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Troubled Tongues

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She sat in the creaky wooden chair with her long legs poised over the table. White ribbons of cigar smoke flew out of her mouth and unfurled into abstract nothingness. Her lips were a shade too dark and the color of red roses rimmed her eyes. Sheets of sunlight entered the house through the blinds, infiltrating the matrix of dust that blanketed the house inside out. Through the disarray of raven hair that obscured her vision, she saw a frightened face come down the stairs.

"Can I eat?" Her eight year old son's shaky words broke the silence that had descended on the room after the monster of her husband had stomped out of the house. She let out another bout of swimming smokes and held her silence. With downcast eyes, his tiny frame disappeared into the kitchen. There was a click and a clank as utensils came to life, accompanied by the oily sizzle produced by the contents of the egg hitting the pan. Culinary aroma permeated the stale air that she breathed.

He walked out with a plate of scrambled eggs. His eyes darted to the black and purple patches of skin that sprawled from her left temple down to the chin. She was hurt. She was terribly hurt. But she held her head high (literally) and blew out coiling smokes up in the air. "Are you hungry? I can make you a plate too." He hesitated. She shot a look that forced him a step back. She did not remember the last time she had eaten anything. Sinewy silence erupted between them. She threw her head back and gave out a banshee-like laughter, ripping the silence. Flinging her hair out of her eyes, she vengefully sucked the cigar. Putrid smoke filled her nostrils.

Her universe steadily deteriorated and time did not seem to condescend. She thought that - may be - by sitting still and holding back all words, she could stop her life from toppling over altogether. Because, all of a sudden, the words she uttered started to assume colossal weight and started knocking things down and tearing things apart. Therefore, nobody issued her only son any warning about wars fought with provocative silence and fistful comebacks . Therefore, it was not her fault that he had to witness bloodied teeth fall out of her mouth like pomegranate seeds when her husband landed a punch in her face that morning.

By then, the boy had scuffled off to his room. Good, she thought. No need to watch a demented woman succumbing to the mysterious cigar smokes. Better to be left alone.

But darn, she was hungry. She could use a plate of scrambled eggs.

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