4th January 2012 Wednesday, 12.30 am
The voices from the veranda get louder and Nami hugs her legs close to her chest, shivering in fear.
“You’re a disgrace!” Pa bellows with rage. Nami jerks when she hears a loud crash. There is a sudden silence. Nami quickly scrambles off her bed and peeps through a small opening through the curtains.
“No, Pa no,” Nami whispers as tears start to stream down her face.
3rd January 2012 Tuesday, 12.00 pm
The sound of Pa’s footsteps make Nami’s blood run cold. Sometimes she wonders if Ma had the same fear whenever she felt Pa’s presence in the house. What happened when they were alone in their bedroom, she thinks to herself each day. Why those screams? Why those red marks on Ma’s neck? Why those dark circles around Ma’s eyes? The number of times she heard her mother wail in the bedroom each night went beyond what her fingers and toes could count. But it stopped the day she returned home from school and found Ma lying on the floor with a white blanket over her body. All the women in white wept in sorrow including her sister, Lyma. Her mother was beautifully dressed in her red wedding sari, her forehead adorned with tiny red bindis and her lipstick — the colour of her dress. She wore her favourite gold earrings and necklace. Nami noticed more red marks on Ma’s neck and a line across the middle that stood out. She was about to touch it when Dadi grabbed her hand and adjusted the necklace to cover the marks. Nami was carried away from her mother and that was the last she saw her leave without bidding good-bye.
After Ma’s departure, the house turned into hell. Everything had to function according to Pa’s instructions. Lyma and Nami were suddenly not allowed to wear their usual dresses their mother had loved and were strictly forced to wear traditional outfits. School became an exception, however, once they reached home, they were obliged to change out from it. They weren’t allowed to mingle with the guests either, especially when there were males even if they were her cousins. “Women belong in the kitchen. Bring us something to eat and leave,” Pa would often order them. They live in a prison with Pa as their inexorable guard.
Lyma is a mirror reflection of Ma. She has the same sharp jawline and an adorable pair of dimples. Her hazel brown eyes reveals the same mischievous spirit of her mother that Pa had fallen in love with once, but now makes his blood boil more harder.
Lyma tries her best to shield her younger sister from Pa but Nami already grew wary of him since Ma’s death. She could even feel Pa’s wrath from afar and this became worse when he hit Lyma for the very first time a year after.
21st December 2011 Wednesday, 12.00 am
“Is this how you dress in public?” Pa grabs Lyma’s hair. Her lips had already started to bleed and Pa throws her down onto the carpeted floor.
“I am seventeen Pa,” Lyma bites back. “You can’t just confine me in this prison of yours you’ve created with your shit traditionalist rules for women. You don’t respect women at all!”
Pa leans closer and frowns, “What did you just say?”
Lyma stands up and limps backward. “You heard me. And I heard you that night as well. Nami killed your hopes didn’t she? And it became Ma’s fault that you just had to get …” Lyma stopped when she saw Nami peeping from the top of the stairway. Pa, oblivious of Nami’s presence, gave another blow on Lyma’s cheek that sent her falling to the floor again.
“Watch your words,” Pa warns and he walks off.
Nami walks into Lyma’s room a while after witnessing the incident. Lyma was washing her face when she caught Nami watching her through the mirror.
“What happened Dee?” Nami asks. Lyma grabs the towel and wipes her face without saying a word.
“Dee, please tell me. Pa did something to Ma, didn’t he? You know what happened? All that screams at night? Am I a burden Dee?”
Lyma immediately looks up and sees Nami in tears. She walks over to her and took her in her arms. “Nami, I will protect you from Pa all the time. Never let Pa close to you. He hates us. He hated Ma after you came.”
Before Nami leaves the room, Lyma hands her a penknife. “Use this on him whenever he dares to hurt you.”
Nami quietly makes her way back to her room, clutching tightly to her first weapon.
3rd January 2012 Tuesday, 12.00 pm
After she hears Pa shut his bedroom door, Nami quietly runs to her sister’s room. She searches a chest of drawers and digs into the closet until she stumbles upon a pink notebook with Ma’s picture pasted on the cover. Lyma wrote diary entries to her mother whenever she felt sad and Nami found this out when she peeped over her shoulder one day. The answers to my questions, she thinks to herself.
Nami kisses the picture and begins to read the entries.
#1 ~ 1st October 2011 Saturday
Ma I miss you. Pa is horrible. He never let Nami out to play with her friends when she asked for permission. He was never like that to me. But when Nami was born, he changed drastically towards you and now when you are gone, he has been ugly to us. But don’t worry, I remember what you told me. “Always protect Nami.” I will Ma. Love you.
