Something Old, New, and Crystal

Right now, while talking to her husband, Sahil, Zoya wasn’t sure if her life had started or reached a standstill after marriage. On the whole, he was a hard-working and generous man who didn’t have a wandering eye — a rare combination, if you ask me. Who am I? Well, you’ll know soon enough. For now, consider me a mind-reading fly on the wall.

“You don’t understand, Sahil,” Zoya said, twisting her emerald ring that sat perfectly on her pinky finger.

“So, help me out here, Zoya. You wish to quit the job when we’re planning to have a baby,” Sahil stated politely. He took her hands in his and squeezed softly. He lifted her face up with his index finger and stared into her misty eyes. “Oh, honey! I did not mean to upset you.” Patting her hand, he moved forward to embrace her.

But, before he could, she pressed her hands on his broad chest and tenderly stopped him. She wanted a hug — needed it, even. However, if she succumbed to her emotions now, she would never find the right time to discuss the choice that she had already made. As it was, in a couple of hours, he had yet another flight to catch. In their five years of marriage, they never spent consecutive three months together. His business was growing, and she was thankful, but the separation had taken a toll on their relationship. Instead of whining about the distance, she supported his career choices and lifestyle. In spite of his extraordinary growth and her sacrifices, somehow, whenever she asked for his financial support while she quit her job and pursue her passion, he always ended up asking for more time.

Besides, without her support, he wouldn’t even be here. None of that seemed to matter to Sahil. When did he change so much? Or, was he always this way? Perhaps, I was just too dumb to comprehend his manipulations. Zoya pushed her chair and stood up way too fast, an act that instantly produced a head rush. She pressed her fingers on one side of her forehead to gain back the control but failed miserably. Squinting her eyes shut, she sank into the chair.

Ever the caring guy, Sahil went behind her and rubbed her shoulders. “I have told you one million times to take care of yourself, but you never listen.”

Despite the care in his words, the contradiction of his statement was not lost on her. On the one hand, he wanted her to look after herself. On the other hand, he would not support her decision to take charge of her mental health by quitting her soul-crushing job. She swallowed the feelings and took a few deep breaths — a technique that helped her gather thoughts more effectively. As soon as her head, and consequently, the room stopped spinning, she shifted slightly in her chair. “That’s just the thing, Sahil. I don’t want to have a baby right now,” she managed to spit out the words that have been burning inside of her for a few months.

“Are you — I mean –” he sighed and moved in front of Zoya. He got down on his knees, and for a second, Zoya feared that he would beg her to have a baby. Instead, he said, “Zo, I would never force you to do anything.” He licked his lips quickly as if searching for the right words, then after a short pause, continued, “I just hope you don’t regret the decision when you lose the ability to procreate.”

“I don’t want to talk babies right now,” Zoya raised her voice, unintentionally. I guess years of suppressed anger found her weak moment an opportunity to escape. Along with her frustration, her tears, too, escaped her self-control freely. She sniffed and wiped her nose with the back of her hand. Squeezing her eyes shut, she tried to compose herself.

Sahil moved close to her and wiped her tears. “Zo, what is it about?” Concern was evident in his eyes. If his wet eyes were any indication, he did not appreciate Zoya’s predicament any more than she did. Although he wanted her to spell out her worries, he knew it all too well. Honestly, his heart wished to let Zoya quit her job, but her logical brain was too practical to let that happen. Even though he was in no position to assess her writing skills, he just knew that her passion would be financial suicide — one that would doom his future along with hers. Besides, how bad could her current job be?

“You…never…listen,” in between the relentless sobs, she spilled out the words. She chewed on her bottom lip and inhaled deeply. Exhaling loudly and started, “Sahil, I cannot put myself through this job anymore. I know I am not ready to be a published author, yet.” With a scrunched up face, she hesitated to push the second part of her thoughts out of her mouth.

“That’s why I am saying…” Sahil began to speak, but Zoya held up her hand to stop him.

She wiped her sweaty palms on her jeans and continued, “But, if I continue to waste my time in the office, I would never improve. I have no magic wand that would transform me into a bestselling author overnight,” she said with a chuckle. “Bestselling author, my foot. So far, I am not even an author, let alone a bestselling one. But, if I don’t believe in myself and spend time on my dreams and passion, then how would I ever accomplish anything.”

“Sweetheart, you cannot jump ship without the safety of a life jacket, at least.”

“That’s where you come in. Can’t you be my life jacket? I haven’t been such a terrible wife that you can’t support me when I need you the most.” Her lips quivered at terrible wife bit as if she feared Sahil believed her to be just that.

