Paro didn't feel anything. Her life had crashed even before it took off. She didn't know what she was supposed to feel. Varun was dead.
She liked him but she felt guilty for missing her Mami and warm folds of her favorite quilt more than she missed Varun. She was supposed to cry and mourn the death of her husband. She barely knew him to feel anything for him. He was a gentleman and she liked him but she wasn't sure if it was appropriate to feel very little of consequence for him. Worse, she felt sad for herself, her incarceration in the demon's lair.
She sat in the darkened corner of this foreign space, forlorn and scared. Her choli was wet with her tears that had stopped shedding. She looked around, her eyes adjusting to the dark room, trying to find comfortable silhouettes that could offer her warmth and consolation.
Rudra gulped down his third drink, welcoming the searing heat down his throat. He paced the room as a slow heat rose on his body at the thought of the girl in the next room.
Traitor! She was in on it. She had to be.
If there was one thing Rudra hated more than women, it was traitors. And this one was both - a woman and a traitor. Hating her with every fiber of his body should have been so easy. But he could not. A nagging feeling of guilt crept up every now and then, reminding him of his part in butchering the girls dreams.
Dreams? She deserves this.
He gnashed his teeth convincing himself. He heard a short whimper from the next room. He knew she was conscious and moving about. He had to face her and ask her the tough questions. It had been many hours and he could not hold her in his tent any longer without answering his seniors.
He kicked the door open, willing himself all the fury his unconvinced mind could muster. Paro scrimmed to the dark corner dropping the tumbler of water she was about to consume. She shut her eyes, as the last of her tears began flowing down her cheeks. Her lungs shut and she began gasping.
Rudra lurched forward, a protective instinct he had felt the very first time he had set eyes on the girl. He felt the familiar heat of desert wind across his face as he held her from falling. The girl had passed out again. This was becoming more difficult than he had imagined.
He carried her to the bed and laid her carefully. The flushed cheeks and her sopping wet choli belied any traitorousness. He pulled the blanket over her and rose up. She had clutched his lapel, as if gripping to the last of her sanity and life.
He felt a twitch inside him, an unexplained pang he couldn't name. He kissed her cheek, and immediately regretted it. The needles of his mustache startled the girl and her eyes shot open. He stood up in a flash and cleared his throat.
Paro sat up and brushed that side of her cheek, unsure what had just transpired.
His voice thundered in the small confines of the room. She skittered to the other side of the bed and covered her choli, feeling embarrassed and helpless.
"Traitor" he declared and turned to leave the room, unable to face her innocent eyes without uncomfortable questions on his morality. Bile rose through her at the baseless accusation. Anger replaced despair.
"No! I am not a traitor."
He stopped. He turned to face a very different person. Chin upturned and eyes burning, Paro stood facing him, for the first time, without a hint of fear.
"Did you say something?" he advanced menacingly.
For a second her resolve wavered but she had nothing to lose anymore, nothing at all. If there was any dignity left for her in the world outside as a widow, it was ruined by spending the night here with this demon, in his bedroom. She had no reason to prove anything to anyone anymore. She felt a sudden surge of courage.
"I am not a traitor." She took a step forward.
Inches away from each other, they seemed to engage in an unspoken war of wills, a blinking eye game, waiting for the other one to blink first. He raised his hand slowly, startling her in defense.
He smiled as he moved his raised hand to twirl his mustache. He felt his guilt evaporate. Something told him that this war of wills will be the most challenging part of his life and he didn't back out of challenges. He smiled and quickly left the room.
Paro took a deep breath. She was not a traitor and she was going to fix that man's wrong notions. She would force him to answer for Varun's death and for ruining her life. She was going to have to be strong and the road ahead was loaded with challenges. It did not scare her.Edited by serialjunkie - 2014-01-10T16:57:57Z
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