Short Story Time: Broken Mirror

By: Ushma Rebel


Someone could easily impale themselves and die on those loosely scattered tiny shards on the floor. Mya slowly turns her gaze away from the floor. She is benumbed and just a meter away from it. She rests her eyes on him without giving away any emotions. It is hard to tell whether he is getting angrier or pacified from her listless twisted face. She wishes that those shards laid closer to him.Few hours have gone by when Akshya finally opens his eyes and feels the room spinning around him. No signs of life, he thinks. He could smell the pungent smell of his own dried blood, he could taste the putrid saltiness of it in the corner of his toothless left cheek. He shrugs off the heaviness from his drooping face.

Mya feels tightness in the pit of her stomach when she hears him shuffle. Two inches, just two inches away from him lay the shards of a broken mirror. She recounts the final moments of her life just then and gives a half hearted cackle.

Alarmed and alert, Akshya stares at a lifeless mound which just gave out a squeaky squeal. Is she alive? He wonders. Signs of damage is evident in Mya’s wounded contour which is curled up several feet away from him. He is immediately infuriated.

Mya is hurting inside. She’s been hurting for a long long time now. She’s ready to die today. She’s died many times before. Peace spreads across her swollen face. She is ready to exhale the very last breath from her body. She’s at peace finally.

Sirens blare and vehicles come to a screeching halt at Durbar Marg. Neighbors curiously stray on the driveway and begin to look at each other.

“Domestic violence” utters a senior Constable at scene.

Mya and Akshya’s story goes a long way back to their childhood days. They were each other’s first crush. They were neighbors, playmates and eventually lovers. Mya still remembers how Akshya had stolen her heart amidst the normalcy of their childhood friendship. She never thought an annoying neighbor boy could so easily rouse interest in her once the pheromones kicked in. Akshya is still amazed how a meek child in Mya could foster so much rage over the years. Theirs had been the perfect wedding until now. Where did things go wrong, Akshya wondered.

“Can you hear me? Miss! Can you tell me your name please” Sergeant Kishor was trying to ascertain Mya’s level of consciousness. He almost shuddered looking at the scene. When he had received the call from their distressed neighbor earlier who had heard unusual and violent sound and had urged his team to come, he had not been prepared to witness such a brutal scene.

Mya was found unconscious & dumped in a pool of blood, her face swollen unrecognizable, cigarette burn marks almost covering her bilateral forearms, half the hair missing from her head and a bleeding exposed scalp. Akshya was found semi-conscious lying on top of a broken mirror, tiny pieces of glasses piercing half of his back and blood still seeping through his jacket. His mouth ajar, covered in blood from broken tooth; his right shin partly exposed from his ripped jeans and telling tales of an obvious compound fracture. Because of the nature of the case, Sergeant Kishor was instructed by his duty chief to take them to separate hospitals for treatment.

When Mya woke up after 11 days of induced coma, she immediately realized the outcome and impact of that incident. She was damaged. But then she had been damaged a long time ago. On the other side of the suburb, Akshya had been discharged from the hospital few days ago and taken straight into the local police custody.

This was the first time heightened physical force had been used in their household. This was the first time they both got exposed to government authorities for scrutiny. They never imagined it would come to this, no one had.

The clinician who came to see Mya was a fairly young female. She impeccably administered medication to Mya, changed dressings from Mya’s forearms and scalp & updated Mya on the team’s recommended care plan for her that day. Apparently Mya would be seen by a psychological counselor for PTSD, a social worker to organize welfare housing for temporary shelter and then police officers to get statements of the account of the incident where Mya was extracted from. The clinician was emphatic about the last piece of information she just told Mya. She seemed like a nice and intelligent healthcare provider. Mya had just processed the information and was feeling slightly relieved for her being alive when the clinician, in a most facile temperament, gave her the most glibly unsolicited advice.

