A Strong, Beau­ti­ful and Amaz­ing Woman

The ghost of her dead hus­band also lost out to Sa­nia’s self-pos­ses­sion.

Woman's Era - - Short Story - By Ash­wina Garg

ania pow­dered her nose, put on some lip­stick and con­tem­plated her re­flec­tion. Brown eyes that had lost a tad of their sparkle looked back at her. ‘You are a strong, beau­ti­ful and amaz­ing woman, Sa­nia Shenoy,’ she re­cited du­ti­fully, just like the lat­est self-help book, Take con­trol of your life! rec­om­mended. She squared her shoul­ders, feel­ing bet­ter. Ro­han saun­tered over, a ghost of a smile warming up his pale face.

"Chant­ing mantras will not give you con­trol of your life. Balanc­ing the cheque book and pay­ing your bills on time will give you con­trol over your life. Have you paid the elec­tric­ity bill?" he asked. Sa­nia was a lit­tle care­less with prac­ti­cal things. She of­ten mis­placed im­por­tant doc­u­ments and had trou­ble pay­ing bills on time.

"I'm go­ing to do it on my way to work," she said, turn­ing to him in ex­as­per­a­tion. “Don't worry so much." She put the cap back on her lip­stick and shoved it into her purse. She went into the kitchen to grab a quick bite be­fore leav­ing for work. She rum­maged through the fridge and took out the bread and but­ter and had a quick slice along with a glass of ice cold wa­ter.

"One slice of bread and wa­ter? That's it?" asked Ro­han in­cred­u­lously. "How much time does it take to make an omelette or some idlis? And why are you pack­ing that left­over pizza for your lunch? I can't be­lieve how un­healthy your diet has be­come. You just aren't get­ting the hang of liv­ing on your own," com­plained Ro­han.

Sa­nia turned around and glared at him. "Enough! I'm sick of you haunt­ing me and lec­tur­ing me ev­ery day for the past two years. You re­ally have to move on, Ro­han. I have!"

A deathly si­lence en­sued. "I'm only here to make sure that my leav­ing hasn't caused you any prob­lems. If you want me to move on, then I will. You don't know what it's cost­ing me to hang around in this world when I've al­ready earned my place in a much higher plane. If you don't want me around, I'll leave." Say­ing this, he van­ished.

Sa­nia felt a pang of re­gret when he left. Ro­han was her hus­band but he had passed away two years ago. Due to his ex­treme anx­i­ety for Sa­nia's well­be­ing, his spirit con­tin­ued to linger around her. When they were mar­ried five years ago, he had promised to take care of her for as long as they both were alive and he was now tak­ing his prom­ise a bit too se­ri­ously.

She picked up her purse and walked into the liv­ing room. He was sit­ting on the liv­ing-room sofa and sulk­ing. Sa­nia soft­ened. "I'm go­ing on a date tonight, Ro­han. Don't wait for me and don't worry about me. I might be re­ally late."

was so star­tled that he for­got that he was sup­posed to be sulk­ing. "You're go­ing on a date?" he asked, look­ing at Sa­nia dis­traught. In­tel­lec­tu­ally, he knew that this day would come but he still wasn't quite pre­pared for it. He re­minded him­self that he would never be enough for Sa­nia any more and it was ridicu­lous for him to ex­pect it, but the thought still tore into him. Here he was, think­ing he was pro­vid­ing her com­fort and sup­port but all he was re­ally do­ing was of­fer­ing her le­gal and fi­nan­cial ad­vice. What was he good for any­way? He couldn't catch her when she tripped or hold her when she was sad. Hell, he couldn't even mag­i­cally dou­ble her bank bal­ance when no­body was

" I can un­der­stand that you must miss the phys­i­cal part of our mar­riage. I think I have a so­lu­tion. There's Su­mant in 504. He's a nice guy, look­ing to set­tle down. He's good- look­ing and is about to be­come a part­ner in some ar­chi­tec­tural firm," he said gruffly, avoid­ing her eyes. " I think he'll suit your needs..."

look­ing. Be­ing a ghost was to­tally over­rated.

He thought of all the things he missed about her. She would never walk around the house shed­ding her clothes with a naughty, mis­chievous look in her eyes any more. Now, when she took off her clothes, she was re­ally just chang­ing her clothes. She wasn't try­ing to se­duce him. The thought rat­tled him a bit. It was so typ­i­cal of a woman. When you wanted to have sex with her, she wanted to be up all night and talk. Now, when all he could do was stay up all night and talk, she wanted to go out and get to know other men and prob­a­bly sleep with them too. The thought was dis­turb­ing.

