That evening too, she set off for the beach as usual, although somewhere in her mind there was a protest. Someone was advising her not to go and to terminate the intimacy with Aravind from developing into something, for which she may have to repent in future. And although she had no idea of what was going to happen that evening, she had a hitherto unknown premonition that something untoward was about to happen. Yet, a freakish force, like black magic, pushed her forward.
‘Why should I cut off all contact with Aravind?’ She thought. ‘And that too so abruptly? Yesterday, he crossed the limits all right, but it was a folly, I believe. Otherwise, why should he have been so decent all these days? I will make him understand today, explain to him that he had been too foolish yesterday.’
He was there. His face appeared angry as if something unexpected had happened to him. But when she reached nearer, he looked more bored than angry as if he had waited long for her and was not sure whether she will come at all. And he did not see her till she reached very near.
As soon as he saw her, he got up.
“What is this? How long I waited here for you?”
She looked up at his face. ‘It is irritating. He speaks as if he has every right to own me and I am supposed to be his obedient maid. Was I wrong in my assumption about his true nature?’ She thought.
Of course, he had spoken such words in the past too, but after yesterday, she found a different meaning in them.
And in reality, she was not wrong in her new assessment. After her good-night of the last evening, he had felt great elation. He drove home in high spirits, thinking only of her. The sweetness of her lips and mouth, the fragrance of her body, the silkiness of the luxuriant hair, the velvet-like skin, everything. Her eyes are as clear and sparkling as crystals! The ocean of beauty is hidden in them. She is bright as summer daylight.
After reaching home also, he was in the same upbeat mood. He could not eat well, since his happiness, like thick porridge, blocked his throat. He retreated to his room, tried to read, but found his attention slipping away from the book to her beauty. He congratulated himself upon his luck for having had her in his hold for quite sometime.
“She is a fairy, so grant, ripe as a juicy, cherry fruit.” He went on thinking. His thoughts were now fully laden with lust.
And it was a natural development. In the college days, in his adolescent thoughts, he placed her on a high pedestal. Of pure friendship. And was afraid to move forward. He made himself believe that all that “hai” and “honey” are mere expressions of undiluted friendship.
And later, when they met at the sea-shore, he took more and more liberties with her, but Anitha, in the throes of a deeper feeling of frustration and subsequent disappointment did not see anything unusual in his adventures, but wrote off them as adventitious.
Later on, when her mind was poisoned by the contemptuous behavior of her mother-in-law and she started thinking about life as an unavoidable burden, his bold attempts did not seem to matter, except as an outlet for her tense feelings for some sort of revenge. It was especially so, after her responses slipped into a mode of dejection, since her husband’s hand slipped down from her shoulder.
On the other hand, Aravind had reached that stage, due to her inadvertent inaction, where he found her as a beautiful, fascinating and stimulating girl and today, he was seeing her in his mind’s eye as a girl with soft, voluptuous, sweet body. Her feelings, her love, emotions and expectations were vanished in the avalanche of his desire for her, which was so far hidden in the guise of mistaken friendship, but came out in the open, by the magic touch of her body. Now he felt an urgent need to possess her, full and fully.
Lock, stock and barrel,
Tongue, lung, mung,
Ding, Dong, Ding,
Lip, hip, sip and rip
Lick and suck the luck
Devour the divine diet
Swallow the savory Ambrosia
Heady musk in golden cask
Tasting sweet heavens
I will tell her tomorrow. I will. Can’t tolerate any more, any longer. Poor girl. I never bothered about her desire. She could not say it. And did she give any hint?
He pondered over.
Yes, she said it once. That she had no dreams. And she had also said that all dreams smell of rotten orange.
He also remembered that on that day he was wearing an orange-color shirt.
But why rotten?
Her desperation made it seem rotten. She was wrong. The smell of orange was fresh and rejuvenating and what-not. The sweet taste of her mouth.
The entire day next, he was in a state of exuberance. He could hardly eat anything. The dazzling light of anticipation made him immune to the happenings around. And somehow, he succeeded in packing off the minutes and hours and climbed the crest of a hysterical ecstasy, where it was no longer possible to confine himself within four walls.
