She returned to her bedroom, her chest throbbing with a strange kind of pain that she had never experienced before. Her blue organdie wore traces of damp sweat, and her sweet, beautiful face was ruffled and damaged, probably due to tears. She would never, never throw a party again or be present in any type of social gathering. She was done, done with entertaining.
She was not always like this. Once she had been a sweet and happy woman, with everything that a person could want. New dresses, balls and parties almost every week, a sweet husband, a loving sister.
All was shattered in her life. She still remembered the day her husband had meekly told her that he was in love with another woman, and he could not possibly carry on with this false matrimonial relationship anymore. From that day, all her trust for people was lost. Forever.
At the time of divorce, she still remembered that her husband had offered her a quarter of his property to her, and that she had violently rejected it and had even spat on him.
There was no one in the world at that time, but she and her sister. She had no sources of income, and she had desperately struggled. She had to show the world, that a single woman could also feed herself and her family, without the help of a man. And she had succeeded. After lots and lots of struggle, she was finally able to acquire a job as a journalist. She was quite well off now, and now she had enough money to send her sister to one of the biggest universities in Britain.
But something had happened today that had renewed the long forgotten pain that she had in her heart. She still caught glimpse of couples dancing at the ball, and her heart had panicked. She had loved her husband devotedly, but now……
“Sarah, Sarah are you there? Here you are. Come on, all the guests have gone home. We have to tidy everything up.”, Sarah’s sister, Mary exclaimed.
“Of course Mary, we will have to tidy everything up. Please go up and bring down the festoons and balloons. I will take the decorations off the chandelier.” Mary obeyed and went upstairs while she returned to the ball room. She climbed on a chair and took off the decorations. As she completed her task, her heart writhed with pain. It was just a chandelier like this under which she and her husband had first met. And fell in love.
Oh, she must not think of him all the time. He belongs to someone else after all.
She climbed down, and started collecting the cocktail glasses which were still left on the table. Milani, her servant had left early today because her mother had contracted cholera and she had allowed her to go. After all, she was accustomed to do these things. She took the cocktail glasses to the kitchen and washed them thoroughly. She then kept them inside the cabinet. She looked around the dimly lit yellow room where the young couples were dancing just a few minutes ago.
She sighed. At this time, Mary came rushing down the stairs, her hand filled with festoons and balloons.
“Where shall I keep them?”, she asked breathlessly.
“Deflate the balloons and throw them along with the festoons in the dustbin. Then come here. There’s work to do today.”
Mary went to the dustbin, and threw the trash. She then said, “Please take off your dress Sarah. I will put them in the washing machine.”
“Ok Mary, I’ll do as you say. In the meantime you dust the floor and throw away whatever dirt you find in the dustbin”
She returned to her room and in a moment was undressed. She put on her gown and looked at herself in the mirror. She still looked beautiful, she thought. Perhaps….
She had no time to think. She took her dress and Mary’s, which was lying on the floor. She went to the washing machine and put them in it. She would wash them tomorrow.
Mary was cleaning the cabinet. Sarah went to the kitchen and started washing dishes.
“That was a great party, wasn’t it?”, asked Mary.
“Yes, it was. My, what great fun we had! But sometimes the party was a mess”
“That’s true. Who expected Mrs Donna to faint like that? “
“She’s of a weak heart. I do not like people with weak hearts, what do you think?”
“Oh, but they could not help it, you know. It is not entirely their fault.”
“Leave the subject. I personally think her too catty for words. Don’t you think that Edmond and Jean were looking awesome? Just the perfect couple.”
“Yea, they indeed were looking very handsome. I could do well with friends like them.”
Mary did not see Sarah’s tears at the mention that they were a ‘handsome’ couple.
Mary went back to the dining room and started wiping the dining table. She was really tired but something kept her awake. She was excited.
She asked , “What are your plans for the future, Sarah?”
“To take care of my beloved sister and ensure that she gets the best education, so that she could stand on her own feet and need not depend on others for money”, Sarah said, smiling.
“Oh, I love you Sarah, I love you very much”
The two sisters embraced tearfully and hugged each other for a long time. Then Mary said, “What more do I have to do?”
“Go to the terrace, where the dinner had taken place for the guests who had come late. Just take those table clothes and bring them down. They need washing."
