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Price of Sacrifice
By Zakia Sultana
Standing behind the glass window, Sam was looking at his own reflection. He looked tired. The dark circles were very much visible under his eyes. He needed sleep, but unfortunately, he couldn’t even take a nap right then. He was directing a very important meeting that morning. And that’s why he had ordered his assistant not to disturb him during the meeting at any cost. “It’s going to be a long day,” he thought to himself.
Work had always been his first priority. All his life he had known nothing but work. When he first moved to this city, he was not so well off like today. He was a very brilliant student with absolutely zero money. He needed a job. He didn’t have a home. He used to stay at his friend’s house. One day he got a job here, in this very company. He worked very hard. And as they say, hard work always pays off. He grabbed the eye of Mr. Smith, the owner of this company. Mr. Smith asked Sam to marry his daughter, Jean, who was his only child, because he thought Sam could perfectly take care of his company and his daughter. So now, after six years of marriage, Sam was taking care of both Jean and the company. Everything Sam had ever wanted had come true.
Angelia, Sam’s assistant was working at her desk when she first heard the footsteps.
“I want to meet Mr. Sam,” someone told her in a very serious tone.
But it didn’t matter how serious he was because Angelia didn’t want to face the wrath of Mr. Sam. So she politely replied without even looking at the man, “Sorry sir, but Mr. Sam is busy right now. You will have to wait until he is done.”
“I am police officer Samuel. I need to see Mr. Sam right now. It’s important,” that man said.
This time Angelia didn’t just look at him but also stood up from her chair. She said, “I am truly sorry, sir. Actually, it was my boss’s specific instruction to not disturb him during the meeting. That’s why I told you to wait. Just give me a minute. I will inform him about your presence.”
After saying this, she called Sam. “Sir, there is a police officer. He wants to meet you right now. He said it was important. OK, sir. Yes, I will inform him.” After ending the call, she turned to the officer and said, “Sir, he will see you in five minutes. Let me take you to his room. Follow me, please.”
After exactly five minutes, Sam entered the room. “Hello officer, how can I help you?”
“Hello, Mr. Sam. I am sorry that I had to disturb you during your meeting. But you have to come with me right now,” the officer said to Sam.
Sam replied, “Right now? Where?”
The officer continued, “You will see when we reach there. But for now, you just have to wait.” So Sam didn’t have any other choice but to go with the officer.
When they were in the car, the officer handed Sam a letter.
“What is it?” Sam asked.
Officer Samuel replied, “This is for you. Once you read it, you will understand who has written it.”
Sam didn’t say anything, just stared at the letter. “Who could write him a letter?” he thought to himself.
“Mr. Sam, pardon me for asking, but you are living in this city for how long?”
“Ten years, sir.”
“I see, ten years. And within these ten years, you have never once visited your home village?” the officer asked again.
Sam replied, “No, I was so caught up with business work that I couldn’t manage the time. But I did once, actually. I went to my village once in these ten years.”
“You don’t have any family members back there?”
“No, only my mother.”
The officer asked again, “Why didn’t you keep your mother with you here in your house?”
Sam didn’t have an answer to this question. He never had.
But the officer’s questions didn’t end there. He continued, “You and your mother, you two talked, right? I mean during these years?”
To this Sam replied, “No, as I have told you earlier, I am a very busy person. We didn’t talk much.”
“When was the last time you two met?”
Sam replied, “It was five years ago. That was the last time I saw her. After that, we didn’t actually properly talk.”
The officer then said, “OK. I know you must be thinking why so many questions. Well, you are going to get your answers soon enough. Please read the letter I gave you. You will understand.”
Sam looked at the letter for a moment. Then he opened it.
Sam my boy,
How are you? How is your health? Are you eating properly? Remember when you were a boy? You wouldn’t even eat until I fed you. You always kept bugging me to feed you with my own hands.
As a kid, you always wanted to eat good food. After your father’s death, I was really struggling. It was getting really difficult for me to manage those that you were fond of. But you kept complaining. You were never really happy about our condition. After your father’s death, we were not so well off. That used to bother you a lot. But I didn’t mind as I understood that you were a little boy who didn’t understand the reality. So I tried to do my best. I started a job. I used the money I earned from the job to buy food and clothes for you. There were nights when there wasn’t enough food for us at home. So I used to tell you, “I am just going to cook for myself now. You don’t have to wait. You eat this and go back to your studies.” But I never did cook. There were not enough ingredients to cook, in fact. And you didn’t notice. You never noticed the nights I spent without eating anything. You never even asked whether I ate or not.
I thought once your studies were over you would be able to get a job and then our condition would get better. All my pain and miseries would come to an end. So I always gave priority to your studies. But the expenses were increasing. So to maintain your educational expenses, I started working a part-time job as an office clerk. But I didn’t tell you about it. You always complained about your friends having better toys than you. You were always upset that you didn’t have a car, but your friends came to the school in their cars. One day you just came to me and said, “I want an expensive phone. All my friends have one. I also want one. If you don’t buy me a phone I will not sit in the final exams.”
The next day I went to my boss and requested him to lend me some money. He asked me why would I need so much money all of a sudden? I told him I needed that money to buy books for you, which was not true. But just at that exact moment, you entered the room. I didn’t know you had an appointment at that office. I was just clueless. I was not prepared for you to see me. So I hid my face.
