Shackled Exemption

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CHAPTER 34

Their shopping took almost whole day and Dua could tell that Ushna enjoyed it a lot. She was like an excited child who was discovering new things. Her enthusiasm reminded her of Amber in many ways. She was innocent like her. But she was not Amber and her blood can never be innocent.

Their cars stopped outside a fancy restaurant and Dua guided Ushna inside. “Did you enjoy?” Ushna nodded with a bright smile that fell the moment they stepped inside the dimly lit restaurant. Xian didn’t follow them inside. He was to keep a strict lookout for things. Until further commands.

“There are no people here.” It was empty with only one table occupied among many. Her steps faltered further and she watched ahead with fearful eyes. Her heart was hammering in her chest but she couldn’t put forth enough courage to let Dua know she wanted to leave.

“Because they only make two reservations at a time.” Dua didn’t look up from her phone while walking ahead of her. “We are lucky that we don’t have to wait up the queue. Let’s eat and then we will retur-Ushna? Is everything alright?”

“Can we go somewhere else? Please? I’m not feeling comfortable here.” Dua could see it. But, does it matter to her? Not at all. After all, she brought her here purposely. “Bhabhi?” Ushna paled when Dua grabbed her hand and dragged her towards their table.

“Why are you afraid?” Dua pulled out a chair and motioned her to sit. “Your engagement is off and there is no need to fear a mere human. He is just like you. He can intimidate you only if you give him the power.” Ushna was fidgeting nonstop in her seat. She just couldn’t bring herself to raise her head. She didn’t want Wasiq to see her. She knew what he will do if he saw her.

“You don’t know him Bhabhi. He is worse than an animal.” Your brother is same. “He doesn’t even know what ‘no’ means.” Your brother doesn’t know that as well. “He left no chance to assault me when we were engaged and I couldn’t even tell a soul.” Her eyes brimmed with tears. “He attacked me in my own home and when I pleaded to baba to not wed me to that monster, he beat me instead and locked me in a room for a week. He said it was to discipline me because I was forgetting my place.” A lone tear escaped her eye and she wiped it away quickly.

“My life is not like yours Bhabhi. I can do nothing but cower away in fear. It’s not me who has given men like him power over me. It’s the people who should have protected me.”

“If it isn’t my darling fiancee and her hot sister-in-law.” Ushna stiffened when his voice sneered in her ear. She looked at Dua but she sat impassively and without blinking. “How long it has been? I missed you baby.” Ushna cringed at his breath. It reeked of alcohol and she wanted to puke at how close he was to her face. “Did you miss me?”

“Get away from me Wasiq. I’m not your fiancee anymore.” A painful cry left her lips when he grabbed her jaw and turned her face towards him roughly. Tears were falling down her cheeks and it only made the monster grin. “Don’t!”

“You have become quite disobedient. Is it because of the company you are keeping?” Dua showed no acknowledgement to his sneers and actions, nor the staff of this high class restaurant. They were standing like statues, heads bowed and letting a man harass a woman so openly. “Why don’t you join us babes? My friends would love your company.” Wasiq pulled Ushna out of her chair and dragged her behind him roughly. “Days have been rough baby. Make it better for us.”

“No! Bhabhi” Ushna pleaded but Dua paid no heed. She just reached for her glass and sipped water slowly while listening to her screams. “Bhabhi please! Help. Stop. Leave me alone.”

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

Dua slammed the glass on the table when her sister’s screams reverberated around her. She could hear their heinous laughs and her painful cries but it was not enough to overpower Ammara’s pain.

“Please stop!” Ushna was crying but no one came to her aid. Her clothes were being torn but Dua made no move to look her way. She should suffer what my sister did. Her hand gripped the glass tightly. She was innocent as well. “Bhabhi!” Ushna was calling for her help nonstop. “Bhabhi, please.” Her eyes turned red with dry tears of anger and the glass broke in her grip, piercing her flesh and coating it with blood.

“Aww! Beg me baby. I will give you what you want if you beg me on your knees with your mouth sucking between my legs.”

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

“Let’s make it more fun-” Wasiq looked at Dua with a raised brow. “What the fuck do you think you are doing Mrs. Sherzai?” Wasiq pointed to his hand that was in her grip. Her hands appeared dainty but his groan pointed to the strength they held. Dua pulled Ushna out of his lap and pushed her behind her. “You want to take her place?” They snickered at her. “We don’t mind-”

A painful scream escaped his filthy mouth when Dua slammed his hand on the table and plunged the dagger in the middle of it. Wasiq was howling like a slaughtered animal while watching his incapacitated hand.

