Shackled Exemption

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CHAPTER 19

Asfand was sitting in his study all by himself. A single lamp illuminated the shadows around him but he was too enthralled by his thoughts to notice them. Thoughts and memories that never came to haunt him like this before. He couldn’t have known those events ever occurred if she has not waltzed back in his life like that.

Dua

Asfand chugged his Scotch in one go and slumped in his chair. The glass was dangling in his hand by his side as he stared at the ceiling. Even the bitter taste of alcohol was not enough to overpower the bitterness of his existence. With an angry snarl, Asfand threw the glass against the wall. It shattered to pieces and Asfand watched them spitefully. He fell back again and closed his eyes with a tired sigh.

He remembered that day very clearly.

A twenty years Asfand stepped out of his Black 4x4 MT and went straight to his room in haveli. He didn’t bother to greet anyone on his way, nor replied to anyone’s greeting. Not that they mattered to him in the first place. His family was dead weight for him. He never wanted to come back from London in first place but it was strict business. He was aiming to get done with it as soon as possible. The very air of this place suffocated him to death.

Asfand slammed the door shut and went straight to his bed. Getting his phone out of his pocket, he called Safan. “Book the flight for early morning and meet me in the old warehou-”

“Chotay Saeen” A brief knock on the door interrupted him and he groaned. Here it comes. He dropped his phone on the bed and commanded his servant to come in. The man was shaking like a leaf in his presence. Asfand scoffed inwardly when he hurriedly settled his luggage and ran away. They were too afraid to even look at him. In their eyes, he was no less than a demon. Not that he cared but Asfand sometimes mused what made them fear him so much.

“Well! Whatever” Asfand grabbed the towel and went straight to his bathroom and took a long relaxing shower. He was halfway through getting dressed when his door knocked again. “What?” he snapped and he could practically see the person quiver violently outside his door.

“Chotay Saeen!” Asfand went to the door and opened it with a scowl. He strictly ordered about not sending any female attendant to him. Yet here was a tiny girl, standing before him like she was sent for capital punishment. “Baray Sa-een h-as ca-lled-” He slammed the door to her face and leaned against it.

“Control” Asfand muttered while breathing deeply and once he was in control again, he stormed out of his room and to his divan. He didn’t even bother greeting his so-called uncle, his so-called brother and their cavalry. He just sat opposite them on the grand couch.

“Don’t you know how to behave with your elders?” Asfand smirked and leaned back with arms spread wide on the headrest. Afroz fumed at his ill-behavior but kept quiet. He couldn’t do anything against Asfandyar. And Asfand knew of his uncle’s thoughts towards him.

He practically owned them. He owned seventy-five percent of property under his name. Every document needed his signature. Afroz couldn’t understand why baba-saeen favored Asfand so much. In his eyes, he was undeserving to be called a Sherzai. For him, Asfand was a fucker and too conceited, just like his father. But he knew it won’t be for long. Once his plan succeeded, he was going to wipe him as well.

“Why did you call me back?” Asfand inquired with disinterest. “If it was just a signature, you could have-”

“You are getting married in an hour.” Asfand didn’t blink when his uncle interrupted him with a stoic face. And the next moment, the table was kicked to side.

“You fucking with me?”

“Watch your mouth, you bastard” Anser got in his face but Asfand just smirked to spite him. “You-”

“Anser!” Afroz stood up and faced his nephew squarely. “Don’t you have an unfinished business Asfandyar? Don’t you want to know who planted that bitch in this family?” Asfand seethed silently when Afroz mentioned his mother. “Marry this girl and return the favor hundred times. This is your chance to get at Shahs for murdering your father.”

“And you being generous to me without any interest?” Asfand sneered. “Hardly digestible uncle.”

“You just have to marry her for a night.” Afroz completely disregarded his taunt. “Kill her or sell her to prostitution later, it’s all up to you.” Asfand balled his fists at his words. “Dua. That is her name.” A different kind of feeling coursed through his veins when her name rang in his ears. It felt...soothing. “She is Mir Jahangir’s grand-daughter. It’s your only chance. Don’t mess this up Asfandyar.”

Asfand stormed out of his lounge without affirming anything. His hand went to his heart that was beating furiously in his chest. He recalled her name and an urge rose within him to see how it would sound from his mouth.

“Dua”

“Asfand!” his eyes snapped open and he looked towards Safan. He was leaning by the window and Asfand didn’t feel him entering. “Can I ask you something?” Asfand poured himself another drink and gulped it down. “Were you really going to sell her?” The glass crashed in the wall next to Safan’s head but he didn’t even blink. “What are your intentions for now? Just fuck her to your content and discard her later?”

“Shut up bastard” Asfand smashed the bottle on the floor and turned away. “That’s none of your business. She is my wife. I can do what the fuck I want with her.”

