Sunday, February 17, 2008

A Blessing from God.

"Did she really ask for your forgiveness?" asked Simon. "But it is not her nature to ask and yours to forgive," he added.

To me these words conveyed no surprise at all, as if I have been dwelling upon them for too long by myself. I am a very sensitive person who has a very high self-esteem and can't accept to be crossed. For years and years I have been dealing with people offending me, starting with the building where I live in and ending at work. Sometimes you meet people who behave insolently towards you and you do your best to either ignore them or to forgive them. According to my old philosophy in life, I used to ignore rather than forgive. But one day when things turned upside down, I experienced how to forgive.

It all started two years ago when my parents died and I had to move to London to work as a Journalist. Simon, an old friend of mine, who has been living in London for nearly five years, guided me to a small inn, where I can afford to rent a room, since I was already running short of money. The inn-keeper was an old woman in her late seventies. "Beware Amish, she answers her guests with great severity. It is her nature," said Simon on our way to the inn. However Simon introduced me to her and asked her to give me a fine room to rent for a fortnight. She looked at me from the corner of her eye in a way that made me feel humiliated, before she said with great severity, "Nonsense, I don’t give rooms to Indians and for fortnights."

When I heard her answer, I felt a little shudder going through me, and I couldn’t help but asking her, "Are you talking of this out of despair?" Instead of hearing any answer, she stood up and looked at me straight into the eye. Both of us kept looking at each other in silence for few seconds, before Simon intruded and said, "Clam down both of you. Mrs. Martha I assure you that this guest won't cause any troubles around. He is a very honest and respectable gentleman."

As I noticed that she barely feels remorse for anything, she sat down calmly and said at length, "Mr. Simon, I know you pretty well and I have been dealing with your English friends for too long, but this Indian one, in particular, shall offer me an apology, besides he will be paying like any other guest."

Although her expected cold answer seized me by the throat, I did my best to ignore her and control my temper, which was about to burst out and swallow her up. Simon objected to what she was asking for and answered her in a firm tone, "You must be out of your mind. Don't oblige me to do something you will regret." As I expected that this old woman will stop at nothing, she rose up to her feet again, but this time, she touched him timidly at the elbow and said eagerly, "Try to."

It was my turn this time to intervene to prevent both of them from fighting. It is true that I was running short of money. Yet if I paid like the rest of the guests, I would be less paying than in any other inn. I patted Simon's shoulders and said, "It is fine, Simon. I agree to pay like any other guest." Then I turned to look at the inn-keeper's face and said, "I apologize Mrs. Martha, but I will never forgive your terrible underestimation of me. Never will I."

The next day Simon came to pick me up in the morning, as he promised the day before, to recommend me to one of his friends, who work in a very big newspaper. We spent half of the day discussing things, concerning my birth, nationality and above all how far I am qualified to work as a Journalist. Simon's friend really liked me, but he warned me that people at work won't accept me working with them, since most of them are severe racists and especially to Indians. As I have never given a thought to such matters before, I was shocked, yet to a certain extent. I remembered the inn-keeper's attitude towards me the day before and how she sounded like a severe racist to me. Since I didn't forgive her, how would I ever accept to work with a bunch of racists? However I thanked Simon's friend after declining his recommendation and left alone.

On my way back to the inn, I thought of leaving the next day. I couldn't bear the idea of me at work and everyone around me is sitting across from me. Indeed, I was so lost in my thoughts that I wasn't even aware of it anymore. When I reached the inn, I thought I had imagined the inn-keeper crying severely and coughing into a white handkerchief. My fatigue after a long walk full of thinking was making it hard for me to see or to think straight, so I directly went up to my room to sleep. I spent an entire week locked up in my room, feeling desperate. Moreover, Simon didn't show up since I last saw him with his friend. I felt so lonely and so angry with everyone around me, and things were getting even worse, as I was running more short of money. As a result, I had to stay in London for, at least, eight more days to make money.

It wasn't until two days later when I finally came out of my shell. I went downstairs aimless of where to go. No guests seemed to be around as I was the only one downstairs. I noticed that the inn-keeper wasn't there. I asked her maid about her and she told me that she was terribly sick and whished to see me couple of days ago when I refused to answer anyone who knocked on my door, even Simon, who came to apologize. However, the maid walked me to the inn-keeper's room, where she was laying on her back, looking very ill. I stood at the foot of her bed with my eyes fixed on the floor, waiting to hear from her what she needed me for.

"Mr. Amish, please sit down," she said at last. I sat down at the edge of her bed and asked impatiently, "What do you want me for?"

"I just want to have your opinion on a matter, Mr. Amish"

Looking back on what had happened when we first saw each other, and how stubborn and offensive she was, I was totally surprised by her words.

