Story 114


In continuation of Story 113.
The Story begins here

The smile warmed his heart, but he did not read too much into it. He knew it was a smile of relief, because she had managed to get back home in time; it also had a touch of awkwardness, because of the circumstances in which they had met, the time they had spent in his house. Last but not the least – it was a smile that said thank you. He never knew a simple smile could mean so many things at once and mean nothing at all. One moment, there she was, smiling at him and the next moment she closed the door and was gone.


***


She closed the door immediately and rushed to the bedroom, hoping that her husband had not seen her standing at the door. Most importantly, she hoped he had not seen her looking at the stranger across the street.
Her husband was the one who was cheating on her and she was worried about him finding out that she had been sharing a glance with the stranger. She shook her head as she started to take off the saree the stranger had given her. She knew her husband would know that it was new; he had access to her wardrobe and knew all the clothing she owned.


She rolled the saree in her hand and threw it under the bed for time being. She pulled out another saree from the wardrobe and put it on. By that time, her husband had rung the doorbell twice.
She rushed to open the door, preparing an answer for the delay in opening the door but when she opened the door, her husband walked straight inside the house without looking at her. He did not ask for an explanation and she did not offer. She looked involuntarily across the street before closing the door. The stranger was gone, as if he had never been there. The door was closed and so were the windows. She thought about the interior of his house. Who could live like this? Maybe he had his own reasons for keeping it simple. She wondered what that reason could be, would he tell her? Would they meet again, ever? Would they get a chance to talk or would it be limited to glances through windows and rear-view mirrors? 


She wanted to find out more about the stranger; his name, to begin with. Anything that did not make him a stranger anymore would be enough.
She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. There were bigger issues to deal with, right now. What was she supposed to do with the information she had gained access to through the window of a strange woman’s house? She visualised her husband and the woman together and she felt the bile rising in her throat.


Her husband, as expected, was taking a shower. She knew he would be expecting a fresh set of clothes on bed when he walked out. She decided to deny him the little things that were taken for granted when given but did not go unnoticed when denied.
She walked to her daughter’s room and climbed into the bed. Tears rolled down her cheek as she realized how helpless she was. She’d been brought up differently, she’d been taught by her mother to never say no to her husband. She’d been taught everything a normal housewife should know, but her mother had not taught her how to handle this kind of situation. What was she supposed to do when she found out that her husband was cheating on her? How was she supposed to react? 


She would have loved asking these questions to her mother had the woman been alive. The woman thought she knew everything and had passed on the knowledge to her daughter, but that woman knew nothing outside the four walls of her house. She did not hate her mother; but she disliked her views about life, she’d never had the courage to go against her mother’s wishes, she followed her instructions all her life, even though unwillingly. 


She would never be that kind of mother to her daughter. She would teach her daughter to be independent. Would teach her daughter to face the facts of life and not try to shield her from it. If only she knew how to efficiently handle this kind of situation; she’d love to teach the same to her daughter.
Her daughter had to know that she had the right to say no to someone. She had the right to her body, and no one owned her. She had the right to fight against the wrong, even if it meant standing up against her husband.
Her daughter, she realized, had the right to know that her father was cheating on his wife.


“What are you doing here?” Her husband’s voice put an end to the train of thoughts. She looked up at him without getting up. This was the moment. She had to get up and confront him. Tell him that she had seen him with another woman, but she could not move. She felt the strength leaving her body. She was paralysed.
“Are you okay?” he asked moving closer and sitting next to her on the bed. He felt her skin with the back of his hand. His hand felt cold.
She moved away from him and sat up straight in bed. She remembered where that hand had been earlier in the day. Before she realized, she threw up on him - on his fresh clothes, on his face. It was close enough to spitting on him, she thought.


“It’s alright” he said assuming she would apologize for what had happened. He did not even realize she had not said a word since he had stepped into the house. He walked back to the room to change his clothes and she got up to clean her daughter’s room. By the time both were done, the doorbell rang. Their daughter was back home from school.
She opened the door to her daughter.
“Mom! You look terrible” her daughter said the moment she entered the house.
I feel terrible, she wanted to tell her daughter, but she could not utter a word. The room started to spin and then all went dark.


When she opened her eyes she was in bed, their family doctor was feeling her pulse and she could smell cologne. She felt the cologne water strip on her forehead, she felt the warmth of her daughter’s hand in hers. Her husband was standing at the foot of the bed, a worried look on his face. Did her really care about her or was it all pretend?
I have prescribed some medicines, you should feel better soon. Until then, try and rest, the doctor said as he let go of her hand.
He stood up to go and her husband walked out with him. Her daughter was still in the room with her. She needed to know about her father, had the right to know that he was a cheater. She called out her daughter’s name, but her tongue felt heavier and her mouth closed and so did her eyes. 