“Baini, if I were you, I wouldn’t necessarily tell the officers all the facts, I’d move on with my life & get back with the man. Don’t get me wrong, but considering our cultural prevalence, you should consider yourself lucky that he didn’t kill you”. These words from the unassuming clinician came to Mya when she was broken and vulnerable. A healthcare provider who she entrusted her life with & who was supposed to do the absolute best to help Mya recover not just from physical damage but from psychological trauma too had just delivered the most shattering advice that Mya had least expected.

Those words broke her down further. She was enraged with the paramedics & clinicians who emptied their tank for her survival. She wished she was rather dead.

***

It all started when Akshya came home from his work one day extremely frustrated. Mya reminisces the fury she had seen on Akshya’s face that day. He looked scary. To ease him off, she had offered to make him some tea and that was when he suddenly charged at her accusingly, “Grow up woman! Don’t you know how to alleviate a man’s frustration? …fix me a stiff drink and come help me release,” he had demanded with a raised voice and his hand violently rummaging through her skirt. She had been scared. She had never seen this side of him before. They had only been married for few months. She just couldn’t anticipate his ugly side whilst they were friends and lovers. He had been the romantic type, always wooing her with easy laughter and dancing eyes. She decided to let go of her objection and Akshya’s unsettling demeanor. She brushed him aside and went about her business, only later to comply to his demands.

Akshya’s derogatory remarks, demeaning attitude and mocking insults came more often now, in many forms and at random places. Sometimes it would be an obvious opportunity deprivation like “You can’t apply for that job as I’m more suitable for it. If you apply, I’m never going to talk to you ever again” amidst a family gathering, making Mya appear selfish and worthless. Or in a more subtle way like “Darling, what would I do without you? Now don’t make me choose between you and my freedom with friends” in front of his mates, creating an unnecessary scene to put her down. At other times, it would even be as brash as “If you don’t give it to me now, I will never ever touch you ever again, who will love you then? Do you think anyone can handle a shit like you?” in the privacy of their bedroom. Mya slowly started recoiling in her shell. She had lost all her confidence and self-worth within months of living with Akshya.

He would openly laugh at her if she tried doing something she desired, he would totally ignore her if they attended any parties gyrating his attention to pretty girls, he would sometimes even leave her in the middle of a destination, on her own, to return home if they had a slight difference in their opinion. She was not allowed to express herself. She did not have any opinion anymore. She was more like a slave to him. Her phone would be often ransacked, in an attempt to disown and insult her, in a hope to find any clue to her dissatisfaction with him. He was more like a pendulum and Mya often wondered if he had a bipolar disease. His mood often fluctuated from a very romantic husband to a damaging psychopath. Small things provoked anger in him. She was always guarded, always alert, not knowing what would trigger him. Living everyday treading on his mood, as though it were a landmine, was suffocating for Mya. Resentment started to settle in.

Akshya was madly in love with Mya. He could not tolerate the idea of Mya being away from him. He was scared she would one day realize how smart she was, how dumb he, and scared that she would cut all ties with him the day it dawned on her. He wanted to do everything to stop her from realizing it, even if it meant stopping her from achieving her desires and goals. It was too much of a risk to let her out, to let her flourish. She belonged to him and nothing would ever change that. He wanted her to remain as naïve as a helpless child. She would only rely on him, she would only need him, till the end. That is what he truly wanted. He knew it wasn’t fair on her, but he also knew he couldn’t do without her.

There had been occasions when he had caught his mates ogling at Mya, it had been hard to make her understand that without insulting her, there was no way he could divert their attention from her. If he ignored her, he knew she would come begging for him. If he enslaved her, she would eventually forget to fly, if he controlled her movements and finances, she would lose her worth, she would then be his, forever. She was his drugs. Yes, occasionally he tested her patience and passion for him by pretending to span his attention elsewhere, but it gave him immense pleasure to find her so lost and heartbroken. That seduced him. Mya had no idea how seductive she was and how she aroused Akshya. He had no intention to make her aware of that either. He wanted her, all for himself, always, satisfying him, reciprocating his love not just in life, but also in bed. His plan seemed to be working. She was losing her identity day by day. He was clearly winning this. Then the terrible blow came, for both of them, in different ways and unthought-of circumstances.

