Word flew across the city, the word of her dead father. The visitors came to pay their condolences.
‘ He was a pious man’, one said.
‘ The world needed people like him’ said another.
‘How could the gods be so cruel? He left behind a child, she is merely 12. What will become of the parentless girl, she will be forced into the evils if not adopted by someone.’ she heard a woman whispering to another.
Her mother had married the man when she was 7 after her father’s death. The woman had been terrified of living with a child without the protection of any man, Cecil had come forward to tie the bonds with her mother, he had promised to take care of Angela as her father, love her as his first born and love her mother as he would have loved his first wife .
Cecil was never a bad parent, until her mother died. The medicines didn’t work and their prayers were never answered, fever took her way from them.
Angela would sit beside her mother’s bed, lamenting over her loss, Cecil, who had hopelessly fallen in love with her mother took to wine to forget his pain, he didn’t want to live anymore but couldn’t be selfish as the child’s life was his responsibility. But the sense of duty couldn’t overpower the pain of lost love, he became a drunkard .
Little Angela, though 11 back then had been taught well about the household chores , she could cook and feed her little stomach , Cecil would eat once in a day or two as most of the time his belly was filled with wine. He had thought to send Angela away , to live with some relative, but Angela had insisted on staying, ‘ Who will take care of you father? Mother would be sad in heaven if she sees I left’ she had said.
Cecil hadn’t forced her anymore, the child’s face resembled her mother’s, a look at her and he would forget his pain but for a few moments, they would comeback later , to torment him. He had tried to convince himself to leave wine and to give Angela the good future she deserved, but hadn’t succeeded.
The night before his death, Cecil had called for Angela, he had made the little angel sit on her lap, his breath stank of wine, his unshaved beard pricked Angela’s skin, he had coaxed her hair and whispered in her ear, ‘ My dear, the world without your mother had been very tough for me, I know its tough for you as well, but I am not brave as you my child. I hadn’t slept peacefully since the last twelve months, I want to be in peace my child. ‘
He held a small phial with some purple liquid in his palms and rolled it between his fingers, ‘This will help father sleep, I have sent for Uncle Herbert, the man with the funny nose you remember?’ .
A smile had crept onto Angela’s lips and she had given a slight nod as the image of the man had occurred in her mind.
‘He is a nice man and he likes you as well, give this to him when he arrives’ he had said, thrusting a sealed letter into her palms, ‘tell him that I gave it to you’ he had added .
He had lifted Angela off his lap and turned her towards him, ‘ God bless you my child, you are an Angel’ he had said kissing her forehead with all the love he had left in him, ‘Now off you go, its past your bed time’ he had added kissing her Good Night.
Angela had been near the door of her father’s room , about to make an exit ,when she had heard something in his feeble voice ‘Forgive me for being a coward, my child’ , she hadn’t understood what he meant but the rising sun had made it all clear to her , when she found him lying in his room, skin blue and foam coming out of his mouth, Angela had rushed to the doctor’s house teary eyed and dragged him back to Cecil’s room.
‘ He is dead, he died of the poison Nightshade ’ he had confirmed after examining his symptoms and seeing the phial in Cecil’s hand, half of the purple liquid still remaining.
The doctor had done the work of informing the church Priest and some people about the mishap and the news had spread like wildfire, Angela’s Uncle Herbert had arrived by then and was griefstricken on learning the news of the death of his brother, he buried his brother after all the Christian rituals to be done.
A sobbing Angela had clung on to her father’s letter and the phial of nightshade which had lured her father into the clutches of death.
She gave the letter to Uncle Herbert after the burial, still sobbing.
‘ Angela, this is your father’s suicide letter, he has asked me to take you with me and give you a proper upbringing, it is his last wish. My dear, he is sorry about what he has done but he wants to be one with your mother and that was the only possible way he could think of. You are my only niece and I will be happy to take you home. Pack your belongings, we will be leaving by tomorrow evening’ Uncle Herbert said after reading the letter.
That night, Angela found it hard to go to sleep, her father’s words and his letter lingered in her mind, she took the phial in her small hands and looked at it, pulling the stopper out of its mouth she stared at the purple liquid, it looked tempting, she emptied the liquid on the floor and threw the phial away, as she dreaded losing another parent, and she feared history to repeat itself with Uncle Herbert in place of Cecil.
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© Banaja Prakashini
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