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Partners in Crime

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Nidhi Singh chronicles the wrath of a woman scorned

There it was – proof of his sinning with another woman. A slut whose breasts were fondled and her bosom caressed. A whore corrupting the planet with her fornication! A wrecking ball unleashed upon the holy institution of marriage. A meadow where desperate men may find a moment’s comfort.

But she was pretty – Laura had to grant her that – and young – a lot younger than she’d suspected. Did Laura not always know Burt had a thing going for bruising virgin teats? Were not his, the idle, roving eye, the truant disposition? Did not girls grovel their way to him and seduce him with their sideways glances, empty words, and fresh wine? Did not he succumb to their fleshly desires and debauchery? Had she not caught him red-handed, with his pants down – his mannishness exposed? Was not his, the hand caught in the cookie jar, the hand full with the taking? Were not his, the boyish grin, the sexy swagger, the buck, the manly heart beating and crying and yearning?

Burt, the hunter in the forbidden forest knocking women over the head and bringing them to the cave.

Mothers: lock up your daughters. Lock up your maids. Lock up your sisters. Then lock yourselves up. Lord Burt is on the prowl.

Alas, Laura realized, she was only the spring of his life, not the full four seasons.

Last night she’d lurked behind Burt and watched his keystrokes as he logged into his mail. It had been so strangely careless of him. And when he’d left for work, she’d ripped open his secrets. The mails to H.O. asking for a transfer to Cockburn Island. She’d then thought the name was a joke till she found it on the map. A place of sunshine and white beaches and surf breaking on the land. A little blue boat rocking in the sea and endless rounds of tequilas and guacamoles. More sex, more alcohol and more fun, and all this without her. Or the kids. Or the mortgage on the house. Or on the car.

The love notes to her – Laura could not bring herself to name the bitchatchi: ‘The-She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named.’ The rendezvouses recorded in the diaries in his meticulous way: the liaisons, the flirting, the toyings, the teasing, the triflings, the intrigues, the fripperies, the gaiety: aw, it was all too much.

And the plan to elope. Why? No teary goodbyes, no swansongs; no notes of regret…guilt…Christian apologies?

Alas, Laura realized, she was merely an apple in his life, not the whole fruit orchard.

She felt he had more to hide so she launched on a journey of discovery through his private things. On second thoughts, she took a pair of scissors along and went snip-snip on his favorite striped blue suits that he wore to the meetings and no doubt, after them to the dalliances with the said…unnamable…whatchamacallit in their pleasure dome. She put holes in their seats, ripped their sleeves, cut the pockets, and nipped off the buttons.

She checked their stock of condoms and found a steady depletion averaging at the rate of four per week – that meant twice on both days of the weekend that he was supposed to be out golfing. These, she punctured. Wait a minute – when did they have sex last…? She wasn’t giving him any – she’d been so upset and suspicious all the time. So that’s how he got back at her – with the excuse of golf?

The Ping set came next. She tried to smash the woods against the garage walls but they wouldn’t give. So she put the club heads in the vice on his workbench where he did carpentry as a hobby and twisted them so that he would be seen everywhere on the greens except on the fairways, which would elude him like the capricious goddesses of that inscrutable game.

As she sauntered out of the garage with a mean eye and a righteous sense of purpose, she caught sight of another object of her comeuppance – the symbol of his manly pride, the epitome of his professional success; shrouded in gleaming black canvas with silver letters printed boldly on the side: ‘F-E-R-R-A-R-I.’ The thought of swinging the 9-Iron at the outlines of its air scoops, which looked ready to swallow small rabbits, lingered lovingly in the mind, but Laura was a practical woman – she wasn’t going to burn down her own house. So she called the financiers and asked them to repossess the car as Mr. & Mrs. Burt, co-applicants to the loan, couldn’t bear the burden of installments any more: times were hard. And no, they were politely declining their kind gesture of waiver of a month’s delay in payment.

