Someone Somewhere Is Made For You

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#29 She is someone I want to protect

Michael.

“Michael, don’t skip your dinner and don’t work too hard, give time to yourself and chill,” Jenni started with her usual advice on our way to the station.

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“I am a little bit relieved this time as Ella is here, I can always contact her for information.”

“Uncle Mike, Give this to Auntie Ella, Jinu and I drew it,”

Jiji showed me a file.

“Keep it in the seat pocket,” I said while turning to the station road.

Ella had sent them a bag full of toys and other gifts that had made it difficult for Jenni to pack as the twins refused to leave it back.

“You should have waited until this weekend. How are you going to manage the luggage and the kids?” I was worried about them travelling alone.

“Stop frowning, Mike, I contacted Andrews Mom and Dad, they will be in the station to pick us up.”

“Take care of the kids well.”

“You take care of yourself, we will be fine.”

Her train was at 9 PM and I helped her to settle down. I had booked them a complete cabin with four seats with a gate that can be closed from inside in the AC couch so it was easier for them to settle down freely and safely.

When it was time for the departure, Jenni looked at me seriously.

“Michael-”

“I know, I won’t skip my meals and I will take care of myself well,” I said and she smiled.

I hugged and kissed both Jinu and Jiji who kissed me back.

“Be good and don’t worry your Mommy, okay?”

Both of them nodded.

“Then take care of her and keep an eye on her.”

They nodded again while Jenni laughed.

I got up and turned to Jenni.

“Call me as soon as you reach there.”

“We will be fine-” she stopped in shock as I hugged her gently.

“Take care,” I whispered. “You are my only sister...”

Jenni patted my shoulder twice and the train jerked slowly.

I let go of her while she turned away and wiped the corner of her eyes.

“Hurry and get down,” her voice trembled slightly. “The train is moving.”

So I looked at them for the last time and walked out of there.

Jinu and Jiji waved at me until they vanished from my sight as the train picked up momentum.

My insides felt heavy as I walked back. Every time Jenni and the kids go back, it was difficult to adjust for the first few weeks.

But this time, I am relieved that at least Cinderella is still here in the college.

...................

“I don’t understand what I am doing here at this time,” Jeeva complained as we worked.

I wanted to use the cyber station to work on Rijo’s laptop and had dragged Jeeva out after coming from the station.

“I will be very busy the next week,” I said. “I need to complete this as soon as possible.”

“I wonder who is working for whom now,” Jeeva turned to me. “I selected you to work for me, not the other way around!”

“You climbed two ranks up after I joined,” I reminded him and he groaned.

“Right, there’s no free lunch in this world. Okay, take your time, I will be here if you need me,” he settled on top of a bench on the side.

I chuckled at his tone and turned back to the system.

............

“Michael, hey...”

I opened my eyes slowly. The bright light blinded me.

I scrambled up and looked at my watch. It was from 9:40 AM.

“Shit! Why didn’t you call me?” I took my phone and saw three missed calls from Cinderella and one from Jenni.

I opened the messages.

“Reached here safe, on the way home.”

It was from Jenni. I didn’t call her as I was sure that she would be resting.

I know that Jenni won’t sleep on the train.

I freshened up and took the coffee offered by Jeeva before dialling Cinderella.

“Hello? Are you okay, Michael?” She asked me as soon as she picked up. “Jenni especially asked me to take care of you; did you have your breakfast yet?”

“Slow down, I was working with Jeeva yesterday,” I placed my coffee cup on the table and turned to open the screen.

“No wonder I couldn’t reach you. Don’t work too late, Michael.”

“I completed it, it’s done,” I said as I stared at the recovered files. I had finished it before taking a nap.

“Since I wanted to concentrate on my final year works and the tech-fest, I didn’t want to waste a lot of time.”

I double-clicked on the last folder to open it.

“Now that it’s finished-” I stopped midway.

I couldn’t believe what I was watching on the screen. When I blocked the third video file, I never expected this.

“Michael?”

I could hear her, but I was frozen in the seat.

“Are you there?” She asked me.

I fisted my palm tightly as the photos moved and the slide show started. Each one of them showed half-naked or nude photos with Cinderella’s face morphed on to them.

