The List | By Asha Vishwanathan

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As I recently mentioned on Facebook, this year, I've decided to give some of my favourite non-fiction writers, a gentle nudge to get them outside their comfort zone and pen a story.   Today, I’m honoured to have the first of those ‘undiscovered story-tellers’ on my humble blog - Asha Vishwanathan a.k.a The Moonstone.   Some of you may already be aware of her writing prowess and her blog, ‘The Motley Collection’. Though we’ve been reading each other’s blogs for a while, it was at a recent Indiblogger meet, that we finally met.  Asha is hands-down one of the sweetest and most down-to-earth people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. She's also a multifaceted person, who not just writes, but also doodles. Really well, might I add.  Though she hasn’t been blogging as much as she’d like, I am ecstatic that she chose to ‘break free of the rusty chains of writing’ and weave her magic quill for her first ever piece of fiction. So, without further ado, happy reading!

 


Buy groceries. Pay bills.

 

Indu crossed out items from the to-do list, on the laptop and leaned back with a palpable sense of relief. Only few more left to go. Unfinished things rankled and nipped at the edges of her consciousness. Resigning to the fact that 'Cleaning the closet' was too daunting to be attempted immediately, she stretched wearily and headed to the bathroom. The street lights were casting long shadows through the window.

 

The haggard reflection in the bathroom mirror revealed an average looking woman. With the hair pulled back severely away from the face, into a tight bun and the round horn-rimmed glasses, her face appeared unflatteringly mousy. Shoulder length hair tumbled down as the strangling metal pins were pulled out and neatly stacked inside the medicine cabinet. Deciding to take a quick shower, she ran the hot water in the tub. A strange prickling sensation caused her to glance at the door which creaked open slowly inwards. She suppressed a scream, as the bottle in her hand fell with a dull clunk and scattered small white pills all over the floor. A window banged shut somewhere and then there was silence. It was only a sudden gust through the open window

 

With hands still shaking, she gathered the pills and threw them in the dustbin. It had been some time since thoughts of Amit, her husband, had invaded her senses. A demanding marketing job kept him out of home most of the time and for this, she could only thank her stars. Their last encounter still brought out beads of cold sweat.

 

A feeling of uneasiness gnawed in the pit of her stomach.

 

Her thoughts turned to Sonia.

 

Sonia.

 

Gorgeous, steadfast, strong, confident, aggressive and ruthless. They were poles apart. Losing count of the times Sonia’s presence had been a stabilizing influence, her mind was again preoccupied and restless with a sense of urgency. Sonia had never let her down.

 

"Hey darl', whats up ? How’s the list coming along?"  Sonia's voice seemed so bright and chirpy.

 

The lists had always been a standing joke between them. With an impulsive and a devil-may-care attitude, lists were anathema to Sonia, despite the demanding pressures of a PR job at an ad agency.

 

"Amit again?"  She knew. She always knew.

 

"He doesn't deserve you Indu" Sonia snapped. Sonia had taken an instant dislike to him.

 

“You should find a way out before he does more harm. If I had my way…”

 

A die-hard survivor and not one to take things lying down, Sonia had come to her rescue innumerable times. On the other hand, people trampling all over her had become such a habit, that the feeling of having done something to deserve that treatment never left her.

 

But there were times when Sonia’s vindictiveness scared her.

 

*****

The weather looked dreary as an overcast morning sky cast a grey pall. After spending a restless night tossing and turning, plagued by a throbbing headache and recurrent nightmares, she had called in and taken off from work. A fine drizzle, already fogging up the window, wasn’t helping her mood and the unfinished closet seemed to taunt her. The unkempt mounds of clothes and the obvious disarray invoked a sudden fit of temper and she started pulling out clothes from the closet in vengeance. The seemingly incongruous black medium sized envelope, wedged between her shirts, fell out spilling some of its contents - old black and white polaroids. But why did they look so terrifyingly familiar? As the images registered, the photos fell from her suddenly nerveless fingers.

 

The air was still and heavy with foreboding as a thin bead of perspiration formed on her forehead. She had probably been sitting dumbly on the bed for an hour till the sudden shrill ringing of the phone jarred her senses. She almost dropped the phone on hearing Amit's voice, but was careful to keep her voice steady and hoped he hadn’t noticed the slight tremor.

 

He was going to be home in the evening.

 

The clothes were still strewn around in disarray. She felt the bile rising up her throat as she thought of the photos again. Where was Sonia when she needed her?

 

She started biting her nails which were already bitten to the quick, then abruptly stopped. Amit would take in her disheveled look and her hunted eyes and realize in an instant. Needing to get a hold on herself, she inhaled deeply and started putting the closet in order. A strong hot dose of caffeine was soothing while the laptop powered up. Glancing at her to-do list, her eyes widened on realizing her list had changed.

 

The doorbell rang in the evening.

 

She was ready.

 

*****

There was blood everywhere.

 

She still needed to fix the scene but that could wait. She switched on the laptop and smiled as she deleted the next task on her things to-do list. Kill him.

 

Sonia was delirious..."Atta girl! For a minute there, I didn't think you could pull it off". A warm fuzzy feeling enveloped her. Sonia's praise always did that to her. "I was there with you hon'..all the time"

 

And so she had been, all the time. Since the time Indu had been 5 years old. For some weird reason, the doctor at the clinic hadn’t liked Sonia and had wanted her to stop talking to the ‘voices in her head’. She had been forced to do something about him.

 

She hummed an old Hindi tune as she stuffed the photos of herself, with the crude and violent graphics, in the bottom of the shelf. She was free of Amit at last. Sonia was happy.

 

*****

The next day's local newspapers carried a small report about a plumber, Sushil, stabbed in an apartment. It was occupied by an unmarried woman in her late 30s stated to be living alone. The stabbing itself was allegedly in self-defense, as the woman claimed the man had tried to molest her. The woman was said to be severely shaken and injured in the ensuing scuffle and was recuperating at a local hospital.

 

*****

Image Courtesy : Vintage fountain pen 2 by hisks@rgbstock.com

Below is a snippet of the post from Facebook, in case you missed it.

 

https://www.facebook.com/iWroteThose/posts/930666710286744?fref=nf&pnref=story