This story was first published in Women's Web- Muse of the month July.
We were sitting at the tiny kitchen table, sipping our coffee and absorbed in our own private thoughts.
It had been 3 months since Vikram’s demise and I thought I had started picking up life’s threads slowly. It was tough considering the fact that Vikram and I were married for 12 years and were dating each other for 6 years before that. My best friend, Mary, was sitting across me, staring intently at my face.
“So, how are you coping? Have the kids gone back to school?” she asked after a while.
“Yes, they started last week. Rio is too young to understand the concept of death and is mostly satisfied with the explanation that daddy had to leave and he’ll be away for a long, long time. It’s Rihanna that I’m worried about. She has a lot of questions on her mind but she won’t open up. She won’t share her grief”, I replied while washing the dirty dishes at the sink.
“And you? Have you moved on Jenny?”
I sighed as all the good memories that I shared with Vikram flooded back to my mind. And there were plenty of them. How could one erase all the memories of 2 decades?
“I am trying but I need time. I miss him most of the time. He was not only a good husband but also a good father. He was a perfect companion and most of the days we could gauge each other’s feeling without having to put it into words. We were soul mates and I know how difficult it is to find that one person in your life who truly understands and completes you.”
Vikram had been diagnosed with 2nd stage cancer around a year ago and we had been devastated when we learnt about it. He did try to battle it with chemotherapy and medicines but his body just couldn’t withstand the treatment. Few months back he had just given up, accepting that the dreaded disease had finally beaten his spirit. I thought he had gratefully accepted death to escape from his miserable suffering.
“I have come here for a reason too, Jenny. I think it’s time we had a look at Vikram’s life insurance papers. Get it sorted out because the longer you delay it, the messier it becomes”, Mary said in a matter-of-fact tone.
A wave of irritation rushed to my mind because I was in no state to look at financial matters and even less prepared to go over the cumbersome insurance papers. But a few moments later I realized that Mary was right. At some point of time I would have to deal with it and since Mary was a lawyer she could help me in this matter.
I sighed as I walked over to the study room where I knew Vikram kept all the important papers. The truth was, after Vikram’s death my life had come to an abrupt halt. I would stand near the window, staring at the busy, noisy street below, where life continued for all other people as usual. Life is like a wheel that turns and turns and turns: it never stops and stands still. But my life had come to a halt and I was incapable of moving forward again.
As I rummaged through the papers inside Vikram’s work cabinet, my eyes fell on a white envelope. I recognized the familiar, scrawny handwriting and my hands that held the lengthy letter trembled slightly.
I hope that when you read this letter I am long gone, for I am a coward, my dear wife. I cannot look into your eyes and see the love and tenderness for me replaced by disdain and loathing.
I know you think of me as the perfect husband, you trust me and you believe that I can never err. That makes it even harder for me to confess. I committed a sin and the burden of this secret has scorched my soul for so long.
It happened when we were going through a rough patch. Rihanna was just a few months old and you were going through post-partum depression. I hated coming back home when you were so irritable and moody, so I took to spending late nights at office. This was the time when the new intern, Meera, had just joined our office and I knew that she liked me because of her more-than-friendly overtures.
At home I did not know what to do to appease you because whatever I did you were disappointed in me. We fought, argued and gave each other cold shoulders. And the more I distanced myself from you, the closer I became to Meera. It had become a ritual for me to drop her home every night and in those few hours I spent with her I could just be me…again.
One night she invited me to her house for coffee. And I accepted. My subconscious mind knew what would happen in her house but somehow I couldn’t stop myself. We slept together and I spent the night at her home. But the next day I realized what a fool I was to jeopardize the wonderful marriage that I had for few moments of passion. I was terrified of telling you the truth, lest you leave me. The guilt of cheating on you that one night has burnt me every day. I vowed to work even harder on our marriage.
I know that no excuse would seem plausible for the sin I committed but I pray that you find the heart within you to forgive me. I…”
I sat in the chair next to the cabinet and lay my head on the table. I crumpled the letter unable to read any more. I don’t know for how long I remained like that but a million thoughts were running amok in my mind.
I had always thought Vikram to be faithful and I trusted him blindly. Did this letter change everything that we had built for years in our marriage? Could I forgive Vikram after knowing the truth?
Strangely I felt more at peace and calm than before. I knew that it was time for the wheels of my life to move again. As I shred the letter and threw it in the bin, I knew it was time for the past to be buried, forever.