Every person present in the restaurant was stunned to silence at what she did. Not that there were any humans here in the first place. But these mutts wouldn’t have expected such turns of events.

“What the fuck!” The one on Dua’s right was about to stand up but Dua didn’t give him the chance. She grabbed the bottle from the table and smashed it on his head before grabbing that guy by his hair and banged him face down on the table.

“Anyone else want to try something as well?” No one dared to move a muscle. “Wise decision.” Dua pulled the dagger out of Wasiq’s hand and dragged him out of his chair by neck.

“Bhabhi, your han-” Dua raised her finger to stop Ushna.

“You filthy little bit-” Her fist connected to his jaw, followed by a knee to his abdomen. Wasiq buckled to his knees but Dua didn’t let him fall. She pulled him back by hair and landed another punch to his face.

“Not so soon kid. You need to pay the bill. Come Ushna” Dua dragged Wasiq out like an animal. It didn’t take long for crowd to gather and it made her scoff bitterly. A woman was getting assaulted, no one paid attention and suddenly everyone was interested because the tables turned. Dua pushed him to the ground rather roughly.

“You will pay for this.” His threat didn’t affect her in the least. Dua motioned to Xian who gave Ushna a new dupatta to cover up. “You have any idea who you messed with? You wait until my father know. Just because you are married to Asfandyar, doesn’t mean you can do as you please. You bitches are done-”

“Not yet” Dua interjected him calmly and Ushna was astounded by her courage. “You love to tear other’s clothes, right? I’m sure it must give you so much thrill that you can’t stop at all.” Dua smirked at him. “But have you ever experienced what it feels like to have your own clothes torn? In the middle of the night, on a road full of bystanders?”

The crowd parted when a horde of veiled women walked amidst with a donkey and encircled Wasiq. He couldn’t make of a single face. They were wearing same dress and were covering their faces in same manner. It was like one person cloned to hundred.

“Enlighten the gentleman ladies. Don’t let one charm unturned.” Dua stood by the side with arms crossed over her chest when the infuriated women lunged at Wasiq like hungry animals. One could feel their rage in their actions, their pain in their roars and their suffering in how they were tearing him apart amidst whole world.

Just like he tore them apart from inside out.

His body was naked, bloody and battered within matter of seconds. Not a single shred of cloth remained on his body and he was lying on the hard concrete like a nameless corpse. Karma was really a bitch and if it gets high on courage, it was formidable.

Ushna was watching the man on the ground in bewilderment. Dua didn’t need to ask or hear how she was feeling. She could see it in the very way Ushna was standing. Her pain and hatred was clear on her face. Dua grabbed her arm and pulled her forward when those women pulled him up.

“Do it.” Ushna looked at Dua. “No one is created inferior to others Ushna. It’s the choice we make.” Ushna bit her lip to keep their trembling and looked at Wasiq. He looked barely alive and very much like what he really was. Trash.

Her palm connected to his cheek with a resounding noise and she screamed while slapping him repeatedly. Dua watched her slap him mercilessly. “Monster” Ushna stepped back and buried her face in her shoulder. She cried her heart out but Dua made no move to comfort her. Her face was blank in this moment. So were her eyes. No one could tell what was going in her heart and mind.

No one ever could.

“Let’s escort him where he belongs.” One woman tied the rope around his ankle and other end around the donkey’s neck. “To his great father.” They pulled at the rope and Wasiq fell on his back. Everyone watched the son of greatest politician being dragged away but no one dared to move a muscle. Some were shocked, some embarrassed and some awed at how justice was served.

You don’t need to be born strong to be strong. One thought, one move and a flicker of courage is enough to do that. Even the strongest of winds can turn the greatest of tides around. And humans are far less and more than that in twisted kind of way.

Dua looked at the last female when she stopped before her. A meaningful conversation passed between their silence and she walked away with a slight nod towards her.

“Make sure they are safe.” Xian nodded and dispatched one team after them. Dua pushed Ushna away from her and looked her in the eye. “Not every time your father, brother or husband will be there to protect you. Sometimes you need protecting from the very hand you thought will protect you.” Ushna looked at Dua in silence. “It’s not that you are weak, it’s the thought with which you are brought up, the wrong teachings and wrong norms.”

“Being women, we are misguided and mislead on the thought that we ought to be delicate and feminine and we need a knight to guard us from the harshness of the world. It’s not. Take a closer look and you will know there is a warrior inside you. You don’t need to be protected by someone else. Your own hand is enough to divert whatever comes your way. Just learning domestic and wifely stuff is not enough for you Ushna.”

“You need to learn how to be sufficient for yourself in every way. Learn to stand on your own Ushna. You are given equal rights to men, then why do you chose to live inferior to them. After all” Dua guided her to their car. “You are on your own in this world.”

