Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Bride

"Hey sis it's for you."
Cassie giggled, shaking her head as her cousin handed her the phone, smiling.
"Yes Rajeev, this is Cassie...and can you please tell Adrian if he calls me one more time before the wedding –
“What's wrong...?"
Though spoken in a low voice, the other women in the room looked up simultaneously at the tension in the last words of the conversation.
"A-Adrian...? For God's sake! Tell me, where is he?" Cassie shouted.
The others stared as her whole body seemed to shudder for a moment, and then she went still. "Which one?" She nodded. "I'll be there now."
Turning to face her cousin, Cassie spoke in that same voice of deadly calm. "Adrian is dead. I must go to the police station."
*     *     *
Inspector Ranil of the Slave Island Police Station looked up in surprise at the woman who had just entered. Although he had known that the deceased was a groom on the way to his wedding he hadn't quite expected to see the bride standing in front of him like this, dressed in her wedding gown, her veil pinned on a little crooked. Then again, what could he have expected? That she would change into a pair of jeans and a t-shirt before coming to the police station? Actually he hadn't known what to expect anyway, the situation was unnerving enough. It was only natural for the poor little girl to run in crying, lifting her voluminous skirts as she ran, tears forming furrows of mascara down her rosy cheeks.
But the bride looked calm enough. The inspector took in her dry eyes in some admiration, as well as a little fear...was this how he would have liked his wife to react in the same situation, he wondered... But he could see that behind her façade she was struggling inwards – her hands were clutched tightly around a lace glove to keep them from trembling, and her lips quivered slightly as she spoke.     
Inspector Ranil inhaled deeply. He was not enjoying himself. "Your – your...fiancé...has been unfortunately killed in an accident." He paused momentarily before the word fiancé, because he had nearly used the word husband before recalling that it was not the case. "On Union Place." On the way to the church, he thought unhappily.
"The car was hit by an oncoming lorry. The driver has been arrested and –
“And he has been found to have been under the influence..." he finished somewhat lamely. How to justify a death by claiming it was unintentional?
The girl showed almost no emotion. At that moment a young man rushed in, shirt half unbuttoned and tie loosened. He glanced at Cassie and made as if to hug her, but on seeing her composed look his expression softened, and he sat beside her.
The inspector was feeling increasingly awkward, and the entry of a third party seemed to relieve him. He gave the best man an inquiring look, and Rajeev replied, "Yes Sir, Adrian's parents will be here shortly."
Cassie turned towards Rajeev, a look in her eyes. "I am so sorry," he said softly, "when we arrived it was too late..." Cassie nodded quickly. Then she turned back towards the inspector.
"Sir, it was not an accident. My fiancé was murdered."
The inspector gave a start. “Cassie! What are you saying? Come, we should go now," Rajeev said.
Cassie’s eyes filled with tears. “Don't you see? Every one of you was blind. So totally blind, just like him."
Inspector Ranil had been watching the interchange with some interest. "Ma'am is there anyone you suspect?" he asked, looking intently at her expression.
"Yes. Suranjith Wijesuriya."
She spoke softly but firmly.
Rajeev stared at her. "Are you crazy? Sir she's under so much stress that –”  
"I know perfectly well what I am saying. He killed him, just like he said he would." She was trembling again, but Inspector Ranil noticed that this time, it was not just sorrow or even fear.
"I need to know, ma'am," he asked her, "Who is this Suranjith? Had he threatened to kill Adrian Fernandez? Why?"
"Suranjith is my ex-boyfriend. I broke up with him more than two years ago but ever since then he never left me alone...he kept telling me to get back with him...He – he said he loved me so much that he couldn't live without me, that I would never find  a man who could love me as much as he did..."
It was only a very rare woman, the inspector thought, with whom it was possible for a man to fall so passionately in love with that it became an obsession, a craze. He had come across so many crimes of the sort – each a case of unrequited love where a man was driven to kill – stabbings, stranglings, poisonings, suicides...
None of the women involved in these tragedies were particularly beautiful, angelic or extraordinary in any way. They were not the type of woman one would expect a man to die for. And yet, he thought, the irony was that men always did, time and time again.
He looked at her again. The sophistication of the grown woman, the maturity and control of the adult, yet at the same time an almost childlike simplicity and sincerity in the eyes that looked at him, appealing, vulnerable, but also fierce, hard and unyielding. And he now knew what had unsettled him earlier, when she had first walked in.
"When Suranjith saw me with Adrian at a party he assaulted him. It was only because his friends were restraining him that a fight was avoided. But I saw his eyes that day," she went on, "up until then I had felt pity for him, but that day I felt nothing but disgust. And now – I hate him!"
The inspector looked up in amazement at the intensity in her voice, and saw such passionate hatred in her eyes as he had never thought possible in such a woman.
"I was at that party too", Rajeev said. "Several times afterwards he threatened both Adrian for hitting on his girl and me for supporting it."
"Adrian never saw it as a threat. He kept telling me that Suranjith would grow out of it one day, that he would find himself another girl and move on with his life..." She smiled tenderly. "Adrian was the kind of person who thought that just because he had a large heart, so did everyone else. He did not understand that people could be vengeful, dangerous...that they could hate.
"But I knew Suranjith. And I was scared. That is why I begged all our friends to keep our relationship a secret, and why we hid it from him that we were getting married..."
"In that case, ma'am –”
"But he found out. And he told me that he would kill Adrian rather than let him marry me, because I didn't deserve a loser like that." Cassie shivered. Rajeev put his hand over hers.
Inspector Ranil cleared his throat. "Ma'am I think you should leave now. We will put in some inquiries regarding the whereabouts of this fellow and do the needful. We might need you again tomorrow to make a formal statement. And before you go, ma'am," he added respectfully, "the – err...the body is in the police mortuary until the investigations are completed..."       
Cassie stood up. "Thank you," she said. How many women in this position would think to thank him, he wondered. "I do not wish to see it. To the rest of the world Adrian maybe dead...but to me he is not." She put her hand over her heart. "This love, this laughter, this joy inside of is all him.” She looked towards the door to the mortuary. "That is not Adrian. He is with me, as always.” And as she smiled her face looked beautiful, angelic almost.
In spite of himself, Inspector Ranil felt a little queasy. He looked in the direction that Cassie's eyes were turned, where suddenly, a ray of mid-morning light came in through the grimy window, a bar of golden dust...a spotlight illuminating – what?
And in that moment Rajeev caught the gleam in those angelic eyes... And ever so slightly, they smiled at each other.








