Stepping out of the plane and squinting at the bright sunlight, streaming down on my face, I paused and marveled at the absolute beauty of the tropical weather. Three months seemed forever, and I could not wait to get home to the children. For the first time returning home, I felt complete, independent and strong. Reflecting on the text I had read on my phone, just before boarding at Pearson International, I knew Ned would be there waiting to pick me up. Instantly feeling uneasy, knowing he was going to explode throughout the drive, I thought of Kovadis, his warm love, amazing smile and mesmerizing eyes. I had to overcome the fear and be confident and strong going forward. Collecting the two suitcases, I hurried through the doors.
“Oh, my heart!” I exclaimed, grabbing my phone to video tape Aidan as he proudly tried to walk in his new red rain boots with yellow stripes at the top. Guess it turned out to be his best gift, since he spent the rest of the morning walking the entire house, stopping at intervals to peek down in admiration. “I don’t think you will have a problem with your second child eating,” I teased Sarah, as she entered the kitchen, once more checking on what next there was to eat. Remembering the two months during her pregnancy, where she laid, too weak to walk, since nothing stayed down, not even water, I smiled, thanking God for his blessings. “Well now I have to make up for lost time, right?” she replied, grinning. I was so very proud of the daughter she was, forever supportive with her love, never thought twice, spending her weekends with her mom and younger siblings. Her words… “mom don’t feel guilty finding happiness, you have made such sacrifices and always placed us first, now it is time to focus on your life, live it for you,” her words had been the strong anchor I needed in moving forward.
Believing in honesty and facing the consequences, led to my very first fight with Kovadis. Looking back now, I wondered how I could have been so naïve, not to see it was wrong for Ned to pick me up from the airport. Instead, I had felt hurt and wondered if I had made a wrong decision, for the very last thing I needed, was to live the rest of my life, proving myself. Tumbling behind the clothes in my closet, I pulled out the parcel I had kept hidden, Riyad’s 19th birthday was just a few days away, and it was time to wrap his gifts. “These will be from you,” I told Shakira, holding out the two Under Armour gym tops, as she entered the room, “we have to hurry before he gets home from work.” The following evening, a few of his friends were invited for dinner, games and sleepover, which he often kept, while I was going to enjoy fish, chips and live music, at Pegasus with Shakira. Guess that was his way of finding happiness through the confusion and pain that came our way.
“No wonder these boys love to plan sleepovers!” Sarah exclaimed, as she entered the kitchen, “homemade garlic bread, omelet and homemade pizza!” Riyad’s birthday breakfast being no different from the rest of occasions, I had awoken early as usual, to feed and lock the dogs in their pen, before Roberta arrived to clean the yard. After preparing her coffee and sandwich, I began preparing the usual breakfast I knew, Riyad absolutely enjoyed sharing with his friends. Like his big brother, he loved the simple occasions planned, having fun with friends playing their PlayStation games, board games and table tennis. Peeking through the glass French door leading to the living room, Sarah laughed, “half on the mattress and half on your sofas, think they will be up in time for lunch instead of breakfast.” Riyad had purchased a tennis table and placed it in the living room, leaving just enough space for them to throw the extra mattress on the ground after pushing all the sofas against the walls. “Thank god I didn’t agree for him to buy the pools table instead,” I replied.
“Bama,” Aidan called out, peeking from behind his mom’s legs. “My little, precious baby! I exclaimed, bending to scoop him up into my arms and swirl him around, “Bama has pizza for Aidan,” I teased, taking him across to the counter where I had placed the hot pizza just out the oven. “Aidan wants pizza,” he replied excitedly. Pizza was one of the few things Sarah did not have a problem with him eating and because of that, I made sure pizza or macaroni and cheese, another of his favorite, was always made when they came over on weekends. Even though Sarah was very particular with him having all his vegetables, she knew that on weekends, his grandma usually spoiled him. “Bama will feed you pizza, then we will check if Aunty Shakira is awake,” I replied laughing, “let me enjoy you before Aunty Shakira takes over.” I absolutely loved the way he tried to say grandma but pronounced ‘Bama,’ his baby voice and eyes filled with so much love, always tugged at my heart. “Relax time for me,” Sarah breathed out in relief, as she slowly swung in the black Basket Swing Chair with red cushions, that was in the corner, neatly tucked away under the steps, next to the back windows.