***

It was a gloomy Saturday morning. He had wanted to stay in bed all day long, playing with Mya’s assets. She had been reluctant, her period cramps were getting worse. He felt rejected. She had always enjoyed their coitus before. He could sense her resentment and that infuriated him. Something got the better of him and he instantaneously wanted to reign her right there and then to teach her a lesson. He pinned her down and started sucking the breath out of her. She fought for a while. He put all his weight on her thigh, she wriggled like a dying fish. He bit her milky white so hard that they were bruised and blue days later. By then, Mya had given up. Thrusting himself on her, he raped his wife. That day, she didn’t just bleed profusely, blood of period and agony of rape, she lost her faith that day, faith in their relationship, in love, in marriage.

Mya remained subdued from that day onwards. She didn’t conceal her disgust, she didn’t disguise her pain, she didn’t even bother for any small talks with Akshya. Busying herself with the cleaning, food preparation and cooking, Mya couldn’t ignore the recurring pain between her thighs from his regular and repeated coercions.

Akshya pretended to be unaware of how he had seized Mya’s rights and damaged her dignity in his terrible acts of madness. They started avoiding each other during day time, but night time echoed with sadness and abuse. Mya started making excuses to her parents every time they asked her how she got bruised or why she wouldn’t visit them as often as before.

Life of misery continued for them as a norm before the hurricane hit their life. Akshya announced one day that his sister Karma was visiting from USA after 11 years and that she’d stay with them instead of going to her family home. Mya busied herself in preparation. Akshya kept his distance  as his way of repentance, avoiding eye contact with Mya. His sister Karma was coming all the way from USA, after nearly 11 years. He was excited, but part of him was already mortified because of a strange fear that Karma might get a sniff of his cruelty and about their failing marriage if she stayed with them long enough. He tried to justify and defend himself, to his own guilt-ridden self, drawing the conclusion that it was Mya’s job to oblige to all his needs and she deserved what she got as she had failed to comply.

“Aren’t you wearing traditional kurti for Didi’s arrival?” Akshya made an explicit remark, it was meant more as a disapproving statement than a rhetoric question.

“What does clothes have anything to do with Didi?” Mya responded expecting a tacit response.

“You want to disrespect my sister by not wearing kurti?” Akshya was clearly picking a fight now.

“She lives in USA Akshya, please! I AM wearing something aren’t I? I don’t like Kurti, why can’t I wear what I want? Stop harassing me and let me finish cooking now” replied Mya curtly, willing to indulge in their chasms.

“You gutsy bitch! How dare you enrage me? Just go and change right now or I’ll beat you up so bad, you will regret having disobeyed me!” Akshya screamed even though Mya was within his earshot and unfazed by what was said.

It wasn’t that Mya wanted to fight with Akshya, she was just tired of everyday struggle to keep their bond intact. She often wondered if their love would ever resurge again, she wondered if there had been any love for her in the first place. She had realized that Akshya had always been a stubborn man, always in a race to win, always obsessed about something or other. Maybe she was one of his obsessions that he had wanted to own and tame. Maybe. She wanted to straighten out the creases in their relationship. Constant disrespect and abhorrent remarks had made her cringe at him.

***

Karma Didi arrived late in the evening. Akshya had gone to pick her up from the airport. Mya deliberately didn’t change into kurti, her first attempt to rebel against his demands. She was comfortably clad in track pants and turtleneck skivvy, all covered up. Karma Didi resembled Akshya so much so that if Akshya donned on hair extension, he would look like her doppelgänger. Mya hoped that Karma Didi didn’t share the same views and obsessions as Akshya despite their uncanny facial features. She was counting the tick tock’s of the wall clock before she plunged into a sensitive discussion with Didi. She welcomed Didi with a warm hug whilst Akshya insisted she bow down to pay respect. Karma Didi didn’t seem to mind Mya’s hug as opposed to the traditional bow.