#2 ~ 10th November 2011 Thursday
Ma I had a bad dream that Pa was strangling Nami with the wire he used to strangle you. Ma I wished I hadn’t watch you die. It is hurting me badly. And whenever I see Pa, I have the urge to strangle him the same way. I don’t want him to live with us Ma. Dadi is being equally mean. And I don’t know why Dadi is always coming to the house these days. I have to make her lunch everytime I come home from school.
#3 ~ 21st December 2011 Wednesday
Today I wore your favourite dress to school and Pa caught me. He hit me later at night and Nami saw. I had to tell her how Pa hates us. But I didn’t reveal why. I don’t know if I should.
#4 ~ 1st January 2012 Sunday
Dadi and Pa are planning to kill me. I overheard them talking in the living room. I was in the kitchen and they didn’t realise I was there. Dadi said to get rid of his “disgraceful daughters”. I need to be gone first because Nami is powerless. Ma, how are we disgraceful? Because we are girls? Because I wore a dress? She says I am rebellious. And she saw me holding hands with Eric. He is my boyfriend, like how Pa was yours. She said Nami would become like me. She is ridiculous. Why has Pa changed? It is Dadi who is instigating him against us Ma. She hates women. She should kill herself then. I’m going to report to the police Ma. I can’t die so soon.”
Nami’s cheek is all wet with tears. Lyma’s last entry had revealed what had troubled Lyma all these while. It is 3rd January. Lyma had left for school earlier and Nami worries for her safety now. Would she come back?
She slips the book back into the closet and leaves the room, feeling frightened for her beloved sister’s life.
3rd January 2012 Tuesday, 14.00 pm
Lyma returns home and knocks on Nami’s bedroom door. “Nami?”
Nami opens the door and Lyma quickly enters and shuts the door.
“Nami, listen. We’re going to leave this place tomorrow. We will live somewhere else. Take whatever you need and pack them in your school bag.”
Nami nods in silence and Lyma leaves the room.
4th January 2012 Wednesday, 12.00 am
Lyma is folding the clothes in the laundry room when Pa suddenly storms in and grabs her by the arm. He pulls her all the way out to the veranda and throws her onto the wet grass.
“I heard you visited the police station this afternoon,” Pa crosses his arms across his broad chest. Lyma stares at him, shocked.
“I keep tabs on you whenever you’re out. Don’t try to fool me Lyma.”
Lyma stands up. “Are you insane? Can’t you leave us alone? For heaven’s sake, this was all Dadi’s plan wasn’t it?” Lyma begins to walk backwards to grab the wooden chair a few feet away from her.
“You’re a disgrace!” Pa yells. He leaps forward and grabs hold of Lyma’s shoulder but Lyma immediately swings the chair across his face, sending him to the floor and the chair into pieces.
Not succumbing to his injury, Pa jumps up and grabs Lyma by the legs as she attempts to run. He fishes out a long black cloth and covers her mouth with it. Lyma fidgets uncontrollably and tries to shout but her father’s pressure on her body makes it hard for her to breathe. She suddenly feels a wire around her neck and her father’s foot on her head. She tries to use her fingers to force the wire off her but she couldn’t. Her father’s foot was pushing her head to the floor and the wire deeper into her neck.
“Your mouth is filled with dirt. You are filled with dirt. Fuck you and your sister!” Pa says.
The wire starts to penetrate the skin and blood starts to ooze out from Lyma’s neck. She attempts to kick her father but the pain from her neck overpowers her ability to do so. The wire makes its way deeper into her throat. Her breathing is weaker. Her neck is covered with blood and the grass is stained red. Lyma jerks a few times and gradually stops moving. Her eyes lay motionlessly open. Pa releases the wire and stretches his body backwards, only to spot Nami at her bedroom window.
Nami eyes are wide-opened. She sees Pa grabbing the wire and running into the house. She immediately locks her bedroom door. Crying uncontrollably, she hides herself under the bed and curls into a ball.
“I can break the door open Nami,” Pa is screaming and kicking at the door. Pa’s attempts, however, fails and he runs back to the veranda. Nami slowly creeps out of the bed and looks down to the veranda through the window. Pa drags Lyma’s body into the car boot and shuts it. Nami turns away and breathes heavily. She begins to search the room, high and low, until she finds her sister’s penknife.
Sitting Indian style on the floor, she shuts her eyes and makes two forceful swipes across her left wrist. The penknife slips from her right hand as she falls to her side. The world starts to spin around and Nami whispers to herself,
“Ma, Dee, I’m coming.”
What you had no clue about:
Dadi – paternal grandmother
Dee – called in respect for older sister (full form – dee dee)