She spent her days mostly in bed since her childhood. Since birth she was suffering from a very rare disease that had made her an invalid. The doctors had already predicted that she was not going to live for more than thirty years. Emma was never able to make peace with god, as she never could fully understand why she had to go through all this suffering. The youngest of the three daughters, Emma never actually felt any scarcity for love from her family. Her mother, who was a housewife, was fully devoted to taking care of her daughter, maybe she had already accepted that things can only be what they are and one has to deal with the situations no matter however adverse they may be. Edith was a homemaker, since the day she married George she had always been nothing but a dutiful wife, and a caring mother. She had experienced life and she was aware that certain things are beyond one’s control, but Emma was so young that she never could come to terms with her disability. Ofcourse, her parents had never revealed to her, what the doctors had already predicted when she was born. She was home schooled from a very young age. She felt sad that she could not go to a proper school like her sisters, Emily and Eva. But her sisters never kept a thing from her and used to talk casually about everything that used to happen at school. As Emily and Eva became a bit mature they started to talk about their affairs and boyfriends. Emma would listen to her sisters talking about their affairs in a point blank state. Emma had read a few books which had talked about relationships between adolescent boys and girls. She was particularly fascinated by Cinderella’s story and would dream about being with a prince. At least, she had the liberty of imagination and there were no restrictions to her thought process. She always wondered if she would find a prince charming in her real life as she had read in those fairy tales.
Emily, the eldest of the three sisters began a relationship with Kevin. She would talk all day about him with her sisters, the time they spent at the restaurant, or at the movies and in the park. Emma was always happy for her sisters. She was never like the complaining sort and since there was so much love in the family, she could only rejoice for the good things that were happening to her sisters. Hence, she was very happy when Emily finally decided that she was going to marry Kevin. At the same time, even Eva had begun a relationship with Samuel. They had met in college, just like her sister Emily and their relationship was going strong. By this time even Emma started to sense that things around her were changing. She started to feel a little empty within her, to an extent that no matter how happy she was for her sisters, there was a sense of longing in her. It was as if she wanted to trade her life for the lives her sisters were living. She felt that her sisters might have finally found their prince charming. She was overwhelmed by these feelings, but at the same time she never had the courage to open up to her sisters or even Edith about her feelings. Edith was a very religious woman from the beginning and she made a point that all her daughters should also be so. Hence, she had urged her daughters to read the bible from a very tender age and the entire family would frequently visit the church and attend the sermons regularly. Something within Emma felt that it was not right for her to feel that way; she was taught only to be happy for others. After Emily got married she started living with her husband separately. At this time Emma started taking violin lessons from a private teacher named Josh. A young musician, Josh taught at the local school and also gave private tuitions. Josh was practically of the same age as Emma. It has been already about two years since she began her violin classes. In the evenings, Emma and Josh would practice playing violin for hours together. It was not very difficult for them to enter into friendship as they practically shared the same interests. Both of them were very much influenced by art. Sometimes they talked for hours on a wide range of topics from Mozart’s symphony to Helen Keller. When Emma was with Josh she had no semblance of time passing by. She felt very much alive when Josh came in the evenings. Edith would drop in sometimes to offer them tea and snacks. She could sense that Emma might have finally got a companion, so to say.
Josh was now a part of the family; he was invited to most of the family get togethers and functions. One evening, when everyone had gathered to celebrate the first marriage anniversary of Emily, Josh was present too. Emily had requested them to play a piece on violin. Josh and Emma, as a present to them for their anniversary played a piece on violin. In the words of most of the guests it was pure magic. Their melodies blended together so well that it felt as if they were meant to be together that evening. Edith was very happy to see that her daughter was in high spirits. As days went by, Emma and Josh grew very close to each other. Summer had arrived and Josh was free from his school duties. One day when they were practicing violin together, Emma had great deal of trouble to get the tunes right, she was trying but with no success she eventually put her violin down with exasperation. Josh was noticing all this and smiling at her. He eventually got up and took the violin and walked towards her. He helped her hold the violin and held her hands and started her to play the tune. Emma was so deeply engrossed in the moment as Josh was now standing leaned towards her while she was sitting in her chair. Josh was holding her hand and guiding her with the violin, he was so close to her that she could almost feel his breath, she could listen his heart beat. She was lost in the moment because this was the first time a man had touched her and was so close to her. She had closed her eyes and in the heat of the moment they kissed. It was momentary and Emma pulled away, silence remained for a few minutes after this. She felt a bit ashamed and could not look him in the eye. After a few minutes of silence, Josh finally confessed that he was in love with her and that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. Emma also had feelings for Josh, she felt she also loved him.
