The mehndi hadn’t faded from her hands, yet the tears had made indelible streaks on her pretty little face. Not one to run away from demons, this one she was scared to face. Win she would, but the cost was what she was worried about. Dreams of so many expectant faces would be shattered, maybe the perpetrators of the crime too would be a tad disillusioned at the moment when they realize that it was a human with a functional brain that they brought home, not a puny doll that closed its eyes and moved its hands at the behest of the puppeteer.
The first few days, though she could not place a finger on anything, she did feel something amiss. Ignoring it as the initial anxiousness of settling down in a new home, she went about being the docile Indian bahu. The husband would be away working during the day and she catered to the needs of his aging parents during the day. At night, when she would go occupy her place beside him on the bed, she could see no traces of the man she saw in the wedding ceremony. This was some monster who found obvious pleasure in making her scream in pain. The burn marks from the cigarette, the marks where his leather belt kissed her were all signals that she tried to close her eyes to and tried to avoid.
One Sunday morning, while she was making pooris for his breakfast, he grabbed her hand and dipped it into the kadhai because she did not hear him call her. Before she could think, her other hand rose and pushed the kadhai away, spilling the hot oil all over him. Unable to bear the pain, he hollered out loud. Using the moment she wriggled out from his grasp and ran.
Ran for her life, never to come back. Somehow, she sensed that all those faces who she remembered in her dreams would be happier to see her happy and free than to see her shrouded. A silent sense of calm overcame her the moment she stepped out of the walls of that house, one where she would never return, the one that never was hers.
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