As she put down the receiver it occurred to her there must be more she could do. A further rummaging through Mr. Burt-Don-Juan’s briefcase brought to Judgments Day’s account-book two air tickets and a visa for the unmentionable Island where adulterers presumably set afire their private parts in immoral sexual congress. The tickets she chewed and spat out; the passport she hid in her bosom, to wave in his face later. His credit cards, these she blocked by calling the banks and reporting as stolen.

Somewhere in the house, a sound of spitting and hissing emerged, and a deep aroma of diced onions, carrots and celery heating in olive oil hit her nostrils. Her dinner was burning in the kitchen! The uncleanly savors of a slaughterhouse drifted to her – she was stifled with all the smell of sin. She rushed there and just managed to save the mirepoix from turning into ash and soot. A seething temptation crept into her mind to poison the food, as her eyes burned and tears flowed down hot cheeks. “It’s the onions, silly,” she kept repeating to herself, “it’s the onions,” while beating the ingredients to a pulp with the ladle.

It’s brilliant when you’re hurt; you can behave as badly as you like.

Alas, Laura realized, she was just a lawn to sow, not the greener pasture to feast upon.

***

When Laura had calmed down with a stiff mint julep she sat herself down to pen a letter to Burt’s slut:

My Dearest Oholah, Oholibah, Bambi:

Gone is the keeper, gone the breadwinner, the sentry at the post, gone. The shelter blown away, the temple desecrated, the ship run aground, the trenches overrun, gone. Gone in the raging winds of our lust, in the dying embers of love cooled in the swirling waters of our headlong thirst. Gone, lost.

For long, you have ravished me away with a power I could not resist – stricken as I was with your darts of seduction. The space in my heart is overcrowded, and in yours, empty. The cup of desire is large and deep, for it holds so much. I have drunk it, drained it empty and chewed on its pieces: filled with drunkenness and sorrow now I am. Long I have roved in the lasting wilderness without the blossoming rose, in this gaping hole without the silver flooding, in these lampless dungeons without hope. All that remains is abandoned waifs and strays.

Remorse is incurable, for it indeed is God’s own handiwork.

So excuse me, bitch, if I’m in a foul mood!

Couldn’t we, under the circs, cool off a bit, let the days glide by, as I feel I’m being a little harsh on my loving wife and caring family…”

Laura paused here. Loving…caring…? There was little time to dwell on technicalities – the enemy was knocking at the gates.

“…As I was saying…the loving wife and caring family…so let’s put off this pleasure sin-trip for a bit.

Don’t call up here again, ever!

I hope you’ll get the fuckin’ message through that thick skin understand.

I hate you.

Lovingly, Sincerely,

Signed/-

Lord Butt Burt

***

In the warm glow of several daiquiris later, Laura felt comforted enough to pick up the threads of her crusade against injustice and speak her mind to those that perpetrated it with silence. Bambi’s letterheads said she worked in US OGE, the office of government ethics dealing in training products. What could she possibly train girls in – how to slip sharp fingers in pockets, when honest people weren’t looking? She placed a call to the number on her letterhead.

Maxim Manners, Department Head,” announced a cold, sterile, efficient voice at the other end; obviously conscious of the power it had over denizens.

Do you have a snake-charmer on your rolls,” She asked; “are you well stocked up on venom antidotes, Mr. Mores, or should I send some over to you?”

This…err…” The voice answered a little shakily: possibly jerking its legs up on the seat and peeping under the desk. “ This is the US Office of Govt…”

Ethics, sadly – I know. Do you ever practice what you preach, Mr. Demeanor? To what wicked end do you rear coiling serpents in your courtyards: serpents that glide into men’s pants and seduce with their craft? And all this with the taxpayer’s money?”

I…I assure you, madam, if you wish to make a report on any employee, or…or on a conflict of interest…or on disclosure…I shall be glad…”

Then, look sharp! Look deep within your navel. There be fresh petticoats with tongues as sharp as a gliding serpent’s; with poison of vipers on ‘em red lips; right under your nose, in your care.”

Who exactly are you referring to, Miss –?”

Does a certain Bambi Virtuous work there?”

