Junaid’s grip on her hand tightens; eyes pop open, and she eases her hair out of its bun, letting it rest at the base of her neck. They are watching: the children have stopped kicking the deflated little ball around and have gathered to stare at them. She feels a rash begin to develop on the inside of her elbow. He is looking up at her, knee above foot, thigh parallel to the ground like she instructs her clients to do in Ardha Purvottanasana. He is waiting for an answer; she’s making it Awkward. Flexing the fingers on her free hand, eyes now slip shut.
She’d run into Tahir and Mahira a few days ago at the bakery, their sons waddling behind them. Mahira had informed her, cool, even-voiced, of a barbecue they would host at their restaurant the following weekend. Mahira quipped that there wouldn’t be any biryani, which they knew she hated, because raisins do not belong in decent-people food. She had barely registered the information; vague smile positioned firm, she’d proceeded to purchase five testing strips, inviting sympathetic clucking noises from the cashier, a buxom old lady who had sold countless strips to her over the past two years. The time before this had been some time ago: in one moment of abandon fueled by a bleary cocktail of pot, stale coffee, and beer, she had crept on top of Junaid as he slept, silently discarding her nightclothes. He’d awoken immediately and wrapped his arms around her. And when she looked into those eyes, she could see everything but Getting-It, so she shushed him with her mouth, kissing him for the first time in so long she’d forgotten how he never kissed back at first, and then she let him run his hands over her back. The next morning, she awoke the way she used to in that very first year – cradled and cradling, four hands on two chests. She made breakfast – rice pudding and cream; he blew a kiss at her with vanilla breath, laughing in that way he hadn’t before, his chin dimpling. He lifted her and spun her around the living room, her skirts swooshing, knocking over a Buddha figurine that smashed on the floor, sound hard like ice. He paused, uncertain; she laughed and laughed. He laughed too; he was late for school because he returned to the front porch three times to hug her goodbye.
The following week, they went to the capital to visit Sahana, who said they looked Joyful. Junaid squeezed her hand under the dinner table. Her father seemed cheery too, and after dinner he brought out his binder of wedding pictures, each older and fainter than the last. The four of them sat by the garden, sipping flat Pepsi that burned her esophagus. Junaid laughed at Sahana’s frightening bridal makeup. After she and Junaid returned home, Junaid stayed off work for five days; they redecorated the bedroom, lacing the walls with teal trim and buying loveseats for the empty space between her window and the bed. She began cooking again; they ate raisin-free biryani with pecan pie, and sweet, fried balls of dough, and drank coffee on tiny saucers that Junaid had to grip between his thumb and forefinger. They slept together every night, her nude body curved towards his. In the background of it all, there was, in her head, always a faint sense of something looming, approaching – growing bigger, like a raindrop approaching a hazy window-screen.
Finally, she was Late. She bought a test, hit herself when she saw the result, bought more, hit again. The day she bought the ninth test was the day she stopped cooking and moved into the spare bedroom; it was also the day she ran into Tahir at the beach, buying fresh seaweed for that week’s menu.
There is now a shudder; it passes from one of their linked hands to the other, she isn’t sure whose. She realizes that she hasn’t heard Junaid walking away yet; he still kneels before her, his forehead creasing with what she can only assume is Total Bewilderment. The ball-wielding children look a bit uncomfortable now, large man, small woman, a thick, warm-bodied silence. She reaches out, touches his shoulder, and his eyelids flutter softly as his knees give way.
Radhika Kapoor lives and writes in India and America, chasing rainy weather wherever she can find it. She is a lawyer by training and holds degrees from the National Law School, Bangalore, and Harvard Law School. Among her recent achievements is getting her first flash fiction credit, and learning to love dogs, especially the large kind.