An hour before Shiva’s wedding, her father had not yet arrived from his trip abroad.
She looked nervously at the clock while her mother tried to console her.
“Your brother can walk you down the aisle.”
Shiva started crying. “My own dad doesn’t love me!”
Her brother, struggling with his tie, replied, “I wouldn’t walk her down the aisle.”
The door opened. It was Kian, their father’s assistant.
“Have Kian walk her. He’s practically family.”
Shiva cried louder. Kian laughed and teased her while unfolding the veil from her eyes. “Crying already! You’ll have enough of that later.”
“Just got off the plane- he’ll be here in 30 minutes.”
7 Years Later
Shiva dropped off her youngest daughter at day care and headed toward the gym.
Her phone rang.
It was Kian. Ugh. That was the third time he called that day. She had already told him she was busy because her husband and her were traveling to Carmel that weekend. She let the phone ring. “Sure. When I ask for a favor, he sends someone else to do it. But when he needs something it has to be me.”
He texted her. “See you at the gym.”
Shiva pulled the car over and put make-up on. She didn’t know why. He had seen her thousands of times without it. She never wore make-up to the gym. She justified herself. “I’m just covering the bags under my eyes.”
In fact, she did have heavy under-eye circles. She had stayed up arguing with her husband three nights that week alone. He never helped her with the kids. Or the housework. Things hadn’t worked out financially as well as her parents’ lives had. There were all those therapy bills, tuition for gifted-child-schools, mystery phone bills…
She just wanted to escape from it all, so she had planned them a weekend-getaway.
She looked at her husband’s picture on her phone screen and smiled.
When she got to the gym, Kian was already there, shirt off, lifting weights. His toned muscles shimmered in the playful early morning sunlight. He caught her stare. She turned red and looked away.
He greeted her, “I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but. . .”
“Your husband’s all tied up this weekend. New client set up a last-minute meeting.”
Shiva did a 180° and headed toward the door.
“We can talk about this.”
That weekend Shiva ended up going to Carmel. Coincidentally, so did Kian. Only he told his boss he “had to go see family up north.” After the affair, Shiva felt ten years younger. ‘It was liberating,’ she told herself. ‘Why did I wait so long?’
When she arrived home around 2 AM Monday, her husband was still up. He walked out into the driveway barefoot, in his boxers and opened the car door for her.
“I made your favorite dish for dinner. I kept it warm for you. I haven’t eaten.”
She evaded his kiss.
The following evening he tried to show her photos of their kids playing in the park.
She evaded his eyes.
That night he reached out for her in his sleep.
She crawled out of bed and lied down on the cold granite floor.
“I don’t deserve him,” she whispered over and over. She stayed in this position, hugging her legs, until she thought she heard one of their kids moan. She got up and went to the nursery. The angel-shaped nightlight softly illuminated a photo of their little family, taken the last time her dad had been in the hospital. She recalled how her husband had tended to her father’s every last wish, becoming the new pillar of the household. But the house was starting to crumble. Just then she looked in the mirror.
She gasped horrified. “Who is this?”
Her dark hair seemed to turn white by the second. Her bright eyes swelled like an angry ocean. In an instant she envisioned herself falling from the highest cloud on earth and landing on broken gravel. And then- she plummeted.