Arranged Marriage: Stories

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Authors: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Tags: Fiction, Short Stories (Single Author)
it’s all for the best.” Later, “Try to look at the positive side. You had to cut the umbilical cord sometime.”
    You pulled away when he said things like that. What did he know, you thought, about families, about (yes) love. He’d left home the day he turned eighteen. He only called his mother on Mother’s Day and, if he remembered, her birthday. When he told her about you she’d said, “How nice , dear. We really must have you both over to the house for dinner sometime soon.”
    Lately he has been angry a lot. “You’re blaming me for this mess between your mother and yourself,” he shouted the other day at dinner although you hadn’t said anything. He shook his head. “You’re driving yourself crazy. You need a shrink.” He shoved back his plate and slammed out of the apartment again. The dry, scratchy voice pushing at your temples reminded you how he’d watched the red-haired waitress at the Mexican restaurant last week, how he was laughing, his hand on her shoulder, when you came out of the rest room. How, recently, there had been more late-night calls.
    When he came back, very late, you were still sitting atthe table. Staring at the hanging. He took you by the arms and brought his face close to yours.
    “Sweetheart,” he said, “I want to help you but I don’t know how. You’ve become obsessed with this thing. You’re so depressed all the time I hardly know you anymore. So your mother is behaving irrationally. You can’t afford to do the same.”
    You looked past his head. He has a sweet voice, you thought absently. A voice that charms. An actor’s voice.
    “You’re not even listening,” he said.
    You tried because you knew he was trying, too. But later in bed, even with his lips pressing hot into you, a part of you kept counting the days. How many since you mailed the letter? He pulled away with an angry exclamation and turned the other way. You put out your hand to touch the nubs of his backbone. I’m sorry . But you went on thinking, something must be wrong. A reply should have reached you by now.
    The letter came today. You walked out under a low, gray-bellied sky and there was the mail-woman, holding it up, smiling—the registered letter to your mother, with a red ink stamp across the address. Not accepted. Return to sender .
    Now you are kneeling in the bathroom, rummaging in the cabinet behind the cleaning supplies. When you find the bottles, you line them up along the sink top. You open each one and look at the tablets: red, white, pink. You’d found them one day while cleaning. You remember how shocked you’d been, the argument the two of you’d had. He’d shrugged and spread his hands, palms up. You wish now you’d asked himwhich ones were the sleeping pills. No matter. You can take them all, if that’s what you decide to do.
    You’d held the letter in your hand a long time, until it grew weightless, transparent. You could see through it to another letter, one that wasn’t written yet. His letter.
    You knew what it would say.
    Before he left for class this morning he had looked at you still crumpled on the sofa where you’d spent the night. He looked for a long time, as though he’d never really seen you before. Then he said, very softly, “It was never me, was it? Never love. It was always you and her, her and you.”
    He hadn’t waited for an answer.
    Wind slams a door somewhere, making you jump. It’s raining outside, the first time in years. Big swollen drops, then thick silver sheets of it. You walk out to the balcony. The rain runs down your cheeks, the tears you couldn’t shed. The nasturtiums, washed clean, are glowing red. Smell of wet earth. You take a deep breath, decide to go for a long walk.
    As you walk you try to figure out what to do. (And maybe the meaning of what you have done.) The pills are there, of course. You picture it: the empty bottles by the bed, your body fallen across it, a hand flung over the side. The note left behind. Will he press

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