Story 112

Continued from Story 111
Story begins here.

It is none of my business, but...
He hated it when people said that. He never understood why people could not stop themselves from poking their noses in another people's business; and here he was, doing the same thing.

It was none of his business, yet he followed the man. He was not sure what he would do – confront the man? Force him to go back home to his wife and console her? Scare him and ask him to treat her better? His instinct told him to follow the man, so he did; but he was not prepared to see what was about to happen next.
He watched as the man knocked on the door of a house. Old fashioned one storey bungalow with a few steps leading to the door and a front porch. This one did not have a ‘Tulsi’ like hers did.
Her image of praying in front of the Tulsi flashed in front of his eyes. Beautiful and serene face, her wet hair dripping water over her shoulder. He pushed the thoughts aside and waited. He realised he was holding his breath, waiting to see who would open the door. 

A young boy opened the door and called out to someone. A woman came to the door and gave some cash to the kid who happily hopped out of the house.
She stepped aside, and the man walked in closing the door behind him.

It could be anything, he tried to convince himself. He wanted to go back home, wanted to see how his neighbour was doing. When he had seen her earlier she seemed disturbed. He wanted to be there for her, but he could not.
This was the second-best thing he could do for her. 

He walked around the house to find an open window. He found one. He hesitated for a moment before holding on to window sill to pull himself up and peek inside.

He heard laughter and almost let go of the sill. Then he saw them, at the farthest end of the room. The man was kissing the neck of the woman, his hand reaching for her breast.

He let go of the sill, took a deep breath and climbed up again. They were on the bed now, in stage of half-undress.
Memories from the past flashed in front of his eyes - his mother and step-father entangled in coitus in the living room. He could not hold on any longer. His fingers ached, and he let go. He did not want to stand there anymore. He started to walk. 

He thought he was doing the second-best thing for her, but he did not know what he would do with this knowledge. What was he supposed to do? Walk into her house and tell her that her husband was having an extra-marital affair with a woman who lived only a couple of lanes away from their house? How was this going to help her? By ruining her marriage of more than a decade? He did not have the right to think about all this, but he could not stop himself.

How long had this affair been going on? The woman had a son who was probably nine or ten, had this affair been going on that long? Was the kid his son? 

He reached his house and involuntarily looked towards hers. He hoped to have a glimpse of her before stepping inside his fortress. He waited momentarily before opening the door to his house and stepping in. He did not see her. 


She knew she should have not expected him to understand. She’d hoped so many times and he disappointed her all those times; initially, it upset her but then she got used to it. However, she could not stop expecting. She was too tired to get up and get busy in the kitchen, but she had to. She stepped out of the bedroom to see her daughter in the kitchen. She had started preparations for dinner. She had washed the rice and was washing the dal under tap water. Obviously, after seeing her father step out of the house the girl had decided to help her mother.
She was thankful for having her daughter in her life. It was something that made life worth living and the relationship worth. 

She walked to the kitchen and kissed her daughter’s head. Thank you, she whispered. The girl smiled. They worked together in the kitchen, she kneaded dough for roti, and her daughter placed the rice and dal in pressure-cooker. Her daughter cut the vegetables, she had just placed the pan on the burner and added oil to it when the doorbell rang.
“Go’ she told her daughter who rushed to her room. She switched off the burner and walked towards the door to open it.
As expected, she saw her husband standing at the door. He stepped in without looking at her and walked past her. She closed the door and went back to the kitchen to finish cooking the vegetable. 

She kept the casseroles on the dining table and walked to the bedroom. She was surprised to find out that her husband was taking a shower. She laid out fresh set of clothes on the bed and stepped out.

The food was served, and her daughter was half-way through her dinner when he joined them at the dining table. He filled his own plate and started eating without saying a word. He did not look up even when his daughter finished her dinner, picked up her plate, washed it and walked back to her room.
He finished his dinner in silence and got up, his plate in his hand. She looked up at him, surprised. He threw the leftovers in the garbage bag and washed his plate. She finished her dinner and did the same. She turned around to pick up the casseroles from the dining table, but he had already done that and was on his way towards the platform.
She watched as he packed the leftovers and kept it in the refrigerator. Then, he walked past her without making eye contact. 

