Shackled Exemption

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CHAPTER 13

“Mind if I join you?” Dua looked up when Haider poked his head through the glass-door of her terrace. To say she was surprised to see him would be an understatement. Especially after what occurred. Haider slumped next to her on the floor and leaned against the wall. “It was a feat to get past that wall, named Xian. Have you started drinking?” He frowned at the wine glass in her hand.

“It’s grape nectar Haider.” Dua rolled her eyes at him. “What are you doing here?” She breathed tiredly and gazed at the dark sky.

“It will be completely understandable if his body turned up at the end of a sewer line. Sarim completely asked for it.” A lifeless chuckle escaped her lips and she turned to him sideways. “I’m sorry. No one meant to hurt you that day. Especially Dar-jee. It just-” Silence fell between them as they sat side by side. Their minds being plagued by their own thoughts.

“You know I was thinking about the day we first met Xian.” Haider turned to Dua with a cheeky smile. Xian stopped on the door and leaned against it while listening. He aimed to intervene if things got out of hand between them. But judging by the sound of it, they won’t be needing his help like always. Because of the bond they shared. “You remember how we sneaked to the outhouse to see who our father’s brought.” A smile appeared on their faces as three took a trip down memory lane.

“There is a boogeyman in the outhouse” Dua screamed hiding her face behind her hands.

“It’s not a boogeyman, you dimwit” She pouted angrily when thirteen year Haider poked her forehead. “Our dads brought someone home.”

“Who?” Ammara asked sitting next to them in their playroom. Haider came with his parents to meet their family. The moment these children saw each other, they skipped away happily to their favorite place. Their playroom. Haider had no other family and he loved these two dearly.

“You want to know?” Haider smiled suggestively. Dua looked at Ammara for affirmation but the girl was too scared. Unlike Haider and Dua, Ammara was not very sportive and thrill-loving.

“Oh come on Ammara.” Dua whined loudly. “Nothing is going to happen.”

“Easy for you to say. This Hadi will leave in a while and if we got caught, I will have to listen to mama’s earful scolding.”

“Nothing is going to happen. Trust me.” Ammara was reluctant but she stood no chance against these two. The three of them ran downstairs and stopped outside the archway of their living.

“What do you intend to do with the boy? I know you had close terms with Jordell Wang but keeping his son under your wing could be taken as a sign of raising your head against them. Who will believe that Kuo Wang was behind the murder of Xian’s family? They have politicians and law at their hands Feroze. Think carefully. The Wang family is in close connections with Sherzai. If they got wind of things-”

“I’m not going to abandon that child. He is only seventeen. Do you think it will be easy for him to get out of this on his own? He grew up in the world of mafia Ibtesam. And he is the rightful head of Wang family. Those people, especially his uncle won’t let him live if they ever found out he is alive.”

“So! You want to keep him hidden?” Ibtesam inquired. “Do you even hear yourself?”

“We will see when the time comes.” Feroze closed the topic when his wife came with Rabail, Hadi’s mother. “I am taking responsibility of that kid.”

“Who is Xian?” Ammara asked in a whisper.

“It’s the name of that boogeyman in the outhouse. Ow!” Dua hissed when Hadi flicked her again.

“Let’s go” And they very stealthily sneaked out of the main mansion through back garden and ran towards the outhouse. It was eerily quiet and only a single lamp was on in the room upstairs. “Well!” Hadi pushed Dua forward. “You might be right about him being a boogeyman. So, you go first.”

“What?” Dua and Ammara synced at him. “Hadi! You are so mean.” He just shrugged and shoved a protesting Dua towards the main door.

“Get the key from the pot kidco. We don’t have time.” Dua stuck her tongue out at him and did what she was told. The door creaked open and they walked inside and towards the room upstairs.

“I still think it’s a bad idea” Ammara muttered lowly when they stopped outside their guest’s room. “Hadi! We should leave. What if he is dangerous?” But before they could, Dua pushed open the door and walked in.

“He doesn’t look like a boogeyman.” She whispered with a frown upon seeing the occupant on the bed. “Hadi?” Dua looked up when Haider and Ammara came behind her. “He cannot speak?” They watched the bandaged boy in silence.

“Dua!” Ammara panicked when her sister stood next to the young boy who raised a brow at her approach.

