Sera woke up suddenly in the middle of the night. Curled up in a fetal position, she removed her thumb from her mouth and listened carefully.
Her parents were fighting. Again. She heard a scream and sat up in her bed, scared.
She moved to the edge of the bed, her little feet not long enough to touch the ground. She walked to her bedroom door, which was always unlocked as a rule; across the hall to her parents bedroom. Everything was quiet now.
“Mommy?” Her voice was quivering as she knocked on the door.
There was no reply.
She stood there for a minute, wondering what to do. She knew something wasn’t right.
“Mommy!” A little more insistent, she knocked again. She heard someone move towards the door swiftly and took a few steps back, tripping over the mat in the hall.
The door opened. It was her father.
“Daddy, where’s mommy?”
Her father picked her up. “Mommy’s asleep darling, lets go back to bed!”
“But i heard her! I want her!” She started crying.
Her father ignored her and carried her to her room.
” Go to sleep. We’ll talk in the morning.” He kissed her on the forehead and smiled. She didn’t like it when he smiled. Because his eyes were always…so cold!
Sera looked at his departing figure and shuddered.
Her mother committed suicide a couple of months later. It was attributed to depression. Her father, too busy with work to care for her, left her with his mother, a kindly widowed lady of 80.
The ceremony had been painful. Everyone’s parents were there. Even the nerdy Asian girl who was adopted. She was all alone. Her grandmother, too old to venture out on own at 94 was at home. She had baked a cake for her. Hooray.
She looked at her watch.
Todd, her boyfriend was late for their celebratory dinner. She looked down at her shoes and frowned. It was supposed to be a proud day for everyone. But she just felt..indifferent.
” Heeeey, there you are!”
She felt his strong brown arms envelop her in a bear hug. She turned around and smiled.
“I’m sorry i am late!” He looked down at her, with his puppy dog eyes and she felt herself melting. He leaned down to kiss her, with an intensity that always took her breath away. So THIS was what love felt like.
“Forget dinner, lets go someplace else!” She smiled, taking his hand. He grinned and followed. Someone was going to get lucky!
The next summer, they broke up.
He had met someone else. It wasn’t her, it was him. He missed her too much, she understood that – right?
She deleted his mail. And cried.
25 year old Sera looked into the mirror – her eyes wide and round. It was her wedding day. Dave, her fiance had always said that he had fallen in love with her because of her eyes. They always looked so sad. He wanted to make her happy. Make those eyes sparkle.
But he couldn’t.
At 28, she was divorced, alone and pregnant.
She decided not to have the child. It was a decision that always tormented her but she couldn’t handle it, the entire pain all over again.
Where did they go wrong? They both worked long hours in different cities. With little contact and a high degree of stress at work, they drifted apart. She had offered to shift to make the relationship work. But it was too late.
20th September, 2011
Two days before her thirtieth birthday, she woke up in the middle of the night. She sat up in her bed, her heart pounding. She could hear a child crying. This was the third night in a row and she couldn’t take the crying anymore. Something needed to be done. She looked at her watch. It was two in the morning.
Was it Emily Smith, the little girl next door? She was fond of the mousy, brown – haired girl who always gave her a shy smile whenever she walked across their house.
Mr. Smith mostly kept to himself, a gruff, cranky divorcee who had recently shifted next door after his divorce.
She pulled a sweat-shirt on and grabbed her keys and cellphone. On an afterthought she went back to her room and took out her baseball bat.
She walked out into the backyard and looked over the fence into Mr Smith’s house. All the lights were off. She heard a muffled sob and took a deep breath. She jumped over the fence, tumbling a bit awkwardly to the other side, her bat falling noisily to her side. Waiting for a full five minutes before moving,she walked across Mr. Smith’s backyard, to a window which she knew belonged to Emily, since she had babysat her a couple of times, till recently when Mr. Smith told her that he no longer needed her help, thank you very much. The crying had stopped.
The curtains to Emily’s room were drawn. She tried lifting the window. It was open! She pushed it up slowly, careful not to make any noise. She waited for a second and then pushed the curtains aside an inch and gasped out loud at the sight that met her eyes. HE had seen her. She heard him snarl as he dived for the window. She screamed and ran to the other side of the backyard, falling over an old pipe. She reached for the phone in her pocket.
” 911!?!!! I’m speaking from Number 23, Park Street and i am here to report a crime! There’s a little…” She screamed again as she felt Mr. Smith’s hand grab her arm and throw her phone away. A fist smashed against her cheek and she blacked out.
She woke up in the ICU after a week. She had been stabbed three times in her stomach. He had tried to slit her throat but another neighbor, an army veteran armed with a shotgun had come to investigate and blown half of Mr. Smith’s head off.
” He wasn’t a divorcee. His wife had gone missing a couple of years ago….he was a suspect but we could never pin anything on him.”
She looked at the policeman who had come to question her and smiled weakly.
“If it weren’t for you he would have killed the little girl as well. He used to beat her every night!”
She felt tears well up in her eyes.
” Where is Emily?”
” Third Floor, first door on the left, you ain’t fit to see her!” Said the nurse who glared at the policeman who glared back.
Ignoring their protests and wincing slightly, Sera took off her ivy tube and limped over to Emily’s room. She was sleeping, her thumb in her mouth. She had bruises all over her little body.
She looked at the policeman.
“What’ll happen to her?”
” Well…we don’t know yet, but she has no living relatives far as we know!”
She looked down at the child and brushed off a strand off her face. She felt angry and sad. But she had made her decision. She would not let Emily be another Sera.
” I want to adopt her!”