"I am old and weak. My death is bound to happen sooner or later. My young sister died a week ago and left me all alone in this world. She was my only companion on earth for very long years. But now she is gone." She stopped for a minute, perhaps to take breath and went on, "I have lived long enough to provoke people and make them suffer. I never apologized to anyone or for anything. That's why I am left all alone in this world with no one to care for me or even to respect me."

In face, it took me few more seconds to adjust to what she was saying. Despite her illness, she was studying my features through half closed eyes, as if she was expecting me to be fully taken in by surprise. However, she went on, "Mr. Amish, I outlived all the people I caused troubles, except you. All what I am asking for is your forgiveness before I die. I admit that you are an honest gentleman. Please, forgive my offensive attitude and my discrimination of you. Remember that I am offering you a blessing from God."

The sound of her last words was echoing in my head when I left her room after I had offered her my forgiveness. She really did hurt my pride and my feelings. Yet, perhaps if it hadn't been for her plea, I would have never forgiven her. On my way to the main street, I ran into Simon, who kept apologizing tome too. He explained to me how he was trying to contact me in order to inform me that they accepted me at work, despite everything.

"Thanks to the efforts of your friend, then" I said.

"No, my friend didn't recommend you to anyone."

"What do you mean?" I asked quickly.

"They accepted you for your qualifications as a journalist. That's it."

Indeed, this was much more than I ever expected. Subconsciously, I clasped my hands and raised them towards the sky, to thank God. After I had lost faith in YOU, and expected for myself an eternity of endless agony without one ray of hope, now everything is turning upside down and changing for the best, I said deep within myself. Later, I kept asking myself for so long, whether this sudden change did occur only because I forgave the inn-keeper, and hence, I was blessed by God? Or it is just luck?
However, now all what I am certain of is that I really forgave her… I forgave her from the bottom of my heart.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Emily Talon

"He pushed me into the room and locked the door," said Mrs. Emily Talon in a very trembling voice. "I peered through the slates of the shutters toward the gate but there was nothing insight."

"How was that?" I asked.

The wind started to change. Cold rain slanted from a darkening sky. I studied Emily with thoughtful eyes. She walked back to kindle a fire and put on water for tea. Her dress was old, grey and nondescript. Her shoes had belonged to her grandpa, but big as they were, they were comfortable on her feet. Emily Talon was sixty seven years old and she has lived alone in her house for quite a while.

"I saw nobody except Fanny coming out of the stable. She must have seen Milo coming back, but when he was may be a hundred yards off, she stopped him with a bullet to his feet, but she told him that she wasn’t going to kill him. She wanted him to live a hundred years regretting everyday of his life for what he had done to me."

Emily put down my cup of tea and muttered, "Logan should have returned by now. It was foolish of him to ride off as he had done. I miss him so much. Yet I pity him … if only he had just been there, nothing would have happened to me in the first place."

She went from window to window, checking the fastenings on the shutters. "He should be back," she was talking half to herself. Then she turned to me and went on, "if Logan were here, he would ride into the mountains, hunt Milo a hole and wait until time was right to come home."

I have known Emily Talon ever since I was a little boy. She is old now, old and tired. If only Logan would come home! She wanted him to come, but she told herself that she was an evil woman to prefer Milo to him. Milo was a fast hand with a gun, strong and a hard worker. She needed a strong man to take good care of her and her old house, but Milo turned out to be mean and anyone who crossed him was taking a risk! Yet, against everything, I have always felt a certain obligation towards her. And now it’s the time I had to be truly there for her.

One day she told me and Fanny over breakfast, "I will be gone a day or two to look for Logan. If you, Nick, don’t mind, just stay here and take care of the place."

"Ma'am," Fanny protested, "you just can't do that. You ain't young anymore and those are mighty rough mountains."

"Of course, they are rough, but I have no other choice. I won't wait for Milo to come back with a bunch of robbers and take over my house."

One thing I have learnt about Emily is that you get no place arguing with her. She is a notional woman, and the only notion she pays her mind to is her own. Although she was no longer young, there was a hidden strength in her body. As a small girl, she was very familiar with the life of the forest and riding away from the house made her feel free ... freerer than she has ever been before.

As it was getting dark, she came upon a trial. She looked all around her. Nobody seemed to be watching and nobody seemed to have followed her. Emily kept searching for Logan but found no sign of him. She had to have more information about him, as she was certain that all the inhabitants of the nearby town would know what had happened to Logan after he rode off. Therefore, she rode toward town. It was dark and she was unlikely to be seen but she knew where to go.

Emily's horse picked its way delicately up an ally way and round to a dark side of a stable it stopped. Mary Wilson, a woman of forty was sitting on her steps in the cold evening watching the clouds. When she noticed Emily, she rose up to her feet.