“Hi! I am Dua Feroze Rahija” She stuck her tiny hand out for him. “What is your name?” The young boy was amused by her bravery. Unlike other ten years old, she got curious by things that should be considered scary. Like finding an injured mafia kid in their home.

“Xian” he shook her tiny hand with a small smile which encouraged others to come forward as well. A very peculiar bonding established between them that night which could never be replaced or broken.

But who would have known such a small meeting will pave the beginning of something big that was going to change their lives forever in few years that were to follow.

“He is still the same.” Haider chuckled lowly. “He is the only one who hasn’t changed.” Dua nodded in silence but deep down, they knew why.

Xian suffered exact thing at that time they went through years later.

“Dua?” Her hands fisted by her sides. “I haven’t forgotten about her.” She didn’t look at Haider. “Amber has not replaced Ammara in my life. She is a piece of me and she will always live within me.” A lone tear slipped her eye and rolled down her cheek.

A sixteen year Dua was skipping towards the living happily. She stopped upon finding her sister hiding by the entrance with a crimson blush. She sneaked next to her and bobbed her head in question but Ammara was too flustered to answer.

“We don’t want to make you feel pressurized Safiya.” Rabail smiled at her parents. “We all know how much Ammara and Haider love each other. We just want to turn this friendship into relationship and take our daughter home.”

“What?” Dua looked at her sister incredulously. “Is this what I think it is?”

“They came with Haider’s proposal.” Ammara clamped her mouth shut when Dua squealed lowly. “But mama papa haven’t said anything.”

“Oh come on! Everyone know how much you two love each other since childhood. By the way, where is Hadi?”

“He didn’t come.” Dua just shook her head and they both peaked inside to watch their parents.

“She was always your daughter and I cannot tell you how happy I am.” Safiya and Rabail hugged each other. “Congratulations Bhae-jaan” Safiya passed the sweets to Ibtesam who fed them to Feroze and Dar-jee.

It was such a joyous moment of their lives. A lifelong friendship turned into everlasting relationship. Ammara and Haider got engaged six months later and their nikah happened two months after that. The Rukhsati was decided once both reached appropriate age.

But like they say,

Happiness is the distance between two sorrows.

A year later, Haider’s parents met a terrible accident on their way back from Pakistan. That was the beginning of a doom that befell them the night misfortune knocked on their doors in the guise of a well-wisher.

After that, nothing was same anymore.

“I know.” Dua wiped it away and turned to Haider with a bittersweet smile. “I am sure she is happy for you.”

“Time is an amazing thing, isn’t it?” Haider murmured lowly. Xian listened to them quietly as another wound freshened up.

“Yeah. If only, that time never came in our lives. If only-” Dua gulped lowly upon remembering the day that paved the beginning of their doom. “If only papa never started that project with Thompson.”

Haider wouldn’t have lost his parents and she wouldn’t have seen hers go through that hell.

“Are you sure about this?” Ibtesam asked Feroze and they both looked up when Dua came to them in the study. She sat on the armrest by her father’s side and hugged him sideways.

“Is everything okay papa?” Feroze nodded and they watched her mama walk in with refreshments.

“How many times have I told you not to disturb your father when he is in meeting?” Safiya scolded her daughter while setting the table. “There is a limit to everything Dua. You need to-”

“Safiya!” Feroze interjected calmly. “She has a right to know. After all, she is going to run my business one day.”

“But Feroze-”

“It’s okay Bhabhi. Feroze is right” Ibtesam spoke in favor of Dua as well. “Dua needs to learn and the sooner she did, the better.”

“I cannot win against you two.” Safiya shook her head and left them to carry on their meeting with Dua in it.

“I don’t know Feroze. Thompson doesn’t look like a man to be trusted. He is a fine businessman and the project he is suggesting is profitable but you know you have to go to Pakistan occasionally.”

“It has been years Ibtesam. And I have heard Sherzai now sit on the seat of Sardar. What threat do I pose them? I will clarify it if they want. And Arbaaz Sherzai married your cousin Qudsia.”

“But Feroze.” Dua picked the file from the table and read it. “I think you should reconsider. It’s a risk and not a small one.”

“Is this Andrew Thompson?” Dua inquired. “Papa! Are you doing business with him? He has a sick reputation.”

