“Mrs. D’Costa, please eat something. You haven’t touched your food for weeks,” Andrea comforted, gently bracing the hand of her best friend’s mother.
“How can I eat when my own daughter might be starving to death somewhere out on the streets? I don’t even know if she’s still alive or dead!” the woman replied, weeping bitter tears.
“Oh, she’ll be fine, dear. We all know Tanya is a survivor. In fact, I’m sure she’ll realise what she did was wrong and find her way back home,” Andrea’s mother spoke as gently as she could.
“You really think so?”
“I know so. Now, stop worrying yourself! You need to be strong. For yourself and your husband. Which reminds me, is he still locked up in his bedroom?”
“Yes. He’s been frozen like a rock ever since she left. He doesn’t even talk to me anymore. Or go out for work or visit the church. If we knew she’d do this, we would have happily married her off to that penniless chap - whoever he was!”
She then handed over the note to Andrea which Tanya had left on her bed before she fled.
I’m sorry, Mom and Dad. I had no other choice but to run away. I know you would have never supported my relationship - even if you did, the society wouldn’t have let you live peacefully, and I couldn’t bear to see you both suffer this way. I don’t care if he is rich or poor, belongs to our caste or another one - I love him to bits and cannot live without him. I hope that someday, you will understand why I had to do this.
For now, take care of yourselves.
All my love,
“Don’t worry, Mrs. D’Costa. I know Tanya. Sooner or later, she will return home to us. My prayers are very powerful!” Andrea reassured with confidence before bidding adieu.
Though in isolation, Mr. D’Costa heard the little girl and cried himself to sleep that night.
Nobody missed his daughter the way he did.
A few days later, the landline rang. No sooner did Mrs. D’Costa attend the call that she heard Andrea’s mother roaring with happiness on the other line.
“Didn’t I tell you this would happen? I knew she’d return! Oh, I’m so happy today!!!”
“Wait. What are you saying? Who… w-who returned?” Mrs. D’Costa responded, bewildered. Hearing her voice stutter with terror, Mr. D’Costa quietly stepped out of his bedroom, shaking.
“Your Tanya!! Who else? She just came over for lunch.”
The phone dropped from Mrs. D’Costa’s hand.
“Hello? Hello dear, are you there?” but only her voice echoed in the air.
The couple rushed to their guest bedroom and sprang open the cupboard which had been carefully locked away for months.
There she was.
Clothed in bruises with blood, dripping from the plastic wrap that clung to her distorted body.
Her DEAD body.
“It’s impossible. There has to be some confusion,”
Mrs. D’Costa bellowed with fear as her heart pounded through her chest.
“She had to be punished for her sins - for loving that casteless man and getting knocked up. It’s too late! She can’t come back now.”
Mr. D’Costa gripped his Cross tightly around his trembling fingers and pressed it closer to his chest, mumbling every last prayer that he remembered; sweat dripped from his forehead.
Just then, the doorbell rang. Once, twice and then continuously with full strength.
“Mom, Dad! Open up. It’s me - I’m back!”
They recognised that voice very well.
“You’ll welcome me home, won’t you?”
Tanya’s voice snarled as she finally broke the door open.
This work has been published in Beetle Magazine's August 2020 Issue.