There were cheap and vulgar tag lines along with the pictures.

“Can you hear me-?”

“Where are you right now?” I asked her.

“What’s...what’s wrong, Michael, you sound-”

"Where are you right now, Cinderella?"

Jeeva looked up in surprise at my tone from the other side of the room.

“I am waiting for Nisha at the bougainvillaea canteen.”

“Then stay right there, Sam will be there now.”

“My class will start in 10 minutes-”

“Then skip the class and wait right there.” I disconnected the call and turned to Jeeva.

“What’s going on?”

“Help me trace Rijo,”

“The guy who hacked the college website? He was bailed out-”

“Can you find out where he is right now?” I asked him.

I need to see Rijo before I deal with Roopak.

“First tell me why you are looking like you would murder someone,” Jeeva looked at me seriously.

................

“Morphing pictures and videos are quite common nowadays,” Jeeva said. “It’s a good thing you stopped him before he uploaded it.”

I fisted my hands tightly and nodded.

“I worked on similar cases with you,” I said. “If I register this case, I will have to hand over the pictures and videos as evidence,” I said. “Even if it’s the morphed ones, people won’t believe the stories of victims, they will judge them and their reputation will be irrevocably compromised.”

Especially in the case of Cinderella. If it ever gets out, people won’t even think if it’s real or not. They will judge her and punish her in their own way.

Even if the guy gets punished for the offence, there will be nothing to do about her reputation.

Since her pictures and videos were not leaked outside, I need to make sure that there won’t be any copies remaining.

I started to work on deleting and formatting the disk.

“Are you sure about this?” Jeeva looked at me. “Once you delete everything, you won’t have any evidence to go against him.”

“I know,” I said. “I am not thinking of registering a case yet.”

No, registering a case means Cinderella would be dragged into it. And with Ropak’s family, he would get out of this issue somehow.

“What are you planning to do then?” Jeeva looked at me as I got up.

“I think I was too soft on him the last time I visited, I want to give him a proper visit this time.”

Jeeva stared at me, he should have realised that he cannot stop me.

“Don’t do anything illegal.”

I walked out of there.

“Who’s this girl anyway?” Jeeva asked me when I reached the door. “Looks like it’s someone you want to protect so much.”

I nodded and turned around.

“She is,” I said. “That’s why I want you to convince Rijo. Once we get his statement against Roopak, it would be a lot easier to take him down,” I said and he nodded.

“Don’t worry, I will take care of him, he won’t have any other way if he intends to work in this field, Jeeva said and I nodded.

I opened the door and walked out.

It’s time for me to take care of Roopak now.
....................

It took me 45 minutes to reach the campus and another 10 minutes to spot Roopak as he was not in the class.

He was in the basketball court when I found him. He was practising with two of his friends and a small group of students were hanging around, watching and cheering.

My anger doubled at the sight of him.

Trying to settle this matter in a peaceful way was my problem. I shouldn’t have tried it in the first place.

I walked straight across the court. Roopak looked surprised to see me, which soon turned in to shock as he watched my expression, but it was too late for him to stop me as I had already grabbed hold of his collar and punched him twice on the face.

The crowd shouted and looked shocked as I raised my fist once again. Before I could place my third punch, I was forcefully separated from Roopak and pushed back by his friends.

Roopak screamed in pain, clutched his face and bend down as his two friends blocked me from him.

If it was before, perhaps I would have thought twice about going against three sportspeople alone. But now, I am just too infuriated and pissed off to think about anything else logically.

I was seeing red and I wanted Roopak to suffer at all costs.

Ella.

“Why is he not here yet?” I looked at Nisha and Sam, both of whom had decided to wait with me.

Apparently, Michael hadn’t told Sam anything apart from asking him to stay with me.

Sam’s phone started to ring and he answered it.

“Hello? Yeah...WHAT!" he shoots up from his seat. “Are you sure?”

Nisha and I looked at him questioningly. He looked tensed and it made me worried.

He disconnected the call and turned to me.

“Michael is here in college. He...he got into a fight.”

“What?”

“Michael got into a fight and it seems to be serious,” Sam said in a hurry. “Let me go there and-”

“Wait! That’s not true, Michael won’t fight, he-”

“He is fighting with Roopak right now,” Sam said and started to back away.

