A true story about Audrey and her lovely hair

Tania wished she had a dozen hands to carry all those shopping bags. As she entered her home, her husband tilted his head towards her and eyed her for a moment to make sure she was still plain looking as he always thought she did. His eyes bounced back to the PC and got stuck on the screen where meaningless columns and columns of market data rolled up from the bottom of the screen like columns of smoke from a funeral pyre. She felt his eyes were unseeing as those of a crocodile lying still, hours on end, like a flattened log of wood, at the zoo, however loud the children shouted at it just to make it move.

Why are husbands called better halves? Does it make wives worse halves? Had her husband been the better part of their uneventful life together, she wouldn't have had to go for shopping, all by herself, every Saturday to procure groceries for the family. Her better-half left her to be better off without him, and he reiterated that she took too long to select and was very choosy. Tania knew the real reason was that he had to catch up the whole week's news on the web and prepare the column on current issues for the business magazine he had voted for after his retirement.

On her way to the kitchen she passed her 25-year old son's room; he didn't even lift an eyebrow and was busy tapping on his laptop assessing the precise drawings of some huge project. He had proved to the company that the credentials printed in black and white of his B.Tech certificate were not just an eye wash on paper but that he was a capable employee to the firm and the result: he was paid handsomely.

While arranging the groceries on the various shelves in the refrigerator, Tania wondered, how a normal woman can cope with her son's attitude of spending less time for other activities, if she becomes his wife. It will be better to bring another workaholic home to match the situation.

Tania cooked a quick supper which was light for this Saturday evening mainly because she was tired after shopping and also as preparation to consume a heavy breakfast specially cooked on Sunday mornings. Tania made it a point that the supper should be taken early and together so that she can finish the work for the day without delay, for she knew if she left them to have supper as per their wish it may end up as the next day's breakfast.

All three of them as usual sat like broken Chinese toys for dinner: husband with thoughts of his news updates pending; son with the next day's work schedule and Tania turned a Zombie seated between two. Neither her husband nor her son noticed the confused expression on Tania's face during supper and Tania knew that both of them were not going to enjoy hearing it even if she told them. As they both always teased her for getting stirred up quickly for petty reasons, she knew how they would take it. As she was quite transparent and revealing in her body language, everything got written on her face. But, tonight, none had time for chit chat at the dining table.

After everything was cleared, Tania went to the balcony where she took solace in her solitude. Time to be with herself and for herself. She sat in her bamboo swing and floated back and forth slowly, gazing at the sky. She felt the stars and the moon harmonized with her. She felt that the moon had the power to exorcise all the bitter experiences of the day and soak it up and consume it without damaging itself much let alone the black shades inside the luminescence ball visible, beauty spots shaped like a rabbit or a deer.

Tania mind went back to her school days. Audrey the fair Anglo Indian girl with blond hair, who bid farewell to them after the completion of school life when they were just fifteen. And now again after 31 years they met again today at the grocery store. Unbelievable, impossible and unbearable. yet it was true....... Though there were many Anglo Indian girls in Tania's class, like the soft-spoken Deborah, the forever-tense Margret, the wheat-complexioned Pamela, none had the blond, straight, hip long thick bushy hair as Audrey. Poor Audrey had a tough time coping with the rules of the school because of her beautiful hair as she let her hair loose without tying it. It looked pretty that way. Schools suddenly adopted strict rules with uniforms and uniformity and all were compelled to plait their hair in two halves and tie it with red ribbons. Audrey could not adjust with that rule as she has never tied her hair in her life. Her parents had left her shiny lustrous hair loose to bounce with every move of her head. During the recess, most of us used to play with her hair gently lifting it and letting it fall to see that it drifted back to the exact space without getting disturbed. It was splendid and gorgeous. Audrey never came to school with her hair plaited into two as per rule and brought the crumbled red ribbons to class stowed in her school bag. And some classmates helped her in plaiting and tying up her hair. But often Audrey was late to school and made Sr.Amy, the class teacher, very angry and she was made to stand in the corner of the class room for a whole hour. At times Sr. Amy herself came down to plait her hair pulling it hard punctuated with punishing strokes.

Tania didn't find anything special about the person shopping beside her at the grocery shop. But that woman stared at Tania for some time and asked her, "Are you not Tania my class mate of St. Joseph's School"?
Tania looked at her with curiosity while answering "Yes".
"Don't you know me, I am Audrey"
"What" the exclamation was a little loud and people around looked at her quizzically.

Tania knew only one Audrey at school so she stared long, and asked "are you the Anglo Indian Girl who had blond hair?"

For a minute, different emotions paraded in quick succession on her face. Happiness, sadness, remorse. If any artist had been around he would have captured it on his canvass to bag the award for a theme based competition of mixed expressions.

Finally she spoke in a low voice "I am glad you still remember me because I had blond hair"

She paused to smile, her mind catapulted to teenage days. Then her smile vanished and she continued, "My husband didn't like my hair so I had to dye it to make it look like the normal kind everyone has."

Tania could not help exclaiming "How can he....?" But she stopped abruptly as she didn't get the appropriate words to complete what she was about to blurt out. Standing before her was a black-haired, oil- coated and single plaited woman. A plain woman.

The moon came straight towards her in the balcony and stood as though he was going to extort her sorrow, and Tania let it devour her as she could not hold the pain anymore.

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