Sheila gingerly touched her bruised cheek. After a fortnight of hiatus Rudra had beaten her again last night. She looked at herself into the mirror and was alarmed to see her face swollen to disproportionate level. But her alarm quickly faded. She knew no body would see her. They had no visitors. Not for the past five years. In a way, she was glad about it. She didn’t know how she would explain her frequent black eyes, or a broken nose. It never occurred to her that some of the visitors – had they had any – could or would help her. After five years, she had resigned to her fate. She heaved a long sigh and stood up. Akshara would be back in about an hour. Her daughter was the sole source of joy in her life now. Oh how much she loved her! Her gentle caress, she marveled, made the worst pain fade away. Akshara had started going to school that same year. Sheila’s life had not exactly a breeze, yet she was surprised how quickly kids grew up. Seemed only like yesterday when she’d seen her, the very first time. And here she was, already going to school.
Sheila knew Rudra had always wanted a boy. He had not even bothered to pretend to hide his strange fetish. ‘Our son will do this’, ‘we’ll buy this toy for our son’,’I want our son to become that’, ‘our son will have everything that I didn’t.’ Sheila never ventured to ask him what he would do if it were a girl. She was too scared of his passion. He’d after all, never hazarded a girl’s name whenever they were discussing for their imminent baby’s name. She’d hoped, for Rudra’s sake, that it turn out to be a boy. But when she saw her daughter, when she held her for the first time, she felt guilty of ever having wished it.
After her return from the hospital, an eerie calm settled over the house. A calm broken occasionally by the baby’s wail. She had no idea then that it was the calm before the storm. She could she the dejection on her husband’s eyes. He wore the look of someone being severely cheated. Then suddenly, one day, all hell broke loose. Rudra came home drunk, barely able to stand. When Sheila had tried to help him to bed he had struck her full on her face, cursing and abusing her. That had been the start. After a couple of times, he didn’t even need the excuse of intoxication. She had married against the wishes of her parents. Even her friends didn’t support her. They had coaxed her, threatened her, tried to bully her, but she had been adamant. Perhaps strangely it was their disapproval that drove her further towards Rudra. She had vowed to prove them wrong.
A gentle tap on the door, brought a smile on her face. Her princess was back. She went ahead and opened the door. Akshara looked up at her and lifted her arms upwards signalling her mother to pick her up. Sheila’s smile grew even bigger as she bent down to do just that. “How’s my baby?”
“Akshara is fine.” She said carelessly.
“What did you do at school?”
“You know mammy, Rohit peed in his pants today.”
“Miss Teresa sent him home.”
“You should have peed in your skirt too. You could come home to mammy early.”
Sheila kissed her and gently placed her on a chair. “Ready for Ice-cream?”
Akshara jumped up in joy. This, Sheila thought, is what kept her alive. Her bundle of joy. Just a little thing right now, and one day she’ll be going to college, running for a job, and getting married. The thought brought a sad smile on her face. She turned away, lest her daughter should see her tears.
* * *
“Open the door Sheila.” Rudra was shouting outside. Sheila had an uneasey feeling, so she sent Akshara to bed. Although, she knew that Akshara could hear everything. The screams, the abuses, Sheila could at least protect her daughter from seeing the actual violence. She stood up, and slowly went to open the door.
“What took you so long?” he glared.
Sheila didn’t bother to answer.
“Answer me you bitch.” Everything was a blurr for a moment. And it took sometime for Sheila to register the burning sensation in her face, and some more time to realise its cause.
“Answer me.” Rudra was screaming.
“I was in the bathroom.” Sheila blurted.
“What were you doing in there? Masturbating?”
“Yes.” Sheila knew the answer would provoke Rudra even more. But she couldn’t help it. She was angry herself.
“You whore! you answer me back like that? I’m gonna teach you a lesson today. Come here you Bitch.” Rudra lunged at her. Sheila reacted swiftly, but she bumped herself on a chair and fell down. The next instant Rudra was on top of her. Sheila tried to defend herself by clawing frantically. A punch however, somehow landed in Sheila’s face. A warm taste of blood filled her mouth. She started clawing even more frantically. Her nails came handy this time and she managed to scratch him few times. A punch landed right between her eyes, sending Sheila into momentary darkness. Rudra took the advantage and placed her hands sideways and locked it with his knees.
