Chapter - 1
Riha finally accepted that she was married to a man who was going to someday kill her. But unlike death which is final, this death will happen again and again .. a death followed by a rebirth of her soul. When pain crossed into pleasure and the pleasure crossed into pain…
It however had not started like this. She had met Aham during the course of a training. She was taking the training with the topic, "Change your life with love."
The name was a misnomer. The training was to tell the workers of the factory to love their job more and put in more. Aham had attended the training in plain clothes mingling with the other factory workers though he held more than 50% stake in the factory.
He had thought the training was bad and openly started cracking jokes at her expense. The factory workers who were till then quite interested in what was being discussed had lost all interest and joined in with him.
Riha had refused to budge and continued with the process. The room burst into cat calls and lewd jokes. Then at one point, when she turned to see the entire class facing the door, she had banged down her training material on the desk and walked out of the room. A few minutes in the washroom to cool herself and she walked back to complete the session. Aham had by then taken over the podium and speaking to them on a new expansion and career option as a representative of the management that he was.
Riha had simply collected all her belongings as the class eyed her slyly and walked out.
But next day she was back to collect a penalty citing the clause in the agreement which stated that management can not interfere with the training sessions. It was a clause rarely used for obvious reasons.
Aham had not been around but soon the news had reached him and he was there at her doorstep. This time he was seductively apologetic and intent on making it up for her.
"It had been just a joke to bond with the workers.. but it became something else. I am sorry." He spoke sincerely while his eyes looked intently at the furiously blushing girl he had caught in her over alls working at her tiny garden.
He paid triple the penalty. "I instigated it, cheered them on and them took over your podium. My mistake - I accept.. three times." Then he became a permanent fixture beside Riha. In six months they were married. Riha left her job as a trainer almost immediately afterwards as it became clear that Aham had a very hectic life style and had deliberately slowed it down to woo her.
She was at the top of the world and then the descent started.
How it first started Riha could not clearly remember. May be when Aham insisted that she accompany him everywhere or was it when he wanted her to give up social networking. Riha loved to be with him so she gladly accompanied him around and she reasoned Aham was passionate and jealous and she being a trainer had 750 friends on facebook so she closed her account.
Then Aham started going with her on shopping trips or got the entire collection to be shown to them in the privacy of their sprawling apartment. He had impeccable choice and Riha never thought twice about agreeing to his suggestions. Yes his choice in lingerie's made her blush all over but she reasoned who will ever see her in them but him.
One night Aham came home little later than usual and slightly drunk. He jumped on her as she opened the door. Between nips at her lips he had asked softly, "Who was Neal?"
Neal was her first crush that lasted for a few years before it turned to dust and shame. He was also her immediate neighbour and eldest brother to her friend Rita. She told Aham the latter, somehow not trusting his mood enough to say the first. Internally shaking her eyes could barely meet Aham's. There were moments of silence as Aham seemed to be fighting some internal demon.
She found herself being led to their dining room where Aham pushed her into a straight backed chair before tying her hands on the arm rest with a rope he magically took out from his pocket. Then he took out his mobile and played the voice recorder.
It seemed Aham was speaking to someone... a lady.
"Oh! You are Riha's husband. I was her neighbour Rita and my brother is the famous model turned anchor Neal." There was some tingling laughter before Rita spoke again,
"Those days Riha was almost mad about Neal. She would peep into our house trying to catch a glimpse of him and once fell down on the road trying to look at him. Neal's girl friend threatened to leave him. And then one day when she was taking a bath he and his girl friend knocked the door open and made a complete fool of her standing there looking horrified covered in soap suds and nothing else."
The conversation went on for some more time but Riha felt her throat close over and tears start to fall from her closed eyes. She was again the sixteen year old standing in the bathroom as her then best friend Rita had opened her front door for her brother and whispered that her bathroom door lock was feeble and almost dysfunctional.
It was the silence that made Riha opened her eyes and saw there was no mercy in Aham's eyes just condemnation. She said in a chocked voice, "I was sixteen.."
How she sat upright that day Riha never knew as Aham brought out at thin wooden ruler and kept it with a clang on the glass table, he methodically undressed her and took the ruler in his hand. The tears were already rolling down her cheeks as he started at her toes and went till her head and then turned her on her front and started again from the back of her toes.
Riha was mentally prepared for a night long punishment and a flight in the morning as soon as she became free. But Aham stopped after covering every inch of her with a single lash. He threw the ruler away then picked it up and broke it into two and left the flat.
She stayed in the chair tied by her hands as all the flat lights mocked her. Aham came back only in the morning when he silently loosened the ropes at her hands and went and lied down at the guest room without sparing a single look at her.
Riha stood looking at the mirror. The reddened cheeks and forehead were visible. The neck she had covered with a turtle neck. But instead of feeling angry she felt afraid. She did not want to lose Aham. She was willing to forget this incident. It seemed she was no longer the girl who had risen from the mocking laughter of Neal and his girl friend, with not a single glance back at either them or her so called friend Rita. They had been dead to her.
The breakfast was prepared and placed on the dining table, his news paper folded beside it, his dress and shoes ready but she hid in the room not knowing what to do.
Aham ignored the breakfast and walked in fully dressed and looked at her piercingly.
"I have asked the masseur to come immediately and tend to you."
Riha took a shocked look down at herself.
Aham did not move from his place. "Infact she is here right now."
The lady was a professional and did not bat a eye looking at the light red marks across her body. But the massage burned slightly as the invisible scratches got rubbed in with oil and other ingredients before they were soothed.
Her face with the gentlest tissues hurt most when she massaged it lightly and cleaned and then put the mask.
It was only when she ended after hours of attention that Riha notice, her husband sitting cross legged in his full dress in the drawing room working on his laptop. He watched her intently even as his fingers flew on the keyboard.
Unable to look at his eyes she looked down at his fingers - long, slim - the ones that had till date worshiped her and loved her and she stumbled up. She shot from her bed wrapping the bed cloth round her and walked over to him. It was crisscrossed with red welt like lines. She raised her eyes to his and he held her eyes and turned her palm up to her for inspection. He looked behind them at the masseur who bowed slightly and left them alone as their flat door closed behind her. Aham took off his shirt, trousers and other clothings methodically folding them on sofa. He was covered with biting welts, both his hands, his back, his front, his legs had marks. Only his face and neck was spared. It was as if someone had taken off a belt and beaten him … or beaten himself.. viciously.
Riha begged, "Please let me call a doctor .. atleast let her tend to you.." as she briefly touched the scarred skins. He stood rock straight before scooping down and kissing her brutally, bitting her lips and tongue.
Then he distanced himself and started putting on the clothes even as Riha continued to beg him. Yesterday when the wooden ruler had hit every inch of her once she had never cried out, today seeing what he had done to himself she lay whimpering as he pushed aside her requests and dressed himself again.
There was a look of intense satisfaction in his eyes as he turned and looked at her, "Bye Riha." Then he was gone. The masseur was also not there. She was alone in the flat.. alone. Riha sat on the floor .. naked as the bed cover fell off her and cried.