“Daddy, I am sure there is a monster in my room,” cried Billy.
I was tucking Billy in his bed.
“No Billy, there are no monsters.”
Billy didn’t look too convinced.
“Ok, lets check the room for monsters,” I said.
I looked under the bed and shook my head, “No monsters.”
I went up to the closet looked into it and turned to Billy, “ No monsters here either.”
“Can we sleep now sweetheart?”
I kissed Billy on his forehead, switched off the lights and shut the door behind me and walked off to my study.
As I was settling myself to complete my unfinished work, Anjie knocked.
“Is he sleeping?”
“How long will you be up? Come to bed.”
“Someone wants to be naughty tonight.” I winked at her.
Billy’s yelp terrified us. We ran to his room.
“What is it Billy?”
“He was here, daddy, he was here,” Billy was sobbing.
The window was ajar. I went to it to see if there was an intruder who tried to force himself in through the window. But there was no one there. I shut it tight.
“There is no monster Billy boy, it was just a bad dream.”
“No daddy, he was here. He said I had taken his place and it was his bed.”
I hugged Billy and stroked his head.
“Look at me Billy. You have taken no one’s place. This always has been your bed.”
“Daddy, he said mommy doesn’t love me as much as she loved him.”
I stared at Billy for a moment. That was not a statement I was expecting. We never really spoke of Steffi, his mother, my wife or rather ex wife.
“That’s not true sweetheart. She loves you very much. It’s just that at the moment she is not to well to be with you. I told you that didn’t I? And Anjie is like your mom. She takes good care of you, doesn’t she?”
Anjie came up to Billy and hugged him.
“Do you want to sleep in our room today, darling?” she asked.
Billy nodded vigorously.
Something about Billy’s question, rattled me. Though I did tell my son about his biological mother, we had an understanding that we will not speak of Steffi and Billy was quite comfortable with Anjie and she too loved him very much.
Steffi was never the same after Rob. He had a congenital disorder of the lungs and the poor dear couldn’t make it after his first birthday. Billy came into our lives most immediately after Rob passed away so that Steffi could forget the sad period in our life. Unfortunately Steffi was got deeper and deeper into the abyss.
Somewhere I missed Steffi, we had such a wonderful time together. She was one of the funniest, sweetest person’s I had ever met. But it was not to last.
The next morning I visited Stef. She was at the St Barbara’s Institute for Psychiatry.
Dr Antulla was around so I went out to enquire.
“Hello Ryan, here for Steffi!”
“Hello Dr. Yes wanted to find out how she is doing.”
“Ryan, Steffi’s fits of violence have diminished. But she seems to have gone into the world where she has conjured up Rob as a 6 year old. She claims he is around, and they talk and laugh and play together.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
“Come I will show you.”
We went to the room where Stef had been living for the past 5 years.
There she was, her hair neatly in a braid, in her hospital clothes, sitting and talking to someone or maybe herself.
As I walked in, she looked up and smiled.
“Ryan, Rob is back. Can we go home now, please!” A tear trickled down her eyes.
Her words disconcerted me, but I tried to act as normal as possible.
“Where is he Stef?”
“Ryan, this is Rob, can’t you recognize him!” She cried aloud pointing her fingers into the nothingness before her.
“Oh Stef!” I went and sat before her. Held her hands and squeezed it.
“Stef, there is no Rob here. It’s me Ryan. I am sitting before you. You have Billy at home. Do you remember Billy?”
“Stop it Ryan, stop telling lies! I am sick of your lies. Rob was right you don’t love Rob or me; you love the other woman and her child. You don’t remember Rob, your own son!” Steffi screamed writhing with anger.
I touched her shoulders.
“Don’t touch me, you..you scoundrel. You have abandoned your own son. You hateful piece of shit!” Steffi screamed, shook my hands off violently and stood up, looking around for something or someone.
“Rob, Rob where are you Rob!” she exclaimed
“You scared her Ryan, go away. Let me be with my child. He is an innocent soul but he will not forgive you ever,” Steffi was shaking with anger.
I stared at her in bewilderment. I felt a deep sorrow gnaw at my heart. What has become of my Steffi! How will I ever tell Billy that his mother doesn’t remember him!
I felt a hand shove me off. It was the good doctor who came in with a nurse. One of them held Steffi tight and the other put in a needle through her.
“Let me go, let me GO!” She yelled kicking her feet.
“That will calm her nerves for now,” said Dr. Antualla in relief.
“You should go now, Ryan. Come only when we ask you to.” Dr. Antulla was firm.
I did not know what to think. Billy’s experience and fear from last night and Steffi’s ranting about Rob seemed inexplicable.
The entire drive back I had a feeling of misgiving whelming up.
I flung the front door open and ran to Billy’s room. He was playing with his toys. I heaved a sigh of relief seeing him peaceful with his playthings.
“Daddy!” Billy ran up to me.
“How was your day, kiddo?” I picked him up and brought him to the kitchen where Anjie was making dinner for us.
“Daddy, the monster came to me and said, he will be with mommy from now on so he will not bother me anymore,” said Billy with a laugh.
My heart skipped a beat hearing that.
“Really, that’s good. Then you can sleep well tonight, right?”
We chit chatted for sometime, had our dinner and I went to tuck Billy in.
“Goodnight Daddy,” he kissed me.
I sat there till he fell asleep.
When I went out Anjie was waiting for me, “what happened today? You look all shaken up?”
“Steffi, she err, I don’t know what to think Anjie!” I said worried.
“What did she do?”
“She sees Rob everywhere and she has built her own world around Rob. Doesn’t remember Billy at all. She went ballistic with me today.”
I started sobbing.
“Anjie, she is with our dead son who was barely a year old. She sees him and talks to him, but she has no recollection of the son we have and who is living amongst us. She is missing everything about Billy.”
“How can the dead come back Anjie? This is not happening is it? I am at a loss, I don’t know what to do!” I wailed.
“You are not making any sense. Such creepy things are for the movies.”
“Daddyyyy…” It was Billy again. We dashed to his room. Billy was on his bed and had turned pale white.
“The monster is under my bed daddy.”
I looked under the bed. And there were a pair of eyes staring right back at me and looked almost like Billy.
The child muttered innocently, “daddy, there is a monster on my bed….”