Here’s a short story I wrote about a year ago.
Lubna hid the black jar in her purse as she entered the apartment complex. She stared down in front of her as she strode silently towards flat 3C. This last month had been the worst one of her life. She was torn inside and the endless crying brought her no comfort. Her broken heart finally closed up again, hardened with hate, fury and a bitter love. She came today to get revenge. She didn’t care about the consequences of what she was going to do. She might be killed for doing this, but death ceased to scare her. It might even be welcomed.
She reached block C, the third of 5 buildings in the complex of flats. He lived in the 3rd apartment, on the second floor. She knew he would be in at this time. She knew all about his habits. She once thought she knew everything there was to know about him. That all changed a month ago when the troubled relationship was ended with a phone call.
‘Look,’ he said, after some hot words were exchanged, ‘I can’t believe you ever thought I was going to marry you. Go look at yourself in the mirror. You’re a dog. I was just fooling around. I might have said some mushy stuff now and then, but we were just playing around. Don’t deny it, you knew that too. Don’t pretend this was about anything other than sex.’You’re a dog.
She could never get the words out of her head.
He was the first man she ever met that told her she was beautiful. She wouldn’t believe him at first, thinking it was only the love talking. But he said it so much, in time she came to believe it. She began to look at herself in the mirror, and the nose suddenly didn’t seem too large or that
crooked. The lips didn’t seem too thin. And her hair was nice too, if she brushed it just right.
He was a hafiz-e-quran,
and he was a doctor. That was proof enough that he was noble, and although the relationship became overtly physical, she was married to him in her heart and she didn’t believe she was doing anything wrong. Sure her parents might have killed her if they ever found out, but she surrendered herself totally to her love. There could be no one else. No one could make her feel beautiful or special. They would get married when he finished his house job and started his specialization. He promised over and over again.
She knocked on the door. She knew he’d be asleep. He always slept in the afternoon. He unzipped the purse and took the black jar out. It contained about half a liter of liquid inside. She gingerly undid the lid, and held the jar ready. She heard him shuffling inside to answer the door.
The problems started when she started pressuring him for a formal proposal from his parents. It had to be formalized, she explained. Her mother kept bringing her marriage up, and soon something had to be done about it.
His mood would change drastically whenever she brought the matter up. He would suddenly become silent and sullen and complain that she was putting too much pressure on him, an unemployed doctor, just starting his professional career.
In the beginning, she felt ashamed of herself for making him angry. He obviously loved her a lot. Why should she make life harder for him? She stopped insisting after the first few times, but when a strong rishta
came to her home, and her parents fought with her for rejecting it, the matter became urgent.
He started becoming distant; calling her less, and ending phone conversations quickly with some excuse or another. The situation at home became tense, and she found it hard to sleep well at night. She became irritable and more insistent that he formalize the relationship soon. They started having fights for the first time.You’re a dog,
he had finally said.
She heard the dead bolt of the door being unlocked from the inside, took the lid off the jar, and cocked her arm.
He opened the door and looked at her sleepily. He had barely registered her when she thrust the jar at him, unloading its contents full onto his face.
Some of the liquid splashed onto the wooden door, hitting it with a hiss and producing a thin white fume of smoke.
He screamed as the concentrated acid ate his face. It was the primal shriek of a wounded beast. He staggered back and hit the floor, scratching at his face as blood poured out only to be darkened and congealed by the acid boring in from the outside.
The shrieks stunned the neighbors into immobility. It took a few seconds for the nearest one to regain his presence of mind and run outside to see what happened. He was an army officer who had seen his share of injuries, but what he saw writhing on the floor of his neighbor’s apartment made his blood run cold. His training kicked in, and he immediately recognized what the source of the injury was. He dragged his neighbor, whose screams were interrupted by gurgled strangling sounds as he tried to draw breath to the bathroom where he turned the shower on and forced his agonized neighbor under it.
The army officer’s wife had come out in time to see her husband drag a body into the bathroom. She looked at the woman standing outside the door. She had fallen to her knees and stared numbly inside the apartment. Her pain was gone – replaced by a cold horror at what she had done.
Dr. Afzal Latif’s face was permanently scarred by 3rd degree burns. He was left blind in one eye. His lips, left cheek and part of his tongue were pierced by the acid. When his family found out about his attack, they immediately rushed to the hospital and stood by his side as he lay unconscious, drugged by strong painkillers. They lodged an FIR against a one Lubna Sadiq, a girl they had never heard of before.
Lubna Sadiq was finally traced about a week later by the police. Her body had partially decomposed and the smell alerted her neighbors who broke into her apartment and shrieked in horror at the figure that hung suspended from the ceiling fan. No suicide note was found, and the police could not establish a reason for her acid attack. They suspected an affair gone wrong but Afzal’s family members, and more importantly, his roommate, strongly denied any affair. The police were puzzled. Afzal’s reputation was impeccable. Family, close friends, fellow doctors and even patients in the ward who had known him only for a few days all had nothing but praise for him. He was a decent, competent, respectable human being.
His roommate was beside himself with grief. He had been Afzal’s classfellow and room mate for six years. He was on duty at the time of the attack. They had grown together and were inseparable. Afzal’s parents were touched by the amount of attention he was giving to their son. He was always there in the hospital room, red-eyed and exhausted. He would get the medicine and administer them. He did everything he could to keep Afzal comfortable and was prone to fits of uncontrollable sobbing many times a day. Afzal had always been there for him. Afzal was the one who took care of him when he had meningitis. He was the one who helped him through studies and exams. They were going to specialize together. They might start their own clinic one day. Their families would be like one family.
He looked down at his friend’s face and the unbearable sadness welled up in his heart again. Afzal was drugged and unconscious. There was no one else in the room.
“I’m sorry,” he murmured. “I should have listened to you. I should have told her I had a roommate.”