Balancing Act

(Short Story - By Rashna Minoo Patel)

Cynthia’s heart lilted into rhapsody over the rhythmic movements of the lashing rain as she changed into her night dress after a relaxing shower. For, unlike the conventional Cinderella whose joyous extravaganza ended exactly at 12 midnight, Cynthia’s date with happiness began just then. Because that’s the time she would call Edwin. Her darling Ed.

This midnight rendezvous with Ed had begun 6 months ago and since then she adhered to this routine with sanctimonious sincerity, except when her husband Karl, a party animal, was at home during that hour. Cynthia would have dinner with her in-laws Mr and Mrs Williams at 9:30 p.m. Almost by 10 p.m. they would be through. While Cynthia would get busy winding up things in the kitchen, Mr and Mrs Williams would watch television. By 10:30 p.m. Mr Williams retired for the day. Mrs Williams would still keep soaking in the tragedies of her ostentatiously dressed heroines. Cynthia would give her mother-in-law company and at 11:30 pm they would kiss each other good night and head for their respective rooms. Cynthia would then rush for a hot bath and rejuvenate her tired nerves so that her voice could scintillate the sparkle of the infinite stars when she spoke to Ed as the clock struck 12. She would speak to Ed for almost two hours since Karl generally walked in at 2 a.m. “Nothing can ever go wrong with my plan now that I have mastered the art of the perfect balancing act,” Cynthia’s mind couldn’t resist appreciating itself.

Today, her flawlessly delicious creamy white skin was complimented by her black satin night gown.….like the radiance of the thousand bright rays breaking though the deep dark clouds. She smiled at herself remembering the day when Karl Williams had come to see her for the first time and how he was smitten by her pristine beauty at once. The baby pink dress she had worn, matched with white pearl accessories, accentuated her round hazelnut eyes, well chiselled nose and the full red lips as if carved from the petals of a beautiful rose. When she first threw a glance at Karl she realized that he was not conventionally handsome, but had an outstanding personality. What Cynthia’s parents liked most about him was his achievement at such a young age. Karl was the owner of one of the most successful and renowned advertising and media companies in Mumbai.

Theirs was a fairy-tale romance followed by an equally dreamlike wedding. But in these two years of married life several unknown doors to Karl’s personality had opened up that had shocked Cynthia. She was nothing but a prized trophy that Karl presented in front of his friends and high-profile business associates. He provided her with the best of gifts, but deprived her of the finer joys. He never had time to listen to her daily happenings or appreciate a new poem she wrote or taste the new dish she lovingly prepared for him. Worst of all stood his unnaturally bloated ego, sky-soaring temper and chokingly possessive nature. She still remembered the day when they had gone to a restaurant to celebrate their first wedding anniversary. Cynthia, as usual, looked beauty personified in her mauve chiffon salwar kameez. She realized a man in grey suit was continuously giving her looks of admiration. When Karl noticed all this he flung his wine glass on Cynthia’s face and bashed the daylight out of that man in grey suit. Cynthia still shuddered at the thought of that incident. After that, Karl had ordered her never to step out of the house alone.

With Karl, Cynthia felt complete as a wife but totally incomplete as a woman. She saw life like a metaphoric demon whose clutches had grasped her tightly and was slowly dragging her into the dungeon of misery and loneliness.

Edwin was the hero who had helped her fight this demon and gave her life a fresh lease of hope. She had come across him at a shopping mall. That was the only place Cynthia was allowed to go on her own. Mr Williams was never interested and Mrs Williams would not venture out due to her arthritis. Thanks to her strong balancing act Cynthia would find some or the other excuse to visit the shopping mall every morning after Karl left for work. She had bumped into Edwin at the grocery section.

“Hey, that’s you Edwin!!”

“Hello Cynthia. Great to see you.”

“Same here. I mean last time we met was at our college graduation day. Isn’t it? So what brings you here?”

