Her back to the wall, she clutched her heart as she willed it to return to its normal rhythm. Taking deep breaths, she said soothing words to calm her frazzled nerves. Once her breath had returned to normal, she peeked into her son’s bed and heaved a sigh of relief to see him peacefully asleep.
She sank onto the floor and started to cry. “No…stop Nina,” she said to herself. But the adrenaline that had been pumping through her blood was wearing off and the tears of shock and relief burned her eyes. She allowed herself to cry but for only a minute.
She then stood up to her full height and made a promise to herself…she promised herself that she would never let anything happen to her son. She would keep him safe and away from the big bad mean world.
“Mom come on. You said if I finished all my chores and behaved myself you will let me hop around like the other rabbits,” said Brett forlornly.
“Brett I am not stopping you from hopping around,” said his mother with an amused look on her face.
“Mom you know what I mean…I want to go out.”
Brett had expected a lot of reactions from his mother but not the one he got. He saw her turn pale and tremble with sheer terror. She got a far-away look in her eyes…as if she was reliving a past nightmare. She was shaking like a leaf in a storm.
Blinking her eyes rapidly, trying to get rid of the horrifying image, Nina said, “Brett enough is enough. Aunt Macy is coming. Make yourself useful and cut these carrots.” Then a little gently, she added, “I’m making your favourite carrot stew.”
Brett knew he had lost for the time being but he wasn’t giving up that easily. Around 2, Aunt Macy came with her two daughters, Sim and Veronica. Brett, Sim and Veronica were the best of friends and soon, they had left the adults to their conversation and gone inside to have one of their own.
“Vera, tell Brett what you saw the other day,” said Sim, her eyes shining.
“Sim…come on…you know I am not allowed to talk about it,” said Vera, glad her sister had not waited long to bring up that particular topic.
“Vera…if I know you and I think I do…you are dying to tell me all about it,” said Brett, smirking.
Rolling her eyes but thoroughly enjoying herself, she said, “It happened two days ago…”
Brett looked at Sim and they turned away, trying to hide their smiles. They knew Vera was in a mood for storytelling when she started her sentences with ‘it happened two days ago.’
“…it was a perfect night…clear with stars in the sky. There was a light breeze and the sweet fragrance of the nearby lilies was in the air. I was sitting on rock, gazing at the sky…”
“…suddenly the sky filled with pink and golden colours. It was like a flower had bloomed suspended somehow in the sky. After some time, the flower changed colours and this time it was green and red. At one point, three flowers bloomed together! It was the most magical night I have ever witnessed.”
Vera’s dreamy eyes came back to reality and she looked at her audience for signs of approval. Sim immediately started to clap and Brett joined in though with a melancholic expression on his face.
Vera asked, “What’s up Brett? You look rather peevish.”
“Even I want to see everything you see,” said Brett. Then a little shamefacedly, added, “But my mom won’t let me…”
“Don’t worry Brett…even Sim isn’t allowed anywhere out…” said Vera, trying to sound consoling but ended up sounding smug.
“That gives me no comfort at all. I am older than her and I am a boy,” said Brett with wounded pride.
“Why can’t you talk to Aunty Nina about it,” said Sim innocently.
Brett snorted and recounted that morning’s incident. Vera frowned and Sim merely looked from her sister to Brett. She sensed she wasn’t supposed to open her mouth.
After much contemplation, Vera came up with the idea of Brett running away. Brett laughed humourlessly, not taking Vera seriously at all.
At that point, Vera was called upon by the adults and she left Sim and Brett with their thoughts.
Seeing an opportunity, Sim said timidly, “I have been out of my burrow once you know.”
Despite his yearning, Brett smiled and said, “What did you see?”
Her voice gaining confidence, she said, “I went in the afternoon. The first thing that hits you after the burrow’s darkness is the sun. It’s so bright and warm…and the grass feels so soft and silk-like after the roughness of the sand. The flowers are beautiful, every rose petal different from the other, every leaf a different shade of green. You know my favourite part was seeing my reflection in the water…that day the water was calm and I could see myself so clearly in it. I am pretty you know…” she finished shyly.
Brett turned to look at her and said, “I never doubted that…what else did you see?”
