The Plum Tree
The Plum Tree
“Mom, I’m leaving for work” Riley said to me.
“Yes, dear. Don’t forget your lunchbox”
“Yes, mom” she said with some irritation visible in her voice, like she were thinking that I was treating her like a baby.
“Riley, you don’t talk to your mom like that”
“Mom, I’m getting late!” she cried.
“All right, call me once your reach office”
Riley went off, and I wheeled my wheelchair to the door.
“Bye, dear” I called after her with a sad sigh.
I closed the door and wheeled myself heavily to the backyard through the backdoor. I moved towards the plum tree in the far corner of the yard. From a distance, it looked like any normal plum tree. From up close, even more so. But I had always had a special place in my heart for this particular one. It had been my refuge ever since Riley had started going to her office. She had joined a private investigation agency, as a detective. She used to be out for days, and when she returned, rarely looked excited. I reached the tree, and under its scarce shade, took refuge once again. Just before the warm hands of sleep embraced me, I thought I saw some unopened buds on the tree.
“Say, Riley, what’s wrong? This morning you were irritated, and you’ve been such for quite some days now....You’ve changed. You’ve grown farther away from me ever since you joined that detective business”
She stayed silent, staring out to the scape from the porch under the faint glow of the crescent moon. I kept stroking her hair, but she remained silent
“Say, Riley. I can help you”
“Mom, I’m sleepy. Goodnight”
She walked off towards her room. I wheeled myself back to the plum tree, and wasn’t surprised to see the buds blossoming.
Riley had left early, before I woke up. She had left a note on the table that she wouldn’t be back for a few days. Oh, Riley. She never told me when she would be back. It would always be ‘some days’, ‘soon’ or something like that. I wondered if I had done something to distress Riley to such an extent that she wouldn’t even talk to me properly. Or was it something else? I had to find out. I sneaked into her room, and did the one thing she had forbidden me from. She had stressed time and again that I should not touch her diary. Nevertheless, I went on and took it out from under her bed. I opened it and flipped through the pages.
It was empty.
Around a month later, Riley returned. She rang the doorbell, and I wheeled myself to the door. I opened the door and greeted her.
“Riley! How good you came back. I’ve made your childhood favorite Choco-vanilla muffins. Come, sit. Let’s eat together”
I was half expecting her to just walk away into her room, but her response surprised me.
“Oh, mom! How I missed you. I wish I wouldn’t have gone.”
I was taken aback. It had been years since she had talked to me like this. She had always been the rude, ignorant, quiet kind of Riley since she started her job. But I was too happy at the moment to worry about this
“Oh, Riley. I missed you too!”
We sat and ate the muffins in silence.
After we had cleared the plates, I decided to break the ice.
“Riley, is everything alright? You look troubled”
Riley was silent for a while again. I thought the end would be the same as the other night on the porch, but Riley spoke up.
“Mom, I’m sorry to have avoided you so long. I realize there’s nothing I can keep from you. I’ll tell you all of it. The company I joined, there is a colleague of mine, Jenny. Back, then, she was friendly, and was my first friend in office. We got along well. One day, boss appointed both of us to the same mission. We took it up as a friendly challenge, but, when we were on the last clue, she overtook me, and got all the credit. I let it go, thinking nothing much of it, but she started boasting. I got angry, and asked boss to appoint both of us to another mission.”
“Hmm...” I feared that interrupting her wouldn’t be a good idea.
“We worked together again, and the result was same. I was frustrated, and Jenny’s taunts didn’t really make things better. And this was not the last time. This time, it was Jenny who asked boss for another mission. We started, and found out it was a serial killer this time. After dealing with thefts and ransom demands, serial killing looked rather dangerous. I saw the colour drain from Jenny’s face when she got to know about the psychopath behind it. The first kill, we didn’t find anything special, but every kill thereafter had a Vendetta placed on the victim’s body, and the same type of Vendetta mask too. We concluded that it was a serial killer after all, and I am currently hot on the trail. We know that the killer’s next destination is the 13th Avenue parking lot tomorrow evening. I’m the only one who knows this, and I’m going to beat Jenny this time!”
“Riley, dear, it’s getting late. You should sleep”
“Okay, mom. Goodnight. It’s a big day tomorrow!”
I happily wheeled myself back to the plum tree and realized that the fruit had ripened, that the time had almost come.
I reached the parking lot from the other route. As soon as Riley had left home to crack the case, I had left too, through the back door. Just before leaving, I saw the ripe plums hanging loosely from the tree.
Riley reached for my face. I could see Riley’s eyes through her fingers. Her hand was pretty near my face. Any moment, now, she would pull off the Vendetta mask off my face. Riley had finally beat Jenny. I knew the ripe plums had fallen onto my empty wheelchair.