February’s death was approaching, but the seeds of summer were already blossoming in the humid air of Bombay. Sweat beeds trickled down Claire’s forehead and she softly stroked her hair and tucked them away from her forehead. Within seconds she froze in horror and swiftly pulled her hair back on her forehead which looked like crimson patchwork.
She looked around her desk, nobody was around. Nobody could have possibly noticed. Her gaze now shifted to her full length-sleeves, they were irritating her skin and making the heat more unbearable. She had wanted to wear a short cotton dress, but they would have revealed the cuts on her hand.
“Happy Birthday mummy, I promise to make you smile and end all your problems soon,” Ronald, her 10 year old had wished her in the morning. It had made her smile. At least the day had begun well.
She looked at her desk, blue cupcakes with smilie faces beamed at her.
“Hey Claire, can I have one of those cupcakes?” Anu, a pudgy middle-aged co-worker asked her in a cheery voice.
“Oh yes, please, Ronnie made them for me, he is such a thoughtful child!” she responded with immense pride.
“Really? Isn’t he just 10. What a sweetheart. My daughter has never even made me a cup of tea and she is already 16! God only knows how she will ever get married!”
“Oh Anu, you are mad! Give the child a break,” Claire laughed as she passed a cupcake.
“How is Ronnie coping with school now? His teachers were complaining of behavioural issues no?”
“He is become so much calmer since the past few days. His grades have also improved. I think his teachers were just exaggerating. He is only 10, he is fine.”
Claire’s thoughts now wandered to her son, a thin, lanky child, with curly black hair that hung neatly around his face.
“He promised me another surprise later tonight, I know he has been making a greeting card. He has become very good at sketching,” she said loudly, more to herself than anybody else.
It was 2 pm, there were three more hours left at work, she buried her head in files. At 4 pm, her phone rang.
“Hi mummy, when are you coming home?”
Claire smiled, it was nice to know that someone cared.
“I ll try leaving early. Should be home in an hour. Is Papa home?” she asked, a scowl hung on her face now.
“Yes, but he won’t be here for long. I love you Mummy.” he said rather flatly.
“Okay, finish your homework, don’t bother papa, I love you too.”
She wondered what her husband was doing so early home. Did he remember it was her birthday? Did it matter if he remembered? What would he gift her? New scars?
She softly laughed in sarcasm as she thought these things. Ronnie was her only ray of hope.
She got up and decided to go home early, if any drama ensued, she would storm out with Ronnie and the two of them could have dinner at some place nice.
Claire headed to the washroom first, to re-arrange her hair and make-up.
When she finally reached home an ominous sense of gloom descended upon her. This was the best and worst part of her day. She was coming back to her son but also to her husband.
She unclocked the door and entered the hall. The house was unusually quiet, the tv was off, nor was there any sound of Ronnie playing computer games.
She stepped into her room and she saw her son sitting on the floor with his father’s body on his lap. David lay in his favorite white shirt, covered in blood, head buried in his son’s legs. The child’s hands were laced with fresh red stains that glistened under the bright CFL lights of the room. His right hand was stretched across his father’s back.
Claire stood paralysed for seconds, then her hands shivered and she held the door for support, making a soft noise.
Ronnie, who had been staring into blank space all this while, finally looked at his mother.
When their gaze met, they looked at each other like they were complete strangers. Slowly, his lips stretched and broke into a faint smile, as if he suddenly recognised who she was.
“Who did this?” She said staggering, almost falling. She clutched her stomach in fear and invisible pain.
She knew she had asked the wrong question. “What did you do,” she should have asked.
He smiled again… and she was in tears.
Note: So I first wrote this for a Quora question which was more like a writing prompt. Original link: Can you write a short story ending with “…and she was in tears”?