The phone keeps ringing as Ayana paces in the living room. She keeps biting her nails nervous, on how to ask the question but the person on the other side never picks up the phone. Finally, she calls another person who would be angry with her call but, will definitely tell her what she desperately needs to know. The floor is probably worn out with the way she is walking on it.
She knew she should have done something earlier but, now, it was too late. She didn’t know what news was waiting for her. She would not survive it. She knew it was reckless to do this. She was an idiot for leaving like that. The memories of her departure from that apartment taunt her, she will be forever haunted, she was sure of that.
Raj picks up the phone. His voice husky, sadness or happiness, she wasn’t sure and greets, inquiring into the phone.
“Hello. Who is this?”
“Raj, it is me.” She sighs. “It is Ayana. I was wondering if you had heard from Aisha. I have been trying but she isn’t picking up.”
“You have a lot of nerve calling me.” Raj seethes. If words could kill, she would have been dead by now. “You destroyed everything now, you have the guts to call me. Who do you think you are?” He yells the last part. To say, Ayana was shocked was the least but she still managed to croak out something.
“What do you mean? I am just trying to contact Aisha. Please tell if she is with you and if not, can you ask her to call me?”
Something clatters on the other side and another soothing voice came through. It was probably Raj’s wife, Umang, trying to console him. Why was he so angry? In all the time, she had known him, he has always had a short temper but she was never seen him so furious. Sensing him so upset raveled something inside her.
Soon there were loud wails on the other side confusing Ayana even more. Sensing they need privacy; she disconnected the call. Remembering what she had left in the upstairs, she jogged towards the bathroom, a little unsteady, a little nervous and a whole lot of hesitation in her pace.
She couldn’t catch a hold of Aisha but she wanted to explain why she did what she did. A part of her silence was her cowardice, and was probably the reason of something bad happening to her. She knew she was too weak to tell her family everything.
What she saw on the counter of the bathroom changed redefined every moment so far. Tears started leaking her eyes and she knew, she knew in that moment that now, she can’t do anything. This is her reality now. For some absurd reason, her brain wandered to all the places it shouldn’t, starting with the point that created this mess.
Sitting in front of her parents, no matter how hard she tried but, she couldn’t speak the words.
“Abhimanyu is the perfect boy for our daughter. He is an upper class brahmin with good job, great salary and he is so sanskari.” Ayana couldn’t help but roll her eyes at the last part. She had her obligations but she cannot do this.
“Mummy, I am pretty sure I earn more than him.”
Her mother shushed her and obviously, she was told to marry the guy and fulfil her duties of a good ‘daughter’. She never could get the words out.
As she sat on the floor of the bathroom reminiscing, her tears kept leaking out and her mind was being assaulted by the memories. A phone ringing pulled her out of her trance, it was Umang.
Tentatively, she answered.
“I am sorry, Ayana, for the way Raj reacted. He is still upset over the whole ordeal.”
“I understand. I broke her heart. I deserved that. I just want to talk to her.”
“You can’t.” She sighed.
“What do you mean ‘I can’t’?”
There was a hesitancy on her part and she was even more worried. Umang was completely and utterly silent for a few moments before she answered.
“She committed suicide the day you got married.”
The ground felt unstable and bile rose to her throat. Leaving her phone on the floor, she moved to the toilet on the other side of the bathroom and retched, retched till she couldn’t breathe anymore. She could hear Umang’s voice in the distant but she wasn’t sensible enough to react to it.
One thought kept rattling her mind- I am a killer.
She passed out from her excessive weeping, right there on the bathroom floor and the nightmares started.
“I can’t do this anymore.” Ayana told Aisha as she was packing her suitcase.
“You are not going to fight for us.” It wasn’t a question but a resigned revelation. There were tears in Aisha’s eyes and her heart was in her throat. Ayana couldn’t look at her because she knew, if she did, she wouldn’t be able to leave.
“I have to go. My mummy and papa have made their decision.” Then she hammered the final nail in the coffin when she turned to Aisha. She took her gently in her arms and gave her a kiss that spoke a thousand things but held no hope, no happiness.
The saltiness of their tears intertwined with the bitterness of their farewell and the sweetness of their kiss. Knowing when it is time to give up, Aisha accepted the goodbye and it was time to depart.
The front door of the house opened just as Ayana woke up from her frightening memory. If she had been strong enough, she would have never lost the love of her life. If she had confessed her thoughts. If…if…if…if…
None of that mattered anymore. She got up and looked at the counter. The two pink line staring back had decided her future and she was no more the good daughter or the obedient wife. She pasted a smile of fake enthusiasm on her face and went to greet her husband. The role had changed but the agony remained.