The clock strikes upon the hour. The gong of the grandfather clock rings nine times, the familiar tone reverberates through the air for half a minute and gently fades away. Time flies and takes her further away from the fear of death. Just twenty more minutes to go until his arrival. Her eyes light up at the thought. She looks at her reflection in the mirror and smoothly applies kohl to her eyes, just the way he likes it.
“I couldn’t resist the lure of your sultry kohl-lined eyes.”
Somewhere within her, she feels a joyous tickling anticipation in her stomach, all at once, reminiscing his words. She smiles coyly and proudly like a victorious queen, at her reflection. She reaches for the lipstick, the ruby red lipstick, encased in an intricately gold body. She removes the cap and extends the end of the bright, red paint and glides it over her lips. She purses them slightly as if in approval of the luscious effect.
She runs her fingers through her chestnut brown, glossy wavy hair and gets up, floating towards the red dress spread on their bed. Gracefully slipping it on, zipping it with confidence, she looks at the end result in the full-length mirror. A smile plays around the corners of her crimson mouth.
It is quarter past nine, now. Her eyes narrow slightly and she looks distantly. Did she forget anything? Tonight is a special night. Everything has to be perfect.
“Your grace, your poise, your purity, your luminescence, your musky fragrance, your sweet face and all. I need you. I need your love. You have been a revelation to me. I needed you to retrace my steps from my destruction. You have made me crave the light and I want to watch the sunrise in your eyes. Will you marry me?”
“Absolutely,” she had breathed, rapturously.
Two years on and that moment is and will always be fresh in her memory. She smiles to herself and turns towards the perfume bottle on the dressing table. She unleashes several sprays of the seductive musky perfume onto herself. She glances at the clock that divulges the time as five seconds to twenty past nine. Four…three…two…one…
She hears the distinct tyres’ sound on the gravel pathway to the entrance.She takes a final look at herself in the full-length mirror and elegantly hastens downstairs. She drifts down the red-carpeted staircase and reaches the bottom of the staircase and pauses to gain her poise. Then takes two more steps standing just beneath the colossal chandelier in the foyer as she hears the jingling of the keys from beyond the door. The key is inserted in the lock. She waits with bated breath. The key turns in the lock and the doorknob turns. The door swings forward and her man stands in front of her. Facing her.
For a moment both just gaze at each other.
“Are you okay?” says a voice. A female voice.
Her blood turns icy-cold. She now looks at him with a look of consternation on her face.
“Yes, I am fine,” he replies, “Come in.”
He opens the door further and motions for an auburn haired lady in a black dress to enter their house.
“Even today?” she says scathingly, tears welling up in her eyes. “On the day of our anniversary? Just this one day you couldn’t keep her away?”
Tears roll down her flushed cheeks in black streaks. Her man and The Other Woman ignore her and move past her. The whiff of her alluring fragrance stops him in his stead. He sharply looks to his right in her direction. She glares back, indignantly, her kohl-lined eyes smeared from the crying.
“Is there a problem?” The Other Woman asks.
He continues staring with his brows furrowed, chest heaving, and heart-beating. His eyes become moist.
“You told me you had changed…” she reproaches him, eyes glistening from the tears.
The Other Woman tugs at his sleeve. “Hey.”
“Dinner is served, Master,” announces The Butler.
“Oh, I am famished!” exclaims The Other Woman.
“Thank you, Butler,” replies The Master.
The Master of the house leads The Other Woman into the dining room. Dejectedly, The Wife trails behind.
A banquet is served in the dining room, every bit of which The Wife had supervised and made sure was just as he wanted. Alas, he didn’t remember nor cares what day it is, today.
They take their seats, the Master, at the head of the table, The Other Woman on his left, and The Wife on his right. The Butler serves him and The Other Woman. Then, looks at where The Mistress of the house is seated, forlornly. She smiles a sweet sad smile at him.
“I’m not hungry, Butler.”
The Butler sighs heavily, “I will be a bell ring, away, Master.”
The Master nods without looking up.
There is a slight tension in the air, though The Wife tries her best not to express her censure and displeasure at the presence of The Other Woman. The forks and knives seem to have souls of their own and are at a duel.
“We should have dined out.” He says, suddenly. The Wife winces.