“Oh come on, Zo. Don’t be so naive. I cannot hold your hand when you’re planning on drowning yourself. I can only try and talk some sense into you. Get a grip and be practical. You’ve — well, we have — certain obligations that require both of us to keep earning.” He stood up and jerked his legs to get rid of the discomfort that shot through him due to sitting on his knees for so long. “I’m going to get ready for my flight.” After a slight shake of his head and click of his tongue, he went inside their bedroom leaving a tear-stained Zoya alone in the room.

Just then, Zoya heard a slight shuffling sound coming from her kitchen. Considering her marriage troubles more significant than the sound that must be the work of a mouse, she rubbed her forehead with her hands and let her head rest on her palms. After a few minutes, the voice turned into a whisper. Scared but unwilling to call Sahil, she moved very slowly toward the sound. Clumsily, she hit a chair that resulted in a screeching sound of the chair and a subsequent ow from her lips. Undeterred, she continued moving toward the voices.

What is it, and how did it get here? She stared at a big aqua colored crystal globe. It was bigger than her face and prettier than anything she had ever seen in her whole life. Her eyes turned wide in awe, and soon, she stopped blinking. Her face turned almost white as she stood there transfixed. I have that effect on people. Oh, silly me. I forgot to tell you that I am that crystal. Actually, I am the sorceress that lives inside the crystal, but we are both one and the same. Immense grief and unwavering faith in God attracts me. To save her marriage and future, I hypnotized her and she followed my command as was expected.

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I turned myself to the size of a tennis ball ready to be trapped inside Sahil’s laptop bag. Zoya moved inside the bedroom in very slow strides. The sound of water from inside the washroom implied that Zoya would have no problem in accomplishing the mission. She placed me inside the safety of his laptop bag, and I prayed it would be just enough for their marriage to survive. 

Sahil stepped out of the shower with a towel wrapped around his waist and quickly dried his hair with a blow dryer. Slathering on a good amount of gel on his hair, he styled his hair in his go-to messy look. As he began to throw on his favorite stonewashed blue jeans and a simple black t-shirt with a round neck, his mind drifted toward the conversation that he had with Zoya just a few minutes ago. Although he despised the dreamy side of his wife, he adored her with all his heart. He could not shake off the image of her tear-streaked face.

Someone had to be practical. If she was going to throw it all away for a wild goose chase, then he would not stand by and let her spoil everything. He muttered under his breath. Noticing the sunlight streaming through the drapes of his bedroom windows, he turned his attention toward the wall clock and sighed. It was only three o’clock in the afternoon. Even though he didn’t need to be at the airport before 9 PM, he could not stick around the house any longer. He needed an escape from the tension. Moreover, he knew that he couldn’t bear to look at a forlorn Zoya. In one swift motion, he hung his laptop bag on his shoulder, lifted his cabin bag, and walked toward the front door.

Zoya sat at the far corner of the room hugging herself. She was rocking her body back and forth and humming a tune. When he moved closer, he observed her in some sort of trance. She knows I’ll be gone the whole week, yet she doesn’t care enough to put aside the stupid argument and wave me a proper goodbye. Well, so be it! He spared her one last look and left the house. The moment he stepped outside, he found a taxi waiting for him — thanks to the wonderful technology. He threw one last glance at the balcony of his house hoping to see Zoya waving at him, which, even he knew, was wishful thinking, and settles behind the chauffeur.

It wasn’t even 4 PM when he reached Airport. By 4:30, he found himself with nothing to do except wait for the security check to begin for his flight. Instead of revisiting his bitter afternoon, he decided to catch up on his presentation. When he inserted his hand in his laptop bag, he felt a strange sensation on his hand. It was like an electricity shot through him. With a reflex, he jerked his hand out of the bag. Instinctively, he looked around to see if anybody noticed his strange movement. Of all places, you want to draw unsolicited attention in an Airport. He cursed himself and pulled open the bag enough to investigate.

A round object that glowed like the moon, an aqua blue colored moon, caught his eye. He fished it out of the bag and held it between his palms. Fascinatingly, the crystal ball seemed to shock and calm him at the same time. As he brought it closer to his eyes, he heard distinct whispers coming from it. The crystal was calling out to him. His eyes grew rounder by the minutes, then suddenly, the crystal slipped from his grip and landed on the floor with a thud. Logically, the fall should have shattered the delicate crystal into thousands of pieces; instead, it grew bigger. Sahil was mesmerized by the magic of it all.

“Yes, that’s right. Only magic can save your marriage now.” said an enchanting female voice.

Despite his bewitched stupor, he turned his head frantically to find the source of the voice. Even with the freezing cold temperature of the airport, he felt sweat trickle down his back. Beads of sweat adorned his forehead as he found nobody around.

Once again, the same soft voice startled him. “Why does everybody act like the voice cannot belong to a crystal ball?” The crystal glowed with each word that resembled a beating heart.

