My Guardian Angel
“This is my table! My tissue packet was here!”
“Aunty! The table got your name?!”
The warm March morning was heating up this little circular dome where the hustle and bustle of life started every day, heating up the tension. All around, the stall keepers and their customers watched to look at this petty little quarrel ensue, echoing around the walls of the small coffeeshop. Even the roti prata man twirling in the prata at the Indian stall paused to look; the spattering of oil from the Western Stall heard just minutes earlier stopped too. Others who were eating stopped to stare. A man abandoned his traditional egg and coffee breakfast and went over to our table to watch the fight. The whole coffeeshop had come to a standstill, watching the gunfire happen, which was slowly brewing into a war.
It was an uneven fight: my mother against two other men. One fat and balding, the other one emaciated and tattooed. The rounded table and the four plastic red chairs between them seemed to mark a demilitarized zone. The moment my mother took a step towards it, the men exploded into roars of frustration.
I brought my brother to the front of the drinks stall for noise disturbed him. It stood thankfully tranquil by the entrance of the coffeeshop. Neatly stacked canned drinks decorated the dull, white counter with vibrant colours. Next to them were four giant plastic containers containing lime juice, rose syrup, water chestnut and barley water. A transparent tube connected to the ceiling was planted at the corner of the oddly shaped counter, ice cascading down the tube every few minutes. Above the counter was a cabinet displaying cigarette packs with grotesque pictures. A yellow hygiene certificate ‘C’ was stuck on the mossy walls at the back.
“Elijah?” I started gently.
His warm, gentle eyes averted sideways, not making eye contact. A small, uncertain grin appeared on his face, his left hand shaking. I took it.
“Are you ok? Are you scared?”
“Ok,” he repeated softly after me.
“Do you want to eat roti prata?”
His answers were in little whispers, but they sounded like tiny bells ringing in my ears, like Christmas.
“We wait until we get a seat, ok?”
“Ok,” he whispered, giving me a lopsided grin.
“Good boy,” I whispered.
That was my twenty-four-year-old brother. He always responded to his name with a smile, whisper one words to express himself. In his little world, he had his rules which we did not understand. Same shapes must go together, such that he placed his bread from breakfast on the bookshelves with other books and we never discovered until a week later. Tidiness must be implemented in his universe, such that he was more particular about it than my mother, pushing in chairs at the tables, straightening out the tablecloth so that all sides were equal. Hats should not be placed at coat stands and during Christmas, the stockings must go into the wardrobes. His random bouts of happiness came in running and jumping around the house, bursting out in bouts of delighted laughter. He was the gentlest, sweetest boy in the world.
A loud thud caught my attention when a familiar scream that followed wrenched my stomach into a tight knot. I looked up to see my mother stumbling to the floor, the fat man next to her, hands raised.
“Don’t!” I screamed. “Elijah! Stay here! Excuse me! Sorry! Let me through!”
I was afraid, very afraid. What if Mum gets hurt? What if I could not get there before he started beating her up? My feet could not carry me there fast enough. The crowd was not cooperating, jeering and refusing to budge. My yells for him to stop were drowned by the overpowering shouts of the people who were watching.
“What kind of man are you! Hit women!”
Suddenly, I was removed bodily from the crowd. The skinny, tattooed man had such force one could not imagine. Bruises bloomed on my forearms as I gasped with pain. In a second, I was spun around with sheer force, choking loudly with his arms wrapped tightly around my neck.
A chair toppled noisily as the sharp cry of pain pierced the air. Spinning round, I saw a tall figure towering over Tattoo-man, holding him in a tight headlock. As Tattoo-man gasped pitifully for breath, I saw a blazing look of hatred in Elijah’s eyes, the look he had on his face two years ago.
Mum’s screams pierced the night as punches rained upon her.
“No, Dad! Stop! Please!”
My pleas did not help. Mum was bleeding, I was crying. Out of nowhere, Elijah rushed into the scene, grabbing Dad in a headlock with increasing strength, refusing to let go. I grabbed Elijah’s hand, attempting to throw him off Dad. Then my eyes caught the look on his face, the hatred I had never seen before. Shocked, I let go of him, the stranger I had never known. With a crack, Dad went limp in Elijah’s arms and moved no more…
“ELISE! COME HELP!”
Mum’s voice never failed to shake me awake. I found my way back to Elijah and tried to force him off Tattoo-man, but his strength was unbelievable. Everyone was still screaming, but no one, not even the fat man, came to help.
A handbag hit Elijah on the head, sending him to the floor, dazed.
“Elijah!” I yelled, running to my brother who lay gasping on the floor. Tattoo-man got up, spluttered some vulgarities and ran away, his friend close behind. My vision was blurred, but they cleared when I blinked, and two large drops of tears rolled down my cheeks. Right before me sat my brother, looking at me with angelic eyes, but scared and pleading, just like the night when he realized Dad had gone.
“Elijah,” I whispered tearfully, pulling him into a hug. Around us, people were pointing and whispering. I had a shrewd idea what they were saying, but I did not care. Elijah protected me, just as he had protected our mother two years ago. Now, it was my turn to protect him.
My Guardian Angel © 2011 by AubyStories. All rights reserved.