Do you hear me?

Contributor: Rohini Gupta

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The voice is a child’s voice, high and shrill, asking a question. She shifts restlessly in her dream, knowing she has dreamed this many times before but unable to hear the question.

In the morning she always wakes up confused and frustrated. She knows it is important. The urgency is growing. She must answer and she must do it soon. But how? She is so distracted that she spills milk and scatters grains of sugar.

Her husband does not notice. They are not talking these days. They barely look at each other. They live in separate worlds.

She is resigned to the silence, it is simpler than the loud arguments and that brutal word, divorce, bandied between them like a tennis ball, first in her mouth, then in his, then back again. But there is an invisible line that both are afraid to cross, and the argument ends as usual, in stony silence. They brush pass each other in the small rooms, and sleep back to back.

When the weight of the silence is too great they make love at night, but in the morning, they pretend they are alone. Sometimes she weeps silently wondering what went wrong. She cannot find a reason. She has no idea where the feeling has gone.

For a whole year life was perfect. Full of laughter and flowers, long walks hand in hand by the seashore, sharing a paper cup of street food, spicy on the tongue, and laughing at nothing, like two giggling teenagers. Dinners in small affordable restaurants, and a movie late at night, sitting close.

They set up house, a modest two rooms, but they furnished them together, every rug, bookcase and coffee table. He was always home early and she was home before him and always at the window waiting. A marriage made in heaven, her friends said enviously.

Now she has stopped taking their calls.

Now her dreams are full of anger and unheard questions.


When she goes into the bedroom her husband is sitting on the bed, in his underwear, looking at her. “Hasn’t this gone on long enough? We have nothing in common anymore. Shall we end it?”

The chill of that hits her. His eyes are cold and he means it. She is not ready yet to end it, so she does not reply. She lies down with her back to him.

“We never talk without arguing,” he says, “What is the point of this?”

She closes her eyes and he sighs, but does not speak again.

Sleep does not come. She thinks of the emptiness of her life. How could it become so terrible? She feels hollow, as if all the passion has been scooped out of her and she does not know how to fill up the great void at her heart. She tosses and then she falls asleep.

At once the child’s voice is there, calling.

She is not paying attention to the child. She is lost in the darkness of her dreams. She sees herself sitting on cold, bare tiles, weeping. She holds her head to keep out the harsh words, but she hears them over and over, louder each time. The door slams, hard, and keeps slamming. The sound resounds and fills her whole dream. A plate falls, white and blue, smashing on the floor, and she smashes with it, flying into a thousand scattered pieces. Bits of her hit the walls and smash on the floors and keep breaking smaller and smaller and smaller.

"No,” she murmurs, only wanting it to stop, "Please no, no, no."

The child’s voice sounds sad, “Shall I go away, then? Shall I go?”

Suddenly she hears the words and everything comes to an abrupt, crashing stop.

“Please listen to me,” the child is saying, “Please.”

“I hear you,” she says in wonder.

The child’s voice is very soft but very clear. “Do you want me?” the child is asking wistfully, “Shall I come?”

She hears the question and it shoots through her like a physical pain.

She can see the child now - a thin girl, in a white dress, looking at her with large, dark, beautiful eyes. There are tears in those eyes to match the tears drying on her cheeks.

“Do you want me?” the girl is asking and every word rings through her like a bell, echoing in the hollows within.

She puts out a hand to touch the child’s soft smooth hair, but there is nothing there.

“Please don’t go,” she whispers, “Please, we will work things out, I don’t know how, but we will. Somehow we will make it work. I want you. I really want you. You must come. I want you.”

The sound of her own voice wakes her. She is whispering the words softly.

The dream fades. She can no longer see the girl but she feels light at heart. The question has been heard and answered. It will no longer haunt her dreams.

The room is dark and quiet. Her husband is fast asleep on the other side of the bed. She can hear his soft snoring. She wants to put her arms around him and whisper to him. No, she will not. They have waited so long. He will not believe it. It’s only wishful thinking, he will say.

Yes, it is.

She gets up, barefoot, and walks into the silent sitting room. She does not put on the lights. The glow of the street lamps from the wide windows is enough to see. She opens the window and leans out, putting her face into the cool, sea wind. Above the city, the night is extravagant with stars.

She already knows what tomorrow's pregnancy test will say. He will believe it then.

"I want you," she whispers to the stars, "We really want you."

And, for the first time in months, she smiles.

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Rohini Gupta has been a writer for a long time and has published books, non-fiction and poetry. She is now writing short fiction and working on longer fiction.
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