Her wounds hurt him

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Chapter 3

The psychiatrist asks if she was in love with him. Akash starts to freak out on the inside. Dhani keeps her calm, thinks for a while and says that some relationships are beyond the word love; some relationships are so pure that love is a very small word to define them; their relationship was one of them. At this moment Akash was screaming “Yes” inside his head, he wanted to tell her that all this was true and he also loved her. He didn’t want to say it just to impress her, he wanted her to know that she wasn’t just a charity case for him, she was his inspiration who had taught him that in spite of being completely broken on the inside, in spite of being depressed we could still live; ending our life was never the solution. She could have ended her life four years ago if she wanted to, but she didn’t, she still had a small bit of hope inside of her. Her life might not have been a fairytale but it was inspirational, her story would inspire a lot of girls.

The psychiatrist was asking Dhani some simple questions; she was encouraging her to get her feelings out. They got to a point where Dhani had to narrate the whole story, she was ready for it. She began to talk. She told how good her life was, Preeti and she were always together, from kindergarten to college. They never needed anyone else in their lives because they always had each other. After their school days, they decided to join the same college. They were very excited about college. They always imagined how fun it was going to be. They planned their future together, even as far as their weddings; they wanted to get married on the same day. But destiny had something else planned for them. It was their first day at college and Dhani had bumped into a guy – Ankit. From that day on he never left her alone, he did his best to get her to fall for him. But Preeti never liked Ankit, she always asked Dhani to stay away from him. She never trusted his intentions. Dhani never crossed Preeti’s words; she kept her distance from Ankit. Ankit was starting to get irritated about Preeti; he started to be rude to her. Then in the last semester, he went as far as giving her a death threat; told her that if she keeps coming in between him and Dhani he would kill her.

Her birthday was close and she would discuss with Preeti how special it was going to be, what she was going to wear, how she was going to style her hair and all that. They had everything set. She had gotten ready as per the plan but Preeti was late. She kept waiting for her; she refused to cut the cake without Preeti there. She had this really bad feeling; she kept looking at the door. At one point her heart was beating really fast, she knew something was going to happen. The guests started to leave after a while. She knew Preeti wouldn’t miss her party for anything. It was close to midnight, she wanted to go check at Preeti’s home. She took Mahika along with her. She was very anxious. When they reached Preeti’s place she kept pressing the doorbell continuously. Preeti’s mom took a while to open the door when she did she was confused to see Dhani and Mahika at the door. When Dhani asked where Preeti was they were shocked to know that she had left a long while back for the party. Dhani’s fear was coming true, something had really happened to Preeti. She was in trouble.

She asked Mahika to take the car and check each and every hospital around. She said she would walk her way back home, she hoped to find some trace of Preeti. Halfway to her house, Dhani saw Preeti’s car on the side of the road. It looked like the car had broken down. Dhani rushed to check for Preeti. Preeti was not in the car, she tried to look around calling out her name. She thought Preeti might have walked looking for help; she didn’t want to lose hope. She was trying to console herself. After walking a little she found a bracelet, the bracelet she had given to Preeti on her last birthday. She tried to find her around there. When she was frantically calling out for Preeti she suddenly notices blood stains mixed with the soil. She followed the stains into the jungle. What she saw there was her worst nightmare; she had found Preeti’s body.

She had blood in a lot of places, her clothes were torn. She was hit in the face, her nose was all bloody. It was evident what had happened to her. She couldn’t bear the sight. She did not understand what to do; the shock was too much for her. She wanted to call someone, anyone but her hands were shaking. She was not able to decide who to call. She finally called her parents. She had called for the ambulance and then she called Mahika. It took time for everyone to arrive; she just stood there looking at Preeti’s body. She wasn’t crying; she wasn’t able to. She felt completely dead on the inside, her feelings had become non-existent. She just sat there looking at Preeti’s face, hoping that she was going to wake up and talk to her.

