By Linda Kimaru

Once upon a time, a family lived in a big house. Nothing was too big or extravagant enough to go into it. It seemed like a never ending abyss that would comfortably fit anything you put into it. The beds were grand and 6 feet by 6 feet. They had lavish headboards with intricate carvings or things that looked like some ancient kind of script. The couches were plush with countless pillows to cushion you should you trip over the leg of the glass coffee table and find yourself with no balance. The television boasted several inches that would please the eye and make it wander across the screen as if it were some alternate universe you could stroll into and disappear within. The sound it produced shook from the ground making it possible to simulate a mini earthquake. They had a Richter scale just so they could measure the mini tremors. They bought it just for the hell of it; because they could.

There was never a meal lacking in over abundance. There were roasts and potatoes covered in thick brown gravy. There were peas so large and so bright green they looked like little tennis balls. The carrots were tall and fat and without awkward bumps. Every day, different smells wafted from the kitchen into all the chambers of the house. Pastries were not reserved for special occasions but for everyday leading to the four little children of that house wobbling around like penguins. They might have taken a moment to swim in the pool that was always heated to the perfect temperature but never did. They might have waddled over to the tennis court and hit balls around but never did. There were so many things they could have done while in the house but there was never the right time or no one cared to do so.

Every day, as they sat around the large dining table with the father at the head, they ate in silence. There were appreciative grunts for the food before them but none for the fact that they were all seated together as a family. The children ate with their minds elsewhere. They wondered if this would be the day the family would engage in some sort of conversation. ‘How was your day?’ ‘What did you learn at school?’ ‘What do you think of taking a trip to the coast as a family this holiday where everyone actually spends time together?’

But no conversation came. Between the bites of food came the tap tap tapping of the father’s phone as he sent frantic emails to his clients. Between the sips of water came the click click clicking of the mother’s perfectly manicured nails on the mahogany table as she impatiently waited for the maid to refill her wine glass. The children stared at each other momentarily but said nothing. They felt the sudden calm of familiarity settle in as tonight would be the same as every other night. Silence.

And so it remained. The family lived in one house with each person unaware of the other, trapped in their own lives. And in that house, a fire always blazed in the living room on cold nights, but it’s warmth was always enveloped by the cold hand of wealth.