I had written this story for Times of India’s Write India Campaign using Chetan Bhagat‘s prompt. Well it didn’t make it but I’m not the one to feel sad. (Well maybe a little.) So I hope at least you guys like it.
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. No, it was no use going to the police. They would not believe her. After all she had killed her ex-husband. What difference did it make that he had come to kill her? She had already killed their marriage. When she had divorced him, he had called her a murderer. She had no problem with that. It was easy to forget the things he said, though she had not, she could not. She had smiled at him and said he had murdered a lot of things when he slept with her sister.
She looked at the cursed scarf again. It had been his first gift. How glad she was that day! She would have done anything for him, almost had. But then things changed. Their marriage became tainted with grunge of everyday life and a ghost of love, fueled with sheer will and weighed down by responsibility. Then came the fights, the accusations, the taunts. Days would pass when they would not talk to each other.
Then, he began paying attention to her again. He started bringing flowers and taking her out to dinner. They began going to the movies and spent more time together. When she saw him at her sister’s when he should have been on the office trip, she didn’t cry, she couldn’t cry, she laughed. How many times had she repeated the words and still never known its meaning. Husbands are chiefly good as lovers when they are betraying their wives. Yes, Marilyn Monroe was right. She thought it would hurt, it did not. She bit her lips to bring tears but tears didn’t want to come, only blood. She realized in the court why she could not cry. She had not loved him in a long time. She could not tell but she knew love had fallen out of their marriage long ago. Maybe the day he slapped her or the day he used her as a thing to please himself without loving her. No, she did not know when but she knew she had stopped loving him long before he betrayed her.
He came to her house unexpected, drunk and in a rage. Her sister had dumped him too. She felt stupid for opening the door without checking. Flower delivery. Men never learn better tricks and women never care to check. He said it would be like he had never left and had forgiven her for treating him like a dog. She felt her spine go weak and her nerves chilling. For the first time in her life she feared this man. Before, she had felt all the emotions; love, anger, hate, but not fear. She had not known this man. Even when he had slapped her when they were fighting on the balcony she had not seen him. Or perhaps he was not the same man, someone else in his body had taken control, haunted him. Lust and anger possessed him, desire and rage; an intent to murder.
When she asked him to leave, he yelled and abused. She looked around. There was a vase on the table by her left side. She moved closer to it as he shouted how he had done everything a husband should do and still she was never satisfied with him. He said how he had done everything a lover should do and still her sister was not satisfied with him. He abused both of them, linking them to their father and brother. She picked up the vase and hid it behind her. If he came close she would know what to do. There was a time, she could not remember when, she couldn’t wait for him to come closer so she could kiss him. Now, she was clutching the vase to save herself.
He raised his head, looked at her and smiled. There was something in his eyes she had never seen. Something she had read in stories of Lovecraft and Poe and King. Utter malice. Desire; a desire to kill. The vase dropped with a shattering noise. It became a thousand vases at once never again to be the one it was before. Its fragments lay between them, reminiscent of what their life had been. She tried to speak to him, maybe she could talk him into leaving. But her words left her like tears had years ago. She cursed herself for being so weak and stupid. She was alone with her trembling self and a man she had once loved like he was the only person that mattered to her but was now about to kill her.
‘Do you want something else, ma’am?’ the waiter asked.
Yes, she wanted to escape the mess she had created by murdering her husband. She wanted to go back to her normal life and live like nothing had happened. Was that possible? No she didn’t think so. So no, thank you.
‘Another cup of coffee,’ she said.
The waiter smiled and turned to go. ‘What’s that ma’am?’ he looked back and pointed at the scarf.
‘The knife I killed my husband with,’ she smiled. She had no idea what made her say that. She was never good at lying anyway. The waiter laughed and left. Truth can be funny sometimes.
Karan reached into his back pocket and drew out the knife. The knife Manisha would hide in her scarf hours later.
‘I don’t trust any of you. I will now trust this. This is my baby,’ he kissed the cold steel. There was some blood on it.
‘Oh, don’t worry. It’s your sister’s. Both of you will now truly be one blood,’ he laughed at his brilliance pointing the blade at her.
She looked at him in horror, unable to move, unable to even crouch down and beg for mercy. No, she will not beg. No matter how this ends, she will not beg. She still could not grasp the news he had given her. Her sister? Was she dead? The child had not even seen anything of the world. Why had he killed her? For what? What did she do to enrage him? Perhaps she would never know no one ever would.
He came at her slow and lunged. She ducked, there was enough time. His drunkenness had made him sluggish. He could not focus. How had he killed her sister then? In the bed? In the shower? She pushed him with all her strength and his head collided against the wall. He cursed her and dropped the knife to hold his head. Blood gushed out and dripped down his face. She bent, not careful to keep an eye on him, to pick the knife. He kicked her in the guts and she fell, unable to shriek, her breath knocked out. The knife was a prize, whoever got it, won.
He picked it up and brought it down. She moved, not completely avoiding the strike, the knife tore at her jeans and cut her leg, spilling her blood like water from a fountain of youth which was now old. She held his hand tight. Though the knife’s edge cut into her wrist, she did not let go. He raised his hand and she felt her grip loosening. She kicked him in the shin and brought the knife down, going into left side of his abdomen. She wanted to hurt him enough for her to escape but not so much that he would die. He struggled then fell down. After he stopped moving she leaned closer. He grabbed her hair and shrieked, thrashing his limbs wildly. She stabbed him again and again and again.
He lay motionless, his eyes open and accusing. Blood gushed out of his wounds and stained the mattress below, forever. Please God! She prayed again, let him be dead now. Let him be dead! He was. She broke down, the tears and words that had left her came rushing back and she cried until all the weight from her heart lifted.
She put the cup down and picked up her bag and the scarf. It had all the memories she had shared with him. Their first meeting, their marriage, their love, their fights and finally their death. She too had died in some way with him. A part of her that she had believed was good. That did not exist anymore. She was a criminal, a sinner. She stepped out and walked to the police station as rain began to pour washing everything but not her guilt.
Manisha was running to meet Karan outside the college. She should have left early but the class wouldn’t end. She should have fixed her hair but there was no time. Ugh! Probably he wouldn’t notice that. He was not like rest of the boys. He was sweet and caring. She smiled as she crossed the canteen. Yes, he waited there looking at his watch, thinking how late she would be. He was the only man she had ever loved, she would ever love. She knew she would marry him and they would live happily, loving each other because nothing else in the world mattered. As if they were meant to be together. She came closer and calmed her breathing as she ran her hand through her hair.
‘No use saying you are late again, is there?’ he asked.
‘No,’ she smiled.
‘I have something for you,’ he gave her a wrapped box and smiled, touching her arm. She tore the wrapping and opened the box.
There was a blue silk scarf in the box. The best gift she ever had.
Image courtesy: dxpepper.wordpress.com