It’s said that there are a 100 thousand million stars in the Milkyway Galaxy.
And our planet is a small speckle floating in the dark eternity of a universe, that claims to be cold yet bustling with explosions- beginnings and endings alternating with each other whilst also briefly paused by silent and long periods of monotonous existence.
A microscopic blemish adding to the bigger ordeals of the Creation.
Shrutkirti sighed as she closed the curtains of her open balcony behind her and stepped out into the cold winter breeze, the gazillion stars looking down at her from up above.
Behind the curtains lay shelves of books and showpieces adorning the coloured walls, that were sometimes interrupted by a framed photograph of either her marraige day or a vacation, smiling and lost like a wandering comet.
Today, she let her fingers run over a bruise on the side of her arm, flinching in slight pain as she did so. She turned to look behind, through the gap in the blue curtains at her husband as he let out a loud laugh while talking to his younger sister about her fiancé on a video call.
She turned back to face the dark seas ahead, her face numb from all the crying that he had no clue about.
But you loved him.
A voice always interjected.
So much that you gave up the prospect of taking up that Italy project, that would let you go on your lifelong dream- visit to Milan. And that was for the best. For your own happiness.
Another voice cried back. This voice was the one that was always in anguish. She refused to listen to it most of the time for that would mean giving into something she thought was an extreme decision. Something that she has never been capable of. But all those battles inside her mind to suppress it never really completely vanquished it. Having been defeated temporarily, it grew gradually in power only to hit her unexpectedly leaving her hands covering her tear-stained cheeks.
She remembered a quote that she’d read online.
The key to happiness is knowing you have the power to choose what to accept and what to let go
Power lost its meaning the moment you accepted something that you weren’t entirely consensual about and by getting accustomed to it.
The voice spoke again.
She looked down at her hand again. A red hairband with tiny golden stars covered her wrist.
A small faded souvenir from Dhruv, her college love.
It had taken her four years to get over him.
But that was a lie. She could feel his memories rushing back to her mind as she let her fingers now move from the bruise to the band, something that brought in more pain than the former could ever cause her.
“The World’s always been selfish, Shruth. Don’t give it the satisfaction by showing that its actions affect you” he had said once.
She’d laughed it off and brushed his messy hair with her hand.
Little had she known that he was right and the greedy, ever consuming wheels of time would swallow him whole, leaving her only with the painful scar of memories.
She still remembered the screeching halt of his car that had strived to steer clear of the approaching truck in front of the college, only to fail terribly.
She’d asked herself to let go. For days, she sat there clinging onto the sweatshirt, that they shared, the questions in her mind filling in the outer chaos disguised as the mind numbing silence.
She felt the answers rising with them too. And she would suppress it. She would keep asking herself why is she losing every minute in the moments of what have long gone by and yet, find herself drenched in the glimpses of the painful past.
Her twentieth birthday, he’d given her an envelope that contained the hairband and a letter.
“Every small thing in the world Shruth” it read, “be it a passing melody or the shaded blue colours of the Forget me nots, is an added detail that exists not to fill in the scenery neither to compensate for the transient silences that take over the world every now and then, but an abstract to a higher understanding. A higher purpose. All the words in the world, and all the expressions that humans are aware of, is not enough to fill it in its entirety.
And that purpose is love. As long as we keep loving ourselves for what we are and what we stand for, there’s nothing that one needs to fear”
Her thoughts scattered away all of a sudden, as soon as she heard her name being called from behind.
“Shrutha, is the dinner ready?”
He was done with the call. She took in a long breath. It was now or never.
She turned around and closed the door behind her just as a light, calm drizzle began to fall on the black railings.
He sat on the couch, smiling at his phone as she approached him.
“Rishi, could we have a moment to talk?”
“Yeah, sure.” he said, still not looking up .
“I’m listening, Shrutha.”
A long pause followed. She could hear the pitter- patter of the rain fall outside.
Clutching her wrists tight, she let out her years of suppression and anguish. All the hurt and silences, now wore a cry, that could be responsible for battles that would cause the demise of the entire humanity and all its invalid principles as we know it.
“I was raped”
He finally looked up. She couldn’t read his expression. It was a mixture of confusion and disbelief.
“I was raped” she repeated. It wasn’t that hard now.
She could get herself to say it a million times if she had to. It was no longer a secret. It never was, for it was always hiding in plain sight, only he could never see it.
He got up, walked up to her. Her eyes, a dark, unflickering speck of void that conveyed no other emotions.
“When was this?” He asked softly, now holding her shoulder.
She looked up at him, and for a moment decided against it.
But something else had taken hold of her. She would not stop. Not now. Not when she had almost rid herself of all the chains binding her.
“Last night.” she whispered.
His hands suddenly moved away, as he looked at her with an unconvinced expression.
“Yesterday? Shrutha, we-“
“Yes.” Her voice was little louder than before.
His disbelief now turned into anger. He looked away in rage and she could see his emotions turn into an array of insult.
“What the hell do you mean?” He said, turning back at her.
“You never asked for my consent, Rishi.”
“What are you trying to imply, Shrutha?”
“Stop playing these kinds of horrible games with me? Have you lost your mind? I’m your husband. Nobody forced you into this marraige.”
“It’s not about the marriage, Rishi. It was about consent.” Her voice did not waver. She could not afford to lose her calm now.
“But we’re married.” His voice shook in incredulity.
“It’s been like this from the very first day, Rishi.”
“Wha-what do you mean?”
“I told you I needed time. You remember it. I said I couldn’t get myself to agree. But you said I’d get used to it. You said that’s how it’s worked out.”
“Yes, but you obliged.”
“I never gave my consent, Rishi. I never once-” she broke down, now falling to the floor.
He moved away, unable to look at her.
After what seemed like an eternity, he kneeled beside her.
“We can work this out Shrutha. Nobody needs to know. I’ll give you all the time you want now.”
“Do you understand what has happened here, Rishi?” She asked looking up at him.
“I’m no longer obligated to hold on to these bruises. I’m no longer conditioned to please you. And I’m no longer needed to make this work. Do you know why? Because I’ve learnt that I have an alternative.” She gave him a weak smile.
“I’m free, Rishi.”
“I don’t understand Shrutha.” His voice broke.
“But, I love you. How can you-“
His eyes went back to being their stone cold self.
And that was the last she saw of him, as she got up, and walked through the main door, into the falling strings of rain as they cleansed her soul.
The million stars above, did not vanish into non existence just because she closed her eyes, nor did the rain wash away their resolve. She could still see them in the dark lacuna of her shut eyes that were no longer clouded by starry phosphenes and made up lies.
She had finally done justice to herself.