“It’s so good to meet you after so long Mya. You were so little when I left. Akshya had been enraptured and wouldn’t stop talking about you since you embarked on your teenage. How’s it been for you marrying this silly boy?” Karma Didi teased lightly.

“Oh it’s been a roller coaster ride really” Mya answered promptly.

She saw Akshya’s face turn blue with anguish. She had been too quick to vent out. Karma Didi seemed to be taken by surprise, but she took Mya’s answer to be a witty humour. Karma Didi was used to dry humour. She couldn’t make of Mya’s response anything else more than a jest.

“She loves it, can you tell Didi? She always banters! Darling Mya, I told you not to try your humour on everyone, not everyone gets it mayalu. It’s good that Didi has a good sense of humour. Isn’t it Didi ?” Akshya was quick to cover up.

But Mya wanted it all out on the open tonight. She wanted someone to know her pain.

“Oh c’mon you two are making me laugh!” Karma Didi winked.

Dinner was eaten and served without much conversation apart from Karma Didi praising Mya’s culinary delights. She was enjoying the cured meat varieties, curries, salads, soup, desserts, everything. When it was time for bed, Karma Didi requested Mya to massage her head before she made her way into the guest room. Mya was really tired and sleepy by then but she didn’t want to appear rude. She knew Akshya would never let her get away from it as he often expressed his strong leniency towards cultural, hierarchical and gendered dominance or submission thereof. She thought succumbing to Karma Didi’s request might actually get her away from Akshya’s increasing barbarism in bed for that night. She decided she would linger on a bit longer massaging Karma Didi’s head, hoping Akshya will be deep in his sleep when she sneaked in their bedroom.

“I can see he adores you Mya. You are one lucky girl you know” Karma Didi started on a serious note while Mya’s fingers worked their way into her thick lustrous mane.

“He’s a lucky guy too Didi” Mya wasn’t bantering either.

“Yes he is” replied Didi coyly.

“Didi, what is the most striking thing for you being in America?” asked Mya with eagerness.

“Freedom. Opportunities. Money. There are so many things that make me thankful for being able to live in such an open minded place like America Mya” came the instant and enthused answer from Karma.

“Oh! I don’t know what freedom would mean in America Didi. Isn’t it the same as here in Nepal?” Mya asked innocently.

“No. It’s very different over there Mya. Perhaps you wouldn’t understand” smiled Karma. She was enjoying a good head massage, aiding her to relax her jet lag after a long haul flight. She was also enjoying this tête-à-tête with Mya.

“I want to understand though. Maybe you can give examples? Or maybe I should start first. Didi, do you think I will have the freedom to refuse sex if I didn’t want to if I was in America?” came Mya’s naive and unnerving question.

Karma was instantly startled. She didn’t know how to react.

“Why do you say so Mya? I don’t understand how freedom has anything to do with sex?” Karma was a bit abrupt in her question this time.

“I don’t know. I don’t feel free here Didi. I feel tied to do things beyond my liking. Like sex. Akshya forces me. I am not free to choose or refuse. Do American women go through the same? I just wondered” asked Mya. Her questions were becoming more obvious and direct now.

“Relationships are hard Mya. You are young and you are making a huge issue out of nothing. Look at other bright sides. Akshya is madly in love with you, don’t you see that?” Karma tried being reasonable with Mya.

“That’s the thing didi, he IS mad! Not just madly in love, but mad sometimes, for nothing.” Mya was almost on the verge of crying.

“Mya, if you don’t like doing it, just close your eyes, sleep through sex. It will be ok baini. I have also learnt to do that. Men always want it. They are happy if you let them have it. Besides, wouldn’t you want to please your husband and keep him away from riveting eyes of other girls Mya? As a wife, it is our duty to keep our husband happy baini. No one would support you if your husband leaves you for another woman you know. What would you do then with that freedom even if you had it? Are you getting me Mya?” Karma countered Mya’s query.