"You ride very late, Mrs. Talon," she said, as if expecting Emily's arrival. "Haven't you heard a shooting in town couple of days ago?"

"No, I haven't. I haven't been off the mountains for too long."

"Well, two men are dead, two are wounded and one is about to die." She spoke in a matter of fact and then added, "they were Fanny's men who done the shooting."

"Fanny's?!!" shrieked Emily.

"Yes Fanny's, your maid who has been in love with Milo and now is in league with him." Said Mary in a weak voice. "I just can't understand how my brother could do such a thing. I can't even picture them together."

Emily let out a loud cry as she dismounted her horse, but suddenly she remembered Logan.

"Logan! … was he hurt?!"

"Yes … he was hit very hard … more than once. One of my girls, Nelly, took him away."

"I have got to find them."

"You think u r the only one? Fanny and Milo look for him too. They just want to get rid of him."

"Look Mary, I have been deceived by Milo and now I am deceived by Fanny. I have to get back at them, but first I have to find Logan. Regardless of everything, I have always felt he is near."

Emily was a considerate woman and now she gave thought to Nelly and her plight. She must have been riding in the mountains with a wounded man. She would need shelter and she would need medical attention for Logan. Nelly would undoubtedly try to reach Emily's house. But she had never known the mountain trails as Logan does and now he might be in no condition to show her the trial he knew. However, Emily decided to head for the mountains again and search for them.

Knowing she could go no further without seeing their tracks, she moved with greater care, studying the trail for any sign of them. Emily stopped as she found a horse. One rider must have ridden off by himself and that would be Nelly heading for my house, she thought.

"But where is Logan?"

Emily knew he had to be in a bad shape. He would want to be out of sight. However, there were several possibilities but all came to nothing, for Logan was vanished. Mounting her horse again, she heard a sound of horses. A moment later the horses came into view. There were eight men, all tough by their looks and the man in the lead was Milo. Fanny must have told him that I am out searching for Logan, Emily thought in disdain. Contemplating her situation, Emily decided that there was one thing to do to avoid Milo's men before they could see her. Accordingly, she had to get off the mountain and go back to the house. If Logan was anywhere about, she would discover him on her way back. As she rode on, she was less than seventy yards from Logan and he was looking right at her, trying to call out but he was too weak!

Logan was lying as weak as a cat that is scarcely able to crawl. He saw Emily looking down toward him. He kept yelling until Emily heard him. She caught hold of him and hurriedly pulled him up to her horse and rod on. By that time, there was enough light for her to examine Logan's condition. Indeed, he was extremely wounded that he could hardly move his body.

"I am sorry Logan, it's all my fault. I shouldn't have agreed to let Milo be in control of everything when you came back. I was forced to prefer him to you." she wept stormily, "I know Milo is mean … but … Fanny is meaner."

It wasn't until two hours later when Emily finally reached her house. I saw Fanny's face growing red with anger at seeing Emily coming back with Logan.

"Look! Logan is terribly wounded. What could possibly have happened to him? I asked in deep agitation. Fanny completely ignoring my attitude quickly closed the front door and came back to me saying, "Look Nick, I wouldn’t be in this, if I didn’t know we can win … and win big."

"What do you mean Fanny?" I asked, but she went on as if she didn’t hear me, "when time comes Emily will just go off by herself and if she didn’t, one of my men will take her away. Logan will die. Can't you see how he is terribly wounded?"

"Then you want to get rid of both of them. Do you actually believe that I can help with this Fanny?" I asked sarcastically.

"Yes I do. It runs in your blood Nick and you can't deny it any longer. You, the White Ronaldsons, were the first who wanted to take over Emily's land for the sake of your wide American investments. But alas! I will no longer rely on Milo. I should have believed since the very beginning that he hadn't been interested in the subject as much as me," then she came closer to me and whispered, "It's you whom I will rely on."

Fanny grew impatient as her new plan established itself and began to develop. She believed that I can be loyal to death when she threatened to kill me. She started narrating what I should do in order to help her to get rid of Logan and then of Emily. But she would have been surprised to discover that she means nothing to me except a mere weak horse which I have ridden for a time!

In fact, I had my own plan. I have discovered that Fanny had been in league with Milo for a long time. She wanted to get rid of Logan because he was the only one who would inherit Mrs. Talon's old house. The house, though old, worth a lot and even the stable worth a very big sum of money. Logan had never been only a guard to Mrs. Talon's old house. He had been her favorite youngest good boy. Unlike Milo, Logan was eight years younger, cool, thoughtful and studious. Whereas Milo was impetuous, energetic and quick tempered. At the age of fifteen, Logan had helped Mrs. Talon to hunt down and kill one of those murderers who killed her husband in the mountains. A year later, he learnt how to kill on his own, and at the age of seventeen he had gone off to join the army. Logan had become a sergeant and then a lieutenant. The war ended and Emily heard no more of him. She thought that he was dead but one day she found him at the door of her house, asking her to forgive him for not writing for so long. Indeed, his last letter had come from the American Colonies several years before.

