The morning mist rose alongside the sun, floating tranquilly in the air. The fragrance of incense sticks and a faint chant ran across the room. Outside the window, I could hear the sound of the cicadas buzzing their wings in euphony; it was their way to communicate to the world that they were awake and ready to start their day.

It was an early Sunday morning. Normally, most neighbourhoods around the world would still be in a deep, peaceful slumber but not the one I was a part of. The atmosphere was as lively and vibrant as any other day here, in the countryside. Men and women, their children and the red-horn bullocks had aestheticised the muddy paddy fields into a mini-village mela.

The month-long summer vacation had come close to an end. It was my last few days at home before I left for boarding school. I was right to have come back home. The lush fields and forests smelled as green and fresh as ever, purely therapeutic for healing the mind and body.

I took a quick shower before walking downstairs to the kitchen where mom was preparing breakfast.

"Good morning, mom."

"Good morning, Jane! It's a beautiful morning today. Isn't it?" She responded enthusiastically while passing me my oatmeal bowl.

"Indeed. The weather is very beautiful today!"

"Should we go for a picnic today?" Her sweet voice chirped with excitement.

"Sure, I'd like that. Very much."

I remember from my childhood memories, a yellow picnic mat and the classic fruit basket that we carried on our picnic sessions every Sunday. Most of my childhood days were yet another day for my tricycle ride to the paddy fields, pumpkin farms and picnic spots. As for the remaining days, I'd sit back home and cast spells on the sky to stop the rain. It was always, either a rainy day or the roof-fixing day throughout the monsoon season. I couldn't visit the farms or my favourite picnic spots, nor meet Debby and I hated that. But more than anything, I hated to see mommy wear her ugly raincoat and run to the field with a wooden plough in her hand. Most of the time, excessive rain flooded the fields and caused water-logging. Every day, she would spend long hours in the field and come home late, soaked in the rain and mud.

"Jane, would you like me to cut the fruits in cute fancy shapes?" She asked in a soft voice hinting me to say yes.

In the latter part of the day, we visited the lakeside nearby for a quick afternoon picnic. After a short walk in and around the forest, we walked back home.

On our way back, we passed by the shimmering Kazi mansion. Even from afar, one could visibly see the jewels adorned to the mansion. The Kazi family was celebrating their daughter's birthday. Every year, they invited their relatives and friends to the birthday party and even held a separate banquet for the villagers. Their guests walked out of their shiny cars dressed extravagantly, like one of those men and women in the English movies. Certainly, this was going to be the talk of the village for the rest of the week.

My mother stood still as she looked at this familiar scene from the movies. Her placid eyes looked vulnerable and soulful at the same time. And for a brief moment, I think I saw a reflection of desire dancing in her eyes. She must have sensed my eyes staring at her. Pointing at the dark clouds that had resurfaced the sky, she quickly added,

"Looks like it's going to rain. We should hurry home."

None of us uttered a word after that.

On reaching home, we silently decluttered the picnic basket and washed the glass containers. Outside, the lightning spiraled and flashed across the sky, lighting up the whole village. A few seconds later, the rain fell down in a deafening uproar.

"Mom, when I was little, I hated rain. You ran to the field when it rained and I hated that," I spoke out of the blue.

"I hated doing that too. I hated leaving you alone for hours but whenever it rained, I felt hopeful. Monsoon was an indicator that the harvest season was next and that I could buy you something nice then."

Even without looking at her, I could see her warm eyes smiling at me. I had long known that my mother was different from the women I knew. The women I knew painted their nails and colored their lips, but my mother never did any of that. She was always in and around the maize and wheat fields.

My eyes were moist from the emotions I was trying to suppress. In silence, we started preparing for dinner.

Although it was only for the two of us, the dinner table was never just ordinary. She would set the dinner table with delicacies and never let any food go to waste. On some days, she'd throw new ingredients and leftovers together and cook a voluminous meal while on the others, she'd roast the freshly plucked sweet potatoes and serve it with her classic spicy beef stew. It was always an hour long of cooking, and every bite savored the perfect mismatch of sweet and sour.

By the time dinner table was set ready, the rain had stopped. The night was quiet and chilly cold after the rain. We rejoiced at our decision to cook hot broth soup. It was one of those peaceful nights when the soup comforted the raging emotions inside me and the rich sweetness of the pumpkin pie melted away my bittersweet cries. 

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