And that was why he was at the sea-shore very early. And somehow, he expected her to come early and when she did not, he became angry and irritated. He forgot the sweet words he had stored for his fairy. Frustration and desperation took charge of him. They blocked the flow of tenderness in him, making his welcome bleak and black.
But as soon as he said it, he realized the mistake. ‘Did I spoil the game?’ He asked himself. ‘Did I repel my dame? No, I will not let it go wrong.’
He sat down and took her hand. She looked into his eyes. And today, unlike other days, she noticed a speck of wickedness in his eyes. There was an indecision and confusion in his look. And his forced smile was grotesque. It shivered on his lips.
She remembered the premonition of hers. All these together made her afraid. His body seemed to exude a hot, pungent smell. She had experienced this smell earlier, she was certain. She tried to place it and then it came to her as a devastating thunder. She felt that she was standing near an iron cage in a zoo, while the occupant of it roared and growled.
She jerked her hand away and got up.
He was puzzled now. ‘How come my words had such an obnoxious reaction? As if I said something seriously wrong?’
Suddenly, his reasoning took an about turn. No. She is not insulting me. She is rather inviting. After all, how far she can wait for me to make the move. What a fool I? I took her patience as abstinence.
He jumped up as a rebounding rubber doll and tried to catch hold of her as if saving himself from falling down. But Anitha saw through him and took a step backward. He just rubbed his hand at her waist. A seducing smile played on his red lips.
“Come on. Let us walk a bit” He said.
“Why? I walked all the way from home.”
“Oh. Come on. Come on darling”. He said, winking at her.
In the past, he had never addressed her as darling. And the winking of the eye? Today, it was not a childish mischief, but a calculated move, and to her, it was abasing himself and insulting her. His feet seemed not firm on the ground and the onslaught of piled-up desires made him falter. Dizziness was swamping his thoughts.
Suddenly, he advanced and took her fiercely in his sweaty grip and bent down, bending her head backwards. The red lips moved at her like a dry, deep wound.
Using all her strength, she pushed him away. And losing his balance, he fell down.
Anitha looked around. There were only a few people on the beach and none was near to have noticed the incident. She looked towards the sea.
It was strangely calm near the shore. The receding brightness dangled for a while on the sheet of bluish water and then rolled itself in the huge wave to slip through as a weak herald of impending darkness.
The lamp posts had already flowered.
Anitha wanted to run away from there to merge with the crowd, which was building up. But she could not, since Aravind had gotten up, blocking her path. A sheepish smile played in his eyes.
“Sorry, Anitha.” I should not have been in such a hurry. After all, sweetness is for relishing and not for devouring.”
His feet were firm now. The fall had shattered his indecision and now he was determined.
“Stop it., Aravind. I don’t like these.” She hissed.
“What do you not like? Waiting all the while? For me to begin? No? O.K. Now we will give a farewell to worthless conservations and do something pleasant. Right?”
“Wrong. Terribly wrong you are. Do I look such a girl? And mind you, this is the end of our acquaintance.”
She turned back.
The frustration made him angry.
“You were fooling me all along” He said. “And now pretend to be different. Why? What for? Come on.” His voice suddenly became sweetish. “Life is for enjoyment.” He coaxed her. “Not for wasting in meaningless ideals. And I know that you too know it. Come. Let us sit here, alone in our world, in our secret heaven.”
Anitha did not pay and heed to his blabbering. Both his accusation and cajolery were simply drops of water on a lotus leaf.
And she tried to move away.
Suddenly, the inviting smile on his lips vanished. His face contorted with rage.
A man invited to a grand feast and then asked to get out……..
A drunkard denied of his intoxicant……….
A tiger who found his kill vanished…….
His face lost all charm and the ever-present touch of childishness. The contorted face was now that of a truculent predator with exposed fangs.
By now, it was darkness all around. Near them were only very few people, who were too immersed in talks to notice them, the horrid happenings near-by.
Anitha avoided looking at him. She was horrified.
What to do? To run away was impossible. He was blocking her path like a maniac. Obsessed with violent desire.