After a while, she could hear the sirens and the cars coming closer. Preeti’s mom started crying, her daughter was dead. Dhani’s mom was trying to console her. Both their dads were dealing with the police and the hospital personnel. Both the families were well known in the city; as soon as the word got out the media was there. They had their own speculations and stories of what had happened, all of which were being telecasted. Few started to blame Preeti for going out late at night, there were questions about her character. There were debates going on. The government was being blamed which became a political war between the ruling and the opposition parties. It had become a social war. Everyone had their own agenda; it was just a case for them. Nobody really cared about the girl.

Dhani felt like the world was spinning and she felt numb in the middle of it all. The ambulance had taken Preeti’s body for post-mortem, the police were investigating the case, and both the families were putting in all their efforts to find out the culprits. During these days Ankit was always around, he would try to take care of Dhani. She started to have an eerie feeling about him; Preeti always hated this guy and he had gone as far as giving her a death threat. She did not like having him around. One day she had enough and she straight up told him that he didn’t need to visit her, that she did not want to see him anymore. From that day on he didn’t show up at her house.

The day when the police had called them to watch the CCTV footage they had found, she had gotten a call from Ankit. When she heard that he knew about the culprits she did not waste a second and left to see him. He had asked her to meet him at his farmhouse. Dhani was so desperate to know about the culprits; she neither thought of taking someone with her nor did she inform someone of where she was going. When she reached the farmhouse she knew she shouldn’t have come alone, she had a sick feeling in her stomach. But her desperation to know the truth wouldn’t let her turn around and walk away. She enters to see Ankit and his friends watching TV. She rushed to Ankit asking him to tell her what he knew. Ankit was trying to calm her down; he told her she would have all the answers. He turned her around to look at the TV. It was the horrifying scene of Preeti being raped. She could not make out all the faces in the video; she could see the car of the attackers. Ankit asked her if she knew whose car that was. She didn’t, she asked him to tell her whose car it was. She begged him to tell. He told her it was his car.

She just stood there not knowing how to react. She couldn’t believe it. They threatened her to close the case else she would face the same fate. Her reflex reaction to the threat was to run. She tries to reach the door but fails. They pulled her back and threw her on the sofa. She struggled, she tried everything to get out of their hold but she couldn’t. Her clothes were pulled apart, she was getting hit as she tried to struggle and escape. She was tormented so badly that she wanted to die in that moment. During the struggle, her head had hit something hard and it was bleeding pretty badly. Her screams were unheard because of the loud music that was playing. They had locked her in a room and they kept coming back to torment her again and again. She started to hear sirens coming through the window. Ankit and his friends were unaware of this due to the loud music downstairs. She could hear the commotion downstairs. One of the guys tries to stop her from making any kind of noise. As soon as she sees him Dhani lets out a loud scream.

After that everything happened in a blur. She could see her parents and Mahika, but she wasn’t responding to anything. She was not able to stand by herself. She was barely conscious when she was taken to the hospital. She remembers how her parents were trying so hard to make sure she was ok; how much they had struggled to take care of her after the incident. The head injury had caused her a severe loss of blood. She was not responding to the treatment and finally, she had slipped into a coma. She remembered only having Preeti’s memories flashing through her head. She said she had seen Preeti while she was in the coma, she had met her; Preeti was standing with all the bright light surrounding her. She had asked Preeti to take her with her, to which she had replied that she couldn’t. She told her that it wasn’t time for her to be there yet; she still had a lot of unfinished work to do. Dhani had asked her why this had happened to them, Preeti had replied that it was just their destiny. There was a difference in their fate that Dhani had survived the cruel incident. Preeti said that she shouldn’t fail; she had survived and she had to make things right for the both of them.

