Donna observed the Sabbath Day in a stringent way, allowing no room for work. The weekdays were sufficiently hectic to keep her away from her own little time and space. Like every other Sunday, Donna stepped out of her bed a little later than usual. She moved to her balcony garden to water the plants and checked to see if they needed a trimming, when she heard the doorbell. It was not the beginning of the month to expect the newspaper man to collect the monthly subscription, perhaps the milkman who had not collected his dues last month. Without taking a look through the eye-hole, Donna opened the entrance door to her apartment. Derek stood there- he had left for an official trip programmed for three weeks; he was home after three years.
Not knowing what to say or how to react, Donna stepped back leaving the door open and puzzled as to which room she should enter into to allow Derek’s home-coming to sink in. Derek realized that Donna was rather astounded to see him back home. He hadn’t even called her to inform her; when was the last time he had called?
Derek placed his luggage aside and found Donna sitting on the edge of their bed- thunderstruck. He too seemed at a loss of words not having any words or explanation for his ruthless and self-centered decision. It appeared as though he was home to a stranger. He walked past her silently towards the washroom to freshen up. Donna still quite blank in her head about all that was happening proceeded to the kitchen to prepare breakfast. She wondered whether to start or keep waiting for Derek to join her at the table; she had grown out of the habit of waiting over the last three years. Derek found Donna seated at the table, with his towel round his neck he sat down next to her not wanting to keep her alone. As he poured the tea into her cup he raised his eyes to look at Donna who was staring at her empty plate. He carried on serving the breakfast on her plate as well as his. Donna found it difficult to chew her food, but soon perceived that the longer she took to complete the more she would have to endure the bitter silence between the two. She rose to clear the plates, Derek too joined her to finish the chore, quite unlike of him, and maybe he did it now to carve out more time to talk to Donna. They needed to talk.
Derek firmly grasped Donna by her arm and tried to get her close to him, but she objected and forced herself out from his grip. Derek followed her to their bedroom, “I need to talk to you, at least listen to what I went through.”
“You left for Bangalore for three weeks for an assignment. Then you got yourself a few more projects to linger there- that was on your professional front. Weekends too you were so caught up with your friends and outings that you failed to sense the anxiety I was going through when you did not call for week after week and then months- right? I understood that you were enjoying this break from me, but the least you could have done is told me about your decision over a phone call.” Donna blurted out without raising her decibels. Understanding that Donna was brimming with emotions, feeling cheated, rejected and abandoned, Derek allowed her to vent out her feelings.
Being married for four years like most couples, the daily squabbles seemed to be dominating their everyday routine. The differences and arguments had reached a peak and there were instances when the two would not be in conversation for several days, perhaps weeks. There were times when one did not know about the other would be home for dinner or maybe available for a Sunday outing. The discordance demanded disconnection.
On getting a project that needed to be monitored from the Bangalore office, Derek took the opportunity for a break from the mundane life that was heading towards no resolution. Donna hoping that Derek would be back as per his schedule bid him farewell; she was used to this kind of official trips which Derek had to make several times in a year. Life at Bangalore kept Derek occupied both professionally and socially. After office hours he spent most of his evenings at pubs and discotheques and weekends were dedicated to escapades. Quite relaxed and away from the quarrelsome married life, Derek seemed to have re-established his sanity. He found it convenient to take up one project after another only to extend his stay out of home. His social life kept him engaged that he did not miss home. His calls and messages to Donna reduced, either he was not contactable or else he was too busy to attend her call. Derek had literally wiped out Donna’s existence from his life.
Derek remained ruthless and selfish in his ways; Donna on the other hand had suffered from anxiety and sleepless nights. However, time is a healer and she learnt to live by herself perhaps realising that this space was needed between them. She only wished Derek had been more vocal about his opinion about their rocky relationship. His sudden disappearing act had created turmoil for her. The unending inquisitive questions of family, friends and neighbours abetted as years went by.
Too much of anything gets toxic, boring and monotonous. Derek now gradually felt the loneliness. There was no one around at home to share his bad day experiences, his grief or joy. Derek now longed for those moments when they cracked silly jokes about each other and teased one another. This void could only be avoided by Donna alone- Derek felt the urge to return home.
Donna kept gaping at the lawn overlooking her garden balcony as she heard Derek, however, did not know how to react to him. Was she expected to forgive and forget the way Derek treated her? Was she expected to love him as though nothing had occurred till that day? Was Derek expecting a new Donna who would not throw up her tantrums or get into a frenzy after an argument or would she continue to remain herself and then would Derek slip away again for his convenience?
Derek perceived that Donna had to be given time- he wanted her to respond even if it had to be a violent outbreak. Her non-retaliation was unnerving. Kissing Donna on her forehead he moved to turn on some light music- Kenny G, which they both enjoyed; hoping the music to deplete the grim atmosphere. Donna continued with her Sunday tasks in her cold, silent way which perturbed Derek.
Later that night Derek not being able to tolerate the sadistic Donna, he again apologized for his ruthless, selfish reasoning and behavior and also demanded her to acknowledge his presence. Donna looked into his eyes, grieved, yet in a composed voice softly uttered, “Welcome back home from your sabbatical leave; I have gone through all this alone- all by myself; now it is my turn for a break.”