“Even selling her too?” Asfand glared at Safan murderously. “Asfand! You may have no regard for that gender but I know you would never-.”

“Why so much faith in me Safan?” Asfand sneered at him viciously. “Have you forgotten, what I did to my own mother?” Safan pursed his lips at this.

“You knew about Feroze Rahija? Or what your uncle did to that family?” Asfand didn’t blink while looking at him. “You knew who she was when you said yes? Did you-”

“I am no human Safan. I am worse than an animal.” He completely dodged his questions. “As for what I intend to do with my so-called wife.” Asfand slumped back in his chair and pulled his gun out. “She is going to be a little more than my fuck doll. She is going to get me all that I need. Power and control. She is the queen of this game Safan.” Asfand tapped the muzzle to his forehead.

“A queen who will finish all the pieces before dying.”

*********

“What is this?” Amber exclaimed loudly. “Why have you drawn the curtains Dee? It’s so beautiful outside.” Dua didn’t react when she pulled the curtains away. Light pierced her room and her eyes stung with it. “And why are you still in bed?”

“Why are you so hyped up?” Dua pulled Rayan’s cradle towards her and smiled at his toothless smile towards her. He was growing up so fast. She looked up when Amber sat across her with a pout. “What?” Amber lifted Rayan and planted him in her lap.

“At least, he brought a smile to her khala’s beautiful lips. I’m going to keep him in your lap for few more minutes.” Dua shook her head and watched Amber fuss around the room. “Your make-up artists will arrive shortly. So, get up and get fresh. There is a lot we need to do. And you didn’t tell me how your bangles broke last night? Look at the wounds.”

“It’s nothing serious. I was careless.” Dua pulled her hand out of her grasp. “Where is Hadi?” Dua placed Rayan in her cradle and got up at last.

“Haider went somewhere... with Xian.” Dua looked up from her phone when Amber added after a pause. Her brows furrowed at this. Haider and Xian, together meant trouble. “Where do you think you are going?” Amber blocked her on the door and pushed her back. “You are not going anywhere.”

“Amber!” Dua tried but Amber stayed persistent. “Look! I need to-”

“You can’t Dee. It’s considered a bad omen for bride to set foot outside home before marriage.” Amber handed her towels and closed the door to bathroom after pushing her inside. Dua leaned against the door and sighed heavily. Her eyes went to her injured wrists and her memory recalled the ugly encounter with Asfandyar last night.

“Why am I getting this feeling out of blue?” She kept rubbing her wrists as her mind kept wandering back to that daunting man.

Asfandyar...Sherzai

*********

“I don’t want any mistakes.” Asfand stormed out of his mansion with guards on his tail. He refused the driver and got in the driver’s seat. “No need to follow me. Just do your part and remember.” He watched their bowed heads darkly. “I will kill each and every one of you with my own hands if any of you dared to mess up.” They nodded at him.

“Are you sure about this?” Safan inquired with a tired sigh.

“When am I not Safan? Just make sure everything is in order.” Safan nodded and stepped back when he turned the key in ignition. Asfand smirked his way and drove out of his estate speedily.

Their fate was weird. They might be moving in different directions but both were covering same distance to an awaiting quietus.

Asfand switched the gears furiously and sped up on the empty road. His eyes were raging while eyeing the file beside him. He watched the time and cursed under his breath before shifting the gear again.

“You are not going anywhere Dua. Not as long as I live.”

A lot of things happened in that instant.

A truck came in front of his car which forced Asfand to steer his car to left. Before he could get back full control over it, his car was hit from rear real hard. Since the car was at high speed, its crash against the barrier flipped it over.

Asfand groaned in pain and looked around, slightly disoriented. He pushed and kicked against the door which came undone under heavy blows and Asfand crawled out. He was badly injured. Few of his ribs were fractured and he lost so much blood. He could barely open his eyes.

I can’t lose now.

He rolled over and pushed himself up. He was barely standing when a hard blow landed at his back and next, at his head. His whole world spun and he whipped around on staggering feet. A bitter scoff left his lips and he caught hold of the next blow from his left.

“You want your sister to be a widow?” Asfand kicked the man in gut and faced Haider squarely. “How formidable of you Haider Shah.”

“She doesn’t need a husband like you. It’s better to kill an abomination like you to keep her safe.” Asfand scoffed at this. He barely had any strength but he sure as hell was not going down before Haider.

“Is this genetic Haider? Because something like this has occurred in the past.” Haider landed a hard punch to his gut. Asfand fell to his knees with a grunt and began laughing like a maniac. “It will take more than this Chotay Mir.” Asfand sneered at a seething Haider. “Count to my last if you want to keep Dua from me. As long as even one breath is in my body, she is mine. Dua is only mine.”

“Haider!” Xian grabbed his hand when he aimed his gun to Asfand’s head. “You cannot kill him. He is your blood.”