It won’t be long until the news reach the ears they were meant for. And it wouldn’t be long that they acted. Just like she wanted. It was her game and she was going to play every move from both ends. In this world of men, D. Sahi was queen of her own kingdom and she wasn’t the woman who could be ruled or ruined.

**********

“Find every victim you can and bring them to this NGO Iram. I don’t want any woman or girl to suffer for what was never their fault.” Dua checked the file one more time and sent it to Sharlene. She closed the laptop and slumped in the softness of the couch. “I appreciate what you did today.”

“This is nothing compared to what you did for us ma’am. Everyone is grateful and praying for you. Not many possess the courage to stand against evil. Not in this society which is ruled by vicious creatures like Azfar Baig and his son, where women are considered nothing but a fuck doll for their pleasures.”

“It’s neither the society nor the people Iram. It’s us.” There was pregnant pause on the line. “We gave them the power to control and hurt and we have the power to nullify it.”

“Will you be okay ma’am?” Dua didn’t answer. ”I don’t know much but I just pray that your courage never falters and you get what you want. I will pray for you ma’am. I will always pray for you.”

“Let me know.” Dua disconnected the call and threw her phone on the table. She leaned back with closed eyes and sighed deeply.

She never intended to hurt Ushna. She could never. She knew what it felt like for a woman to lose her dignity to vultures like them. Dua was here for revenge but she was not blinded by her hatred to the point where she would involve innocent lives. She didn’t lose her humanity to that level. She was consumed by her demons but not to the point to turn blind eye to the right and wrong.

“May I disturb you?” Her eyes opened and met with warm blues. Dua sat up straight when Noor Bi walked inside their small study and sat beside her on the couch with a glass in her hand.

“What’s this?” Dua pointed to the yellow fluid. And her curiosity made Noor Bi chuckle.

“It’s milk with turmeric powder. It will help with pain.” Dua took the glass silently. “I came here to thank you.” Noor Bi held her bandaged hand. “Ushna told me everything that happened. I know it might mean nothing to you but I want to thank you.”

“I did what was right. Wrong need to be put in place and I won’t hesitate to do it again.”

“You didn’t need to save her. Not after knowing what blood she bore and what it did to your parents” her voice shook and eyes watered up. “To your sister.” Dua showed no reaction. “You could have let them ruin her life, just like Anser ruined your sister’s life but-”

“I’m not inhuman Noor Bi and not heartless either.” Dua pulled her hand from her grasp gently. “Ushna is innocent but rest are not. And I don’t intend to forget that.” Noor Bi watched her silently. “You said Allah was the best avenger, I have no doubt on that. But some matters need to be taken in our own hands. I am alive and I don’t possess enough patience to wait for the day of judgement. Not after the hell I have lived while being alive.”

Her darkness shook Noor Bi to her core. Dua reminded her of empty cold pits that bore no signs of life. It hurt her to see Dua turn the way she did but she could not blame her. Not after knowing what this poor soul suffered at such tender age. She was exposed to wicked cruelties yet she rose out of ashes like a phoenix. She just prayed a miracle saved her.

Because the path she was walking, only held death at the end.

“May Allah enlighten your heart with truth beta” She palmed her head with a smile. “May you find what is lost in the darkness of your soul.”

**********

Asfand stormed towards their room like a tornado. He was boiling with unadulterated rage and every ounce of it was directed towards his wife. She put every effort of his to null and void with these acts of hers. He was trying so hard to not repeat anything that occurred between them but she insist on waking his sleeping demons.

Now she dragged Ushna in everything and pulled another stunt on Wasiq in the middle of whole fucking world once again.

Asfand banged the door loudly behind him and scanned the room but there was no sign of her tiny frame. It only fueled his anger to infinity. Asfand took off his jacket and tie and threw them on the bed. He went to the bathroom and checked the closet area but there were no signs of her. His frame was visibly shaking at her temporary disappearance.

“Fuck!” Asfand was halfway to the door when his steps halted. He turned towards the small study in their room with a scowl. Its light was on. Without thinking twice, he strode towards it at angry pace. But everything came to an abrupt halt when he saw her small frame curled on the couch like a baby. She was sound asleep and just a mere look at her sleeping face evaporated every grain of anger from his being.

Asfand knelt before her and studied her features silently. His scowl returned when he saw her bandaged hand. Safan was right. This woman doesn’t give a dime about her life. She was devil in the guise of an angel. “Look at you, being so-” Her hands were tucked under her chin and a few strands of hair were falling in her face, making his fingers twitch to push them away. Her rosy lips were slightly parted and looked so inviting for a kiss. How long has it been since I last kissed her? He wanted to bend down and claim her lips without any reverence.