Um…it’ll take time to check,” Manners replied, after a few clicks on his database.

Protect each other, eh? Tell me, when you land a good catch who’s a kind man, a believing Christian, is married and has kids; does that make you a good lay or a good person?”

A good l– obviously – but where are you going with this – what did you say your name was – Mrs.–?”

I’m Mrs. Cesspool, for I’m sullied by betrayal. The bloodstains of a stranger’s hymen defile my bed. I ask, on their wedding night, will the bed become pure red, or remain a dirty white? Fucking the woman you don’t love and not the one you do, is fidelity. They called it monogamy, last I knew, and heard. But the chicken always comes home to roost, doesn’t he, Mr. Morals? The day of reckoning will come, and you will watch, and you will pay for being a silent observer. You will see, by His breath the skies becoming fairer and by His hand this gliding serpent pierced.”

But…”

It’s not but, or butt, but Burt!” Laura slammed the receiver down before the other could say anymore.

Alas, Laura realized, she was just a spouse, not the neighbor’s wife to covet.

***

Am I the villain, or the hero of my own piece? Revenge is a flame that licks inward and never dies, feeding off itself. Laura lay quietly in the dark and waited for Burt to arrive. Her face felt parched with the tears and mascara that had dried on it. I must look hideous. He deserves it.

Laura drifted into a restless, twitchy sleep till she heard the Lexus purr softly on the sidewalk before Burt killed the engine. She heard him tiptoe toward the kitchen, his happy hum changing into a yelp as he tripped over Matt’s skateboard. He banged some pans and plates around on finding the dinner burnt, and the fridge empty.

After fixing the kids sandwiches, she’d emptied the food into the trash bag. He’s going to have to make do with water and air for tonight, and maybe many nights from now on, if he doesn’t mend his ways. She smiled wryly but her face felt set in stone with the congealed makeup. She sighed and headed for the bathroom to freshen up. She heard him change and get into bed as the soft white sheets unfurled like a flag.

Instead of crawling into bed with him, Laura went to the dressing room and took out the underwear he’d thrown in the laundry basket. She held it up and breathed deeply several times before turning up her nose and flinging it back. She got into her side of the bed, smoothed down the sheets and waited for him to say something about dinner.

Sorry, the dinner got burnt,” she whispered as he lay quietly on his side, his palms joined under his head as if in prayer. “I don’t know when my brain just shut down and I napped.”

Hmm,” he mumbled. “I got some beef jerky at the gas station.”

Alone?

I’m hungry,” she complained, after a pause, when he didn’t reply.

Order some Chinese,” he slurred.

How was your day…did you meet someone…interesting?”

She lay awake for a long while after he’d slipped off, snuggling closer till she could feel their hearts beat as one.

***

The heartbeat was gone in the morning. In its place was a dull throb in the head like that of armies marching along dusty plains. Burt had managed to send the kids to school after fixing them a breakfast of Honey Nut Cheerios – crumbs of the little circular guys and drops of milk remained on the floor where he’d missed mopping them. No one had bothered to wake her and lay claim to her motherly calling. She got down on her knees and scrubbed at the telltale signs of her redundancy till her furious face shone in the wooden boards.

Alas, Laura realized, she was just a bed of straw, not the whole warm nest.

She went back to Burt’s desktop to set right his transfer request. She thought of resigning in his name, but she only wanted him back, not down and out.

Dear Mr. Vices President,” She wrote:

Do you recall, when we last spoke, not met, but broke bread over a firewall?

Please refer trail mail about my request for transfer to cock and bull out of Newark.

Such a poor choice, this Cockburn Island: a rash decision, on bad advice.

My entreaty, the folded hands: please forget. The prayers, the beads circling my fingers, remember not. The words I said, the arrows that pierced the wind, fix not in the mind.

Kindly allow me to withdraw my request.

Fickle the robin that hops from bud to buttercup, from blossom to hyssop, its feathers with sweet pollen powdering; never tiring, on nectar of gorging.

Restless the roving eye, perching on this twig, that tree, fluttering its eyelashes at all lasses low and high.

