She adjusted in her seat by the window. Her coccyx was stiff for she had not moved for hours. Her elbow was poised on the vintage desk- a family heirloom-, her ruddy palm supporting the winsome visage; her long, elegant fingers stretching to touch the lower lip; she painted a picture of timeless pulchritude. The diamond ring on her mid finger shone, sparkling, outshining the radiance emanating from her face.
It had been a long wait. The radio was the sole companion, and but for her baby boy Thomas- her darling baby, cute, adorable, cherubic, angelic baby- she cared for no one else in the immediate vicinity. The radio had sputtered a few days back, croaking as it always had during the past many years of the wait, and the Prime Minister had announced victory. “We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing”, he had declared, and ended with offering salutations to the causes of freedom and justice, for which the war had been fought. And since that very second her heart had been prancing about, leaping like a dolphin following a schooner, playing hide- and- seek with the sun, frolicking with the waves.
Her husband, her brave, heroic Fredrick Thelappil, had gone to the battlefront when the bugle had been sounded. It was a man’s duty to defend the soil that gave him his wife, he believed, and had maintained that resolutely to the end, despite the her many protestations.
With no mobile phones, no letters- Fred just wouldn’t write- and no other means of knowing how he fared, she had waited. For three long years. Three years anticipating every second. When the martyrs were called out, she had held her breath. The victorious generals of battles were felicitated and she had clung on to every name. She listened to nothing but the news, long winded state announcements of progress, battle after battle, the slow release of list the casualty lists- the terrifying agony of the wait in the endless queues for a printed roster-, and then finally, in the run up to the announcement of victory, the acknowledgement, in the face of international pressure, that there had been more martyrs than revealed. And the agonising wait for that list. No names anywhere.
Which could mean only one thing. Which was why she was by the window. Staring hopelessly- oh, how many times had she done this before- at the long, winding road that led to their house. Secluded and exclusive, Fredrick had insisted. She wanted to buy the cheaper option near the railway station, but Fred had read her mind. She was saving for the family as usual. He had taken a loan- darling Fred! - and bought this one. Angels Garden, they had christened it. But now she was cursing herself. For it meant an additional fifteen minutes wait. She adjusted her slim, diamond shaped pink Dior that Fredrick had got her on their first trip abroad. It had cost them as much as the flight ticket, but he had ruffled his hair and given her that heart melting smile and paid up. She counted the seconds fervently. Not that it helped, but any time now, she told herself. Surely the train must have arrived. He must be at the street corner. Just beyond the bend. Coming.
She had prepared for this moment so many times in her memory. A cake had been ordered from the bakery- a V shaped chocolate cake with rose petal icing-, a bouquet of roses, and an exquisite meal for the three of them. She had cut beans and made a curry out of cabbage, tomato and cucumber, an odd mix that Fred just loved. She had bottles of Pepsi stored at the fridge, the TV turned on to the cricket match that she wouldn’t have cared two hoots about, the bed all nice and warm for her hero to earn a good nights sleep.
Thomas had wanted to know all about papa, and which battlefield he had gone to. She didn’t know, but she told him anyways. One night papa was at the desert fighting the evil enemy, slaying them by the hundreds, soldiers running away in fear and awe, acknowledging defeat, surrendering to the superior combatant. The next night papa dearest was at the icy glaciers, the cold cold wind smashing his face, the frost chilling him, his fingers numb with the cold of it all- and yet fighting an enemy who seemed impervious to the clime. Papa, always invincible, forever victorious, triumphant and brave, fought the cold and defeated the enemy. She told Thomas her picture of papa, at the peak, with a gun hoisting the flag, holding it high.
And so time had passed, months came and went, and she was down to the seconds now. She had visualised everything, even of Fred in a stretcher, with stitches everywhere, bloodied and wounded, but that just made it sound sweeter. Her Fred, indefatigable, risking his life for the army. Forsaking her and baby Tom, for the country.
Tom was at the door now; his sharp ears had sensed something. Her heart leaped. Soared to the sky, Fred victorious! Fred unconquered! Fred at home! Her lips quivered, her fingers trembled. Tears welled up at her eyes- oh those years of waiting, the times when her heart bled asking for a companion, when she ached due to the sheer pain and anxiety involved in it all.
For the first time in three years, Tom went out of her sight, he ran, threw open the gates, and out to the road. The sun was just rising, and in her excitement, she noticed the apples- the fresh new apples from the apple tree at the orchard, the daffodils that had sprouted in the garden- Tom was running now, yells of delight- he ran further down the street, towards the bend- she got up from her seat, tears welling up more fiercely now.
There was the tinkle of the bell, a bicycle! Surely Fred hadn’t come by cycle! Or had he? In his impatience had he skipped the bus and borrowed a cycle? She ran to the door, too confused to think and opened the latch.
The postman was coming.