The house seemed empty.
Almost all the guests who had arrived to celebrate Aunty Connie and Uncle Leo’s 25th wedding anniversary had left. A few remaining stragglers dallied around in the specially built pandals in the large courtyard, devouring the last remnants of the free alcohol and the traditional meal of mutton biryani, served with raitha, generous portions of aubergine masala, curried gherkins and horsegram with spiced coconut. The summer heat and leftovers brought in the flies and freakishly large mosquitoes. Half empty plates of food and sweets and drunken stragglers ensured that these flying critters would be staying for a while.
The sleepy little village of Karnad, deep in the heart of coastal South India, patiently waited its turn for the annual monsoon and the heavy, humid heat told us that the rains were not far away. I stood on the stairs at the entrance to this rather large shapeless house and looked out beyond the courtyard. Rice paddy fields made up most of the surrounding landscape. Aunt Connie had bought this land in the late 1970’s after registering herself as a farmer/agriculturist- even though she and uncle Leo had never sowed a single seed or ploughed a field in their entire life.
In reality, both of them were trained intensive care nurses who had made their money in a large hospital somewhere in the Middle East in their younger years. They had then gone on to wisely invest all the money in local land in Karnad when they returned to India permanently. The money had opened new doors for Connie and Leo Braganza as they found new friends in the local Tahsildar’s office and the local MP had become their new best friend.
With the right amount of palm greasing and haggling, they had soon become proud owners of 8 acres of prime agricultural land. They had gone on to build a monstrosity of a house with 7 large bedrooms, 4 bathrooms and 2 toilets. Close to the house was a large cow shed where they had hired local help to take care of a few cows and goats. They had soon gone on to plant a large coconut grove. The trunks of the coconut trees had pepper creepers growing on them and the Braganza’s had gone on to dig up a separate well just so the coconut trees could be watered every day. The rice paddy farms had come much later, but had turned into a thriving success. They were soon doing well enough to have built a separate “servant’s quarters” on the property where their 9 hired helpers now stayed, along with their families.
The Braganza children, Adrian and Angelo, were now grown men who lived around 400kms away in the bustling town of Bangalore where they ran a self-owned business selling electrical goods. And it was 24 year old Angelo that I went looking for as I ran into the house on aunt Connie’s bidding. Ah…Angelo…tall broad shouldered, suave and slick Angelo, who I had a huge crush on as only a 12 year old girl can. My scraggly hair lay flew around my shoulders in a dishevelled mess as the elastic on my hairband gave way in the heat. I looked through the first 6 bedrooms. The house was truly an eyesore in the way it had been laid out. Six bedrooms lined in a single aisle on the top floor. I always felt like I was walking through a hospital ward whenever I walked that aisle. The 7th bedroom was on the terrace of the house and I knew that this was Angelo’s favourite spot whenever he was home. As I climbed the stairs I thought I heard strange whimpering noises coming from the terrace. I rushed upstairs in double time worried that Zorro, the family’s pet mongrel was in some kind of trouble.
Now Zorro was my favourite dog in the world but definitely not the most intelligent for sure. Several weeks ago the mutt had run himself off the terrace-top chasing crows and I was now worried about what kind of trouble he had gotten himself into this time. As I looked around I did not see Zorro and the terrace appeared empty. I realised that the whimpering noises were coming from Angelo’s room. I slowly walked towards the closed door and stood outside with my ear against it. It began to dawn on me that the noises were human. And feminine to be precise. My heart filled with dread as I realised I knew whose voice that was. I hesitated at the door wondering if I should knock, then decided against it. I was too afraid to barge in. Angelo hated it when people barged into his room without knocking. I finally remembered the tiny window at the back of the room. I tiptoed towards it and bent down and crawled under it. Once I was certain that I had not been heard or seen, I slowly stood up and peeked in through the window, filled with dread. There she was rolling on the floor, her legs spread out, like a bitch in heat. Her pubic mound glistened with sweat and slid in and out of sight as her incestuous paramour pounded her with his engorged monstrosity. Their heated copulation dampened the windows with the stench of forbidden lust. I stood at the window and watched with a mixture of fascination and horror as my sister Maggie and my cousin Angelo clung to each other in the throes of an orgasm. I managed to slink down and sat on my haunches under the window, for what seemed like an eternity. Angelo had betrayed me with my own sister. The bastard! How dare he?! He had ripped my heart out and torn it into a million shreds.
