Her wounds hurt him

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Chapter 2

He called Mahi and asked if she could meet him tomorrow after the rehearsals. She agreed. He decided to meet her at a nearby coffee shop. Mahi had an inkling of what he wanted to talk about and she wanted him to know what had happened four years back. She reached there and found Akash waiting. He asked her to order something; she said milkshake would be good. She asked him not to beat around the bush and come to the point directly. He didn’t know where to start. He asked why her sister was so reserved and quiet. Her last post was four years ago. Mahi’s eyes filled with tears. She told him he would not be able to listen to what had happened back then. He insisted that he wanted to know and he couldn’t see her dying on the inside every day. He didn’t know what had happened but he could feel her pain.

Mahi agreed to tell him the story.

“Dhani was the most cheerful girl you could have ever met. She was just so full of life. She was the heart and soul of our house. She made our house “home”. She was the complete opposite of what you see today. Every Sunday she would go to some old age home or orphanage and give out gifts and funds to them. She had a golden heart. And Preeti di was her best friend. They were soul sisters. They were in their last year at college. Dhani had met a guy at college - Ankit. He was just like you, charming, rich and heartthrob of every girl around. But from the first day of college, he wouldn’t leave Dhani alone; always trying to pursue her. But my sister never liked him that way. He was just a close friend to her; her 4 am friend. He always tried to get close to my sister. Nobody expected it to go this far.

It was her birthday; her favorite day. She was very happy. Dad was throwing a huge party. Our friends, relatives, everyone was there, except for Preeti di. Dhani Di had gotten ready in her beautiful new gown. I still remember how much I envied her. She was beautiful, talented; she was the best dancer. She also had the most beautiful heart. She was beautiful inside out. It was time for the cake. She was waiting for her best friend to arrive. Preeti di didn’t come at all. Di kept waiting for her and slowly people started to leave the party. She was sitting alone in her party with her cake, waiting for her. Her heart knew something was wrong, she kept calling Preeti di, and the call was not getting connected. At last, she decided to visit her home.

She was angry at her but she was also worried. She asked me to go with her. We asked the driver to take us to Preeti di’s house. We reached there and she almost smashed the doorbell. Preeti di’s mom opened the door and was shocked to see both of us. Di asked her about Preeti di and the reply shocked us. She told us that Preeti di had left to the party early. Preeti di wasn’t someone who lied to her parents.

Di immediately called dad. Dad did his best and used his influence to find Preeti di. Di decided to walk to our house, in case she could find any clue. She asked me to go check every hospital and police station. I did what she told me to do; I was in the city hospital looking for Preeti di when I got a call from di. Her voice was shaking, she had found her. Somehow I managed to get her location. She was at some roadside close to the jungle. The police, my parents, Preeti di’s parents, everyone was already there. There was a huge crowd. I saw Preeti di’s body. It was almost naked, soaked in dirt sand blood. Her body had been ripped apart. Her mom was crying sitting beside her body but di, she was just sitting there, like a statue. She hadn’t shed a single tear. The police said they had to take the body for post-mortem. Di was in trauma.

The post-mortem report came; she had been raped by four guys. My dad put all his connections to use to get the culprits behind the bars. Di was still in a shock. She was neither eating nor sleeping and the scariest part was that she wasn’t crying at all. Preeti di’s mom and my mom almost begged her to cry her heart out. Nothing worked. After the funeral, di used to lock herself in her room all day.

After few weeks of investigation, the police had gotten a clue from a CCTV camera close by. And the tragedy was clearly visible. We were all called to the police station to watch the footage. We were leaving the house for the police station when di got a call and she left without saying anything. Inspector took us to a room where the CCTV camera recording was playing. Inspector instructed the man to play that particular footage. We saw it. Preeti di’s car breaks down. She tries to contact someone. Then a car stops in front of her and she talks to the person sitting inside the car. Then we saw two other boys attacking her. I was trying to look at the number plate. What I saw shook me from the inside. The man sitting in driver’s seat was Ankit - the guy who wouldn’t leave di alone. He raped Preeti di. As soon as I noticed this I told it to everyone and they took a closer look. They were all shocked. Ankit and his friends were also invited to di’s birthday party.

