“Ishaan! Come back here!” I yelled, running after the seven year old who had run away with my shawl. He giggled, running behind a tree. The day was cold, biting winds ran, and I felt a stab of fear. What if my Ishaan caught a cold? I ran faster, but my body wasn’t as young as it used to be. Finally, I caught up to him, wrestling with him as we laughed. This was my boy, my Ishaan, the apple of my eyes. We sat down by the oak tree, arm in arm. He asked me with his innocent voice,
“Maa, where is Papa?” I stiffened. He immediately realized his mistake, and bunched his eyebrows.
“It’s okay, Maa. Don’t answer. I’m sorry.” he mumbled, clutching my hand. I shook my head.
“It’s fine, beta. Papa left us long ago. He’s just gone to work. He’ll be back soon.” I reassured him, lied to him. No, his father would never be back. He had left us six years ago, left me alone to raise a child on my own. I was never good enough for him. I shook my head to clear my thoughts. I would not cry for him again.
I smiled at Ishaan, and just like that, the tension dissipated. He talked to me about school, and at sundown, when it got chilly, I gathered him in my shawl, and we walked home.
That night, while I was tucking him in, he told me he was sorry. I watched him sleep, as his innocent face relaxed. He was beautiful, with dark black hair and fair skin. He was my boy. I curled up beside him, and we fell asleep.
“Ishaan beta, wake up. It’s time to go to school.” I said as I crossed the room, putting his books in his bag. He mumbled a good morning, throwing back his covers and padding to the bathroom. Twenty minutes later, I was putting his shoes on, as he complained.
“Maa, I don’t want to go to school today. I’m tired.” he said, frowning. I smiled at him, kissing his forehead, before giving his bag to him. He accepted defeat, as I walked him to his bus.
“Bye Momma!” He yelled, as the bus pulled away. I blew a kiss at him, and he caught it with his hands, as the bus turned the corner. I didn’t know that this would be the last time I saw him.
Four hours later, I was sprawled across his still body soaked in blood, as he lay silent on the cold floor of his school. Dead. My boy, dead. My little Ishaan lay still and silent, in a sleep from which he would never wake up from. His peaceful face lay cold and still. He was not breathing. I couldn’t think. I had no one now, no one to love, no one to care. They had taken away my boy, my little Ishaan, they had taken away my reason for living. His tiny body, once whole and pure, had gaping holes in it now, with bullets that stopped his life. Those bullets that made him no more. The bullets that took away my sun from me, leaving me in complete darkness. If he was no more, then what reason did I have to live anymore? My heart shattered again, as I watched his beautiful face, cold and white. I lay sobbing across his cold body, numb with disbelief.
“Maya.” someone whispered my name. I ignored his familiar voice.
“Maya.” He said again, shaking me gently and gathering me in his arms. I looked up. It didn’t matter that he had left me seven years ago. It didn’t matter that he had broken my heart. All that mattered was that I had someone’s arms to cry in. Someone to hold me as my love for the world died, someone to hold me while I lost my soul. I had someone now, to help me let go of my Ishaan.
“Ishaan, come back here.” I whispered in his arms, staring at the still body beside me that was once warm and happy and alive.
“Come back, Ishaan. Please. Come back to Mamma.”