“Well, why not, here?” The Other Woman queries, “The last farewell dinner.” She laughs, amused at her own words.
He doesn’t answer.
“So, when will they complete the furnishing of the new house?”
He stops eating for a moment. Then continues. “She is here…” he says in a hollow voice, motioning at The Wife.
The Other Woman’s fork stops in mid-air towards her mouth as she looks across from her. She closes her mouth. The tension increases in the air. She frowns looking across the table at her. Then, grabs the napkin, wipes her mouth and fingers, and throws the napkin down on her plate, fuming.
The Other Woman leaves the room. He stops eating. Silence prevails. He looks up at the wall across him. A large, stately portrait of The Mistress of the house hangs on it. Sitting like a queen on the divan, with those proud eyebrows, wearing an unfinished scarlet dress…The Lady in Scarlet.
The Lady in Scarlet next to him looks at him, her heart softening and aching, she lets out a pained sigh.
“I wore this dress for you. I thought you would like it. I thought you would want to complete that painting. I thought you would notice. But, you never take notice of me, anymore.”
He doesn’t reply.
She goes on, “Why did you have to bring her here on our anniversary? This day, of all the days, I, solely, have the right on you. Your stone cold attitude pains me. Don’t you see?”
He continues gazing at her portrait.
“You broke your promise.” He speaks, quietly. “If you loved me so much, why did you leave me? I can never forgive you.”
The Wife places her hand on his hand, consolingly. He flinches and takes in a sharp breath and retracts his hand, with a frown he continues looking at her portrait.
She leans towards him, placing her hand next to his on the table and tries to solace him, “I never left you, darling. I never can leave you. I promised you, I would never leave you… And I never will. I know, I know, I am at fault, here. I shouldn’t have left you even for a moment. But you know, it happened against my wishes. I did return as soon as I could. You have to forget that and…forgive me.”
“Don’t you see how this is killing me from the inside? I die every time I step into this house. I re-live your betrayal.”
“Oh, darling…I’m so sorry…” her pained soul sobs.
The Other Woman enters the dining room. Looks at him staring at the portrait of The Lady in Scarlet.
“I’m ready to leave,” she announces, her discomfiture obvious. “Let’s go.”
He complies and gets up, giving a quick glance at his wife’s seat.
“Take me along with you,” The Mistress of the house beseeches him.
The Other Woman rings the bell for The Butler. He arrives noiselessly, after half a minute’s delay.
“Cover all the furniture and lock the door to all the bedrooms.” The Other Woman orders.
“Yes, ma’am.” He bows.
“I’m waiting in the car,” she tells The Master of the house. The Butler opens the door of the dining room for her and gives a little bow as she goes out.
“Do as she instructed.”
“Yes, Master,” the butler replies, dutifully. “What about The Lady, Master?”
“Take me along with you,” The Wife entreats, again.
And more silence follows, except the ticking of the clock.
“She comes along with us.”
The Master of the house gets up and walks out of the dining room, out of the house and stops outside the chauffeur-driven car. After a lapse of twenty minutes, the butler comes carrying the unfinished portrait, The Lady in Scarlet, packaged carefully, with a manservant and deftly places it in the back of the car.
“Anything else, Master?”
“No, thank you. Seal the house.”
The Master of the house sits in the car, one seat away from The Other Woman. The car engine revs up and the tyres crunch over the gravel pathway. The Other Woman looks back uneasily at the mansion behind and gasps as she sees The Mistress of the house standing in her scarlet dress in the balcony of her bedroom, her hair billowing in the breezy air and a tranquil smile on her face.
“Oh Lord…” The Other Woman moans and clenches the seat of the car. She covers her eyes with her hand. Then, takes a deep breath and dares herself to give one final look to the receding house. To her bewilderment, the balcony is now deserted. She glances at The Master of the house, who remains aloof. She turns around in her seat, facing the road ahead, mystified.
“I knew you would take me along with yourself,” The Mistress of the house rests her head on the shoulder of her husband and closes her eyes, smiling serenely and humming, sitting between The Other Woman and her husband.
Will you still love me when I got nothing but my aching soul?
I know you will…
© Seemeen Khan Yousufzai and SKY’S REALM, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Seemeen Khan Yousufzai and SKY’S REALM with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.