Angela was killed in front of her children. Her husband was the killer. He thrust the knife deep into her fair-skinned, well-rounded belly again and again. She writhed like a snake, her hair stood on end. Her blood hissed and splattered everywhere. Her sweat streamed. Her eyes bulged. The light in them dimmed. She grew still and silent. She fell into eternal sleep.
Once he was sure that she was dead, the killer turned towards the children. They clung to each other in fear. He threw a scathing look at the younger child. She was not his. He looked tenderly at the older child. She was his own. Sighing, he strode purposefully out of the room. Outside, the day lay veiled with the rain’s translucent wedding raiment. Angela’s blood stained it. The chilling scent of blood filled the room. Like brooding storm clouds, fear filled the room with darkness and cold. When they finally knew that their mother would not get up and the first shock wore off, the children began to wail and weep.
They were now orphans of a murdered woman. The pain made them writhe too. They clung to her bloodied body. The blood stained their little bodies. It stuck terrifyingly to their little feet.
The older one, eight-year-old Ann, called Narendran. He was sitting in the lawyer’s office, steeped in cold sweat, hearing the prospect of a sentence in debt litigation and desperately discussing the possibility of an appeal. Ann’s pleading, desperate cry sounded as though it were echoing in a tunnel closed at both ends.
“Uncle, my Achan has killed Amma!”
He could not believe his ears; he felt dizzy.
“What is it, Narendran?” The lawyer asked. Narendran’s voice quivered as he told him that a former employee of his had just died. The lawyer expressed his condolences. As Narendran went out, his feet seemed to stick to the ground as though he was walking on blood. Outside, Jayamohan, the copywriter in his advertising agency that had gone bust, and some other employees were waiting. He leaned on Jayamohan’s shoulder.
Jayamohan started, and then froze. A sigh soon escaped him. He paused a few moments and let the others know too. They received the news, silently, and then they too sighed.
That day had begun dark and murky, like an assassin dressed in black lying in wait for his prey.
At twelve-thirty, Angela applied for a half-day leave, climbed on her two-wheeler, and drove to the girls’ school to fetch them. She had taken the principal’s permission to take them out. The girls were in their Friday uniform, white-on-white. They ran to her from the other end of the corridor, their eyes shining. Pulling her hand away from her older sister Ann whose left cheek bore a bluish-black mole that gleamed like a raindrop, the little one with her mushroom-mop came up ahead, her bag jiggling on her shoulder. She had a star-shaped mark next to her nose. They hugged their mother and clung to her sides, like two white wings. Angela pulled her lovely white wings together and smiled broadly.
Angela and her children left the school gates laughing merrily. A cold wind was blowing. Ann climbed on the two-wheeler behind Angela, hugging her; the younger, Irene, stood in front holding on to the windshield. It was her birthday; they had sung the Happy Birthday song at the school assembly that day. Her sister teased her for having sung along and wished herself. She was enjoying the mild breeze and admitted her mistake with endearing awkwardness: ‘I just forgot, Mama!’
Angela laughed and kissed her lightly on the forehead.
She told them how, long ago, when she was in school, she had kept chatting with a friend and not noticed when the curtains on stage had gone up on school day celebrations. It made them laugh. In the dark sky a beautiful streak of lightning waved a magic wand. They went into Biriyani House, walking by the bus stand and through the waiting crowd, strewing pearls of their laughter all around them.
As Angela stepped into the brightly lit, air-conditioned dining hall after the girls, the eyes of the male diners were glued on her. Her thirty-year-old body was magical. She had bright piercing brown eyes, a well-shaped nose, and lips that parted temptingly when she smiled. Inevitably, men were captivated.
It was just then that Narendran called. His voice sounded listless.
“Are the mum and kids rocking?”
“Yes, we’re at Biriyani House. Want to come?” Her smile made her eyes close.
“Not now...I’ll come in time to cut the cake. Where’s the birthday girl?”
Angela gave the phone to Irene.
“Okay, Uncle, thank you, Yes, Chechi’s right here,” she cooed.
Angela looked at her and Ann, her eyes filled with pride and joy. “What did Uncle say?” She asked Irene as she took the phone from her.
“He said, tell Amma to buy you a fairy queen. Will you buy me one, Amma?”
Angela gently touched the mole shining on the right side of her nose and said, “Yes.”
Then she looked at Ann. “What do you want, dear?”
“Ooh, Chechi and her strawberry milkshake!”
“Ooh, our baby and her fairy queen!”
They were having a good time. Irene had given Joseph only one sweet because they had fought, complained Ann. “Is that so?” Angela rolled her eyes.
“Won’t do it again,” Irene said, head bowed.
“That wasn’t right, but I am going to forgive you,” said Angela.
“I am going to give everyone Milkybars for my next happy birthday...”
“Jesus! If you’re going to give everyone Milkybars, what will be left of my salary?”
“Uncle has promised me...”
“Okay, you can get Milkybars from him.”
“For my next birthday, Amma, I want a satin dress with red frills...”
“...and a red ribbon.”
“And what will you tie it on?” Ann teased her again. Irene’s little face crumpled. “Mummy, don’t cut my hair short again!”
Angela laughed. “Wait, just a few more years and then we’ll grow it long.”
“Umm...ah! When you are in Standard Three!”
“Mummy, don’t change your mind!”
As they waited for the bill, Irene shrank back on her shoulder like a puppy. Angela held her close. She buried her face in Angela’s chest.
Just then, a middle-aged man came up to them.
“Do you know me?”
His eyes glinted amber in the dark, like a tomcat’s.
“You are Alexander’s wife, aren’t you?”
“I am the wife of many such people.”
The man was speechless for a few moments.
“I heard that you separated.” He licked his lips.
“Who are these kids?”
Angela took time to respond.
He looked at Irene’s rosy face and smiled.
“It’s been four or five years since you separated...?”
“Then this kid?”
“Other men can have babies too.”
Excerpted with permission from The Angel’s Beauty Spots: Three Novellas, KR Meera, translated from the Malayalam by J Devika, Aleph Book Company.