A death refracted – Part 6.1
Bonny is at Desh’s place and has told her what has happened to Derry.
At the end Desh screams; ”Why the fuck did she have to leave me? I would have taken care of her. After all she’s done I, I still love her. I couldn’t, can’t just stop loving her. Bonny, why did she have to walk out of this house, leave me, why?”
Bonny knows why and she’s sure that Desh knows as well; Derry felt stifled in the relationship, had told her many times, especially this last year; “She’s always trying to please me, no matter what I want, what I’m doing, what I’ve done, where I am, she’s there, she’ll be there, watching, cleaning, polishing, washing, cooking, ironing, smoothing, planning my day, packing my bag, even licking the road so I don’t get my feet dirty. I don’t, can’t have a moment to myself. She’s always there, my fucking shadow!” She says nothing, allows the other to lean her head onto her breast, feels the woman’s heart, the trembling of an emotion which, now, no longer has another to play upon, and is now moving into her as well.
“Why did I let her go? I could have stopped her. Could have done more to keep her with me.”
“You did everything you could, Desh.” She takes the other’s hands in her own, comforting the other just as much as she is herself.
“What else did she want?”
They sit in silence, each absorbed in the absence of a woman they had loved in their own way. The day crawls down the walls. The light from the lamps in the cul-de-sac falls orange, strained through the net curtains and onto the dark carpet, strange flowers reminding Bonny of chrysanthemums. In her mind she’s always associated these flowers, the peculiar burst of colour, with loss and the sense of leaving, being uprooted from a safe place, and taken to another, travelling to the unknown. She remembers when she left India as a six year old, her mother beside her, sitting in the bus taking them from the terminal to the waiting plane, watching as the figure of her grandmother grew smaller, an arthritic tree brittle in the night light, until she was no more, the night swallowing her, and the sense of loss she had felt, the sudden space which had been created inside her, and within which there was a pain, which, only when she had gone to university and been on her own in her cramped bedsit, had she fully understood, as the pain of being disconnected from a connection to another at a level far deeper than the mere act of being there, being able to touch the other – it was the pain of being separated from a self that was not another, it was an extension of one’s own self. In that separation from her grandmother a part of her had been cut away, left to shrivel. It was the same when her grandfather died. With Derry’s death another piece was gone; she was diminished, every day another step to becoming nothing but a bag of memories for all that had been lost.
“I gave her everything.”
And Derry had given herself, the thought rises inside Bonny, so they could be free of the story she had weaved. But on further reflection, no, that is not true. It’s not. Derry’s story had been left behind, was still alive and its words were choking her, had been doing so, now she thought about it, since she’d stepped into the waiting room at the station, and knew definitely that her sister was gone. She feels, knows it had been left behind deliberately, the seeds that Derry had sown, the buds she had tended, now branching into each and every life she had touched, for some a poison, for others a re…Her thought is interrupted by Desh.
“I have to say this, Bonny. Don’t take it the wrong way; it’s not aimed at you, trust me. It’s your sister Tuwi, she’s been the problem in our lives. It’s always been her. Worming her way into our life, doing things behind our backs, taking things away from us. Always criticising, sniping at what Derry and I had built together. This wasn’t right, that wasn’t straight.” She cannot hide the bitterness. “Nothing I did was good enough for her. For her Tuwi. Not Derry. For that bitch! And for that fucking anal OCD husband of hers! As if I would do anything to please them!”
This is not news to Bonny. She knows, has been aware for years about the bad blood between Desh and Tuwi. It was something she had chosen to be silent on, to let the women sort it out by themselves. Derry had always been forgiving; she talked of Tuwi as her “little sister”, “my twin”, and would brook no criticism of her.
