The April sun shines brightly in the blue sky. I am sat on a soft blanket, with Aura resting her head in my lap; her wavy auburn tresses spread like streams of molten chocolate. I am reading her favorite storybook sitting below a giant sugar maple tree. She loves fables and, pregnancy has made her love them even more. A simple day is planned; book reading followed by a sumptuous chicken meal at Jonathan’s-her favorite restaurant. A cold breeze hits and, the bright red leaves rustle and fall on the ground. Her eyes are closed as my mellow words fall on her ears. Her golden skin radiates under the sunbeams.
I feel ecstatic to watch her at peace. Lately, she has been pretty anxious regarding childbirth. ‘It is natural.’ her gynecologist insisted the other day. But she isn’t the same Aura anymore whom I met in college. Yet, I love her. Because that is what true love is, isn’t it? You stick during thick and thin, you love at your best and worst, and you never ever fail each other. But for some reason, Aura doesn’t reciprocate my feelings. Her faith in me seems to be dripping down day by day. Previously, I assumed it was because of her pregnancy news coming out before I asked her hand in marriage. I was neutral, even though I hadn’t expected it but, she was unhappy. It was evident that she was not ready to be a mother. But I promised to be by her side and, we kept the baby. It is my blood, after all, and I have to protect it. She often felt that I chose to marry her because she is carrying my child. But, I had decided to spend the rest of my life with this woman long back ago. Yet, somehow she couldn’t afford to believe my words. She is fifteen weeks pregnant now. By the time we get married, a bulge will be visible on her belly. I am sure she would fuss over that as well after wearing the wedding dress. I saw the sadness in her eyes that day while instructing the designer to loosen the outfit measures. How do I convince her that I loved her and will continue to do so with my whole heart? It’s a puzzle I am yet to resolve. I finish the book. It’s twelve past thirty, and we better grab our meals before the restaurant gets crowded. I give a slight squeeze on her shoulder. The scattered sunbeams from the leaves above seem to blind her. She slowly tries to open her eyelids, revealing her amethyst eyes. Her face doesn’t appear to be calm anymore. Obviously, something is about to erupt very soon. Had I been under a wrong impression all this while? Was that a calmness before the storm? I bite my lip and wait for her to break the silence.
“Would you stop loving me when the baby comes?”
I sigh, hearing the phrase, “Stop Loving” the hundredth time. Or the thousandth time? I can’t remember. I have never seen this woman seeking validation for being loved. Does love seek approval? My mind is foggy but, I try to recuperate from the matter at hand. Taking a deep breath, I assure her, “Aura, I am not going to leave you. Can you stop bringing such thoughts in your mind?” I know that her hormone levels are going frenzy nowadays. So, I simply help her stand up and, we make our way outside the park.
Ahana, Aura’s younger sister, has come to visit us today. She is her only family left in this world. Including me, of course. We are deciding on the wedding theme, but Aura is the least interested. I remember the time when she planned our friend’s birthday. She was so excited, bubbly, and specific about her choices back then. Pregnancy has completely changed her. But I still love her because that is what love is, right? We are browsing the internet for wedding themes on my laptop. I see Ahana being more excited like it’s her own wedding. I see my Aura in her. But my Aura is simply asserting our choices. She laughs, smiles and giggles at times, but it is not a long-lasting episode. We finalize the flowers, the outfits, and the decor. I try aligning them as per Aura’s taste as much as possible; so she doesn’t hate or regret it later.
Later that night, as I do the dishes, she walks into the kitchen. Suddenly I find myself caught in a tight embrace. I feel the wetness of her tears on the back of my shirt. I stop whatever I am doing and hold her face. “What’s wrong, baby?” I manage to croak, looking at her melancholic expression.
“Will I be a good mother?” She questions.
“No, but the best!” I answer. I understand where this is coming from. She hasn’t let go of the dark memories of her abusive childhood. I leave whatever I am doing and take her to the bedroom. I cradle her into sleep, singing her a lullaby. She dozes off, and Her face looks angelic. Assuring that she’s asleep, I stand up to leave and finish the dishes in the sink. My heart is heavy as I depart away.
As days pass, I realize that she is growing undesirable of the child. I am failing in my attempts to understand her. She is growing dependant day by day. That scares me because I am gradually getting irritated with her behavior. At the same time, I feel pity for her state, for I am equally responsible. I wonder if sympathy has replaced my love for her. I fear if that is the only thing left in my heart for Aura. These days I just look forward to meeting Ahana. No, I am not seeking love or affection in any other woman other than Aura. But when Ahana visits, there’s happiness all around. She makes Aura a bit more lively with her presence. But why can’t I make her feel the same? Am I only subjected to face her fears? Who am I to turn my back? Because I still love her… Do I? ‘Reasons do not build a foundation for love!’ I remind myself. It’s high time that I take her to the therapist.
We are finally at the therapist’s clinic. I feel calm with fresh green plants all around. I am lost looking at the vibrant paintings on the creamy walls. It feels like it’s been ages since I haven’t sat straight on my back. The soft cushion foam is comforting, and the cool air from the air conditioner soothes my body. I can see Aura through the glass doors, speaking to Dr. Monica. Her baby bump is pretty evident. Her skin glows like never before. Her flowy light pink dress hugs her plump frame, and she looks adorable. I see the therapist making her way towards the door. She signals me to get inside. I give an assuring blink to Aura and sit beside her. She smiles back, something I have longed to see. We discuss a few problems, and it is concluded that Aura has mild symptoms of depression and anxiety. The doctor advises that she will need a few more sessions. “Love and patience are all she needs.” Dr. Monica tells me. Patience was all I had before I gave up and brought her here. But now I need to be even more patient to the “patient”. I laugh at my own joke. For her sake, I am ready to swallow some more pills of patience too.