"Give me your pain, sweetheart", she whispered.

"I can't."

"Yes, you can", she replied softly. "See, if you hold me..."

It was an image that would be etched in my memory forever. Vanessa, her chin resting on Stefan's shaved head, which was cradled in her arms, her chocolate-brown eyes encircled with fatigue. Stefan, his eyes scrunched tight, breathing in shallow, ragged gasps. His once-athletic frame was gaunt, his face drawn like an old man's.

And as I watched, a miracle happened. Stefan's face smoothed over, his breath calmed and suddenly, Vanessa's eyes dilated ever so slightly and she bit her lip.

Somehow, I knew.

Looking back now, thinking rationally, I know it could not happen.

But it did. Whatever bonds that tied them were richer than blood, stronger than love, beyond human explanation. She held him there for an eternity and neither of them moved or spoke.

And, looking at her, I couldn't recall her ever being so beautiful.

Her skin was creamy gold, nearly white. I could see the veins standing out blue on the back of her hands, her lips tinged a delicate shell pink. She had the translucent frailty of someone whose physical energy had left her a long time ago, whose only strength was the tremendous spirit that lay behind those quiet brown eyes that had drowned a world of sorrow within them, like bottomless, fathomless wells whose depths were unknown, even to herself. Eyes that comforted, and did not weep.

After a time, I slipped away. I felt inadequate, impure even, to be witnessing something so sublime, something that was beyond my if I had walked into a temple and suddenly realized that I had unwittingly kept my shoes on...

I do not know how long Vanessa remained in that room with Stefan. But at five in the morning I got a call from her.

"Please, Aryan. Can you come?"

