The Secret Key
by Smitha Abraham
“Some day, my darling daughter, you will read this. That day, I will consider my life fulfilled although I may not be there with you. May you grow strong in life and may not my death be the end. May you shine like a star. May my memories keep you safe. Love and blessings, Adele, your mother.”
Intrigued after reading the letter, I wanted to find out the source of the letter, its place of origin. So I rummaged through my mother’s ebony closet in her bedroom. I found some clothes of various shapes, colors and sizes. I thrust my hand deeper into the pile. I found a small key. A key? Holding this prized treasure, I walked ahead with my head held high up in the air—like the gait of a detective! As I walked ahead in the bedroom, I saw a four-poster coffee-colored bed by the French windows. The French windows opened to the beach outside, from where you could see throngs of people strolling by and sea gulls gliding by.
Struck by the beauty of the coffee-colored bed, I decided to explore the room further. Holding the key in my hand, I admired the beautiful royal purple bedspread on the bed. I bent my knees and crawled underneath the bed. I found a mahogany chest under my mother’s bed! I unlocked the chest and found the envelope of the letter.
The letter was handwritten in a light blue shade, written in my mother’s beautiful calligraphic handwriting. Reading the letter again, I felt the lost past shudder in me; I felt the stream of memories in me waft like a rivulet; I sensed a feeling of being lost and being lonely arise in me. Clutching the beautiful letter, I smelt it. The letter smelt a mild lavender note, and tears trickled down my face. The past memories surged in me: My mother loved to take me for walks on the beach, and I loved to count the number of sea gulls that would glide by. Clad in her typical floral skirt and an ivory-colored sleeveless top, my mother and I used to chat and walk. Most of the time, I am sure, I would have spoken gibberish; but my mother was a patient listener.
As I rummaged through the chest, I found a couple of black-and-white and color photographs, with the year and venue clipped onto them in colorful strips of paper. Then there was a medium-sized golden-colored diary, engraved in silver letters: Adele’s Memories. But what piqued my interest more were the black-and-white photographs. As I pored over the photographs, I realized the man posing in the photographs was not my father! The man had sea-blue eyes. Posing next to my mother in one of the photographs, the man had his hands across my mother’s shoulders in a loving embrace. My mother posed next to him, clad in a knee-length white frock. Behind them, I could see the sea—an expanse of aquamarine blue and frothy white palette of colors. A board saying Belle Mare Beach
could be seen on the beach. My mother looked happy to stand with him, and the man stood tall and handsome.
A knock on the door shook me from my reverie, and I turned my face toward the direction of the sound. A man, in a black suit, stood by the door. Something about him captured my attention, and he looked vaguely familiar; yes, he had sea-blue eyes.
The man said, “Hi! I am Richard. I am looking for Andrea. Aren’t you the one?”
I replied, “What makes you come here, sir? Yes, I am Andrea.”
The man said, “Oh! Nice to meet you, Andrea. I have something for you.”
He handed me a small parcel, and sped. In the meantime, I realized my mother’s letter was no longer with me. Where did the letter go? How did the man manage to come to the bedroom directly? Where did my Dad go? As these thoughts ran in my head, I started searching for my mother’s letter. I held the photograph closely and scrutinized it. I was able to connect the dots together. The man in the photograph was the same man who had given me the parcel and sped!
Clutching the parcel, I rushed downstairs to ask my Dad about the man in the photograph. I sped to the library that was situated next to the living room. I saw no signs of my Dad in the library. The cigarette tray lay unused; the bar counter looked full with fully-filled liquor bottles; the bookcase books appeared untouched. I slowed down my steps to explore the nooks and corners of the room. As I explored the room, I discovered a door behind the bookcase. The door appeared unused for a long time. Mustering my courage, I pushed the door with all my might. The door opened, and under the steps I saw an opening. The opening led to a mud mound. I crouched and squeezed myself into the mound. Once inside, I realized I could stand and walk instead of crawling. As I walked ahead, beautiful sights greeted me. Colorful lanterns hung on
the ceiling of the mound. A few paintings adorned the walls. A few photographs, clothing articles, perfumes, notebooks were strewn across the length and breadth of the mound.