"I can un­der­stand that you must miss the phys­i­cal part of our mar­riage. I think I have a so­lu­tion. There's Su­mant in 504. He's a nice guy, look­ing to set­tle down. He's good-look­ing and is about to be­come a part­ner in some ar­chi­tec­tural firm," he said gruffly, avoid­ing her eyes. "I think he'll suit your needs..."

"Oh my good­ness! I don't want to talk about this with you. Did you hear what you just said? What are you do­ing? Are you a pimp now?" Sa­nia was shocked at what she was hear­ing. When she had ac­cepted a date from Mi­hir, who had been her boyfriend in col­lege, she hadn't thought about a phys­i­cal re­la­tion­ship. All she wanted to do, was go out with a real man for a change in­stead of al­ways hav­ing din­ner at home with Ro­han for com­pany. It was a sim­ple test­ing of waters. A first step in find­ing out if she was over Ro­han.

She had bumped into Mi­hir at the su­per­mar­ket near her house. He had been of­fered a job in Bangalore and had moved here three months ago. Most im­por­tantly, he was still sin­gle. He had wanted to es­tab­lish him­self in a ca­reer in mar­ket­ing be­fore he got mar­ried, he had said when they were to­gether. He was now a re­gional sales man­ager in a com­puter hard­ware com­pany. Mi­hir was the per­fect choice. He was fa­mil­iar and she al­ready knew they had great chem­istry.

"This has noth­ing to do with you. You don't get to de­cide who I go out with. Even when we were mar­ried every­thing was al­ways about what you wanted, wasn't it? The move to Bangalore for the pro­mo­tion you wanted, the house you wanted, even this sofa. You were the one who wanted this sofa. I wanted the cream one. Well, guess what? You don't get to de­cide any­thing any more. The day you chose to go out drink­ing with your bud­dies and driv­ing around drunk in­stead of com­ing home for din­ner, you stopped hav­ing any say in my life. Do you get that?" She stormed out of the house and slammed the door be­hind her try­ing to put some dis­tance be­tween them. He could al­ways fol­low her in a heart­beat if he wanted to, she knew that, but he didn't.

She could still re­mem­ber that night as if it hap­pened yes­ter­day. That aw­ful phone call from the po­lice telling her that Ro­han’s car had met with an ac­ci­dent and two of his friends had died along with him. They had gone to a pub to cel­e­brate Ro­han’s pro­mo­tion and had been a bit ine­bri­ated when a truck had come and hit them from the side. She shiv­ered and tried to shake off the de­pres­sion that was slowly be­gin­ning to set­tle around her. ‘You’re a strong, beau­ti­ful and amaz­ing woman, Sa­nia Shenoy!’ she mut­tered dispirit­edly as she made her way out of her build­ing.

that night, Sa­nia lin­gered out­side her apart­ment, won­der­ing if she should in­vite Mi­hir in­side. They had had a great even­ing to­gether. He had made her feel so vi­brant, so womanly, so wanted. It was some­thing she hadn't felt in a long time even af­ter chant­ing her mantra re­li­giously ev­ery day. What was it about a cer­tain man's touch, breath and voice that could make all the cells in a woman's body come alive while many oth­ers couldn’t even make her take a sec­ond glance? She had missed this. She wanted to sur­ren­der. She wanted to be­long to some­body. She wanted to melt into the hard planes of his body. The musky male per­fume per­vad­ing her senses, the warmth of his body and her own vul­ner­a­bil­ity was adding to her weak­ness.

Mi­hir was mov­ing closer now. His mouth hov­ered close to hers and one hand had slipped around her waist. "Why did we break up, Sa­nia?" he asked, his eyes al­most liq­uid with emo­tion and al­co­hol.

Sa­nia looked up into his

Mi­hir was mov­ing closer now. His mouth hov­ered close to hers and one hand had slipped around her waist. "Why did we break up, Sa­nia?" he asked, his eyes al­most liq­uid with emo­tion and al­co­hol. They had had a great even­ing to­gether. He had made her feel so vi­brant, so womanly, so wanted.

eyes, some of her pas­sion fad­ing. "You went to Delhi to study, re­mem­ber? I stayed back in Bom­bay. We just drifted apart af­ter that." She stroked his arm and rested her head against his shoul­der. "Do you want to come in, Mi­hir?" she whis­pered against his chest and felt his arm tighten around her.

“Yes," she heard him mum­ble softly against her head. "Re­ally badly."

un­locked the door, care­fully scan­ning the room for Ro­han's pres­ence. She al­ready knew that he wasn't there. She could al­ways feel when Ro­han was with her. He had ob­vi­ously taken her lit­tle speech this morn­ing se­ri­ously. "Would you like some cof­fee or tea, Mi­hir?" she asked, dart­ing glances to­wards the kitchen. She didn't think Ro­han was there but it didn't hurt to be care­ful. She felt like a teenager who was smug­gling her boyfriend into her bed­room while her par­ents were asleep. She ig­nored the feel­ing.

