Dauntless (Part 1)

SHRUTI

“Again?!” I yell into the phone. I could feel her cringe.

“Please. One last time, Shruti,” she pleads.

I take a shaky breath to compose my anger against what was happening to her. I decide to do something.

“Fine,” I say. “One last time.”

I grab the pack full of makeup which I made particularly for her and my keys and head downstairs, to floor 10, to her flat. I ring the doorbell and I hear her running and tugging at the locks. She opens the door just wide enough for me to squeeze in sideways. She doesn’t even look at me. I set my pack down and turn around to look at her, and I gasp.

“What has that beast done to you?” My voice is barely a whisper. I could see bruises on her face even though she has tried hard to cover it with her hair. I walk up to her and bend down to examine her face properly.

“What is it this time?” I ask her softly.

She laughs weakly through her tears and bruises. “The same.”

I shake my head. “This cannot go on anymore. I am going to put an end to it.”

She grabs my hands and looks at me in the eyes with a different emotion in hers: determination. “No, you can’t. You know what is going to happen if this gets out.”

I know exactly what will happen. That doesn’t mean I can sit back and watch the show of “How hard can I beat Shwetha?” by her husband every other day. She’s been my best friend ever since I moved to this apartment 3 years ago, after the huge incident. I still look back to that day. Even though the very thought of him makes me want to hide in a hole, he led me to her. Someone I could confide in and not feel like the world was ending every time I thought about it. And someone whom I should be ever grateful for. But, I still have one last thing to say to her. It will shatter her, but it is very important that she know it.

I shake my head at her comment and take her to the dressing table in the spare bedroom. We both know the drill. It flows with us naturally. He does something, she calls me, I come, she cries, and I apply make up to her to cover anything that gives away her unhappiness. This time, it’s different. She hasn’t wept in front of me, like she used to. It’s like she’s a whole new person today. I wince at the thought of how much damage it would cause her when I tell her what I’d been meaning to tell her from the very moment I stepped into her apartment, asking for help in the new area. But I work up the courage and decide to tell her.

“Hey, Shwetha?” I ask to get her attention.

“Hmm?”

“I’ve been meaning to tell you this for a long time now,” I say. “Remember the incident that happened to me some years ago before I moved here?”

She tenses. “Is everything all right?”

“No, actually,” I take a deep breath. “When I told you I couldn’t remember the person’s face, I lied. I know all about him, where he lives, who he’s married to and what he does to his wife.”

I carefully look at her as realization dawns upon her.

“No,” she whispers, tearfully.

I continue my work and couldn’t help noticing how deep the wounds are this time. Also, I can see wounds of struggle on her arms.I finish my work and help her put on new clothes, when she finally breaks the silence. “When were you planning on telling me?”

I think about it. “I wasn’t, actually.”

She exhales steadily and says, “Promise me you won’t do anything irrational. Not for me.”

I smile. “I promise you’re going to do something for both of us.” I believe that she will. She’s the more sensible of the two of us, and I know she will not act rashly.

She looks up, closes her eyes and breathes a faint ‘thank you’.

After dressing her up, I look at her face and I realize how I’ve never seen her skin bare. I think about that and how I know I will see her makeup-less skin in the near future. I smile at her and at the thought that I am leaving her in good hands. She smiles back at me.

I leave her, just as we hear footsteps from the corridor. And I sneak a hug from her. She hugs me back just as tightly as I did.

One hour later, she calls me. “Shruti,” I could hear her heavy breaths and through my speaker. I also notice that she’s whispering. “I did it.”

(This was for a friend’s women magazine, named Bella Donna, and I was so happy to write this for her!)

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An Offer I Couldn’t resist

I thought hard, even though there was no need for me to. The offer was pretty good; pretty priceless too, considering the amount of hard work I’d put in. So, I’d told him I needed time. He gave me whole night to think about it. A whole night of sleeplessness will have gained something worthwhile in the morning. What he bargained for was irresistible.

I’d been working on an article on how this man’s huge Law Firm feeds off on their poor clients and NOT win their case for them. It wasn’t my big break, but I thought it would feel good to rub it in his face. And then, of course, he made an offer. He, being what he is, researched about me and learnt about my background and offered me the one thing I’d always dreamed of since I was a teen. Of course, I couldn’t get it then, and I could NEVER get it now, as what he offered was not available anymore. Just my luck that he had to show up.

The next morning, I went to the worthless and expensive cafe where we first met to talk about the deal. I’d made my decision. Bad, maybe, but harmless. And he showed up in a navy blue tailored suit, with a box in his arms. I’d seen inside that box on an auction site. I nearly had a heart attack when I saw the prices collectors were offering. And he bought it. To buy me off. And I was going to let him.

He came and sat down across me. I tried not feel under dressed in my Jeans and White shirt and made a mental note that HE wants me to feel that way and that I should stop thinking about it. I reached down to my bag and got out the file. Bloody lawyers and their systems. “Please hand over the printed, filed documents to me,” he’d said.

“There,” I said as I slid the file towards him, “All yours.” He leafed through it swiftly and had an amused look on his face. “You really did find out everything.”

“Yeah,” I said, trying to be sincere, “I’m a Journalist, see and that’s kind of my job.” With a tight smile. He slid me my end of the bargain. It was neatly wrapped in brown paper and I tried hard not to tear it. And finally, I was holding it. It was my grandfather’s, and it is rightly mine but the pathetic situation is that I had to get this as a bribe. I opened it, and I caught my breath. There it was. 4 hard covers. That my Grandfather wrote. The only edition of it, before it got famous and noted by the whole world. Unfortunate of him that he wasn’t there to see and enjoy his fame. And they smelled amazing. I closed the box and exhaled nervously. He looked at me with cold eyes and an unfathomable expression. “Are you sure that this is the only copy? You know what will happen if it gets out.”

I gritted my teeth. “Yeah. We’ve been through this.”

He smiled sympathetically, got up and held out his hand. “It’s been a pleasure associating with you. Let’s do it again.” I fought the urge to punch him, right there. I got up and shook his hand. And he turned and left.