Saturday, March 12, 2005

La Femme Fatale

Nicola let herself into her penthouse apartment and kicked the door shut behind her. Switching the lights on, as she walked down the length of the room, she kicked her high-heeled sandals off. With a flick of her wrist she flung the crimson red scarf that held back her hair, across the room. Floating lightly it came to rest on the back of her blood red couch. All the furniture in the room was the same blood red. Set against the stark black walls, it shocked the senses. The room enticed with its dark fury and passion and pulled you into its web of evilness. As the first strains of music filled the room, Nicola reached behind her and pulled down the zip of her dress. The black satin slithered down her body, revealing her lithe body covered with a light sheen of perspiration. Stretching herself with the sinuous grace of a cat, she walked down to the mahogany bar across the room and poured herself a glass of wine.

As the bouquet of the liquor filled her senses and warm liquid coated her throat, she closed her eyes and let the weight of her hair pull her head back. She smiled to herself and moved her body sensuously to the music. Her hand slid between her breasts, down to her navel and further down between her thighs. The music reached a crescendo and she snapped her head back up, opening her eyes. They were glittering with success and something else, something dark and mysterious. Her laughter filled the room and bounced off the walls. Reaching out for the bottle of wine, she twirled around and headed towards her bedroom.

Decadent in white, her bedroom was in stark contrast to the living room. Not a hint of colour could be perceived anywhere. Ignoring the four-poster bed covered with a white satin sheet, she moved towards the en-suite bathroom, and stepped straight into the shower. The sharp needles of water pounded her sensitized flesh mercilessly, but she liked it that way. It would soothe away that tender ache that racked her body right now. As she hung her head back letting the water run through her long hair, images from the past flashed in her mind.

A small one bedroom flat in a seedy locality. “Nikita Sharma, you’re next.” Innumerable auditions and waiting for the phone-calls. “I’m sorry we’ve already cast someone else.” Refusal after refusal finally forcing her to start accepting two-bit roles in small inconsequential productions. Endless days of tears and frustration. Auditioning for the leading role in Aurobindo Ghosh’s production – an adaptation of a Mahasweta Devi story. Limbs entwined, bodies covered with sweat, the air heavy with the aroma of scented candles, wine and sex. “You’re never going to make it baby.” Yet another failure. More wine and even more sex. Betrayal. Doors being shut in her face.

She turned around in the shower letting the water run down her face. “You’re never going to make it baby,” the words still haunted her, even though she was reigning supreme over the stage since the past three years. She had finally made her debut on stage in a Luciano Giliani production. It was an Indo-Italian venture. The leading woman with her enigmatic personality had captured the audience’s imagination immediately. There were hints of affairs with the leading man of the play, not to mention with the director. Her performances held them mesmerized. The play was a run-away success, and Nicola hadn’t looked back since then.

They knew her as Nicola. They called her Lady Nick. The feminine avatar of Old Nick – Nick the devil. She could reduce a man to a quivering mass of hormones ruled by his senses with a single slicing look of those sharp black eyes. All she had to do was set her eyes on the man and he was hers. “She’s had more lovers than I’ve had hot dinners,” was how they had introduced her in one talk-show. Lady Nick, they called her. Lady Nick, the home-breaker. You couldn’t cross her without regretting it. Lady Nick, they called her. Lady Nick, the ball breaker.

She was tired of that image now. Tired of performing night after night, on-stage, back-stage, off-stage. Tired of performing in bed and out of it. Tonight she’d finally signed the contract for a role that had been her dream for over five years now. Aurobindo Ghosh’s production – an adaptation of a Mahasweta Devi story. This, she had decided would be her last role. This was it. She’d retire from the stage after this one. The performance of her life, and it would be the last performance she gave.

Stepping out of the shower, she took a long deep swig from the bottle, and turned around to look at her naked body. She liked what she met her eyes. A drop of water rolled down from her shoulder over her breast down to her trim waist. Her long legs didn’t have a spare ounce of flesh on them and were perfectly formed. A lover had once said that having those legs wrapped around him, was all he needed to transport him to heaven. Cocking her head slightly, she raised her hand and smiled at her reflection. “The first day of the rest of your life. Congratulations Nicola!”

*****

The next few months passed in a whirlwind of activities. There were innumerable read-meets at Aurobindo’s bachelor pad that he kept for such purposes. Often with the entire cast, but sometimes it was just Nicola and Aurobindo. It was obvious to everyone from the first day itself – the attraction between them was so strong, one could almost see the sparks flying. They were waiting with bated breath for Lady Nick to swing into action.