“Success never comes easy. The moment you start climbing the stairs, a lot of dirt will be thrown on you.”

“But there are cases against him. And this project is not even in America. It’s in Pakistan. You will be gone for too long and you know how mama doesn’t feel comfortable about your visits. I don’t know papa. I am not getting a good feeling about it.”

“Are you all ganging up on me?” Feroze mused. “Business is the name of risk taking beta.”

“You are not going to back out, are you?” Ibtesam sighed. “Fine! I want to invest too. There are multiple projects and I can see the profit it promises in long run. I don’t trust the man but I trust this project and you. If we are doing this, we need to have at least fifty percent of board.”

“Now we are talking” Dua smiled at her father and watched them discuss the details heatedly. She read the name on the file once again and got a very unsettling feeling.

Andrew Thompson

**********

The weather was like no other that night. The wind was strong, the rain unforgiving. Everything was catastrophic but what brought the ultimate ruination was the call they received in the middle of the night.

“Dua?” Ammara shook her sister furiously. “Dua! Please wake up.”

“Ammara?” Dua woke up groggily and all sleep left her when she saw the tear-streaked face of her sister. “What happened? Why are you crying?” But Ammara just cried harder.

“It’s Hadi’s parents.” Ammara hiccupped loudly and hugged her sister. “They were coming back from Pakistan and-”

“What happened?” Dua pulled away from Ammara. “Speak up Ammara. You are scaring-”

“Their plane exploded Dua. They are dead.” Dua was stoned when Ammara hugged her again. “They are not coming back to us anymore. We lost them.”

But it was only the beginning.

**********

“Feroze!” Ammara and Dua stopped by the stairs when they heard their mother’s panicked voice. “What are we to do now?” They slowly walked to the living room. Dua was astounded seeing her papa’s ashen face. He looked… frightened. But by what? “I am not letting you go. I am not letting my daughters set foot in their land. You know why they reached you. Just give up the company.”

“Ibtesam and Rabail died Safiya” Feroze snapped at his wife. “Those people are responsible for it because Ibtesam found out what they were doing in the name of business. You think their lives mean this little? No, I won’t give up my shares nor I will let them take over Globaviations.”

“You are endangering Ammara and Dua. Can’t you see what can happen?” Safiya screeched. “Those Sherzai are dangerous people Feroze. They still haven’t forgotten the past. They still haven’t forgotten that you chose me. They still haven’t forgotten the insult their daughter suffered because of us. They will punish our daughters. Please! Don’t be stubborn.”

“Papa?” Feroze looked up when Ammara and Dua entered the living. “What are you talking about?”

“Feroze!” Safiya looked at her husband pleadingly.

“I will talk to them.” Feroze finally yielded upon seeing her daughters. He will never endanger their lives. “I will hand over the company to them and I will ask Dar-jee to sign as well. The farther they stay from these children, the better.”

“I shouldn’t have let you guys go. I shouldn’t have let her go.” Haider wanted to say more but looking at Dua in this moment stopped him. “If only, I never pushed you guys away in my self-pity, nothing of that would have happened.”

“Are you insane?” Jahangir stood up angrily. “Don’t you know the cunning nature of that man and yet you insist to take your daughters along?”

“I don’t want to Dar-jee but I have no other choice. I named my shares under their name and Ibtesam transferred his to mine when he came to know. Have I known before, I wouldn’t have done that. They have to come with me to sign the papers. If I delayed, it will only endanger them more over time. I just want them out of our lives. They have taken enough already.”

“Then I am coming with you.” Jahangir finalized. “I am not letting you and the girls go alone. There is too much danger-”

“Dar-jee!” Feroze interjected “You cannot. Keep Haider away from this. I don’t want anyone else to get hurt. And if you got involved, they will only make it personal because of Qudsia and Ibtesam.”

“Feroze!”

“Trust me Dar-jee. I will set this right.”

“Dua!” Xian rushed to them when he heard the panic in Haider’s voice. He placed his hand behind her head on the wall to cushion it from her assault. Tears started rolling down her cheeks furiously when she remembered that night.

It was supposed to be a one night trip but it became a nightmare of six months.

“We had a home here and you never told us?” Dua watched the lush interior in wonderment. It was so different from their home in America. “So, this is Pakistan?” She slumped next to her sister on the couch and watched her father go through the documents. “Where are we again?”

