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The real pain had stood behind the momentary mask of her mother’s disapproval. Now that the mask was torn away, Sumana could not hold it in anymore. It was too much. Way too much.
Our Muse of the Month series this year focus on stories that pass the Bechdel test, and are written on inspiration from a new prompt every month. This month, the prompt was “Not A Cinderella”, and the story should pass the Bechdel Test, that is,
The third winner of our February 2018 Muse of the Month contest is Manishi.
Dark clouds were gathering as Sumana looked up. They seemed to paint in the sky, the sense of foreboding she felt within herself. She clutched her office bag tighter than ever, hoping the pressure will overpower the queasy feeling in her tummy. She worried. Unconsciously caressing her abdomen with the other hand, she stiffened against the sudden chill in the air. Sumana could not miss the drama. Bright green leaves on the trees seemed to be whispering loudly to each other, waiting to welcome the rain yet to arrive from the black heavy clouds. She wished she could feel a light as her pants hanging to dry on the balcony that seemed to be swaying wildly, gaily excited to talk to the leaves, unaware how the much awaited rain was about to drench them and weigh them down.
Sumana broke out in a sweat despite the chill, by the time she reached the elevator to her 4th floor apartment. The unease was growing into panic as she became increasingly aware that she needed to get to the bathroom as soon as she could. As she fumbled with the keys and finally stepped into her apartment, her pants were dripping. The rain had started pouring down. With tears silently coursing down her face, she made her way to the bathroom leaving behind her a messy trail of the life that was not to be.
Sumana did not know for how long she sat there, in the midst of a small pool of what was once the source of such joy, now destroyed. The clouds now looked a light puffy white, relieved after having lost their water. Sumana wanted that relief for herself, but what she felt was only sorrow. Deep, dark, swallowing her whole. Why? Why? Why? She silently screamed. An invisible hand seemed to reach right into her and clutch her heart, squeezing as tightly as she had held her office bag earlier when she somehow knew this was coming. What she didn’t know was how much it would hurt. Unbearable.
Hours later, after she managed to find the strength to collect pieces of herself and put things in some order, she looked for her phone. Five missed calls. Her mother. With trembling fingers she called back. How will I tell her? Mute with despair, She felt like she had lost her voice too.
She still wasn’t sure if she had actually spoken that word or if it was only in her head.
“Sumana!! Why didn’t you pick up the phone? I have been trying to reach you for the past three hours! Don’t tell me you were out again with Kavya in that place where you can’t even hear the phone. Since you moved to that city, you have just become so much more arrogant! I sit here and make all the arrangements, while you…..” and on and on and on she shouted into Sumana’s unhearing ear.
A tear slowly escaped. She was afraid the dam would completely break open again as her mother’s words drenched her: a rain of tiny glass shards that cut sharply through the fresh wound.
She let the phone slide onto the table and walked over to the landline in the kitchen. Pulling the cord tight, she sat on the floor allowing the rhythmic ringing on the other other end soothe her nerves.
The slightly out of breath voice of Gowri said: Hello?
Ma? Barely above a whisper….
“Sumana?…” the older voice didn’t attempt to mask the surprise in it.
“Is something the matter?”
“I tried ma.” Sumana knew she was being heard. “I tried to be all that was expected of me. I even grew my hair and pierced my nose. But why? Why can’t she understand?” By now she was heaving with huge unstoppable sobs.
“Sumana… it is your mother isn’t it? I know you are trying hard to understand her. She is also trying in her own way.”
“No. I was never good enough. I will never be good enough. I wish I was my sister – she is happy to be what amma wants her to be. From wearing saris to being docile to having a beautiful home to topping at school to marrying whom the family chose for her. My achievements were never important to amma because it was not marks. I am messy. I break rules. I have fun. But I also run my own successful business, however small. I’ve made a name for myself. I am happy in my marriage, though I have had to move to this city on my own for now. Why? Why can’t she see that? Why is she so blind when it comes to me?”
“Have hope child. See the bigger picture. Your mother was so excited when she called me earlier. She has made all arrangements for the ceremony to celebrate your pregnancy. You just have to come here next week and you will start feeling the optimism.” Her mother-in-law said in her most gentle, soothing tone.
All she heard were heart wrenching sobs on the other end. The real pain had stood behind the momentary mask of her mother’s disapproval. Now that the mask was torn away, Sumana could not hold it in anymore. It was too much. Way too much. All she longed for was comfort in a mother’s bosom, to be a child. To not have to deal with this.
Gowri was sure something more than just Sumana’s mom was the issue here. While Sumana cried on the other end, Gauri kept saying reassuring words. At long last, when Sumana was sober enough to speak again, she told her mother-in-law about the miscarriage. Gowri’s heart went out to this brave little girl. She wanted to reach out and wipe away the pain and loneliness.
“My child, you are strong. I sometimes wish my own daughter had the strength that you possess. In this past year that you have been in our lives, I have grown to appreciate the person that you are. You are no Cinderella for sure. You never wait around for some fairy godmother to appear. You never allow yourself to be mistreated by anyone. You know your value and that is your biggest weapon in fighting anything that is thrown at you.”
Sumana had quietened down at the other end. “Mmmm…. I guess I have to go see the doctor now” She felt numb.
“That is a good idea my dear. Why don’t you ask Kavya to go with you?”
“No! Ma. I can go myself.”
“Sumana….? You are also human. Please give us a chance to support you. Sometimes it hurts us to see you hurting. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness or victim hood.”
Relief was already seeping into Sumana’s soul.
Gowri quickly made plans. “I will call Kavya and let her know. You don’t have to talk to your mother. I will do that too. But do let me know how it goes. If you can, come here tomorrow or if you feel you will not be able to make it, I will come there for a few days. Sumana…..?”
“Yes. Am listening.”
But a sudden weariness washed over Sumana. Replacing the receiver after the call, she just curled up and fell into a deep sleep right there on the kitchen floor.
Manishi wins a Rs 250 Amazon voucher, as well as a chance to be picked one among the top winners at the end of 2018. Congratulations!
Image source: freewallpapers