Fiction Park

Margaret

- Kabita Sen
That night Daisy did not ask Margie to read to her, nor did Margie speak a word of it. When Margie tucked Daisy in, she said, “I am sorry, Mommy.” Margie just smiled, for there was no need for Daisy to apologise. She kissed Daisy’s forehead, and said, “Good night, Daisy.”

Nov 4, 2018-25 September,1999

Dear you,

Every time I sit down to write you a letter, she asks me about your return. And every time, I have no answer. To console her heart, and mine, I tell her that her father will come home soon. I don’t tell her that the war has raged more fire than anyone could have anticipated. I don’t tell her I have no idea how you have been, or where you are. All I know is that times are going to get tougher, on you more than us, and that we miss you terribly. But I also know that you will get through it. Your daughter believes it more than I do.

I sit inside these empty walls waiting for your return. It’s been five years now, and I am still waiting, Cedric. The old notebook you gave me is where I write these letters to you, my love. I am still here, dear Cedric, holding onto every little hope I have, with our daughter, Daisy. I hope one day you will come back and read all these letters I couldn’t post.”

With faith,

Margie

As Margie finished writing her letter, she closed the old notebook with her numb hands that longed for the warmth of her husband’s loving hands. Margie did not know how many letters she had written till date, but with each night’s passing, she knew her devotion and love for Cedric was getting stronger. The old notebook was kept where it belonged, in the old case that they had bought when they first arrived in the Beverly Street. The case treasured her letters, but sometimes she felt as if it mocked her when she kept the notebook inside.

..........

The night was cold, but Margie didn’t feel its chillness. She stood besides the window, staring at the bare oak tree out in the garden, and remembered how much she loved autumn and the colours it brought. She had now stopped to adore them, but she still loved autumn, for it was on one beautiful autumn day that Cedric had asked her to marry him. There was no ring, just a note that said: Margaret Annie Woods, Cedric Peter has wanted to know since high school whether you would like to marry him. Margie was the happiest person that day. They got married and then had a beautiful daughter, Daisy. They spent five blissful years together and  then the war broke and Cedric was called. He was a soldier and had to go for the war, leaving behind Margie and Daisy. The last thing he said to her before he went to war was, “Margie, I will return. I know that Daisy is safe in her mother’s arms. Do not forget to tell her wonderful stories during bedtime like we always do. I just want you to know that ever since I met you I have been in love with you, and you are the best thing that has happened to me, Margie.”

..........

“Mommy, don’t look at that sickly, old Uncle Oak. He is not to be paid so much attention. He is going to be fine. He is without leaves now, but in the next summer he is going to be full of leaves,” said Daisy. She addressed the oak tree as Uncle Oak just because she liked calling it so. But for Daisy, Uncle Oak was not just a tree, but her best friend, who listened to her for hours on end. She loved uncle Oak because unlike her other playmates he did not chide her for telling fictitious stories about her father. Uncle Oak had become her trustworthy friend.

“Alright now, little Daisy, it’s time for your prayers,” Margie said to Daisy. Every night, after her prayers, Daisy asked Jesus to fulfil her many wishes, and in return she would sing Hallelujah as many times she could. Daisy was an innocent kid of ten, and she was just five when her father left for the war. All she remembered of him were the bedtime stories he used to tell her and the way he held her with so much warmth and love. Daisy believed that if she prayed to God every day, he would be happy and tell her father to return. Margie knew all of it but pretended otherwise. Margie didn’t want Daisy to feel depressed about the departure of Cedric. She told Daisy so many brave stories of Cedric that made Daisy feel so proud.

“So many chores left to be completed. Daisy, come and help me, please. Take the trash out to the garden. And, what is this? So many mites in the kitchen. And what are these? Daisy, how many times should I tell you not to put your dirty socks and gloves in the case!” Margie said, annoyed with the chores that still needed to be done. It took Margie the whole day to clean up the mess in the house and she was drained at the end of the day. Yet, she prepared dinner for her and Daisy.

