It was a beautiful winter evening. The sun shone perfectly, looming in the stage between dawn and dark. The weather was just right, guiding the birds as they flew in the direction of the wind. It wasn’t so cold to send shivers down one’s spine, but cold enough to shed off all those extra layers of clothing and breathe comfortably in the absence of a heating agent. The scene looked like it had been cut out of a fairytale storybook and pasted in the perfect position. All the colours of nature’s diversity spread across the palette without even the slightest overdo of a single shade. Everything blended and fit into place.
Normally, she would have just taken a stroll in the garden at such a time. With her husband still at work and her daughter at her dancing classes, she wouldn’t have to think about any third soul to tend to. It would have been enough for her to be given a chance to just walk around and smile at the trees, flowers, butterflies and strangers. They gave her a kind of comfort and pleasure. A feeling she never really experienced when she was surrounded by her own immediate family of three inside the mansion of a house that she lived in and owned. Today wasn’t her lucky day though. Her husband was home early and while she stood at the window of her room staring out at this close to perfect landscape, she could hear the clock ticking away. He would alarm her any second now. She only had an hour to go before they left for the dinner party that his boss had organised at his farmhouse. Naturally, the who’s-who of the town were going to be there. So she was expected to dress herself in her best outfit, from her collection of the most expensive silk saris and adorn herself with the most precious jewellery. Her husband, she knew would step out in his blue coat he got from Armani last week, with his Zara tie and Berluti shoes. So she started draping those nine yards of cloth around herself bracing herself for another night of jaw aching fake smiles and flashy teeth for happy photographs. As she put her heels on, she glanced at her image in the mirror. To be honest, she looked stunning. Years of practice had taught her enough to apply her make-up perfectly and evenly along her face and neck. The neck-piece looked like it came with the sari in a package. She symbolized class and sophistication, displaying and looking worth all the money that had gone into those adornments. As her husband smiled from behind her, she knew she had not failed to satisfy. She would once again surprise those who were only waiting for a day that she would go wrong with herself and confirm the expectations of those who were anticipating another statement this night. So she smiled back at her husband trying to boost herself with the confidence of the grace and elegance that she exhibited and the ease with which it came to her. But while seated herself in the passenger’s seat, her mind wandered off to the scene outside. She stared out the car window for some time before closing her eyes. As her eyes shut, she shut herself off from the real world. She imagined herself walking on the wet grass and breathed in the smell of the lilies planted outside their bungalow. She pictured herself in her pyjamas and shirt simply staring up at the sky, counting the stars as they began to become visible gradually. She felt the butterflies touching her in passing as they flew to their heart’s wish, envying them with every cell of her body, every fibre of her being. While she was chasing butterflies in her world, her car came to a halt in the real world. They had reached. It was time to put the forced smile on, flash those whitened teeth at every undeserving ill-wisher and plant a kiss on every God forsaken cheek.
As she felt eyes land on to her, she wondered how many ladies in the room would kill to be in her place. She highly doubted if any of them knew that she knew what they thought about her. She had strong suspicions that it ever struck anyone that it wasn’t her favourite impression to be known as the one who has it all. None of them were aware of her journey from rags to riches. They didn’t know that her family had been a house of bankruptcy and her husband meant nothing more than the financer to her. Her open hearted laugh ensured that it was impossible to pick from her expressions that she was still healing; healing from the hurt of being treated as a commodity to be sold off. Sure it is fascinating and enchanting to walk hand in hand with the most handsome man in the room. It was pleasing to be the girl that people looked twice at. It felt wonderful to boast of a huge wardrobe with the best of brands hanging in there. But it pained her that the most handsome was only the bread winner for her. Her back ached as eyes bore into her with envy, despise and spite. The dread of being looted off all that was hidden in that locker kept her up at nights. It was not easy being rich. She respected her husband for that. But it was even harder to pretend rich. According to him and everyone else, it came to her naturally, effortlessly. If only they knew the sweating she had to put into it. If only they knew that every time she looked or acted less than perfect, his disappointed eyes would scare her witless. She would fear that he would not send the money to her parent’s house anymore. Without his help, they would have starved to death till now. She was indebted to him for life. The least she owed him, was a face and body that looked rich. How she ever got caught up in this web of sacrifices and allegiances, she never understood. What she did know, was that she was the totem here and her life was his now. She could close her eyes all she wanted and play pretence. But she would never forget that the world isn’t blind and all the glam and class that she flashed only opened their eyes wider.
There was no escape. For better or for worse, she was here now. No questions asked, no answers given.