“Well! I was in Goa with my parents for so long. Just recently shifted to Mumbai alone since I got a new job here as a sales & marketing manager in a MNC. My work starts from noon so am free in the mornings. That’s how I’m here!”

“Congrates! But must say you have really changed since college days.”

“Thanks for the observation Mam. But must say you still look as beautiful.”

After that there was no looking back. They kept meeting almost daily. One day, Edwin invited Cynthia to his house which was just adjacent to the mall. At first, Cynthia hesitated since Edwin lived a bachelor’s life, but she relented later. In no time she had just not entered his house, but also his heart. Cynthia too fell for the charming, lively and loving Ed. Both knew that this would never work, but yet they did not mind transgressing the socially delineated lines and soaking into each other. They had discussed this issue just once.

“Cynthia darling, I truly love you. But you know that this relationship will never work. I mean it will never culminate into something substantial. Your husband won’t let you go and I want to marry the girl my parents select for me since I love them and don’t want to dishearten them.”

“Oh Ed. I know that. I don’t know how long this will last. But since the time I’ve met you the pain of my conscious mind has been wiped away by the waves of pleasure emancipating from my content mind. For now, just let’s go with the flow of this mystical dream.”

“What if that jerk of your husband ever finds out?”

“That’s not possible Ed. You know I’ve mastered this art of the right balancing act that can be achieved by exercising the power of self control. If, on one hand, we have the ability to control the reigns of our emotions and, on the other, we let our mind pump out its highest thinking potential then we can overpower any situation. It’s all about perfecting the balancing act between feeling and thinking.”

“But sweetheart, this rationale doesn’t work in matters of love.”

“It does Ed. It does. If I am able to talk with you at 12 midnight from my house since last 6 months without anyone knowing, it is thanks to this balancing act. If I am able to meet you at the mall daily and also sneak into your flat without a flicker of guilt within me, it is thanks to this balancing act. If I am able to visualize you when Karl makes love to me and at the same time make Karl feel like it is he who is responsible for my erotic ecstasies, it is thanks to this balancing act. It can never go wrong.”

“Hope so. And am keeping my fingers crossed that Karl always falls victim to your balancing acts and he never finds us together.”

Fortunately, Karl remained oblivious of these romantic escapades. Just one incident about a week ago had shaken up Cynthia. She was shopping with Ed at the mall and he had put his arm around her when they heard a commotion. A huge crowd had gathered to watch the promotional event of a new cosmetic brand. Enthused, Cynthia caught hold of Ed’s hand tightly and swam ahead of the crowd. She was shocked to see Karl who was in charge of the event. She immediately rushed back home.

What if Karl saw us? He will kill poor Ed. Karl can really stoop to any level if his male ego is hurt. What thrashing that man in grey suit had got just for looking at me! No, no, God please help. Negative thoughts captured Cynthia’s mind. But when Karl came back home that day he behaved normally and Cynthia was relieved. However, the thought that Karl must have seen them together and that this could be the silence before the storm kept nagging Cynthia’s otherwise blissful and smooth life.

******

Outside the thunder and lightening howled in raging anger as if indicating the advent of a tumultuous storm. It broke Cynthia from the reverie of her past. My goodness it’s already five minutes past 12. Dear Ed must be waiting for my call. Gathering herself Cynthia dialled Ed’s number, but before she could even utter a word, Ed’s panicky voice rolled in like the speedily gushing wind….

“Hey Cynthia, listen to me. There has been a huge problem and I need to rush out urgently. Will try to call later if situation permits. Bye and please take care of yourself.”

Cynthia could feel the sweat of her shaky palms while still nervously holding the receiver.What on earth could have happened? Why did Ed sound so tensed? Where did he rush at this hour? Has Karl something to do with this? Is it possible that Karl had seen us and has now hatched some plan to harm Ed? What am I thinking? My balancing act has always been perfectly right it can’t fail me like this. I desperately need to know what the matter is or I’ll go crazy. An unknown fear engulfed Cynthia.


Balancing Act - Short story Continued here...