Sometimes, she looks outside the window.
She sits in her chair, lets her sewing, or her reading, or her knitting, fall onto her lap, and watches.
Sometimes, she sees the brown sparrows playing in the mango tree, perhaps looking for caterpillars for their morning meal. Sometimes, she sees the housekeeper bending down to pick up trash that has wandered into the garden. Minda, the young maid, is shapely, and her bosom swells with youth. The lady of the house knows; she watches how her husband watches Minda; she sees how the eyes, once burning for only his wife, now burns for everyone, everything but.
The lady of the house once wept, but now, she does not mind Minda. Most of the time, she only sees things, the sparrows and the maid, and the world outside. It is her man that she waits for.
He sometimes walks out of the house in the early morning. In the first few years of their marriage, he could not wait to awaken so that they could make love before he left for the office. They would kiss each other tenderly, even as the minutes ticked urgently by. And then he would leave, hesitantly, watching his wife with hungry reluctance, as though earning a leaving was too great a sacrifice to bear.
But then, she was barren, and as the years passed, something slipped away; something turned the walks out of the house into runs, the mornings into loneliness – the lady of the house into someone who waited for her man.
He sometimes walks back into the house in the early evening. In the first few years of their marriage, he would rush into the house, sweep his bride into his arms, and kiss her, begging that they finish their dinner within seconds. And then they would bathe together, and then they would make love again, and then the lady of the house would be happy, even with her unwashed dishes in the sink downstairs.
But then, she was barren, and as the years passed, something came between them; something turned the evenings into quiet, where the man of the house would come home, have his dinner, and stay at his computer long after his wife went to bed. Once, he had kept the volume on, thinking that she could not hear. She heard perfectly, every moan and scream that the actors made as they performed an act once so sacred, so near, so wonderful to her – to them both.
In the first few years, she wept. When he came into bed, she touched him, in an effort to initiate the lovemaking. He claimed that he was sleepy, or tired, or needed to be at work early. She wept. He had heard her many times, and his response was always the same. Keep it down. I’m tired.
As the years passed, she took up hobbies. She sewed, knitted, read, dreamed of working, of going back to school. But that hope was all gone now, for try as she might, she did not have the courage to leave the house on her own, to pursue her own dreams; she did not have the enthusiasm for pursuit, even if she could leave the house. She resigned herself, when all the tears were gone, when her heart had been broken into too many pieces to be mended. When Minda, the new housekeeper, arrived, the lady of the house no longer minded how hungrily her husband watched the young girl.
Useless – that was what the lady of the house was. She was still beautiful, but she was useless – and without hope.
The world outside the house was the same. They would visit their in-laws at Christmas, the man of the house and the lady of the house. They would present a picture of happiness. It was only at these visits when she felt her husband wrap his arm around her. The arm felt cold, but the thought, of him, still there, of a man still lingering, of a man worth the wait, a man she was willing to wait for…
So, she sits by the window, in her chair, amongst furniture she no longer cares to recognize or examine. She sits by the window and waits for her man. She sits and waits for him to take no notice of other women; she sits and waits for him to take her in his arms and make love to her again; she sits and waits for him to love her the way that he had once vowed to do so.
She would sit and wait for him, even when his stays at the computer grew ever longer, even when he sometimes never came home, and even when Minda suddenly left their household and went back to the province. The only sign that she was alive came in the form of a rumor: Minda was pregnant, and felt ashamed of herself, and was so sorry. The lady of the house knew who the father was, and still – waited.
There would be dishes to wash, a house to clean, beds to make, and knitting and sewing to do. There were things to keep her from weeping, but the lady of the house would not break her habit. She would still sit by the window, in the afternoon, to watch the birds and the sunshine and the yard and the world still beckoning to her. And she would sit. And she would wait.
She would wait for her man to return.