Author: Azhaar Khair
Azhaar Khair is a writer from Indonesia. She writes in English and Indonesian. Her Instagram is @azhaarakhair.
For the past few days, I cried over nightmares I couldn’t remember. Today was the same. I woke up with tears trickling down; my heart palpitating heavily and my breathing short. None of the dreams I could retrieve, but the devastation remained.
Attempting to sleep again was futile. It was already eight in the morning. I planned to visit my son-in-law today; I couldn’t be late given his circumstances. I wiped my tears, took a shower, got dressed, and exited the bedroom.
Boxes were strewn on the floor outside. After almost thirty years, my wife and I decided to move back to her family’s house. A big decision, but it was better than staying here now. My wife has already been staying with her family since a month ago. I stayed here to pack everything up and my wife comes by to help in the afternoons. The house was almost empty by now. The only room we hadn’t cleared up was my daughter’s.
Bringing an empty box, I dragged myself to my daughter’s room. The room remained the same as my daughter had left it three years ago.
I sorted her things and put them in the box, distracting myself. The heaviness in my heart from the nightmares was not going away. I wondered why these nightmares came; why I started crying in my sleep.
I had cried only thrice since I got married. The first time was on my wedding day. I promised my wife, my eyes brimming in tears, that I would be the best husband; to love and protect her and our family for the rest of my life.
I cried the second time when our daughter was born. Holding my daughter in my arms, I kissed my wife’s forehead, whispering ‘thank you’ thousands of times, crying in relief and gratitude as that day, I became a father.
A bright one my daughter was; graduated with a Master's degree abroad and made a name for herself in her field. Me and my wife let her go on her own adventures, saying that no matter where she went, the important thing was that she always returned to us. Beloved by many, she also had so much love to give to others. We always thought of how blessed her future lover would be.
So, when she introduced us to a former classmate of hers, we were in complete joy. They were in the same business and they were head over heels for each other. Six months after the first time we met, he asked her hand in marriage.
The third time I cried was on her wedding day. I made my son-in-law promise the same promise I made back then. A promise passed down from father-in-law to son-in-law. He reassured me that he would always love and protect my daughter. My daughter overheard our conversation and cried along with me. Crybabies, the both of us. We hugged each other, sobbing as my son-in-law tried comforting us.
After the wedding, the couple lived in another province. Because my son-in-law was so busy and me and my wife couldn’t travel much, we couldn’t meet each other as often. We messaged each other every day and managed to visit her once when she gave birth to a baby girl. I remember the happiness of that day and silently hoped that it would last forever.
It was a year after my granddaughter’s birth that my son-in-law murdered her and my daughter.
A week before her death, my daughter asked if she and her child could stay at our house for a while. She said she was fine but she had fought with my son-in-law. My wife and I wondered why they did not arrive at the time my daughter promised they would. And she would never return.
One of my daughter’s friends confided in me after the funeral about how my son-in-law began accusing my daughter of being in an affair several months after their daughter was born. Fighting became frequent; love slowly vanished along with it. My daughter then found out about her husband’s own affair. She demanded a divorce, willingly walking away.
He didn’t like that. He had his pride. If people knew that his divorce was the result of his infidelity, he would drown in shame. She wasn’t allowed to walk away. She was better dead than divorced from him. So, he smashed her head open. Their child was a witness, so he smashed hers too.
I couldn’t understand. A husband killing his wife? A father killing his child? I had so many questions.
The day I was face to face with my son-in-law during his trial, I wanted to scream at him. You could’ve filed for a divorce. Was it so hard for you to just leave? Why did you take her life? You are a husband, a father. How could you kill your wife and child? What about our promise? If you didn’t love her anymore, why didn’t you just return her to me?
But these questions were left unsaid. These questions; gnawing at the back of my brain, piling up and forming a huge block that I could not remove. It became poison at this point; seizing me with blank nightmares and flooding me with tears.
A scar was permanently etched inside me. A point of no return.
I heard a car horn from outside. My niece had come to pick me up.
I’m visiting my son-in-law today. He was sentenced to life in prison, the rest of his future taken away just like he took away his child’s and my daughter’s. I determined to get answers to the questions I could not ask before. And maybe the nightmares would end by then.