The family meeting turned out to be an entombment.
Tara’s eyes gazed at nothing as her back rested over the soft mattress. Her eyes were trained on the ceiling fan and its three wings. Her thinking power was failing as the decision of Uncle Ramesh rang in the ears like a broken record. Her eyes were dull as the disturbing images of Rahul clouded her mind. She felt as she was going to jump off a cliff.
A scoff escaped her lips.
Jumping off a cliff sounds way easier than marrying a certified asshole. She had never expected this. Not in her worse scenarios she considered life to be this cruel. Just when she thought that her problems were diminishing and maybe she will get a chance to leave this household, a new sort of cage was introduced.
A cage in which she will now breathe as the wife of a deranged man who has no sense of empathy. Something must have died in all these human beings at a certain point of life that has turned them into stones. Tara had no idea how a person can be so difficult. From the moment she has understood the meaning of life, she has always watched the disgust and absolute hatred in their eyes towards her. No matter how many times she recalls, she fails to recognize her mistakes from all those parts where her family has ridiculed her. Sighing she turned to her side and glared at the clouds strolling around the full Moon. Her mind urged her to fly in freedom just like them. It will sound childish, but she was actually jealous of them.
Every fiber in her body revolted to taste liberty but the scared mind refused to acknowledge those thoughts. For the record, it carries all those memories stored in the deepest chambers where she has suffered beyond the limits. The mind knows the boundaries set by the demons and wouldn’t cross it at all costs remembering the heart-wrenching consequences.
She has to lead her life within the confines of her cage to stay alive because she loves life. She loves its essence and the passing time always bores the seeds of new hope in her heart. Hope. It’s a big word for her and a holy mantra. The hope of breaking the shackles encourages her to live. The hope of leaving this life behind encourages her to move on. The hope of planting a strong friendship encourages her to forgive. The hope of meeting someone special encourages her to keep smiling.
Tears blinded her vision as the decision of her monster uncle came in front of her eyes. She wasn’t allowed to even dream because they have chosen her destiny.
Sleep left her eyes after that and she twisted under the covers for rest of the night.
It was early in the morning when a soft knock came from her door. A frown marred in between her brows as she looked at the time.
Removing the covers, she jumped off the mattress and approached the locked door. Her brows furrowed as she came face to face with Varun. He was standing right outside her door holding a duffel bag. A brown leather jacket was draped on his shoulders, protecting him from the harsh weather.
“May I come in?” He whispered and in answer she opened the door wider. Running his eyes over the silent corridors, he stepped in her room like a thief.
“Is everything okay?” Tara asked in confusion and Varun rushed towards her closet.
“No. But we can be alright if you do as I say.” He muttered under his breath and started filling the duffel bag with her clothes.
“Varun, what are you doing?” Tara asked wide-eyed running to stop him.
“What you should’ve done a long time back. Look, I admit that I am an asshole but I do care for you. I am not blind. I saw how scared you were when dad asked you about the wedding. Look in my eyes, Tara and tell me that you want to marry that C grade bastard. Because I won’t let any of my sisters commit such a mistake. He will destroy your life, Tara.” Varun explained and her heart sped. He has shocked her.
“No. That’s not possible, Varun. Uncle will kill me.” She said snatching her clothes from his hands but he threw her a menacing glare.
“For that, he has to find you. I’ve done all the arrangements, Tara. All you’ve to do is follow my instructions. Trust me you’ll be safe. Just leave this hell. You might not get this opportunity tomorrow. Let’s do it tonight. Sun will be up in a few hours anyway.” He threw more clothes and collected her certificates and degree. Thrusting them into the bag, he closed the zip and pushed her into the bathroom.
“Get ready and wear something dark. Also, cover your hairs.”
“No, I am not going anywhere until you explain what’s happening?” She asked and he let out a tired sigh.
“Tara, I am watching you since you took your very first step as a baby. I have seen all the phases of your life. I have seen how strong you have become and faced all the horrors bravely. But remember one thing; you are tired, not defeated. We have still a long way ahead towards the goals. In spite of doing a pity party and crying out your heart, collect your energy for a fight. How can you give up so easily? It’s the question of your life. And what about after marriage, when you will have kids? Will they also compromise like you and bear all the pain.
