It was safe to get up. He was fast asleep. Shini rose from bed and opened the window which Arun insisted on keeping shut all the time. O! to get a glimpse of the outside world and breathe the fresh air of the morning which was already promising to be a hot day. A few hours of freedom till the beast awakes !
Am I really calling my husband of 3 months a beast? Shini asked herself in dismay;but which normal person would behave like this?she wondered. She felt suffocated, as if gradually her oxygen supply had run out and she was choking to death slowly but surely. She would die if she did not escape, she thought in sudden panic. I need to get out of the house , she thought recklessly, opening the front door and sat down on the porch.
It was warm but deliciously so, the sky was a bright blue and out on the road , mothers were shepherding their reluctant children into school buses. Her neighbor a plump matron of 30, smiled when she saw her and came close to their gate to make conversation.
’Haven’t seen you for some days now. Are you not well?’ she asked.
‘Nothing Didi, just was busy.’ Shini said
‘Ah a honeymoon couple has no time for the rest of the world I am sure.’ Didi began teasingly but the tete -e tete was cut short by her baby who had probably woken up and had begun wailing lustily .
Shini shuddered. Honeymoon couple indeed! Arun was making waking up noises, her parole was over she thought.
‘Shiniii !’ came the summons from the lord and master making her entrails quake in response. ‘Perhaps you were chatting up the young chaps next door?’Arun asked caustically.
‘I was just sitting in the porch for some fresh air,’ Shini replied trying not to bring any inflections into her tone of protest, argument or irritation as any of these in her experience would bring upon her head, a host of recriminations. She had lain awake most of the night and simply did not have the energy.
She made a fresh pot of tea as Arun came to the dining table and sat there poring over the newspaper. She wanted to avoid conversation as much as possible.
‘Wife cuts off husband’s head with axe’ was one of the headlines.
She shuddered as she read the account of a wife who cut off her sleeping husbands head with an axe as he slept exhausted in a drunken stupor after the physical and sexual abuse he had inflicted on her and their minor daughter.
She thought about the events of their last night. Compared to the brute in the newspaper report Arun was positively angelic. He only verbally abused her. Sexually he hardly showed any interest in her except to watch pornography and masturbate. Once she had woken up from sleep to feel her breasts being fondled as Arun was masturbating. Perhaps he preferred inert objects to slake his desire. She continued to feign sleep.
‘So,What do our neighbor say?’ Asked Arun sipping his tea.
O God!Not again. Last night he had accused her of giving the bachelors next door come hither glances and deliberately exposing her cleavage to them as she bent down to sweep the steps. He had called her a whore and various other unprintable names which still made her wince in anger and pain.
Early in their marriage she had made the mistake of discussing her concern at his lack of interest in sex and wanted to know if it was something to do with her. That had brought about a flood of angry words finally ending up in calling her a nympho and sexually insatiable castrating female.
’How can anyone feel desire for you after all this?’ He had then punished her by going to sleep in a fit of sulks in the other bedroom while Shini sobbed silently wondering if she had really been un womanly and gross.
Shini wondered why Arun seemed not to desire her. She knew she had above average looks, some would even call her beautiful. She had long pretty hair, large luminous eyes and a pretty figure though not very tall. Boys did fancy her in college so that meant something she thought. Maybe I am just not Arun’s type , she thought unhappily
‘You did not answer.’Arun asked frigidly polite as usual, bringing her back to the present..It was like that .He would begin in a civil manner and then would go on to utter the most horrible of indecencies in casual , even courteous tone. There would be no sound out of doors to know that inside someones heart was breaking.
People at his office thought he was the best. She remembered attending the office party given in the honor of the new bride and noticed envious glances of his unmarried women colleagues as someone who had landed a prize catch and some even assessing if she was worthy enough! Outwardly he was a prize specimen-tall, chiseled features, grey eyes that looked straight at you searchingly, thin but shapely lips and not an ounce of extra fat. In the days of their engagement Shini had felt the luckiest woman alive. He was a perfect gentleman -only now she knew the fifty shades of this Grey.
He seemed the blue eyed boy of his boss Mr Khanna who took a paternal interest in him. Khanna was very nice to her, at the Do; he reminded her of her favorite uncle and she too felt herself warming up to him and chatted to him for a long time feeling, for the first time since her marriage, relaxed and at ease.
