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Present day:

Rubbing his damp palms he answered,” I am his son”. His lids fluttered like butterfly. But their efforts couldn’t dry off the wetness that had risen up in his eyes. A lanky police constable adjusted his position on the chair. “What did you see when you come back” ? His eyes stucked on Arun. Heavy breaths waving Arun’s shirt up and down. He pressed his glued lips to open up. “Umm, The door was opened. Which I found quite absurd”. “Wait”, the constable raised his hand, ” First you tell me why did you come back Midway” ? One of his brow raised as he glared at him. “Your wife said you had gone to the airport”. Gasping for air Arun mouthed,” Sir today was my wife’s birthday”. His eyes dropping down to floor. Fingernails scratching the table he was standing across like a culprit, “I wanted to surprise her “.

Few days earlier:

Melting sun was slowly spreading its last gilt drops. Every thing around was blushing with the aura except Renuka’s thoughts. Soon the purple hue of the sky would overshadow the remaining bright. bright. Drawing irregular lines on the blue. clouds in her mind were creating a picture she was afraid of. Was it true what she was thinking ? Or was she imagining it all ? In the back seat she regretted to take the right side. But now she could not reverse it. Shiny was sleeping peacefully in her lap. After a long crying and quarreling session for buying a toy. Moreover, ‘What would Arun think’ ? ‘Would he even notice’ ?

Thousands of thoughts were stirring inside her mind. With each breath. And for past hour she was continuously battling this tormenting havoc within. She gulped a mouthfull of water. Songs in the background, now refused to enter her brain . All she was able to focus was on constantly starring back of the man in the front seat.

He tilted his neck every now and then. Pupils rolling to the right corner. His techniques were working well on Arun. But a woman?? She can sense it. Everytime a look towards her. She can analyse the very thought behind. Uhh…Well most of the times. This could be her presumption, she forced her brain. What if she was wrong?

For the first time she missed her mother-in-law. Atleast she could save her from this ‘eagle and prey’ game. She felt lonely sitting behind her husband. All she could do was ignore.

‘Why the hell didn’t I noticed it before. By the time this man started to behave like a sugar coated candy’. She had noticed him staring at her few more times but didn’t pay attention. But now when nothing else was there to distract, she was taking in what actually different was there with the old guy.

In his sixties he was changing, all of a sudden. Started colouring his hairs frequently. Altered his clothing preferences. There was nothing of great importance to her. But as she sank in the feeling of acceptance, it all made a sense. Fitting like the pieces of a zig-saw-puzzle. She was fighting within her mind, when something happened to clear her thoughts.

The old guy grabbed his phone resting on his thigh, brought it up to his sight without switching on the screen. Arun was quite busy in shuffling gears. But she was alert. Like a zebra crossing the river with waiting crocodiles.

He adjusted the screen to the angle where he could check her out for a second or two, without tilting her neck to Arun and pretend to see through the window. She was smacked. Horrified. This was not her presumption. It was real. He was savouring the beauty of his daughter-in-law through this trick.

In her late twenties she looked stunning in her turquoise salwar-kameez. Long curls falling through her shoulders. Satteling sunrays made way through her pink cheeks. Turning them saffron. Her heart sank at the thought. She could do nothing in this. Neither she could tell Arun. He wouldn’t believe her. Nor did she.…till now.

Averting her gaze out of the transparent glass she opted to stare at the trees running backward. Small huts beside the highway. Adorned with pale grass. Bunch of children playing in their backyard. Stray dogs running haywire. Soon the street lights declared it dusk. She digged into her bag scooping out her kindle. ‘girl in the room 105’ was apt to kill some time. Delhi was still away.

Few days later :

The clock ticked 6. Renuka heard the alarm’s cock-a-doodle -doo from kitchen. As expected Arun didn’t budge an inch. She smiled at the innoscent face of Arun in his sleep.

“Get up Arun it’s seven now”, Renuka shook his shoulder resting lazily under the fluffy blanket. “Mmmm Renu…five minutes”, he uttered in a raspy voice. He looked adorable in his sleep. Just like shiny. Both sleeping in exact same posture. She wondered if sleeping postures were also carried genetically. After a few more kisses and Pats, he was reluctantly out of bed.