 *        *        *

Everyone thought they were a couple. Which was strange, because had that been the case, they couldn't have lasted very long. They fought every five minutes.

But I am forgetting my youthful wisdom. I remember seeing her getting on his bike and riding off into the sunset, leaving me as it looked, in perpetual darkness. I remember her hair streaming, her head tilted back in laughter at one of his dumb (I hoped) jokes, slapping him on the shoulder and saying "Oi".

So that's how they address each other, I thought. Surprisingly, this warmed me to her in a way I had never been by all the honey-bunnies, kiri-panies and sweetie-pies that formed the vocabularies of most of the airheads I knew.

But then, Vanessa was no airhead.

She certainly looked the type- extremely klutzy, extremely giggly and very, very noisy. But there was a difference about her that puzzled me and unsettled me, because it upset my perception of women. It was a lack of artificiality, a genuine niceness that other girls tried so hard to put on. If she laughed at a joke, I soon realized, it was because she found it funny, not because she was trying to flirt.

And she was smart. Man, she was smart. And she was not afraid to show it. Unlike other girls, she did not adopt that façade of naiveté that appealed to most men because it made them feel superior.

Admittedly, it was not the in-your-face, Ms. Einstein type of brains she possessed- but when challenged, she knew exactly how to react. The bigger the challenge, the better she fought. We would spend hours at a time in the college library, debating on every topic in the universe... I invariably took a completely opposing view to hers; sometimes because it was how I actually felt, but mostly because when she argued with me I would forget everything else except the delicious sparkle in those chocolate eyes.

She was smart enough to know when I was goading her- and she accepted the bait with pleasure because she knew I was no match for her. I with my brains, my theories, my A-grades, was no match for her brilliant perception and wit.

Before I knew it myself, I was caught, hook, line and sinker...I don't think it was really her intention but once she realized what had happened she didn't seem to mind, either. We complemented each other, she with her vivacity, me with my silences; her sensitivity to life tempering my rationality; her friendliness and charm melting my defenses.

Having never realized, however, how far I had really ventured into the treacherous jungle of Love, I was shocked to find myself cursing that idiot on the bike and wishing him dead. He was good-looking, no doubt, probably the kind of person Vanessa would fall for- easygoing, teasing, friendly... the sort of person you would expect to find on the cricket field when he should have been reading his notes.

The sort of person, in fact, that I was not.

He was her twin.

They were not particularly close. In school they had different interests, different friends. Vanessa was hopeless at sports; she loved literature and the arts. She was the best debator on the school team, and her house usually won any quiz she participated in. Stefan on the other hand was the typical jock- athlete, cricketer, Games Captain, national swimmer.

Vanessa was rarely interested in boys, although she had more than her share of admirers who simply refused to take "no" for an answer. She preferred the carefree life of singlehood, and in the process broke quite a few hearts. Stefan broke hearts too, but that was because he was unable to stick to one girlfriend for more than a month at best. Vanessa marvelled at how girls could possibly overlook this simple fact- the moment he broke up with their best friends they would rush to the pool or grounds in their shortest shorts and skimpiest tops, roasting in the sun and melting in the rain (weather meant nothing to Stefan when he was at practice!), showing off their sexy figures in all their glory.

Stefan's attitude was generally "the more the merrier", but at times the attention was too much even for him to bear. Vanessa would find herself threatened, bribed and blackmailed into answering the phone and saying, "Oh hi, Erandhi...Stefan has left to Canada...yes, didn't know? I can't imagine how he could possibly have forgotten to tell you..."

But he got her out of scrapes, too. At parties when she was cornered by a love-sick Romeo or a stone-drunk Devdas, he would materialize from nowhere; no matter how high he was or how many girls he was with, he would invariably take her hand and say "Wanna dance?" and lead her to the floor.

And the tactic generally worked. They looked nothing like each other. Unlike Vanessa, Stefan was tanned and his eyes were grey. They were both short, but while Stefan had the biceps and six-pack deserving of a national swimming champion, Vanessa was so tiny she looked as if a gust of wind would blow her away if she happened to walk down Marine Drive.

