"Honey, come here fast. Please help me with these goddamn hooks," Daisy called out.
“What now?” Saurabh said, exasperated. He was multi-tasking while getting ready for the office. He was tying his shoelaces, munching last bites of the stuffed potato parantha and all this while, he was reading a famous columnist’s piece on Sachin Tendulkar’s batting form, and he was trying to catch the highlights of the previous evening's T-20 match. He hadn’t been able to see the game properly due to similar intrusions by his wife.
“Can’t you bloody come here once?” Daisy shouted at the top of her voice. Saurabh ran out of the living room and into their bedroom. He recognised this tone of his wife. It was no less than the warning of a nuclear attack.
She was standing sideways, in front of the mirror, wearing a pair of pencil-fit jeans and struggling with her bra, “Screw your cricket match. Clamp these hooks. My hands are not reaching there.”
“You are getting heavier. Miss Big Bosom! Do something to slim down.” Saurabh retorted, trying to clasp the hooks together. “And haven’t you got good practice wearing this all these years? I wonder who strapped your bra when you were not married. You have to call me always now.”
“Then I was not a mother of two children, And yes, I still have an hourglass figure. I know you were thinking that” she said leaving Saurabh stunned at how well she could read his mind. He was about to say that only.
“And I ask God every time I wear this. Why do women have to put up with all this trouble? It is so unfair to the so-called fair sex. The bra is a hassle but a necessity. Women have to be so prim and proper. All day men like you ogle at us. If only one per cent of those people stared at your chest any day, you would hesitate to even venture out.” Her frustration was in its element.
“And I ask those who design these bras why they keep the hooks on the back. Can't they be in the front? Would it be a cardinal sin, or would it lead to a world war?” Saurabh couldn’t contain himself. By the time he had finished the hook work and rushed to the door, knowing that he had provoked her enough.
“Wait, where are you going? Get me a safety pin from the drawer.”
She moved towards the bed to pick up her full sleeves white shirt. She was surprised at the tone of her own voice. She was strangely irritated today. She wasn’t late for the office. Was it because she was trying to hide something in her mind?
“The buttons of this new shirt, which stupid you have bought, are too far from each other. Everything is visible like the see-through Jharokha windows of a queen’s palace.”
“No issues. Let people stare. Whatever they are looking at is all mine,” Saurabh chuckled helping her fix the safety pin just under the buttons where it mattered the most - the centre of her breasts. He longed to rest his head there.
This kind of morning was a daily routine for the couple. Saurabh, who ran a public relations-cum-advertisement company, was a big success. She was an equally successful banker, a deputy manager, and a thorough professional. She followed the dress code, almost as a religion. And she always wore a white shirt, grey or black trousers, or knee-length skirts to the office.
She had struck a fantastic balance between her career and ‘three’ children. Now, you don’t have to say that in front of her. An incorrigible feminist, she would counter, "Why do you talk about women that way? Why do women have to prove themselves by striking such a balance? Why is the same not said about men?" He had learned it the hard way not to trigger her anger.
Their eldest daughter, Neha, was eight years old. She was mature for her age and helped take care of her younger sibling, Sunil, hardly six. Both of them used to leave for school early and after school would walk to Saurabh's parent's house, in the vicinity. The grandparents spent almost the entire first half of the day waiting for them. The children were the joy of their lives.
Wait, didn’t we say three children? Yes, Daisy’s ‘third’ child was her husband only and the most demanding one. He didn’t know about the balanced diet he should have or the colour combinations he should wear. She was the answer to all her questions.
Daisy took one final look at her face, lipstick, and hair in the rear-view mirror of their Hyundai Santro car. She acknowledged that she looked stunning in her white shirt and black striped-business pants.
"Am I looking ok?” she asked Saurabh out of habit, knowing well that he would say awesome without looking.
“Awesome,” Saurabh did say. So predictable, she told herself.
She was also wearing her favourite black high heels. It made her already 5’7” frame appear even taller, somewhat towering. Heels, she often said, added confidence to her gait. And she liked her dominating presence over the male colleagues, who were alerted at her approach by the clickety-clack of her heels.
She usually dressed that way, prim and proper. She looked at herself repeatedly in the mirror, but today she watched more times than usual.
Today was different. Today was special. Today, Daisy may finally do something which she hadn't done before.
Saurabh’s mobile phone, placed between his thighs on the seat as he drove the car, flashed a light. It indicated an incoming call or a message. Saurabh usually kept it on silent mode. It served two purposes. One, he was noise sensitive, and the phone’s ringing disturbed him. Second, Daisy would hear the phone’s beeps and start all over again about who was sending him so many messages and WHY?
