Midnight
Ananya  Aloke

Midnight

Today I heard her again. I think she was standing in a dark corner but I am not sure. It was three in the morning. I pressed my face into the pillow to hide from her. She does not stand long, just a a few moments at a time. Then she goes… leaving strands of hair for me. Brown glossy hair. I keep picking them up, they keep appearing on the floor… God! How many hair does she have…?

I cannot go on doing this now. All the bed-sheets smell of the lavender perfume that no one in my house uses. When I lie down on them, I can feel her shallow breathing beside me. My mind’s eye looks at Sara. The Sara I had seen five years ago. She has dark circles under the dark eyes. “Kill me…” She moans. “I hate you, kill me!”

My arm slips under her back. I pull her up to my chest. Her body is warm against mine. There are some things one feeds in the mind. They are very small things but you never forget them anyway. Her warmth is one of them. I can feel it through her cotton linen. Bones covered in a bit of flesh. When she was beautiful I belonged to her. When she is destroyed, she is mine. When she has blood flowing down her nose, she is mine.

I wipe her nose with a tissue. There are lots of flowers on my window but none that can bloom in winter. Sara keeps asking me when springs will come. I tell her -soon. Soon. Soon.

“I cannot live without you, Sara. Don’t die.” She laughs a little, her skin bluing up. I understand that laughter now. Sara knew everything. My body had demands she could not fulfil. My mind told me I could fool her. I was wrong, of course. It was like that in the end. Sara was comfortable with me lying to her. She was comfortable with pretending that she believed me.

After three years there is a lot that Sara is used to. Pain is not going to kill her. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want her to die. But for her own sake, she has to. Sara takes one gasping breath. I put her head back on the pillow and plant a kiss on her forehead. Our eyes meet.

“Get out.” She snaps.

“I won’t.”

She points to the book in my hand, “read.”

I read. It was Macbeth. The same paperback that is now lying on my sleeping wife’s lap. She has fallen asleep an hour ago. A few strands of black hair are coming loose out of the night cap. My wife has no idea that just beside our bedstead there is something very beautiful, at least beautiful enough to make her jealous.

I remember reading Macbeth to Sara. I remember her eyes laughing when I read to her how Lady Macbeth washed her blood-stained hands in her dreams. She wanted me to read it again, only those two pages. The doctor and the maid standing by her and she, Lady Macbeth, washing her hands in her dreams, eyes wide open. And… and I read it to her twice, thrice, four times… twenty times.

Sara told me she was dying.

My wife brings me some peace when she sleeps. When she sleeps, she does not try to claim the man who cannot be hers. I pick the book from her lap and cover her legs with the sheets. My head starts aching again. A few street dogs pick a fight among themselves. I can hear their screams just as clearly as I heard the voice at three o’clock this morning.

“Kill me.” Sara whispers as doctor Dan rushes into the room. It is almost one in the morning. The doctor's daughter had to bring him along as the driver was not available. She stands in the doorway, the car's key clasped in her hand. She gestures me closer; I go over to her. She tries to comfort me about Sara.

“Kill me…” Sara repeats.

Dan pulls me aside, “What has she done?”

“Overdosed on the medicine you prescribed. Sara did it. I was not even in the room.” I am stunned by my voice. Clear, even. Not a single tremor. Even Macbeth could not do it so well, I suppose.

It is about fifteen minutes to twelve. I open the window and stare down the street. The dogs have fallen silent now. It is getting warmer every hour. Spring is passing the mantle to summer. There are all these flowers in the garden. It is beautiful. It is a gone case.

I will tell you about my wife. I would have told you before if there was anything about her to tell. Yes, there is one. When she had come into the room after Dr. Dan, my wife had cried out “Who is she?” I had pointed to the twenty three years old girl and said promptly, “She is our Dr. Dan’s daughter.”

I did not tell Sara that she was also my girlfriend. That I had managed to kiss Dr. Dan’s daughter one afternoon, just outside his villa. I did not tell Sara that I was also going to marry this girl just four months after performing her last rites. That was five years ago, the day Sara died of drug over-dose. Five years. So long.

“Kill me” A voice says from behind me. I look back. There is no one… “kill me.”

I shut my eyes. I should have known that this voice was not coming from behind. Just like yesterday, it is her voice coming from inside me and, hitting the walls of my body, it echoes. It is there all around me, "Kill. Kill me. Who is she? Kill.” It is only a breath, not even a sound. Lungs cancer patient Sara, my mistress, trying to ask me who is the woman on our bed…

“Who is she?” I whisper. My eyes open. Tears roll down my cheeks. Slowly I go up to her. She is tired, beautiful and, if her assumptions are correct, three months pregnant. I press the pillow over her face as she starts to wake up. Heck! Sara had also died with my child in her womb.

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