“Great! Now I am hearing voices,” he whispered and glanced in the direction of the man sitting two seats away from him in the waiting lounge. Lifting his bags, he scrambled to his feet and began pacing away from the crystal. An invisible force pulled him back to the seat and glued him to the spot.

“What the…..” he stopped mid-sentence and began flailing his arms and legs around in an attempt to stand up again.

“Conserve your energy, dear!” said the soothing feminine voice. “For a few minutes, you have the luxury of being invisible to the world’s eyes. It’s just you & me.” Magically, the ball levitated and froze right in front of his eyes.

A wide-eyed Sahil had no alternative but to stare the crystal ball. When he saw Zoya in it, his interest peaked. Though the ball’s circumference still radiated an aqua blue light, the pictures inside were crystal clear. The scene unfolding inside it captivated him, and he wondered if it was showing him the future. Sahil leaned in closer and bit his lips.

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Zoya was getting ready for the office. She had a subtle beige pantsuit that fitted her curves beautifully. She applied a nude lip color and began applying a black winged liner. That’s when his attention landed on her lifeless eyes. The early morning light lit her face, yet it could do nothing for those eyes. A melancholy seemed to reside deep inside of her that pained him. He wanted to inquire about the reason for her distress, but then he noticed a little girl in the background. Although she was sitting on the bed, her eyes were still heavy with sleep. Zoya had her back toward her. “Mommy! Don’t go” the girl exclaimed, rubbing her nut-brown eyes.

She was exactly like Zoya. Except for her greek nose. ‘That nose was all me!’ thought Sahil and an involuntary smile crept upon his lips. He felt his heart melt at the sight of his little bundle of joy. Despite his concern for Zoya’s faraway look, he was relieved that she didn’t quit her job after all. Bending closer to the crystal ball, he stared on with amusement.

The voice of the girl did nothing for Zoya, who continued perfecting her eyeliner. However, the buzz of her phone broke her musings in an instant. Quickly grabbing her phone, she picked up her handbag and hurried out the house. Just then, he saw himself walking across the living room to see her off, but she had already left. His face dropped, but he plastered on a fake smile for the benefit of his daughter, who, just like him, had rushed behind Zoya. “Who wants to eat ice cream for breakfast?” he asked and tickled her daughter. Within seconds, the room filled with delightful squeals of joy.

Sahil could feel his stomach churn at the odd behavior of his wife. Her distant attitude around their daughter tormented him. ‘How could a mother be so ignorant of her own daughter’s feelings?’ he muttered. By now, he was curious to know more about the future. So, he gazed into the crystal more intently.

It was late at night. Sahil dialed Zoya’s number for the millionth time, it seemed. She was disconnecting his calls continuously. When finally she did receive, he could hear the frustration in her voice. ‘I am stuck at work. Have your dinner without me,’ she almost screamed on the phone.

It’s been weeks since we had a proper meal together, Zo. You are always stuck at work,’ Sahil blurted under his breath. He didn’t wish to alarm his sleeping daughter.

‘You wanted me to work. I am working now.’ And with that, the line went dead. Just after midnight, as he was gulping down beer and contemplating the day’s events at his balcony, he saw Zoya stumbling out of a car. It was not a company car. Within seconds, another man came out of the driver’s seat and walked toward her. He then wrapped his arms around her and whispered something in her ears that made her giggle. Astounded and annoyed, Sahil dropped his glass on the floor and ran downstairs. By the time he reached the first floor, he found Zoya sitting on the floor. Obviously, she was inebriated.

“What was he hugging you for?” Sahil shouted from behind her.

She trembled slightly, clearly alarmed by the sudden break in the silence. However, she quickly collected herself and without turning around, said, “I hate you, Sahil. I can’t live like this. You broke my spirit so much so that I don’t even recognize myself.’

“It’s about that man. Isn’t it?”

At this, she jumped on her feet and turned to face him. Sahil stepped back at the sight of her smeared mascara and dried tears that had left streaks of the liner down her cheeks. This was not the face of her Zoya. It was the face of a woman who had drowned in the ocean of grief. “I want a divorce, Sahil. And it has nothing to do with that man.”

Before he could grasp the situation, the crystal ball vanished. Just the sweet voice of the woman followed, “You still have time.”

The events had left him baffled. He let out a breath and typed a text on his cell phone.

Sanjay, I cannot travel for the conference this time. If possible, patch me through the web, so that I can connect from home. In fact, we need to make a few changes. Call me once you reach Hyderabad.

Grabbing his things, he strode off the airport exit and hailed a cab. If Zo was miserable in her career, I would not be the one to increase her misery by being an unsupportive husband. A hopeful smile turned his lips upward as his heart fluttered with excitement. He could not wait to see Zoya’s happy face. He would change for the better. 

For more short stories, click here.

This story is in response to the prompt Write a story about transformation. Thank you, for providing the prompt that inspired this story.

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