This short story was my entry for the below picture prompt.
She knew exactly where to find her.
Sue locked the front door of her cottage and headed out to the lake gathering her jacket. She wondered if Heather has carried hers. The evening chill was slowly creeping and she felt the cold caress of the wind on her exposed cheeks.
Heather was agitated and she had the reason to be.
Sue tried to gather the right words and keep them ready to use, even though she herself did not know if they would be good enough to guide her friend safely through the storm which was brewing in her matrimony.
Heather had found a resort booking with details of one room under the name of Allison plus one, in her husband Harry’s mail.
She did not mean to snoop. But her instincts were tingling, triggered by his late office hours and an assortment of flimsy excuses for coming home late.
The booking was for the weekend. She nourished the improbable hope that, it was just Allison, Harry’s assistant, who would be going for the business meet. When he left, Saturday morning for the meet at the resort, Heather did not confront him. Instead she left for her sanctuary. Her best friend Sue and her cottage near the lake.
Sue found Heather, at their usual place and settled next to her.
“What did I do wrong? Heather’s voice was barely a whisper.
Sue put her arms around her friend. “Don’t shift the blame towards you, girl. Harry knew what was at stake, when he embarked on his adulterous relationship. “
“Maybe he wasn’t happy with me”
“Cut it out Heather. I knew how happy you were together. If happiness was running low, you don’t go searching for it in the arms of another woman. You talk and sort out your issues.”
Silence descended between them, riding on the wings of the peaceful evening. The crest of the faraway mountain was gilded with snow, like an angel at the apex of a Christmas tree.
Sue said “ Fall is almost over girl. Trees never remain bare, with their dead leaves gone. Life starts all over again for them. Does it not fill you with hope? We will get through this. “
Heather leaned towards Sue and rested her head on Sue’s shoulders.
I wrote this short story as a response for the above picture prompt.
“I waited for your call, for long. Don’t tell me that you were too busy to send at least a message!!!”
Arun sank into the chair, not responding to Anija’s barbs. He dropped his bag on the floor and patted on the adjacent chair, a silent invitation for Anija to sit.
Anija sat, not bothering to untie her barista’s apron. She had been waiting for Arun to pick her up. He was expected an hour ago and she got tired of checking her phone every 2 minutes for at least a message explaining the delay. She knew that his boss has an important presentation coming up and naturally he would be anticipated to stay back beyond regular office time.
“ I am sorry baby. We were on the finishing touches for tomorrow.” Said Arun
Anija did not reply. She got up to collect his espresso and her café mocha.
“Do you want a slice of apple pie? I can ask Rajni to warm it up for us.” Arun’s tired and pained expression had cooled Anija down.
Anija was preparing for her SAT exam and was working part-time at the Café. Friday nights were movie nights and she had already booked two tickets for them to watch the evening show. Arun was expected to pick her up at 5 pm so that she could go home and dress up for their romantic evening. It was 6:30 already and Arun looked like all he wanted was to go home and sleep.
“Why are we like this Arun? Another date cancelled. It has just been a year together and all we do is argue. “
“You have a milk mustache,” said Arun, pulling out a napkin for her.
“You didn’t answer my question, Arun”.
“Who is that old couple?” asked Arun happy for the distraction.
Anija turned back to look at the couple seated at the farthest corner next to the glass panel facing the busy road.
“ I don’t know their names. But they are our Friday regulars. They are here every Friday evening. I don’t know if they are married. He always comes early and carries flowers. I have no idea where he gets them. Definitely not from a shop. Looks like wildflowers to me. They have their coffee, cappuccino with extra cinnamon and no sugar. She carries this book which she reads out for him sometimes. Or they just sit together looking outside. They stay here for more than an hour and we don’t disturb them. They seem to be so much in love.” Anija said glancing in their direction
“Look, they are asking for the bill. Should we talk to them? Maybe we can take some tips from them, you know.” said Arun
“I don’t know. Won’t it look weird, if we try to follow them? They may not be staying together, you know, because they come at different times and leave together.”
“But there is no harm in trying. We could meet them outside. I don’t look like a pick-pocket, do I? Moreover, they must know you by sight. Let’s go. They will be out in another minute.” Arun grabbed his bags and went out. Anija followed him reluctantly.
They waited near the pavement for the couple to exit.
They came out and walked together, the man looking to hail a cab.
“This is our chance, “whispered Arun walking towards the couple
“Hello. I am Arun and this s my wife Anija “said Arun, extending his hand for a handshake.
“Hey, I know you. You are Anija from the café,” said the old man smiling.
“He read your name tag” added the old lady with a wink, as an answer to Anija’s surprised look.
“Oh, Umm…We were wondering about you both. I see you every Friday in the café and you look so happy in each other’s company”, said Anija.
The man laughed. “I am Antony and this is my wife Sindhu. We stay nearby.”