Think like a wise person, not a terrified mouse. We need to take risks to get a fruitful future. We have to make sacrifices to achieve peace and love. Think of the ways to get out of your problem rather than being a live example like those who suffer all their lives and never fight back. Think whose daughter you are, the smartest person when was alive, Ram Gupta. How will he feel, when he will see his daughter retreating her fangs before even a fight? I don’t know what to say anymore. Now, it’s all on you, either die in this hell or breath in the freedom.” Varun whispered cupping her cheeks and gently wiped the stray tear that fell from her eye. She sniffed and gulped back her sobs. Not in a million years, she will allow her kids to go through hell like this. She will gift them freedom from birth.
So wiping the tears she stood up with determination.
She pulled a dark pair of jeans and a shirt then entered the bathroom for a change. Her hands were shaking this entire time as she wore the new pair. Her heart was beating so fast that she feared it will fail. Tying her thick hairs in a pony she stepped out of the bathroom and saw Varun sliding a fat roll of bills in her purse.
“I am keeping some money in case of emergencies. You won’t need it anyway since my friend is filthy rich and take care of all your needs. She is a great person, Tara and I am sure that you will enjoy her company.” He mumbled and she just stared at him. All of a sudden, she hugged him tightly and pushed her head in his chest.
“Thank you.” Her whisper was low yet he heard it and smiled.
“I wasn’t strong enough to stop all those tortures but I am powerful enough to save your life. You will die if you married that man, Tara. I know that what kind of man he is. A rapist and self-serving bastard. Do me a favor and stay out of their radar.” He kissed her forehead and she nodded.
“Who is your friend anyway and why did they agree to help me?” Tara asked as Varun hauled her bag on his shoulder and clutched her hand tightly.
“That’s for the later, sis. Let’s go.” He announced and in a lightning speed dragged her towards the door. Opening it with a low creek, the two pairs of eyes surveyed the dark hallways for any intruder and with gentle steps walked out. All the while, Varun had a hard grip on her hand. He took various turns and corridors until they reached in front of the basement door.
A jingling of keys was heard as Varun unlocked the door and pushed his sister inside.
The basement of the mansion was dark and surprisingly warm. Varun urged his cousin to move forward and open the next door that would lead them to the backyard. Tara obliged and in no time they were shivering under the onslaught of the cold wind of late December.
“Shit,” Varun whispered pulling a woolen cap on his head. Tara’s teeth chattered too and she buried her hands inside the pockets of her jacket.
From a distance, she registered a flickering torchlight. Varun clicked his tongue and started dragging her once again.
“There they are. They must be waiting for half an hour now.” He mumbled and Tara’s eyes widen.
“What? It will come on the surveillance cameras.”
Varun chuckled at her naivety and shook his head.
“The cameras stooped working a year ago after the deadly storm and father is too busy to contact the authorities to get them fixed.” He assured and she sighed.
“Why am I not surprised?”
A dark BMW came in view and their pace quickened. The front door of the driver’s side opened and a bulky man stepped out of the car. He immediately took the luggage from Varun and adjusted it in the trunk. The backseat door opened too and soon two girls stepped out of it. Varun smiled and hugged a dark haired girl in her late teen.
“Varun, it’s good to see you.” Akira Singh greeted with a gentle smile returning the hug. By now Tara’s jaw was kissing the floor and her mind was left stunned to react. She gawked at the person who has been on newspapers and magazines for years and was now standing in front of her. The rock star of the new era and a renowned celebrity.
“This is my sister, Tara.” Varun introduced her and Akira threw a warm smile.
“Hello, Tara. I wish we had met under different circumstances, not on a breakout. You don’t have to feel uncomfortable around us. Varun’s sister is my sister.” Akira assured and Tara let out a surprised chuckle. It was hard to believe that she was standing in front of her favorite singer. Words were escaping her.
“I and Akira have been friends for 2 years now. I’ve played guitar for her albums in past.” Varun cleared Tara’s doubts and her lips parted. She was left both shocked and angry. If it was so, then why he never told her?
“Introductions could be done later, guys. We have a flight to catch.” Another girl spoke from behind Akira after stepping out from the warm car and everybody groaned.
