Storm in a Teacup ( published in The Golden leaves – a collection of 36 short stories by Bengali women in North America)

Sonia was backing out of her garage onto an inclined driveway. Anna articulated her sudden natural urge. ‘Mommy, need to go pee-pee, now.’ Anna was toilet-trained a month ago. She turned to her brother Ronnie, with a proud smile. Her brother gave her a high five. Unfortunately, her mom did not receive the communication in the same manner. Sonia visualized a pile of urine-soaked paper towels on the floor-mats. The stench made her shudder in disgust. As her mental picture dissolved away, she saw her daughter’s face in the rear-view mirror.

Desperation drove Sonia to take a drastic shortcut to stop the car. She turned off the ignition-key, ignoring the gear position. As she tried to extract the key, it remained stuck, refusing to budge. She felt confused and annoyed. At that moment, her singular focus was to take her daughter out of the car and transport her to the nearest toilet. In a hurry, she pulled the door handle and stepped out of the car.

Something forced her to STOP. Standing on the driveway, her eyes gaped in disbelief. Her Subaru hatchback was inching downward. It was about to hit the fence around the yard.

The trees in the backyard had turned shades of orange. A layer of frost crusted over the asphalt roofs and lush lawns. Fall mornings in Colorado were chilly. The puffy clouds stole the glow of the rising sun around the time the 6:30 alarm rang, every morning. But this morning, Sonia’s alarm was silent. She struggled to get the kids ready by 8:15 am.

Ronnie wore a light jacket that Sonia choose for him. Anna, an opinionated individual, refused to wear the fuzzy jacket, her mom handed her. ‘NO, this one…pink one.’ She pointed to her winter jacket. She rummaged the box of warm accessories and fished out a woolen cap. Sonia hesitated to pursue the matter of comfort and propriety with Anna. “That is too warm. Wear this one.” But Anna shook her head. Headstrong Sonia fumed inside at such utter disobedience. Holding her grudge inside, she had buckled the seat belts for her kids.

Seeing the car rolling down, Sonia lost her senses. She rushed behind the car to push it with both hands, applying all her strength. Unfortunately, she a was a thin-framed woman. The mid-sized wagon continued to move downward, unhindered. Streams of sweat trickled down her spine as the car bulldozed her down the driveway. Disastrous outcomes sneaked into her brain. The heavy vehicle could crush her bones if she tried to reach to Anna, seated on the opposite side.

Sonia, in a sudden impulse, withdrew her hands and dashed sideways. Getting out of its way, she sprinted forward and grabbed the driver-side door-handle. The slow speed and low ground clearance enabled her to put her right foot inside the car and hit the brakes. The car slowed down further. This positive turn of events relaxed her.

At that quintessential moment, a simple realization presented itself. Sonia happened to glance at the gear position. She corrected it from “Reverse” to “Park” and also engaged the emergency brakes. The car came to a complete halt. She breathed a sigh of relief. The key came out of the ignition switch without any further resistance. She spotted the house keys in the same bunch.

Sonia rushed out to unbuckle Anna. Luckily, her leggings were dry. Sonia picked her little girl in her arms and hurried to the rear entrance. As she opened the door, the security alarm went off. Sonia transferred Anna to her left shoulder. She punched the special code to disarm the security system. She hurried to the closest bathroom. She lifted Anna and placed her on top of the potty-training seat.

Sonia closed the bathroom door behind her. She was nervous and breathless. Her hands began trembling. The whole world had conspired against her timely arrival at work. Her frustration was spiraling out of control. Sonia slumped against the wall, drained.

Last night, Sonia was pacing up and down, brushing her long hair. The black tresses complimented her pale complexion. She was rehearsing her presentation, for the Quality Assurance team. Her purple lingerie looked attractive on her slender figure. Victor was watching her body, move in sensuous curves. He could not resist any longer. ‘Come here, sweetie.’ He called her, motioning with his pointer finger.