“I can see that question on your face. We walk into your café separately, so that it feels like our first date” answered Antony with a smile.
“Yeah, we were pen-pals for two years. We met in this café for the first time. He was seated in that very place we always sit. He was putting an act of reading a newspaper without realizing that he was holding it upside down, “said Sindhu with a smile.
“Amazing. What is it that I see you read to him?” asked Anija
“That is the manuscript for our book. We have compiled our letters to each other and our son is getting it published. From Duke to Lima with Love. That will be the title” replied Antony.
“That is great. How do you guys manage to stay so happy this long?” asked Arun.
They looked at each other. Antony took Sindhu’s hand in his and said, “Staying in love isn’t easy. When in doubt, all you need is to remember, why, and how you fell in love. Then revisit and relive those memories. That’s what we do. It helps.”
“Let’s go. Our cab is here, ” said Sindhu.
“We will talk again next Friday. We need to go now”
Arun and Anija stood watching; as Antony opened the door of the cab for Sindhu tucked her trailing shawl inside and moved in after her.
“ It said ‘ Rebel With a Cause”.
“Your t-shirt. The one you were wearing when you walked in through that door of the café and almost tripped on my bag which was on the floor. Your tee had Rebel With a Cause written on it.” said Arun taking Anija’s arms.
“I am a Rebel. That’s why I am with the Cause, you idiot,” said Anija bumping Arun with her side as they walked towards their home hand in hand.
Everything was absolutely in place and customary when she got up early Monday morning. She switched off the alarm, carefully removed her husband’s arms entwined around her and headed off to kitchen . She liked everything normal and habitual that followed a preset pattern. Having to do things differently caused her irritation and she loved her methodical life.
Even going out and having fun followed a time table which they did on Saturdays. It was always a movie, random shopping and lunch.Once in a while she would do things unplanned and chaotic. On such occasions she would be restless tills she falls back on track. Even though she was aware of this quirk in her nature, she didn’t find anything strange in her behaviour and her husband never complained.
As usual, she was in her comfort zone, making their Monday special banana pancakes and the next agenda in her timetable was to keep the kitchen waste outside. She did it promptly and went to the balcony to collect another waste disposal bag .
Then and there the trouble erupted.Her husband had not placed his shoes on the shoe rack where it was meant to be.It was on the floor with the soiled socks strewn around .She hated having to touch another person’s soiled socks even if that another person was her husband. Now seeing the balcony in a disarray, she felt irritation welling within her like a volcano waiting to erupt.
She disliked reminding him to do the same thing multiple times. So she would bottle up this soreness within her for days, observing it intensifying every day, due to some things or the other out of place, like a wet towel on the bed, unfolded blanket, dirty foot prints on a freshly mopped floor, dirty linen which missed the free shot into the laundry bag.
All these amplified her feeling of being taken for granted.
Then it would erupt and she would let her anger flow, careful that the lava doesn’t cause any harm to anything or anyone nearby.
She would be clamming up her brain with thoughts of leaving her husband and staying alone and not having anyone to bother about or anyone to disrupt her picture perfect life.
She would pour out her anger in all those conversations that happened in her head, words which would wring his heart, which she would otherwise dare not utter. Then she would feel remorse for even having those thoughts. This would calm her down. She would drown her husband in her love for the next few days till it happened all over again.
Today, having had to face this soiled socks and strewn shoes early morning itself, she felt the storm brewing within.
She first thought of flinging them out of the balcony, then thought of hiding them . As she kept concocting her devious plans and thoughts, she felt her not so good alter ego gaining control. She felt its evil presence enveloping her, but for once she let herself succumb to its power.
Her husband got up at 7 a.m, came to the kitchen to give and receive the good morning hug and sat with the news paper and his coffee .
Her plan was to spill little water on the marble floor near the bathroom .She expected him to slip and fall, thus taking her sweet revenge for spoiling her day. He finished his coffee and headed for his bath.
She was in the kitchen listening for the thud and the voice of him calling out for her.
She heard the dull sound of something hitting the floor and then silence.
Seconds passed and she failed to hear the groaning as expected. Her wicked state of mind gave way to alarm and she flew to their bedroom.
There he lay, motionless, blood pooling on the white floor around his head. She knelt down beside him and shook him, calling his name again and again.
This wasn’t what she expected. She did not imagine or want him to hit his head on the sharp corner of the bed, or for him to lay still like the way he was lying now. “ No, No..Oh God, No…” She screamed…
“Stop it …wake up…” It was her husband shaking her. She opened her eyes, realizing, what she had gone through, was just a dream. “ Were you having a nightmare? It’s 5:30 am .Aren’t to going to work today.?” he asked. She heaved a sigh of relief and said,”No, I am taking a day off. Let’s spend a day together.What say ? ..” “ You are a very wicked woman ,” he said smiling.