“Where are you going?” Nisha called out.

“Stay with Ella, Take care of her.” He shouted before sprinting away.

“But...no way, he even said that getting back at Roopak would cause him to target me more, he wouldn’t fight with him...” I looked at Nisha. “I need to go-”

“No! This is why Michael called Sam and asked him to stay with you; he doesn’t want you to go there.”

“I don’t think Michael will resort to violence,” I stated firmly.

He had even said that violence is not a solution!

“We don’t even know where they are-”

Nisha stopped as I started to run. I could see students hurrying towards the basketball court and I followed them.

I pushed through the students and stilled there as I saw the fight. It was not between Michael and Roopak anymore. It was between two groups of students.

I could recognise Alex, Sam, senior Praveen and few others, but I could not see Michael.

I looked around frantically and spotted Roopak. He was injured and was trying to move away and then my eyes fell on Michael.

His eyes were fixed on Roopak and he looked...murderous. I had never seen that expression on him before, so it shocked me.

“Ella, you cannot stay here, come on...” Nisha tried to yank my hand.

I shook her off as she tried to hold me. I was watching him as he dragged Roopak by the collar and pushed him to the ground.

“Stop this!”

“Stop this now!”

Some of the staff was already trying to stop the fight.

“The principal will be here now!”

“Everyone fighting here will be dismissed!”

And slowly, everyone stopped one by one. That is, everyone except Michael and Roopak.

Michael was injured and bleeding, but the fire in his eyes never died as he punched Roopak who was already on the ground.

“Any student who continues to fight will be dismissed by the college.”

The announcement came again, but Michael seemed to not hear it.

His hands were raised and he was bringing it down towards Roopak again.

“Mi...chael...stop...” My voice was weak and trembling, but it echoed through the now silent place.

And Michael stilled.

“Please stop...” I said before sliding down to the ground. I started to tremble and Nisha supported me and knelt down beside me.

“Ella!” She looked scared.

“I am okay...” I took a deep breath. “Michael...he-”

“Cinderella!” My heart trembled at his voice even in that situation. I watched as he pushed Roopak off and hurried to me. “Where’s your inhaler?” I felt both of his arms holding my shoulder on either side and I looked at him.

He looked dishevelled, his hair wild, his shirt torn, his lips cut, but his eyes were taking me in concern.

“I am okay,” I said as I took another deep breath. “You...you are...hurt.”

“All the students who are here are called by the principal,” one of the clerks said. “You are asked to reach the office now.”

Everyone started to groan and complain.

Michael looked like he didn’t care a damn, he just looked at me.

"I asked you to stay where you were! Why did you come here!?" He scolded me as he realised that I am okay.

“Are you...injured?”

“I am fine, Cinderella,” he let go of me and turned to Nisha, “please take care of her, I have something to finish-”

He stopped as I held his hand.

“No, I am not going to fight him,” he said at my look. “I promise...” he added as I hesitated to let him go.

Sam.

About 15 students waited in the principal’s office as he shouted and threatened us.

“Who started this?” He kept asking and I realised that Michael and Roopak were not inside yet.

Great! Did he want to get expelled?

“We were playing Basketball when Michael attacked us first, we were only defending!” Roopak’s team member started.

“The three of them were fighting Senior Michael when we reached there, it was clearly them!” Alex said.

And everyone started to accuse everyone while the door opened again and Roopak limped inside.

“Tell him, Roopak, it was Michael!”

“Ha! Michael starting a fight? Can you be any more ridiculous?” Praveen, a guy from Michael’s batch scoffed.

“It was me.”

Roopak said and his friends looked confused as he turned to the principal.

“It was...me, I...started this,” he said. “I was so angry at him and wanted to get him expelled before the tech-fest.”

Everyone was frozen. I looked at Michael who stood there without showing even a hint of guilt or regret as the principal looked at him.

The principal seemed to hesitate a moment.

On one side it was his best student while on the other side it was a trouble maker, so the decision was made easier, I guess.

“Are you sure what you are saying is right?” He turned to look at Roopak. “You will be suspended for this.”

