“It is a match made in heaven”, whispered her aunty to her mother as they sat there watching the happy family floating through the crowd of glittering guests in the stuffed room. Her mother nodded in response and widened her smile when she caught the eye of her grandson, who immediately broke free of his father’s grip and ran to her lap.
“Come on and say hi to the rest of the guests Dum Dum”, she said while pulling her 6 year old son from her mother’s lap. “No!” he replied and gripped his grandmother’s neck even tighter who simply laughed in response. She shook her head and let out a breath to ease her nerves. She never liked large gatherings herself. She always struggled with the accepted norms of society, and therefore, didn’t push her son any further. She sat next to her mother and unconsciously rubbed her tummy. “How is she doing?” asked her husband, nodding to his daughter growing in her tummy. She smiled back at him and felt the pain in her heart when she once again realised that she hadn’t been thinking of her daughter at all.
She tried not to wriggle out as her husband rested his large arms around her shoulder, something that she should have gotten used to after 10 years of marriage. But she saw that her mother noticed her stiffen and so, rested her head against her husband and closed her eyes so that she could hide her discomfort. She knew the signs that people took for love, after 10 years she is now an expert at pretending to be madly in love and appear immeasurably happy.
The crowd began to disappear gradually and by midnight, they had their homes to themselves again. “Happy Anniversary!” he whispered against her ears and brushed his lips softly against her hair. He smiled to himself and began to hum as he spread his palms flat across her tummy where their daughter had just woken up to practice her karate. She looked at him and saw his eyes, so naked and so full of love and care. It always made her feel guilty and dirty for being so empty inside; she wanted to tear herself apart for the discomfort his closeness brought to her. Even as she ran her fingers through his hair, every cell in her body screamed out because of how unnatural the gesture felt. But he was a fool; he rested his head on her lap and stayed there through the night. He didn’t notice the stiffness that he left her in and he didn’t notice the sleep deprived eyes the next day.
Every morning after an uneasy night, she looks at herself in the mirror and asks, “Have I ever loved him?” No, she sighs. “Have I ever loved anyone?” Once again she breathes out no. Then she washes her face, plasters her smile and says, “Today I will fall in love with my husband!” She pretends to believe herself and exits the room, back to the life which makes her bones ache and her chest heavy.