I had been sure my wife was dead.
I checked and cross-checked driving myself into the midnight alley of wakefulness, of the last living memory I had of her.
I could clearly remember the array of piercing screams unsettling the quiet air of the night, her left hand retracting from her hold on my shirt, her eyes bulging out from her stunned pastel face glistening with semi-dried tears. Her elbows bruised black and blue trying to shove me away from her, her nose bleeding profusely, her body refusing to carry on the struggle she had futilely and foolishly initiated, her frail being yielding to my strength of 78 kilos (last time I checked), her right hand, which had clasped mine, relaxed, as I kept throttling her, incessantly, my mind consumed in some in some fiery broth of loathing.
But I loved her. I killed her still.
Avni was beautiful. I loved her frail body, the way it slid into my arms, I loved her perfume, Belle’s Lavender Bloom, I loved the way she chided me when I would work over-time. She never asked for more than I gave her, she never cried when I would forget anniversaries. She never said ‘no’ when I wished for her to cook something exclusive for dinner. She never quarreled. She hugged me when I yelled at her, kissed me when I grumbled at her. Her goodness was immeasurable, her grace was divine.
“Avni! Avni! Avni!” was all I could think of!
Our days had been flowing by like some distant far-away fairytale, and she had knit an enchanted web with her love
which whitewashed every other emotion of her. As if she could never feel pain-remorse- wrath.
I was enthralled, captivated in my own magic world with her.
Her laughter filled every crevice of my dingy apartment. No! Our apartment: it belongs to her. Not ‘belonged’, ‘belongs’.
The word ‘bitterness’ never found a place in her dictionary and so did ‘anger’ and ‘intolerance’, she never grumbled. Of the lack of embellishments in our flat, about the leaking kitchen sink, about my mother (who was rather intimidating and who acted more like a food critic) visiting us every other day with her never-ending list of complaints.
Everything had been perfect. Too perfect!
She never went cross. I never had the chance to flatter her. She loved like a lover and cared like a mother. Her goodness conquered me.
However, it was not I alone who she conquered. Her grace, beauty, charm and politeness earned her a special place among my cousins. She became a darling of my little nephews, with whom she played like a five year old. My sister would confide everything in her, she was her wise consultant. Even my dictator of a mother approved of her. Doted on by all my colleagues, she turned out to be luminary amongst my peer group.
“Avni! Avni! Avni!” her name and her laughter echoed everywhere in my house. Avni was the darling.
It was not long before my name was forgotten by one and all.
It was the beginning the little voice. The little voice which disapproved of her guffawing away, her wit and humor presenting itself before my colleagues who showered her with dear gifts, her cookery being praised by my mother (who never in her life had articulated a syllable to praise me), her playing with my nephews who too had, likewise, forgotten their uncle.
The voice grew stronger and harsher while I glared at her in parties with my best friend and colleague. “Look at the way she is dancing with Rahul, your wife’s a trophy! She is coveted by all! You are a worm! A good for nothing waste who won this prize by some god damned lucky draw!!”
The voice prompted me to lie still while she hugged me and slept serenely the same night. “Huh! As if she doesn’t know, she knows she is pretty! Show off!!”
And it went on. The voice would cynically reply out loud to her naive queries about how the food had been cooked, or about how her new dress looked on her. “Can anything be wrong with you? You are always perfect. Always.” (Sigh) “No, Karan, you’re flattering me honey, tell me na?” her sweet, mellow, honey-coated voice rang in the room. Only she remembered my name though. But somehow it was unbearable to hear my name in her sweet, sickly sweet voice. Somehow I would adjust a smile, a forced one. “It’s amazing honey!!”
“Avni! Avni! Avni! ” The echoes continued and so did her laughter which disgusted me. The voice sustained its snide remarks in my head.
It was my mother’s birthday and I had been busy enough to forget it. So it was just another day! In the evening, however, I returned home, shocked to find my mother and my wife standing by the dinner table flanked by my sister and a few cousins. My mother who otherwise looked happy glowered at me. My eyes wandered to the dinner table where I spotted a grand birthday cake.
Avni sprinted towards me. She looked happy. “Honey!! Why are you late??”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” the voice enquired grimly. Her face coloured slightly and her eyes grew anxious.