Dhani had opened her eyes at that moment. Everyone was ecstatic to see her alive. Dhani had remembered her vision of Preeti very clearly. She knew it was real, but she couldn’t tell anyone because no one would believe her. Akash was listening to all of this quietly. He felt the rage towards Ankit and his friends; he also felt Dhani’s pain. He realized how much deeper and darker that incident was, hearing it from Dhani, although he had known it from Mahika before. Throughout this, he hadn’t realized that Dhani was holding his hand. Even the psychiatrist was shocked to see this. The psychiatrist was a professional, she couldn’t express what she felt at the moment, but she too could feel Dhani’s pain. She said a few words to Dhani and gave her a few medicines.

On the way back home there was silence in the car; Akash knew the whole story now. He had too many things running through his head. His silence made her worry. Dhani speaks to say that she has something to tell. When Akash asks her about it, she says she will tell everyone at once when they reach home. Dhani gets confused, what was the matter.

He was still quiet. She again asked what the matter was. He stopped the car, looked her in the eyes and said: “Just tell me once to kill him, I will do it”. She was surprised to hear him say that, she smiled at him and said that just death won’t be enough suffering for what he had done. Akash realized what she was saying was true, Ankit needed to suffer more; he needed to realize the pain he had caused to others. Akash asks her if she would like to come see his place, she agrees.

They reach his house. They enter the huge gate to his house, the house was huge too. He stops the car, gets out and opens the door for Dhani. She turns around to see a beautiful garden with a fountain in the middle and there was a swimming pool at the other end. Akash took her to a small corner in the garden, he told her this was his favorite spot, and he would sit there for hours with his feet in the water. She thought the place was really beautiful. She saw a man, probably the gardener, working in the garden. Then Akash invites her into the house. Dhani could see three sports cars parked at the front; she knew Akash was the huge fan of these cars. The house was painted all white; it looked amazing from the outside.

As they enter the house she saw a woman instructing people for the work around the house. It was probably his mom she thought. As the lady saw them both, she smiled, she was happy to see them. She greets Dhani and even hugs her. She asks how her how she was doing. Dhani replies she is fine. They both start talking enthusiastically to each other. Akash interrupts their conversation and says he hadn’t even introduced them properly. They both laugh at this. Akash introduces his mom to Dhani and tells his mom that Dhani was his best friend. Akash’s mom knew about Dhani, she knew about her past too. She had decided not to treat her differently because of it. They both talk for a while and Dhani gets ready to leave. But Akash’s mom wouldn’t let her go without having dinner with them. Dhani couldn’t refuse her, she was being very sweet.

Akash asks if she would like to see his room. Dhani says that she would love to. She saw there were a lot of paintings in his room, there was also a canvas with a lot of paint and other materials spread around it. She asked him if he was a painter. He says that it is just a hobby. She starts to look around, she observes each painting carefully. She stops in front of a painting shocked to see that the girl in it resembled her. She turns around to give a look of question to Akash. He was embarrassed; he had forgotten that it was out here. He thought he should have hidden it somewhere before he brought her into the room. She asks if he had made it. Akash says yes, scratching the back of his neck. It was evident that he was embarrassed. She gets closer to the painting, touches it and keeps looking at it without saying anything. Akash asks her if she was angry, to which she replies no, it’s just that she never thought she would look that beautiful. Akash looks into her eyes and says that he had to leave it incomplete because he could never justify her beauty on the canvas. The moment was getting intense. Akash forces himself to break the eye contact; he didn’t want to scare her away with his emotions.

They both walk down for dinner. She was thankful that he had not made the situation awkward. They have dinner together and then he drops her at her house. When she gets back home it was silent, everyone was doing their own thing. She did not like how lifeless their home was. It was all happy and joyous at Akash’s house. When they had dinner together the conversation was always on. There was some music playing in the background. The walls, the furniture, everything in that house screamed happy to her. Dhani’s mom sees that she was worried about something and asks her about it. She discusses her confusion with her mom. She tells her how Akash’s place was so joyous and lively. She asked her why their home wasn’t like that. Her mum replied saying this house has been silent for the last four years; this house too had its own song of happiness which had stopped playing after that incident. Her mom told her she was the happiness of the house, the moment she had gone silent the house too went into silence; the day you start smiling and being yourself, the joy will return to this house. Dhani nods at this and gives her mom a small smile and goes to her room.