Desh carries on: “You do know we nearly lost this house because of Tuwi’s shenanigans?” She doesn’t wait for an answer. “Derry told her about this place and she went straight to the estate agents and made a bigger offer? And this wasn’t the first time. We’d seen an apartment in Croydon before this. Two beds, serviced, with its own gardens, communal gym and pool. Derry just loved it. We put in an offer and guess what? Tuwi hears about it, looks up the place and talks to the agent as if this was perfect for her needs. Her story was she was being transferred into the area and she needed an apartment just like this close to her office. Would be a cash buy, and completion asap. And then she withdraws when the agent tells us that he’d received a higher offer. She didn’t want the place, the selfish bitch. She just couldn’t stand us getting a nice place for ourselves. That was just her. She, somehow, had to be the centre of attention, was always comparing herself with others, her place was the best, her shoes were the most expensive, her job was perfect.” She pauses to breathe, shifts and settles back down against Bonny. “The same would have happened to this place, but the couple selling were really good. They said they’d agreed verbally with us and they were going to keep their word. Derry would have been gutted. After the Croydon saga she’d set her heart in getting this place. And it shows there are still some good people out there. But your sister,” and she emphasises each word, “she is not one of them.”
Tuwi was not an innocent. That was for sure. She had been close to Derry. They were born eleven months apart, but though Derry had always said they were twins, and when they were young they were mistaken as such, they were totally different characters; Derry driven, relentless in her desire to enjoy life, Tuwi quieter, more introvert, but behind that mask, Bonny knew, there was a single-mindedness to get what she wanted, no matter what the cost.
“And the holidays, Bonny? What was that all about? Why the fuck did they have come with us all the time? We could not get away from them. It was like we were joined at the hip. Always them and us, us and them. And it wasn’t that they liked to be with us. They never enjoyed any of it. There was always some reason to complain, constant snide remarks, and it was always something to do with me. I hadn’t booked the right villa, the flights were too early, the timing was wrong, the weather was too hot. Always my fucking fault! And they never lifted a finger to organise anything. That was always on me. The bastards! It seemed it was like some sort of purgatory they had to endure to get into Heaven!”
Bonny is not going to defend Tuwi. There is a silence inside her she wants to keep. She listens.
“It was her. She drove Derry away.”
Is it that simple? Bonny knows it is not. Her sister is not an innocent in Derry’s story, had certainly contributed but to say she was the main cause, that was simply not true.
“She drove herself away.” She says this as much to herself as to the other. Derry was not one to be forced by the opinions of others. Her path had been set a long time ago, and this, this was not the culmination; there was much more to come, the story had many more pages, each to be read, since if they were not then they would continue to hang trembling inside her head, disrupting her thoughts until she brought the whole thing to a closure.
Desh is nestled into the curve of Bonny’s side, head resting on her left breast, her body light against her. Bonny’s forgotten how tiny the woman is, just over five feet, but when looking at her, it was the face which caught the eye, not the thin, slightly twisted body; the barely perceptible bump on her back the reason Peter jokingly, or so he claimed, labelled her “The Hunchback of Pakistan,” a name which, when Derry once overheard him, had resulted in her kicking the man hard in his groin, and branding him a “bastard of the first water,” but which still did not break the almost symbiotic bond between the two couples.
“She couldn’t live with herself,” Bonny continues. “Losing Jivraj first and then the baby. That was too much.”
Desh catches her breath but does not say anything.
Bonny knows that she is partly to blame, having ignored Derry’s silence, taking the absence of noise as a sign that all was well, when she damned well knew it was not. She had wanted to call, to go around, but there had been this…this invisible wall….no, no, no fucking excuses, it was her own reluctance to create a splinter in her own cosy life – that was it, she did not want any fucking disruption to everything she had built – which had pulled her back, stayed her from making any move. When she had phoned, and by some miracle Derry had picked up the call, the answer was always, “I need my space. I can’t have anyone else in that space. I need to sort it myself.” It had been easy for Bonny to accept that, to believe that her sister was coping, was capable of coping with the absences which had forced themselves into her life. But she knew, deep down she knew that was not the case; Derry had retreated into a darkness the magnitude of which she could not imagine. She tried to rationalise it, to compare it to something definitive, a sensation that would allow her to talk to her sister with an understanding rooted in experience. There was nothing. She had nothing that compared to the losses Derry had suffered, and her imagination failed to conjure up a panacea, and in those moments the seeds of guilt would begin to stir.
Desh shifts. A long sigh, endless, ending with a long intake of air.
“I would have looked after her. That’s what I’ve been doing since I met her.” The wonder of what she has been doing is evident in the softness of her voice. She doesn’t move away from Bonny, stays curled into the warm curve. “Everything she did, that trip to India, that marriage, the baby? I forgave her for all of that.”
Broken by Desh as she poses a question. “When did you find out about the baby?”