“Mommy, today you had promised to read out Alcott’s Little Women to me,” the little girl asked her fatigued mother, as she set the table for dinner. “I am afraid today I will be unable to, dear. I will do it tomorrow, is that alright?” Daisy approved with a nod. After the meal, both the mother and the daughter went to sleep. Margie dozed off, but Daisy could not. Daisy’s friend Koen and others had taunted her for not having playthings like he did, and for not having a father besides her like him the whole day. Thoughts about her father’s return kept her awake all night.

“When will Papa come home, mommy?” an inquest was made during breakfast. “I don’t know, dear Daisy, but soon. You don’t worry.” Daisy had expected that answer from her mother, for she had heard it many many times before. “My friends keep on taunting me for not having my Papa. I don’t want to play with them anymore now. I won’t. And I am tired of you lying about his return. I have been hearing that he will return soon for many years. I think Papa will never return.” Margie was astounded and hurt to hear her daughter’s harsh words. She wanted to scold her, but couldn’t. She wanted to console her, but had no words to soothe her child’s agony.  “Daisy, go out and play with Uncle Oak, now.” Margie commanded. Daisy followed her mother’s words and went out to the garden and kept looking at Uncle Oak without a word.

Inside, Margie wept. Tears rolled down Margie’s pale face. “Cedric, your daughter has started to think you won’t return. How should I console her?.” That night Daisy did not ask Margie to read to her, nor did Margie speak a word of it. When Margie tucked Daisy in, she said, “I am sorry, Mommy.” Margie just smiled, for there was no need for Daisy to apologise. She kissed Daisy’s forehead, and said, “Good night, Daisy.”

..........

“Margie, the war has been halted by the state. What a relief! If they had to cease it then why did they even declare it. So many soldiers’ lives could have been spared. I heard only half of the soldiers are alive. I pray Cedric comes home!” Margie’s neighbour, Mrs May, bellowed from across the street. She brought both satisfying and dreadful news to Margie. And Margie did not know how to respond. She started praying, pleading with God for Cedric’s safety. “My daughter keeps making promises to you so that you fulfil her wishes. And I have always told her that you presented us with everything you could and yes you have. But you also know how these last five years have passed: how I have spent restless, scary nights alone, how I have feared for the safety of my husband, how I have feared my daughter will grow up without her father. Dear god, after five years I am asking for something. Please make him return. It’s the only thing I would ask for.” Margie had turned fragile over the years, time had beat her down. She drowned her fears and pretended to be strong, but now it had been too long.

..........

That night Margie again wrote Cedric a letter. After completing it, she placed it on the table, and then to close the window that was bringing in a cold breeze. As she was closing the window, she saw something big near the oak tree that was advancing towards her house. She reckoned it was some animal because it was pitch dark outside the house. She called for Daisy, but she was sleeping soundly. Margie decided to go out and see what it was for herself. She took a cane and wrapped herself with a saffron shawl. She opened the door and went out to the garden. She mustered up all her courage and strength, charged at the animal, and hit it with the cane.

“Margaret! Haven’t you kept a porch light in the garden yet? I have told you to do that so many times! This is not the first time I have been mistaken for an animal. God knows how many times I have been beaten.” Margie couldn’t affirm the voice she had just heard from the ‘animal’ she had hit. “Cedric?” was all she could utter. “You thought I would never return, didn’t you, Margie? But I kept my promise. Your devotion and love is what brought me here.” Margie was so overwhelmed with emotions that she could not utter a word. All she did was embrace him. “Let’s go inside. Daisy will not believe you are finally home.”

“Daisy has grown so beautifully, just like her mother.” Cedric said, as he looked at his daughter who was sound asleep. “Daisy, Daisy wake up. Your Papa is here,” Margie said. “Daisy, won’t you say “Papa” to me?” the soldier asked his daughter. Daisy could not believe her eyes. “It’s him! Mommy, Papa is here!” The little one jumped from bed to embrace him. “I missed you, dear Daisy. You have grown so beautiful, my girl,” said Cedric.

Now, Margie will not need to write any letters. Her daughter too will feel the need to bribe Jesus during prayer time every night and Uncle Oak will never hear any war stories. Margie looked at her husband and her daughter, and smiled. All, finally, was well.

Published: 04-11-2018 09:55

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