She lied down on her bed. In the last four years it had never been easy for her to go to sleep, but now it was getting easy. Her life was changing, for the better. She knew that she had to tell everyone about her decision. She had not gotten to know Akash’s family too well but she thought it was better if they knew too. The next day she called Akash to invite him and his family to her house. Akash asked if it was any special occasion. She told him it wasn’t anything special, they would know when they get there. Akash understood it was something important. Akash arrives at Dhani’s place with his Mum and Dad. They were welcomed by Dhani’s parents. Dhani came down to meet them and called Mahika too. After the pleasantries, Dhani asked everyone to sit because she has something important to tell. She asks them not to interrupt her until she is finished.

She tells them she wants to reopen the case that was closed four years ago but she doesn’t want to hire a lawyer. She wants to fight this case by herself. Everyone was shocked to hear this. She tells them that she understands that this was going to come as a shock to everyone but no lawyer will be able to fight it for her; nobody will put in that much effort. “I was the one who lost my best friend, I was the one who was raped, and I was the one who slipped into coma, then why should someone else fight for me? I am educated enough to do this. I know there will be questions from the society but that should not matter anymore. The point is to get justice for Preeti and for the suffering I have had in the last four years. I don’t know if I can win against them but she could tell Preeti someday that she had tried and had given her all to do the right thing”. Everyone was still in shock but they understood her and agreed to support her. It was decided to start with the procedures as soon as possible.

Dhani and Akash were on the terrace. It was the time of sunset. The wind was blowing in Dhani’s hair, the light was making her look more beautiful. He couldn’t take his eyes off her. He couldn’t confess his feelings for her. She treats him as her best friend and he did not want to lose that. If he confesses to her at this moment she might think all that he was doing was just to impress her. But he genuinely wanted to help her. He loved her and would do anything to keep her happy and safe. Both stood there silently. Not saying to each other what was truly going on in their minds. For Dhani, Akash had entered her life as a God. She thought he had done enough for her, expecting anything more a sin. She couldn’t fathom the thought of falling for him. They look at each other and smile; the smiles with hidden feelings and pain. The breeze, the light, the atmosphere, the intensity of that moment; it felt like Cupid was trying to work his magic on them. But none of the Cupid’s arrows could work, one heart was dedicated to protecting his love and the other considered it a sin to fall in love. Neither of them dared to express their true feelings. Akash tries to break the silence and asks Dhani if she would have some coffee. Dhani just shakes her head saying no. There was the awkwardness again. They both were uncomfortable with the silence, silently wishing the other one would break it.

Akash gets a call; it was the Commissioner of Police. He informs that the case was being reopened, in a few days the procedures will begin. Suddenly Dhani was scared. She was not scared of fighting, she was not scared of people’s opinion, but she was scared of losing. She was scared of losing again, scared that she would not be able to get Preeti justice. Akash tries to calm her down, telling her that it was all going to be ok, she was not going to lose, nothing will go wrong this time and that monster will be behind bars. His words calmed her down. He helped her to stay courageous.

The next morning she gets ready and leaves for her dance classes. When she reaches the studio Akash wasn’t there yet. She starts to rehearse her parts alone. She had always loved dancing. When she is completely lost in her dance somebody pulls her by the waist from behind. She thinks it is Akash and turns around. It was she was hit by a jolt of electricity, it was Ankit. She didn’t understand what he was doing there. She wanted Akash to be there. She was scared again; she didn’t want the repeat of what had happened to her before. Before she could utter a word Ankit pushed her to the wall and held her throat, choking her. He warned her if she opens the case again she would have more pain coming her way. “You have a little sister, what if something happens to her? It’s going to be on you, you are going to be responsible for it.” When she tries to struggle out of his hold, she gets thrown towards the door. She was held by someone before she could hit the floor. It was Akash again. Her lip was cut and she was bleeding. Akash had enough rage to kill Ankit at that moment. When Ankit tries to come forward to grab her again, Akash stands in front of her and warns him not to take another step further. Ankit ignores him and moves to grab her. Even before he could get to her, he had gotten punched right in the face. Akash stands close to him and calmly asks him to walk away; else the consequences would not be in his favor. He knew Akash was more powerful than him, in every way. He gives Dhani one look and walks away.

