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“I am scared of closing my eyes at night, worried of what I would have to face the next morning. I hate myself for thinking such terrible things Vinni!”
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 “And Then She Rested”, and the story should pass the Bechdel Test, that is,
The third winner of our March 2018 Muse of the Month contest is Sharanya Misra.
Shaina sat still as the water sprayed on her. Her tongue ran across her lips of its own accord, a long- acquired habit. The familiar salty taste comforted her. She moved her fingers though the sand, there was something therapeutic in clutching it and watching the tiny grains slip through, over and over again. Somehow, it drove the reality of life’s brevity home. She looked out ahead as the waves crashed against each other, curling her toes each time the foam came too far. She loved this time of the day, loved the feel of the wind in her hair, loved the way she could breathe effortlessly, almost as if her skin was absorbing all it could, before she returned home to the constricted feeling in her chest all day long. Home. Shaina looked at her watch. 7:00 AM. It was time.
“Morning Sleepy Head! Planning on getting up any time soon?”
Shriya opened one sleepy eye, shielding her face with her hand, as Shaina forced the curtains open. “Argghhh nooo….let me sleep just a little more Didi!!”. “Oh, I’m sure you could sleep well up to noon if I let you! Now come on, get up and get on with the yoga”. Shriya threw the covers aside, grumbling, knowing her sister wouldn’t give up.
“What do you think I should write on today?” Shriya asked from the washroom as she brushed.
“Shriya! Don’t talk while you’re brushing again!! How disgusting is that!”
“What? What’s disgusting? You mean this?” she giggled as she opened her mouth wider.
“Ahh! You impossible girl”, Shaina screamed as she shut the bathroom door. “All of 30, yet she behaves like a 10-year-old. I wonder when she’ll grow up?” she started to shake her head, before she suddenly checked herself. The last thing she wanted was for the days to pass. She wished she could hold time still, never moving on to tomorrow.
The doorbell rang at 9:00 AM, just like every other day. Vinni. Always on time.
“Hey Girl! Ready to get rolling?” she asked, as she set up her laptop in the little office corner of the house. Shaina marvelled at the cheerfulness and positivity both the women in her life always displayed. She herself, was incapable of such strength, she lamented.
Exactly at 1:00 PM, they moved their laptops aside and got ready for lunch. Working from home needed discipline and precise timings. After years of it now, Vinni and Shaina were experts at the model.
“So? How is she doing today?”, Vinni asked, looking towards Shriya’s closed door. There was both concern and pity as she looked at Shaina. Vinni had known her since college. From being accidental bench mates on day one, to being hostel roomies for all four years, they had a shared history that went long back. Starting up their consulting firm together had been a natural step for them. Initially, they had looked for an office space to rent. Gradually though, Shaina’s life had so many ups and downs coming, that they decided to just set up office right at her place. Vinni looked at the lines on her friend’s face. She looked much older than the 38 years she actually was.
“She’s fine today. There are good days, and bad. Today’s been good so far. I make sure she strictly follows the diet and exercise routine the doctor has recommended. If I don’t take care, she would be eating all the junk in the world”, Shaina sighed.
“Ah come on, she’s just free spirited, that’s all. Don’t worry so much for her, Shaina. She’ll be just fine.”
“It’s her third relapse, Vinni. I still remember the day she had been detected with Uterine Cancer. I had thought someone had punched me in my ribs, that was the pain. Losing Father when we were kids was difficult enough. But after Mother passed away, we were each other’s strength. And then this happened. It’s almost as if she couldn’t let Mother go away”.
“I know, I was there the day Aunty left us. You two sisters handled each other so well, Aunty would have been proud”.
“Yes, and yet now, I feel like I am all by myself, drowning in my own grief”.
Vinni immediately grasped her friend’s hand in her own. “Don’t say that. Shaina, you need to get out. You can’t confine yourself in these walls year after year. You were here for Aunty and now you are here for Shriya. What about your life? You are 38! Have you thought of marriage yet? I know, I know what you always say, Shriya is your responsibility. But you can take care of Shriya even after marriage. You need a partner next to you.”
Shaina walked to the window and looked out. “You know Vinni, Shriya takes all this better than me. She is such a positive girl and I am so proud of her. She keeps herself busy, writes all day, about life and cheer. Her gaiety is infectious…but it’s also what makes this so very difficult. On days when she is in so much pain and unable to give me a smile even though she tries so hard, my heart breaks. It’s like I am dying with her each day.”
“Shaina! Don’t say that!”
“No Vinni, that’s true. Do you know the cancer’s spread to her colon now? Do you know why I don’t want to get married? Because I want to spend time with Shriya, what little of It is left anyway. It’s almost like we both know…all that we can do now is wait…”
Tears welling up in her eyes, Shaina whispered, “You know, sometimes when I am too bitter, I blame Shriya for this, all of this. For me not having a normal life, for not being able to go anywhere for fear of losing her while I’m gone. I am scared of closing my eyes at night, worried of what I would have to face the next morning. I hate myself for thinking such terrible things Vinni! She’s my baby sister, all I want is for her to get better!”
“SShh!” Vinni wiped her tears and hugged her. “Listen, have you been reading what Shriya writes?” Shaina, looked back, puzzled. “Umm…not really, I have just been so busy lately, haven’t thought of it”. Vinni pulled up Shriya’s blog and passed it to her, “Here. Take a look”. Shaina’s heart shattered as she saw post after post on herself, some calling her the strength Shriya needed to get past each day, some telling her to go live her own life because that’s what Shriya wanted. Tears flowed and Shaina broke down.
“Shaina. Don’t ever blame yourself. You are a very strong woman. It takes a lot of guts to keep your life on hold and be there for the people you love. Forgive yourself for the occasional resentment, you are after all human. And don’t ever give up hope. You are doing great, keep doing all you can, you must, for Shriya’s sake and your own.”
A month later, Shaina went to Shriya’s room to check on her and found her unconscious. She had rushed her to the hospital. Shriya’s organs had begun to fail. They were in the hospital for the fifth day now. Shaina didn’t have to talk to the doctors to know that the chances of Shriya going back home this time were bleak. At night, Shaina sat next to her, holding her hand and caressing her head. Shriya turned to look at her and gave a feeble smile. “Cheer up Didi. I’ll be back home in no time. And if not, I will still have Mother to take care of me”. Shaina fought for air, as she squeezed her sister’s hand. No words were exchanged, she didn’t have to. Shriya knew her sister’s heart.
The next morning Shaina awoke to see a faint smile on her sister’s face. She looked at her for long, trying to remember the lines and curves on her face, which looked completely at peace. Running her hand through her hair one last time, she wished her the peace in her next life that she couldn’t find in this. Her sister had finally conquered her pain, Shaina felt her tears dry up and peace settle in.
That night, in an empty house, with years of fatigue washing over her, Shaina finally rested. Tomorrow would be a new day.
Sharanya Misra 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: videoblocks