I looked up as the doorbell rang.
It probably is the newspaper girl, I thought as I opened the door. Instead, I had our neighbor Mrs. Roberta standing. Ugh, not her again, I groaned on the inside as I cracked a half-hearted smile and welcomed her in. Mrs. Roberta was the old aunty of our street, who meddled in everyone’s day-to-day affairs and made them her own. Obviously, because the solution to every problem is to stop being liberal and go back to the old times, right?
Grrrrrr. Just the thought of that made me shudder. But I didn’t have anything to worry; I was living a wonderful life. I had a caring and supportive wife, a daughter, and even when the market hadn’t been really favorable to me in terms of getting a job, everyone looked up to us. It was nice.
‘Ahem ahem,’ Mrs. Roberta cleared her throat loudly, clearly unimpressed by my lack of hospitality. I courteously told her Karen would be with her in a minute, and she stormed off to the sofa and made herself comfortable to the snacks and the newspaper kept nearby. Jesus, one can’t fathom why these matriarchs are always so frustrated. Aren’t their husbands good enough?
Had it not been for my wife I would have seriously considered staging a protest in front of her when she asked for her second cup of tea. The audacity of this woman! I gestured to my wife in ways that made her chuckle, from which I received a reassuring response of ‘I’ll handle it’, as she sat down with that old hag.
Phew, I breathed a little more easily. I went inside the kitchen to prepare the meals for the day; I anyway didn’t have much to do, and it’d just be nice to treat my wife to something special when she comes back from office. As I set about to prepare the saucepan, Karen came inside, laughing from her conversation with Mrs. Roberta.
‘… yes absolutely! And please, by all means, use our washing machine; you can take Jake’s room to hang the clothes… Oh hello there handsome, what are you up to?’
‘Hang clothes in my room, what?’ Just the thought of that hag’s dresses was disgusting enough to make me cringe, and now they were to be put up in my room to dry? Ugh.
‘Aww babe, don’t worry, I’ll clean the place and you’ll feel nicer than ever then.’ She hugged, consoling me and then said, ‘Oh, by the way, we’re completely out of groceries. Could you be a darling and get some?’
If it meant getting away from the devil slouched on the sofa, why not? —
I got down to the street and started walking towards the shop. Karen wouldn’t let me touch the car, for she still hadn’t taught me how to drive as she had promised. Still, it was a wonderful day to go about.
I quickly went down the aisles and took all the essentials, as well a little something to eat for myself on the way back (Karen won’t know if I’d finish it till then now, would she?). I reached up to the billing counter and set about to pay for the stuff. We’d be coming to this shop for ages now, and knew the people there really well.
‘Still living off Karen’s money, are we?’ the cashier made a comment. She never even looked up from her screen.
Well, knew some people there really well.
The way back was much more somber than it was jovial in the morning. There were lesser people on the road and those who were there weren’t the kind one would want to hang around with. I didn’t look at them much, but as I passed a group of hooligan tomboys I couldn’t shrug off the uneasy feeling of being watched under prying eyes. Curse my luck that there wasn’t anyone else on the road I was traveling. I increased my pace as the ruffians started taunting me.
Visibly irritated, I retorted back at them to mind their own business.
I’ll be honest for a second even they were taken aback on my spurt of courage. But it didn’t take them long to seize up on me and pushed me against a wall in a desolate street alley.
‘What did this fatherf@#$%r say?’
‘Someone’s grown a full pair of tits eh?’
‘Hah, he’s trying to resist, cutie. Resist when I’m whooping your brother’s A@#, kid.’
I fought them off as much as I could, but somewhere deep down I completely broke down and started whimpering and crying over my torn clothes and scratch marks on my body. The girls left me as I slumped against the wall, laughing at my pathetic state. I saw some two-odd people crossing my destitute self, but no one offered to help. Deeply embarrassed, I resolved to not be quiet about this.
The superintendent wasn’t exactly impressed. Not with my torn attire, to say the least.
‘So, you say you were assaulted?’
As if that isn’t exactly evident?? ‘Yes ma’am.’
‘And there was this group of three or four girls?’
‘At a place no one was present?’
‘Yes, ma’am.’ My patience was growing as thin as a silk thread.
‘So… why didn’t you call out for help?’
‘Um, because there wasn’t anyone exactly present??’
‘Sir I’d ask you to please not raise your voice, there is no reason to be unruly.’
‘I’M BEING UNRULY? I’ve been assaulted and you’re worried about keeping my voice down?’
At this point, the whole precinct had its attention on me. I swear if she could have the officer would’ve arrested me and made each of their lives easier. Karen entered just at that moment and held me. I started crying.
‘Well, thank goodness you’re here. If you can just sign these papers, we’ll release him to you. We’ve taken his statement, but with a lot of holes in the story I can’t guarantee anything.’
Karen scribbled away the details as I picked up my belongings. I turned towards her for comfort when she said,
‘Come on, let’s head back home. Gosh, I just remembered you must’ve lost the groceries as well no? Well okay, we’ll order in something. I’ll tell you all about how my day went in the office and we closed this huge deal that would really help my position up the ladder,’ and walked up to the car.
I stood still, petrified.