Renuka spilled off her tea. And the toasts were slightly burnt. But she couldn’t explain this to him. Actually she didn’t believe herself. And if she did, What would she say? That your father is checking me out at times. When you are not home I prefer to lock my room from inside. Or that he tries to touch my hand whenever I serve him with food or tea. How could any wife explain this to her husband ?

‘When will you be back ‘? Her throat choking with words flowing out. Arun digged his fork into a triangular slice of omelette, ‘Monday night, if all goes well’. Her heart sank.” 2 days” ? Her voice husky, spines passing through her throat. “What’s the matter sweetheart” ? Arun leaned forward. “Nothing, just wanted to…”. Her spoon clanked as she shrugged and rose up from the chair with a quake. “Oh papa, you are back from your morning walk”, Arun exclaimed sighting his father pulling the chair on the opposite side of the dining table. “Huh, I don’t walk son, I have started jogging now”. His barritone voice echoed with a sense of pride. “That’s great”, Arun passed the kettle towards him. Sneha entered with a plate of breakfast, put it down and hurriedly rushed back without eyeing up.

In the evening :

At 7 Arun had left for airport. At 8 Renuka fed shiny. At 8.30 they both watched her favourite cartoon channel. Shiny dozzed off in her lap soon holding the remote in her little hands. She smiled the dominating expression on her daughter’s face. Soon the home went creapily silent. She had no desire to eat. Stepping towards kitchen she checked out if her father-in-law had returned back from his neighbours home.

There was a group of old men in the community who would enjoy this after retirement phase quite sportily. When ArunsA father retired from his job, they both convinced him to stay with them. After a while he had left his ancestral home back in Jaipur. For last one year he had been living with Arun and had been quite popular among his old buddies because of his jolly nature and stories he had probably made up boasting his career and financial status. He would enjoy being hosted by one or the other of his friends, most of the weekends. Sometimes they would come to his place as well.

Renuka found lights filtering through the curtains of his room. She served his dinner on the table and reached to his room. “Papa food is ready”, she muttered. A fat shadow moved towards the doorway and she stepped back to the kitchen.

Far away a phone was ringing. ‘its not real’, she brushed it aside assuming she was hallucinating. By the time Arun had left for airport she had been imagining him here and there. His voice echoed in her ears. Not that he had not been on a business trip before, but today something was different. She didn’t want to let him go. She couldn’t believe that he had actually forgotten her birthday and left her alone. Neither she wanted shiny to sleep so early. But…

Cool breeze froze at her face as she opened the freezer. Pulling out a box of vanilla-choco-chips ice cream she missed Arun even more. She had hoped this was just the starting for the celebration. He had fed her with his hands. Her expressions a mocktail of stress and hope. By the time she scooped it out into a bowl, a strange touch made her jump out of her skin.

She felt as if hundred lizards had crawled up her waist. It was a horrifying touch. she was being scared for last week or even before. But at the very moment it was hard to ingest that he actually was over her. A dark but familiar voice boomed from behind. ” Happy birthday renuka”. Her body trembled in fear. This was not Arun. His father had grabbed her tight. His hands moving upward scratching the silk of her skin. Disgust rising up her throat. She screamed in disbelief. Her eyes wobbling out of their sockets.

She dared to clutch his hands. She had mostly avoided an eye contact with him. And now he was getting all over her. ‘How could he do that? She was his daughter in law. And above that, wife of his son. Didn’t he had some sense…some dignity…’?

He stretched her knee long top. Her muscles twisting. She pulled herself towards the slab of kitchen. Trying to not get it torn off. Her back rubbing across his oversized tummy. She screeched harder this time. At the very point she thought of shiny sleeping in the room ‘what if she wakes up ? And what if she sees her Grandpa like this ? And her mother in this condition? God…’ she shivered.

