Don’t go away, Liza!
We are the resultant of our past. Some memories go down deep, haunting us and though we try our best to handle them, unknowingly, they scar us, for life….
At last! Yes, this was it! Just perfect! Exactly what Ivan had been looking for, for the past two years! There was no hesitation at all. The papers were signed. The cheque was handed over to the agent, and Ivan heaved a big sigh of relief. He had insisted that the final deal happen at the castle itself. As soon as the agent left, Ivan looked around, and, with a smile of content on his face, sat down on the huge and ornate sofa, befitting none less than a king.
Ivan was among the most highly paid chartered accountants in the whole of New York. At the age of forty he was still all alone in this world, as he preferred to call himself. He lived in a plush penthouse, in a highly luxurious building, but he had always wanted to own a castle in the countryside. After spending two years in seeing and rejecting quite a few options that came his way, his heart was finally set on one that his agent showed him, barely a month back. One look at the huge sprawling beauty, and he fell in love with it. It was a pretty old castle and its owner lived elsewhere, for the past so many years. It was rumoured that he had opted not to stay in the castle, after having some dream. No one knew what the dream was, though. The owner never spoke a word about it. Later, he had put up his castle for sale.
Ivan wanted to retain the originality of the castle, as much as possible. So he went for only the bare minimum of renovations that needed to be done, before he moved in. That was a fortnight ago and today, his friend Robert had suddenly called, saying that, on the way to his hometown, he would wish to spend a weekend with him. Robert was one of only two friends that Ivan has ever had.
Robert was literally enchanted with the beautiful castle. Ivan too was happy to see his friend after many years, more so because he was hosting him at his new home. The castle stood alone in the vast neighbourhood. After having dinner both the friends sat out, under the star-lit sky. Ivan went to get coffee from the kitchen and, on his return, was surprised to see Robert smiling.
“You never told me Ivan, your sister lived with you! What an interesting girl she is!”
“What are you talking about, Robert? I live here all by myself, and I do not have any sister,” Ivan was a bit annoyed.
“Oh, come on Ivan, you don’t have to play such jokes on me. I just met Liza. She seemed to be such a sweet, though shy, girl!” laughed Robert.
“Robert, I do not have any sibling. Is that clear?” Ivan was angry now.
Robert did not know how to react. He had seen this young girl, passing by, going across to the room on the other side with a basket in her hand. And, did he not see her shy smile? And also, did she not introduce herself as Liza, Ivan’s little sister? But why was Ivan denying her presence? With the mug of coffee in his hand, Robert felt as confused as never before. They changed the topic and started talking about their respective works. But Liza stayed in Robert’s mind. They sat up till late, chatting, and then departed for their rooms.
Robert was quite tired because of all his travel. He fell asleep as soon as he hit the bed. But why was he dreaming of Liza? He heard a scream, and woke up. Did he hear Liza scream? He kept lying, still and quiet. His body was soaked in perspiration. Did the scream come from Ivan’s room, next door? He could hear muffled voices, then someone sobbing. Then, it was Ivan speaking, “You can’t do this to me. You can’t go away like this. I love you so, my little sister.”
Robert could not move, as if he was paralysed. What was happening, he thought. In such a state of shock, he never realised, when sleep took over him again. He woke up to a bright, sunny day. His eyes fell on the vast expanse of the green lawn, stretched out of the window, in front of him. Ivan was having his tea, with the morning paper in his hand. The memories of the past night’s incidents came rushing back to Robert’s mind. He sat up, freshened himself, and stepped out to join Ivan.
“Hope you slept well, buddy?” smiled Ivan.
“Yes,” was all that Robert could mutter. He could not afford to spend another night in such mysterious circumstances, he decided.
“I need to leave today afternoon, Ivan. I got a call from home and I need to be there,” he took Ivan by surprise.
“Is that so? Such a pity! I was really looking forward to spending another day with you. Yesterday, we only had the evening to ourselves! But since you need to be home, I can’t possibly ask you to stay on,” Ivan replied earnestly. Robert left for home, after lunch.
Robert’s wife had taken ill and had to undergo a surgery. All of this kept Robert mentally occupied, for the next six months or so. He was now flying back to Dubai, his work place, and had to pass by the city where Ivan stayed. On an impulse, he called him to say hello. Ivan was very happy to get his call and somehow persuaded him to drop by at his place, for a day, before taking his flight. Robert was now in a cab, on way to Ivan’s house. It was some way from the city and suddenly the cab had a punctured tyre. They stopped at a garage to get it repaired and Robert casually asked the owner, how long it would take them to reach the castle. At the mention of the castle, the garage owner piped up,
“What, that haunted castle? Sir, are you going there?”
“Haunted castle? I am going to see my friend who lives there,” muttered Robert, completely taken aback. “But why do you call it haunted?”
“Because it is haunted, Sir! No one has been able to see some lady, who is supposed to be living there with this gentleman! No caretaker stays for long. They would hear voices of a female, would hear conversations between a man and a woman, but while the man could be seen, nobody ever saw the woman. Every caretaker ran away, within days of joining.”
The tyre was repaired. Robert asked the cab driver to turn back to the city. He did not have the heart to go to a haunted castle! He took his flight back to Dubai.
A week after his return, one day when Robert was busy in a meeting, he got a call. It was from a hospital in New York, the city where Ivan lived. Dr. Grey, a psychiatrist, wanted to speak to him regarding Ivan. A visibly surprised Roberts answered the questions that the doctor asked him. The doctor told him that they had taken his number from Ivan’s call list. The doctor requested him to visit the hospital, where Ivan had been hospitalised. In a few days’ time, Roberts took a flight to New York.
Ivan was very happy to see him. He said that he had no clue as to why they had hospitalised him. Roberts spent some time with him and then went to meet the psychiatrist, who was treating him. Dr. Grey then explained Ivan’s condition to him. Robert sat there, stupefied.
“Ivan suffers from what is known as ‘Dissociative Identity Disorder’. He has no sibling. He himself becomes the younger sister that he has always craved for, since his childhood. He had a very disturbed childhood. He lost his parents in an air crash and was brought up by some distant uncle, who did not have any children. The uncle had a castle where Ivan spent his early childhood. He was left mostly to himself and, seeing his school friends with their siblings, he developed a deep desire for a little sister with whom he could play and share things. Fortunately, his intelligence saw him through the academics very well, and he became a top-rated professional. But he developed this disorder, where one has altered personalities. He became his own little sister and he needed no one else. That explains why he was always alone. With age the disorder also gets cemented, and so it has been showing up now more than ever before. The caretaker of his house had lodged a complaint with the police, thinking that Ivan was into some sort of crime. That is how, all this could be deciphered.”
Robert had nothing to say. His heart went out to Ivan. Ivan and his little sister Liza! So Liza was Ivan himself! He got up and went to see him in his room. As he was about to enter, he could hear,
“Liza, please listen to me. You can’t keep going away every now and then. I miss you! I don’t like staying alone. You are all that I have, Liza!” Robert could visualise the pout on Ivan’s face.