Drinking, but not thirsty; eating, not to stay alive; sleeping, not to dream; awake, when not asleep: searching endlessly, to hoard, never to seek.

A well-oiled machine that will peak till it doesn’t squeak.

It was a choice arising from mislaid priorities under excruciating personal circumstances, which have fortunately corrected themselves.

Ever a loyal servant with a roving eye: keep thine harem under care,

Sincerely,

Broner Burt”

After the mail had been sent and received at the other end, she deleted all trail of her doing.

The sunbeams had meanwhile stolen into the house, scattering gold dust in her palms; she stared at the long, empty day that stretched out before her; and the longer, emptier night in a bed too vast to fill the space in her marriage. Was there any more damage I could do? Any more sweet torture could I invent – cut loose his limbs with a saw or pry open with a scimitar? String him up, across a breaking wheel, a splitting rack – hold his soul up to the light or press my ear against his hive? Why does it pain me more than it does him?

I am tired,” she announced to the empty house, her voice echoing off lonely walls. She decided to dress and visit the priest.

***

The smiling Father met her at the Narthex of the neighborhood Church.

He has a cool collar, wears a nemesis skullcap and looks every inch a dude who has this power to forgive sins. This guy looks a level-50 priest; maybe I should ask him for manna pools and fort buffs.

He grasped her shaking hand and leading her into the nave, sat her on a bench.

What is it this time, Laura; Facebook,” he asked in a kind voice, “or internet porneia?”

“‘Tis the end, the end of the end.”

What’s Burt done this time, dear?”

Why must a man require from a woman ch-chastity that he himself does not practice? Destitute of virtue, must I worship him as a God?”

Have you tried talking to him?”

I cannot bear to speak on the subject with him – what if it is t-true?”

There – so you’re not even sure it’s true.”

What does it matter – when I believe it to be true? Tell me, father, are a couple n-not partners in Christ’s plan for their sanctification? Is it n-not an in-ineffable and lasting union of the heavenly bridegroom… and his un-unspotted bride?”

The priest shifted uncomfortably and grasped the Good Book close to his chest. He felt uneasy whenever she preached to him. “Of course.”

Is a spouse not the property of her husband – is it not theft then, to steal his affections?”

True: yet, it would spoilate a property more highly appraised than other chattels.”

No wound is worse than the wound of the heart.”

He’s a good man.”

I fail to see his goodness.”

Think of the children.”

Then why do men say: ‘we keep mistresses for pleasures, concubines for attention, and wives to bear legitimate children and be our housekeepers?’”

That’s for savages to say.”

Shouldn’t the good King then have such savages d-d-devoured by d-dogs in places frequented by many?”

Come, come, you must not talk like this. I’m sure all is not lost. Bring him to me and you shall have the sacrament of reconciliation.” The priest crossed her; her knees were quaking as he helped her rise. “Try to dwell on joyful things, dear…and drive carefully.” He waved and smiled as she briefly turned to look at him while climbing down the Church steps.

Alas, Laura realized, she was just domesticated fowl, not the vast flock of variegated fur to shepherd and guide home.

***

Sunday

On the coming Sunday evening, Burt and Laura lay side by side on the large mahogany bed with the carved bedposts they’d bought on their trip to Turkey last year. Burt had the laptop balanced against his folded knees – the white light from the screen lighting up his face and reflecting from his glasses. Laura sat propped up against the bed-rest at the far corner, staring into the dark.

In a while, Burt remarked, “Funny, the company has acknowledged my mails – and I haven’t sent any – or at least I can’t seem to find them.”

Laura grunted. “Technology. A computer virus in our own spitting image.”

Burt glanced at her and folded the screen. The moon’s cold shine now shivered and danced on the walls. He reached toward her, his fingers lightly brushing against her bare shoulder. Laura shuddered and shrank from his touch as if a live wire had jabbed her; goose pimples sprang on her long neck pale in the moon’s prosaic orb. “Are you okay, darling,” he asked, leaning away.