As he leaves Akash asks Dhani what had happened. She tells him about it. Akash had to control his anger. He understood nobody was safe at the moment, neither Dhani nor her family. He had threatened to hurt Mahika; they had to keep her safe. He calls Mahi and asks her not to move from wherever she was at the moment and that he was coming to pick her. They pick her and reach Dhani’s house. He instructs them not to go anywhere without him and to stay at home as much as possible. They both agree. Dhani liked how Akash treated Mahika like his own sister. The thought of having him in her life forever was increasing with each day. But she knew that couldn’t happen.

The days were passing by fast; they were getting ready to fight. They had prepared together but from this point on he knew Dhani had to fight by herself. It was the first day at court. Everyone was there; Dhani’s family, Akash and his family too. They enter the courtroom. Ankit and his family were already there. Dhani recognized their lawyer. He was the best in town, and held the record for never losing a case. He was a little old and had this evil look on his face. He was known for handling the most notorious cases; he was always in the news. Dhani was fighting against someone who had never lost a case in their life.

As the judge entered the room everyone stands up. He sits down and asks to proceed with the case. Dhani was asked to speak first. She tells that she is not a lawyer and is fighting her own case. She narrates the incidence to the court; what had happened on her birthday, how she had found Preeti’s body, how she was invited to Ankit’s farmhouse and threatened to drop the case. Before she could speak further the opponent lawyer made an objection saying did she have any proof of Ankit confessing to having raped and murdered Preeti? She couldn’t just make accusations in the air. The judge looked at Dhani and asked for the proof. They had the initial medical reports and the CCTV footage of Preeti being attacked. When the video was played none of the faces were recognizable. It was good enough as proof. The number plate of the car was visible but the opponent made a point saying the car was stolen from Ankit the night before and there was proof; the complaint filed for the lost car.

After the court was adjourned for the day, Dhani walks out to find the media waiting for them. They started to hound her with the questions; what had happened, was she really raped that night, how had she found Preeti. All these questions were too much for her. She didn’t answer any of these questions. She starts to doubt herself thinking whether she had made the right decision. This was not going to be easy. Fighting back is difficult and fighting against someone like Ankit is almost impossible. She knew Akash was with her. She had everyone’s support but this was her fight, she had to fight it alone. She had to handle everything in the courtroom by herself. When she reached home, she took out her diary to write. She had to get back the courage to fight. She wrote all her thoughts in it; about the day at the court, the questions from the media, her fears. She called up Akash, told him how scared she was. He told her that she was not fighting just for herself; she was fighting for Preeti too. After talking to him she continued to write. Preeti had lost her life at the hands of a monster. A woman’s body is not a toy a guy can play with. With that sentence, she closed her diary deciding she was not going to back out this time no matter what. She was going to fight and she was going to put Ankit behind the bars.

Mahika was alone at the house. She heard someone knock at the door. She used the intercom to see who it was. Nobody replied but the incessant knocking just continued. When she finally opens the door she gets pushed by four guys. One of them locks the door, the other holds her down. Her clothes get torn. She feels traumatized. She tries to scream but she couldn’t. She wasn’t able to move, she felt paralyzed. And then Dhani wakes up. It took her a while to realize it was just a dream. It was a nightmare. She was thankful that it wasn’t real. She wanted Mahika to be safe, she should never go through what Preeti and she had to go through. She decides to send everyone to somewhere away until all this was sorted, to keep them safe. She tells Akash about this, he agrees but he also says that he wouldn’t leave. He would stay to keep her safe, it was as important as everybody else’s safety.

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