Out of the blue, someone spoke, “Andrea, welcome to this world. I have been wanting to talk to you since long.”
I turned toward the direction of the voice to see the person. The same person who had given me the parcel stood near one of the paintings on the wall.
“Your mother’s letter is with me, Andrea. I loved her very much. I was not married to her, but my heart was. Your Dad didn’t like our relationship. Andrea and I knew each other from our childhood days. But Andrea’s father wanted her to marry Max as he was richer than me. We continued our relationship even after she married Max.”
“So if you were in love with my mother, why didn’t you marry her?”
“That is a long story, Andrea. To cut it short, we were lovers before her marriage and continued to be so post marriage too. Society would not have permitted us to do what we wished to do; hence Adele, your mother, had to abide by the laws of the society by entering into the institution of marriage. Some day, I will tell you our full story. ”
“Okay. Why did you run away after you came and give me the parcel?”
“Well, Andrea. Everything happens for a reason. I ran away because I wanted you to come and find me so that we could talk. Now, why don’t you open the parcel that you are holding?”
“Oh, yes! I haven’t opened it yet.”
So eagerly, I opened the gift wrapping around it and felt it. There seemed to be something hard inside. I tore the wrapper and found a photograph framed in light gold and silver colors. I stood in the center, with my Mom and Dad standing tall and happy either side by me. We were posing in front of the porch of our home. I was smiling and holding my mother’s and father’s hand as if to never be forsaken by them.
“Andrea, that photograph was taken in 1984 when you were just 4 years old. Your mother’s mother Ann was a tarot reader. She knew I was in love with your mother right from the start. She predicted your mother’s death and the continuance of my relationship with her even after marriage. She even foresaw this conversation that we are having now.”
I broke down, interrupted him, and asked, “So what about my Dad? What did she say about him?”
“She said that your father will go somewhere at that point in time when I meet you for the first time. That time is now.”
Tears trickling down my face, I said, “I miss my father. I want him back. Why did he leave me?”
Richard tried to console me by hugging me. I rebelled and shouted, “Get away from me. You took my mother from me and now my father too.” I started running away from him as waves of fury and sadness washed over me.
“Andrea, wait. Here, take your mother’s letter. I had flicked it when you were poring over the photographs from your mother’s chest. Don’t run away, dear. I swear the only sin I have committed is to have loved your mother unconditionally.”
I snatched my mother’s letter from him, made sure the photograph of my parents was with me, and was all set to flee the scene. Suddenly my head started swooning, I kept hearing some distant voices, and things around me started floating around me in a blurred manner.
I saw my grandmother Ann in some misty haze. I could hear her speak, “Andrea, your mother is here with me. We dwell in a world that remains unseen to the normal human being. But if you wish to see your mother, I can show her to you. Your father has gone to the wilderness as is his calling in life, dear. Now, breathe deeply and watch closely.”
Spellbound, I did what she asked me to do and watched closely. The mist cleared, and I saw my mother standing with her hands outstretched toward me. I tried touching them, but I couldn’t. I could see her smiling at me. I smiled in return and wanted this moment to stand still and etch it in my memory forever. The mist returned, and my grandmother Ann said, “Now, Andrea, go back to Richard. He will look after you and will love you with all his heart, just like the way he loved your mother.”
The misty haze disappeared, and I could see sunlight streaming in from the entrance of the tunnel. My mother or father may no longer be with me physically; but their presence gives me strength to continue my life’s journey. With this resolution in mind, I turned to approach Richard, my new Dad.
We both saw each other. Tears trickled down our faces simultaneously. We hugged. Our past lives lay buried. Our lives resurrected, we held hands and walked out toward the sunlight, toward a brighter dawn. ****