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The Cover-Up

How long will it take before a woman realises that she is not a bird under a net? And once she does, is there any stopping her?

How long will it take before a woman realises that she is not a bird under a net? And once she does, is there any stopping her?

One of the top 5 entries for September’s Muse of the Month writing theme, with the cue “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me” taken from Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.

Sept 2014She kept swirling the chair with herself in it. Round and round, as fast as this ergonomically designed office chair, not meant for such frivolities, would allow. If she stayed still, she would hearthe voices in her head, and they could drive her mad. She preferred the dizziness to the truth.

Nobody would believe her. Sameer was the perfect husband, an image she built herself. She bought stuff for herself and passed them off as gifts from him. She morphed their separate pictures into romantic poses taken at weekend getaways. Every time she met a friend, or went with a co-worker for coffee, she made them see the entire set of images on her phone, which obviously was also a gift from him.

These were all women, none of whom had similar stories to tell. She chose her audience carefully for maximum impact; women whose husbands or boyfriends were too busy, too unsentimental, or, and this was the best category, non-existent. It was heady, how easy it was to fool people, specially her educated friends.

Her mother cautioned her against making so many people jealous. How could she tell her there was no more harm the evil eye could do?

Photoshop expert, makeup expert, lying expert. That is what she had become. Maybe she could set up an image management consultancy. How to make people jealous of you, when your life is a mess.

She thought the envy, the admiring looks from others would make her feel better and for a while, it did. Not anymore. Now she just had to keep up the facade. Recently someone had asked her if Sameer still got her a rose every time they went out for dinner, now that they had been married for a few months. And then she had to say, not only had he not stopped, but now he also gave her a rose everytime she made his favorite rajma at home. She started wondering if she had crossed the line between wonderful and unrealistic. It was getting difficult to get new photographs of Sameer, with an expression pleasant enough so that it could be used in a cozy twosome picture.

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She could not remember when Sameer had last smiled at her, without a third person being present. She could remember the first time he hit her. It was a few days after their engagement, and they were shopping for the wedding. The swanky wedding mall had everything under one roof. She had not been able to resist the beauty parlor’s free consultation and asked Sameer to give her some time by herself. She took a few minutes longer than planned, and ran to the parking lot. He didn’t look angry, he didn’t say anything. He just slapped her, across the face, and then indicated that she get in the car. Then they went to her house, and he behaved so normally with her parents. If not for the stinging pain on her cheek, she would have thought that she had imagined it.

That was the start. Of an unspoken agreement between them. Of her switch to heavy makeup, which everyone dismissed as a bridal thing. Nobody, not her parents, not her friends, not even the maid who came to clean the house, knew anything. The golden cage had become her comfort zone.

What could be the end? A worse action from Sameer, an injury makeup could not cover, someone discovering their secret? Did it have to be an action from someone else? Why was her voice not enough?

She knows it is going to be difficult, more than she can imagine, in ways she does not know. She will have to contend with disbelief, horror, pity, gloating. But perhaps there will be one soothing voice, one supporting shoulder, one helping hand. And she is willing to chance it. But first a note to Sameer. Left along with the bottles of concealer and foundation.

I am no bird, and no net ensnares me. I am leaving. My lawyer will get in touch with you.

Pic credit: onepointfour (Used under a CC license)

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