“I am not his blood.” Asfand spat murderously. “I cannot be part of that fucking bloodline. A bloody murderer bloodline that eat away his own relations like snakes.”

“You are one to talk” Haider hit his head with the back of his gun and pushed him back. “Make sure he can’t get up until rukhsati.”

*********

“Ahh!” Dua hissed in pain when a bangle broke and pierced her already injured wrist. Her heart started beating painfully and she breathed deeply to compose herself. She didn’t know what happened. She was just sitting and suddenly, a really ominous feeling coursed through her.

“Sorry Dee.” Amber examined her injury with a frown. “It’s strange. I don’t know how it broke.” Dua just shook her head. She was almost done. It was just jewelry and Dupatta that needed to be set. Dua refused further assistance from her make-up artists. Amber was more than enough to do the job. “You are looking very beautiful Dee. Sarim Bhae is very lucky.”

Dua was indeed looking absolutely stunning but her eyes couldn’t see past the scars of that night. She was in her bridal dress but she couldn’t bring herself to feel like a bride.

Not with the heaviness her heart was feeling out of blue.

Dua kept checking her phone all day. Not even once she could get through Haider or Xian. She knew very well it was them who planted this wall named Amber to keep her within these four walls. She just couldn’t comprehend what they were up to.

“One second Amber” She grabbed her phone and dialed Aya’s number.

“That won’t be necessary” Dua got up and scowled at Haider. She wanted to wipe his smile for now. “What?” Haider chuckled when she snatched her phone back angrily. “You will ruin your beauty-”

“Hadi!” Dua pressed. “What-” Haider grabbed hold of her shoulders with a warm smile that didn’t put Dua to ease.

“Is she ready?” Amber looked between them in confusion. Haider was clearly dodging Dua. “We have to reach the venue before Sarim and his family-.”

“What did you do Hadi?” Dua grabbed the collar of his mauve Sherwani. “What did yo-”

“The right thing.” Dua fell back in her chair. “Let me know when you are done.”

“I will go see him.” Amber ran after Haider. Her door opened after a knock and Dua glared at Xian when he stopped a foot behind her. She got up and faced him with calm rage.

Something was coming. It was nothing good and she was not sure if she could change the course of fate that was waiting round the corner.

*********

She was ready and waiting for Amber and Haider to come get her. But only physically. Her mind was all over the place and her thoughts scattered. Another thunder shook the sky and Dua looked towards her open window. Great! Just what was needed?

Dua got up immediately to close the window when wind turned robust. Her eyes fell on her reflection and she stopped. Although it was her decision to marry Sarim but as the curtain drew close, Dua couldn’t stop herself from pondering over it. Her mind and heart were in constant battle over right and wrong.

She joined her palms and watched them carefully.

Safiya looked at her daughters when they fell on the bed by her sides. Dua looked at the crème colored dress her mother was holding with a beautiful red dupatta. “Is Ammara wearing this?” A beautiful blush adorned Ammara’s cheeks and she buried her face in her mother’s shoulder. “Mama! What exactly is a nikah?”

“One of the pious and purest form of relation in this world.” Dua rolled on bed and cupped her face in amusement. She just loved looking at her mother when she told them about it. Even when she told them million times already. “It’s completion and fulfillment of two lives physically, emotionally and spiritually.” Ammara and Dua looked at each other and smiled at the dreamy look in their mother’s eyes.

“So now Ammara and Hadi’s love story going to be sacred because it will be blessed by Allah?” Dua laughed at her sister who turned beet-red. “Aww! Look mama. She is being a typical shy eastern bride.”

“Mama!” Ammara whined. “I will see how you will react on your nikah. You will be worse than me in blushing.” Dua just stuck her tongue out and jumped off the bed when Ammara lunged at her. “Dua! You are dead today.”

“Your wish came true Ammara.” Dua closed her palms when first tear fell in them. “I am more than worse on my nikah. The most wretched and ill-omened bride ever.” Her teary eyes lifted up and she looked at her reflection through blurry vision.

“Yes” Asfand pressed the muzzle to her forehead when she turned to him. “You are the most pitiful bride of the century without a doubt.” Dua looked in his stormy green eye. They were unrecognizable tonight. She could see the thirst in them.

Thirst for blood. Thirst for revenge.

Her eyes roamed over his face, covered in bruises and cuts. His forehead was bandaged and soaked in fresh blood. So was his chest and arms. He was badly injured and Dua wondered how he was still standing. “I told him” A gasp left her cherry colored lips when Asfand pulled her into him. “To not spare a single breath in my body if he intended to keep you from me Dua. I warned him.”

“Asfa-” his gun on her lips silenced whatever was going to come out and he smirked when her chest heaved against his.

“Not now love. Not until I have you where you should be.”