The next morning while they were having breakfast, Emma told her mother everything that had happened between her and Josh, she was a little embarrassed. Edith’s reaction to her was quite complex. Edith was noticing both of them for a few days and she somehow sensed that this was eventually going to happen. But no matter how strong her premonition was, she could never have prepared herself to deal with this situation. George and Edith had never discussed how they were going to reveal the secret about the prediction the doctors had already made about Emma. They could never pull themselves together and gather enough courage to talk to Emma about the secret they had kept hidden from her since the day she was born. Finally, they had decided that they will never talk about it and let things take care of themselves. Emma was now eighteen, her parents somehow didn’t realize that Emma has lived most of her life and that she had only a few more years in her hand and that death was near. Emma was sitting on the table anticipating some response from her mother. But Edith was lost in her own thoughts she tried to answer her but she had nothing to say to her.
At last, George said,” No, this is not going to happen.”
Emma was a little perplexed, as her parents had been so supportive of the marriage choices made by her sisters, so why was she being treated differently?
Edith then asked Emma that if she really loved Josh, to which Emma reluctantly said,” Yes”. But then she advised her, “But you are too young to take such a big decision dear, I think you should not hurry into this.”
It did make sense to Emma that even though she liked Josh, it was more as a friend. Emma made herself very clear the next day to Josh that though she liked him, she would not want to rush into this. But they continued to learn violin together. The very next year, Eva too got married. As Emma sat in the church that day she saw her sister looking absolutely beautiful in her entire bridal attire. She saw her sister Eva holding hands with Samuel and reciting their marital vows and finally they kissed, that moment Emma saw Josh sitting next to her and then she decided that she will marry him. On her twentieth birthday party, Emma announced in front of her family that she is now ready to marry Josh. Emily and Eva were so happy for her sister, Edith and George had not disclosed the secret to them too. While everyone was congratulating Emma and Josh, Emma noticed that her parents were not very happy. George and Edith finally decided that probably the moment had come for them to have a talk with Emma.
Josh was invited over for dinner at Emma’s, and both her sisters with their husbands also joined them. Edith prayed and prayed the whole day to God to give her the strength, so that she could endure this storm. At the dinner table, everyone was having a very good time, probably unaware what they will have to deal with in a few minutes. Everyone was having their desert when Edith had tears in her eyes, she started by saying that how thankful she was to god, for giving her the most loving family. She said that god has always given her the best and that she had the most loving and caring husband. But, she said the greatest gift of all that life had given was Emma.
Edith almost broke down at this moment and George held her hand, she gathered herself and continued saying, “I feel we have much stronger bond as family members than what we realize. I just pray to god that my family must never misunderstand me.”
Edith continued, “I know that my daughters will forgive me for what I have done.”
Everyone was puzzled to hear these words; they had no idea as to what was going on. They were looking at each other with this confused expression on their faces. After a moment of silence Edith continued, “Your father and I have kept a secret from all of you and now it is probably the right time to reveal it.” Everyone’s eyes was on Edith as she continued,”Emma, who I consider to be the greatest joy that god embraced me with, is a very sick child and when she was born, the doctors had told us that…” she broke down and cried,”Oh god, why did you do this to me? Why?? Emma has very few years left to live; the doctors have predicted that she will not live for more than thirty years.” Emily and Eva ran towards Edith and they had tears in their eyes too. Emma was shocked to hear all this and she tightly held Josh’s hand, who was sitting next to her.