Emily couldn’t believe her senses and welcomed him back. She explained how the first five years of his absence were hard. She had to work on her own until she grew old and tired. The long wakeful nights left her trembling, yet she has never been afraid. Emily has learnt that nothing could have frightened her in the old days when Logan was there, but by time she started to realize that Logan was gone and was not coming back. As a result, she decided to rely fully on Milo.

Logan sympathized with Emily and promised to stay with her as long as possible, but he couldn’t restore his position back in the old house as before. He suffered Milo's physical strength and ill-treatment. On the other hand, Emily couldn’t do anything about Milo's mean behavior. Milo was in control of everything. Moreover, he abused Emily financially and kept threatening to kill her if she ever dared to protest. Logan couldn’t stand living in that gloomy old house anymore. Thus, he ran off to seek help.

Mary Wilson, Milo's sister-in-low, never approved of her brother's actions. Couple of weeks ago, just before Emily sent for me to tell me about Milo locking her up, Mary sent me one of her girls, Nelly, with a letter addressed to me:

Dear Nick,

I know I should have sent this letter to Emily but I was afraid it would fall into the hands of Milo or Fanny. Don’t be surprised to hear Fanny's name. I have got much to tell you about, as I know how much you care for Emily. Fanny is in league with Milo and she planes to kill Logan. Don’t worry about Logan; he is safe with me in town. I am asking you not to inform Emily of my letter until I handle the situation. Yet if she insisted to search for Logan, just leave her to seek the truth herself. However I am expecting her arrival at any time. She is a very smart old woman who can never be easily beaten though.

Mary Wilson.

Now turning to Fanny, I said "I heard you were a hard woman Fanny, and so you have proved to be."

"I don't know what that means Nick. I only know that you will help me to accomplish this plan"

"What makes you so sure of this? I am not afraid to face death Fanny."

Fanny shifted her weight, leaning kind of heavy to one side and said, "Too bad Nick, we would have made a team. Just you and me," she smiled and then went on, "especially when Milo is gone."

Honestly I was shocked. I stared at her and asked, "What do you mean? Have you killed him? But I heard no shooting."

"No, he will just pull out. Indeed he had enough. He once said that he never did believe in wasting his time after Emily and Logan. But I didn’t believe him … now he must be thinking of something bigger. He has been abusing Emily financially for too long and now he seems to be fed up. Yes, the house and the stable seem to mean nothing to him though they worth a lot."

I smiled then, "Oh, well if that is the way the cards fall" I moved up a little and turned to face the front door, which she has closed.

"Well, bad luck Nick. I am sorry, but you already know a lot."

"So are you going to kill me Fanny? Not so fast dear, remember that you are left alone now, even your poor men are too weak without the aid of Milo."

Fanny stood hesitated as she gave no reply. She noticed me standing with my pistol in hand and by turn she took hold of the butt of her hideout gun. But before she attempted to move, I shot her right in the belly and she fell back against one of the chairs.

"You …" her voice faded out but not the glow in her eyes. Her body has fallen but her right hand was going toward her hideout gun again to shoot me. But it was too late as there was a sudden boom from outside. "Is everything all right Nick?" asked Emily from outside. "I have taken this one out," she added.

I watched Fanny trying again to shoot me, but with my free hand, I reached over and picked up her gun. "You want another one Fanny? You are dead already, why make it worse?"

She looked at me, "Damn you Nick and damn the old woman. Damn her to hell. She …"

"She is the solid stuff and you were never anything but a cheating woman."
At that time, Emily rushed in and stood by my side, watching Fanny dies.

"I am sorry for all what happened Nick. I have just met Nelly, hiding in the stable from Fanny. She told me everything about the letter."

"You needn't any letters now. You have just sought the truth yourself." I glanced at Fanny who faded out and went on, "It wasn’t your fault to keep such villains at your house."

The thing that hit me so hard was why such a couple like Fanny and Milo attempt to abuse and cause the death of so much a better woman like Mrs. Talon. A woman who is compelled to trek through the hardships of this cruel life, because no one is actually there to take responsibility for her care and feeding. Indeed, life is a chaos.

"Mrs. Talon, there is nobody who can take this place away from you, even Milo himself."

"Logan wouldn’t give him the chance." She replied optimistically.

"Where is he now?" I asked

"He is with Nelly in the forest now. I got him out of the stable. We would better move back to town, I can't heal all his wounds. He needs professional help."

So we simply rode down the trail together Emily and me and we met Nelly and Logan on our way to town, just as if nothing had happened at all.


Rasha ...