So the tactic worked, as long as neither of them smiled at the same time. Because when they did, everyone who shook their heads and exclaimed "Twins?” were quick to swallow their words and stare in wonder at the similarity between them.

As was the norm in middle-class Sri Lankan families, Stefan left to UK after completing his A Levels, while Vanessa stayed on at college in Sri Lanka. He was initially interested in sports medicine, but once there he discovered that his true strength lay in people- understanding them, helping them, caring for them.

He went on to specialize in child psychology, working as a sports therapist with autistic children at Oxfam. When he came to Sri Lanka on vacation, Vanessa would take him to refugee camps or border villages on her assignments- by now she was an economic consultant for UNICEF- and it amazed her, how he brought laughter into the bleakest places; how he so effortlessly achieved what others spent a lifetime trying to accomplish.  Stefan had such life, such boundless sunshine radiating from him that it warmed the hearts of everyone around. His love of living was infectious.

*        *        *

She stared at him a long moment, at those smoky eyes, like live coals, that burned into your soul with their intensity, eyes that saw beyond, far beyond the veil of human bluff.

The embers were dead now, the eyes blank.

A stranger's eyes.

He had given people the gift of life, and when he left he had taken it back with him. The world felt dead, haunted with a thousand ghosts, mere shadows of the living.

*        *        *

He was everyone's shoulder to cry on. And when he needed one, it was hers. They rarely told each other their intimate troubles; yet, inexplicably, they knew. When our relationship ended Vanessa was on the verge of suicide; she never told Stefan her intentions, but it was he who boarded the first flight home in time to shake her back to her senses.

By now Vanessa was dating a world-touring wildlife photographer who was half French and half hippie, and blending somewhat into the wildlife herself; I was subsisting on an achcharu of business partners, business clients and my boss's wife. It took another shaking from Stefan before we both decided to eat our pride and get back together.

*        *        *

When I turned to Vanessa she was seated on the floor, quietly arranging the medical reports. How much easier if she could cry, I thought. I wanted to hold her, comfort her, share her pain.

Oddly, her calmness comforted me.

She had endured her own private hell for the past six years, I knew, and it was so much worse because she had to smile through it all. And, brave girl that she was, she did.

But there were times when she would crack beneath the strain, the pretence, and she would burst out in helpless agony. At first I thought it was the baby she didn't want...and I was terrified that her violence would kill them both.

If I lost the baby I would live, but without Vanessa I would die.

I remember the night she came home late, walking to her room and shutting herself in. I could hear the screams inside...those of a wounded animal, caged, trapped.

It was the longest hour of my life but when I finally got to her and she clung to me, sobbing, I held her close, kissing her, cursing her, telling her to go ahead with the abortion.

But she didn't want an abortion, she wanted Stefan, she wanted him forever but he was dying, he was dying, goddamn it and she couldn't do anything about it...

So what, she said, so what if the world called him a freak and a bastard, so what if their parents hid their pain and their love behind self-righteous accusations... If they hated him, it was because they didn't know him, didn't know him like she did... He was still Stefan, her Stefan and nothing in the world could change that. She was not afraid to love, not afraid to hurt...

It was fear of her hurt that had kept him from telling her the truth, until one day she lashed out at him; he couldn't lie to her and she knew it-

And he had said it quietly, without any bitterness,

"Is it the truth you want to know? I am HIV positive...I am dying, Vanessa..."

He feared her pain; also, he feared her hope. But surprisingly, she accepted reality almost as calmly as he did. She was with him, as always, sharing his pain, his laughter, his emotions.

But when she cried it was always alone.

*        *        *

Each day was bloodier than the last. I prayed that death would come easy to him but I dreaded to tell Vanessa my thoughts. The torture in itself would have been enough to kill me but unfortunately for Stefan, he possessed such miraculous strength I was almost afraid. He was a macabre caricature of a Cyclops, or a Wolverine, cursed with his super-human powers.

"You know, Ari?" he once told me. "If it's a boy this time, tell her to go ahead and call him Stefan. But if it's a girl", he winced, "God help her but if it's another girl, don't ever, ever, let her name her Stefanie. I wouldn't have a niece of mine named after a bimbo!"

