Tea for two tuesday by Preeti Shenoy - 4 ( Salt & Sugar - Flavours of Life )

Posts for previous prompts -

Prompt for this tuesday was Can a relationship be like a tea-stain? Why or why not?

Salt & Sugar - Flavours of Life (title suggested by Privy Trifles)

That’s how it was! She complained as she scrubbed hard at the tea-stain on the bed-sheet. That is how it was, like a tea-stain. Her relationship with the only man she had learned to love all her life was once enthralling like a nice cup of hot tea on a tiring day and now it had come to be nothing but a stain. She had tried her best to get that stain out of the bed-sheet of her life but just like this stain, it still remained. How-much-ever she tried to scrub it off. It showed. People could feel the tension in between them whenever they went to a party together. It showed in his attitude, it showed in her weak attempts at smiling. She had to admit. Despite everything, despite all the frustration, she still loved him. She had even tried to bridge the gap but in vain. She felt like she was walking on quicksand. The more she tried to come out of it, deeper she got sucked into the bad of it. He was not putting in any efforts of his own, she thought bitterly. How had they come to be where they were, in their relationship?

She gave up. The stain was forever. Tide, vanish nothing could take it off. She washed the bed-sheet with clean water and put it on the line to dry. There had to be some difference between tea-stain and the relationship going sour, she thought. Giving up in latter case was not as easy as it was with the former. Bed-sheet could be replaced but, relationship was meant to be. She was exhausted. Mental and physical stress, the combination had burned out her strength. On her way back from the balcony, she saw Sudeep’s car entering through the gate. She rushed to the bedroom and tidied the room and herself. Ready to welcome him home, just the way he wanted. She played her role well. She walked out to the living room just in time. The key turned in the keyhole and Sudeep stepped in. She brought him a glass of water as he removed his shoes. He looked tired, she noticed.
I am going to Rinku’s school to bring her home” saying so she immediately excused herself and walked out of the house.

~ 2 ~

Sudeep shook his head. So much for expecting a warm welcome at home! He loosened his tie and drank the water. He knew she was avoiding him. It had been a few weeks now. Things were beginning to get out of hand. It was obvious that she was not happy with his decision. There were responsibilities he had to take care of; he was not ready for more. Birth of Rinku was already a sudden change in the pace of his life. Things got busier, weirder and costlier. Not that he minded the expenses but he could not afford another child. Not now. Not in near future. He had tried to explain it to Shreya but she had reacted in a wrong way.

He got up from the couch and walked to the balcony. There, drying on the line, he saw their bed-sheet. It was her favorite and it was stained because of him. He had been careless to spill the tea from the cup. Too occupied with accounts, he had not seen that she had kept the tea tray on the bed. This was the fourth time she had washed the bed-sheet. Another few strokes of brush scrubbing the stain and the fibers would not be able to take the assault and it would result in a hole in place of the stain. He knew. He walked closer and examined the stain. It had become faint but it was still there. Shreya was putting in efforts to remove the stain from the bed-sheet. What about their relationship? He laughed. He could not believe that he was comparing their relationship to a stain! Or was he entirely out of track? No. Perhaps that was how it was. Their relationship was like a tea-stain. You just had to live with it.
He wanted so much to get closer to Shreya but he was afraid to even try. His heart was aching to hold her in his arms and feel her heart beating on his. He wanted to melt into her embrace and become alive again, with her kiss. He had to talk to her, he decided. He knew, even she was trying to bridge the gap but she did not realize that the bridge on his side ended at the wrong place. It had to be set straight. He had ignored it for long. It was time for him to put in his efforts. Scrub off the stain. He would not let the fibers succumb to the pressure. He waited. She did not come. He formulated a conversation and waited more. The doorbell rang. He opened the door and Shreya stepped in followed by Rinku, their 6 year old daughter.

~ 3 ~

She noticed a change in him. The calm before the storm? she wondered. She knew he did not like the way she walked out of the house. That is why she had walked out, in first place. To hurt him, to infuriate him, as payback for all the frustration she was going through. The look in his eyes, now …
It made her feel ashamed of her thoughts. Something had changed in him, she thought as she helped Rinku get out of school uniform and into comfortable clothes. She prepared snacks for the three of them, glancing towards Sudeep a few times. He seemed to be occupied. Mentally occupied but not really doing anything. That was weird. Rinku finished her snacks and went out to play. She had grown silent in the past few weeks. Both the parents noticed that change in her and felt guilty. This was not the first time they had felt that way, but today was different. The stain seemed to have become fainter than before. Today, their ego and anger was overpowered by the increasing guilt. They both were failing as parents. They looked at each other the moment Rinku closed the door behind her. They needed to talk.

You washed the bed-sheet again” Sudeep started the conversation.
Yes” a short reply from Shreya.
I am sorry” Sudeep said
It’s okay; you did not do it on purpose.” Shreya replied carrying the plates to the kitchen. It was better this way. Conversation without eye contact!
You are right. I did not do it on purpose, but I am not talking about the stain on the bed-sheet.” Sudeep replied following her to the kitchen.
She turned around almost at the same time as he walked closer to her, thus entering into his half-embrace. It felt good. She closed her eyes. He wrapped his arms around her, completing the embrace as she rested her head on his shoulders.
I did not mean to be rude and I should have not said what I said and I should have said what I am saying now, a little earlier.”Sudeep tried to explain.
I did not mean to hurt you. Never meant to shove you away the way I did. But, I was hurt and you failed to see that and I wanted to hurt you in return.” Shreya confessed.
Shreya could feel Sudeep breathing in her hair. She waited for his reply. She wanted to see how he would react to her confession that she wanted to hurt him on purpose. The embrace remained. So did the silence. She waited. He sighed.
May be I deserved that” he whispered.
She blinked away the tears and looked at him. There were tears in his eyes. She could not stand it. She could tolerate the tension, the stress, the fight, the distance but she could not see him crying. Not like this, not because of what she had done to him. She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him. It took a while for him to respond and kiss her back. By then the tears from his eyes were already journeying towards his lips. The kiss was flavored with the salt of tears. His and hers. Theirs.
Salt” she exclaimed. “Next time, I will try salt.” she said, smiled and kissed him again.

Yes, relationships are somewhat like tea-stains. You just need to know the right way to deal with them.