My slut of a sister had once again proved how much she loved taking her panties off for any man that paid her any attention. If Aunt Connie knew, she would rip Maggie’s head off. I debated if I should play innocent and coax Aunt Connie to come with me upstairs. But I knew it was too late. I would have to catch them at it again. And I would have my pound of flesh then.
At 19 years of age Maggie was a force to reckon with. Her large almond shaped eyes dripped innocence while her body was a beacon of lust calling out to any interested human in the vicinity. She just couldn’t help herself. Men were all over her like flies to honey- not that she cared much about who these men were. The hired farm hand, the autorickshaw driver and the local politician all received equal treatment.
Our father Roger had been too busy drinking himself to death to care about us after the death of our mother. And so Aunt Connie who was our mother’s older sister had taken the two of us in. Maggie was a replica of our dead mother. Aunt Connie often described mother as the most beautiful woman of her time. I was only two years old when my mother died in a car accident. It didn’t matter much though – I could hardly remember her face. Aunt Connie made certain that we never called her mom. She was determined not to take anything away from my dead mother. However well-intentioned that decision had been, I struggled with not being able to call Aunt Connie what she rightfully meant to me. It made me feel like an incomplete outsider. And now Maggie had gone and messed it up that much more by this selfish act.
But it wasn’t Maggie’s selfishness that consumed me at that moment. It was the thought of how I could stop this before Angelo was too far gone from me.
I crept downstairs and then ran out of the house as quickly as my feet could carry me, nearly knocking down Aunt Connie in the doorway. “Slow down Flora! You’ll break your teeth if you fall child!”
She saw the startled look on my face and continued “did you find Angelo? Where is that damn boy when you need him?” I swallowed hard, thoughts rushing through my mind on what to say to her. Ï think he was in his room Aunt Connie. It was locked and I didn’t want to disturb him” I ventured.
Alright child, you go on and help Uncle Leo clean up. I’ll find him”
As I ran towards the pandal my heart was filled with glee but as I turned to have a last look my glee turned to desolation. There was Maggie coming out of the house fully clothed, hair brushed and in place and a large casserole in her hands. As I looked away in despair she greeted Aunt Connie as if nothing had happened. I felt I would explode with all the anger building up inside of me. She had outsmarted me yet again with her charming smile and soothing words.
Days and weeks passed by, yet I could not get the image of their writhing, naked bodies out of my head. I seethed with rage and frustration that it had not been me in Angelo’s strong arms. I had grown quiet as I continually thought about ways to get Maggie away from Angelo and have him all to myself. After a while of watching me, Aunt Connie began to worry that I was missing my dead mother. She thought that a visit to my mother’s grave would perhaps resolve my “grief”. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
Aunt Connie’s repetitive descriptions of my mother and sister as being replica’s of each other had had an undesirable impact. At this moment I felt intense hatred for both of them. But I dared not say it out loud to Aunt Connie. I would certainly be whipped within an inch of my life for these blasphemous thought about her beloved sister. And so I accompanied her with no protest to visit the grave. As Aunt Connie recited a few prayers I shuffled my feet with impatience. She went on to clear the grave site pulling out the weeds and brushing off the cobwebs. Then she placed a fresh string of jasmine blooms on the headstone. “There Flora, it’ll all be okay now. I’ve asked Sheila to take care of you” she said as involuntary tears began to roll down her cheeks.
It was while leaving the graveyard that the idea first came to me. It seemed completely fool proof. No one would know that this devious 12 year old had thought up such a clever plan. The plan was set in motion that very afternoon.
(This is the first part of a story I am writing. Would appreciate any comments, suggestions, critiques – thanks everyone!)