“Islamabad” Feroze replied without looking up. “Sign these.” Ammara took the files from her father and passed one to Dua. “Once you are done, we are leaving.”

“What?” Dua exclaimed loudly. “You mean we are not going to stay and explore? Come on! Papa.”

“It’s not a trip Dua” Feroze said sternly. “Hurry up now.” Dua sealed her mouth shut and looked at her sister who just shrugged in silence. They didn’t know what it was all about but it definitely wasn’t anything good. “Get it done quickly while I arrange our flight back.” Feroze got up and left.

“I am not getting a good feeling out of this” Ammara whispered while signing the papers. Dua opened her file but instead of signing them off, she began reading it. “Hadi didn’t even come or called when we were leaving. I don’t know how to approach him. He is becoming too distant and then there is all this fuss.”

“Who are these Sherzai?” Dua frowned when she read the name. “And why are we transferring the company to them?”

“Shut up kidco and just sign the-”

“And you are telling me this now?” They both turned in the direction the furious voice of their mother came from. “How can you do this? Why did you come to Pakistan? We told you-”

“What was I supposed to tell you? It was nothing good. And why didn’t you tell me? Don’t you know-”

“Nanna?” Both girls stood up and rushed to the door. “Mama? Nanna?” they saw the terror that came in their grandmother’s eyes.

“You brought them here-“

“Amma!” Safiya screamed when a bullet tore through her mother’s heart. “Amma! No” Safiya caught her mother when she fell towards her. Dua and Ammara were rooted on the spot. They just couldn’t move after seeing the blood of their nanna coat her mother from head to toe. “No. Feroze!” Safiya screamed loudly. “FEROZE!”

“Is not coming Safiya-Bhabhi” Safiya froze when she heard the man who entered through their door. “But don’t worry, we will take you to him. After all, you came back home after twenty years. It calls for a celebration, no?”

“Mama!” Dua rushed forward when the man hit her mother on the head but blackness was all she saw when someone injected her from behind.

**********

“Du-Dua?” her eyes cracked open and a pain shot through her head when she tried to sit up. “Dua! Please wake up.”

“Ammara!” Dua crawled towards her sister who was sitting against the wall. She has never seen Ammara this scared before and that’s when she remembered. “Where is m-mama? Papa? Oh my God! Ammara? Nanna” She looked at her sister, wide eyed. “Ammara?” She looked at her in confusion when she raised a finger to her front.

“Mama! Papa!” Dua screamed and fell to the floor when she tried to run to her father. “What?” She looked to the chain around her feet that bound her to the wall. “Papa? Mama?” She screamed but they didn’t move.

There was blood everywhere.

On the walls, on the floor and on her parents. They were badly hurt. She could see the burn marks on their bodies and that’s when her fragile memory remembered the torture they went through. Right before their eyes.

How many days were it already? How many more? Why wasn’t anyone coming to their aid?

“Ammara-” She scampered towards her sister who hugged her immediately when the door banged open and men poured inside the room.

“Oh look! The bulbul are finally awake.” One of them sneered at them. “Don’t worry, we will wake your parents for you.” Screams left their mouths when that man kicked their father in the stomach and punched their mother in the face. “Wake up, you bastard” He grabbed hold of Feroze’s face. “Who said you can lose consciousness?”

“Le-ave the-m-”

“What?” The man leaned his ear to his face. “Sorry I couldn’t hear you. Say that again.”

“M-y dau-ghters” Feroze rasped. “Le-ave th-em.” He groaned in pain when another blow landed to his gut. And another session of merciless torture began. This time worse than before. Both girls watched their parents get beaten at the hands of these animals that didn’t show any mercy. Each time was worse than before. They couldn’t understand why was this happening to them. What sin they committed that they were being punished this severely. These men just come, beat them, laughed at their pain and then, left.

But today, Dua couldn’t hold it anymore.

“Stop!” She screamed. “Please! Stop. Stop hurting them.” Her gut constricted when their heads turned. Everything fell silent. They were looking at them as if they just noticed these two were here as well. “Please. Don’t hurt them.”