But they hadn’t arrived at the party. Now they knew who the culprits were. Police tried to track his location through his cell phone. The location pointed to a farmhouse outside the city. When we arrived at the location with police we saw Dhani’s car was already parked there. We all got more tensed. As we entered the house we heard a scream coming from upstairs. It was Dhani’s voice. When we got to her she was in a bad state. Her clothes were torn and she was bleeding. Police chased the boys who tried to escape and caught them. Dad covered her with his blazer and we rushed to the hospital. She was injured and she slipped into coma for a year. My parents and Preeti di’s parents filed a case against Ankit and his friends. Dad and uncle were doing everything in their power to get them punished. Despite all the proof we lost the case. Ankit’s parents bought the judge. So in the last three years, our home has become a house again. We have lost her. She hates meeting people and avoids any kind of conversation.

Mahi noticed the rage in Akash’s eyes and also the pain. She excused herself and left. Akash felt numb. What he had just heard couldn’t be true, God cannot be so cruel. He didn’t know why, but he could feel her pain.

Next day at the rehearsals he tried to be casual, holding her hands, trying to dance as usual, but all he could see was four beasts ripping Dhani apart. He dropped her hand and walked out of the room. He called Mahi and asked her if she had a picture of Ankit. She says she would let him know once she finds it. He walks back to the rehearsal hall. Dhani was waiting for him; she thought it was weird the way he had walked out so abruptly. She asked him if everything was fine. He said he was just not feeling well. He asked her if she would like to see his happy place. She agreed thinking it would be better not to leave him alone when he is not feeling well. They arrived at an old age home. She knew this place, she was coming back after years and a lot had changed in these years. She did not want to go in but Akash convinced her. As she enters they come face to face with an old lady. Taking just one look at Dhani, the old lady starts cursing at her, abuses her and even tries to push her. Akash caught her right in time. He held her hand. He asked what was wrong, why was she being treated so badly. They told her she had been raped and now she is unholy; a girl who has been raped should never come out of her house and also blamed her saying she must have done something provocative, hence the guys raped her.

Akash was furious, told them to shut up; “If some bastards raped her then they were the ones who were needed to be punished, not her. Our society encourages the culprits by blaming the girl. She took care of the people here when they needed her and she is getting humiliated in return. You are trying to prove to the victim that she is the one who should be accused”. He held her hand tightly and left the place.

They didn’t talk on their way back home. Dhani kept staring at Akash. After a few minutes she asked why had he supported her and why wasn’t he shocked over the fact that she was a rape victim. Akash explains to her and tries to know what actually had happened that day. She agrees to tell him.

The day when they were called to the police station, she had gotten a call from Ankit. He told her he knew who raped Preeti. She desperately wanted to know. She immediately left to the farm house where he had asked her to meet. When she reached there she saw the door was open. She enters to find Ankit and his friends sitting on the couch watching something on the TV. The scene horrified her. They had recorded Preeti getting raped. Before she could do something Ankit caught her and threatened her that worse things would happen to her if she didn’t close Preeti’s case.

That’s all she could narrate about that day and then she broke into tears. Akash stopped the car and hugged her. He asked her if she would give him a chance and trust him for once. She nodded. He took her to a cliff. Standing there on the cliff Akash urged her to talk about her feelings, everything thing that she had kept to herself. She hesitated but Akash encouraged doing it.

“I hate those bastards; they killed my only best friend. They took away my soul. The law couldn’t punish them. Yes, we were friends; we use to hang out with him. But that was not an invitation to rape us or kill us. Yes, we were rich, we use to party, but that didn’t make us sluts. Yes, we were not virgins but that didn’t make us prostitutes. The monster is still roaming free. My family and I are the ones suffering. Why Akash? What wrong had I done? Why do I have to die every day?” She collapsed to the ground crying. Sobs wracked her body. Akash sat with her and listened to everything she said. She kept crying and sobbing and then she passed out. Akash tried to wake her up but to no use. He picked her up in his arms and drove her back home.

Her mom opened the door, shocked to see an unconscious Dhani being carried by Akash. Akash laid her down in her room. He told her what happened. He could see the pain on her face watching her daughter struggle like this. She thanked him for what he did for Dhani. He asked her if they were thinking about reopening the case. They were disappointed once and worried if the family could go through it all over again. It was a huge decision. Akash still asked her to think about it. They thought it would be best to let Dhani decide.