After speaking these words, Edith fainted and had to be carried to her bedroom. When she opened her eyes she found herself in the bed, surrounded by all her family members. George was sitting next to her, holding her hands. Edith tried to speak, but Emma stopped her saying, “Mother, there is no need for any explanation, I totally understand that you did all this only to protect me. You take rest mother.” she hugged her and kissed her goodnight. Josh was speechless and could not just analyze what was going on, he said his goodbyes and left. Emily and Eva told Emma that they would stay that night with her, but Emma asked them to go on and that she would take care of mother. Everyone’s spirits were down after hearing everything. On the same evening, they were so happy for Emma but everything took such an unexpected turn which no one had ever imagined. Emma sat next to Edith’s bed till late night, slowly caressing her hand over head and watching Edith rest, she would in the middle say incoherently.” I am so sorry Emma, could you ever forgive me little girl.” Emma would just watch her mother, seeing Edith like this made her even sadder than what she had learned at the dining table that night. George came in and told Emma that it was already too late and she should take rest and go to sleep.
Next morning, they were having breakfast together when Emma said,” Mother, no matter whatever has happened last night, I want you to know that I love you and will continue to do so as long as I live.” Edith hugged Emma tightly and cried,” My little girl, I love you too dear, have faith in god, everything will be fine, he will show us a way.”
For the next two days, Emma would wait for Josh in the evenings; she just wanted things to be just the way they were. But for two days, Josh did not turn up, he didn’t answer her calls. Edith and George tried to console Emma saying that Josh would never return and that she must accept her fate. Emma did show a lot of strength for the past two days, but she was crying within. Edith said,” Emma, I hope you understand that we had to let you and Josh know about this before you took such a big decision; we just could not have kept you in the dark.”
But that evening, Josh had returned and everyone was surprised to see him. Emma and Josh wee practicing their lessons silently that evening. Emma told Josh that she was so sorry for what has happened and that she would completely understand if he wanted to end their relationship. If it will make him feel better, it’s alright if he wants to discontinue giving her the violin lessons.
At this point, Josh stopped her saying,” I don’t want to end anything, Emma. What ever happened on that night doesn’t change anything and I still love you and want to marry you.”
“Oh! Josh you have probably not thought this through, this relationship will lead us to nowhere. I don’t have many years to live now.”
“I know everything Emma, but I still want to marry you and as for what the doctors have said, I don’t care if you live for five more years or fifty more years, it does not matter.”
Emma was slightly irritated at him, “What does this mean Josh? I cannot spoil your life like this. I love you Josh, and I love you so much that for your happiness and well being, if I have to sacrifice our relationship I will do it.”
Josh held her hand and said, “Emma you really want to see me happy, marry me Emma that is what I want to be happy.”
“Josh! Please try to understand the situation, we must be reasonable.”
“Emma, I love you more than anything and I want to marry you, as for your illness we will find a way to deal with it.”
Emma finally gave up and said yes to Josh. The next day, Emma told everything to Edith that Josh still wants to marry her. She also told that she tried to persuade him to give up the whole idea, but it was all in vain, he is determined to go with the marriage. Edith was not expecting this, but she then realized that Josh probably loves Emma and that this was true love. Edith advised Emma that she is very lucky to have found true love and asked whether she wants to go ahead with the marriage. Emma also agreed to the marriage. The same summer, Emma and Josh were married, the whole family was very happy for them.
Edith and George were alone in the house now; all of their daughters have now started their own lives. But they would frequently come home for dinners and for family get together.
Emma had shifted to Josh’s place now, a small but spacious apartment stocked with books, paintings and musical instruments. Emma was very happy to be there, she would help Josh make breakfast and wave goodbye when he left for school. In the evenings they still played violin together, Emma played on her own now after years of practice. Sometimes, Josh would drop her off at her mother’s house while leaving for school and collect her back in the evening. One night, Emma asked him whether he had any of his relatives around. Josh had already told her that he was the single child of his parents, who had both died in a car accident, a few years back. He was not in touch with his other family members.