And I would vaguely recollect pleasant memories of a blonde with long legs sunning herself by the poolside in Hikkaduwa... and I would laugh, and he would grin, and for an instant I would see Vanessa lying there on the bed, Vanessa with the tubes piercing her body, looking Death in the face and laughing, softly. 

*        *        *

She seemed to sense my presence, because she looked up suddenly. I knelt down to touch her, but something held me back.

I left her there, alone. I climbed the stairs, slowly, my mind absurdly numb. I ought to feel pain, I knew. But I felt a strange emptiness, a nothingness that was almost peace but not quite, almost contentment but not quite.

The bedroom looked the same as it had the night before, but I felt the tension, the apprehension and anticipation of returning home after a long vacation, afraid that things have changed, but they haven't... it is only your mind that needs to re-adjust to the past. It was the same peach satin sheets I abhorred, the same strawberry lipstick smears on the mirror; the same perfumes on the dressing table and the same Burberry handbag hanging behind it...

Taking out the empty bottle I refilled it slowly, upto the brim as Vanessa had done that morning. I was about to replace it on the bathroom shelf but then I changed my mind. I flung it out of the window, and watched as the shower of tiny chocolate-coated pills scattered far and wide. Neither Vanessa nor I had any trouble sleeping...

Stefan, I knew, would not be needing them again.


Wind, Fire and Salt

Six o'clock.
The wind, cold and strong, lashed at her body tearing her apart as he had done, ripping her into a thousand pieces. Yet her soul was burning, burning with shame and hatred. The shame that she had borne, and would continue to bear forever. Hatred towards the man she had loved and loved still, hatred towards the woman she had become for his sake.

But it was not the shame, not the hatred that consumed her and made her want to run, far, far away where she could live, and breathe, and exist. She could bear that. It was the pain that she couldn't bear, the pain that attacked her, like a knife being driven, slowly, mercilessly, through her gut and beyond piercing her heart and the blood filled her lungs and she couldn't breathe or scream or cry and all she was conscious of was pain pain pain and her life ebbed away even as the sun died in a pool of bleeding sky.

She gazed at the horizon until it seemed that the fire in her eyes and in her heart could only be quenched by the memories it brought.

There had been a time when it all meant just...him. Her love for him was not the fairytale romance of high school stories. It was passion, wildly tumultuous and deeply tender, fulfilling and destructive. She was overwhelmed by how everything else ceased to exist when she was with him, how he made her laugh and cry and love and hate.

She was alive.

And now she was dead. Or as good as dead, except that the pain kept reminding her she was alive. She remembered the day he came to her apartment, tired, and when she tried to comfort him he had pushed her away, roughly at first, and then pulled her towards him and sobbed.

She loved him more when he was angry. Because that was when he needed her the most. He was almost always angry. Angry at life- or rather, the futility of it. He would curse her, curse himself and the world in general, and she would watch silently, knowing that it helped him release his frustration in a society that didn't understand him or his work.

Doctors must be saints, he kept saying. Doctors must be patient and comforting. Doctors must play God. Didn't they realize it was the doctor who needed comforting the most, the doctor who spent his lifetime looking at death and destruction and the meaninglessness of it all; where pain and suffering was a way of life? How could he be patient, knowing that every second could mean the difference between life and death; how could he play God when sometimes all they could do was watch, praying for death to take away the pain they were helpless to ease?

He was a great doctor, they said. He was invited to speak at all the important functions, and his research articles were published every month without fail in the most prestigious journals. The entire country applauded him for his selflessness, his consideration for his patients, his tireless contributions to the field of medical science. They didn't see him as he saw himself- exhausted, imperfect, vulnerable, struggling with questions to which he was unable to find the answers.

The salt stung her eyes and she endured it, willing herself to cry. She wanted to cry until the pain subsided, until the fire within her was extinguished by the force of her tears. She didn't know what else to do. She had lost everything- her happiness, her dignity, her life.
And now him...

Don't trust him, they had said, he is just using you...he is a married man and you will end up hurt. She knew all that; what they didn't know was that she couldn't turn back, even if she wanted to- she was trapped, trapped by his magnetism and his sensitivity and his power, and her love. Trapped like the fly that is lured into the deadly pitcher plant, and then refuses to crawl out although it knows it is going to die.

