Dawn to Dusk: 24 hours on crossroads – Episode 3

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This entry is part 4 of 24 in the series Dawn to Dusk

When his arranged marriage went haywire, James has to juggle from being a father to his eleven months old son, keeping his job, finding love in the strangest place, maintaining a balance and peace between his family and that of his in-laws, who are lost in the battle of power and authority.

EPISODE III

Helen and Catherine saw an emotional lassitude in James. Whoever it was that stood at the other side of the door must be someone he abhorred, which could only be his wife, Helen guessed, judging from all she heard about her. She carried Junior, who seemed confused at the entire drama around him, hugged him tightly and waited in anticipation.

Catherine peered on, her mouth ajar. Her expression begged for quick explanation, but she was too shocked to request for it. She stared at James who was too dispirited to notice.

“What is going on James? Who is at the door?” her tongue untangled and she finally spoke.

“It’s your daughter-in-law,” he replied, regaining his lost strength.

“What?” Catherine gaped.

“Yes, the angel of your life,” he added, flipping his hands.

Helen sighed and sat down with total indifference. She has neither met Queen nor had any personal contact with her, but from what she heard of her, coupled with the fact that she absconded, deserting a five-month old baby, was to her a crime enough to crucify any woman. She just could not fathom how a woman could forsake her child because of mere family problems after undergoing the excruciating experience of child birth. So she hated Queen, with all her being.

Catherine, who initially thought it was armed robbers, did not believe her ears; the knock was too violent to come from the woman she convinced her son to marry. She needed to be sure to quench the crazy thoughts looming inside her.

“Open the door,” she ordered her son.

“No!” James replied. “Queen is not entering my house. I made it clear to her to never return here. I am not taking back my words because you said so.”

But Catherine’s thoughts and curiosity were threatening to eat her up, so she stomped to the door, determined.

“Mother do not…” James said, stretching out his hands in a bid to stop her, but she pushed him aside, unlocking the door.

Queen, the tall, beautiful and elegant estranged wife of James stood, backing the door.

“It took you ages to open up, nanny,” Queen teased. “Or did your boss instruct you not to open the door for me?” she added, gesticulating with her phone and blowing the chewing gum in her mouth. “Well, I am here to…” she choked on her words as she turned to discover who she was talking to. She gaped and wriggled. The phone fell from her hand with a thud. She never imagined seeing Catherine in the house, being aware of the outright warning James gave his parents about visiting. She rubbed her hands on her eyes to make sure she was seeing clearly. When it dawned on her that the figure standing in front of her was really her mother-in-law, she collapsed.

Catherine, filled with anger, regret and disgust, shut the door so hard that Junior let out a loud, sharp cry. James looked at her with so much pity and disappointment. He saw tears welling up in her eyes. They were going to flow any time soon if not consoled and he was not ready to console her. He wanted her to cry. To feel her share of the pain he had nursed for months. But while watching Catherine display her regret-filled drama, he remembered that Queen was outside, unconscious. He quickly opened the door and met her lying helplessly still on the ground, with all elegance and pride. A strange and evil thought struck him; he wanted her dead – dead so that he would be free from her bondage. The various heartaches and troubles she caused him replayed in his head. His head spun. He pushed the door to close it, but Helen, who was standing behind him held it back.

“She needs medical attention,” she said with unintended pity, trying to act all nice, though her heart was full of anger and disgust for Queen. She needed to talk to her, and she could only do that when she was in good health.

James looked at her and repented for his intended action. He always respected her opinion. Together, they lifted Queen up. As they moved her to his car, James stole some glances at Helen, admiring her once again. He always wanted to confess his feelings for her, but something he couldn’t place; probably professionalism, Helen’s marital status or just fear of how she might react, kept his mouth sealed. But when she helped him drink water some minutes back, he started stop nursing an optimistic idea of how his feelings towards her might be mutual. He took the umpteenth glance and saw sorrow and sadness mapped on her face. He became confused. He expected her to be happy, since he was doing what she asked of him. But she was not. He wanted to ask why she was gloomy, or perhaps tell her he was only helping Queen because she said so, but as usual, something glued his tongue to the roof of his mouth. So he lowered his head, avoiding her gaze and opened the car.

“Did you say something?” Helen asked, looking straight into his eyes.

“Yes, how is my car open?” he asked quizzically while they laid Queen down on the back seat, scanning the interior of the car for any missing objects; everything was intact. “I can’t believe I left my car open,” he added.

“You must have parked it in a rush last night,” Helen replied. James searched his pocket for the keys.

“Please get the keys. It should be on the dining table, otherwise check my room.”