Laura remained silent, determined to fight back her tears: the corners of her lips curled down and began to twitch; the tight skin across her face trembled like the ripples on a pool in which stones have been thrown.

You know, I had a bad day,” he pressed.

Laura shrugged and shook her head.

It was terrible at golf – I shot everywhere except the greens. Gave up after the third hole – just couldn’t have held up the four-ball all day.” He knew she hated golf – he hoped the news would please her.

Despite herself, Laura couldn’t help smiling. “What do you call a woman’s four-ball?”

Still a four-ball.”

Is that all – the bad day?”

No. I nearly got collared by the police.”

For bad play?”

No – at the clubhouse, later – when I used my card. Funny, they said it’d been blocked – reported stolen!”

So funny – ha, ha, ha.” She tossed her hair and looked away so that he stared at the back of her head.

And the priest…after mass. He drew me aside later and gave me a long sermon.”

And…”

And…did you say anything to him, dear?” He leaned forward again and tried to cup her bare shoulder in his palm – but she leaned so far out he was afraid she would topple out of the bed. The straight line of her spine jutted out of her white satin gown like prayer beads strung out on her slim back. Burt felt aroused. He began to caress her back, and she put out a foot to the ground – ready to spring out of bed.

Aw – c’mon, honey – come back to bed…where are you going?”

Where are you going?” She turned toward him – her green eyes flashing in the dark, her face set in a wild rage, her hair flaring in a fan of silver.

What do you mean,” he said, taken aback with her violence.

There’s a suitcase packed with your things – suits with holes in them.”

Holes? I…I like to be ready for a trip – you know that. I’ve always kept my travel things ready – you know that…?”

And the condoms – our condoms – my condoms – the punctured ones – meant to sheath my dry well – where are they gone?”

Punctured…? What’re you talkin’ about, babe? What condoms? I dunno! Maybe the boys – they’re grown up…?”

The boys – shame! What excuses will you not sink to? And what about this – “ She took out his passport from under her pillow and waved it in his face. “Do you keep this ready too – with the visas and all – and the plane tickets – for two –? Don’t tell me that was also for us – and you were going to tell me about it? It was a surprise, wasn’t it – a beach paradise?”

Burt looked around helplessly. “Yeah – yeah, you so got it – why not?”

And Bambi – she coming along as part of the package too, Mr. Burt? And who else are you bringing to complete the four-ball – Mr. Tiger-bloody-Woods – another fuckin’ whore?” She climbed on her knees and began to slap him across the face with the passport till it flew in shreds of white and red over the bed and floor. She mounted him and thumped his chest with her fisted knuckles. “Do not steal from me – do not take away what is mine,” she screamed.

Hey – hey …” Burt shielded his face with his arms, parrying her feeble blows. “You’ll wake up the neighbors!”

It’ll be your wake, sinner! Awake McGuire,” she raised her arms aloft and screamed towards the street, “Awake O’ Gallagher, awake harp and lyre, and break out in a song! Awake, arm of the Lord and clothe yourself with force. Arise, Lord, in your ire; rise up against the fury of my foes. Awake, my God; decree justice!”

What’s with the pack of expired condoms, Honey, I’ll get you fresh ones – straight off the shelf – don’t raise a shindig, please!”

The mails! The love letters! I’ve seen them all – fool! You are the only one who doesn’t see the horns on my head – see – “ She put up two fingers on the sides of her temple and swayed her head like an oxen.

Shush – shush – I beg you, please!”

Beg the Lord! Confess! Repent! Lay your contrite heart before Him! Matt, Rory, come here, and see what your Papa has done!”

Burt reached forward and cupped her mouth. She nearly chewed his fingers but he managed to overturn her frail frame and put his full weight on her. “Please,” he begged, his eyes teary. “Please, I’m sorry – I confess,” he snuggled in the hollow of her neck and whispered.

Do you – “ she panted.

He nodded, his tears flowing down her cheeks and mingling with hers. “Forgive me, please – for the sake of the children.”

