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                                                     THE OTHER WOMAN

 "Three cheers to Danica D'Souza, Hip Hip Hurray. Run girl run; no one can stop you from winning the trophy this year too." The onlookers from the stands cooed, even as I gasped for some breath. These words supposed to be heartening; fell on my ears with a heavy thud as I struggled to keep my endurance healthy.

 'Cannot disappoint them,' I thought to myself. My heart pounded heavily against my chest. The university bestowed upon me with the 'athlete queen' status for the past two consecutive years, and this was my opportunity to prove my mettle. My classmates wanted me to win this hat trick.

"Danica, I am sure you will be crowned the athlete queen this year too," my childhood friend, Sarah, who was like an elder sibling, had almost squeezed my palm in excitement.

How was I going to tell her that Mary was giving me nightmares? She had scolded me when I spoke to her about this.

"You know Mary, she has recently enrolled in my university. She is an excellent athlete. I am afraid that I may not be able to keep up with her pace."

Sarah winced on hearing this, forcing some wrinkles to meander from her creased forehead down her pretty face.

She looked genuinely upset to know that I was getting disturbed by the presence of yet another strong athelete.

“You are winning and no Mary, Anna or Nancy, is going to stop you from achieving this feat,” She brushed away my apprehensions.

The fact that all my friends had full faith on my winning the athletic trophy, only added to my worries.

'Oops! If I lose to Mary, it would be such a great disappointment to all.'

Worry lines criss crossed my face as I ran, gathering my entire might.

The race was going on in full swing.

I gasped for some breath, even as the cheering sound was deafening my ears. I did not dare to look behind, worried to the core that Mary might overtake me anytime. Not plucking up enough courage to look back and gauge her distance from me; I ran, concentrating more on my line. The destination was a good 20m away. I sprinted as fast as I could, and finally, I crossed the line.

Despite the constant threat from Mary, I had finished first. I tried straining my neck to locate her in the crowd, but she was not there, or I could not spot her because too many of my friends had surrounded me and were frantically shaking hands and hugging me for this priceless victory.

Standing on the podium on the Number 1 deck, I once again looked out for her, but she was nowhere in sight. The fact that I was flanked by two other girls as the second and third runners up was testimony to the fact that Mary could not even make it to the third position.

I tried suppressing that smirk not wanting to be caught on camera while many were busy taking candid shots. It gave me solace, a kind of peace to know that Mary, my arch-nemesis, had lost to me.

From the day she had shifted near my home, she had been giving me fierce competition.

If I recollect rightly, she was spotted at my doorstep one morning. Smiling sheepishly at being caught loitering in my porch, she said she wanted to borrow my journals. Being new to the university, she needed to review the work that she missed during the first term.

For reasons best known to my sub-conscience mind, I loathed her very countenance. I started realizing that my conviction was waning, especially when she was around. Deciding not to make a fool of myself, I tried to save my self-confidence from fading away. However, I was losing my identity to this obsessive potent threat from her.

As far as the field of athletics and my university academic ranking were concerned, I devoured her menacing advances as a sour taste. I tried to brush aside her presence, but then she had now found another way to trouble me once she realized that winning me in sports or academics was not feasible.

I could in no way ruminate that she was donning the role of a seductive queen, trying to woo my boyfriend, Robert.

"What on earth were you up to?" I jolted him rather harshly as he was sitting under the giant banyan tree on my campus, smoking a cigar.

With inquisitiveness writ large on his face, Robert threw a quizzical glance at me, which only triggered my wrath.

"Come on; do not try to put up that face as if you are not aware of what I am talking about. Why did you have to share the table with Mary in the food corner? She was bending all over the table, trying to reveal her bosom through her drooping gown."

Robert's response of just throwing his hands despondently into the air only made my blood boil. He had heard from me the umpteen stories of how she had been snatching the sleep out of my eyes, by continually trying to meddle around in my affairs.

"I know what she is up to. She tried defeating me in the athletic field and also in the university exams. Both these attempts were only giving unsatisfactory results; she has now found ways and means to pull you away from me. It is not happening, even if that means I have to kill her." I heard myself blurting.

Dragging me towards a corner, Robert held my mouth tight with his palm, and looking into my eyes said, "Yes, you are right; she deserves to die if you have to live peacefully."

