Matalab- Mean?/ What do you mean?
I was bored.
It was a regular, rainy Sunday evening, and I had absolutely nothing to do.
Usually, if I was home, I would be preparing pastries for the next day or doing the laundry (something my Dad absolutely refused to do, even if it was his own clothes). Those and the rest of the house chores alone usually took me a good five hours to do, on my own.
I didn’t ever have any help when it came to doing chores. Sure, when I was younger, I had my Mom to guide me and help me whenever I either couldn’t do something or didn’t know how to do it, but since she’s been gone, I haven’t had any help in the house.
And I hated it.
My Dad never understood why I was so resentful of him, despite being an only child. He thought he was giving me my dream life; that every woman in Mukhauta, and even in India, wanted to be raised as a housewife and only know how to do chores and cook. All of my years of schooling went down the drain, thanks to him and his idealistic fantasy.
In a way, I was glad Raja had taken me when he did. I still wasn’t sure what to think of him yet, but at least now I know that he isn’t looking to hurt me, or he isn’t just looking for someone to fuck when he’s angry or needs release. He’s looking for comfort, he’s looking to start over again. Whatever happened to him before must’ve really shaken him if it meant that he’d willingly hide his face from everyone again.
Somehow, I didn’t mind the secrecy Raja had to himself. It intrigued me, like a good book. When I first saw him, he wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. He’d said that he was a demon, so I thought he would have no hair, red skin, and perhaps a feral, stereotypical demonic look to him.
Raja was handsome, I could see that much. Even though he hid most of himself, to me, he still looked incredibly good looking. He was very tall, maybe around ten feet? He had dark blue skin, his eyes a dark night color with gold irises. Underneath his hood, I could see a dark mask that covered his face, well, right from the bridge of the nose and up, at least.
His lips were like any other person’s lips, except he had two, starch white fangs shooting from his gums, pressing against his blood red bottom lip. He was muscular, extremely so. He could just barely fit into his shirts, which would probably explain why he chose to walk around shirtless. He often wore jeans, a dark cloak and hood draping his body and head. In fact, excluding the claws, fangs and odd eyes, he looked just like anyone else did, just taller.
I don’t know what Raja saw in himself, but I know what I saw. I saw a person who needed to be taken into a new light, a mirror that needed to be cleaned.
I’m not sure how my Dad would react to a demon purchasing me and his friends practically knocking out Gabriel Fanchise. It was actually pretty funny to watch that go down, but I’m positive my Dad wouldn’t have liked that bit, if I even got to see him again at all.
Something dropped in my stomach; something heavy and remorseful. I didn’t understand why I felt it, but somehow, I felt as if I had failed my Dad and my Mom. I never did agree with my Dad’s thinking, and he may have treated me like shit most of the time, but I really did love him, no matter what. I don’t know if he loved me or not, but did that matter by now? He had willingly sold me off; what were the chances that he was looking for me now?
It hurt me, and then it made me angry that it hurt me. I shouldn’t be feeling remorseful about him selling me off; it was his choice and it was something he had forced me into doing. I had done nothing wrong in fighting back; I had no say in who bought me or who didn’t, I repeated to myself. This was not my choice; it was my fate, something I had to accept with my head bent and my lips sealed shut.
You know, even though my fate was to be bought by a broken demon looking for love again, I didn’t mind it. I actually enjoyed it, and I thanked God that Raja had taken me. I could only imagine what would have happened should I have been bought by one of those young, drunk boys or those old, cocky men.
I shook my tedious thoughts away, calming my overheated mind. I was thinking too much and doing too little. usually, whenever I was bored, I found a way to think way deeper than I should be thinking, drawing out emotions that I was supposed to keep hidden. One of the qualities my Dad despised about me, among other things (cough, my existence, cough).
Seeing as I had already scouted out every place in my room nad the castle (minus the South Tower), I decided to head down to the kitchen to grab a snack and probably help Saira out. I had learned by now that if I was looking for Saira, then Chandra was most likely with her. It was like they were attached to the hip, and while that always made me smile when I saw them, it also made me slightly depressed, memories flashing through my mind, memories that were supposed to be kept secret.
It was nearly impossible to hear anyone walking around the palace, at least, if you were a human. I knew for a fact that Raja could hear whatever I did, and I’m sure Damien and Saira could, despite Saira being a nagani. I wasn’t sure who Lucifer was, though. I hadn’t met him yet, surprisingly enough. Raja told me not to worry about it, though. Lucifer would show his face when he was ready.
I dragged myself off to the kitchen, praying that Saira would be there (and Chandra. She was a very energetic and adorable child-erm-nagani). Sometimes, I found myself wondering where Chandra’s father was, but I never questioned Saira. I had only known her for a week; besides, it wasn’t any of my business.
Luckily, the kitchen lights were still on, one of the only places where Raja had installed a full set of lights. Saira was there, leaning against the sink, but Chandra was not. Unfortunate, but it was well into the night, and she was but a small child. It was best that she was sleeping, even if it did make me feel a bit crushed that she wouldn’t be there.
