This time, the wounds ran deeper.
She lay there quietly, bundled up in corner of the untidy room. At a glance, one might have mistaken her for a pile of clothes, lying in a corner, forgotten, useless.
Her head hurt, and her mind even more, but the intensity of the physical pain was infinitesimal compared to the mental anguish that was now an everyday occurrence in her life. However, this time, its inertia seemed impregnable.
How could he have said this? She wailed silently , her mind in a devastating state of turmoil.
“ I hate you! I hate you! I was a fool to marry you! What did you bring into my life? Two good-for-nothing sons? And a wretched daughter? That filthy rich father of yours is revelling in luxury while I have to beg you everyday for everything…..And now this child? What are you, woman? I….I will kill this one! Yeah, I will kill this one, this devil!” Her husband, her once loving husband, had punctuated his rantings with physical abuse, leaving indelible marks on her body, and soul.
He had killed their baby, killed his soul, and along with it, hers.
Wrestling with her grief, she walked down memory lane.
They had been so happy together; he, the handsome thirty year old businessman, and she, a twenty year old charming woman, were a match made in Heaven. He had been what could be called a paragon of love and care, prioritizing her above anything. He had been perfect. But not for long.
The perfect image that he had created in her mind was ruthlessly burned down to ashes when a year after their marriage, he was arrested for illegal dealings.
Her mirror had shattered. Her life had become a stagnant pool of dolours.
He had lied to her, deceived her. But why? He had surely loved her…and their one-month old son! Or hadn’t he? Her questions remained unanswered forever.
But it was not just a case of mistaken identity.
Love is a special feeling, she postulated. But how am I supposed to know? I have never felt it, experienced it…but then what was that? A figment of her imagination? No….a façade that clothed his cruel self and perhaps justified all his actions, she corrected herself.
He had never even loved her. He had used her, and her wealth to satisfy his never ending lust for money. In fact, it was her money that saw him out of jail. Their marriage was parallel to an unspoken, unacknowledged business contract; the sort of contract that had listed all the losses under her accounts and the profits under his. He had mercilessly killed the lively, jocular girl that had once lived within her, leaving behind a strange, frightened young woman who found it an onerous task to trust someone. His undying thirst for wealth was never quenched. Depleting all their money and their savings had been quite an easy task for him. And he needed more. Always. He needed it for alcohol and drugs. And when his wish remained unfulfilled, he would vent out his anger on his faithful wife, the wife who still loved him, despite all the injuries that he had inflicted upon her. Beating her black and blue was nothing short of a hobby for him, and her painful wails, an epiphany.
Whose identity had she mistaken? His or hers? Which path was she supposed to take now? The paved or the unpaved? Whichever one she was going to choose, it would be her feet that would bleed. Not his.
She stood in the mirror, staring at the reflection of a woman whose spirit had been incarcerated for so long, that the possibility of freedom was daunting. The words of her charismatic history teacher echoed in her ears “ ‘ Man was born free, but everywhere he is in chains.’ Rousseau was a wise man, was he not?“ She knew the answer now. Back then, she had her own set of dogma, an unshaken belief in herself, in her capability to fight off the challenges and adversity that life presented to her. Where was that belief now? Why had she suffered in silence? Why had she allowed her identity to be scathed, molested, ruined and torn apart? Because she was afraid. Afraid that the so called honourable Pakistani society would shun her for not being a submissive wife, for not “ compromising “…that too when her husband was her choice and not her parents’.
The fault, she slowly and painfully admitted was “…..not in our stars/But in ourselves that we are underlings.” Shakespeare was another thread of her past.
Her pleadings for mercy for herself and her children, were Greek to him. It was time to sort out her loyalties.
She had loved him. She still loved him. She had been faithful to him, and would always be. How could she not?
Silently moving towards the bed, she looked down upon the rugged face that belonged to her husband. She had made her decision. If pain was embedded into her destiny, irrespective of whatever path she chose, then why not choose the one that would release her and her children from this inferno forever? Why not? Why hold back, out of fear of what people will say…..what the society will say? These people and this society had not nursed her wounds. They had not saved her from the savagery of a man who had eclipsed all humanity. But then, God helps those whose help themselves. The fault was hers. She had played the victim.
She took a deep breath.
“ Mehmood, did you see this news in the paper today? A young woman murdered her sleeping husband, and then committed suicide!” Nafeesa addressed her husband, horror easily perceptible in her nightingale voice.
“ Tut tut tut…! Too bad! Any mention of the children?” he questioned.
“ Yes……..It says here that she left a note asking them to be sent to her father,” Nafeesa replied, her voice drowning in pity.
“ Ahh well…….these things happen. Don’t be upset. Anyways, where is my breakfast? I am getting late for office!” he was now getting impatient.
“ Yes yes! I am getting it…..you are so impatient, Mehmood! “
The birds were chirping. Children were cycling to school. Nothing had changed.
The sun shone fiercely. Like everyday, it would set after a few hours, of another busy day.