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She smeared vermilion along the thin line of scalp that gleamed, furrowing backwards from her forehead. Her long wet tresses sought refuge within the spirals of her towel wound carefully into a bun at the nape of her neck. She plucked the safety pin lodged between her teeth and secured the obedient pleats of her starched cotton sari, slipped on a few red bangles that chorused in ecstasy at her touch and bridged her brows with a red dot. Her eyes shaped like a lotus petal, were lined with black kohl that smudged at the corners, adding to her charm.
It had been their wedding the previous day and this was her first day in her new home. She looked at herself in the mirror, surprised at how a ring on her finger and a new mark on her forehead could turn her world upside down. In her naiveté she had consented without second thoughts, to tie the knot with someone she barely knew. She had known no other options. This was what all the women in her family had done and they were all happy, at least that was what they told her. As she gently touched her reflection, she felt something was amiss but could not settle on what it was. Was it her innocence? Her dreams? Desires? Or was it the twinkle of hope in her and the smile on her lips that was missing?
Memories of her nuptial night which by now had swollen into a tidal wave, lashed uncontrollably across her eyes, spilling over its kohl rimmed beauty. Her shyness, exaggerated by her excitement over blossoming love and anxiety about first impressions, were soon replaced by shock, pain and fear. She remembered with deep remorse the way he ate into her spirit like a savage animal caring the least about the tenderness within her that he was butchering.
This was least expected, not the kind of romance she had seen in movies or heard from her friends. In her mind she begged him to stop but her thoughts refused to form words; when they did, they tied themselves into a stubborn knot at her throat. With a bruised body and a heart pierced by the shards of her shattered dreams, she waited for sunrise. She hoped against hope that the rays of the new day would brighten up her life as well.
Wiping her tears, she walked across to the window and watched her surroundings burst into a riot of colours with a green backdrop. The garden was still moist from the early morning dew that adorned the leaves, grass and cobwebs. They glistened in the morning sun like precious jewels. Her eyes searched for the lone hibiscus that had blushed along with her when she stood at the threshold of the house as a bride. Draped like her in the hues of a bride, the blossom awaited with nectar in her heart, the touch of a hovering bee. She had imagined only hours before, that its scarlet petals prophesied the consummation of her marriage like the vermilion on her forehead. But today it lay shrivelled, devoid of colour on the damp earth.