“I don’t want to get it Didi” said Mya grumpily.

She knew she was wasting her breath trying to explain the dire situation in their relationship to someone who was Akshya’s own. Of course didi would never want to understand. Mya was utterly disappointed. She had hoped Karma Didi from America would understand. She had hoped there was someone to hear her out and offer her some consolation and direction. She was completely lost now.

“You are inviting trouble Mya, I am warning you” said Karma didi in a harsh tone this time.

“How is the bonding going you two?” Akshya appeared at the door.

“You need to control your wife Akshya. I didn’t know she was an ungrateful creature. She was complaining to me about you. She seems to be an expert in bad mouthing her husband. She needs to learn some stringent lessons this one” Karma urged Akshya.

Mya was stunned at this unpredictable behavior of Karma didi.  She wasn’t prepared for what came next.

Akshya, half in disbelief, half in anger, lunged at Mya and grabbed her by her hair.

“You think you can win Didi by complaining about me? What have I done wrong to you, you whore!! Now you will see a devil in me today. You have crossed all limits today Mya” he kept shouting while dragging Mya from the bedside all the way across the kitchen hall.

Karma Didi was quick on her feet. Instead of stopping Akshya from abusing Mya, she encouraged him by fuelling his anger.

“That’s what you should have done long time ago bhai” she emboldened his intentions.

“Let me go. Let me go Akshya” begged Mya.

“You will never get away from me Mya, never! You hear me? Never!” Akshya kept screaming at her.

Karma Didi started slapping Mya whilst Akshya kept pulling her hair flinging her from one end to the other. Karma Didi’s glass bangles scratched Mya’s face, broken by the force, leaving Mya to bleed from her cheeks and lips.

Startled by the trickling blood and the unintended damage, Karma Didi scurried to the bathroom mumbling profanities. Akshya was still madly banging Mya’s head against the wall. She started bleeding more, her head pounding with the force, her cheeks cracking more, her eyes partly swollen. It took virile strength from  Mya to kick Akshya so hard that he ended up dismantling the mirrored cabinet up against the wall. She jolted back from the action and landed hitting her head on the floor when she flipped back after forcefully kicking Akshya to get rid of his maddening grip.

She looked at him scornfully. He looked pathetic and wounded. Shards of mirror glass lay on the floor not too far from both of them. She saw Akshya kneeled down, hugging his left shin, his face in agony and wrath, his jaw bleeding from the cut that he must have got when he banged on the cabinet handle when Mya kicked him.

Akshya wasn’t done yet. He took his time though. He sat on the floor, lit up a stick of cigarette, dragged long puffs & slowly dragged himself upto Mya. She was expecting him to apologise to her, like he often did after sudden bouts of aggression or after rape each night. Instead, he held cigarette butt and swiftly dabbed it on Mya’s arms randomly, without remorse or warning.

Mya howled loudly, excruciating burns propelling her to wriggle in agony. She felt the breeze of death right then. She knew she wouldn’t survive this tonight. She didn’t care anymore. She remembered all those times when Akshya had promised her the stars and the moons and the roses and all love. She had imagined her life would be a reverie. She remembered how quickly those promises turned into his beastly hunger she could never satiate. She remembered how she had begged to be spared on days she was sick. She remembered how many excuses she had made to her family to hide the bruises on her body.

Those nightmarish recollection incited ferocity inside her. With all the might she had left, she tackled him head first. Akshya managed to kick her hard, Mya flinging on the scattered shards, her face impaled with some.

Someone could easily impale themselves and die on those loosely scattered tiny shards on the floor. Mya slowly turns her gaze away from the floor. She is benumbed and just a meter away from it. She rests her eyes on him without giving away any emotions. It is hard to tell whether he is getting angrier or pacified from her listless twisted face. She wishes that those shards laid closer to him.

**Please seek help if you are in a violent relationship. Please find someone you can trust.

 

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