She woke up at six as usual. It had become a ritual for her to wake up early and she didn’t even require the alarm anymore. She walked into the bathroom and washed her face, bunching her hair into a bun as she walked down the stairs to the kitchen.
Her footsteps echoed in the hallway, a silent but daunting reminder of the noise that used to fill these halls.
Walking to the back door of the kitchen, she opened it, stooping to pick up the day’s newspaper and milk that the delivery man had left at her doorstep. She left the newspaper on the kitchen table without bothering to even glance through it. The paper always held news of terrible incidents and stories that she didn’t want to hear about – the results of a war that was being waged, not too far away from home. It was her husband’s job to read aloud to her, any happy news that he could find, as she refused to acknowledge the disasters.
Setting the milk down on the kitchen counter, she pulled out the tea leaves from the cupboard along with the sugar. She didn’t really like tea, she was a more of a coffee lover herself, but her husband drank tea like there was no tomorrow. As the tea boiled, she began making breakfast but her humming that used to fill the air with music was absent now.
The silence that seemed to fill the house these days was suffocating, but she did nothing to get rid of it, the sound of the food cooking and the shuffling of her feet the only noise that could be heard.
Setting the food and tea on the table and leaving the newspaper neatly next to everything, she picked up her husband’s reading glasses from its place on the living room table and placed it on the newspaper just the way he liked it.
Done with her morning duties, she set about completing her other chores. There wasn’t much to do around the house, as she always kept everything clean. But that didn’t stop her. She walked about dusting the house, making sure there wasn’t a stain or mark left anywhere. Climbing up the stairs to the bedroom, she took all the clothes that needed washing, and also some that didn’t, and put them into the washing machine.
After a bath and making sure she couldn’t see a single speck of dust anywhere, she walked back to the kitchen, picking up the untouched food and tea. Pouring the tea down the kitchen sink, she set aside the food so she could feed the stray dogs later. Her husband being an animal lover had always made her take care of the hurt and wounded animals that he found, nursing them until they were healthy and then releasing them into the outside world again. Even now, she still believed in all that he had believed in and continued to do what they used to do together.
She went back to the kitchen counter, slowly eating her share of the breakfast, washing the dishes when she was done. On checking the fridge, she realized that she had to go shopping for a few groceries so taking her bag in hand she set off to the nearest convenience store.
On reaching the store she bought a lot of things, many of which she didn’t require. Money wasn’t a problem for her. Her husband’s job had made sure she had enough money to live comfortably. They didn’t want her to suffer any more than she already had.
When she reached back home, she put everything into the place where it belonged and then aimlessly wandered around the house, trying to figure out what to do. She read for a while, stitched a little and after what seemed a really long time, it was evening. It was time to cook dinner. She prepared a meal, her husband’s favorite food, and set the table for two, arranging everything perfectly.
At precisely eight thirty in the night, she sat at the table, sending a small prayer to the Lord, and then began eating. When she was done she sat back and looked around for a few minutes and then got up to clear the table. Dinner at her house was always eaten at the same time every day and after they were done, they would sit and discuss their day, telling each other about the silly things they sometimes overheard.
At ten ‘o’ clock, she changed into her night clothes, walked to her bed and sat down, pulling out the letter that she kept below her pillow. The letter that had changed her life. It was the letter from the army. A letter telling her that her husband was M.I.A. Missing In Action, with no trace of his whereabouts.
She hadn’t let herself cry when she read it. She had to believe her husband was still alive somewhere, fighting bravely. He would come home one day and she would be waiting, ready to hear him narrate his experiences, ready to give him a satisfying meal. The silence of the house, the silence in her life was bearing down on her but she refused to give in, refused to think that he was gone because she believed that somehow, her hopes would keep him alive.