Zeneve’s cousin

“Oh yes!” rejoined his friends. “Look how well the household is running now, the furniture dusted daily, laundry folded and put into drawers.” His mother, an ingenious woman, had figured out how to use the washing machine in no time at all. She cooked all of his favourite dishes which his wife had never managed to learn quite right, and she took such good care of the little boy, walking him to the park each afternoon, bringing him into her bed when he woke up crying at night. The husband had told his mother once or twice that Zeneve had never done that, she had this idea about the boy needing to be independent. “What nonsense!” boomed his mother.

“Lucky man,” a couple of his friends had remarked and he silently agreed, although later he thought it was ironic they would say that about a man whose wife had disappeared. He sat on the bed one night, watching the storm outside. It was then that he remembered an incident that he would liked to have forgotten. It had been raining that night too when they had a serious argument. It had been the most cataclysmic storm he had ever seen with rain lashing down as lighting flickered and flared in the inky sky. Wind swirled in the air as thunder reverberated, echoing in his ears.

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It stood out because he had drove back home in that storm with Zeneve. They were on their way back home from a wedding, Zeneve’s cousin had married into a wealthy family and the wedding had been talk of the town. He had sworn at Zeneve all the way home in the car as she sobbed and spluttered.”Bitch!” he had beseeched. “Who said you could dance? You did it on purpose didn’t you! I saw you! Flirting with other men!”  Zeneve had realised her crime. She had danced with a few close relatives…but had not asked for her husband’s permission.

She repeatedly begged for his forgiveness, the journey home was unbearable, as her husband’s foul language became more and more crude and vulgar by the second. The night had ended with Zeneve being beaten and locked in the pantry. The husband had chased her around the house, then when he had finally got hold of her, he had grabbed hold of hair and repeatedly hit her face into the wall. As if that wasn’t enough, next he took a broomstick and hit her with it until it snapped in half, such was the force he had used.

He remembered that the next morning she had tried to run away but luckily he caught her and instead of asking for his forgiveness, he had demanded it. But since then he had never hit her, and that had been six months ago…that could have nothing to do with the disappearance. As the year went on, the husband stopped thinking as much about the wife. It wasn’t that he loved her any less, or that the shock of her disappearance was less acute. It was just that it wasn’t on his mind all the time. There would be stretches of time when he was on the phone with an important client, or when he was watching after-dinner TV or driving his son to kiddie gym class – when he would forget that his wife was gone, that he had a wife at all. And even when he remembered that he had forgotten, he would experience only a slight twinge, similar to what he felt when he drank something too cold too fast.

The boy, too didn’t ask as often about his mother. He was sleeping through the night’s again, he had put on a few pounds, “Because he’s finally being fed right!” his grandmother asserted, He started calling her “Ma” just like his father did. So it seemed quite natural for the husband to, one day, remove the photographs of his wife from the frames that sat on the mantelpiece and replace them with pictures of himself and his little boy that friends had taken on a recent trip to America and also one of the boy on his grandma’s lap holding a red balloon. He put the old pictures into a manila envelope and slid them to the back of a drawer, intending to show them to his son when he grew up. The next time his mother queried (as she had ever since she had got there) “Shall I put all those saris and kameezes away, it’ll give you more space in the wardrobe?”

He responded by saying, “If you like.” When she proclaimed, “It’s been a year since the tragedy, shouldn’t we have a prayer service at the temple?” He said, “Ok.” And when she exclaimed, “You really should think about getting married again, you’re still young and besides the boy needs a mother. Shall I contact your second aunt back home?” he remained silent, but didn’t disagree. So on an inky, starlit night, he walked into his bedroom and sat on the bed. It still seemed to be as though his wife was still there. The chandelier shimmered every colour of the rainbow; her perfumes were scattered here and there on the mahogany dressing table, tall like towers. The cream canopy hung above the bed, embossed with a floral pattern, blending in with the matching bed covers and curtains. The laminated flooring, still the golden colour of sand, gleamed as it took the weight of several plants in ceramic pots. And her scent still seemed to live amongst the smell of his deodorant and after-shave.

He ran his hands across the duvet, thick yards of silk ran in-between his fingers, the texture of his wife’s hair. The room was deadly silent but if he listened hard enough, he could still hear her steady breathing, still felt her moist lips. Then he felt a lump underneath him…it was coming from the mattress. Perplexed, he stood up and pulled up the mattress to see a bulky, blue book. Pulling it out he saw the word diary written on it in a gold calligraphy style. Why hadn’t he found it before?

Well, he never did have any idea that his wife would keep a diary. After all, he always though of her as to a woman who didn’t have many thoughts and ideas…so even the thought of a diary seemed bizarre. He opened it up and began reading; it was his wife’s. The diary started off on a nice tune but he discovered as he read further in, it became more intense, like a fire that is given petrol. In the first extract, that somehow seemed rushed by the condition of his wife’s handwriting, she spoke about being very much content. How she was happy with how life had shaped itself, naturally, without her having to do anything. He looked at the date of the first extract…two months after they had been married and she seemed very much at peace.

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