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Caramel Cake, Coffee and Carnations

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Afsheen K is Mumbai based writer, tarot card reader and counselor. She believes that words have the power of lightning and thunder, of hurricanes and tornadoes. Words have the power to bring about a change.

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It was a cool November afternoon. A soft zephyr was swiftly blowing the leaves and everything was quiet. Mrs. Bosco was staring at the naked trees from her balcony. She sat on the cane chair placed near the window and closed her eyes. In spite of her wrinkles and salt and pepper hair, she looked charming. Her fortieth wedding anniversary was just round the corner.

‘I now pronounce you man and wife.’ The priest’s words echoed in her ears loud and clear even after four decades. A timid girl of twenty-two had to surrender to her father’s wish of marrying an army officer who was ten years older than her. Mr. Gonsalves was fighting with cancer and hence wanted his only daughter to get married before he ran out of time.

Suzzan’s life took a completely different turn after marriage. She was a chirpy girl who believed in following her heart. She loved to sing carols, dance to the beats of jazz and eat cakes and cookies. On the contrary, Mr. Bosco was a strict disciplinarian. He ate less and exercised more, spoke bare minimum and never laughed. He was intimidating. He gifted a silver watch to Suzzan on their wedding and asked her to live the rest of her life with punctuality. This was the only gift she received from her husband throughout their married life.

It was their one-month wedding anniversary. Suzzan baked her favourite caramel cake and brewed coffee to surprise her husband. When he saw the cake on the table, his expressions changed. He said in a stern voice, “One must not consume so much sugar. Avoid baking from now on.” He headed out for his evening walk leaving Suzzan teary eyed. She dumped the cake in the trash bin and emptied the coffee in the sink. She had to constantly remind herself to read more and talk less. She learnt to be more ‘ladylike’. It was not easy for her.

Two years later, Suzzan gave birth to a baby boy. Nine months in a year Mr. Bosco would be away from home to fight for his country. He returned when the baby was four-months old. When he held the little angel in his arms, stars twinkled in his eyes. That was the only time Suzzan saw her husband laugh.

Marriage with its mundane domesticity, a kid and running a home turned Suzzan into an aloof person. She spent her days doing the household chores and her evenings reading or knitting. Sometimes, she missed Mr. Bosco but did not wish him to return. She felt caged in his presence. She was straddled to a man who did not care for her. They were different from each other in numerous ways.

There was an air of superiority around the suave army officer that made Suzzan feel stupid of herself. He was a perfectionist and Suzzan knew that she cannot live up to his expectations. With Mr. Bosco around, she had to be on her toes all the time. Their son was petrified of his father and wished Mr. Bosco never returned home.

Sex was a mere ritual, which both partners did not indulge in often. Their bedroom walls never witnessed romance. There were no dinner-table conversations or casual chats over coffee in the Bosco household. He disliked friends or relatives visiting them without a prior appointment. Suzzan gave up dancing, baking and moulded herself as per her husband’s lifestyle. She stopped eating cakes and cookies. She became the lady that her husband wanted her to be.
Life moved in fast forward. Suzzan’s son left home for a lucrative job in Amsterdam. Mr. Bosco was a retired man now; however, he had the same zeal and confidence. He took up a teaching job at a nearby school. His day would begin at 4 am. Exercise, yoga, morning newspaper and then he left home only to return in the evening. Suzzan tried to keep the house spike and span, just like her husband liked. They slept in different rooms.

It was time for their son to get married. It was a low key affair with only a few friends and family members. A few days after the wedding, he left for Amsterdam along with his wife. It was only Mr. and Mrs. Bosco in that two storey house. Suzzan was a lonely woman who was used to work like a programmed robot.

It had been a forty-year long and loveless marriage. Suzzan craved for companionship in the initial phase but gave up all hopes later. She fulfilled all the duties as a wife, but couldn’t love her husband because she never received the love that she deserved. Silence and monotony were the two constants in her life. ‘It’s been forty years but we couldn’t fall in love with each other. I think we were not compatible’, she thought with a brief smile.

It was their fortieth wedding anniversary. Mr. Bosco did not wish Suzzan like all the years in the past. To her amazement, he was lying on the bed till afternoon. “I am having a terrible headache, so decided to stay home today.” He informed. She left to buy groceries from the nearby supermarket. When she returned home, she heard some noise in the kitchen. It was unbelievable. Mr. Bosco was cooking.

“Are you hungry?” she asked.
“You leave the kitchen. I am coming,” he replied.
When she went to the living room, the table was decorated with pink carnations. There was her favourite caramel cake and two cups of coffee.
“Who sent the cake?” she questioned in a loud voice.
“I baked it for our anniversary. I remember you like it.” He replied with a smile, took his cup and left the room.

The cake was baked perfectly. There was a little note next to it. It stated, ‘Happy Anniversary.’ Suzzan was unable to move. Her breath got heavy and her heart started beating at a faster rate. She experienced butterflies in her stomach. She felt young and beautiful once again. A tear rolled down from her left eye. She wished to dance. She was in love.

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