Her growl bounced through the ceiling. as a dying bird in kite’s paws her arms struggling. He then released her waist and pressed her neck hard. choking her breath. His other hand pushing hard against her mouth. Letting her words die into a fumble. She turned around gasping for air. His blood shot eyes hungrily staring her lips. His face dripping off sweat like a ripen orange. Lust filtering through his sight. He smiled cruelly at his weak prey.

Over the years his body had turned older yet he was strong enough for a delicate beauty Renuka was. She was shocked and moreover unprepared. Though she had been sensing his desires but didn’t expect this all. “Papa leave me”, tears dwelling through her eyes at her words. He didn’t know mercy. “Leave me papa”, she begged. He threw her on her knees. Her sobbs wetting her lap. “Please papa, spare me for God’s sake”. Her heart sank at his words. “don’t waste time darling, it won’t take too long. It’s your birthday after all”.

He leaned forward pressing her to his chest. His fingers searching all over her back. A hard lump rising up her throat. He was no more the man who fathered her husband. But had turned into an animal. She tried to escape. Her fist scratching against him. Her anger taking over the pity she had fallen into. There was no time to think of anything else. She had to do something or else everything will change forever.

She digged her finger nails gaping through his knuckles. His fury raised. Turning him more vicious. When a women is at ease, she could be weak, obeying or sweet, but when it comes to her dignity who knows what comes out of her. She could twist the arms of tree or pull down the blow of storm. She was in a situation she had never imagined. but when all other doors were shut off at her, she had to make a way out. He stepped back a little balancing his feet. She picked up the opportunity and clasped his knuckles entangling her heel gaping in between his legs. He scowled in disapproval. Her nerves bursting of rushing bloodstream.

He was still digesting this flip of the  fragile butterfly, he had attacked. She threw her hands haywire. Punching his chest and face. Within a fraction of second she was on the floor. His one punch blew her off. He jumped over her. this time like a wild fox. Not wasting any more time.  He hovered greedily at her. Her sweat wetting the floor. This was the moment, her instinct took over. A sharp knife waiting for her at the slab slid through her palm, drawing a sleek line. Small droplets wetting her grip on it. He drew closer to her. She hid her hand to her back. He grabbed her with hairs this time. No benignancy. Only greed.

She had skinned off her delicate layer. Swift as a tigress she bent down on her knee, letting him Wiggle around. Next moment her knife pierced hard through his skin. His thigh pouring off. She was still in flow. She slid off across. Looking back she knew he was still on his knees. She ran through the hallway. Her heart thumping out of her chest. She hid out of the main door. Heat rising up her cheeks.

‘Why didn’t i picked up my phone while running? Where did i put it’ ? Her mind racing haywire. ‘Whom would i call? Arun? What would he feel like? What if he doesn’t believe? What if he believes? How would he come back ? How would he stay there after listening this? How would shiny feel if she gets to know this about her Grandpa. Shiny? Holy crap..’

‘I left her inside. She might have woken up after hearing her screams. What if he does something to her daughter’. This thought scared her to hell. Even more than the moment she was attacked. All of a sudden her maternal instincts took over the daring women she had become. ‘But if he had been waiting for her. What if…’ ? thoughts roaring hard in her mind. She had to take a step. She couldn’t leave her princess inside with a monster.d

The door creaked as she pulled it open. slowly. Silence evapourating through the wooden floor. She stepped hoping her feet turn into feathers. maintaining a pin-drop-silence in the room. Swiftly she flew through the hallway. She sighed, her princess still lost in her dreams. A strange relax hugged her. Back away a faded scream haunting her ears.

She couldn’t dare to face him again. A cry called her out. Her heart sinking. Guilt enshrouded her sight. She knew what she did. What she didn’t know were the consequences. What’s coming ahead for her. It was all a sudden act, a reaction.

Tears wailed up in her eyes. With blurring vision she stood facing that monster. and Arun. Tears rolling down. Wetting the floor a little more. Kitchen had  turned to the pool of blood. He howled one last time. The house echoed in his pain. Arun’s eyes had hundreds of queations. Swimming in tears. In reply, She had just one, ‘Am i wrong’ ?. Soon she too collapsed down the floor.

Image credit: Google pics

Smriti Srivastava

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