Washing the last plate, Aum Wangmo takes a glance of the phone nearby the rice cooker plugged in for charging. Toweling her wet hands, she picks up the phone and searching Dema’s number from the contact list, she dials looking at the wall clock. It’s 9.45PM. Dema went to Thimphu town for shopping today. She left at 5 in the evening. She has never come home late but today it’s too late. Holding the phone to her ears, she waits. Now, her heart goes cold. Where is she? Why is she not responding her call? Keeping down the phone, looking at the counter, she shouts, “Deki, dinner is ready.”
Filling up her plate, she lifts the rice cooker lid when her phone rings. She dashes towards the phone, thinking it’s from Dema. Grabbing the phone, she takes a glance. It’s not from Dema, but the Manager. Listening to him for a while, she hangs up the phone. Looking at Deki, who stands beside her with a plate, she asks, “Do you know where Dema is?”
Shaking her head, she fills up the plate. She has been angry since the morning about the shopping. Aum Wangmo tries to open her mouth when Deki walks away to the counter. Exhaustion suffocating her, she at Deki sitting down at one of the tables. In addition, she is so worried about Dema. Closing her eyes, covering her ears with palm, she sits down on a chair, standing idle beside the refrigerator. She rests having a sensation of confusion burning her forehead. Not even a single customer has paid credit today. Without that she cannot do Deki’s shopping but Deki does not understand the situation.
Today, right after breakfast she went to meet the quarry manager. After waiting for one hour, finally he called her into his office. Revolving his chair, he stayed silent observing her for a few minutes. Finally, he called his personal assistant and asked for coffee. Keeping the coffee in front of him, he said, “This coffee is not free. I have to buy from the market. They give me when I pay them. So, Wangmo. Life is all about give and take. Give. Take.”
Getting off his chair, catching the coffee cup in his hand, he took it near her mouth saying, “Smell it. You like the smell? Don’t you? Coffee beans need to be burnt to give this smell. To give life somewhere, you need to sacrifice something.”
Circling her, he walked front and back, then finally, he said, “What did your daughter say?”
Without saying a word, she stayed silently.
“You are her mother. So, why do you even need to ask her?”
He asked her, leaning his face towards her, with his eyes bulged out.
“I am giving you a week and if you fail to arrange the marriage by then, you know the circumstances you are going to blessed with.”
The sudden ring of the doorbell wakes her up from the morning memories. Standing up slowly, she looks at the door as Deki walks towards the door. Pulling back the door, Deki stands there talking. Thinking it’s Dema, Aum Wangmo rushes out of the kitchen towards the door. Standing behind Deki, she hangs her head outside. To her surprise, the manager’s personal assistant stands outside swaying her body side to side, as if to fall down. Smell of alcohol surrounds her.
“How can I help you, madam?”
She asks looking outside. Falling on the ground, the madam looks up at her.
“How can you give your daughter to the manager? I am his fourth wife. We have a son.”
She says crying, trying to stand on her feet.
“We have a son. Son.”
Hidden in the night devotees thronging round the memorial chorten, having circled for the third time, Dema looks at Chophel.
“Can we go now?”
He stops walking and looks at her, walking away from the path making way to others. Catching her hand, he says, “Dema, you need break. Your result is not good and you are tensed. Instead of helping you, your mother is forcing you to marry an old man. You are in a very bad situation. You are badly in need of a break.”
Holding her hand, she pulls her round the chorten back into the crowd. She can feel the phone vibrating from her bag. As Chophel walks in front of her, holding her right hand, she runs her left hand into the bag and pulls out the phone. Pressing the power button, she switches her phone off. Sliding the phone back into the bag, she follows Chophel calmly. He is right. She is badly in need of a break. She likes the grip of his hand on hers. She senses a mysterious feeling of being bonded. Bonded. A feeling of being bonded forever.
Story by: Phurpa Dorji (PJIKKS)
Chapter 4 Tomorrow @9PM