I leaned against the doorway of the small room, silently studying Saira for a while. Out of all the different types of monsters in the world, a naga was definitely last on my list. Sure, they were interesting and amazing creatures, but I definitely wouldn’t expect them to spawn first if more monsters existed. Then again, naga’s were native to Hindu and Indian culture. And we were in India.
Saira, apart from her ethnicity, wasn’t very different from Raja and Damien. She had a slight curl to her lips, her fangs pressed against her bottom lip, poison dripping in endless rivers from the tips. She didn’t bite anyone, though. At least, I don’t think so.
Her tail coiled around her body; around the brown and white maid top that she wore. The frills on her shoulders were stained with what looked to be coffee, but I wasn’t sure. Her hair was frizzy and matted in her bun, a few strands attempting to escape the nearly shredded scrunchie.
“Hi, Saira,” I said, making my preceanse known.
Saira didn’t jump, or move, for the matter. Slolwy, she turned, just like my Mom would whenever I was in trouble. She smiled at me, her scales screeching against her skin; her lips coiling into swirls. “Good evening, Radha. How are you?”
I shrugged. “I’m doing okay, I guess. I’m really just bored.”
Saira nodded. “Ah, my Chandra always complains to me about being bored. Do you know what I tell her?”
I frowned, pushing my body up from the doorway. “No? What do you tell her?”
Saira smiled, like a siren who had captured her prize. “Either find something to do, or I will.” She gestured to the pile of dough that was sitting on a wooden board. It was covered in flour, making the whole mixture look like a snow covered mountain.
I grinned, chuckling. “You remind me of my mother, Saira. She used to tell me the exact same thing.”
“But of course,” Saira slurred, not drunkenly, but not soberly either. She retracted her tail, slithering away so that I could approach the counter.
“What are you making?”
“Just some bread for Chandra. She’s been asking me for a long time to make this specific bread for her, and I’d rather not disappoint my little girl again,” Saira replied smoothly, her words spilling from her tongue as if it was warm milk.
“I can help, if you’d like,” I offered.
Saira tapped my knuckle gently, her claw feeling like soft felt on my skin. “Then wash your hands first. We don’t need any germs.”
I nodded quietly, rinsing my brown, slightly calloused hands in the metal sink. I could feel the light of the chandelier pound on my back, creating a scorching heat through my odhani.
“Is Chandra in bed already?” I asked, trying to strike up a conversation with the silent nagani.
Saira bobbed her head softly. “Yes, it is quite late, and I need her assistance with a few things tomorrow.”
I smiled. “How do you get her to do work? I’ve been told that it was a hassle to get me to do any work when I was Chandra’s age.”
Saira laughed daintily. “Oh, believe me, Radha, you are nowhere near Chandra’s age,” she teased. “But yes, it is a chore on it’s own. I usually offer her treats in return for her aide. She doesn’t eat treats often, but then again, I don’t usually need her help for much.”
“Ah, that makes sense,” I agreed, pressing my fingers into the dough. I felt nostalgia creep up on me, like a warm blanket on a cold day, or the feeling of smooth chocolate milk swaying down your throat in gentle, easy waves. It was delicious, but it was also painful, especially because I was lactose and tolerant.
“Have you made bread before?” Saira questioned.
“Yes. My Dad owned, well, co-owned a bakery with my mother,” I explained, kneading the sticky dough. The substance gripped the skin on my palm; a nuciance to take off. One of the reasons I despised making bread for Mr. Fanchise. The other being his cigarette stench and his tendency to always bring his son into a conversation about my future.
I knew what Gabriel wanted me for; I knew what any man wanted me for, at least, those brave enough to approach my Dad. I was the only woman in Mukhauta that knew how to cook, clean, and bake. I was basically the perfect housewife, and I was young, one of the only young, eligible girls in my village. The other girls in the auction were incredibly young, some even around the age of ten!
“I think we should be done with the kneading,” Saira interjected carefully, eyeing the furious way I was pressing against the dough.
Blushing, I rubbed my hands together, gathering the excess dough and pressing it against the mound of sticky food that Saira was about to slip into the oven.
I rested my hands on my hips, watching her as she redied the oven and the bread. “You know, when I found out I was bought by a demon, I didn’t expect...well...anything! I didn’t expect him to be so kind and gentle! I didn’t expect him to have electricity, or, well, any modern technology, actually.”
Saira hummed. “Damien was the one who instead Ro-um, Master renovate the castle. He was always keen on getting the Master a wife, and wanted to give her a modern house. The Master and Lucifer...however, didn’t really get on board with Damien’s vision until recently.” She smiled at me. “It may only have been a week, Radha, but you are already changing the Master. I haven’t seen him smile in centuries, and here you are, making him smile every night.” Radha blushed, and with a cheeky smile, Saira continued. “I can’t say he loves you, but he’s warming up to you, Radha, very quickly.”
“I like him,” I said. “He’s very nice, and although I hardly know anything about him, I can already tell that he is a...kind and gentle soul, minus his size.”