“Hi Nicola, it’s Auro here. Not disturbing you, am I?”
“Of course not darling, I was just lounging around. So tell me what can I do for you?”
“I called to discuss the scene in the forest. I think you should be wearing something in earthy tones in that scene. Should I get the designer to come in for the next session?”
“Earthy tones? Darling earthy tones don’t work for me. Black is my colour don’t you know that by now?”
“Nick, be reasonable. This isn’t your personal wardrobe we are discussing…”
“Can you see me in brown lingerie?”
“You won’t be wearing lingerie for that scene…”
“I asked you a question Auro. Answer it.”
“No I can’t,” Aurobindo replied after a nervous silence.
“Of course you can’t. It’s because I’m not wearing brown or anything earthy for that matter. Do you want to know what I’m wearing?”
There was a long silence. Aurobindo couldn’t get himself to say anything.
“I’m wearing a black peignoir. Black lace. Nothing else. You know there’s something undeniably sexy about walking around the house in black lingerie.”

It wasn’t long before Nicola started staying back after the rest of the cast left. Aurobindo would open a bottle of wine and two of them would argue over a section in the play that needed to be worked upon till late into the night. The battle would invariably move into the bedroom before they both left for their own apartments. Aurobindo, to his wife and children and Nicola to her pristine white bedroom, that had never been sullied by a lover’s presence.

Rehearsals started three months later at Prithvi, the hub of theatrical activity in Bombay. The who’s who of theatre was buzzing with rumours of Ghosh’s next production, not to mention his alleged affair with Lady Nick. Aurobindo wanted to keep it under the wraps, but that wasn’t how Nicola played the game.

“You had auditioned for this role before hadn’t you Nicola?”
“No I hadn’t. It was someone else. Someone named Nikita Sharma. She didn’t meet up to Aurobindo Ghosh’s standards.”
“What can you tell us about your role?”
“Hell hath no fury like a woman wronged…”
“We hear there’s a new man in your life Nicola…”
“You could hardly call him a new man…he’s been mine for a few months now. It’s almost time up for him darlings!”

“Nicola, these rumours are starting to create problems for me at home. You aren’t helping by going around making such statements”
She leaned down over him, letting her hair fall over his chest and ran a long nail down his body. “You know you have to let her go, don’t you?”
“Nicola, damn it stop that,” he caught hold of her wrist and pulled her around so she was facing him.
“Hmm…getting aggressive are we? I like that…”
“This isn’t a game Nick. We both know this isn’t love and you’re not in this for the long haul. So why are you trying to destroy my marriage?”
She smiled at him and moved back. Her peignoir slid down to the floor. Raising her leg she rested it on his thigh.
“I don’t like crowds Auro. And I don’t like sharing. It’s your choice…”
She turned around and walked into the bedroom, knowing he’d follow. He didn’t have a choice anymore.
A few days later he had the divorce papers drawn up. His wife hadn’t taken it well. She wanted full custody of the children and a sizeable alimony. Their flat would be hers. Aurobindo moved his belongings into his bachelor pad.

“Oh baby, you’re so good at this…don’t stop. Nicola? Nick?”
He looked around wildly to see her pulling on her clothes and walking out of the room.
“What’s wrong with you? You can’t leave me now – not like this…”
She looked down at him and smiled at him. “Watch me.”
She reveled in her power over him.
She enjoyed torturing him, playing with him till he could take no more, pushing him to the limit of his endurance, making him forget he wasn’t an animal.

*****

Opening night. The play closed to a thunderous applause. The cast was called out thrice to take their bows. Nicola had a long queue of journalists waiting outside her dressing room. They had heard the rumour that she would be retiring from stage after this play.
“Nicola, are you planning to finally throw in the cards and settle down in life?”
“Surely you would continue to be a part of the theatre world once you’re married to Aurobindo Ghosh?”
“Nicola’s dashing debut as a director in a Ghosh’s production. Will that be the next headline?”

For the first time, Nicola didn’t reply to a single question, but walked past them into the car that was waiting for her. Tonight, for the first time, her house was being thrown open to people. She was throwing a party to celebrate the first night of the play.

The living room was crowded, people overflowing outside her house taking the party into the corridor, down the stairwell and the elevator. Everyone was in high spirits, alcohol flowing freely.
“Auro, where’s the hostess?”
“I have no idea. She said she had something to take care of before she came…just her way of ensuring she makes the grand entry even at her own party!”
“Not worried she’s found a replacement?”
He forced a smile as he tried to ignore the fact that he’d been wondering the same thing himself. “She can’t replace me buddy.”
“Looks like someone’s bubble is going to be hard to burst tonight!”
“Make that impossible…”
“I think you spoke too soon Auro. Look who just walked in…”

Aurobindo turned around. Nicola had just walked in with leading actor of the play. Clad in a black evening gown that left nothing to the imagination she had captured everyone’s attention the minute she walked in. As she moved, the material shifted against her skin and he knew instinctively that she was naked underneath. Just like she’d been the day she signed the contract for the play. Ignoring Aurobindo, she walked forward to congratulate the cast and crew for their success. Her presence filled the room taking the party to newer heights. Her laughter bounced off the walls as she threw herself into the party.

