Drama Fiction Sad

Rani stared out across the undulating waves of the ocean.

She hated them. She hated their smooth surfaces, their lying betrayal, their hidden secrets- their lurking dangers that were so many insults to the observer who could be easily enticed by their beauty and their gleaming depths, their hypnotic rhythms and dull roar.

The salt in the air melted with the tears on her cheeks. Her head pounded with the pain of distorted memories that cast their shadows on even the most innocent of childhood experiences, and she wondered, wondered, was forced to wonder- did it happen? Did it really happen? More than once?

Her eyes filled with tears, again, and her head dropped to the railing in front of her. For moments that seemed to last forever, that were too short, her sobs sounded loud in her ears, discordant and ugly against the music of the waves returning and retreating to and from their shores.

A sudden bout of violent sickness overtook her, and she rushed to a bin close by. As she retched distressingly over it, an uneasy murmur of voices sounded behind her.

She didn’t want to talk. Stranger or friend, she could not bear speaking to anybody, people who walked these paths, untrammeled by their pasts, people who were out here to enjoy a lovely summer evening.

Without looking up, she wiped at her mouth and walked quickly away from the voices. Her hasty steps took her to a secluded little plot of grass under decorative palm trees, and she collapsed there in an exhausted heap. Drawing her knees up, she dropped her head between them, conscious only of the blood pounding through her eardrums, indistinguishable from the distant roar of the ocean.

For moments together, she stayed as she was. Darkness slowly gathered about her. She did not lift her head. Moments passed; more people were walking the paths now, their voices rising out clear against the ocean. A car raced down the road somewhere, blasting loud music out its windows. Rani felt that odd sensation of slowly disconnecting from herself. Numbness was spreading through her muscles and her spirit, and she welcomed the familiar respite it offered from pain.

How much time passed, she did not know. Eventually she looked up, black spots chasing each other across her vision as the blood rushed back to her head. She simply sat there, limp and wrung out from utter exhaustion.

What had possessed her to attend that new-age seminar on hypnosis? Why had she thought a live hypnosis session would help? Why had she thought it a good idea to delve into a distant past that had been preying on her nerves and health for a while? What was she say to her therapist about all this?

Her anger had long since burned out. It had ravaged through her, almost frightening in its intensity. When it was done, her mind felt like a bloodbath, its carefully constructed ordered structures torn apart and bleeding, till they were dripping, terrifying and monstrous in their aspect... the night sky would look austerely down on this pathetic battlefield, the moon’s rays casting a cold light on the broken bones crushed beyond repair... this was the mind that she had left to her- broken, twisted, ugly...



Rani grit her teeth. It took everything she had to produce that one little word out from the depths of her soul. She would not give in. He...they could not win.

Her brief spark died out as quickly as it had lit up. She felt more forlorn than ever when it disappeared, missing the warmth of even that tiny glow of spirit.

In a fair world...

In a right world...

She wished she had some strength, some belief that she could hold onto for all she was worth. But the waves had not stopped coming in, and now, she did not know how much she had left of herself. Somewhere along the way, Rani felt like bits and pieces of her had crumbled away along with every catastrophic memory that had broken over her like a wave, and she felt hollow, carved out, empty.

She had to get up. She had to go on.

She had to get home. Prema would begin to worry.

Yet Rani sat motionless, her eyes fixed unseeingly ahead of her.

‘Play wif me?’

Rani started at the voice near her head. She turned swiftly and her gaze found a child, around four, holding a bright little ball out to her, smiling an endearing toothy smile that widened when Rani met her eyes.

Rani realized that a family had set up a tent on the beach, near the grass plot where she was seated. They smiled at her, and one of them called out, ‘Kavya! Don’t bother Didi, come back!’

‘She’s no bother,’ said Rani quickly, accepting the ball that was now being waved in her face. The child, Kavya, gurgled happily and ran a little further down the beach. ‘Wait sweetie, don’t run so far!’ Rani called, instantly worried that the child may disappear into the dark. A mere child, utterly vulnerable... she quickly snapped out of her thoughts, and gently threw the ball some height into the air.