He was panting heavily.
“You bitch.”He rasped. “You provoked me with your dirty tricks and now…..now….” The outburst of emotions choked him, but he continued laboriously. “Now you dare to face me like a stupid dumb broad, preaching chastity. Damn you, you……… And I won’t leave you now.”
He caught her hands in a vice-like grip. And jolted her towards him.
The hunter was now playing cruelly with his prey, squeezing her, inflicting severe pain, biting and hurting.
A hungry child suddenly exposed to a variety of rich food, touching and licking everything, not knowing where to begin.
An adolescent boy, twisting and pressing and biting the keys on a beautiful doll, but getting no encouraging response.
His breathing became fast and labored. He was sweating profusely. Lust gleamed in his eyes like the reflection of an ominous statue. Desire covered his face like a red mask with lips contorted.
The torture was unbearable.
Then he stopped for a while to take breath and then began again. Bursting out obscenities all the while. The attack of his sadistic mind-set, coupled with brutal lust, was mounting.
She shouted helplessly, but the cry was mercilessly crushed by his wet salty hand. She felt unable to breathe and as a spontaneous reaction, bit his hand with all her strength, making him withdraw with excruciating pain, which brought him back to his senses.
“I am sorry.” He murmured.
She was about to run away that he suddenly sat down, holding his head in both hands, as if it was going to burst. He hiccupped and retched violently and his entire body shook like a weak reed in a wild storm. White, oily vomit fogged his twisted lips and when he gasped, it flowed in.
Now she was feeling no fear and no hatred. Instead, a wave a pity surged through her. ‘Poor man.’ She thought. ‘Did I ever tempt him? No.’ She was sure of it. ‘But if he had found a different explanation for any of my action, what can I do?’
She called him Ribbie and he called her Ras. He had touched her in the past and joked, at times with a pinch of vulgarity. But she took it all as a display of closer friendship. Never expected it to take such an ugly turn. What to do now? Is he sick? How can I leave him like this?
She bent down and pulled him up and said:
“I have to go now. It is too late” And she turned and walked towards the road.
He followed her silently.
When they reached his car, he said:
“I am sorry for everything. I mistook you. You were so free with me as…….as…” he stammered and hesitated to continue.
She did not say anything. The silence was unbearable to him.
“Why don’t you say something, Ani? Your silence I cannot tolerate. Please” He touched her hand.
She jerked off her hand and turned violently. Staring into his eyes, she spoke out:
“I considered you as a friend. A real friend, who understood me. But I was wrong. Utterly wrong. You took me……..” An outburst of emotions choked her, but she continued. “You took me as a sensuous girl. A senseless maniac, boiling with lust. You…..You…” Her resolve faltered and she started sobbing ceaselessly.
Controlling the impulse to take her in his hold and to console, he murmured:
“Yes, Ani. I admit my entire fault. It was all a mistake. Believed that I saw a mute invitation in all your gestures. And it filled me with ardor and later with lust. Yes, Ani, I confess. I did not try at all to understand the real you. I made myself a bloody fool. Now I realize. And promise to be a real friend. I am now convinced that the warmth of friendship is far dear than the ugly heat of passion. Now, please do not loathe me. I can no more tolerate it.” He folded his hands as if in prayer: “Please Ani.”
“O.K. Now I am leaving.” She said and turned.
He said hesitantly: “If you don’t mind, I shall drop you.” Then all on a sudden, his face lit up:
“See, you said the other day that you don’t want to be dropped. Remember?”
“I don’t remember. Anyway, I am sure that I never said that I do not want to be dropped by anyone particularly.”
“Yes. That is right”. He was recovering slowly from the shock. “Now come, get inside.”
She searched his face. Not a trace of truculence.
A real friend’s face.
And she got in.
“I understand my husband more and more.” She said slowly. “And realizing too that he indeed cares for me. And it is my home.”
“Right you are. That is your home. And I too realize that you have a husband. But one thing. A husband cannot be …..” He stopped abruptly.
She felt a sense of self-pity. Trapped in between her own words?
What did he want to say?
The car was slowing down.