She was different, she knew, because she gave him what no one else could, and he loved her for it, in his own strange way. Loved her for understanding his ideals and dreams, his passion for his work, his weaknesses and inadequacies, his bitterness and cynicism.

Then why didn't he divorce his wife? How could she tell them that he couldn't? Because he loved his wife, wanted to protect and provide for her as long as he lived. She was the ideal wife, subservient, willing to be dominated; and he liked to dominate. Her attitude pampered his ego; she looked up to him, like everybody else. He was a great doctor, therefore a great husband- how could a man so deeply caring for his patients not care for his own family twice as much?

He was an impulsive man, at times violent in his outbursts. Especially when he had had a hard day at the hospital. For instance the days when, despite their best efforts to win a losing battle, a particularly gallant patient would finally succumb. Occasions like these left him drained, both emotionally and physically; and just one word or gesture of comfort was enough to provoke him. Rather than confront his wife with his rage, he came to her. Somehow, she was always able to charm him out of the blackest moods- with her sharp wit and intelligence, which matched, and sometimes even surpassed his own. 

There was never the question of divorce, however, and she didn't expect it from him. He could easily have got one if he wanted to. Infertility was an accepted cause, and his wife had been childless for the past ten years, ever since marriage. But he was a man who took his responsibilities seriously. Although he often criticized his wife in front of her, she knew he would never allow her to do so; she knew that in his list of priorities she came third, or thereabouts- work, wife and mistress.


She was not a marriage wrecker, yet society painted her such. Man-eater, they called her. They didn't realize that she was like every other woman... Lost, looking for the safety of a man's protection in an uncaring world.

She watched a piece of wood bob up and down on the waves. She had been like that before he entered her life, like many others before her. It was strange, his power to transform people from being content to drift along aimlessly, to individuals with an insatiable thirst to challenge life, and win, sometimes in the face of unthinkable odds.

She was one such person. He had transformed her, given her life meaning she never knew it had...and suddenly her senses were consciously alive; the flowers smelled sweet, the grass was green and the rain felt cool as it gently caressed her body. The vibrant gold and magenta sunsets never ceased to amaze her- they were beautiful, like an abstract that captured the essence of her life.

And then one day, just as suddenly, he left.

It was one of the more difficult days, except that he didn't lash out at her like he usually did. He merely sat in his chair all night, eyes closed, brow furrowed, hands clenched together. He didn't speak or move, but as she gazed at him she observed a tiny muscle in his left cheek that never stopped twitching. She was used to his mood swings and had endured them before, except that this time it was different. He was not depressed; he was in intense concentration. Even before he spoke she sensed the distance, the barrier between them she was unable to penetrate.

When he spoke it was as though she already knew what he would say...she wanted to run, to close her ears and scream, she wanted to strangle him, but all she did was sit down beside him and place her hand on his shoulder.

Shalini is pregnant -

And then he was gone. Gone, without even looking at her. She knew she was powerless to stop him, and she knew he would never come back.

Suddenly, she was crying. The tears stung more viciously than the salt had ever done, like caustic fire-drops that increased, not deadened, the pain. This was reality.

This was life. And death. They said that life and death were opposites, like black and white, good and bad, happiness and sorrow. But it was all the same- life and death merged in a grey mist of pain that embraced her lovingly in its unforgiving arms.

She screamed again and again, yet despite the eerie stillness, nobody heard. The sky glowed in one last moment of glory, red and orange and gold and the seas turned red, redder than the sky, as red as the blood in her veins and then the sun disappeared, swallowed by the blackness of the night.

