The literal chill that seized me was welcome. I was finally feeling something. I had been dumbstruck for close to six hours since news started coming in from around the capital. I sat frozen before my phone, laptop, TV. I wanted everything to stop …I was shaking visibly, my phone buzzing every other minute. I did not want to pick any calls, I did not want to speak to anybody, but I couldn’t stop scrolling through my social media pages…I couldn’t turn off the TV. It was almost 1am. The rain was relentless and I wasn’t about to move to close the windows I had slid open hours before, when a sudden heat had come with the confusion that had flooded me. Flooded. The word. I rubbed my palms together unconsciously and blew air into their balled daintiness, but the chill was violent. I lay back in the brown leather couch and tried to avoid setting my eyes on the portrait of him; large and imposing; my husband.
When I was little, my mother would bring out an antique-like miniature chest that contained cut-outs of various animated characters from Bible stories, and a velvet cloth designed to hold the cut-outs in place when you stuck them on it. She’d do this on Sunday nights – hang the cloth and while telling one Bible story or another, would stick the characters on the crimson velvet background – the story coming to life before us as cut-out after cut-out was put up. I loved most, the story of Queen Esther, or Hadassah, as she preferred to call her in a soft breathy voice that made me grow loving the name itself, as much as the story…even more, maybe. I remember most vividly what Xerxes’ cut-out looked like; tall, kingly, and handsome; Xerxes with the Royal staff in hand. Then Hadassah herself; Queen of Persia, with her most delicate features, ravishing beauty, gracefulness that seemed to flow as wholesomely as her mane…Hadassah! Every time Mom chose that story to tell, I was more attentive than usual, lost in kingdoms from a long, long time ago, surrounded by royalty and guards and handmaidens and eunuchs, and breathtaking architecture, grandeur, interior décor, magnificent landscape. I had wanted to be Queen, grow up as gracefully as the Star of Persia. Wield power! I had wanted to be as loyal; always, only to my King.
I curled myself up in a ball in the couch and shut my eyes, my teeth then clattering from the cold that had completely engulfed me. The sound of the steady downpour was like a thousand bass voices droning endlessly. The memories added to my agony that night, I wanted time to accelerate, but to where? Or it could stop, but there was nothing in the present pleasant enough for me to wish for a halt in time, Maybe it could ricochet at top speed back to other worlds where decisions were being made to have me be born, and if I had a say plead not to be. I needed counsel, divine or otherwise, but I had absolutely no Mordecai to grant me such. I wielded power but I loathed it. Was it not the same that had corrupted my family…loved ones…even my mother? I wanted to hit my head hard on the wall till it broke, scream forever. I was Queen! It was what I had wanted! To be wife of the King! But was this not akin to Pyrrhic victory to be wife of such a…King? When everything was falling apart and favour was being lost rapidly with the people? I wanted to throw it back in someone’s face. Give back the crown!
I slipped into a disturbed sleep and woke when the bedroom door opened. He stepped out, suited up, phone in hand already buzzing. He stood before the full-length mirror a few feet from where I sat in the couch, and straightened his tie. He turned, and walked towards the front door like a zombie, his steps labored…heavy. I wanted to say something comforting, acknowledge him, hug him even, but I couldn’t get myself on my feet. He stood there with his hand on the knob for about two minutes, the awkward silence getting thicker and more humid, I had already broken out in sweat and so had he. We both knew there was a lot unspoken, and we knew exactly what remained unspoken. It took a while before sounds of the commotion outside our quarters snuck in, breaking the silence. ‘Wish me luck,’ he said gruffly, facing me, a sad smile softening his features. I nodded, and kept nodding long after he had closed the door behind him.
I don’t know how long I sat there before the TV screen came to life, moving from images of the previous night’s wreckage and floods, to the King…my King; another year, same speech. I cringed. He looked different from the man that had just left my presence. More drained. The sadness had talons that were sinking deeper into my heart, squeezing without mercy. I couldn’t breathe!
I turned off everything – phone, TV, laptop, and myself and sat back again, this time allowing my gaze to fall on his portrait; large, looming; the man; my husband; President.
I closed my eyes and whispered a prayer that broke my heart, with tears streaming down;
“Long live the King.”