“What is it?”
“Where have you kept my tie. I just can’t find it anywhere. ”
“It’s inside the wardrobe. ”
Amit always expected her to attend to him when he was getting ready for office. When they had got married ten years back she could do that. But now with their two kids going to school her morning schedule was hectic. Getting up early, preparing breakfast, waking up the kids, serving breakfast… it went on and on until Amit left for his office and she took the kids to the bus stand to catch the school bus.
Anita either slept nude or in a panty and that is why she made it a point to get up before the children. She had been asleep when the doorbell rang. She asked Amit to open the door but he was too sleepy. She tiptoed on her bare feet and peeped through the key hole. It was the maid Lakshmi. Anita opened to door. Lakshmi had had seen her nude off and on and so there was no problem in letting her see the breasts once again. Once in a while they had also discussed the lovemaking aspects of weddings. Lakshmi went to the kitchen and Anita saw that one of her anklets was missing. That is what happened when Amit made violent love. Before going to the kitchen she pulled on a knee length nightie and went to the kitchen.
Mornings were even tougher when the maid didn’t turn up. Lakshmi was a nice person and always went out of her way to help Anita. She never refused to do anything, quite unlike most of the maids employed by her friends and neighbours. When they had moved into this beautiful bungalow in Pratap Ganj, in the eastern suburbs of the city, she had felt elated. The apartment blocks would no longer stifle her. No doubt to it, she hated living in apartments.
But then Lakshmi had her own share of problems – her drunkard and abusive husband. He would return home late most of the days just managing to keep himself steady and would beat her up for flimsy reasons. Whenever the thrashing got too hard she had to stay away from work for a day or two. Anita pitied Lakshmi. Why did she stay with him? At times she tried to imagine an abusive Amit. If anything like that ever happened she would, surely, walk out. It was not a question of how much it hurt physically; it would be an intolerable insult on self-esteem. Then she would laugh at her idea of an abusive Amit…after all they had been college sweethearts and knew each other so well.
Whenever Anita expressed her opinion to Lakshmi, she laughed patiently.
“You don’t understand everything. ” Lakshmi would say, leaving Anita wondering.
But, Lakshmi had agreed that next time he repeated it she would bring him over for Anita to try to talk him out of this beastly habit. Yesterday when Anita learnt from another maid that Lakshmi wont turn up for work for a day or two she had expected them. They hadn’t turned up till now.
“Vipin and Varsha, I want you to finish your breakfast within five minutes. ” She warned. The kids were in their usual habit of messing up with the breakfast. Vipin with eight summers behind him was capable of taking care of himself but his six year old sister was still the baby of the family.
She looked up at the wall clock. It was eight-thirty.
“Honey, I’m off. Might be late in the evening. Amit stood beside her in the kitchen just long enough to plant a kiss on her cheek and if the situation permitted he would just slide the nighty aside and give a peck on her nipples. It’s one of those gestures that have stayed with them for the last twelve years. She followed him out of the kitchen, yanked the kids out of the table and sent them off to the bedroom to get dressed for school. They managed to do that on their own.
As she started to get dressed standing in front of the wardrobe mirror she mused that there was at least one bright side to her tough schedule. It definitely helped her to stay in shape. She was slim, tall – almost five feet seven and medium complexioned. She knew that even at thirty-two she was attractive.
“You are still a head turner, honey. ” Amit was always saying that. It was a harmless leg pulling on his part but going by the way people stared at her she knew he wasn’t wrong. Having put on her pale blue saree she turned, her side facing the mirror and arranged her shoulder length hair. That’s perfect, she decided. No unwanted prominence.
“Mama, we are ready. ” Their shout brought her back to her senses. It was time she took them to the bus stop for their school bus but luckily they went with Mrs. Pareek.
She flopped down on the bed. She felt too tired even to change her clothes. The blast of cool air from the ceiling fan helped her relax. It went just like that on day’s Lakshmi didn’t turn up. Later, she would get up, change and have her breakfast. A brief flip through the newspaper before she returned to the kitchen to get on with her daily chores. Now the only thing she could think of was to relax under the fan. Everything else could wait. She closed her eyes just to enjoy that stupor of sleep come over her.
The ringing doorbell brought her back to her senses. She looked at her watch. It was almost ten o’clock.
“Who can it be?” She murmured rising from the comfort of the bed. Peeping into the door-eye she could see Lakshmi standing outside. She opened the door to let her in. It was then that she noticed the man standing a couple of yards behind her, right on the driveway. She wondered whether she should let him in. She was wearing only a sleeveless nightie with no bra and a thong pantie which Amit liked. But since Lakshmi was there Anita decided to let them in.
“Do I need to tell you what happened day before yesterday?” Lakshmi said.
No, she nodded. “I have brought him with me. See whether you can talk him out of this beastly habit. I have my doubts. ”
Anita made way for Lakshmi to get into the house. As Lakshmi went past her she looked at the man standing there.
“Come in and close the door behind you. ”
She walked into the drawing room and sat down on the sofa. She was in a fix, should she invite them to sit on another sofa or on the floor. Before she could decide, Lakshmi made herself comfortable on the floor. Her husband followed suit.
“What’s your name?”
It was for the first time Anita had a close look at him. Unshaved, it looked he was having a hangover. That’s nothing surprising considering his habits. Otherwise, his hair was neatly combed and the shirt he was wearing was one of those she had given to Lakshmi. He looked fine in it. He must be around forty or so, she decided. He was couple of inches taller than she. Lakshmi had told her that he was a mason. Anita saw that his eyes were locked on her breasts. She wondered whether he could see her nipples through the thin material.