Mona felt every bit confused and overwhelmed as she stumbled upon the lounge room to find it as messy as it had ever been. She walked about, dodging several dangerously placed items till she reached her father’s door. She rapt on the wood ever so lightly. ‘Father?’
She held her breath for there was no reply. ‘Daddy? Are you awake? It’s me, Bell.’ And in that split moment she heard a faint moan, enough to invite her inside. She swung the door open gently and peaked into the dim air, dank, and sad.
‘Bell, my child, come in and let me see you!’
Mona inched closer to his bed, fear seeding inside her at the sight. ‘Oh, daddy, what has become of you since I have been gone?’
Her old man smiled, beckoning her closer. ‘It is only a slight ailment. It will pass, honey.’ Mona sat on the side of the bed and touched his haggard face lightly. ‘I missed you dearly!’
‘I missed you too, papa.’
Her father struggled to sit up. ‘So, tell me child,’ he coughed, a violent cough. ‘Tell me what the beast is like? Has he hurt you? Been cruel to you? Threatened you in any way?’
Mona shook her head. ‘No. None of those. In fact, he has been the kindest yet.’ She touched lightly, meaningfully at the fabric of her dress. ‘I have want of nothing, except…’
Her father jerked up straighter yet. ‘Except what, dear? He promised me you’d desire for nothing if I left you there. If he were to ever break that promise, you know my child, you are free to come home to me?’ There was a desperate longing in his aged, raspy voice. A desperate longing indeed. ‘Except what, dear? What is it that you lack in that tricksy home of his?’
Mona felt a strange guilt as she said this, ‘I’m like a princess there, but I wish for you, my family. It gets awful lonely, papa. I just miss home, that’s all.’
Her father seemed confused as he looked past her at the open door, where one by one her sisters and brother were appearing so, with sleep still in their eyes. ‘You miss this? The filthy house, the angry shouts, your brother and sisters all about their own, leaving you to take every responsibility on?’ He turned to her with a sad smile. ‘Thats no life at all. That’s no life I wish and want for you. You should be treated like a treasure for they only ever made one of you.’
‘Oh papa.’ Mona embraced her father tightly. ‘My place is here with you. Look at you! You are half the man I last saw. You are not well, and I will not leave till you are better.’
‘And what about Him?’
‘He can look after himself for a few days, I’m sure. After all, I am nothing more than a decor.’
Her father nodded. ‘Till I’m okay then.’
Suddenly, upon the two were the others. ‘Oh my, Mona Bell, look at you? What beautiful dress you have!’ One sister squealed, a set of tightly arms around her neck. ‘Oh Mona, look at your jewels! Where ever did you get them?’ The other one chimed, pulling at the necklace off Mona’s neck till it came loose. ‘Simply divine!’ And her brother barely cared as he glanced with one eye at Mona and left. ‘Oh Mona, however did you do it before, keep the house? Look love, it’s been the worst since you left.’ The first said again. ‘Yes, now that you are here… We so missed you and your cooking, girl.’ Said the other while putting on Mona’s necklace.
So much for being home thought Mona, but one look at her ill father, and she forgot the unsightly home and the selfish siblings. Instead, she rose in one stride and started clearing the dirty soup bowls from her father’s bedside.