A short story by Saumyaa Sinha
“It’s your word against mine, whom do you think would they believe?”.
Little specks of dust were dancing in the tunnel of sunlight which streamed through their barely open window, it was coated with dust, just like the rest of the house and the clothes. The negligence must have taken some real effort though. For the curtains were heavy with dust laden layers, the hem skirted over the ground, wanting to fall dramatically. An armchair sat oddly in the corner, greased with oil spills and a table barely big enough to fit two pieces of crockery, stood sleepily in the centre, there was a lonely piece of copperware, for silver burnt far too much of the pocket, on a cracked mantelpiece.
Life seemed to be squeezed so wretchedly out of every furniture, there was a lull thrown over the entire living room. If one could call it that. A carpet stretched across the flooring, the once intricate patterns were now reduced to patches of dark mouldy patterns. It couldn’t stop raining outside.
Arnold Atwood shifted from one leg to another, his open trench coat swaying as he did so, his smooth lips escaping a sigh of evident frustration. He wore a top hat, the edges made of silk. Silk was far too expensive, some would say. Atwood had different priorities. He tapped his brogue wingtips and the firm tap tap tap of it added to the pride in his posture, he straightened up, a hand over his stubbled hubristic face, he continued tapping impatiently, and as he did so he brought about a dance of dust as though one had just blown a dandelion.
“You killed our child,”. Bethany Atwood’s voice lingered in the air. It was a mix of what you’d call sweet as nectar and firm as tar. She wore a plain frock, little patterns of lilies lay dull upon the dull shade of cotton. Her hair was a dirt shade of blonde, the kind which was once a shimmering golden but with consistent negligence, came down to the lifeless colour of her wall. Her eyes didn’t have the sharpness of her husband’s. No. They were plain. Dull, just like her visage. As she said those words, she stared at Arnold’s tapping feet and at once he stopped. There was a pain in her voice, something her heavy throat and heart gave away.
“It had to be done and you know it to be true,”. He said in a low, deep rumble. It rose from his belly like a dead body floating upwards. “It had to be done,”.
“How a fool I have been, to marry a soulless man, petty enough to kill his own blood. Your eyes haunt me like knives dripped in venom and the very hands which caressed me on the moon my corse was blessed, are now abrased and scrape my skin with acid like touch. What a fool I have been to put not trust and faith but also love beyond comprehend in a man hollow and decaying from within. Selfish, are you. Selfish, selfish and soulless,” she clutched the cloth of her frock and began pacing towards the window.
“And fool I was to think you had in you a sense of maturity. An understanding. Look around you!” he bellowed, grasping Bethany by her arm, flinging her across the room like a little toy.
“Do you see the rusted chairs, the cracks in the walls and the half torn curtains? Do you see the only picture of my mother, coated with dust, the framework, we had to sell for a mere loaf of bread. Bread! My mother’s pride sold for bread!”
Bethany looked up, clutching her arm, she marched ahead, until her head levelled with his chin and she could feel the taste of smoke on her chapped lips and dry tongue as she
spoke. “Pride!” she scoffed, “what pride do you talk of! The same which has us indebted to the landlords for years! The same landlords who were equals to us once, walk past us in carriages and mock us! What kind of a mindless monster are you, to call her incessant lust for jewels and riches, pride!”. She took a gulp to say more but Arnold spoke in a bare
“Then how do you suppose we were to feed the extra mouth, huh? IT HAD TO BE DONE!
How long do you suppose before we had to collect for her marriage? None!”. Arnold
coughed, for he wasn’t used to talking this much. His mouth was always filled with a pipe.
Bethany scoffed yet again. “And by work you mean, you giving up that wretched game of
gambling for a day, two at maximum and not losing more than you have? How would we
feed her, indeed for all our earnings are spent on silk hats and trenches and footwear the
rich can only afford to wear! Look at me, I remain a humble servant to life as we have it. And yet you live off me, a leech of lavish addiction. You have no concern, you have lust. Lust for money and power and image,” she spit.
The next thing she felt, left her on the ground, it took a moment for her hand to travel to her left cheek, which was hot and burning. Tears streamed down her cheeks involuntarily. Her plain placid hairbun came half undone. She looked up to see Arnold standing above her, eyes wide with rage. Perhaps she had said too much. But nothing but the truth.
“You dare talk to me in that way, your own husband? You belong at my feet and yet you
forget that I have let you rise to my level. Other women wouldn’t dare to as much as look at their husbands in their eyes and yet your foul tongue twists words of preposterous arrogance onto my way! Have you no shame, you servant? Have you no disgust at your own thoughts and being?”
“Never have I said a word against your wrong doings,” she spoke looking down at the
ground, tears burning her eyes. “Never have I said a word as I, a daughter of a well
established family, gave into the whimsical life of an arrogant man,” and suddenly she
launched herself up and roared, eyes still on the ground “BUT THIS IS MY DAUGHTER
YOU HAVE KILLED! I saw you in the eve, strangling her fragile throat, her cries a mere wisp of air, I SAW you do it before my very eyes…but, but I was too late, my poor poor child,”.
Suddenly there was nothing but silence. “And so it must be done,” she spoke, tears-tired
eyes staring right into the eyes of the man she hated with all her heart. The man stood there ready to give her another blow, another lesson, another reminder of where he stood and where did she. Bethany opened her kitchen drawer, and with her shaky
hands turned fearless, plunged the knife into her husband’s heart with an undeterred swing.
Like pulled by an upward force, his eyes stretched wide as he sucked in a gasp, the last gulp of air he’d ever take into his now feeble and mortal coil, the white beneath his extravagant trench witnessed an amusing transition of crimson, first nothing, and then a lot at once. He was soaked in his own blood. Quiet and helpless was the man of such pride and power, his hands clutching the knife wedged deep into his heart, eyes fixed upon hers with bewilderment, shock and boundless hatred. He never thought he’d see this day.
The betrayal of a wife was the strength of a mother. And it was the first time that in the pale, dull house of theirs, the soft boring creams of the walls, and the fireplace, and the curtains and the furniture, a vibrant hue of deep scarlet invaded the dull whiteness.
The dust swam in the streaming sunlight from the window and in the stillness of the air,
everything seemed as though a painting. Nothing moved, nothing happened. Until the last thing to be heard was a gentle thud on the wooden floor, a clink of the drenched metal blade hitting the ground, and a horrid frenzied laughter, escaping from the mouth of a woman, with a blood-stained frock and hair cascading into messy clumps, the first and only thing full of lurid life in the Atwood house.
And suddenly there was an eruption of applause and whistles and shoulders being thumped and the dollying and panning of cameras came to a halt as the director rushed with footsteps of an excited child to offer a congratulatory handshake to the actor and the actress whose brilliance he fell in awe with. There were chattering crew men, camera lights dimming out one by one, and the customary red velvet cake pieces being passed around to the entire team for the immense success and finality of their new film- White Rose. The director stood by the actress speaking everything all at once and complimenting her on her authenticity to the character and using this element here and that improvisation there.
There was a merry aura hanging around the whole set, and it wouldn’t have broken lest a woman crew hadn’t let out the most clamouring shriek. And all at once, in the new silence, the metallic scent of blood hung in the air. The actor lay motionless on the wooden floor.
15 years later, the speculation and curiosity to why the beloved film awaited by many
common men and women and the rich alike never touched the screens, came to an end. A documentary was released by an anonymous artist titled- “White Rose- the movie which never got released”. And after the credit role, written in plain white, were the words “TO PLAY THE PART IS ONE, TO BE IT IS ANOTHER”.