“Should she? Or shouldn’t she? The debate continued.

It was October, and like every year she stood caught in a whirlwind of emotions. She had managed to tide over this phase with patience year on year. But today, the emotional turmoil was weighing heavily. Despite a busy day that lay ahead, she felt her chest getting heavy. Suddenly, the solitary life she led seemed burdensome. All the grudges that had she had let go with extreme difficulty seemed to return. They stared into her soul like the gleaming fangs of a shark.

As a family of three; herself, Dad and Mom, it had been smooth sailing. What made them stand apart from any other family was an unconventional lifestyle. Their abode was the wooden cottage amidst a sprawling meadow overlooking the calm Irish Sea. She remembered waking to a view of the scenic snow-capped mountains. Her father ran a small scale timber trade. A simple yet fulfilling life it was. They owned a small sailboat, which was the means of ferrying timber as well as travel. 

Riya was home schooled with weekend interactions with a tutor who travelled from the city. She loved to spend the Sunday sitting in the idle sailboat lost into her imaginary world of play and the tutor for company. 

Living amidst untouched natural beauty, had made her a venturous child. Always on the lookout for new mischiefs, my only confidante was the tutor. A calm and easy-going, twenty two year old man, who filled in for missing mates. It was the innocence of age that made her seek comfort in him. Mum and Dad though always near me, seemed distant emotionally. 

One sunny weekend, the tutor, Mark looked intently into my eyes and started to caress my cheeks. “You are so beautiful Riya”, he said softly. With a naïve look I giggled, “Oh, thank you!” 

Too ignorant to notice the change in the way he looked at me, the child in developed a fondness for him. Mum and Dad’s lack of time and attention steered me towards him. Gradually, he began to coax me to sit on his lap as his physical advances increased. The solitude provided by sailboat facing the snow laden peaks sheltered his moves. It wasn’t till I turned thirteen, that the physical proximity began to trouble. 

One sunny Sunday, I went running to Mum, “I want to accompany you to the church. Cancel my class. Ask Mark not to come,” I pleaded.

Mum turned around with a stern look, “I see!, you are beginning to avoid studying” “Don’t get lazy girl! You have to make it to the junior college in two years”. After a moment’s pause, she continued, “Get as hard working as Mark!” “He works all week and dedicates his Sunday to you”.

I realized that all efforts to communicate were wasteful. 

What was once her favourite day of the week, became the most hated now!

That particular Sunday is etched deep in her memory as I was scarred for life. Not just physically but temperamentally. I blame Mum and Dad for neglect and indifference as her innocent eyes conveyed fear and agony. 

Finally, it was time for junior college far away in London. It was truly liberating. The palpable emotional damage still loomed on her personality. She stayed a loner with a strong guard around her persona, especially for the opposite sex. In the years that followed, I found solace working for the rehabilitation of children struck by the trauma of abuse and violence through my NGO. 

Time; as they say is the best healer.

And I stepped on to the sailboat that would once again take her across the silent sea, past the snow covered peaks, to the cottage for the annual memorial service of her parents. As the boat sailed towards familiar territory, an unexplained ease overcame her. I was smiling, though the healing had taken years, I was glad it had happened.  
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Saravjot Hansrao
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