The car jerked to a sudden halt, arousing her from her little nap. The sharp pain on her forehead drew her out of her daze. She grew numb with pain so bad it gave her flashes of light before her eyes… She felt something trickling down to her cheek. She moved her fingers to touch it… when she saw it was red liquid… wait… it was blood…her blood. Panicking she looked on her side. Her brother lay sprawled on the car seat. His neck bent at an awkward angle…
“Ro…Rohit….” She called out frantically. He didn’t move. She wanted to shake him but as she moved her left hand a searing pain shot through her blinding her again… she was sobbing now unable to bear it and more than that, unable to rouse her brother. Sukhi uncle… their driver should be able to help… yes… why dint she think of it before?
“Suk…Sukhi uncle?” No response. She was sitting right behind the driver’s seat. She wiped her cheeks with her right hand and moved forward to call out aloud. Sukhi uncle did have a problem with his hearing. He denied it to everyone especially her father. But she knew. She was a keen observer. She touched his shoulder from the right side and he plunked sideways falling on the side gear. Oh my God…his face was covered with blood from what she could see. Was the accident that bad? She looked around. Which place was this? It looked like some alley. This wasn’t enroute to their house. Were they still in Alwar, her hometown? She was openly crying looking around through her blurred vision trying to make sense.
She hoped this was a nightmare and her mother would soon wake her up… oh ma come soon…wake me up soon….
It dawned on her. They were returning from school. She had gone specifically for her hall ticket. Her board exams were coming up in two weeks. She wanted to study literature and history…. Her brother Rohit studied in the fourth grade. She had stayed up all night yesterday completing her maths revision. Understandable she had dozed off as soon as the car had started.
She touched her brother with her right hand bending over him. But he didn’t move nor did he flinch. She had to call a doctor… for that she had to get out of the car. She had to find a pay phone somewhere. What kind of people lived here? Did no one hear the accident? She was barely sixteen years old but still she had tried to force her authoritative father to let her learn to drive. But he hadn’t allowed her. “Driving is not for girls…” he had declared. Such an archaic mentality …she huffed thinking about it. She heard some sound which made her look towards the front window. It was then she saw it was cracked with a hole through it… oh God…it was a bullet hole. She could recognize it any day. She had seen such cracked windows on the backside of their Haveli where her cousin brother, father and paternal uncle practiced their shots. The rest of the family wasn’t allowed there in those moments. It was customary that they all….the men knew how to shoot. It was symbolic of their manhood. Though she knew her cousin Yash Bhaisa hated all of that…
They were…shot at?
Her heart pounding she heard them before she saw them… they were five men. All were tall and sturdy wielding guns. They were walking towards the car in long strides. Their faces were covered. What must she do? Were they the ones who shot Sukhi uncle? Before she could think the glass on her side of the passenger window was shattered and something hit her head. Her vision blurred before she could registered anything and she was plunged into darkness.
The place stank of foul meat. Her cook Budhia kaki often screamed at the maids for not cleaning up the left overs well. “The place will smell later… of rotten meat… then maasa will kill me you lazy girls…” She would always yell her standard dialogue. She smiled at the memory but her face hurt. Why were her lips dry? She felt parched too. She couldn’t open her eyes. Something covered them. She wanted to touch her face. But couldn’t move her hands… wait… her hands were tied? Her legs were tied too… but why? It was then the series of events came back to her. She was returning from school along with her brother in their car like every afternoon. She had dozed off… and then there was an accident which had woken her… no… not an accident…
“Wake up princess…” said a hoarse voice. She tried to wriggle in panic but pain shot up as if her body was on fire… Suddenly rough hands dragged her on the floor and dropped her somewhere on the floor itself. She smelt cheap smoke. The kind the low level workers in her father’s factory smoked. She despised it…it made her throw up like it did now. Her blindfolds were removed and she squinted to one side trying to shield her eyes from the sudden onslaught of light.
She tried to speak…her voice hoarse… “ where …where is Rohit…?”
She just heard chuckling before her. She strained to see… she saw a silhouette of a man smoking. “…m…m… my brother… Rohit… is he okay?”