The next morning when she woke up, she felt different, different from what she had felt in the last four years. Her phone starts ringing. It was from Akash. He asks her to get ready in ten minutes and that he is waiting in front of her house. Without thinking twice she rushed to get ready, she herself couldn’t understand this behavior of hers. She came down exactly in ten minutes. Akash asked her to get in the car and that there was a surprise for her.

She tries to explain how different she was feeling today. Akash kept looking at her eyes; it wasn’t just the kohl around her eyes that made them beautiful; she had a sparkle in her eyes today. And again he fell for her. He wished her eyes never lost this sparkle. Akash stopped the car and Dhani could see an aircraft. She was confused; she asked him what the hell he had planned. He gave her this look; you could tell he had some devilish ideas in his head. A man in uniform walks up to Akash and they shake hands. The man asks them if they are ready for skydiving. Dhani was shocked. She had never done this before and was not intending to do it, ever. Jumping out of a plane from thousands of feet above never sounded like a good idea to her. She wouldn’t budge and Akash had to almost drag her to do it. They got ready with all the gear and got on the plane. As they took off, Dhani was getting more and more scared. Akash held her hands and said, “Trust me”. And they jumped. Dhani had closed her eyes; Akash tries to convince her to open them. When she finally does she starts screaming, she starts to enjoy it. And then their chutes opened. As soon as they land Dhani hugs him and thanks him for letting her have this experience. She was happy; she was laughing and her laughter was satisfying to him.

He dropped her home. She seemed happy after so many years; her parents saw a ray of hope to have their daughter back. Dhani had imprisoned her soul; she was punishing herself for something which was not her mistake. She felt ready to let go of those feelings. She was feeling free. She thought she can live, she can love, and she could do anything she wants to. Akash was the angel in her life.

The next day Akash had messaged her asking her if she was ready for another surprise. She was more excited this time. He took her to a beach, it was beautiful. She was surprised that she could be happy too. She didn’t understand what he was doing to her, but whatever it was, it was great. He asked her to wait and went towards a shop. It was not a shop exactly; it was a training center of some sort. It was a training center for deep sea diving.

Akash comes out of the training center and asks her to follow him. They meet a trainer who was going to teach them deep sea diving. She was excited; she always wanted to see the world inside the sea. She always imagined how beautiful it would be. It was surely going to be a breathtaking experience she thought. The trainer taught them how to talk under water, symbols which would help them communicate. They dived in. There were a lot of fishes; it was so beautiful and mesmerizing. The most beautiful part was that they were together. It was just them both in silence; they both wished they could be like this forever. Akash was very lucky that he could see his angel like this; everything he had wished for; the smile, the laughter, the happiness. He wished to give that happiness to her forever.

After the diving experience, on the way back home Akash asked Dhani what’s on her bucket list. She thought for a while and said she didn’t have a bucket list. Akash didn’t push her about it; he thought it was better to give her time to get more comfortable. He didn’t have a problem with waiting; he just wanted Dhani to be happy. On the way Dhani saw an ice-cream parlor. Akash could tell that she wanted to have ice cream but wasn’t comfortable enough to say it out loud. He stopped the car, told her that he was going to get ice-cream and went into the parlor.

Dhani kept looking at him until he disappeared into the parlor; she started to wonder what was happening to her, it felt like all her wounds were healing. She was happy, she wanted to be happy. The last time she had ice cream was four years ago. Now a guy appears out of nowhere, who takes care of her. He didn’t have to, then why was he doing it she thought. She had all these questions running through her head. In spite of all these doubts, she thought whatever they had between them is something very beautiful and something special.

He came back with an ice cream. She asked him where his ice cream was; he just shrugged and said he would have a little from hers. Akash drops Dhani at her place. He meets her parents at the door. Dhani leaves them to talk and walks inside. Akash tries to know if they had ever considered taking help of a psychiatrist for Dhani. He suggested it would be good for her recovery. Dhani’s parents trusted him; he had brought smiles back into their daughter’s life.

