Home Again

By Ubaid Ullah, Islamabad

It was the last day of her tour. After getting through with her concert, she signed some autographs, pictures and went home. While she was changing back into her casual get up, she remembered during her 3 month-tour how every day, people called her beautiful or put it in an adorable metaphoric compliment. “Am I really beautiful?” she thought as she removed her wig, removed her fake eyebrows and took off her eyelashes while gently rubbing her hand on her face, “If people saw me like this, they’d think I’m a monster”. Tears filled her eyes. Chemo had left her with no hair on her body. Suddenly, she again felt the same pain that had been haunting her since last 3 months but she had been comforting herself with the prescribed narcotics. She started coughing heavily and found blood in it for the third time.

Next morning, she went to her radiotherapist. After the tests, her doctor came with sad expression on his face. “Anette, why haven’t you been coming for your regular check-up?”

“I was on tour”, she replied curtly, “Now, tell me Doc, I know the cancer is back. How bad is it this time?”

“Are you sure you just want me to spring it on you just like that?”

“I’m ready. Tell me!”

“It’s not just in your thyroid anymore. Your larynx, chest bones and lungs have been affected badly too. I told you that your checkups needed to be on time!”

“It was stage 4, we both knew it was going to return” she said repressing her tears pretending to be strong.

“Now, I’m going to admit you and we are going to take great care of you here”

“Yeah, sure I’ll come tomorrow”

As she left the doctor’s room, she looked at all the Cancer patients around her and remembered her friends whom she met during her chemo. Many people from around her had left the world. She knew that being admitted was not going to do her any good. She still didn’t have more than a week to live because she heard the doctor conversing with his secretary.

Next day, she drove to her native house in Grevie near Båstad, Sweden which looked worse than ever. She could tell that it was still the house of someone who lives from hand to mouth. She saw her elder sister milking a cow. Her sister saw her and turned back.

“Agnetha, wait!” she said

“No! Why are you back? You don’t get to come back now. Anette, you were only two when mom died. I took care of you, I gave you anything you ever wanted, and I brought you up like my own child. I even let Benny go – all because I wanted my sister to be brought up like I couldn’t be” Agnetha clearly was having a panic attack on seeing her

“Agnetha – “

“I’m sorry Anette but when dad died, you weren’t even born and when mom left, you were two so I did everything I could for you. And you left your own sister who made so many sacrifices for you” she started weeping, “All – All because you wanted a life of money and fame? I cannot forgive you!” she began to walk away from Anette

“I have cancer” Anette yelled from the back as she removed her wig and tears escaped her eyes.

Agnetha ran to her “Please tell me that this isn’t true”

“I wish I could say that but it’s true” Anette said while crying

“Oh Baby!” Agnetha began to cry and hugged her sister.

They went inside. “Agnetha, you have no idea how badly I feel, if you could only knew how sorry I am – I mean – “

“Anette, Its okay”

“No, it’s not. I did come back once when you weren’t home but Monika told me you never wanted to see my face again. So I left”

“When was this?”

“Three years ago”

“Why didn’t you come again later? Anette, I was mad at you for leaving me but had you come to me, I would have scolded you and then we both know, things would have been normal again”

“I thought I had a lot to time to make up for leaving you merely for money and a better life” she said, “Who knew I would end up having Cancer” a tear escaped her eye. “But believe me Agnetha, running away was the worst mistake of my life”

“It’s okay Anette, you know I can never stay mad at you. So, about the cancer – how?”

“Mom died of cancer. Nana had it too. I’m pretty sure it is genetic”

“Honey, you won’t die. You will be fine” said Agnetha with a smile hiding her tears

“No, I won’t”

“You shouldn’t talk like that”

“Agnetha, my days are numbered. The doctor’s words were quite clear when he told his secretary that even with aggressive treatment, I don’t have much time. I want you to be ready when it’s time and please don’t cry”, Anette said with heavy heart. Her sister again hugged her weeping. She spent the entire day with her sister doing all the things she did when she were little and lived in that country farm. The next day, Agnetha made her all her favorite foods and they spent the entire day together working at the farm. At night, Anette came and laid next to Agnetha holding her hand, she said, “Agnetha, Please tell me you have forgiven me”

“Of course love”

“Life is too short to be miserable and money never stays but your loved ones always do. I wish I could have remembered that. I spent four years earning millions but there was always a hole in my heart. It’s now that I realize I needed this little country farm to be happy, not that huge villa in the city” Anette said, “I forgot that Home is where love, warmth and calmness is, regardless of its cost and looks. Agnetha, when I die, I want you to take my house, car and everything I owe”

“I can’t”

“Please. You did so much for me. It’s the least I can do”

“Okay”

“Promise me, you’ll do it”

“Okay, okay I promise” she said with a smile hiding her tears.

At about midnight, Agnetha woke up to Anette coughing loudly with signs of severe pain in her eyes. Agnetha said “Oh my God! Oh God! Please, No”

Anette wanted to say something but she couldn’t stop coughing. Agnetha held her tightly against her head crying “Come on, sweetie! You’ll be fine”

Anette whispered in a 2 second interval between her coughs “I love you”

“I love you too, my world. Please don’t leave” Agnetha said sobbing.

Anette’s eyes were wet and her face white. Agnetha felt unreal as her sister’s head turned cold as ice and her eyes got closed. “No! No!” she screamed while crying but her sister had breathed her last….

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