The Promise6 mins 228 6 mins 228
Rain battered the underside of the overturned car. It had been raining relentlessly all day, and it seemed that the night would get no reprieve. Everything was still, and the silence that hung in the air was disturbed only by the pattering of raindrops against the wet tarmac. During the course of the last ten minutes, the fresh scent of rain had intermingled with that of the malodorous fluids leaking from the car’s engine, and the resulting stench made the boy in the passenger seat nauseous. The fact that he was strapped to his seat upside down, did not help. He took a deep breath, and gulped some air, desperately trying to control his urge to throw up. He was tugging at the belt, trying to get free of its clutches, but to no avail. The blood rushing into his head made him disoriented, and as he flailed his arms around, he finally found the release for the seat belt. There. The belt gave way, and the boy landed on the upside-down roof of the car with a loud thud. He groaned loudly as he wriggled out of the smashed passenger window. The rain-drenched his clothes instantly, and the water stung in places, he noticed, as he slid out of the car. He shook his head, trying to get rid of nausea, and looked down at his legs. His right knee was swollen. The blood coming out from his injury was getting washed away by the rain, slowly coloring the puddle around him crimson. He winced when he touched his injured knee, his shaking hand immediately pulling back when it came in contact with what felt like a bone jutting out of his flesh. Ignoring the pain, he put his right hand on the car’s body for support and tried to hoist himself up. His left side was on fire, but he slowly got to his feet, putting the entire weight of his body on his left leg. He stood there for some time - using the car for support - and let the water trickle down his face, trying to remember what had happened. He bent his head forward, to let the cool water run down his neck, and that’s when the flashes came. It had been raining mercilessly, and despite his father’s warning, mother had decided to go for a drive. He had childishly agreed to accompany her. Mother had always gone for a drive whenever she had a fight with father, and today had been no different. She said it calmed her, but her father had begged her not to go. He had asked him to help convince mother, but he had chuckled and said that they’d be alright. They were coming back when it happened - a black sedan had swerved past them from the right, mother had jerked the steering to the left, and the wet roads had done the rest. The boy suddenly snapped out of his reverie, his breath ragged, tears flowing out of his eyes. He sobbed, squinting in the darkness, looking for mother. ‘M - mama?’ He stammered, his voice drowned out by the sound of the rain. ‘Mama?’ he called out again, screaming this time. Tears welled in his eyes. Unable to see, he wiped his eyes and started to walk around the car to the other side. His heart was beating faster now, his chest heaving as he gasped in between sobs. Broken glass crunched under his feet, as he leaned onto the car and limped his way to the other side. What he saw on the other side, was not what he had planned to see. ‘Mama!’ he yelled, as he scrambled over to the driver-side door which stood ajar, swaying with the wind. The pain that shot up from his right knee was unbearable, making his eyes water once more. He grunted as he shifted the weight to his left side, desperately trying to stay conscious. His mother had struggled out of the car which now lay crumpled at her side. There was blood everywhere around her and on her clothes. The boy sat down by her side, his roving eyes moving up and down her body, unable to comprehend the source of all the blood. Mother’s going to be okay, isn’t she? He thought as he wrapped his small hands around hers. He noticed that her chest was moving up and down irregularly as if she was having trouble breathing normally. Her eyes were closed, and she looked like an angel who was resting. He wept as he put his head down on her chest. ‘Mama?’ he asked again, softly this time. What if she’s asleep, I shouldn’t wake her up. He looked up at her face, her eyes were open now, and she was smiling, albeit with great effort. ‘Mom, are you okay?’ the boy asked her, wiping tears from his eyes, then wiping the water away from hers. Her smile widened, and she nodded, squeezing her son’s hand. She tried to say something, but couldn’t. ‘We’ll tell dad we’re sorry,’ the boy continued, his expression filled with regret. ‘We won’t ever fight with him again, okay?’ Mother nodded, took a deep breath, and coughed, her face contorting with pain.
She tried to speak once again but sputtered blood. The boy could sense something wrong, and tears started welling in his eyes. Mother raised her hand, and wiped his tears away, shaking her head to tell him not to cry. She rested her hand on his cheek and summoned the last of her energy to speak. ‘It’s okay Kanwar,’ she spoke, struggling to breathe. ‘Don’t be afraid, everything’s going to be okay. You trust me don’t you, you trust mama, right?’ The rain had ceased, and everything was silent. Kanwar could feel his heart beating furiously in his chest, and he thought he could feel mother’s heart giving up. He was furious at God, for making his heartbeat so fast while slowing down his mother’s. He wanted to shout at Him, and ask him to stop his heart, and make mother’s beat faster, but he swallowed his anger and nodded. ‘I trust you,’ he said softly. ‘Good,’ said mother, coughing more blood. She didn’t have much time left, and she knew it. With one last spurt of energy, she pulled her son to her bosom and held him tight. ‘I want you to promise me something Kannu,’ she whispered in his ear. ‘Okay,’ he said, hugging his mother’s dying body. ‘Promise me, you’ll tell dad that I love him,’ she said in between jagged breaths. She felt Kanwar nod. ‘Promise me, you’ll stay strong and be a good boy, and keep your father safe.’ ‘I promise,’ Kanwar spoke softly. ‘Promise me, you won’t blame yourself.’ ‘Blame me for what, mama?’ Kanwar asked, but somewhere deep down inside him, something told him that he would never get his answer. The eight-year-old boy held back his tears, desperately trying to keep the promise he had made to his mother only moments ago. He got up, and as her lifeless arms let go of his body, he looked at her face. Mother’s face had gone white, as Life had left her body. Kanwar sat there, looking at her. Her face was as pretty as it had been the first time he had seen her, as a baby. But her dark brown eyes were still, out of focus, and stared up at the sky. The boy softly closed her eyes, and as he held back tears of his own, he saw one trickle down his mother’s cheek. Promise me, her words echoed in his ears. ‘I promise.’