The bright yellow saree with flowery pattern clings to her tall slender body, almost exposing her to the imaginative eyes. She wears it, the saree, with grace – her walk measured, her stance determined. Her lips are wide; her smile big – like a Bollywood movie actress, only less assuming. She speaks with politeness, yet determination of a teacher. Her animated hand gestures and a fair complexion mislead you to think that she could be Italian. Her attire, the controlled manners, and the lowered eyes give away the secret however, that she is Indian. As she walks from guests to guests, she leaves behind a trace of French perfume; she leave behind many turned heads.. Saying that she is pretty does not do a complete justice.
On her right shoulder she has a flower tattoo – not a real tattoo, no! Her mother would not allow that. It is a kind of tattoo that some kids and teenagers make out of sticky and shiny glitters. She is no teenager, not by any measures except some traces of childish youth left in her heart. She has her own kids aged 3 and 6, a boy and a girl, left for the evening at her mother’s house.
It is a January, a wintry cold weekend. They are gathered for a social evening at her friend’s house, a mansion actually. The big house stands on the outskirts of Surrey, British Columbia. The sunlight from the west filters through the huge windows accenting the silky curtains that seem to never end, not even when they touch the marble tiles of matching floor.
Good food, great friends, light conversation – a beautiful evening.
The party ends; she walks out with her husband to their parked car. She jumps in the driver seat and turns on the radio, already tuned to a local desi channel. There is chill in the air but she decides not to wear the winter jacket, throwing it on the backseat. She fastens her seat-belt, adjust the rear-view mirror to look at her own face; pleased, she adjust it back to the normal setting.
She does not enjoy driving but she has to; her husband likes to drink at the party, more than he can handle, more than a Police breathalyzer would allow. So, she doesn’t let him drive when they are heading home from such parties.
Her husband stumbles into the passenger seat and they drive off. They are heading over to her mom’s house, to pick up the kids. She already misses them.
A Rafi’s old song plays on the radio – “Maine Puchhaa Chand Se…”.
He looks at the stamped tattoo on her right shoulder. He looks at her again; she is lip-singing with the radio, lost in herself. He reaches over; turns off the radio.
“Had fun at the part?”
“It was nice, didn’t you like it?”
“Everybody was complimenting you.”
“Oh yeah? That is nice of them!”
“So, why do you dress up so much for these little gatherings?”
“I don’t; I dress up regular!”
“O look at Anita! Looks so pretty!! So beautiful!!!” He mocks and imitates.
Anita did not say anything. She kept driving, trying to avoid the conversation. The golden hue of the setting sun is scattered all over the western horizon, matching her earrings, matching her cheeks’ color.
“So who was the guy you were talking to?”
“Who?” She pauses, “Which guy?”
“No, I don’t. I talked to so many people! Why would you bring this up?”
“What were you talking about? Must be something funny!…Laughing and giggling, giggling like a little girl!!”
“Why do you do this? You are ruining a perfectly nice evening!” She sounds offended.
“What else? It was nice party; we had a good time; now we are going home! Why cannot we enjoy this time together?” She says in a convincing voice, looking for ways to calm him down.
“So, I am ruining your evening? Oh, I am sorry Miss beautiful, with a sticker on the shoulder!” He chuckles.
She is annoyed; she hates these meaningless arguments.
“We are arguing for no reason!”
“Oh no, we have reason…we do!” he says leaning towards her.
“Ok, what reason?” She does not look at him, focusing on the road as she drives around a bend.
He does not reply, he keeps looking at her face as she comes to a stop on the red light.
“Honey, I don’t know if it is your drink that makes you like this…”
Before she can say anything more, he swings his left hand across her face, hitting her on the right cheek with backhand.
Anita screams – with fear, with pain, with anger, with every emotion in her slender body. She squeezes her grip on the steering-wheel, holding it tight, not knowing what else to do.
The right earring no longer adores her pretty face. Her cheek is red, the ear turns red; a drop of blood glistens in the middle of the earlobe.
It seems as if the time has stooped for her. She wants to disappear from the scene, from the car; she does not want to do anything with the whole situation. She wants to abandon everything, abandon herself. This is not the first time he has hit her. The first time, she had reacted much more louder, with lot more heart. She had called the police, and he ended up in jail for two days. Then she dropped the charges; she wanted to save her marriage. That was the first time… a long time ago.
This is not the first time, or second time. She has lost the count.
Then she thinks of the kids waiting at her mom’s house. She wants to go to her mom’s house and be with her kids; a 5 minutes of drive from the stop-light but she does not want to wait 5 minutes, not even a single second if she could control the time or space.
The traffic lights turn green. She gently lifts her foot off the break pedal, letting the car slide forward; letting the car drive towards her mother’s house.
The golden hue on the far horizon has faded, giving way to an ugly looking night ahead.
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