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"It was an accident. Of that I’m sure. But some people are hell bent on creating mischief. And Deepika hands it to them on a platter.”
“It was an accident. Of that I’m sure. But some people are hell bent on creating mischief. And Deepika hands it to them on a platter.”
Trigger Warning: This has sexual and emotional violence and may be triggering for survivors.
Aparna leaned back against the sofa, and closed her eyes. When will this nightmare end? She could sense Santosh fiddling around with the TV remote.
“Have you spoken to her?” her husband whispered, as if the walls had suddenly grown ears, and were now threatening to carry his words to locations where they would not be welcomed.
Aparna shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t understand this girl. A month ago, she looked as pale as a ghost. She didn’t even come out to meet the guests. I cut a sorry figure in front of my family. Poor bhaiyya. He had come all the way from his village to offer his condolences. And what did our dear daughter do? She didn’t even touch his feet! The audacity!”
“Aparna. Aren’t you being a bit tough on Deepika? Poor girl just lost her husband in a freak accident.”
“That’s what worries me.”
“What do you mean?”
“Is she really mourning? Initially she locked herself inside her room. I thought she needed the space. After all, the rituals had just been completed. I would often see her staring outside the window. I ignored it. But you see, tongues started wagging. I wouldn’t blame them. We have a young daughter, that too a widow.”
“Is it her fault that Ritesh died?”
“I am not implying that. It was an accident. Of that I’m sure. But some people are hell bent on creating mischief. And Deepika hands it to them on a platter.” Aparna rolled her eyes, and looked at Santosh.
“She might open up to you. You are her mother, after all.”
“I did try. But her behaviour torments and confuses me. Only two weeks had passed by after the rituals, and this girl was chatting to friends over the phone, giggling. Couldn’t she show more respect to her late husband?”
“Why didn’t you tell me this before, Aparna? I could have drilled some sense into her.”
“You were already dealing with unsolicited advice from relatives. Moreover, I thought this was a phase. Maybe this was her way of grieving, I reasoned to myself. The words of the people might have hit her badly. After all, she was there with Ritesh when he….” Aparna paused to wipe her tears. “The trick question had begun to seep in, however. It had become a trick situation. The longer she sat feeling sorry for herself, the less sorry she felt. It’s called a reverse something on the other. There isn’t time to get into that now. She needs to get it sorted now. She hasn’t even called up her in-laws.”
“Have they called?”
“How do you expect them to call us?”
Santosh sighed, got up, flung the remote on the sofa, and went to his bedroom.
The young woman tottered towards the bedside table. Her brown hair was frizzy. Devoid of any make-up, her face colour matched the beige bedsheets which lay crumpled on the floor now. Trembling, she ran her right hand over her lips.
On an impulse, she yanked off the vest and undid the strings of her pajamas, till she stood bare in front of the mirror. Her pale translucent skin once writhed in pleasure when Jeet explored every inch of her body, putting his tongue to good use. Now all that remained were purple patches, as Ritesh’s belt had found its way to wipe off any remnants of Jeet. Tears streamed down her eyes, and Deepika whimpered. Her parents had been aghast when they saw her with Jeet in a café. Her father had put his foot down, and within a week, a ‘deal’ had been struck with Ritesh, and she was sent ‘packing’ to her new family.
The ‘first night’ had been a disaster.
“Ouch. It hurts.”
“Can’t we have a bit of a foreplay?”
Ritesh froze, just as he was about to enter her. His eyes bore into hers. “What do you know about all this? You have done this before?”
Deepika bit her tongue.
“Tell me, Deepika.” His whisper was hoarse, yet held a degree of intimidation.
“I.. I had a boyfriend. Papa and Mummy didn’t approve of him.”
Ritesh cackled. “Ah! So, they found a scapegoat in me.”
Deepika mumbled, “I am sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you. I have moved on. I will never bring up Jeet’s topic again.”
Deepika kept her promise, but paid a heavy price for it. In the form of welts and bite marks.
She winced, as she touched a bruise. If only she had walked out of her marriage then. Ritesh would have been alive. But he was destined to die.
In her hands!
“Hurry up, you lazybones. This is trekking. Not an act of lovemaking with that useless boyfriend of yours.”
Deepika kept mum. It had been her husband’s idea to come to McLeodgunj for honeymoon. And then, trekking to Triund. Deepika had agreed to this. Excursions were not new to her.
Ritesh stood on the edge. The picture of the sunset would have garnered at least hundred likes on Deepika’s now unused Instagram account.
“Have you come here before?” he had asked.
“With that fellow?”
Deepika sighed, and shook her head. “Jeet is my past now. Can we start life afresh?”
Ritesh threw back his head and laughed. “How easy, right? Not for me. I guess, for you. You are after all a whore. Nice upbringing, I must admit.”
“Don’t bring my parents into this, ok!” Deepika hissed through grated teeth.
“Why? Are they Gods? I am sure you are like your mother. She must been quite a looker in her young days. God knows how many people might have enjoyed her.”
Deepika sank into the floor, and lay down in a foetal position. Did she really want to push him? Or had that been an act out of fury? Which girl would have tolerated it, if her mother was shamed? Ritesh had crossed all levels of decency.
‘He deserved to die.” Deepika’s lips mumbled out of their own volition. “I won’t mourn for that bastard anymore.”
She got up slowly, went to the bathroom, and opened the shower. She winced, as steaming hot water hit like pellets against her naked body. She took a bar of soap, and scrubbed it over the bruise on her left breast. Vigorously. A searing pain shot through her, but she didn’t stop.
This story was shortlisted for our July 2021 Muse of the Month short fiction contest. Our juror for the month Jane De Suza says “This story’s uniqueness was the difference in points of view between the parents and the girl. The conversation, the build-up and the punch were skillfully handled.”
Image source: a still from web series Ghost Stories
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I am an IT professional, lost in the monotonous world of Excel. So, I seek refuge in Word, pun intended.
I write for various literary platforms and have quite a few anthologies to my credit.
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