Weddings, the most grotesque of human ceremonies; marriage, the most cruel of human bondage.
-- Anonymous Conflict Theorist
Ashok Chandra knew it was a dream, and not a dream within a dream. He lay in his aunt's arms, asleep, dreaming. And in his illusions of the mind, Ashok saw them, together. It had not yet happened to her, this potential moment was years away. And was likely not to plausible again.
"My sweet Kali," the man murmured, as he moved closer to the woman beside him. The coppery sheets shimmered with movement, and he began to kiss her outstretched arm.
"Not now. I am tired," the woman replied. Her other, right arm was holding a book. She put down the harlequin-romance novel, and turned out the light of her bedside table.
Kisses slowly, and sensually, reached her shoulder. He was amorous, "My love..."
The sheets rustled silently.
"My dear, sweet Kali..." he stroked her arm, kissing gently, "My love..."
She sighed, and seemingly fell off to sleep. And he ceased to touch her. Disappointment etched a vague mark upon his face.
Ashok's mind whirred, and the vision faded. Perhaps they were like that, after the counseling...
The baby stirred, stretching its arms and yawning innocently. He batted his eyes, and looked up at the face of the one who held him dearly.
It was a man. His dark face was craggy with wisdom, amongst a fading youthful vigour. He smiled at the waking child, "Mommy handed you to me while you were out, little one."
Not like she had much choice, Dad... Ashok thought, despite his instinctive return of the smile his uncle had given him.
Finally, he was out of the hospital and living with Uncle Hari and Auntie Kali. The Patel Family under one roof again. And yet, now he knew it was a lie. They were not his real parents. He had begun to suspect, at the age of twelve, but nobody gave him these answers.
They claimed there must have been some recessive Spanish genes from the age of Moorish Spain. There was Islam in his veins, too. His aunt and uncle had told him that it simply did not show on them. Ashok knew that was a load of zamala. He had been almost seventeen and nobody had given him a straight answer.
Also, Ashok bore his Auntie Kali's maiden name: Chandra. His true mother's name. Kali had given up that name when she married Hari. Hari had not even let her bear a hyphenated name.
Now, he knew the truth. And desperately, he wanted to contact that man he'd seen in the neo-natal unit. His true father. Allah be praised...
Kali entered the room, and sat on the chesterfield beside her husband. She moved cautiously, not wanting him to upset the baby. Her smile shone brightly, reflecting the shaded lamps of the room, as the moon reflects sunlight.
They look so good together. Kali observed, They may not be related by blood, but somehow I think Ashy will have Hari's good looks.
Ashok whined, and reached towards her, playing his part.
Hari frowned, and handed his adopted son over to his wife.
"Oh, who loves his mommy? Who does?" He had a playful tone, but maintained a deep, masculine pitch.
Kali smiled, she enjoyed how playful and gentle he could be. And he was not flamboyant about it. That, at least, she could appreciate. Looking down at her nephew amicably, Kali Patel rubbed her bruised thigh with her free hand. He'll make a good father…
Resting against her breast, Ashok squirmed. I must tell someone!
That night, Ashok lay in his crib. A mobile danced with Hindu deities, below a white, untiled ceiling of popcorn speckles. With only a nightlight on, the texture of the ceiling looked like a grey night sky dotted with faded stars. And upon that twilight canvas, the gods and goddesses danced him to sleep.
"Owww!" she moaned.
A belt slapped against flesh.
He could hear it through the wall. It was too thin, and the striped wallpaper was peeling.
"Damn you, bitch, I'll never stop!" Uttered in Hindi.
Ashok rolled over, miserably. He knew it was not sex. This was pure, unadulterated abuse. Violence. And it went on. And on. He cried, in his crib, craving the ignorance of when he first lived through this night.
Shiva, the Destroyer, looked down from the spinning mobile with indifference, and a large, pointy trident.