“Did you hear? A mouse squeaked.” One of them sneered and rest hollered. “And here I thought they were mute.” Dua and Ammara held their breaths when one of them knelt before them. “What did you just say little one?” Dua was shaking in fear under the watchful eyes of this man. This mud-green eyed monster. “Speak up”

“Don’t hurt my-”

Slap

“Didn’t your parents teach you that girls should not talk in elder’s matters?” Dua clutched her throbbing cheek in shock. Her parents never even raised their voices at them and this man just slapped her.

“Dua!” Ammara screamed when that man grabbed her hair and banged her head in the wall. Her whole world spun and she felt something warm trickle down her temple.

“Afroz!” Feroze bellowed from behind. Fury burnt in his eyes when he saw the damage his little daughter received. “You leave my daughters alone bastard. “How dare you-”

“How dare you?” The same man landed a punch to his cheek. “You think we will let you off after all that you did to us? You left Ujala phupho for this bitch? Do you even know the amount of shame we faced at your hands?”

“Enough Anser” Afroz boomed. “He will pay for everything. An eye for an eye Feroze Rahija.”

“You have everything. I signed the company to you. What more do you want?”

“You think” Afroz walked back to Feroze and pulled his head back roughly. “It is enough? No. If it was enough, you wouldn’t have come back to Pakistan. You wanted to stake a claim on the Sardar’s seat.”

“I don’t want that damn seat. I don’t give a fuck to the feudal-ship. If I had known who Thompson was working with, I would have never agreed.”

“Ah Thompson” Afroz sneered. “Quite a cunning bastard he is, no? But the thing is Feroze. It was us who told him to lure you back in Pakistan.”

“Afroz!” One of the seven men spoke hesitatingly. “Let’s just get the signatures and end this. Jahangir Shah is looking for them. You cannot keep them hidden for long-”

“Shut up Behroze.” Afroz bellowed at his companion. “If you were this scared, you shouldn’t have involved yourself from the start. But of course, who would want to give up on so much wealth.”

“It’s not only about wealth.” Ismael snapped angrily. “You didn’t tell us you had family issues. You were aiming for revenge on Rahija. Why are we getting stuck in your personal affairs?”

“You should have known then. There is no point in your whining. You all are in on this. Whatever happens, know that you all will face the consequences equally.”

“What do you intend to do?” Jalal asked reluctantly. “You can’t just-”

“Kill them” Nawab interrupted Jalal. “There is no point in letting them live. Kill them right now. If they lived, it means our death. It’s better to just end them once and for all.”

“You are right” Afroz spoke after sometime. “But why not make it interesting?” he sneered at Feroze and turned to his daughters once again. “Anser!”

“Sure abbu” he smirked and motioned for his men who brought ten big gallons inside.

“Beautiful daughters you have Feroze.” Ammara and Dua shrunk into each other when Afroz walked back to them. “Such exquisite beauties they are.”

“Afroz!” Feroze screamed in agony. “Don’t go near them. Leave them out of this.”

Too bad that the flower got caught in the nest of thrones.” Ammara screamed for her sister when Afroz pulled Dua up by her hair. “You wanted us to free your parents? Let’s free them together.” Afroz motioned to his men who untied their parents and dragged them in the middle of room. “Come” The girls were unchained and pushed forward as well. They watched with silent tears when their parents were encircled by them.

“You know what is going to happen right now?” Afroz asked the girls who were too scared to even look at him. “A magic is going to happen. And you know what that magic will be?” he looked at his companions who snickered at them wickedly. “We are going to make your parents disappear. You want to know how?”

“No!” they screamed and thrashed when they started throwing acid on their parents. “Please! Stop!” Dua cried loudly and hugged her sister. “Please! Papa! Mama! No.” Their skin burnt, their flesh charred and bones dissolved. They were forced to watch it to the end. Until nothing was left of them.

“We told you there was no way out. It was a mistake for you to come back and bring your family to the doom that will be worse than any death.”

“Please! Please! Please!” Dua pleaded to Afroz with folded hands. “Don’t do this anymore. Don’t do this.”

“Will you look at that?” Afroz cooed in mock. “My heart hurts seeing these two hurt. What should we do now? Now that their parents have really disappeared. What will become of these little angels?”

“It’s time to send them to heaven”

“Dua!” Haider held her against himself when she fell forward.

“They should have killed us too.” She hiccupped loudly. “They should have burnt us in that acid too. It would have been a lot better Hadi. But no” She pushed at his chest weakly. “They had something much worse planned for us.”