The distracting sound of the mobile-jingle caught her attention. Sonia heard her mother’s disappointed voice, reaching out from San Jose. ‘I have been waiting for ages for your call. How are the kids?’ ‘Mom, they are fine. They consume my whole day.’

‘How is work?’ Sonia had changed her job, last month to reduce her commute. ‘It is somewhat better. Ronnie and Anna are staying healthy, over lengthier stretches.’

After finishing her conversation, Sonia placed her cell phone on the dresser. Victor was snoring, a book over his chest. She crept under the covers beside him, regretting the missed opportunity. She relinquished the idea of waking him up, for obvious reasons.

Victor, an IT manager, had a hectic work schedule. He conducted overseas calls, from home, in the evening. With a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old, it was challenging to keep a quiet ambiance. Sonia watched for sibling fights, while preparing dinner. If the kids collaborated, there was no comfort. Such unprecedented luck was short-lived. The result of their teamwork surprised her, in horrifying ways.

In the morning, enveloped in Victor’s warm embrace, Sonia had lost track of time. The firm masculine touch aroused her. Sonia rolled on her side to face Victor. Leaning forward, she was about to kiss him when the wall-clock grabbed her entire focus. The time displayed was 6:59 am. Her phone lay on the dresser, discharged.

Being on time for work was an eternal struggle for Sonia. Her head throbbed to imagine the disastrous possibilities that each day unfolded. Her priority was to have Ronnie reach school on time and avoid tearful goodbyes for Anna. Stressed, Sonia often lost her patience at the slightest roadblock.

Terrified at the delay, she threw off the covers and scrambled out the bed. Her lingerie strap slipped from her shoulder, revealing her supple roundness. Victor, stimulated, pulled her back and mollified her in his arms. ‘Don’t worry. I will get the kids ready before I leave.’

Sonia had prepared breakfast for everyone. Victor gobbled up his cereal in a hurry. Picking up his laptop, he was off to work. ‘Have a good day!’ He kissed her cheeks. On the sidewalk, a squirrel-faced lady, walking her dog, smiled at Victor. He waved back at the neighbor, getting into his BMW. Sonia closed the garage-door, reflecting how handsome Victor looked in his business attire. Someday she would dress up in formal clothes like the big-shots in her company.

Last five years, Sonia, a software engineer, saw her career take a back-seat. There was hardly a week that went by without one of her kids getting sick with fever or stomach-upset. It was no surprise that the childcare centers refused sick children. When, Victor left early for work, Sonia was the only parent left, to take care of them. It became a frequent ritual when she would pick up the phone and call her irritated boss to report her absence.

At the table, the kids were picking at their morning meal. Sonia unloaded the dinnerware from the dishwasher. ‘I hate this crazy routine! I wish I was in bed with Victor,’ she grumbled. Unmindful, she stretched her arms for some bowls on the top rack. A small white one slipped out of her hand. It quivered like a butterfly wing, swaying from side to side before landing on its stable bottom.

Sonia was standing outside the washroom waiting for Anna. Images of the recent past flashed through her mind. The pulsating bowl morphed before her eyes into a trembling hand. She noticed some wrinkles on it. The frail hand belonged to an aged lady. A youthful girl, held her right hand. Her left-hand grasped the handle of a rollator. She dragged one foot at a time, as if every movement was a painstaking ordeal. “Easy steps…No need to hurry,” a soft voice assured her. The elder looked at the endearing face, and smiled back. There was an unmistakable familiarity about her shriveled face. The encouraging vibes fueled the woman to forge ahead with optimism. Finally, after several steps, the old lady reached the toilet seat.

Sonia realized this could be her future. It was a matter of time.

Anna’s sweet voice drifted from inside and interrupted Sonia’s reverie. Steady hands passed Anna a few wet towelettes. Beads of sweat had appeared on Anna’s forehead from wearing the warm headgear. Sonia snatched off her cap, without a second thought. A cool draft flowed through Anna’s sweaty hair. The sheer relief made her giggle. Sonia laughed too. The hotheaded girls, finally, understood how their short-sighted choices had boomeranged.