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Anuradha Kumar

by Anuradha Kumar

[box]Sringāram | In a work of flash fiction, Anuradha Kumar gives the rasa Sringaram (Attractiveness) a different facet. ‘Her Beautiful Face’ is the story of a man, and a woman with a beautiful face.[/box] [box type = “bio”]Anuradha Kumar’s most recent novel, her third, is ‘It takes a murder’ (Hachette India). Her other two novels are “Letters for Paul” (Mapinlit, 2006) and “The Dollmakers’ Island” (Gyaana Books, 2010). She has written for older readers and also for children, and her stories have appeared in several magazines and newspapers. Anuradha has won awards in the Commonwealth Short Story competition twice, for short fiction.

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Her Beautiful Face

The door slammed, and he knew. He would never see her again. The late evening rain pelted down, that sudden heavy downpour with flashes of lightning. The way it rained in Singapore, when you never knew when it started or if it would ever stop. It was the way she had spoken to him, hurled at him her books, her DVDs, even her clothes, whose sharp hooks had stung him hard on the face, drawn blood too.

He would forget her. Begin now, he said.  One by one, disregard, throw away every image of her.

He pulled his windcheater tighter around himself and stopped at the bus stop. For a minute only, he said.

There was the crunch of plastic, the creak of the seats, and the patter of raindrops on the roof. The lights made yellowish circles where raindrops danced. The woman next to him stretched out her ankles, and he saw them showcased in red. Red pointed shoes with a dagger like heel, and her ankle perfectly poised, rising above like a delicate cup. Ankles he had known too, the kind you’d love to rest your head against.

He moved on, impatient, tapping his umbrella, not using it. The rain had to make him forget.

Someone ahead of him rushed up the stairs that led up the Kallang Bridge.

Her wet skirt clung to her legs and body, shaping its every contour, as she walked fighting the rain. He saw her skirt move, stretching as she surged forward, swinging and flapping as the rain proved too overpowering. One day she had taken off her skirt and walked in the rain. But this was not her, it couldn’t be her.

Angry now, he took a step on the bridge, his breath drowned by the rain.  The world had turned silver and gray in the rain. The universe was just that small bridge and the two of them. To forget something, you fill your mind up with something else, that’s how it worked.

He rubbed his eyes, and saw it come away with blood.  The hook of her skirt had caught him there, rough and he had walked out, seeing red everywhere, hearing her scream when he had struck her. The vase hurling towards her face.  The most beautiful face in the world, and he had not waited to see what had happened.  Her scream too was the colour of red.

At the streetlight, she stopped. And leaned against the banister. He saw her fingers curl over steel. Blue painted, dotted with red. The way they did their nails these days. Her slender wrists, decked with raindrops, and the slim arms swathed in white, her cream shirt stamped with rain. He wiped his face; his hands were now pale-red.  The rain washes away everything, even past sins.  It redeems.

She turned, her face red with blood, as his was. He saw before him again, the most beautiful face in the world.

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