A few years later, the whole family had come together at Edith’s place for celebrating Christmas. Emily was now a mother of a three year old boy, Eva was pregnant and her baby was due this summer. Emma would be twenty six in a few days and all of her family members were concerned, but somehow they didn’t show their dread as they did not want to upset her.
That night when they were driving back home, Emma told Josh that she wants to be a mother. Emma always wanted to follow the footsteps of her sisters; she did not want to be left out in any of the experiences that her sisters were going through. She knew that she had followed her sisters many times in her life and she was always behind them, be it love, marriage or motherhood. But she knew she will be the first one to die, this gave an odd sensation to her. Josh hesitated at first but later agreed that it was probably best for them to bring a child in this world. This baby would remind him of Emma, when she will be gone.
In the month of June next year, Eva had given birth to a baby boy and just after a few days, Emma learnt that she was pregnant too.
Edith was very happy for all her daughters and that god was very kind to her. But in those lonely days, when no one was at home and George had gone for work she prayed for hours to god to show them a way through this ordeal. If god is really kind and loving, then why does Emma have to die? She wept for hours and prayed to god for a miracle.
Emma gave birth to a baby girl next year. She was very happy to be a mother now. She would spend most of the time at Edith’s now. Emma was now twenty eight and as she looked into the eyes of her baby, she just had only one thought in her mind, will Josh be able to take care of the baby on his own. She thought,” Oh god! Why do I have to leave my baby? What wrong did I ever do to deserve this agony?”
Emma looked weary due to her constant worry and also her body was becoming very weak.
The next day, when she was with her mother and she had put the baby to sleep, she was helping out Edith with lunch. The phone rang, Edith picked up the phone, and it was their good old family doctor. She was puzzled to hear his voice as she was not expecting him. Emma was watching her mother from a distance and from the expressions on Edith’s face; it seemed that there was some pleasant news. Edith was very happy she would go on saying yes!! Yes sir!! Oh, we are very thankful to you sir!! It’s great news! She hung up and came close to her daughter and hugged her. She was filled with joy and she kissed her daughter and said,” I knew it! My prayers have been answered after all. Miracles do happen.”
She explained that their doctor had called, and he wants to conduct a quick check up on Emma. A few months back, one of his colleagues had come up with a cure to treat people like Emma and that he was very sure that Emma could be treated, that she could live a long, healthy life.
Emma cried with joy and as she held her baby in her hands and she said,” Mommy is going to live, and she will be with you. Oh my little angel! You are a blessing!”
The news was conveyed to both her sisters, both of them were extremely happy to hear it.
Emma and her family went to meet the doctor the very next morning. The doctor said,” There is finally some ray of hope for patients like Emma, there have been some very promising results from patients in other states and the entire procedure has shown positive results.”
He did a brief check up on Emma, and they settled on a date when she could be treated. If everything went well, she may finally be able to lead a healthy and fulfilling life. Edith asked the doctor,” Sir, will she be able to walk?”
The doctor replied,” Not outright, but I feel in a few weeks or months she will be, it will take some time.”
She underwent the procedure the very next month. She felt more energetic now, after she took the procedure. She was more healthy and happy. A year passed now, she was twenty nine and felt quite rejuvenated, there were some frequent visits o the doctor. She could now take small steps, of course she needed support and some help, but she could walk slowly.
Today is her thirtieth birthday, now she leads a perfectly normal life. She got up today, made breakfast for her family, got her daughter ready for school. Josh kissed her goodbye and left for school. She took her daughter to school and while returning, did some grocery shopping. On her way home, she thinks how incredibly surprising life can be. It was told to her that she might not make it, but here she is living her life fully. She always wanted to be a devoted housewife like her mother, like her sisters and life was so kind to her that she was able to fulfill her dream. She gazed towards the sky, the sun was shining bright and a gentle breeze caressed her. She took a deep breath and said,” I was meant to see this day, I was meant to be here, my family needed me, my little girl needed me. I was meant to be.”
She has reached home now, she is going through the dresses in her closet, she is deciding what she will wear tonight for her family get together at Edith’s, when her whole family will come together to celebrate her thirtieth birthday.
U Srinivasa Rao writes on Indian Reviw and is from West Bengal, India.