Image Courtesy: Floh

[#20] Peace?

Will time be the best healer?

It was 5 years since Susan's death. In fact, O' Danniels had observed her death anniversary only last week. After almost 3 months of mess and a huge amount the Castillos had to pay to settle the issue and make everyone believe with the help of the new corrupt Inspector that they were innocent, things started getting back to normal. Though Peter's pain lasted a little long.

But today was a special day in the Castillo house. Everyone moved around hurriedly as Harriet's family had come over for dinner. Mrs. Castillo had been urging them to come down and meet her ever since she was detected with epilepsy. Though she was given a full time maid to take care of her, but she liked her daughter-in-law Harriet to take care of her. It was her prerogative to serve her mother in law, Mrs. Castillo felt. So she had expected even her family to come and stay with her and serve her for a few days if not much.

Harriet never minded serving her however. She was bred of a conventional family and believed of no existence other than an orthodox one. Though the family got to know about Peter's last wedding when he was abandoned when they shifted to Merrifort, they didn't bother much about it because everyone in the town praised Peter and talked about how he had set out to do a good by marrying a cripple. Kate, Peter and Harriet's two year old daughter ran around making noises legible only to her and Mr. Castillo was just happy to have a small pretty girl like her as his only grandchild. He played chess with Mr. Sawstone, Harriet's father, next to the fireplace as Carmen walked around with Harriet's brother and sister in their well lit backyard. Mary was just two years younger to Carmen and they met no where but only when at Castillos. As for Thomas, he met Carmen more often — sometimes in the super market on Sundays or on his way to the Sunday church. Their meetings had become more frequent ever since Carmen had also shifted to Merrifort on Peter's persuasion. Everyone in Thomas's college knew "he liked a young blonde from Rockford" but he never had the courage to accept his feelings in front of anyone. What Carmen felt was known to no one since her behaviour never allowed anyone to confirm whether she also liked him or not.

As Mrs. Castillo and Mrs. Sawstone kept on their easy chairs enjoying the pleasures of a loving progeny, Peter helped Harriet prepare the dining table for everyone's dinner as Harriet frequently asked her maids, "Is it done?" It came more out of habit and her maid gradually stopped responding because she asked the same question every 2 minutes.

"Alright everyone! Dinner is ready. Everyone on the dining table," Peter clapped his hands asking everyone to come together and have food.

"Will your food bring alive my pawns Mr. Sawstone just killed?" said Mr. Castillo jokingly as he struggled to make his next move. Mr. Sawstone was an experienced player and Mr. Castillo had never won a game against him.

Kate was the first one to jump on to her dining seat and started arranging her bib and as soon as she was done, she eagerly looked at everyone so they could praise her for being a good girl.

Thomas was already inside as Carmen and Mary had got busy with their secret conversation while in the backyard and Thomas didn't feel invited to be a part of it. He joined Kate and told her that she was really a good girl.

Mr Castillo gave up too soon with an excuse to have food first and then continue the game. Both the elderly men were at the dining table too.

Mrs. Sawstone and Mrs. Castillo got up too and walked to the table when Mrs. Castillo realised that she had forgot to wear her favourite shawl all through the evening as she had planned. She excused herself from Mrs. Sawstone asking her to continue as she would join everyone in a couple of minutes. Her shawl lay in her attic and she didn't allow her maid to enter the attic for fear of her precious belongings being stolen. What is precious for an elderly, sick person other than the things she has got used to live with her whole life? As she walked out, she also told Harriet, "I will get the girls also inside."

As soon as she crossed the big planters, looking for Carmen and Mary, she could hear the bushes moving softly. She had not known any animals entering the house ever since they lived there. For once, she got afraid. But, in this age, she wanted all her curiosities answered right there and then. As she gathered the courage to step ahead a little and see for herself what it was, Carmen and Mary realised someone was coming and moved out of the bushes, looking extremely uncomfortable. Mrs. Castillo was horrified to see what she did. She knew why they were there. The pain her family's past carried because of Susan recollected in a moment. Susan had come to haunt them. Merrifort was diseased — again.

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