“I told you to come early na?” she continued. “And I saw the date marked in your planner so I thought you knew. But I
sent you a text message or two, honey, about the cake and all, and your phone wasn’t reachable! I am sorry baby, I
tried to call you!” Her large shiny eyes made false pledges. I took a look at my cell phone. There were no messages.
I thrust the phone back into my pocket without taking a look. The voice snarled.
“Ahem!” my mother cleared her throat “Avni here has thrown a little surprise-get-together for me, but of course,
you’ve forgotten what the occasion is. “She glowered at me.
“Maa…” I began.
“Maa, he knew but he had an important meeting, a really grumpy client, he pleaded but they wouldn’t let him go!”
Avni started her nonsense honeydew chirping in her velvet voice succeeding in fusing my mother’s anger into a generous smile.
“Yeah Yeah I know Avni dear!! Don’t try to protect your hubby! Thank you everyone, but now that I am growing old, I make a wish today, that may Avni be my son in my next life! I have had enough of this good for nothing Karan!!”
I felt my ears growing scorching, I guess they looked red. My eyes were bursting at the seams, I felt the strongest urge to hit Avni, to make her experience pain in every way, to shatter her bones one by one, to demolish her face and blind her lustrous eyes which counterfeited innocence!
My fists clenched.
“No!! Not now!” the voice hissed. ”Not with Mother here!! Let everyone leave. Let the bitch be alone, helpless, defenseless, raw, vulnerable!!”
I slid quietly into my bedroom. I sank into the bed. Tears streamed down my burning face.
The party went on among peals of laughter, recollection of family scandals, bogus dim-witted feminine talks, and strings of praises from everyone that went in the favour of Avni. My nonattendance went unnoticed.
““Avni! Avni! Avni!”
It grew louder and louder. My head seared in pain. I ineffectively tried to compose myself. She knew it. She knew that you’d forget! She knew about your meeting!! She did it on purpose!! Just to show how great she is and what a slacker you are!! She wants to rob you even of your family!! Your own mother Karan, your own mother now wants her instead of you!!! Everyone hates you because of her Karan!!
I choked back tears and wiped my eyes. I wouldn’t permit Avni to construe the forecasting of her doomsday from my brutal façade. I sat on the bed for hours it seemed. My endeavor was determined. Either Avni or I would live under the roof! The voice purred with cruel delight.
The guests left. So did my mother. Avni hummed her favourite jingle while clearing up the dining. I crept quietly from behind. An alien object twinkled on Avni’s neck. As I sauntered cautiously closer I realized it was a gold chain. A small sparkling diamond hung onto it in the middle. Avni looked marvelous. Her perfect face shone with delight. I was mesmerized. The feral urge which had grown to a gigantic size started thawing. But then the phone rang.
Avni picked up.
“Hello! Hey Rahul, yeah it was Mom’s birthday, yeah we had a blast, and it was so beautiful.”
Avni laughed. Giggled like a teenager.
“Yeah of course I’ll tell him you said hello. Ah! You dynamic flirt!!” she giggled on. “Yeah! I’ll call you in the morning. Nope he doesn’t know, I don’t know how he’ll react though. I am nervous!”
“So that’s what is going on! Your wife and your best friend!! The bitch is even cheating on you! The bloody whore!! Kill her, strangle her, smash her, cut her into million pieces, and throw her away, let her burn in hell!” The voice fumed.
Meanwhile Avni hung up the phone.
“Why Avni?” I asked out loud with disgust and revelation.
“Karan!” she turned back. Her look was a mixture of shock, guilt and perplexity.
“Karan? Did you? Do you know? I am sorry! I was about to tell you!! Are you upset? I can understand! I am nervous too! I know I should have told you earlier! But I thought you’d be happy if I threw a surprise!”
“HAPPY?” I growled. “YEAH I AM HAPPY AVNI! IT’S AMAZING BLOODY AMAZING HOW YOU HAVE ROBBED ME OF EVERY BLOODY THING! MY FRIENDS, MY FAMILY, MY MOTHER, AND MY BEST FRIEND!! I AM A WORM ISN’T IT AVNI, A WORTHLESS LOSER, MY PRESENCE DULLS YOUR BEAUTY ISN’T IT AVNI? WHY DID YOU MARRY ME AVNI? TO KEEP PROVING TO PEOPLE I AM LOSER? THAT YOU ARE SO PERFECT AND I AM NOT!!! TO SNATCH AWAY ALL THE LOVE MY FAMILY GAVE ME!! TO FLIRT WITH MY FRIENDS, RIGHT UNDER MY NOSE?”
