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Chapter 9: The Ugly Truth
“What do you mean?” He spoke over her head. When she didn’t reply he put his hands over her shoulders and attempted to turn her around. But she threw off his hands and jerked away eyes flashing. “Don’t you dare touch me!”
“What’s the matter Jigs?” He was more concerned than hurt at her reaction. “Something happened in college right?”
“You don’t know anything.” Her lips were frozen and the words came from a distance.
“I don’t.” he agreed. “But you can tell me. I promise I won’t judge you. I’ve also had affairs in the past, I have also had my heart broken, and it is all right. I understand.” He reassured her.
“You don’t understand!” her voice was scratchy and hoarse as she restrained herself from shouting. “You could never understand because you are a man, a privileged and superior class who sets the rules but is answerable to none.”
“What do you mean?”
“What do you think?” She nodded at his dawning look of horror and disgust. “I was raped.” She gave a bitter laugh. “Cat got your tongue?” She picked up her bag. “I’m leaving.”
In a flash he barred the door. “This conversation isn’t finished yet. I don’t believe you. I think you are just saying that to get me off your back.”
“Isn’t that reason enough to back off?” She snarled. “That is another reason I would never consider associating with you, leave aside marrying you. You don’t believe me.” She shook her head. “Why do you think I would say such a thing? What purpose would it serve? Or do you think men don’t rape and women beg to be raped?”
Sonu’s eyes dropped before the anger and accusation in her eyes. “I’m sorry.” He backed away. “I didn’t mean it like that. It’s…it’s not that I don’t trust you,” he fumbled to clear himself, “I just said the first thing that came into my head to stop you from leaving.”
“Which also doesn’t speak high of you.” Lovely was pale but composed. “Good thing I didn’t tell you who raped me for then you would certainly never believed me.” She attempted to brush past him but he didn’t budge.
“I said I am sorry.” He apologized. “I didn’t mean it the way it sounded. I promise I will believe you. You are right. Why would you say such a thing if it wasn’t true? I really am sorry.” He held his ears.
Lovely moved away and sat down before her legs gave way. “It doesn’t matter.” She shook her head tiredly. “I am sorry I said it. It doesn’t matter. I don’t want to marry. Seriously. Can’t you respect that and let me go?” She raised anguished eyes to him.
He took the chair across her. “I respect you and anything you say and want. If you don’t want to marry me, I swear I will back off. But please just explain to me why or how this…this…”
“Rape. You can’t even say it can you? Because you don’t actually believe it happens to women. You think they ask for it, they enjoy it and when things don’t work out the way they want, they scream rape. Isn’t it?”
“No it’s not that. At least not entirely. My reaction is more of a denial rather than an accusation against you. I deny it because I am not strong enough to accept the alternative. That someone deliberately physically violate you hurt you and scar you for life.” She looked away from the raw anguished honesty in his eyes.
“Forget it.” She withdrew. “I don’t really blame you for not believing. I…I also had trouble believing.” Her voice shook and wavered. “That it wasn’t my imagination, that it wasn’t my fault, that I didn’t ask for it, that I didn’t deserve it.” She broke down completely.
Sonu’s chair scraped as he stood up and paced the floor. He crossed his arms to physically stop himself from gathering her into his arms. He could only ineffectually exhort her over and over again, “Don’t cry. Please don’t cry. Please. I can’t bear to see you like this. Please!” There was a crash as he swept a pile of files off the table.
She sobered and sat sniffling. He held out a glass of water. She drank some and wiped her face. She was back to her composed self. “I’m sorry for breaking down like this. I thought I had got over it.” She excused herself.
“Who was it? Tell me.” His eyes burned into hers as he sat down again. “Tell me.” He insisted.
“What does it matter? What will you do? Kill him?”
“I want to.” He clenched his fists. “Someone in college? Did you love him?”
She sat still except for the twisting of her kerchief into a knotted mass. When she spoke her voice was faint and he had to strain to hear her. “I loved him very much. I idolized him. I trusted him with my life. If anyone else had accused him of such a dastardly act, I would have scratched her eyes out.”
Fury and jealousy tore into Sonu. “Who was it?” he was harsher than he wished to be.
When she didn’t reply he had an overwhelming urge to shake her and force her to speak. But this wasn’t about him. It was about her. Quelling down on his impatience anger and despair, he put her first and waited.
“It wasn’t…wasn’t in college.” She said jerkily. “It was after school and before I went to college.” She said skirting around the issue. Sonu opened his mouth and shut it. He didn’t want to risk putting her off completely.
“It was at home.”
“You do know 98% of rapes are by men who are known to victims?”
“That’s not possible!” Sonu instantly denied.
“It’s a fact!” her eyes flashed. “You can Google if you want.” Lovely shouldered her bag and stood up. “I don’t think there’s any point in continuing this conversation. You aren’t ready to listen.”
“You are right. I am in denial. But I am ready to hear you out. I promise.” He pulled at the skin over his throat in a childish gesture. “I won’t judge you or disbelieve you. And if I do, feel free to leave. I won’t stop you, I promise. Please sit.” He indicated the chair behind. “Who was it? A neighbor?”
“After school finished, I went home to stay with my grandparents. At that time, they weren’t staying with Chacha Chachi. My grandparents had an acrimonious relationship, which soured even more after their son’s death. One day they had a particularly bitter fight and I was forced to intervene. He was hitting Dadi with his stick. When pushed Dadi who hit her head on the wall, I screamed at him and threatened to call the police. So he taught me a lesson in obedience and respect for elders. He tied a dupatta around my mouth and raped me in front of Dadi.”
Sonu’s eyes were dark pools of shock and horror.
“Dadi hushed it all up. She threatened me with dire consequences if I went about spreading vicious lies about her husband. They would have me thrown into jail where I would rot until death. As soon as I was able, I packed my things and moved into a PG and later to the girls hostel in DU. One of the first things I did was to learn self-defense. Never again.”
“But you came back.” His voice was careful and neutral.
“When my grandparents moved in with Chacha Chachi due to Dadi’s health issues I had to come back.”
He looked at her questioningly at the odd note in her voice. “Someone had to protect Lata and Suri.”
Shocked eyes met her cold blank ones.
“Grandfather didn’t slip and fall. He wanted to teach Lata a lesson and that’s when I chopped him one in the neck.”
Neither of them spoke until Lovely stood up. “I’ll go home now.”
Sonu looked up with a dazed expression. “Yes. Of course I’ll drop you.” Ignoring her protests, he scrabbled around on the table. She sighed and handed him the keys from where she had placed them. “Thanks.” He mumbled.
He didn’t speak on the way back. When he braked the car in front of her house, he roused himself as if from sleep. “I’m sorry.” He shook his head to clear the haze. “I…I…”
“Don’t worry.” Lovely’s lips twisted. “I got you cornered haven’t I? You promised to believe me but you can’t can you?” She swallowed. “Our grandfathers were best friends like you and Titu. I wonder if your grandfather would believe this ‘story’? Goodbye Sonu.” She got out of the car.
“Goodnight.” Sonu couldn’t say more than that.
Click here for the next Chapter 10: Unanswered Questions