Were you planning to leave us,” she asked quietly, lying still under him.

Nooo – nothing happened – I just met her in a conclave…and you know – you stay away from home all the time – I swear there was nothing more than harmless chatting…”

Harmless…”

It’s not what I meant,” he whined, “it was so stupid of me – it’ll never happen again – I promise.”

Will you go to confession – will you come to Father with me?”

What – him – no – not him! It’s between us,” he begged.

There’s no hope, then.” She turned her face away from him.

I am telling you there was nothing – okay, all right – I will do it – for you. Fling me from the high wall to the deep pit – punish me – anything you ask of me.”

Anything?”

Yes. It will never happen again!”

Why did it happen?”

Nothing – I drifted – you’ve been so aloof – you rejected me. I was a little lost sheep – let your shepherd love guide me,” he said, placing his ear on her chest and listening to her rapidly settling heartbeat.”

On one condition…”

Name it…”

I’ll set the password on your things.”

Cool – I can live with that,” Burt sighed with relief.

And you’ll teach me golf.”

Wha– I could do…that.”

***

A Few Days Later

Burt pored over The Star-Ledger while his coffee grew cold on the red and black melamine tabletop in Fuk Mi Sushi Bar. A tall, leggy waitress in high heels bent down, thrusting her hips out, and poked into his paper. Burt folded the paper and grinned widely.

Hey, Bambi.”

Hello, Mr. Burt,” the waitress said. “What brings you in so early?” Burt looked out the tall window; the sun still shone above the rooftops.

Well, I came in to thank you,” he replied, removing from his side an elegantly arranged rose and lily bouquet and offering it to her, half rising from the deep-buttoned black leatherette sofa.

Oh, thanks – are these for me – “ she squealed. Looking around the hallway, which was empty at this early hour, she carefully patted down her short skirt and slid into the narrow space across him – her pointy knees brushing the side of his thighs. “I guess I can give you company for a while – before the slave driver comes slobbering out.”

I’m sure he’ll disregard the minor breach considering that you’re only being a gracious host to a…well, valuable customer.”

Well, you do look relaxed,” She remarked, as he drummed his fingers on the table and hummed softly. It seemed hard for him to resist breaking out into a song. “Sunny almost…quite different from the scowling cloud that blew in a few weeks ago.”

Yes, things are looking up, I must confess – confess – is what I seem to be doing a lot these days,” he laughed, fighting the urge to whistle in the empty bar.

How’s…Mrs. Burt,” Bambi asked guardedly.

She’s fine – happier. She feels safer in the belief that I must be miserable in my sin. The guilty party caught with the hand in the cookie jar, full with the taking. The contrite heart, the bowed head, the shamed culprit. She likes the role of being the large-hearted forgiver…the suffering woman who saved the marriage. She’s victorious.”

The mails – I hope no permanent damage is done?”

A little – nothing time can’t heal in a believing Christian’s injured spirit. Thanks for playing along.”

I hope she doesn’t find out who I am – I could get sacked for this you know?”

Naah – I used the letterhead of some woman I met in an ethics conclave – it’ll never be traced back to you.”

My computer…?”

Naah – I changed your web browser to use a proxy I.P. address. And she’s not going to go that far – the matter is over. I let her sneak up behind me and find my password – and that was it. She even junked all the mails – left no proof. I didn’t have to do anything.”

What happens next?”

Nothing – once she finds the quarry, she lays off the chase.”

But why in the first place did you do it?”

I explained–. She was so suspicious of me all the time – if I as much as swung my neck – I was, of course, ogling some girl. It was too much. It was getting on my nerves. It was beginning to hurt my rep in the office – she was calling up all the time after me – checking on me. I figured the only way I could get around to her suspicion was to prove it correct – I had to rise to the occasion, you see – be worthy of her inquisition. I had to aspire to the crime she expected me to commit. To be nimble fingered to the pocket she wanted me to nip. In my respect for her, I had to prove myself unworthy and unfaithful. And get it over with.”

And has it worked?”