And for the next hour, Brett saw the world he so desperately wanted to see but wasn’t allowed to from the eyes of a little girl. He had already heard a lot of it from his mother then Aunt Macy and also Vera but somehow Sim’s descriptions touched him more than anybody else’s and the urge to break free grew stronger than ever before.
Brett woke up with a start. It was still dark in the burrow which meant it was night outside. He had had a fitful dream and no matter how much he tried, he couldn’t go back to sleep. Giving up he went to his mother’s room. He was shocked to see that she wasn’t in bed.
He was about to start looking for her when he heard crying in the background. He slowly walked out of her room and peered into the darkness. “Hello?”
“Oh Brett you’re awake. Something terrible has happened,” said Nina in a quavering voice. She told him about the danger that Macy and her two daughters had fallen into while on their way home. Both Macy and Sim had perished and though Veronica was alive, she was badly bruised.
He saw his mother covered in blood and took control of the situation. He ordered her to clean up while he dressed Vera’s wounds. He re-heated some of the carrot stew and forced his mother to have it. He then ordered her to rest and promised to wake her as soon as Vera woke up.
It was in the silence and listening to Vera’s deep breathing that the truth hit him…Sim, gentle beautiful caring Sim was dead. He started crying. He stared up at the ceiling and thought, why her? What had she done wrong?
When Brett woke up in the morning, his mother’s bed was empty again. He went to check in on Vera and found she was still asleep.
Nina re-entered the burrow, looking dishevelled and tired.
“Where were you mom?”
“I had gone to check if I could recover Macy and Sim…I couldn’t. I still had to try,” she said with a sad smile.
Brett’s curiosity got the better of him and he asked, “What happened mom?”
She didn’t answer his question but said, “This is the reason I never let you go out of the burrow. Now you stay here with Vera and I’ll go look for some fresh carrots.”
Brett wanted to protest but quailed under her look and said nothing.
“Vera? What really happened?” asked Brett. It was late afternoon and his mom had still not returned. Vera was lying on his bed and he was on the floor…both of them had been staring into space.
“We were attacked Brett…as simple as that…by humans. They were hunting. We were still very close to your burrow so Aunty Nina heard our calls and she was able to pull me out of harm’s way but mom and Sim…” her voice cracked at the last word and fresh tears sprang to her eyes.
“Vera I am so sorry…had mom woken me up and had I known, I could have helped…it’s my fault…all my fault…I…I am never leaving this burrow ever.”
“Don’t be silly Brett…it wasn’t your fault at all. These things happen…it’s a way of life…”
Brett was shocked to hear those words. He had thought Vera would be as bitter as his mother. Even though Nina had never told him and even though Vera was forbidden to tell him anything, she had told Brett what had happened when he had been a baby.
His parents had gone out star-gazing when they had been attacked by hunters. Nina had seen her husband die in front of her eyes and had never been able to forget it.
“…and Brett…you can’t stop living…can you? Your mom didn’t after your dad’s death…and I certainly won’t.”
Before Brett could respond, Vera got up from the bed, testing her legs. They were still sore but nothing seemed broken. She looked at Brett and said softly, “Are you ready?”
Brett trembled with fear and excitement. The day he had dreamed of was finally here…but did he really want to go? After what he had heard happening to his father and then Aunt Macy and little Sim? Was the defiance worth it? He looked at Vera’s outstretched hand and hesitated.
“Come on Brett…you can’t let your mom’s fear and fear of what may happen stop you. Sure life is cruel and it has its bad and ugly days but you will never know what you are missing till you live your life…”
Brett closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He took Vera’s hand and nodded to her. She led him to the burrow’s opening and pushed it. Before walking out of the burrow, she peeked around and looked up at the sky. It was cloudy. She smelled the air and let the fragrance rejuvenate her.
She pulled Brett out of the burrow and saw to her amusement his eyes were shut. She gently prodded him and he opened his eyes. The sun came out of the clouds then and covered him in its warm embrace. He remembered what Sim had told him about the sun and despite the tears, a smile formed on his face. He could hear her sweet voice narrating her first ever trip to the “outside” world.
He looked at Vera and she smiled looking at the unadulterated joy on his face. “Welcome to this wondrous world Brett.”
As they hopped away, they did not notice Nina…sitting on a nearby rock with tears streaming down her face and a hint of a smile playing around her mouth.
Telos is an ancient Greek word that has the following three meanings: fulfillment, final moment and coming full circle.