Story: From that night

He was angry, mostly at himself, from a recent self-revelation of the insensitivity he had towards her feelings. He had, on more than one occasion, publicly displayed crudity in his treatment towards her. He gave no response when her eyes glistened with the yearning of his touch. He gave no reaction when her gentle voice breathed concerned for his health in his moments of rage. He granted her no verbal comfort or confirmation, albeit his heart swelling from her affection. He knew it would hurt her, but such was the result of his self-conscious machismo required of a man of his stature; one which he would come to regret.

They saw him as a crass doctrinaire; and unyielding chauvinist and a man whose soul had hardened since his years as a child. This was the decorum for a man they had to respect. There was no sign of tenderness in him, even towards the woman whom he had proclaimed his. He had piqued her jealousy when he flirted coyly with the ladies; he had provoked her into a fit which she could hardly suppress, when he embraced the girls who tried to kiss him. His peers had raved at his manliness – for who else would have dared to do this in front of their better half?

She was sad, but the walls she had built fortified her heart and forbade the tears from falling. She knew him too well – or so she thought – that this was but a show. His steeled disposition was part of the theatrics he played out in a bid to prove that he was inured to hardship and human sentiments. There were times when this crushingly strong man had been amorous with her. There were moments when he whispered into her ears and held her so gingerly, afraid that his touch might tarnish her. There were nights when he had dismantled his armoured heart and broke down before her. And there were occasions too, that he had stole glances of desire at her, when he was sure no one was watching, only to offer a sheepish lopsided grin when she caught his gaze.

But there came a day when the walls that guarded her emotions crumbled to dust. A lascivious fiend knocked on her door, and recounted a painfully salacious picture of a night she had with the man. The unwelcome guest pushed his shirt buttons and cuff links into her hands, before brandishing familiar poems of passion. There were words of endearment, once reserved for her, but now belonging to someone else; her eyes skipped through them and took in only those that hinted a blasé life he had with her; one with which conveyed a tacit intention of him leaving her. Her heart, wrenched into a knot over the years, now threatened to break; her breath, arrested by words that struck her body like arrows, now paralysed her. Tears swept over and she knew not when the stranger strutted away.

The evening soiree commenced.
He had dismissively waved off her glance when she sought his praises for her dress, not without registering her anguish. Her beauty swept waves within him, his self-control faltering with every pass his gaze made over her. How could a man of distinction, admired and feared by millions, oblige his emotions? But that night, she looked tired, fragile from sadness, and his legs simply would not obey. Age must have made him soft. Just as he had decided, uncustomarily, to reach out to her, wanting to lace her fingers with his and rest his arm around her waist, his attention was arrogated by his contemporaries and their entourage of women. When his eyes next searched for her in the throngs of faces, she had retired from the crowds – an irregularity from her typically-flawless savoir faire.

As he set foot in her boudoir, a deafening silence engulfed him. A toppled cup of wine laced with an acrid smell of poison seeped slowly through the rug. Traces of blood that had streamed from her lips, mixed with burning tears that fell furiously from his eyes, fused as one, as they once had. Papers gripped within her hands, now stained with perspiration, laid by the bedside – poems of romance addressed to a name he could barely recognise, written in forgery of his penmanship. By the fireplace, love letters from him to her and her to him were licked up by hungry flames, leaving only ashes that rained upon his withered soul.

She would rather die than see him again; as an afterthought, she had ran. She would rather leave when she took her final breath than to let him see her. Not like this. Not again.

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