Published in the fiction publication Small on medium.com
Just when everything started looking fine, the phone rang and broke the silence of the room. I knew intuitively it was her. The woman with a velvety voice. Rhea, my wife, looked first at me, then at my mobile lying on the table and then lunged at my phone like a hungry cat. I too dashed towards it and beat her by a micro-second.
‘Let me talk to her,’ Rhea started shouting, ‘what the heck she wants from us. Why she keeps on calling?’ before I answered the phone.
I’d no idea why she had called or who she was. It was a month back when I got a call from her. When I asked her whereabouts, she said it doesn’t matter. Her name and identity were of no interest to me. What mattered was that she wanted to talk to me. And she had things that I wanted. The information that would interest me.
First, I had disconnected her call. Telemarketers new tactics, I’d thought. New gimmicks. They would do anything and everything to catch my attention. She wouldn’t, I’d told myself.
But then she did.
Three weeks back she called me. I realized it was her the moment I picked up the call. Her breath had a heaviness that lingered on you. Like the warm sun rays on the back of your neck on a wintry day. Just enough to make you warm and realize its presence. And then she had said a sentence. No hello, no bonjour -just a sentence.
‘Your wife will call in five minutes, will say she would be late tonight, don’t wait up for her, and this would be a lie’
I was angry. But I was surprised too. I was more surprised by the finality of the sentence. The tone in which she said that sentence. She told it as a fact. Like the statement – “Sun rises in the east.” Or that”The gravity pulls us down.” I was dumbstruck, my voice froze inside my mouth. And then I heard her hung up.
I sat on the couch and started thinking about the voice. It had a strange quality to it. Like it came from a doorway to some other world. Pure and clean and without malice. At that moment, I don’t know why but I trusted that the phone would ring in five minutes.
And it did. It was my wife, Rhea. And she said exactly what that caller had said. I said nothing but a monosyllable OK and hung up. My mind wasn’t working. I went to the refrigerator and took out a can of chilled beer. Along with it I took out a the jar of crackers and pour some into a bowl. ‘Is she cheating on me?’ I thought in my mind.
I ate some crackers and washed it down with a gulp of beer.
This happened for some time. I would get a call from that woman with a velvet voice and she would let me know what my wife would tell me on the phone. She would call me only before when my wife called me to tell that she would get late. The woman would tell me in one crisp sentence what would my wife tell. And that’s it.
Today, I was a little drunk. I got a call from that woman, and she told me the same. That my wife would call me in five minutes and what she would tell. So when my wife called and told me that she might get late, as I was angry and drunk, I completed her sentence using the words what that woman had told me. And told her a bit more -that she is sleeping with somebody.
That she is cheating on me.
A moment or two passed by without words.
Then she told that she is coming home.
After around thirty minutes, I heard the sound of her car stopping in our driveway. I had finished three cans of beer by then. And my head was buzzing like a beehive. She stomped inside the house and asked me what is happening. “How did I dare to accuse her of something like this?” she roared standing in front of me.
There is something about my wife that you should know. She is sweet, generally. But then she becomes an entirely different person when she is angry. And I’m scared of that person.
I told her the entire story. That I get a call from someone about you. That you would be late. That you will call. And you would lie about some work in the office to stay back.
She asked me my mobile and start doing something on the screen. Time and again she would look at me, then back at the screen. Then she stared hard at me and asked, ‘When did she last call?’
‘Around thirty minutes back. Five minutes before you called.’
‘But I can’t see any call logged for today before I called!’
I took the phone, and yes, there wasn’t any call. I had saved her number as ‘The Woman‘ I scrolled through the history but there was no call from this woman. My head already heavy with too much beer felt completely at loss with these development of events.
I placed the phone on the table, walked here and there a little, and then dropped heavily on the sofa. “What is happening,” I thought. Her number should be there, on the phone. In its history. But there is no record of it. “Am I dreaming?” I pinched myself. It pained. So I wasn’t.
I looked at my wife and found her staring at me like a teacher looks at a twelve-year-old who had just done a naughty thing. And now she is going to reprimand him, maybe hit with a scale.
And then I thought maybe I had been hallucinating. Maybe it was one of my fantasies that made me think like this, that made me doubt my wife who was pure like a gold, much much better than me, never to deviate from her path, and it was I who was conjuring all this up, Or maybe somebody was trying to malign her. Put cracks in our rock-like relationship.
It was then that the phone rang and we both dashed towards the phone.
I knew it was her. The moment I picked up the phone. Her breath had the same effect on me. I could feel her sitting calmly at some place, her body rising and falling with each breath of hers. And before I could say anything to her, or my wife could reach me, she let out in one simple sentence, one more fact, one more truth. And the phone fell down from my hand, the moment I heard that truth, the moment her words washed over me like waves washes over a beach. She had said …
‘The woman who is standing in front you. That woman is not your wife.’
. . .