Now what he is going to do?
She opened the door slightly with one hand, while looking at him. It was in semi-darkness. But she sensed a childish gleam in his eyes.
“I mean that a husband cannot be a friend. I am your friend only, but a real friend, after our having exposed to each other and after your having corrected the brute which I was.”
He drove ahead silently.
The car stopped at the cross-roads and she got out.
“Good Night, Ribbie”
He was filled with warmth, when reciprocated.
“Good Night, you Ras”
Her mind was quiet now. She looked towards the near-by shop. A mother was coming out with a small child. The child was insistent on buying something, but a firm, reproachful look of his mother silenced him.
“They are always children. Poor Aravind” She thought.
She knew that her lower lip was swollen a bit, but could not care less.
Now we are friends. She was sure of it.
When she entered the house, it was her mother-in-law who faced her.
“You are very late.” She admonished.
Strangely, Anitha felt no revulsion to-day. Yes, I should return earlier.
Or why should I go out at all?
She turned slightly to hide the swollen lip and said:
“Yes Mother. I am sorry.”
The lady was taken aback. Her eyes opened wide. She had always felt that Anitha was her enemy. An enemy’s friend too is an enemy. And gradually it had become her habit. To find fault in whatever Anitha did. And Anitha reciprocated in the same coin. Her face said it more often than not. And it was like an adjustment between them. Congo drums looking suspiciously at bugle. In that sense, they were complimentary. It kept the lady’s mind engaged often. The imaginary game of giving vent to hatred was her favorite intoxication.
All that entertainment seemed to vanish with the words from Anitha. Now she was at a loss to understand as to what to do.
She felt cheated. And fooled.
To her, the humble words were like Anitha spitting on her face.
She took away her eyes from Anitha’s face and Anitha walked to her room, but was soon intercepted by Moli.
She immediately saw the swollen lip. Her consternation was clear in her words:
“What happened? Your lips are swollen?”
Anitha searched for a plausible excuse. She could find none.
But the girl’s next question provided the clue.
Having noted the faint smile of Anitha, Moli joked:
“Were you hungry? You seem to have tried to eat your own lips?”
“Yes Moli. I accidentally happened to bite my lips.” She said with relief.
“So you were dreaming. Expecting someone to come from the other shore? To eat you alive?”
Anitha noted that Moli was very happy. She tried to find out the reason, without asking directly.
A hide and seek game of words after the emotional upheaval seemed to be the best tonic.
“Yes. That is it.” She said. But how did you find it out? So soon?”
The flattery trapped the poor girl.
“Yes. That is it. The plane from Oman will land on the day after tomorrow”.
Anitha knew that the words emerged directly from her heart. Even the news of his impending arrival seemed to console her.
“And he asked for you.” Moli continued. “I told him that you……….” A mischievous smile played on her lips. “That you are bored of his absence and now are sitting at the sea-shore looking towards Oman.”
A gust of wind tucked her hair. Anitha felt relieved of all worries. She knew that at last she has realized herself. I wanted him here, with me, always. I never hated him, but was bored of his absence. And now I will tell him to take me with him, wherever he wants to. Never to leave me here alone.
And she felt pure and clean.
Moli was looking at her. Not on her face, but above it. There was tiny bit of wonder and appreciation in her eyes.
“What you are looking at?” Anitha asked her.
“The aura. I have heard that when people are very happy, we can see the aura.”
“And do you see it?”
Anitha reached her room. Everything seemed beautiful. Her eyes fell on the telephone. On an impulse, she took her small diary. She located a number and dialed.
From the other side, she heard: “Hallo.”
She recognized it.
“Do you know who it is?” She asked.
“Well…….Yes…yes. Yes. You Ani? A pleasant surprise.” Now concern replaced his ecstacy. “What….what happened?”
“No. Nothing to worry. Only a ve….ry glad news. He is come….ing. The day after tomorrow.”
“Good. Very good.” He said, relieved.
“Thanks.” She disconnected. And said to herself “Good Night.”
Through the open door, she saw her father-in-law asking her silently to feed him.
The sign of relief in his voice still echoed in her ear.