“Wake up bitch!” Dua woke up with a whimper when a hard slap landed on her cheek. “Your father thought he was too smart. You are under-age which makes it impossible for us to take up those shares unless you signed the papers as well. All sixty-five percent, you fucking bitch.” Another slap. “It means a wait of whole year. How wicked of him. Even in his death, he planned an escape for you two-”

“Nawab! It’s enough” Ammara hugged her sister when Anser intervened. “Leave.” He glared at Nawab who hurried away just like he came. “I’m sorry but these old men don’t know how to behave.” Dua clutched her sister tightly when he smiled sweetly at them. She wanted to wipe it off. After making them go through all that. After making them witness their parents death. He had the audacity to come to them and behave like nothing happened. “Does it hurt-”

“Don’t touch me” Ammara pushed his hand back that tried reaching for her face. “Don’t come near me. Don’t think I don’t know what intentions you bear Anser Sherzai.” A sickening smile appeared on his face and he began to laugh loudly.

“Ah! You had me fooled.” He slurred while looking at Ammara. “You look so innocent but damn” Ammara screamed when he pulled her away from her Dua. “Of course! After all, you are brought up in America.”

“Leave me” Ammara thrashed in his hold but Anser didn’t. “No!”

“Anser!” he backed away when his father came. “What do you think you are doing?”

“What does it look like to you?” he pushed Ammara back and stood up to face his father. “I want this one but you are not ready to listen-”

“Are you out of your mind?” Afroz yelled at his son. “She is in nikah of Jahangir’s grandson. Don’t even think about it.”

“The fuck does it matter-” Anser yelled back at his father which earned him a slap.

“Don’t you dare raise your voice at me” Anser glared at the girls murderously and left from there in anger. “You!” Dua whimpered lowly when he directed to her. “You think you are very smart.” She screamed when he thrust the papers in her face after slapping her twice. “This cleverness of your father will cost you a lot.”

“Ammara! No. Please no” Dua watched horrified when they dragged her sister away. “Where are you taking her? Please! Leave-” A painful groan left her mouth when Afroz kicked her in the stomach twice. She was on the verge of passing out when he pulled her up and shoved her against the wall.

“Bring it” her scream recoiled from every wall when he branded her left shoulder with a burning rod. “We will have it little Dua. I assure you that you will sign those shares yourself.” Afroz pulled the rod away and let Dua fall on floor like a ragged cloth.

“M-y si-ste-r” Dua gasped in pain when he stepped on her fresh wound.

“Will see worse than this if you don’t do as we tell you. Next time I come to see you little Dua, I want to see your obedience or there are enough vultures outside. Hungry and more than ready to tear through the tender flesh of your sister.”

**********

Something nudged her leg roughly and next, a tight slap landed on her already stinging cheek. “I knew the bitch won’t wake up otherwise.” Dua crawled back in fear when she saw Anser hovering over her. His breath was reeking of alcohol and he didn’t look in his senses at all. “Get up” he slurred and pulled her up by her hair. “Time to have some fun.”

“No, stop” Dua clawed at his hands when he dragged her behind him roughly. “Please! Help. No, leave me-”

“Shut up” Another slap to her face and he pulled her out by her hair roughly. “You sisters will pay the price for the insult I faced at my father’s hand.” Her heart pounded painfully when Anser dragged her to a circle full of men outside the godown they were kept in. “I have something very interesting in store for you.”

“Dua!” She rushed out of his hold and towards Ammara. She was tied among those men who were watching them like hungry hyenas. “I’m sorry.” Ammara hugged her sister and cried her heart out. “I’m sorry kidco. I couldn’t protect you.”

“Aww! How heart touching” Ammara screamed when Anser pulled Dua away from her and shoved her to one of his men. “But do you know what is going to be more heart touching?”

“Ammara!” Dua screamed and thrashed against the men holding her when Anser tore her sister’s clothes. “No, don’t. Please!”

“When I will fuck you before your sister with my men.” Ammara’s painful scream painted the sky when Anser assaulted her like an animal.

“Please! No. Stop” Ammara screamed loudly. “No please. I beg you. Don’t do this.”

“Beg for me more sweetheart. It makes me want to fuck you hard.”

“Haider!” Ammara screamed in pain.

