The place was quiet...as quiet as it was cold. There were no fancy lights adorning the shabby little cabin, but newspapers and used cardboards sealed the cracks and holes that plagued its wooden walls. There was no laughter of merry family members sitting around a sumptuous meal celebrating the season. But in the dark and tiny kitchen stood an empty, scratch infested table that hadn't had the company of its masters since the summer that had just passed. Just beside the kitchen, in a room barely lit by a single light bulb that hung loosely from the ceiling, were two people quietly sitting on a bed. One could tell by their weary and dismal demeanour that the wintry evening wasn't the miscreant behind the murder of their joy and ardour.
"Come on now, you have to finish it all up," Prisca gently urged her son as she held a spoon in front of his lips with one hand, and with the other, a bowl of soup. Her hands were old and trembling, and the scars on her sagging rough skin, if they could, would tell tales of a life of sweat and toil.
Prisca Ralte had always been hard-working. However, after the death of her husband, whatever she had been doing before to make life a little easier, to put a little more food on the table, wasn't quite enough anymore. It became a struggle each day to feed her son and herself. She carried bricks and rendered cement; she cleaned houses and looked after children; she sold vegetables and flowers from the garden she grew behind their cabin, and found no time to mourn. Harsh times persisted and lingered, and a year after her husband's death, she could no longer keep her son in school.
The young boy of twelve started selling newspapers in the town, and occasionally, he would also sell a few vegetables and flowers from their garden. The unfortunate turn of events had stripped away his childhood, and heartlessly thrown him into a world void of the freedom that he used to have—a world where he would have to shoulder responsibilities far too great for a boy his age. He conformed to merciless rules of life, and did it with the unquestioning heart of an obedient child.
When Peter Ralte turned seventeen, he found work in a large hardware store in the town. Although his salary was small, considering the heavy boxes and crates that he had to carry, it was enough for his him and his mother. Peter began to see that the tragic and harsh episodes of his mother's past had caught up with her; her bones had become weak, her muscles had grown soft, and her spirit was broken. "You can look after the garden and continue selling whatever you grow from it. I don't want you to do anything else. You're getting old mother, and you need the luxury of a little bit of rest," he told her with a smile.
Fate, it seemed, would not prolong their little comfort any longer. A year and a half later, Peter stared having pain in his stomach. He got worse with each passing day that ultimately, he could work no more.
"I'm just going to...