Saira laughed, pulling the mitts off her scaley, clawed fingers. “Yes, the Master has always been quite large in his size.” Her laughing subsided, and she leveled Radha with a sturdy gaze. “Don’t let his looks fool you, Radha. The Master may be kind, and he may keep himself hidden from you, but he is still a beast.”
“He doesn’t act like one,” I mumbled.
“But he still is one,” Saira insisted. “Watch your heart, but don’t lock it.”
“Wear your heart on your arm, but make sure you wear a sleeve.”
On my way back to my room, my stomach full but my mind running, I happened to cross by the North and South tower intersection, something I didn’t usually bother myself with-
“What did Saira mean?” I murmured to myself, aggravated that I didn’t understand her metaphors. “Wear my heart on my arm, but wear a sleeve? What’s that supposed to mean?” I raked my hands through my hair in exasperation, biting hard on my bottom lip.
“Maybe I should take a break and take a shower,” I thought. “Love is too confusing.” As soon as I said it, though, regret filled me, drowning me, suffocating me as quickly as a child says the ABC’s. I shouldn’t have a negative mindset; I was, after all, still getting to know my possible husband. It wasn’t his fault that he was so secretive; everything happens on it’s own time; I’d get there someday.
But when would that day be?
I could feel the blood from my lip trickle into my mouth, the iron taste melting on my tongue from my irritation earlier. I paused at the top of the intersection, wiping the droplet from my mouth, the iron taste bitter on my tongue. It tasted like coffee that’s gone dry for several days.
A heavy breeze rashed into me and I looked up abruptly, my train of thought snapping. Where was that breeze? And why was it so harsh?
I looked towards the South Tower instinctively, something I’d been dying to do for a while, but never gathered the courage to as Saira’s warnings repeated over and over in the back of my head constantly.
The brown door, a door that was always closed and locked, was now open, the curtains beside the wood beckoning me closer.
I felt like a marionette; like someone else was controlling me. My legs moved on their own accord, carrying me towards the room, the wind stronger on my back. My mind blanked, Saira’s warning fading to dust in my head.
Pushing the door wider, I felt the breeze suddenly stop, the chill leaving my body. Images, blurry images, flashed through my mind, caressing my skull, forcing me into the room.
Walking into the large, incense smelling room, I could feel something burning inside of me. It was like when I used to feel nostalgia at a certain smell, or a certain plush toy. Something clicked inside of me, some type of recognition. But, what? I had never stepped foot anywhere close to the South tower. I had never been in this room before.
The room was covered with a dark purple carpet, the fabric dusty and old. There were barely any tassles left on the ends of the carpet, and despite the age of the room, some of the things there were new, things that meant someone was still inhabiting this place.
There was a bed, though that definitely hadn’t been used for a while. The comforter was covered in soot; the pillows a dark brown color.
Apart from the bed, the only thing left in the room was a shelf with old odds and ends, such as glass statues and little, intricate jewelry box.
I walked towards the jewelry box, the color reminding me of one of my old blankets. I looked around briefly, smoothing my fingers over the delicate wood of the box, dust collecting on my fingers.
“Wow...how old are you...?” I murmured, reaching for the tip of the box, presumably where the latch to open it was. Nostalgia now pounded in me, like a ball continuously slamming into my back. I had seen this somewhere before, but where? Where had I seen a music box like this? Was it in Mr. Fanchise’s shop?
It had to have been, I thought. But then again, this box looks pretty old. Like, eighteenth century old. I doubt Mr. Fanchise would have something like this laying around his shop, selling for only 760 rupees.
I pressed two fingers underneath the lid, but the top wouldn’t budge. It was as if it were glued to the top.
“You need the key to open that,” a dark, rich voice behind me coughed. A voice that I knew all too well...
I swirled around, catching the dancing irises of Raja as I clutched the box to my chest. “Um...uh...I wasn’t stealng anything!”
Raja chuckled, his rumble low and deep, stirring inside of me. “I know you weren’t. I left the door open by accident and came back to shut it...I just wasn’t expecting another surprise in here...” his gloved hand reached out to caress my cheek, and I blushed, turning away.
“What is this room?” I asked, putting the box back onto the shelf. “Why is it so small? Does someone live here?”
Raja shuffled on his feet, his expression hidden by his dark, shadowy hood and his mask. “Someone used to live here...she lived here during the day, and during the night...she...” he looked away, coughing.
“She?” I asked, not with jealousy, but with confusion.
“Yes, she,” Raja affirmed. “She was beautiful, she was secretive, and she was a mistake. A mistake that I made, and a mistake that I caused.”
“What do you mean?” I asked. Seriously, what was it with people talking metaphors and bullshit in the night?
“We loved each other, and then, we didn’t,” Raja continued. “We had a bubble, and then it popped. We made our mistakes, but I paid the price.”
“What are you talking about?” I demanded. “What happened? What did you do?”
Raja looked at me, and I could feel remorse ebb off him in sharp, agitated waves. He looked at me, and even though I couldn’t see his face, I knew there was guilt on it.
“Radha, I killed her.”