My boss told you, “Sit down, Sam. My son told me all about you. You are a very bright student. I will see what I can do for you. I will try my best to find a job that suits you. You see, nowadays finding a job is really hard.” Then he looked at me and told me to get you a cup of coffee. When I was about to give you your cup, hiding my face with my scarf, you unfortunately and accidentally saw me. You just looked at me once and then left the room.
You were so ashamed of the fact that I was doing such a small job. A job is a job. I didn’t understand what’s wrong with me doing a small job when that’s what was paying for your education. But then I also understood why you felt angry and ashamed. So I followed you. I ran and ran and ran. But you didn’t stop. I called your name but you didn’t listen. You crossed the road. I also followed you and tried to cross the road, but just then a bike hit me. I fell. I cried out your name. I was in so much pain. I just wanted you near me. But you never came.
I had to be in the hospital for a couple of days. They had to plaster my leg because I broke my leg. After almost fifteen days, I was released from the hospital. They prescribed me not to do any heavy lifting. When I was at the hospital, I always thought you would come looking for me. But I was so wrong. When I returned home, you were not there. I asked our neighbors. They informed me that you didn’t come home for the last few days. Due to the condition of my leg, I couldn’t do any work. I was suspended from my job. Even at home, I couldn’t do anything. My life was miserable. There was no one who could at least cook food for me.
Do you remember the chair in front of the fireplace? I used to sit there day after day. I used to wait for you by sitting there quietly. I had this faith that you would come. But why did you never come, Sam? Why? Were you so angry with me that you just left your mother there all alone? Because of my health, I couldn’t cook and eat. So my health condition got worse.
You remember when you were little, you used to wet the bed. It was me who used to change your clothes and then make sure you slept peacefully. I never did let you sleep on that wet mattress. I was always afraid that you would catch a cold. You were the apple of my eye. You were my only son.
The day you came in a big car wearing all new and good clothes with your wife, I felt so happy. It was almost six years ago. The memories of that day are still so fresh to me. You came, true. But your entry was not exactly the way I wanted it to be. You didn’t even sit beside me and hold my hands. You just came by covering up your nose. Your wife didn’t really wish to be at our place any longer than she absolutely had to.
You said, “Mom, this is Jean. She is the daughter of my boss. I have my own home now. But I can’t really take you there. So I think it would be better if you live in a retirement home. Living alone here all by yourself is really not a good idea. I can’t take you with me. You see Jean is also a working woman. She is always so busy herself.”
I was so shocked after listening to you. Never in my dreams did I think this day would come. I felt so worthless. So I just gave you a little smile and replied, “Oh, don’t think about me. I will be just fine. You guys take care of yourselves. I don’t want to leave this house. I want to live here in this house. This is your father’s house. I won’t have any problem here.” After hearing this, you left with your wife. I thought once you calmed down a little bit you would come to me. But that never happened.
My son, today I am 65 years old. I want to live for 100 long years. I really want to because then I will be able to wait for you longer. I have heard that your wife has given birth to a baby boy. When your child will be about your age and you will be like me, then your son will also want to take you to the retirement home. Your child will treat you the same way you treated me. Then you could come to me. I have bought your favorite perfume. I have carefully kept it on the top shelf of the almirah. When you will come I will give you that.
I will sit in the chair in front of the fireplace. You will sit with me. We would talk our hearts out. We would talk about everything. Sam, do you remember this fireplace? It was your favorite spot in the whole house. You used to play with your train set in front of this fireplace. At night when you used to study, I would sit in that chair and watch you read. There are so many memories here. This room, this fireplace, this chair.
I have left the door open for you. Whenever there is a crackling sound at the door, I think of you. Then I shout out loud, “Sam, are you here finally? Have you come? The door is open. Come inside.” But after a few minutes, I realize that it’s not you.
Sam, I am really tired. I have had a fever for a couple of days now. I can’t keep my eyes open. I am keeping this letter by my side. If I can find someone, then I will send this letter to you. After reading this, you can come and wake me up from sleep. Then we will talk about everything that has happened in your life. Take care, Sam, take great care of my son. Remember your mother is waiting for you. She has always waited for you, dear.
Love you always,
When Sam finished reading the letter, he just couldn’t stop crying. “Mom, please forgive me. Please forgive me, mom. I have made a great mistake. I have failed you miserably, mom. I am such a pathetic son,” he said.
Just then the officer informed Sam that they had reached their destination. The officer said, “Yesterday a few of your neighbors went to the police station. They said they were not getting any responses from your mother. They knocked on the door. But no response came. So they got scared. That’s why they came to the police station. When the police came, they found your mother dead. This letter was found beside her. I kept the letter. Your mother’s neighbor gave me your address. That’s why I came to your office.”
Sam was half listening to all this. He just wanted to see his mother. He suddenly stopped on his feet in front of the door. Someone was calling him. He clearly heard it. Someone was calling out his name. Suddenly he realized that it was his mother’s voice.
He clearly heard, “Sam, my boy, you have come at last? I was waiting for you. I have kept the door open. Just come inside. Come to your mother.”
Just when Sam had opened the door, he felt like a cold breeze had passed, touching his body. It was just like his mother’s touch. He clearly heard the officer saying, “The body is at the morgue. You have to come with us, Sam.”
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