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The soft click of the door was music to my ears. Music that liberated, music that ignited hopes and desires, music that prophesied the much awaited shuffle of feet along the cobbled garden path. It was such a great relief to have him by my side every day, soon after my husband left for work juggling his bag, a huge file that was too big for his bag, his coat, spare house keys, mobile phone, and a sandwich half wrapped with foil that he ate in the car. His presence was infinitely comforting like the warm sun rays that caressed me in the cold December mornings, the warmth having survived the double barriers of the painted glass window and silky soft curtains.
He came every day without fail. No cards, bunches of roses, perfumes, jewellery or tickets to a surprise luxurious holiday in one of those boringly similar resorts that my husband treated me to. No formal dinners or romantic dates or packed movie halls with buckets of popcorn. No passionate nights that people thought to be the cherry on top of the cupcake of love. No elaborate words of love to impress me. Just his loving presence when I needed him, plain love without the fake frills. I am glad it is this way with us because sometimes these frills are so breathtakingly beautiful and intoxicating that even a fleeting moment of deprivation throws us into a loveless, lonely abyss powerful enough to shield out even the brightest rays of hope.
He had no business empire to keep him busy, nor did he have a passionate inclination towards the share market. He would rather preoccupy himself with my emotional ups and downs than the rise and fall of share values. No mobile phone to distract him during awkward moments or when he was bored. He enjoyed my company and whatever it gave him- interesting conversations, talks about mundane stuff, my lack lustre marital life, problems to ponder upon, promises to be given and kept and many other things. With him I could be my very own self, the naked truth in stark contrast to the mirage I was to my husband.
This was my deep dark secret, a strange love that I sought outside wedlock. My husband would never forgive me if he knew. He could never be expected to fathom my need for such a grave infringement of forbidden territories. To him I was a mere responsibility, a wife who had to be sheltered, clothed, fed and infused with his overflowing passion that trickled through his bursting seams. In his view, he was doing a great job keeping me happy and content within the cruelly confining walls of a massive bungalow only that accentuated its emptiness.
“What more could a wife possibly wish for?” his friends would exclaim whenever they came over for dinner. And to this my husband would reply with an unnatural laughter, feigning humility. All the things he showered me with were the very same things I just did not want.
What I wanted was a companion as real as my heart full of love, as real as my hatred towards my conjugal life, as real as the fear of my bold venture out of marriage being exposed by the person fate had forcefully bound me with. But I prided myself in having made a perfect plan to keep both of them from meeting. We met only when my husband had sped away to sit at a desk in a faraway office, flirting with computers as much as he did with his secretary.
On my birthday, we lovers decided to hold hands and talk a little more than our daily quota. As we laughed till our stomachs hurt, threw pillows like lunatics and teased each other, I was oblivious to the click on the front door. Soon he was there, my husband, looming in front of us with a baffled expression that I thought was smeared with jealousy. Too horrified at being caught red handed, I now could only think of our safety, how to escape from the beast.
“Run my love; go away before he hurts you!” I screamed. I kept screaming, howling and crying out of fear of the unfamiliar events to unfold and the nagging possibility that I may never again hear the much awaited shuffling of legs at the doorway.
“I hate you! We are in love, leave us alone you bastard! “I spat at my husband who suddenly looked so concerned. To insult him further, we hugged each other for the first time, determined not to let go. I was drained by the end of it and swayed unsteadily. I must have fainted because when I opened my eyes, I was in a hospital room. What had happened? Had he tried to kill us? Or just him? What story had he cooked up and served to all the relatives who had gathered? Did he want a divorce? My head was throbbing. Was it my cruel fate to weep all my life over lost love?
My husband came in with a doctor. I listened to their conversation while pretending to sleep.
“She has deluded herself into thinking that she has a lover. When I went home today, earlier than usual to give her a birthday surprise, she was talking to the walls, laughing insanely. I am really worried about her. There was no one else in the room!” said my husband. Liar. He had caught us both having a nice time and now he was trying to make others believe I had a problem. I couldn't believe this was happening. Had he gone blind? Or was he losing his mind? I had to tell the truth to someone. But who would listen to me? Who would believe me? I cried at my fate, for my lost love and the desert of a life I would be forced to lead with a person who I never loved.
When the doctor left with my husband, I opened the flask to pour myself some milk. As I unscrewed the lid, a tiny face bobbing up and down peered back at me. My happiness knew no bounds. I hadn't lost my love after all. He had been hiding in the bottle, waiting for the chaos to die away.
“Come out, I've been waiting for you!” I whispered. As he came out from the flask and sat beside me, everything felt normal again. He held my hand and we talked. My love was real indeed. It was ridiculous of anyone to think that I had delusions. They would never see or acknowledge the real love of my life.