Legs aching badly she still ran as fast as her paining legs would allow her to. Her heart was pounding so hard and fast against her rib cage almost like a jungle drum. She clutched the wound at the side of her stomach, pressing it hard in an attempt to stop the wound from bleeding. Her breathing was shallow and whole body aching because the multiple wounds all over her body. From head to toe she was covered in soot, her favourite white dress looked grey with dark maroon red splotches of blood all over it.
She pushed herself further willing her legs to run faster. It was dark and the area was desolated she couldn’t even scream for help. Her head felt heavy and eyes were itching due to lack of sleep and the sweat rolling down her forehead into her eyes was only causing it to sting more.
The distinct sound of another set of footfalls caused her heartbeat to speed up, she was afraid she might suffer a heart stroke this way. The fear, the pain, it was so overwhelming that she feared she would loose it and collapse soon. Under the moonlight she could only make out his body outline as he covered the distance between them taking long strides. She kept on running but her abused feet failed her and soon enough rough hands grabbed her from behind and backhanded across her face.
The metallic taste of blood filled her mouth as she coughed and fell down. The very next instant he kicked her hard in ribs making her scream in pain and pure agony. Her assaulter then bend in front of her and clasped her hand in his tightly in his causing nothing but more pain.
“I told you not to run off like that!” he said making the girl cringe away. “I am so sorry baby but what do you expect me to do if you try to run away from me. You know how much I love you.” her assaulter rubbed a hand across her face a bit to harsh. His eyes looked silvery under the moonlight.
The girl reached out with her hand to search for something that would act as a weapon but found nothing other than soil and gravel. Wanting to give it a last try she clenched some of the soil in her hands and fisted them tight. When her attacker came a little bit more closer, she threw the soil in her assaulter’s face causing him to stumble as he got temporarily blinded by the debris and that gave her the opportunity to run away again. She could hear him yell her name asking her to stop but she didn’t, she needed to give it a try because since she was a kid she had been taught to never give up.
But unfortunately for her she reached a dead end. She stood at the cliff face and stared down at the fast flowing river. “Wait!” she turned and noticed him standing a few feet away. The decision was made as she straightened her posture and turned to face the man who had made her life hell. “I have always loved you Shivaay, I have always.” and then she jumped out the cliff into the river.
“WHAT IN THE WORLD!” Shivaay yelled as he felt cold water seep inside his clothes. His bed and blanket were now soaked in water, he wiped the water droplets off his face and had to blink for a few times to adjust his sight to the blinding sunlight.
Standing in front of him was guilty and concerned looking little brother of his. Though considering his hulking looks one would hardly call him “little” but to Shivaay, his youngest brother will always be like a son to him.
Rudra is actually a 6 year old kid in disguise of a 24 year old guy. Shivaay had witnessed numerous of child like pranks that Rudra had played but this was something new. Pouring cold water on him just to wake him up, Rudra has never done that before. And what’s with that guilty as charge but worried as hell look.
“Rudra are you mad!? Yeh kya tareeka hai kissiko jagane ka? Aisi kya aafat aayi hai ki tumhe mujhe yun jagana pada?” Shivaay yelled out but in a low tone, in a scolding way almost.
Rudra just stood there, red eyes, dazed look on his face and the bucket was still in his hands but he didn’t utter even a word. “Rudra?” Shivaay asked.
“Bhaiya…woh…aap…” Rudra fumbled with his words as he failed to express why he had poured bucket full of cold water at Shivaay.
“Rudra tu kuch bolega bhi yah nahi?” Shivaay hopped off the bed and threw the wet comforter and bed sheet on the floor.
Before Rudra could answer, came inside the room an equally worried Omkara and behind him was their Dadi who looked quite worried too. What’s up with his family and worried looks today?!
“Yeh ho kya raha hai?” Shivaay used Omkara and Rudra’s signature dialogue to express himself.
“Shivaay tu theek hai?” What type of question that was? Of course he’s fine. Shivaay made a face, “Tum logon ko hua kya hai?” he asked.
Omkara and Rudra stayed silent but Dadi came forward and cupped his face in her hands, “Billu, tu itni der tak kabhi nahi sota, beta aaj kya hua? Teri tabiyat thhek hai?”
Shivaay gave his Dadi a perplexed look because this so wasn’t a reason to be so much concerned of. “Dadi, theek hoon main. Mujhe kya hona hai, main toh apni davaiyan bhi time par leta hoon. Main bilkul theek hoon aap chinta mat karo.”
“Par Om keh raha thha ki tu neend mein kuch badbadaye jaa raha thha. Chillaya bhi.” Dadi added making Shivaay realize that what must have happened. That nightmare.
Its been 4 years since that incident and 3 years since he stopped dreaming about it, but why now? Why today all of a sudden. Shivaay felt his heart clench as the bitter memories came rushing. “Tum bin jeena toh seekh liya, lekin inn yaadon ka kya jo mujhe jeene nahi deti.” he thought.
Feeling uncomfortable under the questioning glares of his brothers and Dadi, Shivaay wiped the tear off before it could fall out, “Seriously guys? Actually mujhe pata hai ki tum dono ko pata thha ki tumhaari yeh paani waali shrarat k baad I won’t forgive you guys easily issiliye Dadi ko le aaye aurr ab jhoot bol rahe ho?”
Omkara glared at him and said, “Aisa nahi hai Shivaay. Tu sach main chilla raha thha. Baar baar bas ek hi baat bole jaa raha thha ki nahi aisa nahi ho sakta. Kya hua hai Shivaay, tu humse baatein chupayega ab?”
“Aisa kuch nahi hai Om. Main kyun tum logon se bhala kuch chupaunga? Shayad koi bura sapna dekh liya hoga.” Shivaay shrugged as if it was no big deal.