It’s the day before the wedding. Aura looked happy in the video chat that we had an hour ago. She is doing better now. A few more sessions are still needed, but they can wait until the wedding. We have decided to have an English wedding. My Indian parents are disappointed with the child out of wedlock, but they have come to terms. They don’t seem to like Aura- a Canadian daughter-in-law either.
My mom keeps calling her ‘Dayan’ (that means a ‘witch’ in Hindi). I hate it, but I choose to be quiet until the wedding; so that she creates no more issues. My uncle offers me a glass of scotch. But I happily deny. I have vowed not to drink because Aura can’t. The Wedding ceremony will be within our close relatives and friends because my parents are ashamed to showcase my choice. We aren’t staying in the same house since my parents arrived.
“Goodbye for the last time, Aura Macbeth.” I text her.
“Last time?” She replies within seconds.
Me: “Yeah, because from tomorrow you’ll be Mrs. Singh.”
I remind her, and she chuckles in emoticons.
I desperately wait for tomorrow to dawn in. Having one last look at her picture, I wait for sleep to grace my eyes.
The wedding day has finally arrived. I wake up with a billion-dollar smile on my face like a 15-year-old madly in love. The smile doesn’t seem to fade away. I am constantly imagining how Aura would look in her wedding dress with a watermelon tummy. Finally, we wouldn’t be two but one united souls. I quickly shower and step out into the room with a white towel wound around my waist. My wedding outfit carefully wrapped in a polythene cover is beautifully hanging in my wardrobe. My body embraces the white linen shirt, black trousers, and the fine blazer. Puffing some cologne, I take a look in the mirror. I am proud of the man standing in front decked up to shoulder his responsibilities. I can hear the cackling laughter of my best men near the door. They are all set to roast me up. Aaron, my best friend, flung the door open. They all look perfect in their light blue satin shirts and grey trousers. Sam fixes my hair with the gel. I put on my socks and my shiny black shoes. Jack has slid the watch in my wrist and tucks the white flowery broach on my coat. Yet, I am incomplete. A groom is always incomplete without his bride. I check the gold wedding band inside the jewelry box and carefully place it in my coat pocket. Ma and Papa are waiting in the living room. Papa looks royal in his navy blue suit, and Ma looks graceful in her pink salwar kameez embroidered with white stones. She is showing off a broad smile and her heavy Indian jewelry. I suspect if a spell has been cast on her the previous night. I touch their feet and take their blessings for my big day. We leave for the venue in my posh SUV decorated with flowers and ribbons. I am brimming with joy and happiness to finally meet my bride.
“Vahe Guru sab changa karna. Futi kismat humari is angrezi se pala pada.”(Dear God, please make everything right. We are unfortunate to get involved with this English girl!) Ma murmurs in Punjabi. A soft chuckle escapes my mouth, listening to her stereotypical comments. Well… her true colors are back now.
We reach the destination adorned with blooming white roses, pink cherry blossoms, and golden ribands. I am ecstatic to see the arrangements. Mike – our event manager, has done an excellent job. The red carpet towards the white marble patio in the center awaits our footsteps. I recite and memorize my marriage vows. I am excited as I wait at the center, holding a bouquet of white and pink roses for my to-be-wife. We have reached half an hour early. The vicar, Fr. Padrio, has also arrived, and all of us are waiting for the bridal entourage. The guests have made themselves comfortable on the cushioned chairs, decorated with pink and blue satin ribbons. The ambience smells of roses. My heart is racing fast to witness my bride. I feel like I would break down after seeing her in that glorious white gown.
Time passes, I check the jewelry box inside my pocket for the fifteenth time. Uggh! These women often make us wait. I glance at my watch, and it’s 10 am already. Yet, nor Aura neither her sister Ahana is in eyesight. I hope this is some kind of prank they are pulling up on me. Ma is already annoyed. Beads of sweat start forming on my forehead. Suddenly my phone starts ringing. I hastily pick up the call. What I hear next stops my heartbeat, and I thump on the floor beneath just like that. The surroundings have suddenly turned mute to me. I am cold and numb. Aaron shakes me, but I can’t find my voice to speak.
Love makes you do things you might have never imagined you would. Just take an example of my parents. Ma always felt that Aura wasn’t the right choice. They planned my fiance’s murder to not lose me. On the other hand, I sent my only family behind bars because they snatched away my love. I look at Ahana walking down the driveway with our son. She hurries into the car, and we drive to the park. On reaching there, Ethan persists in taking a stroll in the garden, but I am least interested in joining them. I choose to stay back, and Ahana gets the cue. She has left with Ethan, promising him an ice cream. It’s been 3 years since Aura left us on that fateful day. I had no clue that it was really our last goodbye. I never knew that my mother’s true colors were entirely fake. That day when Aura was reaching the wedding spot, her car met with a terrible accident. The culprit had fled away. Later, the investigations revealed that my parents had cleverly planned it to get rid of her. We lost the baby. Aura breathed her last the same night. Everyone else in the car was saved but Aura! Sitting beneath the sugar maple tree, I reminisce our old golden memories. I twist and fidget with the wedding band on my finger, pricked by guilt. As the jolting wind instigates a fall of the lobed red leaves, I feel Aura’s presence. It’s the same sunny morning. I still love her. But my love wasn’t strong enough to save Aura. It wasn’t as powerful as to stop me from seeking affection in Ahana that night when I was totally broken. The result of which was our son, Ethan. I couldn’t turn my back on my responsibilities towards Ahana and our child. He is the only reason that has kept us bound in matrimony devoid of love but tied in esteem. Ahana is a wife I had always desired but, my guilt will never let me love her.
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