“Mumma, your lip looks funny. Shall I kiss your pain away?”
“Don’t worry baby. Mumma is okay.”
“Mumma, why was Daddy yelling at you?
“It’s nothing dear. It was my fault. Go on, do your homework.”
“I’m scared Mumma. Why do you let him hit you?”
“Sshhh! He might have a temper, but he always apologises later. He loves me.”
Maya’s vacant eyes followed the rise and fall of the squiggly green line of the cardiogram monitor. Her mind churned, as the reel of memories, rolled falteringly.
A wayward smile creased her face as a long-forgotten memory flickered across her eyes.
Aahana, seven-year-old, posing in front of the mirror. Tottering in heels, too big for her tiny feet, she turned in a circle. With sparkling eyes, she looked up at her in awe.
“Mumma, I look just like you!”
Her vision blurred and re-focussed to the present.
The resemblance was uncanny and unfortunate. Her gentle, beautiful daughter was lying limp and unconscious, her pale skin blotchy and bruised.
The monitor beeped faster, as Aahana gingerly opened her crusty eyes.
Maya squeezed her hand assuringly as she tried to smile up at her. A twisted half smile, while the other half lay stiff and swollen.
“Sshhh! Lie still. You just need some rest. You’ll be okay.” She tried to pacify her, stroking her matted hair.
Aahana froze, her gaze hardening. She turned her head away, wincing with every movement.
Several heartbeats later came a soft whisper, but one that sliced through her soul.
“Mumma, will you kiss my pain away?”
Maya recoiled as if slapped. Sweet, empty words that she had used over the years to sugar-coat the ugly reality. Lies, that she heard, she believed and passed on to her daughter.
The accusatory silence and the sterile air, heavy with disappointment, stifled her.
Maya hurried out, muffling her sob with the edge of her saree.
Her husband stood with their son-in-law, deep in conversation. They turned towards her as one, as she approached.
“Stop crying!” Her husband hissed.
“Listen, damadji has apologised profusely. It happened in a heated moment. She had no reason to challenge his authority. I’m sure she has learnt her lesson and will not stand up to him anymore.” He looked at his son-in-law placatingly.
Those words scraped on her senses like a rusty nail on metal. She blocked out the viciousness that he was spewing.
“Listen, no one needs to know. If anyone asks-“
Her whole life was a pile of lies and now her daughter was buried under it. She had taught her to be blind to the abuse.
“…she slipped and fell. Maya, it was her fault. Okay?” He shook her rudely.
It was NOT.HER.FAULT!
It is NOT.OKAY!
She wanted to scream at him, but instead, she nodded her head, “Yy-yes.”
The final lie. But no more.
Maya turned her back on them and dragged her guilt laden steps down, to the reception desk.
She picked up the phone –
“Hello? Police station?”
Saree – An Indian attire worn by women
Damadji – Son-in-law (in Hindi)
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