The contrast of the alternating black and white steps pounded Twyla’s consciousness as she descended them into the earth carrying one child and holding the hand of another.  She had turned her husband over to the experts.  Euthanasia had been recommended as the most logical course of action.  As she reached the bottom, she saw Babu being pushed around a corner on a padded table, noncomprehending.

“All we need is your signature on the line, ma’am,” the clerk said.  Twyla boldly took the pen and left her approval on the paper.

“It should be happening now,” a woman in scrubs informed her from behind the counter after consulting her watch and the huge ticking instrument on the wall.  The procedure had begun.

“It’s just a series of simple injections,” her pinched voice said, without a hint of emotion.  “He won’t feel a thing.”  Twyla knew it was the right thing to do, but her heart was suddenly in her throat.

White-clad specialists and interns chatted casually in the reception area around her while they waited for the drugs to take effect.

“What I can’t understand,” Twyla overheard one of them reflecting esoterically, “is with all the people dying in the world every day—in vehicle accidents and drownings and cancer and strokes—why would anybody want to do something like this?  I mean, on purpose?”

Twyla’s stomach lurched.

She ascended the broad, winding staircase a widow.  Had she done the right thing?

Black step.  Did her signature on the paper make her a murderer?

White step.  Would she be able to convince her family that she was not responsible for their son’s demise?

Black step.  When would it occur to them that he was not going to come home?

White step.  Would her face tell them everything when they came to her for answers?

Black step.  Being the surviving wife of a missing son could be a difficult role, in any case—but in the midst of such expert sufferers, it would be difficult indeed.

White step.  Especially since she had never been any good at suffering.

Black step.  Would she ever be able to put on a show that would do her husband’s good name justice?

White step.  In how many ways would they blame her if she could not?

Black step.  Who would support them now?

White step.  How many years would she have to wear black in order to ensure her old age security—her children’s education?

Black step.  Would the evidence lead them to her?

White step.  Could she put her heart into raising her children without being held with suspicion?

Black step.  What had she done?

Light streamed into the throbbing stairway from above.  Countless steps removed her from the light of vulnerable day.

“Mommy?  Mommy,” Nasreen’s beckoning voice sounded, drawing her back into the shrouded light of the room.  Twyla’s heart pounded wildly in the midmorning and she sat bolt upright in the bed.

“What is it, honey?” she asked, glancing over to see if her husband was still sleeping.

“I’m hungry,” the child said.  Twyla had gone back to sleep after waking naturally at five thirty.  The family’s recent decision to move to Uttara had consumed her thoughts.

How would Babu and his mother translate a dream like that?  Knowing that it could easily put their moving plans in jeopardy, she decided to keep it to herself.

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