A short story that speaks to the fact jealousy can rear its ugly head even in the most joyous of occasions…
by: Manaly Talukdar
Nora stilettoed across the glossy tiled floors of the Florence Emporium, arm knotted with her fiancé, Zourav. Their steps halted in front of a purplish lavender neon sign glued above the entrance in a fluttery ribbon-like cursive font that flashed the name Delilah’s Apparel. The glass door slid open with a ding. Flamingo-pink leaves wallpapered the interiors, velvet textured ruby red carpet splayed over every inch of the space.
“Take a look around,” Zourav’s fingertips bristled over the sleeves of her forest green cardigan. As she eyeballed the vast, exquisite wardrobe collection, her attention gravitated toward an amber flare dress.
“Would you like to give it a try, ma’am?” The saleslady eagerly proposed as she unhooked the dress from its plastic rod. Nora’s volumed dark curls bounced as she trotted toward the dressing room. After a handful of minutes ticked by, Zourav’s mouth fell open witnessing his wife-to-be gracefully pace and pose in front of the mirror. The gorgeous satin fabric hugged her hourglass figure, the waterfall frilled skirt left her thighs — devoid of any lumpy cellulite — bare. He felt as though a completely different woman summoned herself in front of him, a promiscuous harlot with little to no sense of modesty that could lure any man to follow her.
Mesmerized by her own reflection, Nora’s mind swam through a reverie of enjoying all the compliments and attention from her social circle — all platonic in nature, of course. She admired how the attire neatly outlined her cleavage and slim waist. Her glance switched to Zourav, a subtle glare tainted his hooded eyes, hands in a tight fold, brow furrowed. A strange bitterness ventilated from him.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” she giggled. He snorted a sharp sniff, stroked the tip of his nose with his index finger, “Maybe take another look at other dresses?” He swayed his hand around mid-air.
“Nah. I love this one!”
Insecurity prickled him. His imagination swirled with scenarios that ruptured his peace of mind. He pictured her attending parties in that dress, a crowd of men flocking behind her who’d be more than willing to buy her drinks, persuaded to scribble out her phone number on napkins — a magnet for creepy ogles. With a feigned smile Zourav approached the counter and handed his credit card to be swiped at the payment terminal. The machine displayed a whooping $1500 on its monitor. Another nerve plucked. The cashier squinted at him with unease when he failed to veil his clenched jaw. Nora elbow creased the shopping bag with ecstatic delight.
They were about to exit the mall when he interrupted her happy skittle. “How about an accessory for that dress?” The sudden spike in his generosity took Nora by surprise but she was eager to be the bearer of it nonetheless. They entered a showroom of wristwatches, the products caged in their cases, many crafted in platinum belt straps, some glazed with authentic gold, others designed in silver-white vine laced metal. Zourav requested the retail manager to unlock the shelf that showcased a diamond encrusted rose gold watch.
“Would you like to try it on?” He unclasped the delicate accessory. She held out her left arm, not a wink of hesitation. The watch snaked around her wrist.
“Could you give us a minute?” He asked the retailer. Left with a brief moment of privacy, Nora felt a sharp pain in her wrist. The watch dug its metal imprints on her pale skin as he weaponized the new purchase with a squeeze. She muffled her screech, instead mustering a wince and a barely audible gasp.
“Return that ridiculous dress, and keep this watch,” Zourav snarled. His disapproval morphing into physical abuse made her stomach drop, her dry throat stomped on her ability to comment on his polarized behavior. “Either you return it, or I’ll bin that whore-ish crap!” As his grasp tightened, her skin crawled. A tear pearled in the corner of her eye, she feverishly nodded.
“Is there a problem, sir?” The shopkeeper shuffled toward them, Zourav finally released his strangling grip.
“Not at all. We’ll take this.” A willing buyer distracted the seller from spotting Nora hurriedly covering her bruised wrist with her cardigan’s sleeve.
As her heels clattered back to return her purchase, distasteful memories surfaced. The evening he yanked off an infinity-shaped necklace— a gift from one of her exes, an old treasure. The time he locked her in the bathroom for thirty minutes just so she would miss a movie she had planned with Vyas, a good friend who often, in Zourav’s opinion, had been little more than polite whenever he orbited around his fiancé. But these occurrences were rare, she thought. She diagnosed his cruel tantrums as a mere temper problem, overshadowed by his charitable nature. “He’s just overprotective,” she’d console her anxious self. Nevertheless, once when his insecurity stank like a rotten fish, she asked, “Do you not trust me?”
“I do. It’s them I don’t trust,” he answered. Not cracking his fragile glass of trust was what mattered to her the most. No bone in her body wanted him to question her loyalty before they even tied the knot. Only one word ricocheted in her thoughts now — compromise — the primal pledge of marriage. “That’s how marriages survive!” That was her mum’s staunch advice whose solution to any marital friction was to zip her mouth, become mummified, and endure verbal and physical abuse without a sign of protest. Otherwise, what will people think?
“Is there anything I can help you with?” The lady stationed at Delilah’s cash register asked.
Nora’s nerves pulsated with pins and needles as she cleared her throat, “I would like to return this dress.” Her wrist twinged still. Before the petite woman could utter a word of persuasion to not lose their recent earning, Nora left the dress on the counter.
Manaly Talukdar was chosen as a finalist for her short fiction “Where is Grandpa?” in “The League of POETS” Weekly Contest (Week 1). She has been featured in BlazeVOX Journal, Academy of the Heart and Mind, Coalition for Digital Narratives and Corvus Review. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @manalytalukdar.