27,202. I do like writing in the early morning. A clarity to those hours, though I could also wish I’d slept more last night! Another character snippet.
Rithika had never actually seen a movie. Such luxuries were out of range for such as she. But she knew all the songs, had memorized the faces on the movie posters, the poses the women held, as the rain poured down from the heavens, molding a filmy sari to reveal every curve. Rithika’s days might be spent washing blood and shit out of people’s clothes, all the filth of the world that they thought themselves too good and pure to touch, but at night, she danced in the room she shared with her snoring mother. She wrapped a client’s scarf around her neck and threw back her hair; she rolled her hips with slow intent, practicing seduction.
She had to practice while Amma was sleeping – her mother was terrified that Rithika would end up like she had, pregnant and alone. When Amma was awake and in view, Rithika behaved with the propriety of a nun. No red on her toenails or henna in her hair, a face scrubbed clean and words meek and mild – otherwise, Amma’s strong washerwoman arms could deliver a slap that would knock her into the following week, and she didn’t hesitate to grab a slipper or hairbrush, and lay in with that as well.
The worst times were when Amma became determined to beat the demons out of her daughter, usually right after returning from church – then she’d send Rithika to go cut a cane for her own punishment. Too thick or too thin, and she’d be sent back to try again. The cane had to be just the right whippy thickness to land with brutal cuts across her back, each blow carefully placed, so her blouse would hide the welts. Amma was an expert.
But when Amma was safely gone on her rounds and out of sight, Rithika would borrow a lipstick from her girlfriends and paint her lips with utmost care. She knew she was beautiful; that was how she’d escape this life. Rithika would find a rich man, an educated man, and he’d fall madly in love; she’d never have to wash shit again.
She hadn’t expected to love him back.