Akash thought of picking Dhani from her place for the dance rehearsals the next day. He called her up and asked her to be ready in five minutes; he was going to pick her up. Dhani started thinking; this guy always gives five minutes to get ready yet waits for hours. She didn’t realize she had begun to like this attention she was getting. She wanted to look good for him, in hopes to get a compliment. Mahi saw her sister being all chirpy and putting extra effort to look good. Being the naughty younger sister, she asks what was special about that day, who was she getting all dolled up for. Dhani knew what she meant; she just gave her an angry look asking her to shut up. Akash called her again, meaning he was at her place. Five minutes later Dhani walks to his car in her red salwar suit. She was already beautiful but the red made her look too good he thought. He noticed she had made an effort, her accessories, her hair, she was just glowing. When she got into the car Akash couldn’t resist himself from admiring her. He tries to move on from the gawking by starting a conversation. He starts telling her about his college life, how he got involved in dance and his passion for dance. She was enjoying this conversation; his stories were interesting to her. Some of them turned out to be really funny. Her laughter was the sweetest thing he had ever heard.

They reach the dance studio and begin rehearsing. They keep exchanging smiles all through their routine; they were having these sweet moments. He wanted to know everything about her; he wanted to listen to her stories. But he knew he couldn’t push her, he had to wait for the day she would willingly open up to him. He would do anything for that to happen.

They were rehearsing for the upcoming competition and their choreographer was happy about how well they were doing. They had chemistry; they looked into each other’s eyes like they were peeking into the other person’s soul. The intensity in his eyes was driving her crazy. Dhani started to think was this person starting to mean something to her; why would she get uneasy under his stare yet feel comfortable in his presence. She knew the answer to her questions but she refused to admit it. She didn’t want to destroy someone’s life, that’s what she thought would happen to the person who gets attached to her.

Akash understood the turmoil she was going through, he wanted to let her heal before he could say anything about his feelings. The next day Dhani called him up to ask if he was free. Saying no to her wasn’t even an option for him. It was the first time when she had called him up; he didn’t even ask why she was calling. He woke up early, took a shower, and dressed his best. It felt like this was his first official date with the girl had begun to love. They met at a coffee shop. She had ordered a brownie with ice cream. She had the excitement of a kid. Everything about her was endearing to Akash. He thought this woman was going to make him fall for her every freaking day. He had thought of their future together, how she would look as his bride, he had his own dreamland. Dhani broke his dreamy state; she had called out his name repeatedly but with no response. She had to shake him to get his attention. She was worried about something; she was contemplating to say or not. Akash asked her what the matter was; he was surprised to hear that she was going to see a psychiatrist for help. He felt this was a good sign. She wanted to live now and this was the thing he wanted for her. He assured her that they would find the best psychiatrist in town and he would go with her if she wanted to.

When Dhani returned home Mahika was all set to pull her leg. She just kept firing questions at her; how was it? What happened? What did you talk about? Was he romantic? She just wouldn’t stop. Mahika was very happy to have her sister back.

The final dance completion was near, everything was going to change. There was darkness looming over this happiness. Dhani was waiting for the big day; she was really excited about it. Not just for the dance but to be with Akash, she was expecting a lot to happen that day. Nobody knew that it was going to be completely opposite of their expectations. Ankit was one the judge in the competition.

They both knew how much it was going to hurt them and their family, how badly it was going to affect their future. But it was necessary, it was necessary to fight back, to prove that the guilty will be always punished for their sins. Their journey for justice was beginning, the justice they were not able to have the previous time. Ankit had escaped quite easily with his influence and power but this time Dhani was not alone, she now had a strong person standing beside her, and she knew he would always stand beside her. She knew in her heart that the reason for her newfound courage was Akash. She had the will to fight, for her and for her best friend she had lost.

The next day she had decided to tell everyone that she had decided to reopen the case. She wanted justice for her and for Preeti. When she walks down the stairs, she sees everyone sitting in the hall, doing their own things; Mahika was on her phone, her mom was watching TV and her father was in his chair reading a book. She sits between Mahika and her mom, she asks her father to sit with them. She said she wanted to discuss something important. She told them about reopening the case; she explained how she was stronger now and would not stop until justice was served. She said she knew it was not going to be easy for any of them, we might suffer a lot on the way, but the suffering was a small price to pay for justice. Everyone was shocked by her decision, but they were also happy because the bold and courageous Dhani was back. Everyone agreed with her and assured her that they would stand by her no matter what.