“You bitch. You wanna get fucked?” Rudra tore her blouse and started kneading her breast mercilessly. Sheila tried to wriggle out but it was of no use. He was simply too heavy. She didn’t give up, but knew the futility of trying. Rudra bent down and bit her breast. Sheila screamed in pain. At that instant Akshara came running towards the scene.
“Daddy no.” She caught Rudra’s right hand and started pulling it. With one swift movement he freed his hand which sent Akshara a couple of steps back.
“Get inside.” Rudra screamed.
“Yes. Go back in baby. Mammy will be right there.”
But the moment Rudra turned his back on her, she came forward again and started pulling him.
“You little witch. Don’t you understand? Get back inside.” Enraged he picked up the baby and threw her across. She hit the wall and fell, silent and immobile.
“No.” Sheila gave a cry of terror and lunged across to help her child. But a well timed kick in her stomach sent her bundled in the floor. Rudra gave her another kick and left the house hurling abuses.
* * *
Sheila woke up with a start. After last night’s ordeal, she was surprised she fell asleep at all. She planted a loving kiss on her daughter, cuddled up in her breast. After Rudra had left last night, she had hurried to have a look at Akshara. There was a small cut on her elbow, and a minor bruise on her forehead. Other than that, she seemed okay. Akshara hadn’t cried after the incident, and she didn’t know if she ought to be worried about it. For now, she was just relieved that her child was okay. She gently caressed the bruise on Adshara’s forehead, but quickly drew her hand back, when she stirred. She carefully left the bed and headed to the kitchen. She noticed on the way that Rudra had not returned that night. Not that she cared. After a cup of a very strong coffee, she started to have an idea of what she was going to do. Rudra had not exactly been a loving father. Though she was sure that he didn’t hate her. Inasmuch as he never hit her or abuse her. But yesterday changed everything. She may have resigned to her fate, but she was not going to let her daughter got through the physical abuses, and the mental trauma inexplicably attached to it. She would not be able to forgive herself if she allowed that to happen. Yesterday, she thought, was the proverbial last straw. She had to leave. But she wanted to have a few things clear with her husband, so she sat down to write to him.
When you find this, I might have gone far away, or i may be just across the street. In any case, I advice you not to come looking for me. We are leaving, leaving for good. I won’t tell you where I’m going, but my guess is, you’ll figure it out. You will notice that the jewellery, the cash, along with the ATM card, is not where its suppossed to be. I think after being subjected to all the physical as well as mental pain for all these years, you got yourself a fair deal. My lawyer will visit you shortly with divorce papers. I suggest you sign it, unless you want to display your monstrosity to the world. In addition, all further communication with me, or my daughter shall occur through my lawyer.
May you rot in peace
She left the letter on the table and went in to wake her daughter up. After she’d sent her to wash herself up, Sheila started packing. They ate their breakfast in utter silence. She left the dirty dishes on the table and picked up her luggage. She had deliberately chosen to pack light. You could never foresee disasters, so she took only what she could not leave behind. She caught Akshara’s hand and took one last look at the house she hoped to never return. She left the door open partially. It gave some kind of devious and deep satisfaction to think how Rudra would feel when he saw the door open. And she could only imagine where he would vent his rage when he found out she wasn’t there.
Akshara had not asked a single question on the way. Perhaps she knew her mother was up to something as Sheila was constantly looking over her shoulder. When they were alone or then they were lost in crowd. Sheila didn’t volunteer anything to her daughter either. She was occupied. Half worrying that Rudra would come looking for them, half feeling silly for worrying. And as the time dragged ahead she started to see Rudra everywhere. Her anxiety was at peak while she was waiting in line for tickets. And she almost made a dash for it when she saw Rudra running towards her. Thankfully, it proved to be someone else. It was only after the train started moving and picked up considerable speed that she found herself relaxing a little bit. She gave a loving smile to her daughter and picked her up to give her a kiss.
“Were are we going mammy?” Akshara asked quietly
“We are going to your grandparents’ house. To my mother and father.”
“I have a grand father and a grand mother?”
“And when will we come back?” She asked after sometime.
“Never.” Sheila said. Careful not to look too stern.
“What about school?”
“You can go to the same school I went. Its near by, and its beautiful.”
“You like that?”
Sheila hugged her close and kissed her. Relieved that Akshara was just a child. She would make new friends and move on. But not long before, Sheila knew missing her old school friends. But for now she was happy. For her part, Sheila knew facing her parents would be a tough task. But something in the back of her mind told her that the toughest had already been done. She had acknowledge her mistake to herself.