“Really Shivaay?” Omkara smiled sarcastically, “Aisa kya sapna dekha tunne jisne tujhe itna dara diya ki tu ro raha thha?” Shivaay tensed, his whole body stiff as he thought about the nightmare that had the power to make him cry. For years he had hid that part of his life from his family, he can’t just tell them about it and it will remain a secret for his whole life. No need to tell them about the darkness in his life when they all had issues of their own.
“Om” Shivaay laid a hand over his shoulder, “Mujhe nahi pata ki kya hua okay. Iss baat ko lekar itna pareshaan hone ki zaroorat nahi. Tum jaante ho na ki agar mujhe koi bhi takleef hogi toh main sabse pehle tum logon k saath hi share karunga. Hai na?” Shivaay asked and they nodded in positive.
“Toh bas! Ab meri chinta karni chodo or ab taiyaar hone do mujhe waise hi bohot late ho gaya hoon.” Shivaay smiled.
Rudra hugged him from behind and asked, “Aap sach mein theek ho na bhaiya?”
Shivaay turned him around and ruffled his hair, “Of course I am.” he smiled and hugged both his brothers and Dadi as well. Smiling from outside, he was actually hiding the pain that clawed at his heart. Few minutes after he was left alone in his room, Shivaay pulled out a photograph from the frame that was hidden behind the photograph of him and his brothers.
Tears that he had been hiding now rolled down his cheeks as he stared at the photograph. “Aaj kuch kami hai tere bagair. Na rang hai na roshini hai tere bagair. Waqt apni raftaar se chal raha hai bas dhadkan thami hai, tere bagair.”
“Anu! Beta zara idhar toh aa.” came her mother’s voice.
Anika stopped packing her things and went to the kitchen where he mother was, “Kya hua Aai?”
“Jaakar dekh ki behen utthi k nahi? Maine bola thha usse ki aaj haldi uthna lekin woh hai ki! Ab jaa aurr usse utha, nahi uthe toh bulana mujhe.”
Anika grinned at her mother and skipped towards her little sister’s room. Time for some payback, this was gonna be so much interesting. As she entered her sister Somya’s room, Anika saw her sleeping in a turtle ninja like pose. She bit the inside of her cheek and tiptoed towards the washroom. Picking a bucket full of water, she came back in the room and poured it all over Somya.
“Aaahhh!!!” Somya yelled while in response Anika laughed out loud. It was kind of a sweet war thing going on between them. Somya had caused damage to one of Anika’s favourite bracelet, the Anika adding extra colored to Somya’s favourite pranthas which caused her to mix some blue colour pigment in Anika’s shampoo causing her hair to turn blue for a week, this led Anika to inject yellow colour in Somya’s toothpaste that made her teeth yellowish and the story continues. The moral is that this thing isn’t gonna stop anytime soon.
Somya exhaled loudly and blasted at her elder sister, “Tai! I am gonna kill you!” she jumped out the brewed and started rubbing behind Anika, who let out a loud shriek before running away.
“Aise koi kissiko uthata hai kya?” Somya shouted as she tried to get a hold of Anika.
“Maine koshish ki thhi tujhe normally jagane ki lekin tu hi pranthon k sapno mein itna khoyi hui thhi ki utthi hi nahi, issiliye maine..oh shit!” Anika shouted back as she saw Somya pick up the water hug from the dinning table. Before the water could hit her, Anika ducked to the left and it was their Aai who became the victim.
“Somu!!” their Aai yelled and twisted Somya’s ear, “Tu kaaye karat aahe?!” (I don’t know Marathi, I just googled how to say “what are you doing” in Marathi and this came up. Forgive me and do tell me if I am wrong.)
“Ahh Aai! Dard ho raha hai.” Somya shrieked while Anika stood at a side like a good girl, “Main kuch nahi kiya, yeh sab teri iss ladali ka kiya dhara hai! Dekh na, kya haal kiya hai isne mera.” Somya pouted.
Tulsi slapped her forehead, “Pagal kar k chodogi tum dono mujhe! Anika maine tujhe bola thha ki isse neend se jagana hai, bed par nehlanae k liye nahi bola thha.” Somya showed her thumb to Anika, “Auur tu!” Somya sobered up and started at her mother worth wide eyes.
“Bola thha na time par taiyaar ho jaana. Humme aaj hi jaana hai.” Tulsi smacked Somya’s head upside down.
“Aai, maine toh kal raat ko hi saari packing kar li thhi. Tu Tai se pooch na ki isne apne bracelets ki dukaan samet li ki nahi!” Somya teased Anika. For Anika bracelets have been a sensitive issue, no other piece and type of jewellery interested Anika as much as bracelets did. She has thousands of them.
Anika gave Somya a hard glare and turned to face her mother, “Mera bhi saara saamaan pack ho gaya hai, haan kuch cheezein hai jo reh gayi hain, main bas wahi pack kar rahi thhi.”
“Anu, beta jaldi kar. Abhi 10 baj rahe hai aurr train 5 baje ki. Kitna saara kaam pada hai, kaise hoga sab kuch.”
Somya and Anika smiled and went to either side of their mother, “Sab kuch achhe se ho jayega Aai, tu chinta mat kar. Hum donon hai na. Aurr waise bhi ab sab kuch sirf accha hi hoga.” Somya hugged her mother sideways. Joining them Anika added, “Sach mein Aai, mujhe bhi lag raha hai ki ab hamari zindagi badalne waali hai lekin sirf acche k liye.”
Tulsi cupped the cheeks of both her daughters and smiled thinking about how there life will be once they will shift to their new residence in Mumbai.