“He is no more. He too has left me. Why does everyone I love, leave?”
She was sobbing over the phone.
The call was brief and her sudden emotional outburst rendered me speechless; I couldn’t say anything to comfort her. Hers was a tormented soul, bereft of any hope of finding love again, I could tell that much from her trembling voice. After all, I am the one she has always confided in- the painful secrets of her past and present both.
Fate has been cruelly kind to her. She was a young widow once who happened to find love again in a young married man who had a family of his own. Theirs was a story, the society considers immoral and never approves of. But this friend of mine was somewhat content and happy, in a peculiar kind of way of course, being the ‘other woman’ in his life. She had made peace with the bitter fact that he will always offer her a little less; and sadly, she never asked for more. She was aware that if the clandestine affair gets exposed, she will be judged harshly by everyone. Therefore, she tried to live her life as quietly and uneventfully as possible- going to work in the morning and coming back home in the evening to her little kids who also had strangely grown fond of this new man’s presence in her life. Now, this odd, imperfect, and hopelessly hopeful world she and her kids built around him was shattered by his unexpected demise.
Thinking she could use a shoulder to cry on, I went to her house in the evening. And as expected, seeing me, she broke down.
“Will you go to his funeral, tomorrow?”
“No. I can’t risk being discovered by his grieving wife now.”
She lowered her lashes to conceal the new pool of tears forming in the corners of her eyes and started fiddling with the tassels of her scarf. “His wife should never find out that she had been sharing her husband with me all along, because if she does, then she would doubt the love he had for her and I can’t bear to see any woman writhing in that kind of pain again….for I know how unbearable that is.”
That evening, sitting by the fire, we talked some more about this mysterious man who became her companion in loneliness. Though I never met him in person, but I was aware that he was kind to her. He filled the empty spaces in her heart and made her feel alive with hope and laughter again.
“I don’t care what others think, I know his love for me and my children was genuine,” she said while staring at the fire, albeit proudly this time.
On my way home, I pondered upon what she said and how complex her feelings were for the man and his wife. Like the wife, she too was in pain-only her grief will not receive acceptance or empathy as she was the ‘mistress’. The thing that surprised me the most was the fact that even in her sorrow, she wanted to spare the wife the additional agony of knowing a painful secret.
Once again, the lines between right and wrong started blurring before me.