at the foot of the bed, watching her wake up every morning as he had done for four years until ten years ago. Selena couldn’t figure out why she was dreaming about him so often nowadays.
May be he was somewhere around… so near, but invisible… watching her… A shudder passed through her spine when she remembered – still thought of – the fire in his blue eyes when he used to make love to her on days that had been hard on him at the hospital. They had been married in their hearts. How could everything go so wrong all of a sudden…? He had had time to come back to her – ten years – and he still hadn’t. With a pang of jealousy, she wondered if he had met a better girl, married her and built a life so different from their own plans. But would she have accepted him if he had returned? There was no choice between him and the girls. The girls came first as a part of her, and he would have to accept it, too, if he wanted her. It sounded like a package when Selena thought of it now. He must have felt it, too. Ten years back.
“Mama! You’ll be late!” Rene’s voice rang out from downstairs. Selena hurriedly got off from her bed and went to the bathroom. She didn’t have time enough to cool off before she took a shower. It was already seven. 
Selena rushed about in the kitchen trying to prepare the fastest breakfast for the girls. She could manage without it, she had learned to, over the years. But the girls had to be fed and cared for. Rene announced her entry by her usual loud stamping walk.
“Could you just walk a little bit softly, Morning Shocks?” Selena asked for the zillionth time, even in between her bustle around the kitchen. “We need this floor until you get grey hairs at least!”
“Oh, that’s cute, Mama!” Rene giggled. “I could dye my hair light this evening!”
“Don’t you dare to do that Reney-Teeny!” Selena said, scooping spoons of sugar into the teapot and stirring it. “Could you just take those mugs instead of that, dear?”
“Oh, I can’t resist obeying when you say like that!” Rene chuckled and went for the mugs in the cupboard. Pris came silently as usual and perched on a high stool in the corner of the kitchen.
“Any help, Doctor?” she asked sweetly. “I haven’t slept well last night, I guess. I have been having weird dreams, Mama.”

“We’ll analyse that this evening, is that fine, sweetie?” Selena asked piling up the pancakes on a platter. She took a glass bowl and turned to Pris, “I think it would be easier to do that if we had the pancakes with some honey, Pris. It’s in the Ever-Fresh cupboard.”
Pris smiled and hopped down to her feet. She had always been impressed by her mother’s interesting ways in kitchen. There were several cupboards but no one got confused about what was where. The Ever-Fresh cupboard held things that didn’t spoil. She and Rene had been surprised when Mama said that honey was to be placed in the Ever-Fresh cupboard.
“Doesn’t it spoil at all?!”They had asked together. That was when they were seven. 
“No, I had honey from the same jar for ten years,” Selena said, feeling a pang of pain when she said the word Ten. “At home.”
“What if your mother replaced it often?” Rene had asked.
“No, I’m sure she didn’t,” Selena had smiled as she remembered aloud. “Mother never stayed in the kitchen for more than five minutes at a time any day.”
“And what was those five minutes she stayed for?” Pris asked in surprise.
“To taste every dish made by our old Sarah,” Selena said winking. “She wanted to make sure that we ate everything at its best.”
“She was different from you,” Rene observed. Pris nodded.
“Different doesn’t completely describe it, Rene,” her mother grinned. “And what did you mean, Rene?”
Rene and Pris laughed. “We’re kidding! You, too, take care that we eat everything at its best.”
Rene and Pris walked to their classroom after Selena dropped them at school and left for the hospital. Both Rene and Pris were thinking the same thing. But it was Pris who spoke first.
“Rene,” she said glancing around to make sure no one was at earshot. “Don’t you think Mama has a lot kept inside her? She’s so tired and worried these days. It’s not just that strange guest who came yesterday. There’s more to her distraction than that.”
“You know what, I think you are right, Pris.” Rene kicked an empty plastic bottle that lay in the grass. “What can we ask her? ‘Mama, what’s troubling you? Did you unexpectedly see your old boyfriend in your dreams?’?” Rene shook her head. “It’s not possible, sis, we’ll have to wait till she decides to tell us. Which may be never. Or even this evening.”
“I want to help her, Rene, but she’s being hard on herself by not telling us.” Pris grimaced. “For Heaven’s sake, how are we supposed to explain to a doctor that twelve is not five?!”
“Cool it off,” Rene waved her hand. “Even if we manage to explain that twelve is not five, she would teach us twelve is not twenty either! We know her, Prissy Missy!”
“I wish I knew her better,” Pris said giving up. 
“We will hypnotize her,” Rene chuckled. “C’mon, let’s finish school first!”
Rene always had the best impractical ideas! Pris thought wryly. She glanced at Rene sideways and felt she was stealing a glance at the mirror.
He watched the two girls chatter and walk to school. The twins were very beautiful girls, like their mother. With their long dark hairs and green eyes, just like their mother’s, and lovely fair skin. He stepped out from behind the tree and walked out towards the gate. He pulled off the hood of his jacket from his head and breathed the humid morning air deeply. He was alone now, no one left to care for him, with Judith gone and no children. 
At fifty-two, he was a wasted man, nothing to live for. He had paid for his selfishness very badly. He was still paying for that. He would pay till his last breath, he knew. But a ray of hope smiled at him. May be he could… He craved to meet them, to know them, to look into their eyes and tell them softly – 
He was startled by a loud honk and turned around, his thoughts interrupted. He was standing in the middle of the street. His heart hammering against his chest, he made his way to the footpath and across the road and hailed a cab. He would go to the hospital now.

(To be continued…)

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