“Not Haider sweetheart. I’m not your Haider but you can imagine him to make it easy on you.” Dua clamped her hands on her mouth when he gagged Ammara to muffle her screams. “You know what, I think I would like my men to taste this exquisite meal as well.”

“No. Stop. Please. Don’t.” Dua cried loudly. “Ammara!”

“You won’t look away Dua” Anser snarled at her. “You won’t blink. You will watch your sister become food to my hungry hounds. She will scream. She will beg but you won’t blink. You won’t cry because the more you blinked and shed tears, the more she will become prey to these hungry beasts. She will suffer until there will be nothing left. She will suffer until she will stop breathing.”

“No, Please” Dua fell to the ground, crying her lungs out when one by one each of them took turns on Ammara. She was just lying there like a living corpse. Her eyes were wide open and staring at the sky who was watching this injustice happen to these poor souls. But no one came to their aid.

No one.

**********

Next time her eyes open, she was back in that hell-hole. “Ammara!” She crawled to her sister who was sitting beside her like a corpse. What had they reduced her sister to? “Ammara! Please” Dua sobbed loudly and hugged her. “Say something. Please-”

“Run!” Dua looked up from her shoulder. “You have to run. You can’t let them win. Don’t let them win.” She was talking like a robot.

“Ammara?” The doors burst open and same men took her sister away once again. “Ammara!”

“Run! I said run. Run kidco. You need to get away. You can never let them win. You will have to live for us. For Mama. For Papa. For me. Don’t give up kidco. You cannot give up.” Dua hugged her knees when her sister disappeared from her sight but her voice still thundered through the halls.

Why?

“Hello once again… Dua” her head snapped up when Afroz came back with his so-called cavalry. “Apologies for what happened to your sister. You see some things are not in our control. It’s destiny.” She watched him blankly when he knelt before her like always. “But you can save your sister from further ruination. You want to save her, right? You want to take her back home?” Her eyes brimmed with tears when this sick man mentioned home. What home was left for them? “But that will happen only if you will do as we say. We promise, we will let you two go.” Can she really trust these beasts? Who took everything from them?

“Think carefully Dua. It’s the only chance left for you to save your sister.”

“Asfandyar Sherzai” Dua looked directly in Haider’s eyes. “Asfandyar Sherzai was the price I paid in return for my sister Hadi. I sold my freedom to his name for Ammara’s life.”

“Dua Feroze Rahija! Do you accept this nikah with Asfandyar Sherzai?” her hands shook when Qazi repeated the same question thrice. All eyes were on her and none of them was free of threats and warning.

“Qubool hai (I accept)” she whispered lowly. The Qazi asked twice and she repeated the answer like a machine. “My sister?” She inquired feebly when the marriage certificate was presented to her. “But you said-” Afroz glared at her in warning and she signed her life to a pending doom.

Chaining her life to a man she never met or heard of before.

**********

“Scream all you want but no one is coming for you.” Asfand threw her roughly on the bed. She wanted to push the veil away from her face but it seemed like the only safe haven from every wickedness around her. “Not your papa, not your mama and not your dead sister.”

“No!” She looked at him in fear when he began to remove his Sherwani.

“I would like to see what I got by sacrificing my part in this bargain.” He grabbed her leg and pulled her towards him before she could even crawl back. “Don’t worry, I will make you scream louder than this.”

“Fire!” Asfand looked away from her when a commotion broke outside his room. It didn’t take long for them to notice the fire that was slowly engulfing the room in its rising flames. Taking advantage of his momentary distraction, Dua pushed him off and before he could react, smashed the lamp on his head.

“You little-” She doesn’t know where this burst of courage came in her but she was not going to let go of it yet. A scream left her lips when Asfand grabbed hold of her arm. “Don’t even think I will-” He watched her veiled face with wide eyes when Dua snatched his dagger from bed and shoved it in his chest, missing his heart by a graze.

“Die, you monster” She pushed him back and ran towards the door. The whole room was burning but the fire that burnt within her heart was much stronger than everything. She turned reluctantly and watched him standing amidst it like a raging bull. Her heart thundered in her chest at the wrath burning in his eyes, matching the hatred her eyes bore for him.

“Dua bibi!” Someone knocked on the door furiously. “Dua bibi! Open the door, please.” Dua rushed out of the room and ended up running in a woman. For a second, her heart stopped, fearing she was caught again. “You need to escape.”

