this is just a story i wrote out of the blue. my heart goes out to all those widowed because of the war. to all those children who lost fathers and brothers, to all parents who lost their children, to all those who lost a friend or a lover. the wars were a pain to everyone, and may all those who died fighting rest in peace.
Mr. Hansen was forty odd years old. He had joined the war, when it broke out, like the many others in England. It was his fifth year with the army. He was lucky to find a girl like Anne, who married him despite his arrogance and stupidity. They had immense love for each other. Although the war tired him, depressed him, and wore him out, it was memories of Anne and Neville that helped him fight it, and promised him of that glorious future he could have with her when the war was over. Over. Over for good.
Mrs. Hansen was cooking in the kitchen. Today was a delightful day for her. It was her son’s birthday. Neville would turn 10 years old today sharp at 2 pm. She was excited. She had spoken to Mr. Hansen just yesterday. He would not be able to make it, for the birthday. But merely knowing that her husband was alive and kicking, provided her with just the enough support to carry on till the next time he called.
Over the years, Anne became used to her husband’s absence. She gradually stopped fretting all the time, stopped crying the moment a government car came in the vicinity. In the past, it had so happened, that many of her neighbours, her lady friends, had to undergo the misfortune she herself dreaded. During these sad times, she would put on her black gown, and along with her son, she would go and condole for what it was worth. In those poor widowed women, she saw herself. Glimpses of how she would be, if something such were to happen to her.
And as and when those nightmares came, she would calm herself down. “The war is going to end. Robert’s coming home. I’m going to wait for him.” That coupled with a glass of neat whiskey would put her to sleep again. She was a strong woman. She had had a lot to face in life.
An alcoholic mother, and a non existent father, this was just the beginning. When she ran away from home, she was only twelve. There was no one to guide her through the tough phase of womanhood. She wandered here and there, confused.
The streets were her home. But she was very scared of the rowdy gangs, that it also housed. They were said to do horrible things to young girls. Things she couldn’t get herself to imagine. She stayed as away from them as possible. Till, one day, they found her. She ran, as fast as she could. As fast as a week-long, hungry stomach could support her. That time, she had prayed. Prayed all she could. She was absolutely terrified. Then she reached a dead end. There were walls all around her. What was she to do??
That’s when she heard the police siren. It was like a silver lining. More like an angel in disguise. Her faith in God was reaffirmed. The police were good to her. They handed her to an orphanage nearby. “Happiness” was the best thing that ever happened to her. It was truly like its name. It was beautiful. Mother Clarence, the head nun, and manager of the orphanage, was the mother she never had. For once in her twelve years of worthless life, Anne had found a place she could call home.
She had friends, companions, people she could confide in. For the first time she felt less worthless. She felt magical. She felt loved. Now she was studying. Good people sponsored her education. She found studies easy and secured scholarships. She became a botanist. A queer career at the time, but did attain appreciative eyes whenever she mentioned it.
The twenty year old Anne, was unrecognizable from the twelve year old Anne. No longer a beggar, no longer terrified, no longer alone. She left the comfort of Happiness at last, with a tearful farewell, from the now somewhat aged, yet stoic Mother Clarence. she went to London. Joined one of the most reputed companies dealing with medicinal cures from plants, and became a successful woman. She lived there for three years, going occasionally back to Happiness, for Mother Clarence’s birthday.
Life was good and going, although each day was monotonously similar to the earlier. It was during these boring times, that she chanced a meet with a certain- Robert Hansen, a Harvard lawyer. A blind date organized by a close and common friend. On the first date, Robert came across to her as an extremely arrogant yet self righteous guy. But eventually, she began to understand him to be a more caring person.
When he finally asked her to marry him, she was very confused. She loved him, she knew that. And he was the only person, in the whole world other than Mother Clarence, who truly cared for her. She was twenty five years old when she said “I do”. She was now a Hansen. His family was warm and receptive to her. They were huge, yet so very well knit. She came to adore all of them. She came to believe in family.
From having absolutely nothing at 12, Mrs. Anne Hansen, seemed to have everything at 30. She had just given birth to Neville. He was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. He had his father’s blue eyes. Robert had given her freedom to choose his name. The name, Neville was a tribute, to the founder of Happiness. Robert liked,the name- Neville a lot, so the name was finalized. Anne left her job to meet with the needs of a growing baby. Robert was a lawyer, and he earned well.
And just when she was beginning to get really happy, the war broke out. Neville was four then. At first, Robert was indifferent to it. But then when the war became indeed serious, he began to take interest. Then one day, out of the blue, he asked her, “I want to join the war Anny. What do you reckon?” That was typical Robert. Straight to the point. But she was scared. After a long talk with him, she finally said,” Rob, it is your decision. Whatever you decide on, I’ll stand by you.”
She regretted these words the moment she said it. She regretted saying it all those five years that he was in the army. If only she had fought with him then. If only she had blackmailed him. She wouldn’t get these nightmares, these pangs of pain whenever she thought of him, whenever she shared the grief of one of her neighbors.
When she had finished cooking the food, Mrs Hansen, laid out the table. it was nearly 10am. Neville was probably just leaving from school. He was so happy in the morning when he was leaving. He always loved the attention, the cake and all the gifts. He had been a bit disappointed, although that his father would not be able to make it. In his later years of life, he had scarcely seen his father. But he was very proud. “My paps is in the army. He’s fighting with guns,” he would say to his friends.
She smiled as she settled herself on the couch. The cake was out of the oven. The snacks were all made. the garden was set up. And everyone was invited. She picked, the novel she was reading. An hour or so till Neville would be back. She sat there reading, engrossed in the novel. At about fifteen or so pages later, she heard the government car racing up on the colony road.
She sat up straight on the couch. Her hands were trembling. “Not Robert, Not Robert” she went on muttering.
The engine sound seemed to be nearing. “Not Robert”
The bell rang.
She pulled herself off the couch. It could be Neville. Maybe school had ended early. Maybe Rob was alright. She was just fretting….
She opened the door. A young man, in full army uniform stood before her. He tipped his hat and handed her the envelope in his hands. “I’m awfully sorry for your loss Mrs. Hansen….”
He couldn’t speak anymore. Mrs hansen was lying on the floor, unconscious.
Two days later, when she recovered in the hospital, Mother Clarence was with her.
After the funeral, when she returned home, Neville said to her, “Mommy, dont cry. you still have me.”