“Karan, do you even know what you’re saying? Honey please calm down! I love you!” Avni cried, her voice shook with apologetic tears. She reached out to hug me.
“I AM SICK OF YOUR LOVE!!” I spat and pushed her so hard that she hit the floor face down. Her nose smashed with a thud.
“Kill her, strangle her, smash her, and cut her into million pieces” The voice persisted its singing, as if an anthem.
I acted in what felt like seconds. I took the birthday-knife from the dining, bent down and stabbed her thigh! Avni howled in pain!
“See you can howl, you can bawl you can cry, you are not so perfect, your blood isn’t blue!! It’s red!! Sickly red, as sick as you are!!” The voice let out untamed shrieks, wild with the ferocity of some fanatic!
Avni struggled to get up. I forced myself onto her, happy to hear the snapping sound of her bones breaking. I snatched the gold chain from her white neck and strangled her. She struggled, trying to shove away my hands, she clasped onto my shirt, her nose bled furiously now! I was happy to see her so mangled and destroyed, her face. She choked out a few words before I finished off with her.
Some nonsense of hers.
“Karan I am-“and she lost breath. Her hands from their various modes of ineffective struggle fell indolently. She was dead.
I didn’t have time to think. It was midnight. I took the car keys and carried her downstairs stealthily. I drove her to the nearest cliff. I placed her in the driving seat carefully. She was still bleeding. I felt her wrist. There was no pulse. I came down. I took one last look at her. I turned the keys, pressed down the accelerator and let her go. I rolled on the dusty rocky weed-strewn edges. When I stood up I heard the thunderous sound of the crash.
I looked down for a few minutes. The car was o fire bent torn, demolished beyond recognition.
I left the spot and walked home. Yes I had walked home. Alone.
I went home and started clearing the place of struggle. Avni’s blood.
That was when my phone vibrated quite a few times. I took out the phone with a start.
2 messages received
My heart throbbed. I opened the text messages.
Avni 11:30 AM
hey hun, I tho8 u mustve remembrd bt then I m makin sure agen, u knw na its mums bday!! I ve planed a surprise, dat
ws wat I wnted 2 tel u ystday, bt u wre quite busy abt d meetin. Listen na come early, odawise u knw mum, she’ll think
u ve frgotten! O and yeah pls bring the white roses I ordrd this mornin frm Bhaskar’s
A tear drop fell.
Avni 12:30 PM
Huny I tho8 ud call, gues ur busy, neways I think I shud actually tel u something….umm well I ve kept an envelope in
the bedside drawer. Love you forever!!
I dashed to our bedroom and opened the drawer. A brown envelope tied up beautifully with a red ribbon. Red was my favourite colour. I untied it and opened the envelope.
It was some kind of a medical report. I read a few lines and from what I could make out, the earth slid from underneath my feet.
Avni had been pregnant. And it had been 2 months already.
An unknown feeling seized me. Some nameless mixture of shock, regret, remorse and love. Love for my stupid girl!! She wanted to surprise me? The monster? She loved a monster like me!!!
“Avni! Avni! Avni!” I howled. “I KILLED YOU!!! I KILLED YOU AVNI! TAKE ME! KILL ME! I KILLED YOU AND OUR CHILD!!” That was when my phone vibrated once more.
1 message received
Avni 2:35 AM
“No you never did”
“No you never did.” The sweet voice of Avni echoed, answering my anguish.
I looked up. She was standing right there. Just the way she used to be.
“Avni! Avni! Avni!” I screamed. “I AM SORRY!”
Then she was gone! I ran around the house shouting her name. She was there for real. I wasn’t so sure now that she
was dead. My screams of anguish earned the neighbours’ notice.
I was put to trial. I begged for death. I wasn’t granted. Instead I was put in a white room. A cellar for the lunatic. I live their all day. With Avni of course!
“Avni! Avni! Avni!”
No one believes me that she is back, that she is just as beautiful as she used to be. That our beautiful child is still growing inside her. No one believes me when I say she is sitting right beside me. No one believes me that she is here, that her laughter echoes even within the four walls of this tiny cellar, within the damp gloomy numb core of my cold marble heart.