A story about changing identities
|Mary's Bane. Weird name for a place.
That was my home since I was ten. Before that, it was a foster home.
Oddly, I clearly remember the day my new mother picked me up from the foster home. It's been fifty years but that moment is like it happened yesterday. That memory and what happened five years after are etched in my brain.
My new neighborhood was peaceful, for the most part. Nothing out of the ordinary ever occurred here, not even a break-in or a burglary.
I was around fifteen when our tranquil life changed with the arrival of Polly.
She waltzed in with much fanfare in a luxurious sedan and more bags than I could count. The neighborhood was abuzz. No one ever moved into Mary's Bane. Polly did.
Whenever I saw her, I felt a strange affinity and a sense of familiarity, but Polly had the opposite effect on my mother. Ever since Polly showed up, my mother, Grace's behavior began to change. She had always been a genial person and was the epitome of a social butterfly. Everyone knew her, and she was well-liked by one and all.
I thought it strange that my mother never welcomed Polly and seemed to avoid her at all costs. She didn't like me talking to Polly, and I didn't understand why. Polly did her best to be friendly with me. I didn't fear her as my mother did. Her behavior aroused my curiosity, and I became closer to Polly to try and unravel this mystery.
It was summer and unseasonably hot. That Sunday, as the sun streamed into my room, I woke up with a start. I wanted to meet Polly and ran out to the street as I knew it was time for her jog. I waited for half an hour, but she never came out.
Crossing over, I looked up at her house. The front door was slightly ajar, and I walked in. A heavy silence shrouded the house; the quietude unnerved me. A pall of eeriness and betrayal lingered in the air.
I felt like I was in a horror movie, the defining scene when someone yells at a child not to go there. But something pulled me inside. My body had a mind of its own and refused to listen to the warning signals the brain was desperately throwing out.
Suddenly, I heard voices. One was the unmistakable shrill voice of my mother. A wave of relief ran through me. That lasted a split second as it was interrupted by the sound of glass shattering on the floor.
Then Polly's raised voice. 'I am going to tell her who you are and what you did.'
Again my mother. 'Do what you want. Let's see who she's going to believe.'
I burst into the kitchen.
Two shocked faces met me—an uncomfortable pause.
I broke the silence. 'Believe what?'
The two women exchanged glances. My mother lowered her eyes.
Polly spoke in her usual direct manner. 'Your mother's real name is Mary, and I am Meera.'
She saw my blank expression and added, 'We are the Banes.'
I shuddered involuntarily, not knowing what to make of this bombshell. The last five years flashed in front of my eyes. No words formed in my lips. Was my whole life a lie?
At the foster home, the caretakers told us many stories. Even at that age, the stories seemed unreal to us. We thought they were trying to scare us and make us go to bed quietly.
One of the stories we heard was about The Banes.
Two sisters, Mary and Meera, born into an affluent family. Both parents were model citizens, loving and caring. Unfortunately, the wife fell ill when she was pregnant, and the girls were affected mentally. In those days, no psychiatrist or doctor was well versed in mental illnesses, and the girls grew up without any medical attention.
The mother never recovered and died when the girls were fifteen. Many believed the children had something to do with their mother's death, but it was all very hush-hush. No one dared to talk about it as the Banes were a powerful and influential family.
A couple of years later, both girls ran away from home, leaving their father, a broken man. Each went a different way and changed their identities.
That was the end of the story at the foster home.
Standing in the brightly lit kitchen, around the island, I listened to the rest of the story.
Meera had a baby girl. Not wanting her daughter to put up with her mental illness, she put her in a foster home. I raised my hand to stop her from saying anything further.
The truth hit me like a jackhammer. I broke into a cold sweat at the revelation.
Mary adopted me, and with the money from the substantial Bane inheritance, she created an entire town for herself. Then she changed her name to Grace, so no one ever knew the origin of the town's name.
When Meera, as Polly landed up, Mary panicked. She didn't want to give me up.
Polly paused and looked at me with pleading eyes.
I dared not ask, but I had to.
With difficulty, I whispered. 'Did you kill your mother?'
The look on both their faces told me all I needed to know.
I don't know how I stumbled out of that house, but I did.
In a trance, I walked into the police station. There, sobbing and gasping, I blurted out the entire story to the kindly officer.
I never saw Mary or Meera again, but the painful memories never fade.