The Perfect Family

The Perfect Family-3

The male officer spoke. She stood behind the bars, her eyes fixed at him. She is about to visit the hospital that morning. John survived.

Lisa never fully realised what it could take, when she made up her mind to marry John. She thought he would give her relief, if only some, in a world of hypocrites. She grew fond of him from the moment he was abandoned by his own people in the Kansas Institute for Mental Health. She works there as a psychiatrist. It wasn’t pity that made her to decide, and he wasn’t suffering from any form of mental disorder. “Some just grow slowly” she thought to herself. She knew it in the first few days she spent, counselling him. He was simple-minded, yes, but that only made him adorable. It was such a relief to spend time with him. Over the next few days she understood why he was abandoned. John could never go to any skilled job. He couldn’t be productive enough to deserve a place in a middle income group family. As ardent as she was a supporter of capitalist views, she detested people who confuse capitalism with cruelty. She thought over it for quite a while and moved him to her home. She lived alone. No one objected.

As skeptic as she was over her decision in the beginning, John only made her life seem easier. He mostly spent drawing irregular shapes of people he saw during the day. He made her laugh when they danced together on weekends, and his subtle mannerisms were such a pleasure to watch. He made her feel light after a tiring day. That made her more productive in the morning. He kept the house clean and helped her doing the laundry. ‘May be we were meant to live together…’ she thought one night, looking at the ceiling. She lay on her bed. John was sleeping in the next room. She always felt something rotten about the mask people wore over their faces. She couldn’t imagine playing mind games with her partner, the kind couples play with each other when they visit her for counselling. John was the most authentic person she met in her life. Next Sunday they married in a church, few friends were invited. No one objected. She was an orphan.

Three years down the line, she started believing in perfect families. John spent the day playing with their two-year old daughter, and Linda became a regular occurrence in his drawings. He mostly took good care of Linda. Only times Lisa grew tense was when she was late to home than usual and found Linda crying and John sitting in his chair, drawing carefully some picture, when finished, which was supposed to be shown to pacify Linda. She rather wished he would play with Linda to make her stop crying. But John has his own way of doing some things. They went for fishing on weekends. Linda clapped her hands and John emulated her and jumped to make her smile, whenever Lisa caught a fish.

Lisa worked late that evening, counselling Mr. and Mrs. Steve. They quarrelled over who should change their newborn’s diapers when their maid was not around, and came to her. She wanted to throw them out of her cabin. Mr. Steve’s family contributed for funding the research in their institute. She listened patiently for three straight hours and the couple at last agreed to take turns. She was worried while driving back home. John wasn’t lifting the phone. He must be drawing. Lisa sighed and drove faster. As she entered their lane, it took a while before she understood that it was before their home that people stood in groups and whispered. Her face tensed. She pulled over in the parking lot and walked swiftly. They looked at her as if suggesting that she committed a sin, as she moved past them. Door was wide open and lights were on. Upon entering, she was about to cry out “John” and stopped.

Her body went numb at the sight. Linda lay motionless over the floor in a pool of blood. Shoe marks on floor, painted in blood, grew paler as Lisa made her eyes to roll in her sockets to follow them. The marks ended at the chair in which John sat. His hands were thick in blood, so was the knife that lay on the edge of his table. He bent over the table, staining the paper and he was drawing. So attentive he was, that if Linda and blood were absent, she could never make out that anything has changed. She slowly collapsed over the floor and touched Linda’s body. Linda was on her belly. Her little body didn’t move. No pulse was felt. Lisa rolled her over and saw marks of stabbing. One..three… five… a loud scream. Lisa’s throat made that sound. Screamed and doubted whether she was trapped in some impossible dream. She felt her own heart beating and screamed harder.

John wasn’t looking at her. He was immersed. He was making low indistinct sounds. She got up and walked to him. Light reflected the path her tears traced over her cheeks. She looked over his shoulder into the paper and gasped. Indistinct shapes showed a little body over floor with a knife in heart. A shape stood next to it with its hands stained in blood. John was using real blood to paint the blood in the drawing. “Why… John…?” her voice was shaking.“Why John?” she screamed . “She was crying” he mumbled. His eyes rose but stopped before meeting her eyes. “She was crying”. “Why did you do it you bastard…?” Lisa stressed every syllable as she grabbed him up by his collar. She stuck his face. “Why?” her voice broke as she shook him. “She was crying” was the only sound she could hear him utter. Her hands were wet with his tears as she kept on slapping his face when the police arrived. He didn’t move an inch or say anything more than those three words. The officer was too late to grab her before Lisa got her hands over the knife on table and shoved it into John’s chest. “Whhyyy…?” He didn’t make any sound. Police moved him to hospital immediately and took Lisa into custody. Forensic team arrived at the scene as Lisa was made to sit in the police car. She spent that night in the station and was later moved to another facility while the police continued investigation during the days that followed.

Lisa stood up. Her eyes were fixed on the male officer. “John didn’t kill your daughter” the officer said a moment ago, unconcerned whether she was paying attention. “The finger prints found on the knife’s handle were not John’s. The killer was found last night. He was also a suspect in four other recent crimes involving murder of toddlers. He has observed your family for some time before breaking into your house. John fought with him that night.” Tears rolled down her empty face. Her eyes stood fixed. “John cut his own hands severely, trying to pull away the knife from the killer’s hands. It was not your daughter’s blood that you saw on his hands. It was his own. John tore a piece of the murderer’s cloth while trying to save Linda. That lead the dogs to the murderer. We found pictures of your daughter and several other children at his place when we arrested him. He admitted his crimes during interrogation. The bastard feels proud. I’m sure he’ll be electrocuted soon. System is too generous.” She felt a pain in her chest that lingered for a while. She wanted to see John. Officer seemed to understand. He waited a while and continued. “His condition improved over the last few days. Hearing Linda cry was the last thing John remembered before the killer stabbed her. He kept on repeating the only thing that was on his mind.”

She stood by John’s bed in the hospital. Looking at the wound she made, she touched his arm over the veins that protruded under his skin. Needle was injected into them. John opened his eyes and looked at Lisa. Tears came rolling down his cheeks. “She was crying” he said to her. Her cheeks were shivering. She broke to tears. “She was crying” he said again. Lisa sat on the edge and bent over beside him, pressing his head between her neck and breast. She dug her fingers into his hair and kissed his face between cheek and nose. “She was…” She pressed her fingers over his lips. She was sobbing.

-Avinash Kumar


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