Tuesday 24 June 2014

Write...Edit...Publish...June 2014 : Romance

I am posting another re-worked excerpt from Moonlit Waters for this month's prompt at
hosted by 

(Read my earlier post from MW)

There is a prize this time for the most creative entry, so do click over. Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, artwork, photographs, anything - your take on the prompt "Romance".  

I am dipping into MW again because, well, I would like to FINISH the edits, the unfinished-ness is beginning to bug me :)  And because my offline life is just a little crazy right now.  We are in the middle of yet another wedding and a relocation.  I will semi-pack up here and travel to India in a couple days, attend the wedding, then return and wait for our papers to be processed and move to our new home as they come through. All I can say for certain is that my summer/monsoon promises to be far from dull. Access to a connection might be patchy, not that I was/am going to let something like that interfere with blogging, ha.  Will catch up with you soonest I can. Happy summer/July to you all. 

Moonlit Waters II

Abeer was back again at Fayoum; this time there was no discomfort, no weighing of words to say or not to say, just an easing into a place which felt long familiar, as though he had grown up looking at this grey-blue water right from childhood.  Waded into it knee-deep many times, splashed in it and sputtered at its saltiness and fished in it on winter afternoons.  There were places like this, he came upon them suddenly without any signs or warning, strange places but intimately part of him, of who he was, or had been at some point of time, and his memories looped back and touched their own beginnings in one huge arch, silent and comforting in a sweep of timelessness.

He worked quickly, trying to get the colours fixed in his mind, the outlines fixed before the light changed and shifted the shadows around.  A cluster of children watched, their eyes boring into him. It was irksome, but he could not come up with an effective deterrent.  Eyes following his every move, they reminded him of another pair of eyes, glistening sometimes with reproach, sometimes with wonder.  They reminded him also of another vendor, with arms like  cassia branches weighed down with blossoms, but she was nowhere to be seen. The children soon got bored, at the initial stages his sketch looked nothing like the scene before them, neither the lake nor the sky, it was just one jumble of lines and only he could see the final outcome rising sharp and clear.

The afternoon passed swiftly, the light changed and he gave up trying to finish, instead captured the lake with his small camera.   As he turned he felt a fresh pair of eyes on his back, and knew that she was here.  The jewellery seller approached him a little dubiously since he was again obviously alone.

“Good afternoon, Mister.”

He returned the greeting, but waved his hands dismissively, he did not want to buy more jewellery.  The woman did not take the hint, “I have a matching necklace, Mister.  It would make the set complete.”

She held out a string of purple coloured shells, lurid enough to rub off on the skin of the wearer at the slightest opportunity.  Her face was fair and delicate, though her eyes had a resolute gleam to them that sat oddly on her.  She looked less than her age because of the extreme slenderness of her hands and wrists, her cheekbones absurdly young and beautiful. 

It was suddenly very important to him that she knew the truth, he was fed up of pretending. It seemed wrong to keep buying her stuff under a false premise.  Wrong to buy her cheap jewellery, and then to model them on a recreated, imaginary version of herself.  He was suddenly stabbed by guilt, as though there had been a breach of trust somewhere and he must put things right. 

The hesitant smile which had flared on her lips, crumpled instantly in shock when he told her; her face was flung open in a horrified agony  that seemed extreme, unwarranted.   He was a complete stranger after all, just a foreigner who had bought a few cheap trinkets from her a few times.  He was nonplussed at her reaction.

“I am sorry, Mister -. So  very sorry.  God will give you happiness again.  Both of you,” she was panting, breathless, sobbing almost.

He was annoyed, partly at her, and partly at himself.  Trust women always to be melodramatic, whether they used their eyes or their tongues; family or complete strangers, they were all the same.  He was minus a wife, so how was that her problem? He was a fool, he should have kept quiet and sent her packing like the rest without any explanations, why should he feel any obligation towards her?  An unnecessary interruption spoiling the tone of a perfect day.  His fault entirely, if he had only known when to keep his mouth shut and did not feel these inexplicable pangs of accountability towards people in whose life he had no part to play. 

But she kept standing there as if turned to stone, and when he finally looked at her again, he could see uncontrollable tears pouring down her face.  He was further unnerved, contrite, she must be very tender-hearted indeed if it had affected her so. 

“She is happy, and I am not unhappy also,” he said apologetically, gentler than before.   “It was her choice, not mine.  You shouldn’t be so upset.  I am sorry I had to tell you, but I don’t want to keep buying things for her, she does not need me to, anymore.”

She shook her head, “No Mister, no woman chooses that willingly.  So beautiful, too, she sighed and finally started to move off. “May God give you happiness soon.”

He wanted to call her back and give her something, money, food, anything, in lieu of the necklace.  He was sorry now he had not bought it, that would have been far less trouble.  He wanted to restore her composure and smooth down his own ruffled one, but knew that to call her back and offer her a substitute would be a mistake compounding the one already made.  He did not quite know what to do.  Anyway, it was over now, and hopefully he would not be approached again.  She had made a good model though, last time.  He would have liked to paint her face, but that of course would not do at all. 

The owner approached him, “Anything the matter, Sir?”

“No, everything’s okay, thanks. I need to start back, could I please have the check?”

“Certainly.  Just thought I saw one of the women here - .” The manager let the end trail off.

“She doesn't bother me. Is she your family?”

“No, she doesn’t have any family.  She’s alone, husband's divorced her. Comes and helps in the kitchen sometimes, and sells souvenirs to the customers.  Unfortunate girl.  I'll send your check.”

WC - 1000
All feedback welcome.

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  1. June 24th, 2014

    Dear Nilanjana,
    I love this story. You got it right! The conversation between the man and the woman is perfect. So much unsaid! I wish I had written this! Your story has what my story lacks: tension between the man and the woman. There is a lot of suspense here.

    And you have water in your story! I think your setting may be a lot like the setting I wanted to create: watery.

    Well done to write this from the man's POV. I thought about it, but decided that I was not up to it.

    Love the ending that wraps it up och points toward a continuation. I hope there is more to it. I would like to read more.

    You are such a good writer!
    Best wishes,
    Here is the real life background to my cat, Mathilda's story:
    Anna's IWSG for June 2014

  2. Hi Nila. This is a wonderful continuation of your story. I was taken into his world and wondering what will happen next. Please continue...

    It is after midnight so my head needs a rest. I will be back for a slow read.

    As Anna rightly says...you are a good writer...


  3. You write the bittersweet so well, Nilanjana! I didn't know whom to feel sorry for, the man or the woman. Two hurting souls and neither is able to express their need for comfort. Enjoyed this story, especially since the man is an artist. Many artists are drawn (no pun) to the beauty of their models.

  4. Hi Nilanjana
    I remember this character from a previous post. I like how you brought clarity to the female character at the end with a simple paragraph about her loss. Well written. I hope your move goes well and the wedding too.

  5. Two lonely souls with heartbreak in their lives, so well written without being maudlin. Lovely writing.

  6. Very lovely and sad. I remember reading about them before and hope to read more in the future, and that they will be in each others if possible. The setting was very well done. I love your love of the water and light. I love the reference to memories, whether his or someone elses, or his in a past life. Lots to think about here.

  7. Lovely and sad. Such heartbreaking angst. Loved the setting too.

    Good luck with the wedding and the move.

  8. What a lovely story you have weaved here !! Loved it.

  9. Subtle, complicated, emotional. Very nicely done.

  10. Hi Nila, back for the second reading seeing as it's a prize month! Will post a wrap up tomorrow. Hope the moving is going...well...D