I looked at myself in the mirror as I undressed for a bath. I looked ugly. And that hurt more than I’d thought it would. My eyes fell over the empty space where my left breast used to be. Breast cancer. I shivered. Those torturous months of chemotherapy had cured my cancer but had left me drained, not to mention looking like a complete monster. My once jet black hair was now thing and short…I used to be curvy before …not fat, but curvy. Now I could see my ribs. My face was thinner. I looked horrible.
I’d never been too concious of how I looked. I had always been too simple. My dressing could be described in one word. Understated. That’s what I was. Understated. I didn’t have extraordinary dreams like a big career, a mansion, money…nothing. I’d drifted along where life had taken me and had found solace in teaching. I liked it when my kids wished me good morning with a flower. I loved teaching.
I passed a hand over my face. Was it really me? I wasn’t obsessed with beauty, but it HAD been a comfort that I was good looking. I’d never paid much attention to it and now that I looked like this, I felt like a whole other person. Someone I didn’t recognize. Someone I didn’t WANT to recognize. Someone who was me. A few tears trickled down my face. I felt ugly. My body was thin…bruised and purple in the places where stitches had marred my skin. Those few tears had turned into many now and I sobbed silently. I felt ashamed.
I wiped my tears with the back of my hand. No point crying now. What’s done was done. The doctors told me I’d heal. He told me I’d heal. But only I knew how I felt. Only I knew how it felt looking in the mirror and not recognizing my own face. I wanted the old Riddhima back. I’d been wearing baggy t-shirts and shorts since the last few days after the surgery. I didn’t feel like wearing good clothes. What if I looked too hideous? But I knew I was kidding myself. My worry wasn’t about me looking hideous. I already knew I did. I smiled wryly. It was about how he would react when he saw me undressed. Would he be disgusted? I loved him too much to face that sort of rejection. Armaan. My husband. My best friend. My everything. I smiled faintly, as I remembered all the things he’d done during my chemo. He’d patiently gone through all my mood swings, he’d brought me my favorite food, he brought flowers everyday. And he never hesitated to tell me he loved me. And I’d tell him how much I loved him. But he hadn’t seen me like this. I was too scared of showing him the “new” me. I wasn’t beautiful anymore.
My tears made their way out again as my insecurities bubbled up. What if he left me? What if we would never be the same? What would I do with life? Sniffing, I dipped my legs into the bathtub and eased my body in. The water was upto my neck. I threw my head back and took a deep breath to steady myself. Crying wouldn’t do. But the tears wouldn’t stop today. It was like each one of my insecurities was coming out in the form of my tears. I was scared. Scared of life. Scared to face people. Scared of seeing those looks of sympathy. Scared that everything would change now. I closed my eyes, my tears still trickling down. A few minutes later I washed myself and lay in the same position again. I didn’t wanna get out. Getting out would mean facing the real world. And the real world was a daunting concept for me right now.
Suddenly I heard the door click. My eyes flew open in shock. Armaan stood there, looking at me. Although I was wet, I knew he could make out I’d been crying. I saw his blue eyes tighten with pain and chided myself for being so weak. He didn’t deserve this. He didn’t deserve any of it. We stared at each other wordlessly. Our eyes did all the talking. I saw his eyes widen as he understood why I’d been far from cheerful the last few days, even when my cancer was gone. I looked away. I was too mortified to speak. He hadn’t seen my whole body yet. It was still beneath all the foamy water from my bubble bath. I wondered how he would react.
He walked towards me and knelt down beside me. I looked at him, trying to decipher what he was trying to do. My hands clenched into fists as I waited for his disgust. I didn’t know if I could face it. He knelt down and dipped his hands into the water. He pried my fist open and held both my hands softly. He then got up and pulled me, signalling that he wanted me to get up. I panicked. This was what I’d been deading. The moment of truth. I shook my head in fear. He did nothing but tug at my hands again. I could see the faith in his eyes. Still mortified, I got up, as slowly as possible. My tears made their way out once more. There was nothing but love on his face. A part of me wanted to shout. Why didn’t he tell me what he thought? I could handle it. A part of me was gratefull. What if I couldn’t handle it?
I slowly came out of the bathtub, dripping with water and shivering a little. He wrapped the big, warm towel around me and dried me. I stood there, motionless. I had no idea what was going on. We didn’t say a word.
He dried me gently, taking care that my stitches wouldn’t tear. I hissed in pain when he accidently rubbed over a tender spot. He looked at me in apology and blew air on it to soothe me. I released the breath I’d been holding as the pain subsided. I was dry now. I looked up to him, wondering what he was up to. The tears had stopped now but it felt like I could cry any moment. He looked back at me his eyes full of love. He smiled a little.
He took out my favorite lotion from the cabinet and squeezed some in his hand. Rubbing his hands together, he slowly rubbed the lotion all over my body, kissing all the purple bruises. I realized I was crying again but with a small smile on my face. He finished rubbing the lotion and got up, looking into my eyes. I could see the eons of love they held for me. I felt better now. I smelt better, I felt cleaner than I had in days. I looked up at him. He bent a little and kissed the angry red scar with stitches on it. Standing up, he cupped my face and gave me a soft kiss on the lips. One that I eagerly responded to. We kissed for a moment, savoring the feeling of being back with each other. My heart danced in joy. He loved me.
I looked up at him, my eyes tearing up a little. He shook his head, and placed a kiss on my forehead. I saw him flash me his dimpled smile and I smiled right back, for real this time.
Winking playfully, he left me in the bathroom to get dressed. As I browsed through my closet, I ignored the shorts and the baggy t-shirt. They weren’t needed anymore.
A/N: This came out after reading an article on Breast Cancer in the paper. I don’t mean to make a mockery of the illness by writing a story on it 🙂