There were hands on me. And I knew it was my own fault.
They clawed and pressed and burned to tear me out. And I knew it was my own fault.
They were pulling at me, leading me away.
Away was the only direction I had been taking anyway.
And nobody had called me back yet.
But you did. ‘Come back!’ you ordered.
But back to where, Arsh? You had no idea where I had come from, and what lay at the back.
And they hit you and you fell down. All my fault, I knew that well too.
‘Arsh? What happened?’ Tiya cried, as she came running with a painting in her hand.
You looked at me. And she looked at me. ‘Nirvi!’ she cried. The painting she had bought for me dropped beside you and that mad girl ran straight to me.
‘Leave her. Leave her. How dare you?’ she cried, hitting them and pushing them away from me.
Two hands slipped away from me, and towards her.
‘How dare you? How dare you?’ she slapped them, pushing them away.
I saw them touch her. How dare they? It was not her fault. She was not at blame. How dare they touch her!
I pushed the hands away from her. ‘Not her. Not her,’ the cry pounded in my head and raged through my veins. ‘It was not her fault.’
What had I done? What had I gotten Tiya into? All my fault.
He was pulling Tiya towards his bike. ‘No. Don’t you dare,’ I cried. He laughed. And pulled her harder.
And then something happened. I knew not what I was doing. But I must have done something right. And I must have done it strongly enough.
All I remember is that the two motorbikes started and raced away. And I had a bruised hand and tingling palms. One of my stilettos was in my hand, its heel broken. I was panting, strands of my hair clinging to my face.
And there was a loud clapping and cheering echoing from the people standing around. They had thoroughly enjoyed the show, even if they hadn’t bothered to participate.
I looked at Tiya. She was clutching her stomach and shaking with laughter. Good. It had not been her fault. She had a right to laugh as she wanted.
And there you were, still on the ground, reclining on your elbow and staring at me and smiling.
‘Oh, Nirvi. You were awesome. How did you do it? Where did you learn such fighting? At first I was so scared. I thought we are done for. But the way you went at them! You were awesome. And it was so funny. How they tried to save themselves from you! You were awesome,’ Tiya laughed out, clapping and jumping and hugging me again and again. ‘She was awesome, wasn’t she, Arsh? Just like a whirlwind, wasn’t she?’
A whirlwind carries a lot of debris in it. And leaves much behind, broken doors, broken walls, broken houses. It can break open a prison too and let the swarm of prisoners gallop out, if only to die.
Tiya couldn’t stop laughing. I saw her, and I started laughing too. The roaring bellows just spurted out by themselves. They surprised Tiya. They surprised me too. I had heard them for the first time in this life.
But Tiya had never heard them at all. She had never known me laugh like that. Her surprise made me laugh even more. I tried to control myself, but couldn’t. I did not know what I was laughing at. But I was laughing, and I couldn’t help it. I just couldn’t help it.
You tried to get up, but stumbled back again. And that made me laugh too.
‘It took just one punch to put you down, huh, Arsh?’ I asked.
‘Nothing like that. He didn’t even know how to throw a good punch. But I tripped and sprained my leg,’ you said.
‘Oh, your leg is sprained too? How good for you, Arsh,’ I said, between my laughs. ‘You can now claim you saved us. You have injuries enough to prove it. And we won’t give your secret away, would we, Tiya?’
Tiya shook her head, arresting her mirth behind her pursed lips and trying to look sympathetic as she and I tried to help you up.
You looked angry and scowled at me. And I hollered again. And Tiya burst out laughing to hear me laugh. And you couldn’t scowl for long either after that. You too laughed, despite your blue eye and sprained leg.
And as you leaned on me, you turned, brought your lips close to my ear and whispered, ‘Glad to meet you again, Lemon Girl.’
Before you proceed to the next chapter, here’s something extra!
Excerpt of Dream’s Sake