As he entered his room,it took him a few minutes for his eyes to get used to the darkness and he looked around for his wife. Had she ensconced herself in a corner, weeping her heart out?
At last he found her- sleeping blissfully on his- no, he corrected himself- on their bed. Lakshmana debated whether to leave the discussion till morning- but though it better to resolve it then and there. He couldn’t take the tension anymore. Yes, he would wake her up. It would be the best thing to do.
It turned out to be the worst thing he ever did.
Startled out of her sleep by someone shaking her shoulder and calling out her name, Urmilla could only make out the dim outline of a man in the darkness. She held he hands to her ears and shrieked ay the top of her voice “Help…. Help….” Her cries rang out in the darkness
Lakshmana tried to cover her mouth with his palm to muffle her shouts, but it only made matters worse.
Urmilla tried to dig her nails into his arms in an attempt to free herself- but the hands holding her were too strong.
“Sh….Urmilla…Don’t shout.. It’s me, Lakshmana…”
Eyes widened , Urmilla looked at the face above her and recognition dawned. Lakshmana eased his grip on her and stood in front of her glowering.
Urmilla hurriedly got up and whispered “Aryaputra?”
Lakshmana nodded and still glowering, pointed to the nail marks on his forearm “A fine welcome from my wife” Urmilla looked abashed.
By now, however, Urmilla’s shouts had attracted the security and they were pounding at the door Random shouts of …Open….Princess…Are you safe… could be heard.
Lakshmana realizing that the door would soon be broken down, asked Urmilla to open the door. Urmilla shook her head, pointing to her disheveled appearance. Lakshmana gave an angry snort and went to the door where the guards were still hammering for all they were worth.
Lakshmana jerked open both the doors and asked nonchalantly “Yes?”
The Chief of Palace Guards was standing in front of him, a club in one hand and surrounded by a dozen soldiers. They seemed taken aback on seeing him there. “Oh Prince” said the chief, lowering his club, “We didn’t know you had arrived. We thought we heard some screams. Arya Sumanta had informed us that you had been called on some important mission and that special security should be provided to your rooms since the princess was all alone. Security has been tightened all over, you know”
“ Thank you Sumanta” thought Lakshmana mentally and spoke to the Chief, “No, it’s all right, I have returned” trying to close the doors.
But the Chief was not so sure. He put in his foot between the doors Lakshmana was trying to close and peered inside. “Are you sure Prince? We distinctly heard a woman’s scream”
The way she screamed, the whole Ayodhya must have heard thought Lakshmana. “Umm.. it was nothing….just that ….” Lakshmana racked his brains furiously for an explanation, “it was just that we were sleeping and my wife had a nightmare…” Lakshmana tried to force the doors shut.
To his surprise (and annoyance) the Chief burst into laughter and the rest of the guards were unsuccessfully trying to hide their smiles. The Chief removed his foot and began to retreat. Just before the doors were shut, he turned back and winking at Lakshmana said slyly “Good attempt at explanation Prince, but tell me does anyone sleep on their marital night? The chief guffawed loudly and left.
Lakshmana swore softly under his breath and made a kicking movement with his leg at retreating Chief’s back. He slammed the doors shut and walked back in to the room, his temper none the better.
“Why did they come, aryaputra ? asked Urmilla innocently
Lakshmana glowered at her and rubbing his forearms replied, “To express their appreciation over your singing abilities.”
“Oh, but when did I sing?” wondered Urmilla missing the sarcasm completely.
Lakshmana looked like he would like nothing better than to wring her neck.