“Just answer the damn question, princess…” Why was he calling her a princess? “… Where is the damn locker containing the map?”
He had to be kidding.
“What?” she asked surprised.
“I won’t repeat myself…princess… don’t test my patience. I don’t have much of it remaining…. Where is the locker containing the map?”
“Wh…what map? I…I really…don’t know what…” before she could complete the sentence she felt a blow on her cheek and she rolled on the floor with agony…
“One last time…. Where – is – the – bloody – map…”
She kept crying louder this time. What did he want? What map was he talking about?
She felt the kick to her abdomen and she curved inwards screaming with excruciating pain… another kick and she couldn’t even scream. She tasted blood in her mouth and spilling outside her bruised lips. She was going to meet her creator soon. Oh God take me away… I can’t bear it anymore..
Two pairs of hands lifted her and dropped her on what felt like a bed. I Her hands and legs were untied. Her entire body throbbed and she could only see darkness…what was happening? Were they killing or ….
She shuddered at the other possibility.
She felt the bedding sink next to her and the man had come closer. His face was covered in black mask. She couldn’t even see his eyes in the dark. He came close to her face smelling of the acrid joint he had just had. “I told you to give me an answer but looks like you want to be adamant. What I had heard about you was right. princess… you are stubborn… now let’s see if you can take this…” with a flash of a movement he tore open her school uniform blouse. She tried to move her numb hand to cover her chest but before that he ripped apart her skirt. She laid before him in her slip….trembling with anticipation of the untoward. He bent over her and licked her lips. She held them glued to each other numb with pain. He laughed his breath on her face and she looked away… He bit her shoulder and she cried but no sound escaped from her throat. Within the next second he tore her slip away as if it was a mere rag. She shook her head from side to side trying to mover her limbs as she lay sprawled in her inner garments. “No…no…No…please…no…” She tried to speak but the words came out in whispers. She felt a rough hand on her flat stomach and move upwards and she winced in pain. She was nauseated and tasted bile. He held her breast and fondled it hard through her bra. She was heavy chested and the pain of epic proportions shot through her senses. She tried to slap his hands away… But he only put his weight on her. As she tried to yell he brought his mouth on hers and bit her lips…
The next moment she felt light as the weight lifted off her and heard a crash. She shut her eyes tightly in fear.. She heard some thuds and cracking of… bone? There were grunts and the man was swearing out aloud. But it appeared that he was at the receiving end of the blows. She was so terrified she didn’t want to look in the direction of the fight or whatever it was… She was close to losing consciousness with the agonizing throb of her body…
Suddenly there was silence and someone threw a cloth on her. She saw someone bent over her touching her…
She frantically tried to slap the hands away..
“shhh… Wait… you are safe… said a hoarse voice… I will take you out of here…” The breathless voice sounded close to her ears…
She stopped moving. The man wrapped her in the bed sheet and lifted her in a fireman’s carry. He took her out of the hellhole.
He ran outside what looked like cull de sacs of varying proportions… but she was hanging upside down and could only make out the myriad confusion in the routes. Soon she saw light…. Something she never thought would ever happen. He put her down in a car on the back seat and straightened her. Her eye lids were swollen. But through the slits that she could manage to open them, she saw him… he was masked and covered with black body suit… she couldn’t make out much except for his eyes… beautiful blue eyes…which pierced through her sharper than the pain which was a constant with her now.
He looked away and shut the door. He took the driver seat and drove them out of that place. The entire ordeal had taken a toll on her and she fell into a deep sleep.
She woke to the beep of a machine. Her body was not under her control…nor was her voice. She tried to open her eyes but they were stubbornly shut. She heard voices… someone crying softly. Was that her mother? All she wanted to do was rush to her and hug her… she would never be rude to her ever again… was her father there too? Was Rohit Okay? She had wanted to ask the good guy about him but sleep had claimed her before she could. She felt her body shudder with the reminder of what had transpired… She was a strong girl. Maasa always said, she was the strongest among all the girls in the house. Was Maasa here too?
She had a lot of questions… she wanted to thank the masked good guy too. He had saved her life and… her honor too…
She was slipping into oblivion again but this time all she saw in her mind was the beautiful blue eyes staring right back at her….
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