Riyad had enjoyed his two days birthday celebration, having a fun filled pre-birthday night and breakfast with his friends, then having the entire family over for dinner. Even though, on such occasions, I missed Adam and his family terribly, for the first time, having Kovadis in my life, made the tears disappear and the main focus of having my three children enjoy and continue to build the strong loving bond they shared, meant more. Everyone had to live the life they chose, teach their children the principles of life they believed and tears which once, constantly flowed, suddenly had no meaning. There was definitely no reason or excuse to hurt your mom and for the first time, I realized, all the months I had spent craving to prove myself, was wasted, for at that point I knew that true religion was genuine love, kindness and a pure heart, not one that was filled with hatred and malice. Even though I was so badly burnt with the worst pain possible, and at times had screamed and cursed, when the walls craved in, I remained ‘me,’ I continued to be the kind and loving mom, daughter, sister and friend, where no experience was going to hamper my personality.
“You guys will never grow up,” I laughed, as Riyad and Shakira raced towards the car, to see who would get to the front seat first. “Not fair your legs are longer,” Shakira usually complained, settling in the back seat. They enjoyed their morning and afternoon drives to and from Georgetown, where we usually played our music CD and sang at the top of our voices, especially Shakira. Her Grade 11 Examinations was just a few months away and she needed the distraction from the constant battle between studying, completing her assignments and finding time to watch a show. “Why can’t they use the bins placed at every corner?” I fretted aloud. It was the day after our country’s Mashramani celebrations and the volume of garbage left by viewers after the parade, never seized to disgust me. “Wish they could be proud of their country and keep it clean,” I continued, as the children laughed, knowing it was just be beginning of me fretting. No matter what economic problems our country faced, I was forever proud of it and the accomplishments of Guyanese worldwide.
“I’ll call and check if the other branch has it,” I replied, hurrying towards the phone. Because of the wide variety of vehicles in Guyana, there were days when we didn’t always have what the customer needed, yet the last thing I wanted was to lose a sale. Guess the determination I felt arriving to work and opening the business on time, also drove me to perform at sales, in the best way possible. Even though over the months, Riyad had learnt a lot, I continued push for excellence. Assuring the customer that the spares would be delivered to our branch in fifteen minutes, I began writing his bill, thankful that I was not losing the sale of all the other spares he was purchasing. Glancing at my watch and realizing it was time for the big green school bus to drop Shakira off, I hurriedly stamped his bill, and packed his spares in bags. “Time to do inventory and repack your fridge,” I called out to Riyad. He had begun his own little business selling a variety of drinks, water and juices to customers in the new display fridge he had purchased.
“There comes your daughter,” Riyad called out, as he glanced up from restocking his fridge, “drivers never stop for you to cross, they just ignore the pedestrian crossing,” he continued in annoyance. “But nothing prevents her from smiling,” I laughed, feeling relieved when the car stopped for her to cross. “She is always so happy and excited to see her mommy,” I teased, laughing as she headed for the fridge. Between Shakira, the staff, customers and the Car Wash boys next door, there was constant sales for Riyad. “Hurry up children or we wouldn’t be able to leave before the rush hour traffic begins,” I whispered from the counter, noticing the car that was pulling up, “customers will keep coming if we don’t take down the shutters.” “Just in time,” the customer announced,” excitedly, as he rested his old pair of shocks on the counter. “Please tell me you have this,” he continued, “the mechanic now realized this also needs changing.”
“When will we ever reach home!” I exclaimed, observing the two lanes on each sides of the highway. Leaving work twenty minutes late made a vast difference and it seemed as though customers’ favorite time to come rushing in, was at the very last moment when the shutters were about to come down. “Could you answer the phone for me Shakira? It must be Kovadis thinking I am already home.” “Hi Kovadis,” Shakira answered in her suddenly shy voice, “Mommy is driving, she’ll call you when we arrive home.” “Why can’t you use that voice when speaking to me,” Riyad teased, glancing at the back seat. Even though they were three years apart in age, they had such a close relationship, their fights for the front seat or other minor things, seemed to just last a minute, after which they would be teasing each other, giggling over something or the other.
