Trouble in Eden...continued
by Eva Bell
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One evening, reluctant to go home after school, I stopped at Barista for a cup of coffee. Mother’s words from the morning still rang in my ears like an irritating chant.
“You’re a big girl now Tara. You should keep your distance from your Dad. You can’t keep falling all over him. Don’t you realize how embarrassed he feels at the way you throw yourself at him?”
I really lost it then.
“I never knew that my own mother could have such a filthy mind. Wait till I tell Dad about this,” I said, and walked out of the house in a huff. I cried all the way to school and almost had an accident with my scooter.
“What has got into Mother?” I wondered.
Her insinuations made me want to puke. Telling Dad would only make matters worse. Besides, it would be too embarrassing to tell him. The situation was pathetic. I couldn’t confide in anyone.
I sat at the café sipping the rich hot coffee and taking my own time over it, when a booming voice from across the street interrupted my thoughts.
“Hi there, Tara! Enjoying your Cappuccino all by yourself?”
Aunty Pammy came to my table and plonked herself opposite me.
“That’s a nice bike you have there. A Kinetic called Zing, isn’t it? Your father is a very generous man, I should say. You’ve got such doting parents.”
She was watching my face. For no reason, I felt the colour mounting to my cheeks.
“But you better watch out Tara. Just a word of friendly advice. You’re a pretty lass. Even better looking than your mother. A little bird told me that she’s already feeling a wee bit insecure. After all, you aren’t a blood relative, and anything can happen these days.”
I got up with such a start, pushing the table towards her. The cup dropped from her hands spilling the scalding coffee into her lap. While she was still smarting from the pain, I put my hands on her shoulders and turned her so that she was facing me.
“What did you say?”
“Oh! So it’s their pretty little secret? Why don’t you go home and ask your Dad?”
“I wish the coffee had scalded your wicked tongue,” I said, and walked away.
But what she said rankled. Now the pieces were falling into place. Mother was jealous because she thought I was a rival competing for Dad’s love. It made me sick to the core. My mother! The woman I loved with all my heart. How could she imagine such a thing? And why had they kept my adoption a secret?
I waited till my exams were over. Then I disappeared from home without a word. I needed time to think. I could confront my parents but was afraid to hear the truth. My classmate invited me to spend my holidays at her farm house, at a distant suburb of Bombay. I jumped at the invitation. The change would give me time to put my confused thoughts in order. But I missed home dreadfully. My parents were all I had.
Now here I was, staring at the newspaper announcement again. My resolve was gradually crumbling. I knew my parents would be worried
sick. I walked down to a telephone booth in the neighborhood, as I did not want my friend to eavesdrop. I dialed my father at his office.
“Tara! Thank God you phoned. We’ve been sick with worry. Where are you? I’m coming to get you right away.”
My friend couldn’t understand the haste.
“You promised to spend your holidays with me.”
“My parents are missing me a lot. They want me to come home,” I apologized.
She knew nothing of the announcement in the newspaper as she seldom looked at one.
I was so relieved to see Dad. I knew he would set all things right. We drove some distance in silence. Then he parked by the roadside.
“Why did you run away?”
His face looked drawn as though he hadn’t slept for days. All my pent –up misery of the last few months poured out. Aunty Pammy’s revelation was the last straw.
His faced turned cherry red.
“Damn that woman,” he cursed, “She’s nothing but an interfering busybody.”
Dad didn’t say a word the rest of the way. His face was set in an angry grimace.
When we reached home he said, “Stay in the car.”
He went indoors and brought Mother along. We drove the two blocks to Aunty Pammy’s house. Fortunately she was not out gallivanting. If she was surprised she didn’t show it.
“To what do I owe this honor? Come in, come in.”
Dad came straight to the point.
“I want you to repeat exactly what you told Tara.”
“What did I say? I must have made some harmless comment.”
“The exact words Pammy, even if I have to squeeze them out of you.”
Aunty Pammy knew she was cornered.
“I’ve heard people say that Tara is an adopted child.”
“What?” Mother was out of her chair and at her throat. “You low-down liar!”
Dad pulled her back. Pammy guffawed.
“I’ve been waiting all my life to wipe that smugness off your face,” Aunty Pammy said, “You were always so ‘uppity,’”
She was enjoying her moment of triumph.
“You were the prettiest girl in class; the cleverest; the best dressed, and stinking rich too. You had it all good. But I had to struggle and fight to get a new dress or a new pair of shoes. Now here I was in your neighborhood, and you still had it all – a husband, a pretty daughter and a nice home, while I had neither husband nor children to call my own.
I thought it very unfair. I saw green.”
“So you made up the story of Tara’s adoption? Didn’t you know how much it would upset her?”
“Oh yea, I knew! And didn’t I sow the seeds of discord in your Garden of Eden too, Radha? Who soured the relationship between you and your daughter? Who planted the doubt about incest in your mind?”
She was gloating over the mischief she had done.
“Damn you Woman,” said my Dad. “Let’s get out of this Devil’s hell hole,” he said, dragging us both out.
Her laughter followed us out to the gate, but it sounded like a pathetic wail of frustration rather than triumph.The End Note: This was published earlier, but now it is no more available online.