Inspired by "The Scream" by Edvard Munch






I look at my sister, eyes wide open in shock.
 "She killed my husband, Inspector. Take her away!"
The policeman handcuffs me and leads me to the rickety old green monster that sits there, waiting. Greedily waiting to carry me off to my destiny.
*          *          *
Destiny- it was always Amaya who believed in an Almighty, omnipresent Force that controlled our lives; I believed I controlled my own.
My life- something alien, something foreign, something I have no say in. I laugh out loud at the ludicrous turn of events. The others stare at me silently, some in open hostility, some with a mixture of amusement and suspicion in their eyes. In a few I see pity...that distant, detached, strangely familiar emotion I first saw in my sister's eyes the day she betrayed my trust.
*          *          *
Mr. Samarasinghe is upset. He says I frustrate him. Fight, he says. Think positive. Picture the glass half-full, not half-empty. Funny expression to use when there is not a drop of water left inside the glass. I tell him as much. He looks at me for a moment, throws his hands up in the air and leaves the room.
*          *          *
...trial next week...
...most sensational scoop I've come across in a long time ...!!! know, seems the Judge is getting death threats......not to worry, our police will not let go that easily...
*          *          *
The trial is tomorrow. It is ridiculous, this rigmarole over nothing. Especially when the verdict is so obvious.
*          *          *
Mr. Samarasinghe's hands are trembling so badly I can see it from the other end of the courtroom. Funny how men go to pieces when the game is up. I remember Jason...
Mr. Samarasinghe runs after the papers that are flying in all directions across the courtroom. Like Mary Poppins. Why Mary Poppins, I wonder...I picture Mr. Samarasinghe in one of her rolling beneath the layers, bald head hidden by a lace bonnet, twirling his parasol and skipping into the courtroom. I picture Mary Poppins in the courtroom. Your Honour, she says, I have evidence that a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down. And I have eyewitnesses to prove it.
*          *          *
Amaya looks very pretty for a mourning widow. Though it is the first time in ten years I am seeing her without make-up. She performs her role to perfection- The Virtuous Wife. The Heartbroken Widow. Driven To Fury In Passionate Quest To Avenge Husband's Killer.
She reminds me of one of those Bollywood actresses...which one was it? Kareena Kapoor? Aishwarya Rai? I can't remember...
That was all so long ago...I can't remember anything anymore...
Looks like this entire scene has been cut and pasted from some low-budget Hindi movie. No originality whatsoever. Slain hero, tearful heroine, obnoxious prosecuting attorney. Hell, even the judge, sitting beneath that pathetic little blindfolded demon holding the Scales of Justice, is sympathetic.
Only the villain seems to be missing. Or maybe –
*          *          *
Those who had nodded off during the fingerprint analyst's tedious lecture wake up with a jolt at the prosecuting attorney's punch line. Naturally, technicalities bore them. As far as they are concerned, the fingerprints found on the kitchen knife exactly match my own. Like spectators at a medieval Roman amphitheatre, they lean forward, thirsting for blood.
My blood.
But the forensic scientist is no better. He describes each wound in minute detail –
 ...only a raving lunatic who can stab someone again and again...watching the victim as he dies gradually...
As he dies drop by drop ...
The pleasure of the kill increasing in proportion to the pain inflicted...
*          *          *
I am so tired, Mama...I want to sleep...
After all that hullabaloo over capital punishment, I wouldn't have thought they would settle for life. It is, after all, a case of premeditated murder. I smile. I am impressed by His Honour's insight, by his ability to know what has been going on in my mind the days preceding the murder.
Strange that his psychic powers are unable to unravel the mystery that is Amaya...
Yet another knight in shining armour- no, rather policeman in well-worn khaki uniform- won over by a damsel in distress. Obviously, or he wouldn't have allowed her to speak to me in private. The risk that I may try to escape is too great...
I have nowhere to go, Mama...
She looks at me, tears filling her eyes. I cannot understand. Shouldn't I be the one to cry? But then again since I am not maybe she could do me the honour...
She is saying something. To me. I can see her lips move, but find it difficult to catch the words. Something-
I nod vigorously, although I cannot understand. A useful tactic I learnt back in school. I nod harder. I hope I am getting it right.
...right, sis? So now you know how I felt...
I feel faint. Must be the hours I spent standing in the witness box. The policeman comes up to me and I walk away with him, ignoring the sobbing, ignoring the curses. betrayed I felt when I saw you and Jason together in my room...
Ignoring the words that are gnawing at my heart.