Turning unto the bridge, I sat smiling at our two beautiful white American Pitbull dogs. It never seized to amaze me the way they hurried towards the gate in excitement, as soon as the car turned the corner. “Beast, Princess,” the children called out to them as they tried to enter the gate. Guess calling Beast’s name was not a good idea, since instead of backing away, he always thought it was time to play and became more excited. Switching the alarm on the car, I hurried in behind the children, “Plantains and fried fish for dinner,” I announced, turning the key in the lock. That was the easiest thing for me to prepare whenever we arrived home late and being one of our favorite meals, we always enjoyed. Tumbling through my bag for the phone, I dialed Kovadis, “hi honey, arrived home safely,” I whispered, smiling. It felt so precious being pampered with so much love and attention, as though I was Cinderella and there was no clock chiming midnight.
“Honey, it is after 11:30p.m. and we both have to work tomorrow! I exclaimed in surprise. Even though it was just one month since I returned home, it felt like a lifetime away from Kovadis. His morning, lunch break and evening calls that continued until late at night each day, filled my heart with happiness. “I am enough,” I often whispered to myself in amazement, “my voice, smile and conversations matter and meant so much to him.” Each night, I fell asleep smiling, hugging my extra pillow, while Shakira cuddled closely. Even though Kovadis was still contemplating moving to Guyana to get married, since he knew that would mean the world to me, I was the happiest woman, I had his love and the opportunity of spending quality, precious time with my children. “Baby, forgot it is one hour earlier here, have a good night and I promise not to call you too early in the morning,” Kovadis replied laughing.
Could not believe it was already Saturday, my favorite day of the week when Sarah either arrived at the business with a taxi to travel home with us, or I picked her up. After a busy, stressful and extremely hot day, I felt relieved as I replaced the phone. “Your sister will be here soon Riyad, you could begin pulling down the shutters,” I stated, smiling at his excited expression of closing an hour earlier than usual. Shakira had remained home to finish off a few of her assignments and I always felt uneasy leaving her alone, even though the two dogs patrolled the entire yard all day. As Riyad hurried out to pull the shutters down and the staff left through the side door, I glanced at my phone once more. “Why were fighting,” I thought, feeling confused and hurt. I was still working at our business and constantly saw Ned whenever he needed to make deliveries or collect documents, there was no way of not seeing him. Reflecting on Ned, as he entered the business that morning, smiling as he came towards my desk, placing the boxes of food he brought for our lunch, I pondered on the difficult position I was in. How could I not continue to care for someone I shared twenty-eight years of my life with? Kovadis was right to feel hurt, as I know I would have been, guess it was natural, but if only he could understand my heart,” I thought to myself.
“My precious baby!” I exclaimed in excitement, hurrying towards the taxi as Sarah came out followed by Aidan. “Sarah could you please drive so I could enjoy Aidan in the back seat?” I pleaded instantly. “Oh! No, not again mom,” Sarah laughed, already getting accustomed to my regular pleading. “It’s fine, just teasing,” I replied, settling into the drivers’ seat and buckling the seat belt. It was a breeze driving home on weekends, since there was always less traffic. “Everyone ready for fried chicken, fries and a movie?” I called out, as I slowly reversed from the bridge. Excitement! Excitement! Excitement! That was always the feelings when we were together. “Bama music?” Aidan asked, in his cute adorable voice, “your grandson knows you so well mommy,” Sarah laughed, as Riyad hurriedly placed the music CD in the player.
THE TOWN OF CAMPBELL RIVER
“You will love it in British Columbia!” Kovadis exclaimed excitedly, as he tried to place the phone at a better angle, “beautiful mountains, lakes, trees and trails,” he continued, as every trace of tiredness from driving four days to British Columbia from Ottawa, disappeared. We both loved nature and the idea of living on the island, where the winter months were not as cold as Ottawa or Toronto, seemed a perfect decision. “Waiting now on the ferry to cross from Vancouver to the Island baby, try to get some rest now honey,” he teased, knowing that it was already wee hours of the morning. Quietly opening the bedroom door, I stood beside the bed, staring down on Shakira who was cuddled deeply under the comforter, “how could I ever leave my babies?” I wondered, so badly had I quietly yearned for Kovadis to choose Guyana. Lifting the comforter and slowly sliding under, I hugged my baby, comforting myself that she would soon be sixteen years old. As tears slipped over my eyelids, drenching my pillow, I cuddled even closer.
