The Void


This article has been submitted by Shubham Das for the CLATGyan Blog Post Writing Competition. If you think this article is a good read, ‘Like’ this article on Facebook (the button is at the bottom of this piece) or post a comment using the ‘comments’ section below.

It’s already 8 in the morning and the sun is nowhere to be seen.  The horizon has been darkened by a plethora of clouds which have been hovering over the cityscape since the night before. The traffic on the streets is thinner than other mornings and the beach is almost deserted.  Cape Town is yet to wake up.

Jacqueline Perkins stood in her large wood framed living room and from behind the misty panes of the French windows peered at the aggressive conglomeration of clouds which now thundered in the most tremendous way, making the year old Lucy roll her curious eyes in her little cradle. One would expect an infant to start wailing at the sound of such terrible volume or at least seem afraid, but Lucy, neither cried nor seemed afraid. She was somewhat different than most of the other children of her age. She’d rather inspect the parameters of her vicinity for the source of the noise (which she now did), than burst out into an uncontrollable rain of tears. Lucy Perkins was after all her mother’s daughter.

Meanwhile, a pall of dismay fell over Jackie as she watched the clouds getting darker and
heavier. She was supposed to take Lucy to the park, today, for it had been an awfully busy day for Jacqueline, and the little one had nothing better to do than watch her mother shuffle every little thing in the house. The garden gnomes had been cast away into the attic, the drapery changed, Manet’s Olympia put back on to the wall behind the settee and the book shelves rearranged (alphabetically this time). Nick would be home any of these days and a little redecoration seemed almost indispensable to Jackie’s restless mind.

And now, the sparrows which had perched themselves on the cornice above the windows, started chirruping. Mrs. Perkins inclined her slender figure on the wall, her pale hands folded on her heaving bosom and her eyes staring into the void. She looked on as it started to rain, softly, drenching the oak tree in the yard and darkening the leaves on its branches.

It has been almost 2 years since the first time Jacqueline Davidson had met Nicholas Perkins at the latter’s cousin’s wedding.  He had asked her for a dance which she had politely refused but the moonlit summer night had already put its little spell on the hearts of the two teenagers and since then everything has been like a half  remembered dream. She can hardly recall their joyous (as one would call them) moments, the moment when he had kissed her or when he had made love to her or the moment when she came to know that she was carrying his baby in her womb. Everything seems so blurry now, everything seems so vague.

Jackie’s getting pregnant was a huge blow to her widower father.  Mr. Davidson had almost asked her to leave the instant he had learned of her condition. Within a few days Nick had proposed to her, asked for her hand in marriage from her father, who was more than happy to accept the proposal. Life was supposed to get back on track again. But no, Jackie had declined his proposal. She said she wouldn’t marry anyone at all for to her it seemed she was all her daughter would need in life. The eighteen year old had dreams for her unborn child, dreams that she had woven as a humming bird weaves its nest and enclosed in its wiry strings the soul who’s heart now throbbed in her belly.

A month later things were to change. Nick had been called to the fronts, to fight unknown people on unknown lands. Although, Jackie had fervently believed that she wasn’t in love with Nick, there was no way that she wouldn’t have acknowledged the respect she had for him, she reverenced him the way nobody would ever do. After all, he was the one who had changed her life, cast away the banality of it and filled it with such unprecedented passion and excitement. So, when she was approached by Nicholas again, she just couldn’t say ‘No’. However self satisfactory one might be, a child would always do better with a father than without.

The ‘wedding’ took place at the registrar’s office and a week later the newlywed Mr. Perkins left to serve the nation’s needs. When he returned, for a break the next summer, he already had a 1 month old daughter. Nicholas Perkins, in his vaguest of dreams couldn’t have imagined how dramatically his life would change in a year. Just a few months ago, the 20 year old was all set to study law and now, the directions had changed the aims had to be altered and the past to be put under a veil of oblivion.

Now, Jacqueline could see a figure, clad in a dark shabby raincoat, passing the oak tree, walking towards the house. She had picked up Lucy and was patting her to make her fall asleep.  Someone was knocking at the door. ‘Coming’, she said, almost in whispers as not to wake up Lucy. There was another knock, louder this time (people were not at all patient these days).
Jacqueline opened the door. It was the postman.

‘Mrs. Jacqueline Perkins?’ he asked.
‘Yes’ Jackie replied with a placid nod.
‘Will you please sign here, ma’am.’ The postman handed her the pen.

She scribbled the letters on the register and the man handed her the letter. He smiled at her and left. Jacqueline locked the doors behind her as she moved in. It would be a letter from Nick, maybe. Her eyes inspected the contents of the envelope, which now lay bare on her pallid hands. No, it wasn’t a letter from Nick and no, it wasn’t the letter Jacqueline wanted to read. She looked up to see Lucy in her cradle, sleeping, sucking on her thumb, while her whole world was tumbling down

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