Though I hated Mary from the depth of my heart, this statement from Robert came as a bolt out of the blue. Surely saying something and doing it has a lot of difference. What Robert uttered just then, did sound extreme. However, there was some determination lit large on his face.

When he let go of his palm from my mouth, I tried to reason it out. "I didn't mean to harm Mary." He stopped me again from speaking and shook his head rather vigorously, which seemed to be an involuntary moment caused more out of determination to complete a task.

"No, she has to go away from your life. Things are turning to be too ugly. I can see the dark patches beneath your eyes. They are not good signs of a healthy life, Danica. You are looking sick. Let me find a way to eradicate her very presence permanently."

I never expected events to take a turn of this sort. Robert took my parents into confidence about his plan, and it looked like they too were conceding with his idea.

I could see the trio fervently making plans to do away with Mary permanently.

There was nothing I could retaliate about because, in a way, I was tired of fighting it out with her every day. Actually, till now, she had never succeeded in any of her attempts to topple me, but the feeling was niggling that any day she can pose a severe opponent to me, foiling my entire bid to excel myself in the university. And then she had started making menacing advances towards Robert; I could take it no more. Losing a rank or a medal in the exam or the athletic field was inconspicuous compared to the horrifying fact that I could lose Robert.

However, he had been continuously telling me that no Mary can change his mind, that I am his only love in life, which is a million-dollar worth truth.

So I watched them as they chalked out a plan to eradicate Mary. However, Robert categorically stated that he needs my cooperation to carry out the plan. I found myself nodding to his verdict.

*******************************************************************

I opened my eyes slowly. Looking around, I realized I was in a strange room. Trying to peer through the glass window, my sight having turned hazy, I struggled to figure out who the people were standing there. I realized two of them were my parents, the third was Robert, and the fourth person must be a medico, I guessed from his attire. This must be a hospital room; I thought before I went off into slumber again.

"How long will it take before she gets to normal, Doctor? Mrs. D'Souza's stifled her sobs while her husband and Robert looked with apprehension, wondering what the doctor would say.

"She should slowly get out of this in a fortnight. The pills should work from now. Do not discontinue them. I will taper the dosage and continue treating her with the same till such time I am sure Mary has vanished out of her sub-conscience mind. Don't worry. Make sure that any topic related to this never surfaces in her mind. It looks like she has always been concerned about her performances sometime earlier in life and has had stiff competition from someone called Mary that had left a deep scar in her mind.

 Despite performing exceptionally well, she has suddenly got into this delusion that the same Mary has returned from nowhere and is hell-bent on snatching everything from her, including you gentleman," he said, patting Robert.

Turning towards Mr. and Mrs. D'Souza, the doctor said, "If you could have known what transpired and where or under what circumstances your daughter met Mary, then we could have even talked it out. We have experts who can get back her bitter experience with Mary by evoking some episodes from that part of her life. Then I could have changed my line of treatment, I need not have used these injections, but it is fine. They have helped her."


Mrs. D'Souza could only let out a pout of sigh, shaking her head, making it very evident that she had no inkling whatsoever about someone named Mary, who might have been a cause of trouble to her daughter.

"It is ok," assured the doctor. "She is trying to overstrain herself to win over Mary, and that is how she gets hyper and nervous. This is not good for her health and nerves. The pills will soothe her nerves soon, and things should become alright. The anti hallucination pills I have prescribed have the same composition as the injection vials, but with lesser dosage. It is up to all of you to keep her cheerful and never make her realize she has been a victim of such illusions."

****************************************************************

I slowly stretched myself, letting my limbs loose. I felt like I had shed away fatigue that had been a part of me since birth. The fresh rains that had started pouring in washed away Mary slowly from my mind.

I got up to a fresh morning. I am Danica D'Souza, the class topper, and the athletic queen. Of course, I am also Robert's queen. I smiled at myself, blushing to the core, thinking of Robert's mischievous eyes.

I took away the lid from the glass of water and slowly gobbling the pills that mom had kept there, gulped the water. I looked out of the window and gaped into a beautiful world with lush greenery spread like a quilt. I saw her standing there, but she looked pale and vulnerable. In a short while, her figure began fading and soon vanished and dissolved in the rain.

The Other Woman, my arch-nemesis, had gone away from my life.


Sudha Viswanath

June 28, 2020 07:12

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