It all happened sixteen years back, when I was sitting on the sofa; happily shaking my legs as I licked the chocolate ice cream in my hand; letting it roll and drip down my pretty lime coloured frock. I had been taught to share and that’s what I was doing; sharing an ice cream cone with my frock. The ice cream was a reward for correctly spelling “magnificent” at the spelling bee contest that very day. It was probably my fifteenth lick when I heard my mum screech and blame my father for not watching me while I had the ice cream. In return, dad blamed her for handing me the ice cream at twelve thirty in the afternoon. I remember the ice cream plopping down on the sofa when I heard my parents raised voices. I watched on as a dramatic row ensued; Mum frantically throwing her arms about and the nerve on my father’s neck popping out. My ears were buzzing with the noise, chest thrusting against my ribcage. I had looked down at the pretty lime frock the very second mum and dad had banged the doors close of two individual rooms and it had sixteen drops of chocolate ice cream on it.
Following the year of the ice cream incident, my younger brother graced us with his birth. I was elated and on the way back home from the hospital my grandmother handed me a chocolate ice cream. I licked it as I watched the trees run past our car. The ice cream habitually dripped onto my tulle frock but my grandmother never complained about grandpa not keeping an eye on me and he never blamed her for handing me an ice cream at twelve thirty in the afternoon. How could they not fight when it was something to have an argument about? I looked down at my tulle coloured frock as the car halted in front of our bungalow and it had sixteen drops of chocolate ice cream on it.
A professional photographer was called when my brother turned a year old to get his pictures taken. He posed beautifully for all the sixteen pictures that were taken. I remember the fight my parents had the day before the photographer arrived. It was over what to make my brother wear for the shoot; they finally settled on a jumpsuit. The photographer had lunch at our place that day and it was chocolate ice cream for dessert, as usual. I chose my favourite cone and sat in the corner and licked the ice cream gleefully shaking my legs, letting the ice cream roll down my right hand and drip onto my floral patterned frock. The usual sixteen droplets of ice cream formed on my frock.
The succeeding year; with the commencement of the Annual Function day at school, another fight commenced between my parents. This time it was over which poem I should recite for the recitation competition. After an hour of rummaging through a dozen books and screaming on top of their voices they let me choose “Crocodile” by Roald Dahl. Mum smiled brightly and dad clapped with gusto when I grabbed the first prize and their personal reward to me was the usual chocolate cone. This time as well, there were sixteen drops of ice cream on my school tunic.
When my brother turned three the following year, my parents had a such a big fight over the size of the cake and the number of invitations that I thought the party would not even take place. Surprisingly, it did and was a success. My brother and I shared an ice cream after we opened the presents and I had sixteen drops of ice cream on my pretty pink dress.
By the time I turned ten two years later, my parents had stopped communicating with each other unless they had an urgent need to fight over time, clothing and cakes. These were unavoidable matters.
Six years later on my sixteenth birthday, they fought over my boyfriend and he broke up with me after two months because I didn’t knew how to eat an ice cream. I believe the sixteen drops of ice cream on my summer dress embarrassed him. The story did the rounds. Their fights still made my heart beat hastily and my ears buzz and my brother lock himself up.
The year I turned eighteen and left for college hoping to avoid their arguments but, it increased and I was informed via skype about the division of food items in the refrigerator and name tags on them. Very much ‘Little Manhattan’, isn’t it? Well, now I know, it actually happens. My brother informed me about how they didn’t fight anymore and didn’t look at each other. To cope up with the information, I treated myself with chocolate ice cream and my pajama bottoms with sixteen drops of it.
As I get into the Uber today with the Court as my destination and two copies of a book of newly published short stories by amateur and aspiring authors in my hand, I feel my lips curl up in a smile. A smile that holds both happiness and sadness. I sat down in the front row and watched on as the Judge announced my parent’s divorce. My heart thrusting against my ribcage and my ears buzzing as I watch my parent’s nod at each other and leave the court. I follow them out and hand each of them a copy of the book and make my way to the Ice cream parlour across the court. From across the ice cream parlour I watch them flip the first page and stare at the story in shock and awe with an ice cream cone in my hand as it dripped sixteen times on my pencil skirt. The first story was mine and I had named it “SIXTEEN DROPS OF ICE CREAM”. Sixteen drops of ice cream when I correctly spelled magnificent sixteen years back and sixteen drops when I had my first story published. It took them sixteen years to learn that they were better off without each other and that their older daughter still didn’t know how to eat a cone without making a mess.