When I first met her, she looked a little more than thirteen years old; pink cheeks and skin as smooth as silk. She had actually been twenty. I remember how she glowed and that glow proved to be my undoing. It made me feel as if my very brain had twisted itself into knots and whatever I wanted to say came out wrong. She still agreed to marry me though.

God! But she looked beautiful when she was angry. Breathtaking; the way those eyes flashed and the flush crept up her neck and into her cheeks. It was enough for me to want to torment her; say things I knew she would take the wrong way, only to fight for a little while and fall into each other’s arms. Every night, she would sing while she made us dinner and I could feel the energy seep back into me after my tiring day at the factory where I worked. Every night for the next two years…

The war broke out after that and I had to go away. I left her at my aunt’s place; my aunt, the only mother I had ever known. I had to leave her somewhere safe because of the war. There wasn’t a day when I didn’t see her sweet face, feel the heat of her skin against mine as I found myself drifting off to sleep with the taste of smoke, sweat and blood on my tongue. It was torture as the bombs fell like hails around us and in our haste to get away, save what little was left of us, I would suddenly imagine that I smelt a whiff of her perfume. Delicate, tempting like roses and the morning dew.

She wrote me all of eight letters, each asking me when I was coming home and why I hadn’t written back. How was I to write to her? There was so much to say and I didn’t know where to begin. “Darling how are you? I’m fine and I’ll be home soon.” Shallow words that didn’t even begin to describe the horrors we faced and my desperation to get home to her. What good would they have done? I knew I would go back home one day, I just wasn’t sure if it was going to be on my two feet or in a coffin. But I couldn’t tell her that, because she would see right through me and the coward that I am, I couldn’t stand the thought of her losing faith in me. So I never wrote.

In my mind, I imagined coming back home to her. She would be angry, her eyes would flash fire at me, and we’d fight and fall into each other’s arms and make love. Afterwards, she would sing while she made us dinner.

When I first met her, she was three years old. A red head, her hair tied back into a ponytail with green, satin ribbons; pink cheeks and skin as smooth as silk. She peeked at me from behind my aunt’s skirts. My aunt, the only mother I had ever known, told me that she had died at childbirth. I think my heart broke, I heard it fall to the floor and shatter into a million pieces. The timid angel peeking from behind my aunt’s skirts took a few cautious steps towards me. I was sitting down now, though I had no recollection of doing so. Where was I? Who was I? Where was she?

The little angel… She was closer now, just an arm’s length away. She seemed to glow and my glassy eyes cleared a little. That glow proved to be my saviour. “I… I’m your daddy,” I said to her and lifted an arm up to pull her closer. She hesitated, “Did you get chocolate?”

“I’m afraid I don’t have any right now, darling. But if you give me a hug, I promise I’ll get you some first thing tomorrow.”

She was angry because her daddy hadn’t bought her chocolates like her granny had promised. God! But she looked beautiful when she was angry. Breathtaking the way those eyes flashed and the flush crept up her neck and into her cheeks. But she hugged me anyway, standing on tip toe on her little legs, her tiny arms winding around my neck. She smelt of roses and the morning due and I clung to her like a drowning man would to a rock. I couldn’t stop the tears making their silent way down my cheeks and suddenly she blew a raspberry on my neck and I knew everything would be alright.

It’s been two weeks since I’ve been back and every night, I sing as I make us dinner. I feel the energy seep back into me after the tiring say at the factory when I hear my daughter’s gurgling laughter.

When I first met her, all I saw was the headstone. “Beloved wife and mother”, it read. “May the angels guide you to heaven” I visited her with our daughter. The bouquet of flowers she had insisted on holding probably weighed more than her. I watched her place it carefully beside her mother’s grave, while I told my wife that I was sorry. I told her that I was sorry for never having written; for having left her behind and that I didn’t blame her for not telling me about our baby. I hoped that she would forgive me as I promised her, the same as I had on our wedding day, that my heart would always be hers. I promised her that our daughter would never feel a lack of love or security as she grew up; that I would keep her happy.

That night, as I sang when I made dinner, I felt my wife watching. I knew she was there because could smell her perfume everywhere. I felt her smile every time I made my daughter gurgle with laughter. And I felt peace…

Manita Deo