Saurabh turned the phone upside down to hide its flashing screen. “No need to hide it. It must be a message from one of those bitches. Do you think I don’t know? The day I will catch you with one of them, I will cut your..., you know what and the so-called proud member, where your twisted mind resides, into small pieces,” she said, half threatening and half smiling. She felt strange pleasure imagining it.
“Hahaha. It is nothing. It’s Parvesh," Saurabh said, showing her the phone from a distance. He smiled, thanking his stars that it was not from Priya. Though, he wasn’t worried. Priya knew she could message him only after Saurabh sent her three dots in the morning. That was their understanding. And she responded with five dots. That was code confirmation that chatting was safe.
But then Anuradha and Ritu could SMS anytime. At this moment, his relationship with them had not reached a level that required secret codes and timing.
Daisy didn’t say anything. She looked out of the window instead, immersed in her thoughts. What is it that could be pushing her husband towards other women? Maybe he was not having a fling or something more severe and just liked chit-chatting with them. He often told her that. But a woman’s sixth sense disagreed.
At some moments, she was surprised at her reaction. She was not bothered much. It sounded strange, but that was the fact. She had never felt any lack of love for him. She always got the same warmth, stars in his eyes when he looked at her, and the same calmness on his face as he slept next to her.
She sometimes wondered what it would be like to be in touch with another man. Would she feel different? Better? Or worse? She had never tried. She did not seem to have strong romantic hormones. It was OK, she often said to herself and never tried answering queries of her female friends on her sex life. It had been so long since someone had treated her like a woman. For Saurabh, she was more like a mother. And for her office staff, she was the dominating ultra-male-like female. So far, she had never felt the need to be with another man physically. But she had started wondering what if.
Still, no man could touch those strings of her heart. Not until, Jugnu. She smiled at herself. The mere mention of his name! The butterflies in her tummy!
Daisy loved her husband more than anything else. His smile made her weak in the knees; she had told her elder sister once. That reaction to his smile had remained. But then Jugnu, too, was having that impact now on her. The impression was a lot stronger.
“No oranges today?” Saurabh asked. She returned to the present with a jolt.
“Oranges,” he said, looking at her. “Forgot?”
“Yeah, I forgot,” she replied, adding, “Good, you miss those”. And she looked out of the window again at the trees and buildings speeding past them like a film on fast rewind.
On other days, Daisy would be peeling oranges sitting in the car. She had to force-feed Saurabh. “Eat, beta, eat, and use your vitamins on your girlfriends,” she often joked as Saurabh gobbled up half the orange in one go. He preferred eating like that. The juice filled up his mouth. It was like a fountain of liquid bursting inside. Daisy smiled, recalling that.
But today, her mind was elsewhere. . . Jugnu.
Saurabh left her outside the bank and sped off. His office was still 6 km away. Daisy paced up to be in time for the board meeting, and after that…maybe…she shrugged off the thought.
Inside the meeting, after the usual greetings with the colleagues, the presentation began. The slideshow of charts of profits and losses started. The bad loans list followed. Otherwise, fully attentive, Daisy played with her pen. One after another, the bank seniors and some financial experts spoke earnestly as if their life depended on it.
Her mind was not there at the conference. She kept thinking about Jugnu.
She was letting him in!
No, she wasn’t in love with him. Neither was he. None of them had shared such a feeling. Well, at least not yet.
They had met in the bank a few days ago when Jugnu had come to fine-tune the bank’s website. He was a web designer and was so charming. They had exchanged a few messages and emails and had chatted, too. Facebook, Gmail, and WhatsApp are great inventions of the modern world. They bring people close within minutes. But she had never gone out with him.
Well, so far.
She felt like a dove which, in a rain-parched forest, wanted to quench her thirst. But a tiger was seated close to the shrinking pond, waiting for such a weak moment.
Jugnu had texted her yesterday that he would meet her at the Café Coffee Day. He would see her a block away from the bank and go together in his car, a passion red Ford Ikon. But she hadn’t said yes. She was still undecided. A small step can lead to bigger things. Sometimes, you cherish those moments for life. Sometimes, those moments take you to the point of no return.
There’s no fun in losing life's more essential and well-nurtured happiness for small joys; she had often advised others.
The waiter at the Café Coffee Day worsened her condition. He embarrassed her. The froth on her coffee was heart-shaped. A standard way of serving - anything can happen over a cup of coffee - in the CCD.
Is Love in the air?
Jugnu was at his charming best. He knew how to please a Lady. He pulled a chair for her and cracked jokes. He placed the order as per her preference: a cold coffee without cream for her and a black coffee for him. Good for the heart, he said. He maintained eye contact, never looking elsewhere, not even below her neck.
“Is he decent, or am I not worth looking at elsewhere?” She wondered.
