Walking past the manager, Dema heads towards her room without even looking at him. Stretching his chin up, he looks at her disappearing into the room. Banging the door hard, she throws her bag on the bed and dials Chophel’s number. She expects him to respond but it’s still switched off. Playing a music loudly. Bending her head down, she covers her ears as she hears the manager and her mother shouting at each other from the counter. Where is Chophel? Why has he left her suddenly?
Last night, after a few rounds the chorten he took her to a movie. Then having dined at one of the restaurants, they booked a hotel and talked whole night. Then she might have fallen asleep, so when she opened her eyes, he was gone.
“Ashim, did you sleep with him?”
These words alert her. Lifting her head up, she looks at the door and her sister, Deki stands at the door wearing a sad face. Keeping her phone down, she looks at Deki, as she pushes back the door and slides the latch slowly. Taking gentle steps Deki towards towards her and sits on the bed beside her.
“I understand, Ashim. Our family is in a big trouble,” says Deki, looking at the closed door.
Taking her hands slowly on to hers, Dema says, “Don’t worry. Everything will be fine.”
“I am worried. I know, mom is not going to send me to school,” says Deki, when Dema turning face to her interrupts, “Shhh, look at me!”
With watery eyes, Deki turns her face and looks at Dema. Holding her cheek with her palm, Dema says, “No matter what, I promise. You will go to school.”
Before she can respond, there comes a sudden knock on the door. Carrying Deki’s head on her shoulder, she waits. The knock comes again.
“Dema, please open!”
The voice of their mother rings a happy feeling in them. Dema stands up and opens the door. Her mother stands at the door looking very sad. Dema takes a glance of the counter, checking if the manager has left the room or not. Luckily, he has. Thanking God, she looks back at her mother. Grabbing her hand, her mother pulls her towards the bed. Shoving her on to the bed, she shouts, “You knew, why the manager wants to marry you, right? Didn’t you?”
With hands on the bed, Dema stays silently.
“Now, he is not going to marry you. How can I send Deki to school? How? No credits. No customers. Now, he is going to give this canteen to another girl. Now, what?”
Her mother shouts, choking with anger.
Looking very frightened, Deki stands up.
“Dema! Choice is yours. Let me be jailed or marry him. It’s not necessary to be a graduate to earn a living. It’s how you choose to earn a living, be it a dropout or you have Ph.D.”
Saying these words, her mother walks out slamming the door shut. Looking at her, Deki walks out of the room leaving her alone iced by her mother’s words.
Picking up the phone, she dials Chophel’s number again. It’s switched off. Standing up, taking out a paper from her bag, she rushes out of the room. She walks up the dusted road towards the manager’s office. It’s a two-storied wooden house. On the ground floor, it houses the offices of accounts and other offices and on the top, is his office. She has never been there once but she has heard from others. Walking to the lone receptionist behind the counter, she asks about the manager. Standing still she observes the interior of the dirt covered office; in the meantime, making a phone call, the receptionist looks back at her.
“Dasho is busy.”
The face of the receptionist changes from smiling to terrified on hearing this tone. As she keeps looking at her, she walks up the wooden staircase heart beating eccentrically. Taking her legs off the last step, she stands at the door. Taking a deep breath, she looks through the window and finds the so-called ‘dasho’ smiling, on his revolving chair phone stuck to his left ear. Closing her eyes, she grabs the door handle when she hears from her back, “Hello there!”
Opening her eyes, she looks back and a lady with natural beauty hiding behind the make-up stands with a cautious face. Taking her hand off the door handle, she stretches her back up.
“Who are you?”
The lady askes her, pushing her away from the doorstep. Taking her leg in front of the lady, Dema pushes her away and says, “I am here to meet my hubby.”
Taking a few steps away from her, the lady asks, “Your hubby?”
“Yes, my hubby,” says Dema, making a very dominant face.
Looking through the door, pointing her finger to the manager, she says, “He is my hubby.”
As the lady stands at the doorstep not being able to swallow these words, Dema grabs the door handle and walks inside pushing the door hard. Frightened by her sudden entry, the manager stares at her in awe, as if he has seen something which he is not supposed to see.
Story by: Phurpa Dorji (PJIKKS)
Chapter 6 Tomorrow @9PM