The sun was slowly creeping into the room through the thin opening between the curtains. Rachel stared at it deeply. She could hear her husband breathing next to her as he slept. So peacefully he slept, she thought to herself; as if nothing in the world could affect him the way everything affected her. She looked at her hand. She was still getting used to the ring that held her finger so tightly. It had only been three weeks. She felt the inscriptions on it, reading the words in her mind; words her husband had decided on when he gave her the ring, maybe even when he proposed, maybe even before that when he thought he had fallen for her and she had fallen for him.
He was stirring in his sleep. He opened his eyes and looked deeply into hers. He smiled a genuine smile. She smiled. That was how everyday started, she thought.
She was making breakfast; buttered toast with scrambled eggs and some oatmeal. He took his oatmeal with cashew in it. She took it plain. He always needed something to change what was plain, she thought. His oatmeal had to have cashew, his bread had to be buttered and his eggs had to be scrambled with tomato and cheese. She had to serve it that way. She had to go through the trouble of chopping tomatoes and crushing cashews when they had eggs and oatmeal for breakfast. So that’s what she was doing.
‘Shall I do the tomatoes?’ he asked. ‘Shall I do the eggs? The toast? Would you like me to do something?’ He asked. As if she couldn’t do it herself, she thought. He was just being nice. He just liked being nice so he was liked, she thought.
‘No, that’s okay’, she replied sweetly. Soon he’ll be gone to work and she can stay at home and talk to her friend, Martha.
‘I’ll see you at lunch, darling.’ And he was gone.
Rachel looked around the house. She looked for Martha. She looked at the shining glass windows in the hall. She looked at the mirror that hung by the dining room. She looked in the bathroom mirror. She looked in her bedroom, in the mirror of the dressing table. She was there. She had come.
‘He didn’t even help you at breakfast today.’
‘But he offered.’
‘But he didn’t insist.’
‘But I refused.’
‘No, I refused. You would have said, ‘help me.’
‘You shouldn’t have refused.’
‘But I did. There’s no need to make him think you need his help.’
‘But I would like his help.’
‘Don’t say that. You had not much to do besides.’
‘That’s not true.’
‘It is. You only have to cook for him. He hired a maid to clean the house for you and do the laundry for you. ‘
‘Yes. He’s very sweet.’
‘No, he’s not. He’s just showing you who has the power in the house.’
That’s not true.’
‘He’s pampering you so you love him.’
‘I do love him.’
‘No, you don’t.’
‘Yes I do.’
‘Because you love me.’
‘Yes I do but he’s my husband.’
Rachel crawled into bed and buried herself in her blanket hoping Martha would go away. Two hours went by. Martha hadn’t come back. Maybe she won’t. The doorbell rang. It must be the maid.
‘He hired a maid to clean the house for you.’ Martha said. Rachel pushed her out of her mind.
The maid was a stout woman with a creamy complexion. She was tidy and always proper. She minded her own business and did her own work. All she ever said to Rachel or her husband were ‘’Morning’ and ‘Thank you’ when she received her fee. But Rachel watched her because Martha made her. They waited for her to do something she was not supposed to. Martha was always the first to accuse.
‘She stole a spoon, I saw her.’
‘No she didn’t. I didn’t see her.’
‘Yes you did. You just don’t want to do anything to hurt her.’
‘Because she didn’t do anything wrong.’
‘Yes she did. She keeps stealing your silver spoons one by one.’
Rachel knew where the silver spoons were but she wouldn’t dare say anything about it to Martha. She just hoped that her husband wouldn’t notice anything because if he did and asked her about it, Martha would disappear and come back later and laugh at her. After the maid left, Martha left too. Rachel went up into the attic to see if the silver spoons were still there. It was cold. It was not the attic that scared Rachel but it was the thought that Martha would suddenly come to her. She looked behind her mother’s old lamp. They were still there, three silver spoons. She picked one up and looked at the intricate design on it. It was so pretty. They were pretty silver spoons, a wedding gift from her mother in law. The spoon still shined. Martha cleaned them every day, she knew.
She threw down the spoon. It had startled her. She picked it up again and looked into it. Martha stared back at her.
‘What’re you doing here?’
‘Then why are you here?’
‘I just came to see what was up here.’
‘No you didn’t. Don’t lie to me.’
‘I did. I just came to see if there was anything we could use.’
‘You can’t lie to me. I’m inside you. I know you better than anyone.’
Rachel walked to the large trunk that lay in a corner. Her wedding dress was in it. She took it out and held it up to see. It was covered in the polythene from the dry cleaner’s. It was still as beautiful as it was when Rachel first saw it. Little stones glittered at the neck and the waist and in every stone she saw Martha. She put it back in and was about to close the trunk when Martha stopped her.
‘You know you want to.’
‘No. I don’t.’
‘Go ahead. The scissors are right there on the floor. You kept them there yesterday, remember?’
‘No, I didn’t. You did.’
‘Don’t be silly. You kept them there. You wanted to keep them there so you could use them today.’
Rachel picked up the scissors. In them, she saw Martha.
Rachel heard a car coming into the driveway. She dropped the scissors and rushed to the attic window. Her husband was home. So early, she thought. She hastily put the dress back into the trunk with the scissors and shut it. She ran downstairs.
‘See, he’s home early so he can watch you.’
‘No he’s not.’
‘You haven’t even cooked lunch.’
‘He’s going to be angry.’
‘No, he’s not.’
‘Rachel? Darling, I brought home lunch. I hope you haven’t started cooking yet.’
Rachel came down the stairs to receive a kiss from her husband.