She sat on the chair, her elbows on the dining table. She placed her head in her hands and took a deep breath. She did not want to go there but she failed to stop the thoughts. 

It happened whenever he returned home from a long business trip. He had sex with her like an animal, did not help her in the chores but then, the next day or a couple of days later he helped her with the chores; like he used to, before the death of their second child. He kissed her and made love to her. But there was a huge difference between the time before the death of their second child and now; he never avoided eye contact. 

She shook her head and got up. She cleaned the dining table and walked to the bedroom to find him in bed reading a book. She went to the bathroom and changed into a night gown. She climbed into the bed and slept with her back to him. She knew what would happen next. Her husband would keep the book aside, take off his glasses, switch off the bedside lamp and slid in bed close to her, he’d put his arm around her waist and kiss her neck and then he would touch her shoulder and make her face him. He’d then kiss her again and start undressing her. 

He switched off the light and slid in bed close to her. He put his arm around her waist and kissed her on the neck. Then, he placed his hand on her shoulder and made her turn towards him.

Her mother had told her several times that it was her duty as a wife to offer her body to her husband whenever he wanted but there was an exception. Tonight, was her chance to refuse her husband’s advances without being rude or appearing unwilling.
He kissed her again and was about to unbutton the gown when she said, “No. I'm on my period. ”
“Okay.’ He said.
Hearing his response to her refusal felt good. Refusing him felt very good. 

She expected him to shift to his side of bed and sleep with his back to hers, but he kissed her again and then slept close to her, his arm resting on her waist.
Blame it on the hormonal changes; his actions brought tears to her eyes. She could not remember when he had held her close like this, with clothes still on, without thrusting his pelvis against hers.
Within minutes she heard him snoring and then she drifted into sleep. Her tears drying on her cheeks.

He was not in bed when she woke up the next morning. She tied her hair into a loose bun and freshened up before stepping out of the bedroom.
She was shocked to see her husband in the kitchen cooking breakfast. Their daughter was sitting at the dining table in her school uniform. She could not believe she had slept in so late and no one had bothered to wake her up.
When she stepped out her daughter looked at her and raised an eyebrow. It was a surprise for her daughter because she had not calculated the timings of the strange behaviour. She was too young for such observations. She smiled at her daughter and walked towards the platform. 

“I will take it from here” she said and took the spatula from his hand. He was making pancakes, as expected. That’s what he made when he cooked breakfast.
If she let him cook lunch, she knew he’d make her favourite vegetable pulao and gravy just the way she liked it.
For dinner, he would insist that he would bring pau bhaji on his way back from his walk.

She was deep in thoughts when he took the spatula back from her hand and insisted that she joined their daughter at the dining table. She walked to the dining table without saying a word. A disturbed feeling at the back of her mind. She was supposed to enjoy this attention, but she could not. 

She did not notice that her husband had joined them for breakfast. She ate her breakfast in silence, her eyes glued to the plate, but she could see in her peripheral vision that her husband was glancing at her occasionally.
She looked up when her daughter got up to go. She had not heard the honking of the school-bus.
“Bye” the girl said and kissed her cheek. 

She got up and walked with her daughter to the door. She waved goodbye as the girl climbed into the bus. She closed the door after the bus left and turned around to find her husband missing. The backache was killing her. She avoided painkillers during periods, but she knew she’d have to take one this time. She walked to the bedroom and found her husband in the bathroom. He had readied a bath for her. This was new. She was not sure whether to be worried or feel happy about it. 

She opened the medicine cabinet and took out a painkiller.
“You do not usually take painkillers.” Her husband commented.
“I need one.” She replied
“Why don’t you take bath and then rest for some time. Maybe you will not need it later. I will take care of lunch.” He said.
“Hmmm” she said and kept the painkiller back in the bottle.
She walked to the bathroom and closed the door behind her. Then, she started crying.

... to be continued.


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