The Pear Tree House
Love in Times of War
The Pear Tree House
“Mamma, tell me the story of the Pear Tree House.” – asked Meena, yawning loudly. She was in the living-room’s couch, the only piece of furniture left in the semi-ruined house, cuddling her mother’s soft body.
“Once upon the time, there was a house in the other side of town.” – said Meena’s Mother slowly. She could feel Meena’s cold feet tucked behind her back. “The house was in a land where there were no wars, hunger or poverty. The children who managed to cross the town safely and were well-behaved could stay in there, sleep in the soft beds and eat banana bread with chocolate spread for breakfast.”
“Don’t forget the Pear Tree, Mamma” – asked Meena, suddenly aware of the grumbling in her stomach. “I will certainly not!” – replied Meena’s Mother. “In the back yard of the house on the other side of town, there was a beautiful pear tree heavy with the juiciest and sweetest pears you can imagine. Meena, the little girl from the story loved to eat Pear Crumble covered with custard.” – continued Meena’s Mother.
Mother felt Meena fast asleep and slowly covered her tiny body with a blanket. In wartime, Mothers are not allowed to sleep, they need to stay wide awake in case something happens, and they need to protect their children. Mother looked at Meena, thinking that her little girl was a child of war, she had never known any other life. She had lived her entire existence in a war zone.
In the morning, Mother woke Meena up as they needed to look for food. They were allowed a loaf of bread, some potatoes and sugar every two days. Milk or eggs were a luxury. To get their food, they had to join a long queue outside of what once had been the town mall, so they had to arrive early if they wanted to find edible items. Mother dressed Meena with the warmest clothes she could find and left home with the feeling of dread that usually accompanied her everywhere she went. Meena was very quiet that morning and Mother was grateful that for once she did not have to answer to the endless list of questions her little girl threw at her every day. She welcomed the silence as a blessing and let her mind drift away from the hell they were living in.
Meena did not see it happening, she did not see her Mother’s dead body lying on the pavement, she did not hear people crying in despair, or the gunshots that invaded the Square. Someone grabbed her and took her away from the place where she used to get her food with Mamma.
Meena woke up in Abdul’s living room. Abdul’s Mother was sitting next to her with a bowl of what might have been a soup in normal times but was not more than hot water with some potato’s skins swimming in it. Meena heard an angry voice from the kitchen, Abdul’s brother Sayed saying to his Dad “We cannot afford another mouth to feed.” “She is a child who just lost her Mother.” – replied Abdul’s father.
Meena closed her eyes and thought about the Pear Tree House, a place on the other side of town, where there was no war, hunger or poverty. She tried to talk about it to Abdul’s Mother, but she could not find the words to explain it. An idea started to grow in her mind. She would wait for night-time and she would go and look for the Pear Tree House on her own. She would have to be very brave. She could not be afraid of the dark. She would have to remind herself of all the good things Mum used to tell her when they had to run to the shelter in the middle of the night while the monsters raided the skies and bombed their town. Night-time was the time for poets, wise owls and friendly foxes. Night-time was the time of fairy tales, midnight feasts and warm cuddles. There was nothing to be afraid of, they just needed to reach the shelter in time, it was just a big sleepover with all their friends from the neighbourhood.
Meena waited for everyone in Abdul’s house to go to sleep. She left the house as quietly as possible and embraced the dark street with its shadows and cold air. She let herself walk through the empty street filling her mind with memories from her Mamma. Meena did not stop walking and only realised how far she had gone when she felt the first snowflakes falling on her face and the morning mist invading the town.
Meena felt her weak legs fall to the ground. She could not feel her frozen hands and was beginning to doubt the existence of her Pear Tree House, a place where there was no war, hunger or poverty, where breakfasts were filled with chocolate and the trees were heavy with juicy pears. She felt her eyelids slowly shutting away the decrepit town she called home.
Meena woke up and saw her Mamma and her Pappa and her Nanna. They were all around her, smiling and singing. Other people that she did not know were also there. There was a common feeling that she could not understand, happiness maybe. What did she know? She was a child of war. She had never been happy. She knew that none of this could be real, but she did not really care. If this was what she had been running away from all her life, well her life had been a joke, really! If this was death, what was everybody so afraid of?
About the author
Primary School Teacher and Drama Practioner, Ana Sofia Brito lives with her family in London, UK. She loves writing, cooking and travelling. The Adventures of Clarisse in the Birds Valley is her first novella.