By C.E. Pereira
Chapter 8 – Alex, Margaret and Honey Bear-bear
Something happened during the second term school holidays when Liza was ten. It made a huge impact on Liza. Three new friends stepped into her life but within two weeks they were gone forever. Little Liza learned her heart could break and feel empty when you say goodbye.
Liza’s story starts the morning her mother’s friend came for a visit with her three children. Their names were Alex, Margaret and Honey Bear-bear.
Alex was the same age as Liza, while Margaret was a year younger and Honey Bear- bear was just a toddler.
Soon all the children were outdoors playing and having fun. What Liza didn’t know at that time was the grown-ups were discussing some serious problems.
By days end her mother’s friend told the children that they would be spending a few days holiday at Liza’s home. Liza was over the moon. Liza didn’t notice her mother’s worried look.
By bedtime all six children were tired out. Mattresses were placed on the floor with all sleeping in a row except for Honey Bear-bear. She slept in Mummy’s bedroom. It was a tight squeeze but the children found it exciting. Mummy let them talk even though it was after bedtime. Within a few minutes one by one they fell asleep, soon all were fast asleep.
Next morning brought a day filled with adventures for the five new friends. They climbed guava trees, plucking the green fruits and eating them even though it was not ripe yet. Then they played hide-and-seek using the rain tree as their playground.
When they became hot and tired, they went indoors and drank lemonade. Then Liza’s brothers Andy and Gerry taught the younger ones how to make paper-boats. Each of After making their paper-boats, they put them into the drain. It was fun following
the journey of their paper-boats until they disappeared into the monsoon drains.
Then it was time for lunch and their afternoon nap-time. When evening came they went outdoors to play again until dinnertime.
Liza had so much to share at dinnertime with her Daddy and Mummy. Her conversation always started like this. Alex this …. and Alex that.
Her brothers started teasing her but Liza didn’t mind at all as Alex didn’t join in the teasing.
Liza was a happy little girl with three new friends even though Honey Bear-bear was too small to really play. The school holidays was going to be filled with so much fun. Liza was having such a fun time with her brothers and new friends.
Every day started with the children doing lessons in the morning for an hour. Then the rest of the day was playtime and mealtime. They played outdoors until it was too hot. Once indoors they played board games or read their story books.
Liza and Alex became best friends. She sensed a sadness in her friend. One day when they were alone, she asked Alex if anything was bothering him.
Alex was quiet for a while, then her blurted out, “My parents are going through a divorce.”
“Oh Alex. I am so sorry.” Liza gave him a hug.
“I wish they would get back together again. But I know it won’t happen.”
“Who will you stay with Alex?”
“My Mum has custody of us. But she is angry all the time. Sometimes it feels like she didn’t want custody of us.”
“It’s Okay Liza. Don’t worry. Usually things work out in the end. That’s what my grandmother says.”
“I hope it does, Alex.”
The days rolled by so fast. Before they knew it, it had already been two weeks that the three children was with them. In a week’s time school would reopen and her new friends would go home. But Liza was already looking forward to the next school holidays when these new friends would come again.
One morning Liza overheard her parents talking about Alex, Margaret and Honey Bear-bear.
What are we going to do about your friend’s children?”, she heard her Daddy asking Mummy.
“We’ll have to find their mother soon. Food is short and three more mouths to feed is beginning to take a toll.” Mummy sounded like she wanted to cry.
Liza knew she shouldn’t eavesdrop but she couldn’t help it. Her parents were worried about her three new friends. What was the reason?
So, Liza crept closer to the bedroom door and listened in on the conversation.
Her Daddy sounded more angry that worried. “She cannot just abandoned her kids like this.”
Then Mummy added, “I know. But last week when I called her from the payphone she said she was working the night shift and had no one to baby-sit for her.”
Sighing, Daddy said, “But she’s not even helping to give some money for the extra food. I know you said she was going through a divorce but Honey, we can barely make ends meet and three more mouths…”
Then she heard her mother say in a very firm voice, “We’ll take the kids back to her place this Sunday. It’s going to break Liza’s heart and mine too but it has to be done.”
“I’m sorry. I’d like to have these kids to stay on but we cannot afford the extra mouths to feed. I’ll miss them too.”
“If only Gloria can contribute to some of the expenses instead of asking for more time to settle her divorce issues.”
“I know Honey. We can barely make ends meet each month. Taking on three more…. I’m sorry, we cannot.”
Liza dejectedly walked away. She went out the backdoor and into the neighbour’s garden. She was in shock. She sat down on an over-turned pot and cried.
How she wished she’d not eavesdropped. This burden she felt on her small shoulders was heavy. To know that being poor was the reason her father couldn’t give shelter to three children broke her heart. Her friends would be gone by this Sunday, never to return. Liza cried again.
Will Alex and his sisters have enough food when they go home? Does this mean they are as poor as us, Liza wondered. Then she wiped her tears away and went back indoors.
She joined the others in the hall and played with them, not letting on what she had overheard earlier.
That evening Liza followed her mother and Honey Bear-bear for a walk. Liza held the baby’s hands during their walk. Honey Bear-bear had lots of baby talk in her. She made Liza laugh quite a lot with her baby language.
Liza found courage to confess to her Mummy about eavesdropping. She got a scolding from her Mummy and was told never to do it again.
Liza murmured, “Sorry Mummy.”
“Will Alex and his sisters visit us next holidays?” Liza asked her Mummy but in her heart she already knew the answer.
“I don’t know. Their mother is not going to be happy when Daddy and I take the children back this Sunday.” “She wants us to keep the children for another month, yet she doesn’t say anything about their expenses.”
“Since you eavesdropped on the conversation, you know Daddy cannot afford to buy more food every day. And that is why we are sending the children home. Their mother is responsible for them. We are responsible to you and your brothers. I hope you don’t think Daddy and I are being mean.”
Liza hugged her Mummy hard, “I love you Mummy. I never ever think you and Daddy are mean.” “I am going to miss Alex very much, Mummy. It hurts a lot.”
“I know sweetheart, I know. I will miss them too.”
Liza and Mummy continued their walk with Honey Bear-bear in silence.
After dinner her Daddy announced that Alex, Margaret and Honey Bear-bear would be going home on Sunday as school reopens in a week’s time. Daddy didn’t give the real reason.
For the next two days leading to Sunday, Liza took time with her mother on here evening walks with Honey Bear-bear.
Liza liked Alex the best even though Margaret was fun too. She liked talking to Alex. He was always polite with Liza and took an interest in what she was saying. Not like her brothers, always cutting her off when she was half way talking.
Sunday evening came. The children were dressed and fed. Their small bag was packed. Daddy and Mummy was giving instruction to their eldest boy to take care of his siblings while they were out.
The children were told earlier in the day that they were being send home. Goodbyes were said with plans to meet next holidays. Liza was quiet, she hugged Alex the longest.
The taxi had arrived. Liza’s parents and the children got into the taxi. Liza didn’t wave goodbye, she ran into the house without looking back.
It was the last time she’d ever see Alex, Margaret or Honey Bear-bear. Little Liza closed her heart and memory on that day.
It would be years later when the memories come back. But Liza will never fully remember those three friends. Their faces a blur to Liza.
And Liza never spoke of those three children who stepped into their lives and hearts one day during the school holidays when she was ten.
Cont: Chapter 9