‘Boss seemed very happy chatting to you .’ was the first thing Arun said as they got into the car.
Shini was not so experienced in Arun’s little ways at that time or she wouldn’t have turned to him with a smile and said ‘Yes. Your Boss seems such a warm person.’
‘O !you found him hot did you.? Did you fantasize getting him into bed with you?’ was the immediate retort shocking Shini into stunned silence.
The whole journey was spent in Arun describing in graphic detail his observations of Shini trying to seduce his boss into sleeping with her and trying to find out the ‘truth’ from here if they had made any assignations to meet some day soon.
It was the same every time they went out. If she looked casually at some man or even a young boy, Arun would make her feel like a cheap slut who was salivating to get each and every man to have sex with her. A kind of bi**h in heat he called her.
She still cringed when she though of the incident at Starbucks. It was her favorite hangout from college days and Shini had suggested they go out there one evening when a new outlet was inaugurated just 10 minutes distance from their place. A very big mistake , giving Arun enough ammunition to hurt her for months to come. As they were sitting at the table, a guy came up to them seemingly delighted to see her.
‘Hi Shini, he exclaimed.Where had you disappeared man?’
It was only when he smiled that she recognized her old school mate Shankar in the polished suave young man who stood in front of her.
Shini and Shankar were class mates from elementary school onwards and bitter rivals for the class topper’s position. After school they had actually become good friends thought both of them did not keep in touch after he went ahead to join the Indian Institute of Management at Delhi. She remembered him as a nerdish, frail boy with thick rimmed spectacles obscuring most of his face. He had a lopsided grin, giving him a naughty puppy dog , tongue hanging out , sort of expression when he smiled. It was with one such that he addressed them looking back and forth from Shini to Arun. Shini remembered her manners and introduced her husband to Shankar.
Shankar had just returned from the US where he had been a project for last 5 years. They exchanged a few pleasantries after which he joined his friend on the other table.; however the damage was done. Shankar had congratulated Arun saying ‘You are a lucky guy. You caught the best looking girl in our class. Most of us boys had a crush on her but we did not dare to approach her. Her Highness would have sent us packing!’
Arun was convinced that they had been lovers and kept on harping on this till they left the restaurant. Shini sat there with a frozen smile on her face afraid to react in the cafe in front of Shankar.
Every outing together was a nightmare to Shini till she finally refused to go anywhere with him. He would not let her go anywhere without him either so that left her with no place to go.
She had to cut herself off from her old friends because she did not want them to know about her unhappiness which she would have found difficult to hide from their sharp eyes. She could not lie to them. Secondly Arun always monitored her calls and face book friends making comments on the guys who were her classmates. In the larger interests of peace she became a virtual prisoner.
When her family came to visit, it was heartbreaking to note how proud they were of their successful, handsome son in law. Her father considered it as his personal achievement to have found such a good alliance for her. She just could not disabuse them. As for her not visiting them more often, they all assumed that the couple were so wrapped up in each other that Arun could not bear Shini out of his sight even for a few hours. Ironically so true, in a way , Shini thought sadly.
‘Talk to me, you little sh#t! What did you do today morning when I was sleeping?’ growled Arun waking her abruptly out of her reverie.
‘You really want to know you son of a bi##h? I went and the best f##k I ever had in my life with all four of those guys. They are men, not wankers like you, you jerk!’ She was as surprised by her retort as Arun ;both had no idea she had such a vocabulary.
A preternatural silence followed her outburst. Arun looked like a war missile had hit him. He went first red and then looked gray and sick. His eyes popped out , he looked almost comical. She started giggling, high pitched gurgling laughter. She laughed and laughed till tears ran down her face. It was then that the spell was broken and an infuriated Arun lunged out at her in an attempt to stop her from laughing. She took up the knife that lay on the dining table ;there was an awful scream and a gurgle. Did it come from her throat?After that everything went hazy. She must have walked out with the knife in her hand .She only knew she had a headache and desperately wanted some coffee.
That’s how they found her as she sat in the Starbucks cafe, sipping her coffee and staring out of the window. The blood stained knife lay next to her handbag, covered with her blue silk scarf. ..