The Inner Voice

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‘No!’
Two letters that are so difficult to say together, especially for a woman. Especially, for a woman like her. She stood in the corner of the kitchen, a lock of her hair twisted around her trembling fingers as her eyes stared glassily at the future awaiting her.
In the living room, there was loud laughter and a mash up of voices, some happy, others excited. But she only heard one, the voice that sounded worst to her of the lot. A voice, that she would have to get used to for the rest of her life if she didn’t say something now.
But she couldn’t.
A couple of hours before the guests, her soon-to-be family arrived, her mother had run around her room, panicking about her dress choices.
“You look more beautiful in red.” She said, wondering aloud. “But green makes you look more wifely. Oh, my God, wait. You don’t have a Green sari that looks good, do you?”
She watched on with terror in her eyes as her mother began making these decisions for her. She picked up the blue sari by her bed, the one that she loved the most out of the very few that she owned. She wasn’t a girl who was interested in all these things, no. She wanted to wear a chudidar though she was most comfortable in trousers.
“You’re not wearing that!” Her mother said, breaking into her thoughts, as she looked on disgustedly at the sari in her daughter’s hands. “The groom doesn’t like that colour, which reminds me! You’ll need to throw away all your pants and shirts. I believe the groom’s father wants you to be homely.” Her mother smiled. “My daughter is going to be a bride!”
“But I can’t go to work in a Sari…” She tried. “It’s not easy to…”
“What work?” Her mother asked, shaking her head. “The groom is very rich. You don’t need to work… In fact, I’m sure your future mother-in-law wouldn’t approve. She’s waiting to share her recipes with you.”
Tears swirled in her eyes as she understood the implications of this marriage. No, she did not want it.
Now, standing in her mother’s Green Sari that was too expensive to even imagine, she waited for her cue to go in and serve the coffee. She hated coffee, but her mother said she needed to get used to it.
“The groom only drinks coffee.”
Why couldn’t he get used to tea, she wondered. Why couldn’t he learn to like blue, or be happy with her wanting to contribute to the household income? Why couldn’t her mother-in-law let her cook and earn and why couldn’t her father-in-law appreciate her professional outlook? Why did she have to be the one to change all her preferences?
She heard her mother’s voice from the living room.
“My daughter is a very good cook!”
Understanding the hint, she picked up the tray of coffee that was not prepared by her because she didn’t know how to, and set off to where her family was, her heart pounding.
As she let her head remain lowered, like it would be for the rest of her life, she allowed a silent tear to fall.
“I’d like to talk to her alone,” The groom said and those words scared her more than anything else in the world.
Once they proceeded to the kitchen, she finally lifted her head to look at him. The fear didn’t leave her eyes and they didn’t seem to want to, once she caught the expression of lust in his.
“I want a minimum of three kids,” He started. “Within a month of our marriage, if you manage to get pregnant…”
She stopped listening.
Ever since she was a child, she’d dreamed of the perfect man, just like every other girl her age. She’d pictured this moment a hundred times in her head and how her future husband and she would get a private moment together to discuss the essentials of their lives before they shared a loving smile, excited to embark upon this journey together.
But this was not how she expected it to be, where she’d have to write down a list of his demands as a sample of her next sixty years.
“All three boys,” He continued.
Her fear saw a flicker of rage rise from it at those words.
“Why?” She asked, looking into his eyes. “What will you do if one of them, if not all, are girls?”
He laughed.
“That’s not possible. Don’t even say it!” He grinned. “I’m sure you…”
She stepped back as he walked towards her.
“I’m sorry,” She said, shaking her head and looking away as she willed for her voice to be heard. “I’m not interested in you.”
“Be practical. You’re good looking. I’m rich. You can take care of our handsome sons while I’ll put clothes on all our backs. We’d make a good couple.”
That was the last thing she expected to hear.
“I’m sorry. All I see is that I have the chance of an excellent future and I don’t want you in it. So, no, I can’t marry you.”
He glared at her for a few minutes before he stormed out. As she stood with her back against the wall, breathing heavily at the confrontation, listening to the changes in the voices of her family and the strangers in her living room. As the main door closed shut, she breathed a sigh of relief. She’d face a lot of trouble from her parents for this, she was sure, but she had finally done what she thought she’d never be able to.
She’d spoken up.
She’d finally said no.

 

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