After the discussion with her family, Dhani returned to her room, she thought of what she was going to do, how she was going to do it. She called Akash and asked him if he could take her to the psychiatrist he had told about. He told her they would go to see the psychiatrist soon. Then she tried to find a good lawyer for herself. She couldn’t find anyone strong enough to handle her case, though there were quite a few reputed names she knew they wouldn’t go against Ankit. She had to make a decision; she decided she would fight her own case. She knew it was going to be tough, but she was going to do it. This was a war and she wanted to emerge victorious out of it. The guy that had ruined her life was going to behind bars by the end of it.

The next day Akash came to see Dhani at her place, as he entered he met Dhani’s father. He saw Akash with a lot of respect in his eyes. When Akash tries to greet him and touch his feet, he stops him and hugs him instead. He tells Akash that he is not able to find the right words to thank him for what he had done for his daughter. His friendship was able to achieve something that they had been trying to do for years. Akash asked if he could see Dhani. Dhani’s dad asked if they were going out, to which Akash replied he was taking her to the psychiatrist. This was happy news for her dad.

Mahika walks down the stairs and sees Akash talking to her dad. She walks up to him and says “Thank you”. She thanks him for what he had done for her sister. Akash asks Mahika if she would come along with them to see the psychiatrist. He thought Dhani would be more comfortable with Mahika around. She agrees. They reach the psychiatrist’s office. Dhani was nervous about it. It was understandable, she had to open up to a complete stranger about her past, and she had to share her deepest darkest secrets. Akash and Mahika try to get her prepared for it; tell her that this was only going to make her stronger.

Dhani walks into the psychiatrist’s office alone. There was a lady sitting in the chair. By just looking at her she seemed very graceful and she carried herself with a lot of dignity. She had a positive vibe about her. The psychiatrist asks her to sit down and begins with some simple basic questions, like how she was, how she was feeling, with who she had come here, how she had decided to come here. She was being very gentle and kind. Gradually she drifted towards more serious questions about what had happened. Initially, Dhani hesitated to talk about it. The doctor tried to make her as comfortable as possible. She did not force her to answer any of her questions. It was just their first session and it going okay. The doctor asked her to see her every alternate day, Dhani promised that she would. Dhani felt good talking to her. Though she did not talk much in the first session she knew she would be able to open up to her. She was glad she had made this decision.

As she comes out of the office she sees Akash and Mahika, both with worried expressions. They had a lot of questions. She calmly explains to them what had happened. She asks Akash if she could drive on the way back. Akash knew she could drive but she hadn’t driven in the last four years. Mahika gets worried about this and says that it doesn’t sound like a good idea. She thought it would be too sudden of a change for her. Dhani manages to convince both of them to let her drive. Despite being worried Mahika was happy about having her stubborn sister back. After a long fifteen minute discussion, Dhani was allowed to sit in the driver’s seat.

Dhani was holding the steering wheel after four years. She was a racer four years back. The incident had killed her desire to do anything. She felt confident while driving the car. Her speed and her skill were not lost, she still felt like a champion. Despite staying away from driving for four years she was smooth, her confidence was intact.

Everyone was happy to see Dhani recovering and was prepared to fight. Dhani still hadn’t told her family that she was going to fight the case herself, she thought she would tell them when the time was right.

For her next session with the psychiatrist, she had decided to be open to all the questions. She wanted Akash to join her for the session this time; she wanted him to listen to everything she said during the session. Akash hesitated to go in, thinking how right it would be and how it would affect her progress. She told him that she needed him in there. He finally agreed to join her. As they sit down, the psychiatrist asks her the first question, how she was feeling today. She replies saying she is fine. Her next question was about Akash, why she had brought him along. Akash was nervous about her answer but Dhani made him soar with happiness with her answers. She said Akash was the only person apart from her family who didn’t judge her for her past. He had accepted her for what she was and stood by her through difficult times. So he had the right to be there to listen to her story.

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