"Don't worry about that. I'm fine. Why don't you sit down and re­lax?" He pulled her on to the sofa and be­gan to kiss her. His hands be­gan to move un­der her shirt.

She shot down the mild sense of dis­com­fort she felt. "I re­ally need a cup of cof­fee. I've had a long day and the wine's made me sleepy. Would you like a cup?" she asked, break­ing apart from Mi­hir.

"Er...okay...sure. Maybe just a lit­tle," said Mi­hir, smil­ing at her awk­wardly.

She turned on the tele­vi­sion for Mi­hir and went into the kitchen to make the cof­fee. She checked the bal­cony and then the bed­room while the cof­fee was brew­ing. It was al­most mid­night. It was un­like Ro­han to stay away that late, she thought.

"Are you okay in there?" called out Mi­hir. "Do you need any help?"

"No. No. I'm fine," she an­swered back. “Just com­ing."

She brought out the cof­fee and changed a few chan­nels. "Hey! Dil Chahta Hai! I love this movie. Do you want to watch?"

Mi­hir fin­ished his cof­fee and gen­tly put down his cup. "You seem tensed, Sa­nia. Don't you want to do this? I don't bite. Well, not un­less you want me to," he joked.

Sa­nia laughed po­litely. This was be­gin­ning to feel like a bad idea. She de­cided to be hon­est with Mi­hir. That was what strong, beau­ti­ful, amaz­ing women did. They did not lead men on. "I don't think I'm ready for this yet, Mi­hir. It's been two years since my hus­band's death and I'm still not com­fort­able be­ing with any­body else." There. She had said it aloud. She had been brave. She had taken a chance and now she was as­sert­ing her­self. Just like the book had taught her to.

Mi­hir sighed. "Maybe it's just as well. Some things are bet­ter off in the past. I'm get­ting mar­ried in three months, Sa­nia. It's an ar­ranged mar­riage. I shouldn't even be here, should I? It's just that, see­ing you that day brought back all the old me­mories and I got kind of car­ried away. I'm so sorry."

Sa­nia sat back in the sofa and waited for the pain to take over. The last time Mi­hir had left, she had fallen to pieces. It had taken an al­most per­fect Ro­han with his per­fect looks, man­ners, in­tel­li­gence and charm to get her in­ter­ested in men again. But this time she felt noth­ing. Just a sense of re­lief that she hadn't hurt Mi­hir’s feel­ings with her re­jec­tion. So this is what clo­sure felt like, she thought to her­self af­ter Mi­hir had left.

next day, she was fix­ing her­self some corn­flakes when Ro­han ap­peared. "I guess the date didn't work out, huh?"

She looked at him se­ri­ously and added some milk to her corn­flakes. "It worked out, Ro­han. Prob­a­bly in a bet­ter way than I had an­tic­i­pated."

Ro­han frowned in that en­dear­ing way that he did when he thought that she was be­ing to­tally flaky and ir­ra­tional. It was the frown that had made her fall in love with him and she felt sad know­ing that she had to get used to not see­ing it ever again. Just like she had to get used to never see­ing his smile again.

"What do you mean?" he asked.

"Last night made me re­alise that I can live with­out you, Ro­han. I don't need you; I don't need Mi­hir; I don't need the guy in 504. When Mi­hir left me af­ter col­lege, I was dev­as­tated, but I car­ried on. Just like how I'm go­ing to carry on with­out you." Her eyes glis­tened with tears. "I think I have to let you go now. I don't think I will ever love any­one like this again but I still have to let you go, Ro­han."

Ro­han was silent for a long time.

"What? You un­der­stand what I'm say­ing – right?" Sa­nia asked as she came and stood be­fore him. "This isn't re­ally healthy for ei­ther of us."

stood per­fectly still in front of her. "I don't think I'll ever love any­one like this again ei­ther,” he said sadly. “I’m sorry I screwed every­thing up.”

He was gone in a sec­ond and Sa­nia knew this time he would never be back. She could just feel it deep in­side her soul. This was how it was sup­posed to be, she con­soled her­self. Deep sobs wracked her body as she cried harder than when Ro­han had died. When the sobs less­ened, she washed her face and re­did her make-up. She had to go to work. She had a life to live. We

"Last night made me re­alise that I can live with­out you, Ro­han. I don't need you; I don't need Mi­hir; I don't need the guy in 504. When Mi­hir left me af­ter col­lege, I was dev­as­tated, but I car­ried on. Just like how I'm go­ing to carry on with­out you."

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