“I would rather give up this bloody college,” he looked at the principal. “I am discontinuing the course here.”

Ella.

Sam reached back first.

“Where’s Michael?”

“What’s going on? What’s this all about?”

“Why did he fight with Roopak?”

“What’s going to happen now?”

“He won’t get suspended, Right?”

Nisha and I asked him non-stop questions, but he just stared at me.

“Senior Sam!” I raised my voice.

“What did you do to him to change him like this?”

“What? I didn’t ask him to fight Roopak!”

“Your boyfriend not only beat the crap out of him but also kicked him out of this college...and voluntarily at that,” Sam explained.

“Roopak didn’t fight back?” Nisha sounded shocked.

“He didn’t. He took responsibility for today’s fight; he said he is discontinuing the course here. Nobody including the principal talked against your boyfriend...” Sam stopped. “Michael sure has changed...”

“I too felt that,” Nisha nodded. “I would never have believed it if someone told me that the nerd of CSE fought crazily with someone, but I saw it with my own eyes...”

“Where is he?”

“The principal asked the CSE students to stay back and let everyone else leave.”

“What happened today?” I turned to Sam.

“No idea,” he said. “Something big must’ve happened for him to go crazy like this-”

“If...if he gets suspended...it’s...my fault-”

“I doubt it,” Sam said. “He was standing there without an ounce of guilt on his face. He looked confident and smug as Roopak took responsibility. My guess is that he has already won this round.”

“But he might really get into trouble for this,” Nisha said.

“Abraham Sir! We should ask him for help!” I exclaimed.

...........

I waited with Sam and Nisha outside the office.

My phone vibrated and I opened the message from Michael.

“Meet me in the sick room.”

My heart dropped.

“Michael is in the sick room!” I hurried in the direction of the Nurse room.

I could see students whispering and staring all the way, but I ignored them.

As I reached near the room, I came face to face with Professor Abraham who was coming out.

“No need to look so distraught, Ella, he is fine.”

He said and I looked at him in confusion.

“That guy was too stubborn and thick-headed even to act as a victim, I had to drag him off the office so as to get him out of trouble with the principal,” he explained.

“But he was injured.”

“That’s nothing major,” he shrugged. “At least not as bad as that Roopak guy,” he turned to Sam then.

“Michael is going through late puberty it seems, keep an eye on him, I don’t want him to ruin his studies or career at this moment, Andrew and Jenni will kill me then.”

Sam chuckled and nodded.

We walked to the door of the sick room.

My eyes focused on him the moment I opened the door. He was trying to bandage his right knuckles with the injured left hand, a slight wince on his face.

My eyes blurred as I walked inside with Sam and Nisha. Michael straightened and turned to us as he spotted us.

“Man! That was one heck of a fight, I didn’t expect it from you,” Sam said rather proudly.

“What was it all about?” Nisha asked him, but his eyes were focused on me.

I wiped my eyes and sniffed.

“Are you...okay?” I wiped my eyes again as he got up and reached near me.

What I had expected was for him to talk to me or at the most; hold my hand... So it came as a shock as he pulled me to his side and hugged me gently.

...and you know how cool I am about holding my tears when Michael is near, I clutched his shirt and let my tears fall freely as the time and space felt frozen around us.

A few moments later, I started to feel an eerie silence pressing on me. I moved back and wiped my eyes before looking at him.

“I am okay, Cinderella,” he wiped my tears with his thumb.

“Yeah, I am more concerned about the guy I had to send to the hospital!”

I was shocked as I heard another voice and turned to look at the nurse who looked angry.

“Fighting like small kids! How old are you already!?” she kept on going, but what made me still were the people behind her.

Sam and Nisha looked frozen in their spot, watching us. And behind them, five or six guys were also looking at us, stunned-their eyes wide, mouth open.

I recognised Alex and Senior Praveen among them.

My face heated up as I realised that everyone has witnessed what happened.

Where were they when I came in? I didn’t notice anyone!

As if by God’s mercy, the door opened with a bang and everyone’s eyes moved away from me momentarily.

“Praveen?”

Senior Ruhi entered the room looking anxious.

“Don’t break the door of my room!”

The already irritated Nurse went off again.

“Ruhi...” Senior Praveen looked at her.