Splash! Splash! Splash! Aidan was in the pool with his little cousin, who was visiting from the countryside. “Good luck when it is time to take them out,” I laughed, hanging the set of towels on the chair, “they are having so much fun with the balls.” Sarah had a great relationship with her husband’s family, and I was very proud of her kind, humble and simple personality. “Just be careful with the steps when coming out of the pool Sarah,” I continued, “don’t forget you’re seven months pregnant.” “No way of forgetting that,” she replied, pointing to her tummy, “will just remind Aidan Bama has pizza for him and he will come out quickly,” she laughed, swirling the bright yellow baby float towards the ball. Tears suddenly dampened my eyes, as I thought of British Columbia, I had not found the right time to tell them. Placing the two pizzas in the oven to be baked, I hurriedly blended the fruits to make a jug of juice. Kovadis had already found a beautiful apartment and had begun working at his new job.
“I am going,” I kept repeating to Ned, who was in Las Vegas when he heard I was leaving to join Kovadis in British Columbus. Even though his painful expression tugged at my heart, I knew it was already over, as it had been from the very first moment I found out about the other woman. “I don’t want the business,” I whispered, feeling drained, “I don’t want the Audi.” Guess after living with me for twenty-eight years, he still did not know who he was married to. Wealth was the least important, for I knew, no amount of it, could ever buy happiness, wipe away tears or make your husband faithful to you. “I am so sorry Kovadis,” I apologized, wondering silently how it was even possible for him to hold on to what we shared, through all the trials of my previous marriage. But he did, not once was he willing to give up, no matter if we argued or stopped talking to each other for a few days, he continued to love.
Hugging my three children and Aidan closely before they left the following morning, I held on a little longer, not knowing what, where or in which direction my life was leading to, but the time had come for me to walk my path. My heart had broken into pieces when Sarah had pleaded at the very last moment for me to cancel, while Riyad and Shakira stood nearby with all their emotions locked inside. “I will be back, I promise,” I had whispered, not knowing if the words had left my heart. “Why is my life filled with sacrifices,” I often wondered, knowing the close bond I had with my children. I had been their mom and best friend, they had been my anchor of strength, my babies whom I protected with love. As they walked towards the gate, I kept repeating to myself, “don’t run after them, don’t make it harder for them.” Suddenly, Riyad turned and came back to give me yet another hug, my heart leaped with joy and the tears began to flow endlessly. My children understood, they knew I was not a bad mom, I was not neglecting them, I was not being selfish, I just needed to survive.
After spending one night in Toronto, I was again, on my way to Pearson International Airport, to board my flight to Vancouver. “I am so familiar with this airport,” I thought to myself,” as I sat in the back seat of Lisa’s vehicle, already knowing what exit they needed to take. “I have come such a far way in becoming strong,” I thought, remembering when once, I had scurried behind the passengers who had disembarked, feeling confused and overwhelmed, thinking there was no way of me finding my way. After being sheltered for so many years, I was suddenly forced into learning independence, not only in travelling, but also driving in the worst possible traffic. I had learnt from all the pain, not to take life for granted, not to depend solely on anyone, no matter how much you are being sheltered, for in the end, we had to be capable of facing the outside world. “You are a professional traveler now,” Lisa laughed, as I hugged and reassured her, she did not need to park. “I could never have made it this far without your support,” I whispered.
“Waiting to board the final flight to the island,” I replied, “I am sure you are already at the airport.” Knowing Kovadis had not slept a wink the night before, I was convinced he arrived at Victoria Airport, hours before time. “Can’t believe I will be seeing you in an hour,” he laughed excitedly, “there is no time difference between us now baby.” Thankfully the airport was not as big as Pearson International, and I had easily located my gate, before flopping down into the nearest seat, to begin texting Kovadis. On one side, he was so happy I was coming to him, on the other side, my children were heart broken I left. “Why did finding happiness have to come with a price,” I thought to myself, as tears slid down my cheeks, “I am here honey,” I replied, as I wiped away the tears, “just missing my children.”
Walking out onto the tarmac to board the little plane, I glanced across at the beautiful mountains that could be seen in the distance. It was just ten passengers boarding and within minutes, we were already in the air. The cute little plane reminded me of dad’s boss’s plane, where as a child, I had peeked through the tiny windows in excitement and awe at the extreme beauty that laid below. Settling comfortably in my seat next to the window, I again peeked down at the beautiful river that seemed to stretch for miles and miles, with boats of all sizes, complementing its beauty. While some were anchored at various docks, others were sailing, leaving in its trail, clouds of white bubbles. For a moment, I thought of dad on the boat, stepping onto the pontoon, walking through trails and flying in the little plane, he had loved the outdoors, loved his job and loved his boss. Because of the contentment he experienced, loving everything he did, he had faced life positive and strong, yet loving, pleasant and humble. “No wonder his staff loved him,” I thought, “he was the greatest boss.”