“Who?” She looked at the group of five people who were waiting outside the main haveli for her. All of them were covered from head to toe and three of the girls were in exact same bridal dress as her.

“Take her to the warehouse and make them leave from the car that is waiting by the end of the valley. There is not much time.” A man spoke gruffly. “Hurry up.” Giving her one apologetic look, he ran inside the haveli with rest.

“Who are you people?”

“Loyal servants of your family Dua bibi” The female smiled. “I apologize for not coming to your aid earlier. We had no idea they were keeping you all where we would have least expected. Your very own home.” Dua looked behind at the burning haveli one last time and let the woman take her to her sister. “We need to take Ammara bi-”

“Ammara!” Dua rushed forward and knelt by her sister. Her heart started beating frantically when she looked at her battered condition. “Ammara!”

“Don’t for-get” Ammara breathed heavily. “Don’t ev-er forget Du-a. You can ne-ver forg-et.”

“Ammara! Please. Don’t go. You can’t go. You can’t leave me alone.” She pulled her sister in her arms and hugged her tight.

“Don’t forg-ive those mon-st-ers. Ma-ke them p-ay Du-a. You ha-ve to-”

“Ammara?” Dua pulled away from her and watched her wide unblinking eyes. “AMMARA!” Dua screamed and shook her furiously. “You cannot leave me alone. Come back. Ammara! Mama! Papa!”

“DUA!” She looked behind when someone roared her name.

“You need to leave right now.” Bullets were being shot relentlessly. “Run from the back door. Take the forest. Don’t stop and don’t look back. You can never look back. Do you hear me?” Dua whimpered lowly when the woman pushed her to the back exit. She watched the body of her sister lying on the cold floor and another round of tears blinded her. “Remember what she said. Don’t forget and make them pay. Come back for everything they took but not as a weak girl.” She watched the door close on her smiling face and her eyes lowered to what she placed in her palm.

“But as a tornado that will tear them apart.”

Haider’s blood was boiling upon hearing everything once again. It was not only Dua who wanted revenge. He was thirsting after it as well. He will never forgive what those bastards did to them. To his innocent Ammara.

He can never.

Haider shook heavens and earth when they found about their kidnap. It took them six fucking months and he can never explain how he lived through each second during that period. It was by sheer luck that their plan succeeded and they got hold of their location.

But they were too late.

That night tore his world apart when they found Dua outside the city. She was barely alive herself. He couldn’t save Ammara. She died of the trauma her continuous assault left on her fragile mind and heart. And her death left a dark mark on Haider’s soul for life. He lived in regret every second and was still living.

There could be no retribution for the sin he committed, intentionally or unintentionally.

If only, he had never let her come. If only, he had never distanced himself from her. If only, he kept a lookout for things that were happening around them. Nothing of this would have happened if only, he had not been selfish.

She was screaming for his help. She was calling for him.

How many times Dua cried in her sleep saying Ammara called for Haider. But he couldn’t get to her. He couldn’t protect his Ammara. And now, her smiling innocent face haunt him like curse. He couldn’t get to her assaulter who fled before they landed on their territory. The bastard disappeared completely from the face of earth. But Haider was going to drag him out of hell.

It was not about Rahija and Sherzai anymore.

It became a war between Shah and Sherzai which remained unsolved till today.

Haider was on the constant lookout for Anser Sherzai. He won’t sit and rest until he made Anser pay for Ammara’s tears and pain. A case was filed against him and his arrest was made global. If they can’t get their hands on him, they won’t let him live him in peace. He will crawl back to the same hole he ran from.

And once he does, Haider was going to tear him to so many pieces that he won’t even find his own voice to scream it out.

“They took my life Hadi” she murmured lowly. “They took my family. They took my identity.” Xian watched Dua sitting like a corpse against Haider. “They took my freedom.” A rage now burnt in her eyes that soared higher every time she remembered those bitter memories.

“Now I will take their everything.”

Nikah- Muslim Marriage

Qazi- Adjudicator

Rukhsati- Departure

Beta- Son

Phupho- Aunt (father’s sister)

Abbu- Father

Bhae- Brother

Bhabhi- Sister-in-law

Bulbul- Nightingale

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