Mary went to the terrace while Sarah sat down. Mary had asked her about her future. It was certain that after Mary had finished education and had got a job, she would marry and go away from her, and she would be left alone in this place. She would not be able to tolerate life alone. Should she marry again?
No, never a mistake like that again. She had seen enough of marriages and despised them. Oh, it was so unfair that one had to marry to get company. Really, is there anything left in the world which do not come at a cost? Even, even love comes at a cost.
She wanted to cry, but was unable to do so. It seemed that her heart had turned to solid stone.
The dim lit room even added to the depressing atmosphere.
“It would be better if I get some fresh air.”, she thought.
She went outside to the garden where a cold wind was blowing. She could smell the delicious fragrance of marigolds, roses and jasmines, plants which have been planted by her and Mary only last year. She walked through the garden, inhaling the delicious cold air mixed with the perfume of flowers and felt refreshed. She saw the curtains of her house flying due to the wind.
“There will be a storm”, she thought.”I better tidy up everything and then I will go to sleep.”
She had to take sleeping pills for sleeping nowadays. So, to her, even sleep came at a cost, the cost of the sleeping pills…..
She has gone into a depression, she knew. Maybe she would go to the psychiatrist tomorrow and take medicines.
That meant, happiness also came at a cost, the cost of the anti- depressant medicines.
“I will go mad!”, she thought wildly and she had a sudden urge to throw the flower vase and shatter it into pieces.
But she controlled herself. She went to the kitchen and resumed her task. She had to complete many tasks. She washed the dishes and started mopping the floor. Mary came back with the table clothes in her hand. She put them in the washing machine and started cleaning the furniture.
“Sarah, I think there will be a storm. A gale is blowing outside.”
“Yes. First clean the furniture and then close the windows, or the wind will come in and spoil everything.”
“I will do so”
Mary remained quiet for a while, and then said,
“Sarah, I have something to say to you”
“Please tell. I am always ready to listen to you”
Mary hesitated, and then said,
“Do you remember the guy Maurice, who bought the Johan Gate house?”
“Oh yes, quite handsome. I remember him. Is he the subject of the topic, then?”
“Yes, he is. Sarah, today was red letter day for me.”
“What do you mean, Mary? I do not understand you.”
“Sarah”, Mary hesitated, “I love him.”
“What?! I do not believe you Mary, you seriously love him?”
“Yes, Sarah. Oh, he is so cute and so handsome! And the fact that he actually proposed me today!”
Sarah was stunned and shocked. Her whole face was boiling with rage.
“You are my sister, so there would be no harm in telling you. He came to the ball and requested a dance with me. I was never aware when he carried me to the garden. There he held me tightly and kissed me, and then apologized. He said that he had fallen in love head over heels with me, and that he could not live without me. He kissed me again, and he gifted me this purple rose.”
Mary showed the purple rose to Sarah. This rose was famous and rare, and it was grown only in Johan Gate. Mary smiled but she looked at Sarah fearfully.
To Sarah, the whole world had seemed to come at a standstill.
“Are you mad, Mary? This is not your age for marriage, but studies.”
“I am sorry that I upset you, Sarah.”, Mary said, alarmed. “I will marry only after I got a job”
“You could not marry that man, do you understand me?”
“I do not get your point Sarah. What is wrong with you?”
“Don’t you understand? That man is a hypocrite, he will ruin your life!”
“Sarah, please do not have any misunderstandings about him. He is a very sweet man, I tell you.”
“Sweet man!” Sarah mocked “Sickly sweet!” and she threw the flower vase. It shattered into pieces.
“What is the matter with you, Sarah? Why are you behaving like this ?”, Mary asked tearfully.
“What is the matter with me, huh? I hate that man! The hypocrite! The….”
Mary was alarmed now, and she looked fearfully at her sister.
“Do you want to know why I am behaving like this? The things he did to you today, the same things he did to me a little while ago.”
Mary looked up, thunderstruck.
“I do not believe you. It is just… just that you are JEALOUS!”, she screamed.
Sarah took out something from her pocket. The famous purple rose of Johan Gate with a note on it, which said,
‘I love you Sarah darling!-Maurice’
Mary fell down on the sofa, too weak with the shock.
Sarah also sat down on the sofa, calm, but boiling with rage.
The sisters did not speak.
A light rain began to fall outside and the cold wind entered the room and blew the roses away.