Tossing the remainder of his drink down his throat, Aurobindo poured himself another Scotch and turned around to look at her. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Nicola was dancing with her leading man, her body flush against his, one hand around his nape, the other somewhere between their bodies. As he looked at her, she raised her eyes and looked straight at him. Her mouth slid open to smile at him and then her tongue snaked out to circle around her partner’s ear.

Aurobindo closed his eyes in anguish. He should have seen this coming. She never stayed with any man, he knew that. They didn’t call her Lady Nick for nothing. Lady Nick, the home-breaker. He reached for the bottle of Scotch to pour himself another drink…

Hours later, the party had wrapped up. Nicola had just seen off her partner for the night. She shut the door behind him, kicked off her sandals and turned around to face Aurobindo. She walked up to him and looked down at him as he lay collapsed on the couch. He stared back with blood-shot eyes. Raising her leg, she ran her foot up his thigh, smiling when she saw him jerk in reaction.

“You’re never going to make it baby.” He squinted up at her confused.
“Come and get what you want,” she turned around and walked into the bedroom. Stunned, Aurobindo stared after her for a while, not sure if she’d just said what he’d heard.
“You don’t want me to start without you, do you?”

He scrambled off the couch and lurched towards the bedroom. She had goaded him all night with her glances and movements. Every time she had touched that other man, he had wanted to tear her clothes off and take her right there on the living room floor. And now she was letting him pay her back for the misery he’d put her through. She goaded him that night, like never before. She had pushed beyond his endurance and he took her without caring for the consequences, again and again till he collapsed in a drunken stupor.

*****

The maid let herself in at 7am the next morning and immediately started picking up the remnants of the night’s party. She went into the kitchen and returned a few minutes later with a huge disposal bag and a broom. A few minutes later, she screamed and the broom fell unheeded from her hand. In front of her lay Nicola. She was dead. In the room, she found Aurobindo Ghosh. He was so drunk he didn’t understand what she was saying.

Aurobindo regained consciousness when a bucket of icy cold water was thrown into his face. He opened his eyes to find a police inspector standing in front of him.
“You will have to come with us for interrogation, sir,” the inspector informed Aurobindo. They had found a letter from Nicola, admitting that she was committing suicide after being subjected a physical torture by a jealous ex-lover.

Autopsy reports revealed that she had died of poisoning. Medical examination came up with evidence for forced intercourse and sodomy. The victim had been treated roughly. There were cuts and bruises all over her body. Aurobindo Ghosh had scratches and marks on him, proving that she had tried to fight him off. Semen found inside her matched the samples taken from him. Witnesses from the party reported that Nicola had publicly dumped him and had already moved on to a new lover. The leading actor of the play confirmed this. Aurobindo couldn’t remember a thing. The last thing he remembered was seeing Nicola’s tongue snake into the man’s ear. It was an open and shut case.

They knew her as Nicola. They called her Lady Nick. Lady Nick, the home-breaker. Lady Nick, the ball breaker.
March '05

6 comments:

Akshay said...

I was right sensuous, deliciously scary lined with an air of mystery.
May be could take us one step back deeper in to the like of Nicola,in a kind of episodic manner.

Geetanjali said...

Thanks Akshay!
"May be could take us one step back deeper in to the like of Nicola,in a kind of episodic manner. "

Holy shit, that would be an entire novel! ;-) Actually when I first started writing this story (I believe I've finally written a piece of fiction that does fit the definition of a story) I had sketched her character in greater detail, but that was taking attn away from the end of the story, so I re-wrote that entire section!

Akshay said...

I know it would be interesting to see the metaphorfic change Nicola,I imagine from the quiet girl on the front bench in school, moving on one fine day bursting out of her Cocoon into her present avatar.
Would be very fun read, could have market potenial.
Get on it !

Sriram said...

Found your blog from your comments on Deepak's blog. Have to say that this some of the most splendid writing I've seen on any blog. Totally amazing. I've just spent a long,brooding,self-introspective morning thanks to one of your earlier stories (the "Of Silver Linings.." one and the Tom Dooley one).

Geetanjali said...

Thanks Sriram - I tried to visit your blog, but Blogger told me you don't have a public profile...

Your comments are terribly flattering - it's nice to know someone sat and read all my stories at one shot:-)

An Author said...

The story (I'll use that word for your piece of work till lexicographers find a substitute) was abysmally enthrilling and kept me hooked. Carry on the great work, dearest, the world of literature hath you in his arms.