“You okay? How can you get involved in a fight at this time?” she walked to him, took his hands and sit beside him on the bed. “I was so scared when I heard that you were...” she stopped midway as she spotted Michael.

Her eyes widened.

“Did you fight with Michael because I refused to cancel the date with him-?”

“No, He already asked me to convince you to cancel the date. Besides, I was only trying to help him...” Praveen said. “It didn’t look like he needed help with fighting though...” he muttered.

“Thank you for coming there,” Michael looked at the guys and nodded. “It wouldn’t have gone well if you guys didn’t come to help me.”

“You wanted to cancel the date?” Senior Ruhi turned to Michael; she seemed to have grasped only that.

“Obviously, he got someone to take with him,” Alex looked at me with a smile.

Senior Ruhi looked at me, surprise clear on her face.

“You are taking Ella?”

Michael took my hand and faced everyone. He tightened his grip on my hand as I tried to take my hand back.

“Cinderella is my girlfriend.”

The room slipped back to silence except for Sam and Nisha, both of whom smiled.

.................

Michael.

“I just made a deal with him. He agreed to disappear out of this college so that I won’t expose him publicly.”

The four of us were in the bougainvillaea canteen. They let me come out after I insisted that I am okay.

“So Roopak’s family business is going through a bad time and you threatened to expose him publicly.” Sam looked at me with a laugh, “You sure are becoming more and more cunning.”

I looked at Cinderella.

I guess people will change when they have their loved ones to protect.

I was still contemplating if I should tell her about the Video or not. I decided against it as I saw how anxious she was.

I will tell her once everything is okay. Besides, I have already destroyed it, so there won’t be any harm in postponing it...

I looked at Sam.

“I was always sly,” I shrugged. “It’s just that Roopak forced me to take that trait out.”

“You didn’t have to go that far, Michael, you said violence is not a solution,” Cinderella said.

That’s before I knew what was there in the third video.

I nodded as I didn’t want them to suspect anything.

I hope this whole incident will end with this.

“Guys, I have news for you,” Nisha turned around her phone.

The group chat was already livid.

“Senior Michael is dating Ella!”

“Haha, good joke.”

“It’s confirmed! He admitted it himself!”

“I don’t believe it.”

Cinderella turned to me.

“What are we going to do now?” She bit her lower lip anxiously. “Let’s call them and ask them to keep it a secret... I can talk to Alex-”

“Cinderella-”

“You should talk to Senior Praveen and Ruhi-”

“Wait, Cinde-”

“-The other guys-”

She stopped as I grabbed her hand.

“Relax, okay?” I looked into her eyes.

“What...what should we do now?” she looked desperate.

Sam chuckled suddenly.

“Ella, haven’t you realised it yet? Michael deliberately did that, He hugged you in front of them and introduced you as his girlfriend,” he said.

“That’s because-” she started to defend me, but stopped as I squeezed her hand.

“He is right, Cinderella,” I looked at her seriously. “I wanted everyone in this college to know that you are my girlfriend.”

She looked at me in shock.

“Why did you do that?” Nisha frowned.

“I don’t want her to get hurt. I don’t want the students to think that Cinderella is an easy target.” I said firmly. “And I don’t want to ruin her reputation by being vague about our relationship. People have been judging her harshly after the second video was uploaded.”

“But her Mama will know about this!”

I nodded, “I know, but how long do you think we could hide this?” I looked at a frozen Cinderella.

“But she will be against this! She will hurt you!” Nisha said.

“I am ready to face it,” I said. “You said you love her, Cinderella. You said you wanted your Mama to accept us.”

“But...but...” she looked scared.

“I think it’s better if she knows about it from us rather than other sources.”

...........

Twenty minutes later, I pulled the car in front of the huge building.

“Mich...Michael...let’s...think about this once more...” Cinderella’s voice trembled as she looked at her Mama’s main headquarters situated in the heart of the Bangalore city.

I took hold of her hand firmly and looked into her eyes.

“It’s time we stop hiding,” I looked at her. “Avoiding the problem won’t solve it, Cinderella, let’s face it, that’s the only way we could fight for us.”

---------------------------

Q: Do you agree with Michael?

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