“Where’re my shoes?” I asked, leaning in through the door, frustrated. “I can’t find them – again.”
A ripple appeared on her smooth brow, and the scented candle on her side flickered. “Did you try in the rack?” she said, slowly, without opening her eyes, sitting erect in the lotus position.
She took in a long breath, exhaled it slowly. “In the study?”
Another breath in, and out. “Under the dining –”
“Oh, come on!” I flung the grocery bag down. “Will you just stop it?”
Her eyes sprung open, and steadied themselves on mine. “Why are you so ruffled?”
“Well, maybe ‘cause I have a call in thirty minutes, but it’s veggies I have to go shop.”
“It’s Monday,” she said, reminding me. “Your turn. And you knew it well in advance.”
“I know! That’s why I’ve been looking for my damn shoes. Any idea?”
“No.” She shook her head, and straightened her back again. “Go look again.”
I stared at her. “You know,” I said. “I’m so bloody fed up of this. I take my shoes off at one place, and when I come looking for it the next morning, they are never there.”
She stared back, her mask of calmness threatening to crack around the jaws. “You’re not blaming me for it by any chance? Are you?”
“I don’t know. You do need to be careful about them, yes. Leave them where they are, at least, if you can’t help by keeping them at a place I could find. It’s just so frustrating when I have to –”
“Are you even listening to yourself? Careful about your shoes? Me? Wow. Why this huge privilege? Coz I’m the wife?”
“You know that’s not what I mean.”
“I know that’s exactly what you mean. It’s always the duty of the woman to keep her man’s things in place, right? His towels, his undies, his hankies, his shoes. Your mother did it for your father, didn’t she? So, I’ll have to do it for you,” she said. “Till death do us apart.”
“You’re taking it the wrong way,” I said. “Anyways, I’ll go back and check the balcony again. Maybe –”
“No. Wait. I’ll tell you.”
I squinted back at her. “You kidding me?”
“No. But let me confess something, first.” She uncrossed her legs, stretched them out, and slumped back against the wall. “These shoes of yours…” She examined her nails, before looking up. “They are special. Aren’t they?”
“Yes,” she answered herself, “they are. They kind of come alive when left alone, you know.”
“Oh, stop it.”
“And you’re right,” she continued, ignoring me. “You don’t find them. You won’t. Because whenever you’re out of sight, I pick them up and hide them behind the sofa.” Our eyes locked. “Then I go back to them in the night, when you’re asleep. And I watch them.” Her voice suddenly dropped to a scandalous whisper. “I watch them make love to each other – all night long.”
We looked at each other for a long moment, before I slowly tore my eyes away. “Okay.” I raised my hands. “Okay. I will… check the balcony, then,” I said, slowly picking up the bag again.
Out in the living room, checking the clock, and shaking my head clear of the disturbing images, I hurried past the sofa, and halted at the balcony door. I glanced back, unable to resist an urge to check. I tiptoed back to it, and quietly leaned over to peer down the gap behind it.
And, there they were – my shoes!
Surprised, and curious, I looked closer. One of them was trying to wriggle on top of the other, or so it seemed in that moment.
I jerked back up in horror, my eyes instinctively flying in the direction of the room. She stood there in the doorway, with her arms crossed, watching me intently.
She raised an eyebrow.
I shook my head, wore my mask, and dashed out to the market in my flip-flops.