“Again?!” I yell into the phone. I could feel her cringe.
“Please. One last time, Shruti,” she pleads.
I take a shaky breath to compose my anger against what was happening to her. I decide to do something.
“Fine,” I say. “One last time.”
I grab the pack full of makeup which I made particularly for her and my keys and head downstairs, to floor 10, to her flat. I ring the doorbell and I hear her running and tugging at the locks. She opens the door just wide enough for me to squeeze in sideways. She doesn’t even look at me. I set my pack down and turn around to look at her, and I gasp.
“What has that beast done to you?” My voice is barely a whisper. I could see bruises on her face even though she has tried hard to cover it with her hair. I walk up to her and bend down to examine her face properly.
“What is it this time?” I ask her softly.
She laughs weakly through her tears and bruises. “The same.”
I shake my head. “This cannot go on anymore. I am going to put an end to it.”
She grabs my hands and looks at me in the eyes with a different emotion in hers: determination. “No, you can’t. You know what is going to happen if this gets out.”
I know exactly what will happen. That doesn’t mean I can sit back and watch the show of “How hard can I beat Shwetha?” by her husband every other day. She’s been my best friend ever since I moved to this apartment 3 years ago, after the huge incident. I still look back to that day. Even though the very thought of him makes me want to hide in a hole, he led me to her. Someone I could confide in and not feel like the world was ending every time I thought about it. And someone whom I should be ever grateful for. But, I still have one last thing to say to her. It will shatter her, but it is very important that she know it.
I shake my head at her comment and take her to the dressing table in the spare bedroom. We both know the drill. It flows with us naturally. He does something, she calls me, I come, she cries, and I apply make up to her to cover anything that gives away her unhappiness. This time, it’s different. She hasn’t wept in front of me, like she used to. It’s like she’s a whole new person today. I wince at the thought of how much damage it would cause her when I tell her what I’d been meaning to tell her from the very moment I stepped into her apartment, asking for help in the new area. But I work up the courage and decide to tell her.
“Hey, Shwetha?” I ask to get her attention.
“I’ve been meaning to tell you this for a long time now,” I say. “Remember the incident that happened to me some years ago before I moved here?”
She tenses. “Is everything all right?”
“No, actually,” I take a deep breath. “When I told you I couldn’t remember the person’s face, I lied. I know all about him, where he lives, who he’s married to and what he does to his wife.”
I carefully look at her as realization dawns upon her.
“No,” she whispers, tearfully.
I continue my work and couldn’t help noticing how deep the wounds are this time. Also, I can see wounds of struggle on her arms.I finish my work and help her put on new clothes, when she finally breaks the silence. “When were you planning on telling me?”
I think about it. “I wasn’t, actually.”
She exhales steadily and says, “Promise me you won’t do anything irrational. Not for me.”
I smile. “I promise you’re going to do something for both of us.” I believe that she will. She’s the more sensible of the two of us, and I know she will not act rashly.
She looks up, closes her eyes and breathes a faint ‘thank you’.
After dressing her up, I look at her face and I realize how I’ve never seen her skin bare. I think about that and how I know I will see her makeup-less skin in the near future. I smile at her and at the thought that I am leaving her in good hands. She smiles back at me.
I leave her, just as we hear footsteps from the corridor. And I sneak a hug from her. She hugs me back just as tightly as I did.
One hour later, she calls me. “Shruti,” I could hear her heavy breaths and through my speaker. I also notice that she’s whispering. “I did it.”
(This was for a friend’s women magazine, named Bella Donna, and I was so happy to write this for her!)