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I take his hand in mine and rub the back of his palm with my thumb, a gesture he has always enjoyed. Not today. Because he recoils.
The Muse of the Month is a monthly writing contest organised by Women’s Web, bringing you original fiction inspired by women.
Narayani Manapadam is one of the winners of the August 2020 Muse of the Month.
The iced tea tastes insipid. Maybe it’s has got something to do with my racing heart. For Devil’s has always been my favourite hangout. I look forward to sipping those magical mocktails with him. And yet, today, as I look at my watch, I wonder if I should rush things up. Or give him some time to ponder over. Not that I don’t want to. But certain things cannot wait.
Ah, he is finally there. Do I discern a hesitation in his strides? I get up from my seat and lean forward to kiss him, but he steps back. Red-faced. Maybe it’s been a hectic day for him, I console myself. He takes the seat opposite me and dismisses the waiter with a wave of his hand. The knot in the pit of my stomach tightens.
He comes straight to the point. “Is it confirmed news?”
This is no time to beat around the bush. “100%.”
He looks around. Why is he refusing to make eye-contact with me?
“So… what to do?”
He shrugs his shoulders. “It’s your problem.”
He rolls his eyes. “You do realise we are too young to marry.”
“So am I to blame for what has happened?”
“Heavens! Don’t create a scene here.”
Alright! Words of wisdom indeed, from a supposedly mature 23 year old to his pregnant girlfriend.
He gets up. “I am running late for a party.” That’s it. Casually. Without a tinge of emotion.
The little girl comes running to me. Her innocent laughter never fails to brighten up my day. I go down on my knees and hug her, giving tiny kisses all over her face. Not to be outdone, her friends join in, demanding their share of my love.
Twinkling Stars will always have a special place in my heart. For I too once belonged here. I remember those daily meals of a runny sambhar rice which had effectively killed my taste buds; they were however resurrected occasionally when a kind Samaritan donated a substantial amount to the orphanage.
The children are licking their fingers greedily. How I wish I had brought some extra chocolates with me. But then, the strict matron always insists that I don’t spoil them like this. She is right. After all, not all of them can claim to have my good fortune.
I wake up with a start. My whole body is drenched with sweat. I look at the mobile. 2 AM. It’s the same nightmare.
The mosquito repellent has never worked at Twinkling Stars. Has anyone told you how irritating the constant swatting of hands can be? Coming to think of it, I would have preferred those uncomfortable sleepless nights amidst the buzzing cacophony. That mouth which stifled my screams while the hands roamed freely under my frock simply refuse to fade away from my memories.
The matron knows. I think she’s helpless. I despair for the innocent children who have been abandoned by their mothers.
No, I cannot do that to my baby. Never.
He will not return, my boyfriend. Is he relieved? I don’t want to know, to be honest.
It’s difficult. Every decision of mine has made me question my intellect and my common sense. But I don’t regret them. I learn from my mistakes.
Those prying looks will be more nauseating than the morning sickness. My supposed lack of morals will feed fuel to the fire in the gossip circles. I have a daunting task ahead of me. But I will face it. My baby deserves the strongest momma in the world.
For a long time I was scared I’d find out I was like my mother. Thankfully, I am not. My baby will vouch for it.
Editor’s note: Marilyn Monroe was born Norma Jean Baker, and had an abusive childhood. She also went through sexual abuse at the hands of many people she trusted growing up and as a teenager. After many ups and downs, she got into the entertainment and modelling industry, and finally as an actor doing bit roles.
Despite all her struggles, however, once she got her first hit, she ruled the box office for almost a decade. Her tenacity in getting what she wanted to do in life is legendary. Unfortunately, the world lost her to suicide at a very young age, on 4th August 1962.
One thing about Marilyn that is not so well known is that she was a voracious reader of serious literature, and had a way with words too – dashing the popular myth about her and ‘dumb blondes’. An intriguing woman, indeed!
The cue is this quote by her: “For a long time I was scared I’d find out I was like my mother.”
Narayani Manapadam wins a Rs 500 Amazon voucher from Women’s Web. Congratulations!
Image source: Peggy_Marco on pixabay
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She would serve everyone fresh food and serve herself the stale rice and curries from the previous meal. Some days after finishing the leftovers she was so full she would not even be able to even taste the fresh food.
When I married the first time, my MIL told me that during the Navratri the lady of the house should not eat stale food. ‘Gharatlya bai ni shila khau naye’ — in refined upper caste Marathi.
I was just 26, eager to please, not versed in patriarchy or feminism, and it seemed like a positive thing — respect for the goddess in woman.
But soon I realised she spent the remaining 356 days of her year finishing leftovers. And that I was expected to do the same.
Story - Beauty: Shreya wondered, ‘Are they talking about me?’ ‘But what is the use of inner beauty if the exterior is unattractive?’ Ravi asked. Her heart skipped a beat, and now she listened with the utmost alacrity.
‘Beauty is skin deep, Ravi. In the long run, it’s the inner beauty that matters. I know Shreya is smart and I find her attractive.’ It was Chetan’s voice.
Shreya had paused for a moment on the open door of Ravi’s flat when she overheard him. It was the morning of 27th March, and she had come to give Ravi his surprise birthday present. She didn’t want to eavesdrop, but the conversation had caught her curiosity.
She wondered, ‘Are they talking about me?’