This is my entry for IF Novelette Contest - Prompt 3
"Revenge is the only word that comes in my mind when I listen to his name. I was sold to his father when I was six and I saw in-numerous unpleasant activities while growing up in this Mafia family. My captivator was supposed to sell me aboard but died before he could do so. Now his eldest son is the cupo, the head of the Mafia Clan. My future depends on him now."
Tucked away in the foothills of Himalayas beside the Ganga river rests the small town of Rishikesh. A holy city with ashrams (places of religious retreats) and temples, where people from all over the world come to find inner peace, to find salvation.
A small girl of 6, who was left in an orphanage since she was a 5-month-old infant, had made this city her home. Her origins were unknown. Like many children in there, someone had left her at the orphanage's doorsteps, huddled in a small sheet, on a balmy May night some years ago.
As she grew up, she saw some of her friends, the other children being taken away by couples and families. The kids who left seemed happy and excited. The fear of leaving the familiarity of the orphanage and friends seems to be outweighed by the promise of a better life. The old matron (and caretaker) told them that these blessed children had found homes. The young girl, too, dreamt that one day, someone might deem her worthy, to take her to a new place, a better place, a place that would be her home.
And one day, it happened. A man, dressed in a fine blue suit came by. She hid behind the matron's skirt and studied him. His face had a warmth to it and a kindness. His eyes travelled below to her face and she cowered behind the matron.
"Hello there," his voice called out to her.
She peeked from behind, sheepishly. "Hello Sir." She answered in a rehearsed voice that the matron had taught her.
The matron bent down and lifted her in her arms, "This man, Mr. Goenka, will take you to your new home." She informed the child. "Say good bye to your friends and bring your bag."
She nodded, unable to contain the excitement that was coursing through her. The matron set her down and she ran out to tell the other kids that she was, finally, going home.
When she returned with a small backpack that held all of her earthly possessions and a dilapidated teddy bear that was taken from the donation bin, she saw the man hand over the matron a suitcase.
Curious at the exchange, she stood at the doorway partially covered by a curtain, without making any movement. The two adults didn't notice her. The matron opened the bag and smiled. The child was unable to see what was inside the bag that made the matron so happy.
"Hope the compensation is up to your liking," the man spoke to the matron who nodded enthusiastically.
"Our transaction is highly unusual. What I've done is not official, Mr. Goenka," the matron replied, "I am sending her with you without any paperwork, or due diligence. This could cost me my job and reputation."
"What you're getting in exchange," the man pointed at the bag, "should more than suffice for any inconvenience."
"This is a lot for someone like her..." the matron eyed the man with curiosity.
The man smiled slowly, "I have been looking for her for a long time."
"What makes her so special that you, yourself had to come by? You could've sent anyone. To travel from Mumbai to Rishikesh for an orphan-"
He cut her in, "I had to make sure nothing went wrong," he answered, "Not this time."
The matron wanted to ask more when her eyes fell on the small girl standing near the doorway. "Come here child," she said softly and the girl obliged.
"Be good and don't give Mr. Goenka any trouble," the matron spoke to her. The girl nodded, getting a bit nervous.
The man bent down to face her, "Let's go, Naira."
"My name is Tina," the child spoke for the first time. It was the name she was bestowed by the matron. The orphans who were there since infancy or were found without any note, were christened by the matron.
The man laughed and something about it made her more nervous. The kindly vibe that she had gotten from him at first, had started to dissipate.
"There's so much that you don't know," he spoke in a whisper. Both Tina and the matron scrunched their eyebrows.
"There's time for that," he said, "For now, let's go".
Tina looked up at the matron who gestured to her to follow Mr. Goenka's retreating back. She gulped and clutched her teddy bear tighter. She was going home, to a good place, she reminded herself.
14 years later, a grown up Naira wished she could tell her 6 year old self- how wrong she was.
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