However, he praised her hair and how classy she looked in the business suit. His eyes only reflected a genuine compliment with no hidden agenda. Girls can tell, and Daisy has seen enough of the world. She was flowing into his world now. He was expressive. He had so many tales to tell. But her eyes were glued to his moving lips, hearing without much attention.
“Hey, your lunch hour is over,” Jugnu snapped his fingers, “Where are you lost, young lady? I am here.” He brought her back to the real world.
“I still have time,” she said though she was late, too late. “Let’s have another cup of coffee.”
Jugnu looked at her intensely. She melted more inside, “Hmm. Would you like a stroll in the park behind this market? Quiet place. Few people come here at this hour.”
Jugnu slipped his hands into hers as they walked. Their fingers entwined. She didn’t resist. Why not? She asked herself. She had no answer. She liked it. She felt the tingling sensation that went all the way to her most sensitive part.
“Gosh... What’s happening,” she wondered.
They had hardly moved halfway on the path when Jugnu pointed at the balcony of a two-storey, red brick house, with a white-pink mix slope roof.
“I live there,” he said. “Hey, you never told me you lived this close,” Daisy said, surprised.
“You never asked,” he smiled back.
“Come,” he said, pulling her arm gently.
“No,” she said firmly.
They took another round and spoke about how pretty the flowers were, in all the bounty of Mother Nature and how pleasant the February sun was. “Come to my house. I am a good host. Please,” he pleaded.
“How can I? Nooooo…” she said again, but not very firmly this time.
Minutes later, they were inside his house. The two-room portion was laid out nicely despite having minimal furniture. And his bedroom had no beds but a couple of mattresses laid one above the other.
“I want to swim in your eyes, the doe eyes,” he had said the moment they had entered, and she had melted. He was all over her like a hungry wolf. No, she can't say he was forcing himself. It was raw passion. It just flowed out of him into her.
She never got to know when he pulled off her trousers. Then, smoothly he removed her black panty before he went down on her, planting soft kisses and later eating her inside out.
“Gosh, how well he is doing it,” she thought.
She was half on the bed with her legs on his shoulders as he kneeled on the floor.
Swiftly, his hands moved inside her white shirt and on her back. He snapped open her bra hooks using just his thumb and two fingers. Gosh, it was so easy for him, she wondered again.
Daisy was in a trance. Her head was swooning. Her eyes were closed, and she was in another world.
Jugnu was snapping open the buttons of her shirt in the front with one hand only when his hand stopped at the pin. He tried using one hand but couldn’t open it.
He brought up his second hand as Daisy opened her eyes. There he was in front of her, as she lay half naked below the waist with just the safety pin wrapped around the shirt.
Saurabh sneaked in her shut eyes. There he was again, fixing the safety pin. “Whatever they are looking at is all mine,” wasn’t that what Saurabh had said in the morning? Yes, it was.
She opened her eyes with a start, and Jugnu, all smiles, was still trying to open the adamant pin. Daisy came back to reality with a thud. The burning in her body stopped, and repulsion arose.
“No, no, leave me,” she shouted as Jugnu let go of her shirt. He was stunned. “What…” he said.
“No, I can’t do this,” Daisy said, shoving him away and picking up her trousers and panties as tears flowed down her cheeks.
“I can’t. I can’t…” she said.
Jugnu was silent and stunned. He knew when a woman’s “no, no” meant go on and when a firm “no” like she said, meant ‘Stop’.
Daisy ran to the bathroom and, a few minutes later, came out dressed. She hugged Jugnu, who had poured lemonade into two glasses.
“Please, forgive me. Please understand I can’t do all that. Please,” she said, moving towards the door. Jugnu saw Daisy bolting the door behind her. She stepped out, tugging at the safety pin.
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I love the significance of the safety pin and its symbolism--saving the marriage. However, I don't know if it's worth saving, especially since Saurabh is having his own affairs. They seem to harp at each other without much love, and she sees him as her third child. One thing you might watch is the change in point of view--it went from Saurabh to Daisy quickly and often. It makes me wonder whose story it is.
Thank you. Your suggestions are nice. I didn’t take notice of the pov issue. Sometimes the writer just goes with his flow. I think I will have a relook and consult some writer friends also. True, Saurabh has affairs but that is his karma. Daisy has hers and her own decisions.
This was an interesting story! It is admirable that she stopped when she did: usually that is the hardest point to stop at passion. You made a good point about a marriage that was on the rocks somewhat, though: "For Saurabh, she was more like a mother." I have known relationships like that, and it is terrible. It does take away all of your drive. Good luck in the contest this week, and welcome to Reedsy!
Thank you. This is my first submission. I hope to learn and improve.