They were his, she was his and nothing could change this truth for as long as they lived.

Asfand stood up abruptly and turned to leave but couldn’t. He looked down at her sleeping form with a frown. He should have just walked away but he couldn’t, not after seeing her vulnerable state. It always kicked in a protective instinct within his heart and he wasn’t strong enough to reject it. The feeling was only growing by day and Asfand did nothing to stop it.

Asfand carefully lifted her in his arms. A small sigh escaped her lips and Dua nuzzled his neck when Asfand adjusted her in his arms. She was just so small. But she fitted so perfectly against him. He purposely slowed their small journey towards their bed. He wanted to hold her longer. Not even once did he blinked away from her face. It soothed him in a way that was incomprehensible.

Asfand laid Dua on the bed and covered her with blankets. Another sigh escaped her lips and she turned in his direction when he tucked her hair behind her ear. Her lips brushed his callous palm in doing so and Asfand groaned inaudibly.

“This woman will be the death of me” he got up and left the room. He couldn’t stay with her and not do anything. He needed space to get his shit in control. “It’s another night in study, I guess.” Asfand made a beeline to his study and went straight to his desk. He opened the drawer to get the files when his hand found something. A smirk stretched to his lips when he saw the candle his darling wife gave him. He just couldn’t throw it away. It felt just too precious but he was too egoistical to admit that.

“What are you looking at so earnestly?” A smile graced his face when he saw Noor Bi. “That’s a very beautiful candle.”

“It reflects the owner I believe” Asfand chuckled and placed the candle on the table. “It’s a gift.” Noor Bi nodded thoughtfully. “Why aren’t you asleep?”

“You aren’t either.” Noor Bi raised the tray for him. “I thought you might need this. Warm honey milk and four dates, they always helped you sleep.”

“And you never forget that.” Asfand stood up and rounded his desk to meet her. “You could have asked a servant to bring them to me.” He guided her to the couch and sat beside her.

“And miss the smile it brings to your face? Not a chance.” Asfand chuckled. “Anyone could bring it to you mere chaand, but it’s the emotions that count.”

“I know you have questions. But I have no answers.” Asfand gripped her hands in his. “So, don’t put me in a position where I’m forced to disobey you.”

“You were always a man of your own Asfand. You always knew what you wanted and how you wanted. I am not going to ask you anything else but only one thing.” Asfand looked at her solemnly. “Why?”

“You know why.” He turned away from her.

“Your mother was innocent.” His fists clenched. “She was a victim. Afroz manipulated you, then why? Why the hate-”

“Because she was weak and they never came. She possessed a liberal mind. They possessed the power, then why didn’t they put it to use?” Asfand spat each word like boiling acid. “Why did she choose to suffer that hell-”

“She did that to protect you” Noor Bi looked him in the eye. “And you think it was easy for-”

“It doesn’t matter Noor Bi” Asfand interjected bitterly. “Family? Blood? Relations? Where do they go when they are needed?” Asfand scoffed bitterly. “It doesn’t matter what tale is wove. Because I know everyone is at fault.”

“What is Dua’s fault then?” Asfand didn’t react. “Why did you punish her? She was innocent. You could have saved her. You could have helped her-”

“I did. When I gave her the chance to run away by stabbing me. But she was foolish enough to come back.” Asfand looked away. “I can’t do anything anymore. I’m not a good man Noor Bi and I don’t intend to be.”

“Your actions speak otherwise.” Noor Bi pressed. “Why did you raise your hand on your wife Asfand?”

“It happened” he gritted at the sting the reminder brought. “She pushed me to. My control slipped.”

“This is not an enough justification Asfand.” Noor Bi intervened sharply. “You didn’t want to do anything with her, you should have let her go. Why did you pull her back in your life? I know you well enough that you don’t take any action without a thought. You are a Sherzai but you are your father’s son and Arbaaz was far above all this.”

“He is dead-”

“He lives within you and he always will” she chided. “Look at me.” She palmed his cheek with a tender smile. “It’s not you but your kismet. It brought you two together once again.”

“I don’t believe in such bullshit Noor Bi. I don’t aim to carry on this marriage after a certain period and I assure you, feeling is mutual.”

“Only time will tell.” Noor Bi chuckled. “Remember one thing,” She held his hand and smiled once again. “Women are neither made from the dust under your feet, nor from the hair on your head. They are made from here.” She patted his heart. “A rib close to your heart. So, they live here and be loved. And trust me, my child.” Noor Bi smiled at his expressions victoriously.

“It’s not in your hands.”

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