It did hurt after all.
Even in seventeen years, Arnavi hadn’t yet forgotten, anything.
Or, for that matter, forgiven.
She remembered everything. The shrieks, the repeated pleads for mercy, the helplessness Miraya had felt.
And how she’d shiver at the mere sight of a man.
Miraya was barely fifteen when their much-famed cousin had first visited. Somehow, he had an irresistible charm about him that everyone adored. Tall, dark, athletic, and ruggedly handsome with a flair for guitar, Sameer was a universal favourite amongst elders and young alike.
‘Are you checking him out?’ A thirteen year-old Arnavi had asked her sister.
She had simply giggled. However, Arnavi didn’t require a rocket science degree to understand that her sister had a slight crush on their handsome cousin.
He was well-behaved too. What more could anyone want?
That evening had culminated with two discreet smiles of acknowledgement and reciprocation from Miraya and the mysterious cousin.
Arnavi couldn’t care less. Her sister had crushes, and with her irritating friend, she simply couldn’t stop gushing about them. It grated on her nerves. Sometimes, it became even more difficult for her when their parents weren’t around. At least, in their presence, Miraya would have the sense to control herself. Therefore, this inclination for Sameer Bhaiyya, wouldn’t eventually be replaced with a new one, Arnavi had concluded.
Incidentally, Sameer Bhaiyya had taken a liking to Miraya as well. For he would frequently come over to visit, and both of them would talk for hours. He brought chocolates for Arnavi too, but well, Miraya was the reason he visited.
Consequently, Miraya was thrilled when one day, Sameer expressed his wish to stay over. Since he lived in a hostel, their parents were glad to oblige. Moreover, with a nice, obedient, trustworthy family member like their long-distance nephew, their daughters were in safe hands when they would go for their respective official tours.
And Sameer Bhaiyya came to stay. Arnavi couldn’t say that she didn’t like him staying over either. Miraya’s senseless fawning aside, Sameer was a good person to have around.
Only, if she could have retained her notion.
Arnavi had woken up that night to find her sister missing. At 1:00 a.m. she had probably gone to the bathroom. Eventually, she was the one who had to get up to refill their bottle of water.
On her way to the kitchen, she thought she’d heard a sob.
It came from Sameer’s room.
Petrified, Arnavi went closer to inspect. She was just about to knock when Sameer opened the door.
‘Oh! Hi, Arnavi!’ he seemed nonchalant. His smile, seemed very uncanny, almost indescribable, if truth be told. Arnavi even found herself squirming under his gaze.
‘Your sister and I were just talking.’ he said.
The sight she saw was horrifying. Miraya was crouching on the bed, her clothes torn, her lips bleeding. She was sobbing hysterically when Arnavi rushed to her.
Sameer had left, by then.
And Miraya had stopped speaking ever since. Their parents relocated to another place. No one had any proof of what had happened. None would believe Miraya or Arnavi, or their parents, for that matter. Sameer was a quintessential ‘achcha bachcha’. Good boy. There was no way in which he could have done this.
No amount of therapy could mend a broken Miraya. Eventually, she’d committed suicide.
Of course Arnavi had stayed quiet. Her parents had accustomed themselves to a life of solitude and detachment.
It was one of those family gatherings again, seventeen years later. Arnavi was now thirty. Her family was merely present there to invite repeated consolation from those who still cared, and blank judgemental stares from those who didn’t.
That’s when she saw him. Laughing in his deep voice, holding his wife close.
Bile rose up Arnavi’s throat. How dare he, she thought. How dare he live, when he had destroyed a family. How could he hold another in affection, when he had destroyed one in lust? This just wasn’t fair. No wonder people lost their faith in justice.
‘Forget it, child.’ Her father said, silent helplessness in his voice.
As if destiny would allow her to forget.
The next morning, the resort was in utter chaos. People were rushing around everywhere while police sirens were bleeping noisily. Sameer’s wife was crying hysterically over her husband’s battered body. Someone had brutally sliced his throat, and severed his fingers and toes.
Arnavi quietly watched as the police went over to the bench in the field.
‘Sir, these shoes!’ The havaldar shouted.
‘You don’t have any blood on your hands, child.’ Her father softly whispered as the police hauled Sameer’s body away.