There was no one in the room when she woke up. The strips on her forehead were gone. The room was dark, and she could hear noises outside the room. Not noises, it was laughter. She got up from the bed and managed to reach the bedroom door. The laughter was coming from the kitchen. She froze at the kitchen door – there they were, cooking together. Laughing, sharing a joke while she lay in bed sick. The laughter stopped, they could not laugh with their tongues down each another’s throat. They were kissing, making weird noises.
She realized she was the one making noises. “Mom” her daughter whispered, and she opened her eyes. She had been dreaming. Her husband was already visiting that woman at her house, now that woman was in her head, in this house as a part of her thoughts.


He took care of her during her sick days. She was happy, not because her husband took care of her, she was happy because he did not get a chance to go and fuck the other woman. She wanted to laugh and tell him how she felt. How happy she was that he was stuck here with her, whether he liked it or not.
Her resolve to confront her husband had weakened long back but she did not want to accept it. She had resigned to the fact that she was not mentally equipped to do it. She could confront him, but she was not prepared for the after-effect of it. She did not have the means to support her daughter. She was not going to ruin her daughter’s future. She was not a selfish mother. 

Then, it struck her hard. She remembered – memories, voices from the past. Her father and mother, quarrelling. She remembered watching through half-open eyes, her father slapping her mother and then her eyes had closed.


Another memory – she’d returned home with her mother after spending days with her mother’s parents. She could hear sounds of laboured breathing and laughter coming from her parent’s room. Her mother had rushed her to her room and closed the door from outside. She remembered trying to listen, her ears close to the door. There was silence. The silence of death – a relationship had died that day, her parents’.

She had blocked the memory, or her mother had made sure she had. Her parents behaved like a happy couple till the end, till her father died. Then, her mother had taken over the responsibilities, had hardened herself to face life and shield her daughter from the harsh facts of life.


Now, being in the situation she was in; she wished her mother had not done that. She wished her mother had dealt with the situation differently. She wished her mother had taught her to do the right thing, to confront her husband if he was wrong. While attempting to shield her from the pain, her mother had made her weak.
She hated to admit, she was so much like her mother. 


***


He’d been worried about her since the day her husband had walked into the house that day. Had she confronted her husband? Told him that she knew about the affair? There was no way to know. He did not know her well enough to figure out what must have happened inside that house, but he knew about the women in India, the one’s who lived in the kind of town they lived in, those who were married to men a decade elder to them, he knew what happened when there was a child in the picture; it was enough for him to know what must have happened – or rather what must have not happened. 


He did not like it, did not agree with it but it was not his life; it was her life and he did not blame her for the decision she had taken. The decision, he had assumed, she had taken.
He did not dare to peek inside the house through the backyard for the fear of being caught. He did not want to complicate her life further. He did not want to give the man a chance to raise a finger at her. He knew that’s how guilty men reacted. To conceal their faults and their guilt they sniffed around trying to find fault in another. As if that would minimise the damage.


He waited for her husband to step out of the house; even if it was to have sex with another woman. He wanted the man to leave so he could walk across the road and get the chance to talk to the woman he had started to care for; the woman who aroused him in a totally different way. 

He had never been in a normal relationship. What he had with the prostitute was not normal though it was sort of a relationship. He could never think of any woman beyond what they had to offer in bed. He felt differently for this woman. Yes, he wanted to bed her. He wanted to make love to her, feel the softness of her skin against his, if she would have him; but, more than anything and everything that mattered, he wanted what was best for her. He was willing to accept every decision she made. He wanted to be there for her, even if it meant supporting her decision of forgiving her husband. He would forever hate that bastard, but he would not expect her to hate the man if it meant jeopardizing her and her daughter’s future. 


The man never stepped out. She never stepped out. He had been counting days, she should have stepped out, at least for Tulsi puja but she did not. Her daughter went to school regularly; but that’s it, there was nothing else he could find out. That bothered him. He spent most of the time at the window, hoping to get a glimpse of her. The window to her room was always shut. He was becoming addicted to her. That scared him a lot. He did not want her to be the reason for his life being undone, but that’s what was happening. He wanted to act out, to hell with sobriety. He wanted to fuck and ruin the woman who had ruined the life of the woman he loved; he wanted to make that woman feel like a whore that she was, throw a wad of cash after he was done; just for the sake of revenge.


He got up from the bed and picked up the bike keys; that’s when he saw her. The beautiful face, the face that had changed him forever. She looked tired, she looked lifeless. He walked closer to the window, she saw him, and he thought he saw light in her eyes, but it was gone; she turned around and walked away from the window leaving it open.
Her threw the bike keys on the floor and sat on the bed, holding his head in his hands. He was in love and he hated the feeling.




… to be continued.

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