Shrieks of delighted laughter reached her as Kavya ran up, trying to catch the ball before it fell to the sand. She inexpertly caught it to her chest, and laughed in delight. Rani was surprised to find that she was laughing too.

How long she entertained the child, she didn’t know. The family called out to her to join them, but she politely declined, saying she had to get back home soon, she had college to attend next day. They were nice... but what did she know? How could she know that they were good people? It was horrible to imagine, but not all monsters lurked in the dark.

Kavya suddenly tired of their game, and went to her mother. Rani went up to them to return the ball, and the mother thanked her warmly for humoring their child. Rani shook her head- it had been no trouble, she said- she’d enjoyed it.

And was surprised to find that she wasn’t lying.

Kavya’s mother had bright eyes that seemed to smile and shine in the light of a lamp post nearby. Looking down into them, Rani was suddenly reminded of the waves that she thought she’d hated a few hours, an eon ago.

Something in Rani’s face must’ve shown her exhaustion, for the mother said gently, ‘Are you sure you won’t join us for a little while, dear? Just a while, have something to eat.’

An uncomfortable prickling behind her eyes made Rani want to run away and hide, but the expectant look on the mother’s face gave her pause. She hesitated, then nodded, sinking onto the beach sand beside the family, not quite knowing why. Except the mother, they were all chatting amongst themselves, getting out board and card games, intent on enjoying their Friday evening.

The mother smiled delightedly at her, and pulled out some sandwiches. Rani suddenly realized how hungry she was, but refused the offering. The mother would have none of it though.

‘Come now, you must be hungry after running around with Kavya,’ she said firmly as she pressed a sandwich into Rani’s unwilling hand.

‘It was no trouble, I loved playing with her,’ Rani replied quickly, uncomfortable that she was intruding on their evening.

‘And you’ll enjoy our cooking,’ interrupted the mother, smiling at her.

Rani gave her a wavering smile, and quickly bit into her sandwich. The mother was right- it was delicious.

‘Like it?’ she asked. Rani nodded vigorously and the mother looked pleased. If she wasn’t so cute, Rani would’ve almost called her expression smug.

‘Mathura loves feeding people,’ a man informed Rani. From his likeness to Kavya, she presumed that it was her father. ‘She’s starting a small business from home, wants to cater to students attending colleges nearby.’

‘That’s wonderful!’ Rani said, smiling automatically at Mathura, and wondering at the surreality of the moment. Here she was, chatting with strangers, donning a normal facade with no apparent effort- and all the time, memories of another family slowly being sifted and washed down the proverbial drain...

The evening was whiled away in exchanging pleasantries. Rani finally rose after nearly an hour.

‘I’m sorry, but I have to go now,’ she said, again surprised to find that she meant it.

They protested, but she did have to go. Prema would start blowing up the phone lines any time now.

‘Here’s my number,’ Mathura told her, holding out a card to her. ‘Do give me a call, we’d love hearing from you!’

Rani nodded back, and a shocked laugh jerked out of her when Kavya rushed up to her and hugged her legs. She bent over the child and hugged her back, a sudden fierce prayer chanting through her head, ‘always be protected, be safe, may no harm come to you, may you always be loved, you precious darling...

And then she was on the street, starting up her car, finally ready to go home and face the reality of her past.

She would have to tell her sister. Prema would know right away that something was wrong. And no matter how much she told herself that she didn’t want to see Prema hurt on her behalf, she knew that this was something she could not hide.

Especially because she was going to break away.

There had never been a doubt about that. The moment her memories had resurfaced, clear as day, she knew she’d never call her Uncle and his family ever again.

Never hear a once admired voice again.

Filthy, filth, she felt tainted...


This time, the word came out with intractable strength.

At least she had her memories back. At least she was no longer floundering in the dark, vague misshapen shadows morphing into one another as they refused to come forward and make themselves known.

Cowards. They were the cowards.

Never again would he have a hold on her and those she loved.

Never again.

February 05, 2021 16:15

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