“Go away.” Dua pushed at his chest. “Why are you so insistent on having me now? You were going to forsake me after our wedding night.” His grip on her waist tightened. “You want to have that fuck you couldn’t that time? Am I to be your wife for one night? What about once you are done? Will you hand me over to those murderers? Or will I be allowed to marry Sarim? I-”

“Say anymore and I swear my men will empty every bullet in your family.”

“Don’t you dare” Dua thrashed violently but the release of click stoned her against him.

“I told you not to challenge my dare, love.” Dua tilted her head to side when Asfand leaned towards her mouth. “Your so-called husband-to-be is already in hospital and his family on death’s door. If you don’t wish to add anymore graves to your heart, just do as I say.” Dua scratched at his hand when Asfand dragged her out and down in the main living hall.

“Dar-jee!” She tried to run past Asfand but he pulled her back. “You-”

“Mir Jahangir Shah” Asfand caged a protesting Dua in his arm and pressed the gun to her temple. “I didn’t expect such transgression from you. Don’t you have any fear of Allah?”

“Asfandyar!” Haider roared in anger but his men pointed their guns at him when he tried to step forward.

“I told you, didn’t I?” Asfand snarled at him and held Dua tight to spite Haider. “You should have taken my advice seriously.”

“You fucker-” Haider stopped when Safan pressed the gun to Amber’s head. He gnashed his teeth when he looked at her and his son.

“Sherzai!” Asfand smirked when Xian rounded them up with his men. It looked like a living battleground now. Asfand knew it was not going to be easy. He didn’t want it to be easy. “You won’t leave alive as well.” Aya stepped behind Safan with her gun pointed to his head.

“I don’t doubt you Xian but I don’t care.” Asfand looked at Dua in dark amusement. “I don’t intend to leave until my wife comes along.”

“Wife?” Jahangir stood up and stepped towards Asfand confidently despite the death aimed to his head. “What kind of wife Chotay Saeen? One that you were going to sell?” Asfand gritted his teeth in anger. “Or a wife you want to present to your bastard uncle? So, he could finish what he couldn’t all those years ago?” Asfand matched his glare head on. “We’d rather die than let you walk her out of here.”

“Qazi Sahib!” Asfand yelled angrily. “I am going to take my bride. By living blessings or cursing deaths.” An old man was escorted inside by one of his men. “Prepare for nikah Qazi Sahib. And before you do that, enlighten these people about it.”

“Such words don’t suit you Sherzai” Asfand just snickered in response to Haider’s remark. “This nikah cannot happen.”

“But it already has happened Qazi Sahib.” The adjudicator looked between them in confusion. “This here is my wife. Our nikah happened seven years ago and I have our endorsement as proof.” Asfand motioned to one of his man who brought the file to Qazi. “You can testify it as much you want.” Asfand jerked Dua to stop her struggles. Their hateful glares could burn a mountain to ashes.

“This nikah-nama is according to Sharia law. These two are already married.”

“I know there is no need but I want to perform nikah again before her family. I want them to see me taking her away rightfully.”

“I don’t want to marry him” Dua finally snapped. “I don’t want him as my husband.”

“Be careful love. I don’t possess that much patience towards disobedience. Unless you want to start this roulette with your nephew.”

“Haider!” Amber screamed and clutched Rayan to her chest when Safan aimed to his tiny head. “Dee! Please, no” Haider was seized before he could even think of moving.

“Stop!” Dua was raging and her thrashing increased when she saw Rayan crying. “You animal!”

“Qazi Sahib!” Asfand grabbed hold of Dua’s head and held it in place. “Start the nikah ceremony.” He dragged her to the couch and pushed her down. “Now.” Her heart was thundering in her chest. She looked around but there was no escape out of it. It was a war that only death was going to win.

She regretted it. In this moment, she regretted Haider sparing his life.

“I know janaan but too bad for you” Dua looked away in disgust when Asfand chuckled.

“Dua Feroze Rahija!” her heart thundered when another wave of déjà vu hit her. She watched the adjudicator recite the lines to the ceremony but she couldn’t make of single word. Her mind went numb with pain of past. “Do you accept this nikah with Asfandyar Sherzai?” Her hands started sweating and shaking badly when their past flashed before her eyes. She looked towards Asfand who was ready to unleash his hell on her and rest with her one wrong word.

Why?

“I-” Dua looked towards Jahangir who was watching her helplessly. Her eyes went to Amber and the little life in her arms. “Qubool hai (I accept).” And she lost this battle to the demon once again. Qazi repeated the same verses again and Dua answered the same like a robot. She doesn’t need to look at Asfand when he said his part. She could practically feel this small victory dancing around him.

“Congratulations!” Qazi stood up once Asfand recited his part. “This nikah is now complete.”

“Welcome back my Dua" Asfand whispered near her ear.

“Welcome back to your hell.”

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