Helen felt a sudden rush of blood through her veins and arteries. She had entered virtually all the rooms in that bungalow except James’ room, and she has always desired to at least rush in, brush her fingers across the bed and lie a bit on it. But James never gave her the chance. He always shielded her from the room the way a chief priest shields the villagers from the inner chamber of his shrine. She scuttled into the house praying and wishing for the keys not to be at the dining table, so she could check out the bedroom, though she was still going to check the bedroom even if the keys were on the dining table. This was an opportunity she wasn’t going to miss. She met Catherine sobbing profusely on the dining table over a phone call. The car keys lay just beside her. She stared at her for some seconds, shook her head and hurried towards the bedroom. She suddenly remembered Junior on her way in. He was supposed to be somewhere in the living room, but was not. She got worried when there was no trace of him. She was just about to ask Catherine when she heard a thud on the other side of the living room. She rushed over. Junior was lying on the pool of his blood. He has fallen trying to climb a glass side stool which was by Queen the day she was fighting James. The pieces of the stool left him with several cuts. He could only moan, while his eyes expressed the weight of the pain he was struggling to conceal.

Helen let out a loud scream, jolting Catherine who bolted towards her, shocked.

James heard the scream and dashed into the house. With the scary look on Helen’s and Catherine’s faces, he knew something bad had happened. He rushed to where they were standing and was dumbfounded when he saw Junior, pierced with broken glasses from the stool. Memories of how the stool got cracked in the first place, coupled with Helen’s carelessness for leaving Junior close to it infuriated him. He shook his head; it wasn’t time for any blame game. Junior needed urgent medical attention. His moaning was getting fainter. So he pulled him up, carefully and skirted to his car. Helen rushed to get the car keys from the dinning table and scuttled behind him.

Queen was still lying unconscious at the back seat; motionless, just as they have laid her. He stared at her for some time; mere fainting couldn’t have kept her unconscious for that long. He wondered if she was feigning it or maybe she has passed on. He quickly lowered the front seat to lay Junior down. He then felt Queen’s pulse, let out a listless sigh, entered the driver’s seat and drove off.

Catherine stood by the door watching him zoom off the gate opened by Helen. Then she broke down in tears.

Helen looked at her, unconcerned. She locked the gate and walked into the house. She went into the kitchen, returned with a mop and a bucket and mopped the floor carefully, minding the broken glasses. She noticed Catherine’s sobbing increased. She looked up; Catherine was sitting devastated on the couch, staring into empty space. For the first time, she felt pity for her.

“Everything will be fine,” she told her.

Catherine looked down at her through her tear-clouded eyes, surprised; she did not deserve her consolation, having mocked and even tried to push her out of the house a few minutes back. She felt like apologising, but that, she thought, would degrade her status; the mother and closest relative of the boss. So she remained adamant and garnered the sympathy without gratitude.

“Are you not surprised my daughter?” she eventually opened up, in her desperation to pour out the pain in her heart.

Helen paused mopping for some seconds and peered at her. She talked to her despite her harsh and unkind actions towards her because she wanted her to feel better. But she ignored her, like she didn’t exist, like she was a voice on a radio asking its listeners not to touch the dial. Then when she opened up to speak, all she could come up with was questing for her surprise. She shook her head, sighed and continued mopping.

“Are you not amazed at what humans can really turn out to be?” Catherine continued her query.

Helen became confused at the questions: why was she asking and why the questions? She couldn’t figure out how the questions related to the situation at hand. The recent happenings were more tragic than human actions; an innocent boy was at the verge of death, suffering for what was never his fault.

“I don’t understand. The situation at hand is very tragic. It’s not something expected; it’s shocking,” Helen replied.

“Shocking! Yes, shocking! That is the word,” Catherine emphasised. “To think I got my only son into all this breaks my heart. What really is the issue with girls of nowadays?”

Helen scoffed, having figured out the root of the questions.

“What can I say, being also a ‘girl of nowadays’? I can’t really say much,” she replied. “But do not blame yourself. You only wanted the best for your son, I guess. There was no way you could have known what she was made of.”

“Yes, but I should have listened to my son when he said he did not love her,” Catherine’s voice cracked.

“Well, that part was your fault. Match-making? Who does that these days?” Helen asked scornfully.

Series Navigation<< Dawn to Dusk: 24 hours on crossroads – Episode 2Dawn to Dusk: 24 hours on crossroads – Episode 4 >>

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E.C Micheals

E.C Michael, a graduate of Theater Arts, is a passionate writer who believes that stories should blend with education so as to help correct social vices in the world. His watchword is edutainment. He writes screenplays, novels, short stories and essays. When not writing, he is blogging or watching Game of Thrones and Designated Survivor.

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