Well, she’s cozy in her revenge – she called in the mortgage on my car, cut up my bespoke Italian suits…ruined my Ping set, blocked my cards – I ate burnt steak for quite a while and I had to listen to the priest’s sermon – I am a sinner in his eyes now. I had to steal my own condoms. But it’s a small price to pay for peace of mind. Now that she’s caught me, she’s at rest. She’s somehow convinced that nothing much really happened – that it was going to culminate in the Cockburn Island – that she’s nipped it in the bud well before we consummated our sin.” Burt laughed. “Yeah, and she can be…pretty…preachy…and cold…and austere…and severe when it comes to moral transgressions. But at last, she’s at peace now – pampering me – keeping the wayward boy home. I’m on a tight leash – and I make sure I give her no further cause.”

Well, I’m happy for you,” Bambi said, wriggling out of the sofa, as the Chinese wind chimes sang in the hallway and footfalls approached near.

Can I offer some – ” Burt leaned to one side and withdrew a packet from his hip.

Never,” she bent and pecked him on the cheek. “You kept my boy off the streets – you got him a job – that’s enough for me. Go back to your nice wife now.”

This will remain between us – we’ll not meet again,” Burt said, easing himself out.

Shush – ” Bambi put a finger to her lips. “Keep secrets like thieves – we’re partners in crime.”

Burt smiled. “Thanks – partner.”

***

A Month later

Oh, you’re back again – is everything all right with Laura,” Bambi asked, stopping at the corner table in the shadows where Burt sat, smoking and drinking. A waitress passed them, lingering briefly with a scowl before clicking her heels on the marble floor.

She’s fine, yeah – nothing could be better – peace prevails. The armies have returned to barracks.”

Then – don’t tell me you’re here to eat our uneatable sushi? Or you just happened to be passing by?”

You hear that a lot, don’t you – pretty siren that you are.”

Ahem,” she simpered, looking at her reflection in the window and nervously sticking a brown tortoiseshell pin in and out of her bun. “And –?“ She swung shyly about her waist, tapping her pencil on her order book.

I was wondering…if you aren’t doing anything afterward… I could walk you down to this Indian curry place I know in Bloomfield – they serve up some real fiery stuff.”

So, you want us to get together, Burt? After what you’ve just been through? Are you suggesting…?”

Er, I’m not suggesting anything,” Burt said hastily, “– it’s just that…such a shame to let such a beautiful thing go.”

Which beautiful thing?”

The one… between us…” Burt shifted in his chair, looking around the dim café; the tables were beginning to fill up. He began to wonder if there were any people who knew him.

You do surprise me, Mr. Burt – but you surprise Laura not,” she said curtly. “She did follow up the lead here – guess from Facebook – in your manly pride you did not care to change my picture – you did want her envious, did you not? And she said that long before you, you with your smoke and mirrors would lose your way back here. I’m not your goods fallen off the back of a lorry, mister – yeah, she said that too. Now, are you ordering, or are you leaving?”

She stepped aside, making way for him to quickly leave with his head bowed.

***

The End

***
Nidhi attended American International School, Kabul, before moving to Delhi University for BA English Honors. Currently, she lives with her husband near McLeodganj (abode of the Holy Dalai Lama) in the Dhauladhar mountain ranges.

More than 40 of her short stories have appeared internationally in magazines and anthologies like Rigorous, TQR, SPR, Fantasia Divinity, Fiction on the Web, Storyteller, TWJ Magazine, Indie Authors Press, Flyleaf Journal, Liquid Imagination, Digital Fiction Publishing Co, LA Review of LA, Flame Tree Publishing, Four Ties Lit Review, The Insignia Series, Inwood Indiana Press, Bards and Sages Publishing, Scarlet Leaf Review, Bewildering Stories, Down in the Dirt, Mulberry Fork Review, tNY.Press, Fabula Argentea, Aerogram, Fiction Magazines, Flash Fiction Press, The Dirty Pool, Asvamegha, etc.

Her translations of Sikh Holy Scriptures, essays on Bollywood and several novels are available in print and online.

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