Two Years

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Chapter 6

Nightmare in My Home

I wake up, sweating. The nightmare has been particularly horrible, my mother merging with Kavitha. The howl and the sinister laugh. Faces that I don’t recognise chasing me. As I try to run farther and farther away, I keep getting closer to the fiends. I scream for my mother, but mother-Kavitha is whipping the fiends to chase me. They are getting closer and closer, and just as they reached me, I woke up with a start. The dark night, the new bed – I don’t think I have ever slept on this bed – the new perspective, disorient me. I am scared to even turn, lest something grab me. I am close to crying out in fear. It is so palpable. I try to surmount the fear. I have been alone in the house before, but maybe not had such a nightmare. Even to get up and go to the toilet and drink a glass of water seems a challenge. I keep staring at the door, and every dark corner seems to hide a monster.

Even awake, my heart beats fast. The switchboard is just an arm’s length away, but I fear the dark beyond that light. I wait for my eyes to adjust to the darkness. I assure myself - nothing has grabbed me before, nothing will now. I know this house. I have lived here alone.

The journey to and back from the toilet is as nightmarish as the nightmare itself.

I keep awake, watching the shadows, thinking of the first time I had a nightmare after my marriage. I woke up sweating, just like this, and shook Karthik up – the first time in so many years that I could share my fears with someone. After mom passed away, I learnt to fight my fears on my own – sometimes unsuccessfully - not wanting to disturb my father. But when I had the luxury of support, I drew on it immediately.

He asked me sleepily what it was and I said, “Nightmare.”

“Drink a glass of water,” he said, still not waking up.

I remained on the bed, clutching his arm. He sat up and switched the light on obligingly. When I returned to bed, he switched the light off and I turned to him. He put his arm around me and pulled me to him. I cuddled in deep, trying to find safety in his arms. The bad aftertaste of the nightmare still lingered. He laughed sleepily. “It’s just a dream!”

I smiled. I smile. Such a small, insignificant moment. And yet, now, as I hug my pillow… How I long for his presence. Comforting presence. But it is no longer comforting.

The morning after flashes in my mind. As I cooked hurriedly to pack lunch for the two of us, grabbing a slice of bread in between, he came with his empty plate and asked, “What would you have done if I hadn’t been there? If I were travelling, say?”

I shrugged. He laughed and said, “You are quite a baby, aren’t you! Feeling so frightened because of a dream?”

Like a fool, I gave him more ammunition. “This is nothing. It is worse when I am awake and alone. I hate it so when you travel.”

“Why! How can you be scared when awake?” As I remained silent, he said in mock disgust, “It is all those thrillers that you read all the time! I can’t understand how you can believe in that crap!”

I made a face. “If you read a bit more, you would be a better person,” I said, sulking.

“So what do you do when you are scared?” he asked, sipping tea.

I blushed and said, “I get Vasu over.”

“Vasu!” Karthik asked, almost boiling over. Of course, he couldn’t remember who I was talking about and I would have teased him a bit about it. But the joke was on me still. “Don’t you remember him? Our neighbour’s son,” I said and my voice tapered down as he roared with laughter.

“The two-year-old boy! You call him for protection,” he continued chuckling in spurts as I packed the lunch in mortified silence.

When I finished packing and went to the bedroom to change, he followed me and asked seriously, “How can a two-year-old help you?”

It was my turn to laugh. “Why are you obsessed about it? It is just a small thing…” But as he continued teasing, I explained, “It is just the comfort of having someone around.”

He looked at me thoughtfully and said, “If you have one of your own, at least you won’t have to borrow others’ children…”

I did not respond immediately. We had traversed that bit earlier. He was very keen on having a child…I wanted time. I felt bad putting it off again. He waited for me to respond. I said reluctantly, “Yes, maybe.”

A faint hope leapt in his eyes. “So…are you ready? Should we try?”

“Can we wait for this anniversary to get over?” I pleaded, though there was nothing sacred about it. I added lamely, “Let me complete five years at work…”

“How does that matter? You can still work after the baby…” he said in a matter-of-fact way, putting an arm around my shoulder.

I shook my head. “I would like to be a full time mother. I don’t want my child to miss out on that, and I don’t want to miss my child’s growing up years.”

Karthik squeezed my shoulder and kissed me lightly. “Don’t blame me later, okay? But if you do decide to quit, does having 5 years in your resume matter?”

I shrugged. “It has a nice round feel, that is all. And may help when I want to get back to work.”

A nice round feel!

From a nice light kiss, he had progressed to nuzzling and I found myself in bed with him, laughing, telling him to stop, we were late for work. But he is a determined man, getting what he wants, when he wants.

Why doesn’t he want it now?

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