Vacation was cut short by a phone call. He was asked to return. National duty came with its own set of rules. A disciplinarian regime sometimes broke some rules to keep the others. She always found this unfair. Sometimes she wondered if this was a love marriage at all! With so many arrangements, so many restrictions, her life was somewhat an irony. She often found herself living in confinement, living at the borders. It was like she too was following the Captain’s orders.
For a woman as committed as her, she often felt cheated. She called the country his mistress. One who had taken away her love. She had her doubts. “Whom does he love more?” She never had the courage to answer that. It was a demon in her head. And she was nurturing it every day. He had packed his bags.
“Colonel Abhimnayu Rawat, promise me you’ll return soon”.
“Mrs. Rawat, I’ll see you as soon as I reach. We’ll Skype.”
“But what is so urgent. At least give me a hint. Tell me there’s nothing to worry”.
“You know I can’t tell you details. This pretty face will keep me alive. Ha ha ha. Don’t worry”
“Never make such jokes. Don’t talk about death. How many times have I told you?”
He kissed her more passionately than he ever had before. This troubled her. But she couldn’t muster the strength to ask. Eyes welled up. This was not how she wanted to see him leave. But it was too late. He had left.
The next few hours were turmoil.
She had an eerie feeling about this. The way they parted. That long kiss. She tried connecting the dots. Cringed every time she came close. Was this it? Had the mistress taken away her love forever? She looked at their pictures. Before marriage. Honeymoon. All the good times they had. The mistress was always there. Either playing backdrop or camouflaging itself in the uniform. “That bitch”, she muttered. More pictures she saw, more she felt betrayed. The shadow was always there. How could she not see it? Blind love, that’s what she blamed it on. Falling prey to the oldest trick, the oldest cliché in the book. She felt unintelligent at this point. The mistress enticed him with accolades.
“Decorated officer, my foot”, she yelled.
She looked at all the things she had got him. The perfumes, the clothes, the artifacts, the gadgets, the moments. She could see all of them sitting in the house. All left alone. To dwell in the past. Sleeping on the side table. Yawning inside the almirah. And most of all, laughing at her. Mocking at her defeat to the mistress. Food turned stale. The water ran cold. Drops of sweat were getting outraced by the tears. Sleep had gone out for a stroll. And the clock was simply ticking along. She read all the letters he had written to her. All hope was not lost. She could still save her soul. She could still bring him back.
“Darling, I’ve reached. Safe and sound. Let’s Skype in 30 minutes. And no tears this time”, the husband texted.
She walked towards the bathroom. Unfastened her hair. Stripped down. And turned on the shower. The water was warm again. It tasted like hope. Wearing damp hair, a smile on her face and a spark in her eyes, Mrs. Rawat logged on to Skype. All she could see was a blank screen. And her image was frozen. Time stood still for the next couple of minutes. Nothing was moving. Not wind. Neither the clock. Not even her. Colonel Abhimanyu Rawat was offline now. That was the last he saw of his wife.
That day a lot was lost.
The bitch had won. India had won.