“That’s Genelia, Akira’s manager.” Varun pointed at Genelia who poked her tongue out at him in return. “Alright, hurry up before it’s too late,” Varun grunted pushing his sister towards Akira who guided her scared self inside the car.
“Thank you, Akira. Please, take care of her.” Varun smiled sadly and Akira smiled back.
“Do not worry, man. Your sister is safe with me. Don’t call her or your family will know. I will find a way to mail you her whereabouts.” She acknowledged his worries and with the last wave settled in the car. The ignition was turned on and the engine came to life. The BMW rumbled lowly and the glass of backseat slid down. Tara peeked from inside and with teary eyes waved at her brother.
“Take care.” He whispered and she nodded.
The dark car stopped in front of the airport and Christov stepped out of the driver’s seat. He was a man in his early 20’s and was appointed by Vikram as a bodyguard for Akira’s safety. Looking around the airport for any possible intruder, he nodded at his boss in assurance. Akira sighed and turned to Tara.
“Let’s go. The plane will leave in 2 hours and we will be in a different country tomorrow.”
Tara nodded and followed the two girls like a lost puppy. Genelia tried to make a small conversation but the poor girl failed to answer properly as the worries of home kept eating her from inside. It was a big step. She hasn’t even left the mansion in years without her aunt’s permission and here they were leaving the country behind everyone’s back. This was dangerous and so rebellious.
After a brief security check, the four people were allowed to pass and were guided towards a charter plane that belongs to Vikram Singh.
Taking a deep breath, Tara inhaled the cold air of New York for one last time and then stepped inside the jet leaving the past behind.
“So, Tara. Tell us something about yourself. Why did you plan to run away? We were supposed to leave New York tomorrow after an interview but your cousin contacted me and explained the urgency of your break out. Why?” Genelia asked from her plush chair eyeing the restless girl with interest. Tara shuddered at the memory and sighs.
“I… I was being forced to marry a man I despise.” She answered shortly refusing to open her story in front of strangers. Akira, who was sitting right by her side, frowned. If that was the case then she could have easily refused and contacted the authorities for help. But she discarded the thought and asked instead about Tara’s parents.
“They are dead,” Tara replied shakily leaving her stunned. Akira gulped back the bitter saliva and looked away feeling bad. Now she got Tara’s dilemma.
“They died in a plane crash when I was 8. After that, my aunt and uncle took me. And that man isn’t my fiancée but a rapist, he has tried to force himself over me for god knows how many times. My aunt and uncle were making me marry him without my consent. How could I have done that and ruined the lives of those who will call me a mother in mere future? I just wanted to either run away or kill myself…” Tara’s outburst shocked everyone and Christov shifted in his seat uncomfortably. He felt pity over the girl and finally appreciated his boss for helping someone in need. Earlier this night, he had tried his best to talk Akira out of this situation because they could be framed for kidnapping, but Akira was adamant and ready to punch anyone after sensing the tension in her friend’s voice. Varun sounded incredibly troubled.
Tara felt lighter as she opened her heart in front of them and a sudden relief washed over her after pronouncing a history that was buried in her heart for so long.
In the end, her voice disappears and low sobs racked down her spine. Akira engulfed her into a warm embrace and rubbed her back soothingly. And feeling safe and protected, Tara poured her story and for the first time, received soothing and sweet words that her heart longed to hear. Her painful sobs echoed in the private plane and a concerned Genelia asked the hostess to serve water.
“Shh…. Calm down. You are safe now. They say that the world is a hard place, but no one mentions the gut-wrenching, soul-crushing and heartbreaking pain we have to survive while growing up. They don’t talk about how childhood is just a word now, or when it became a fight and we have to be like the ferrous iron that flows through our veins to reach adulthood unscathed.
Your first fight, your first heartbreak, your first betrayal, your first identity crisis, your first addiction. All these kill a piece of you as you grow up.
People are always talking that how children these days are so very resilient. They don’t have to be. When did we start teaching our children that growing up has to choose among thousands of ways of breaking yourself into two?”
Akira’s powerful words penetrated Tara’s cracks. They carried a melancholy of their own like she had gone through a heartbreaking experience and were aware that how this greedy world works.
It was a bitter truth.