Stepping out of the little plane, I smiled, knowing Kovadis must have seen it descending and could very well imagine his excitement. Within ten minutes of clearing customs and heading to the baggage area, I looked up confused and surprised, “are you allowed to be here?” I asked. Suddenly, I was lifted in the air and swirled around a few times, before he answered, “no I’m not, just couldn’t resist my love.” Grabbing my suitcase from the carousel, he apologized and thanked the security for allowing him into the baggage area, before kissing me again for the tenth time. “I can’t believe you are here my love,” he whispered, closing the trunk and opening the car door for me, “you will absolutely love the island.” It was two months since I last saw him and missed his twinkling brown eyes and warm loving smile, which always melted my heart. “I promised mom I’ll let her know as soon as you arrive,” he was saying, as he dialed mom’s number.
“Here’s a camera I bought you honey,” Kovadis laughed, “you can capture its beauty.” We had already driven for twenty minutes along the highway, which was hugged with beautiful trees of all types, shapes and colors. “Oh! the Japanese trees are my favorite!” I exclaimed, hurrying to collect the camera that was resting on the cup holder between us. “Dad would have loved to live here,” I whispered, “not sure about the kids though,” I added laughing, “they were not exposed to as much countryside vacations as I was.” I had felt sad flying from Toronto to Vancouver, I was adding more distance between myself and the children. Somehow, a straight flight from Guyana to Toronto had always comforted me, knowing that within seven hours they could travel and be with me, any time they needed to. I had cried and felt helpless and confused, trying to survive the challenges I was experiencing. Trying desperately not to cry, as I thought of my beautiful children, I clicked yet another picture, as we drove by the beautiful cottages and barns.
It was approximately three hours, when we finally entered the town of Campbell River. Even though I thoroughly enjoyed the drive, I would have preferred if Kovadis had realized there was an airport less than an hour drive from where he lived. “You were too excited not to realize that,” I laughed, admiring the beautiful town, we had entered. It felt as though the mountains in the distance were protecting and hugging the town, which had beautiful houses on each sides of the street. Huge shopping centers and supermarkets with coffee shops were in the complex, close to the Movie Theater. “Are we here?” I asked surprised, as Kovadis turned into the lane. It was a two flat long building, which comprised of different offices on the bottom floor and apartments on top. “I Just have to cross the street to get to the shopping center!” I exclaimed excitedly, “everything is within walking distance,” I continued, unbuckling my seat belt, as Kovadis held the car door open. As I climbed the wooden side steps, I stopped in awe, admiring the mountains in the distance and all the trees that seemed to stretch beyond and beyond.
“Welcome home baby,” Kovadis whispered lovingly, as he slowly opened the door, hugging me closely. My heart tugged, as his beautiful brown eyes began to twinkle in excitement complementing his amazing smile. “I missed you so much honey,” I replied, tracing his thick eyebrows, before hugging his face into the palm of my hands as he leaned lower to kiss me gently. “Time to check out our home before we freeze out here,” he laughed, as he held my hands and led me into the apartment. On the left was the laundry room with storage space and hanging racks, followed by the washroom. On the right was the huge bedroom with the built-in closet that took up an entire wall. Pulling the shades up, I stood admiring the mountains in the distance, “so happy you got the apartment at this end of the building,” I said, losing myself in his warm loving hug. “Wait till you see the view from the living and dining room!” he exclaimed excitedly, “you have only just begun.” Laughing, I ventured to the end of the foyer and stood astonished, as the full view of mountains, trees, bright blue sky with white fluffy clouds, birds and beautiful buildings across the street at the complex, came into view.
“He just wanted to make sure I arrived safely,” I tried to explain, knowing that Kovadis may never understand, “guess it’s because we’ve been married for twenty-eight years,” I continued, “he still tries to protect me. If it was understanding I was searching for in Kovadis’s expression, it vanished when he replied softly, “you are no longer his wife Nal, no longer his responsibility.” Suddenly the walls of Tim Hortons seemed to cave in, “Why am I feeling as though I am so selfish and cruel,” I thought to myself, reflecting on the countless times I had given my marriage yet another chance to make it work. Feeling the warmth of his hands as it covered mine, I suddenly felt a flicker of inner strength, not only did we love each other, Kovadis was my best friend as I was his and no matter how rough the path became, we could walk it together, for I was finally enough for someone.