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A life without two things. Love and Freedom!

By: Chloe :) <3


A life without two things. Love and Freedom 
Girls like pink. Shhh, don’t ask questions. Don’t laugh that loud. Don’t sit like that, put your legs together. What are you wearing? You are a girl, go put a dress on. Don’t eat so much. Make yourself look presentable. You can’t cook? There are many unspoken rules of being a girl or lady or woman.  Once broken there is no coming back from your mistakes.

I was the only daughter of two strict, old-fashioned, Indian parents. My mother had no say in my family and ‘no’ was a word that was never allowed to enter my mouth let alone leave it. My life was simple, very controlled, disciplined at best but only lacking one thing. Freedom. My father was my master, sir and the sole dictator of almost every aspect of her life. Almost. All of this changed though in two days. 

* * *

My name was India and like anyone I was a girl with two sides, like the place I found myself trapped in. The city was full of colour and life but mine was refined, plain dull. There is no middle class in this place, the lower and upper class so distinct that people stay within their means. No room for love, dating or any of the sort. 

The day before I turned 18 however, I found myself wandering through the street, as my father was out of town on some kind of official business. It was the only time I ever got to myself, away from my ladylike duties cooking, cleaning, embroidery and other crafts that would one day make me presentable, and suitable for marriage. Lost in the thoughts I could only keep to myself, too scared to even write them down on paper for her father might see it - I found myself falling only to be caught in the arms of a rather intriguing man. 

He had tousled dark brown hair thick and lustrous with eyes mesmerising deep blue oceans, speckled with flecks of silvery light performing a ballet. I couldn’t help but get lost within them. His face looked strong, defined with features moulded as if from granite. I felt his strong hands embrace mine before helping me up. They were slightly rough from working but all of that was a blur. I could feel myself turning beetroot red, a smile painted on my face. His voice was deep with a serious tone. My heart was racing, I wanted to stay, trapped in this moment forever.

Was this what it felt like to fall in love? 

I couldn’t help but notice the time, my father would be home soon and expect a feast, elaborate report of where I had been. The panic rushed through my face, turning the bright red to a stone-like grey. 
I muttered a simple ‘thank you’ and rushed homeward.
Emotions so vast rushed through me, feeling scared and afraid. What would he do to me? 

Thankfully I was safely tucked away, hidden beneath layers and layers of soft cotton sheets by the time he got home.  Amongst his supercilious, prideful intellectual nature, his temperament was enough to make my mother hide in a corner of her chestnut-coloured oak closet for hours on the worst of days. Today seemed like one of those days, although instead of the loud screams I had expected to hear, instead I simply heard the faint whispers of a conversation impossible to make out. 

I must have managed to get some sleep because I woke up to the sun's warm rays covering the larger part of my face, seeping through the crevices within the curtains. After brushing my hair back and getting dressed out of my nightgown and into a lengha, I went outside to be greeted by rather cheerful faces on both of my parents. They beckoned me to sit down saying they had a gift for my birthday, rather an important one. Anxiously I took my place at the table, still keeping a safe distance from my father wondering what could be so important. 

He began, “As you are now 18 and no longer a child it is time you start thinking about your future. You know I was on my business trip for a few days, however I was really organising a rather special surprise for you. Please get dressed, something nice classy, make yourself look presentable, loveable even.”
I was worried birthday presents usually came in boxes wrapped in shiny paper tied with ribbons. The only two words I said, the only two words I could “Yes father,” and so did as I was told. 
My hands were still shaking, hidden behind my back when I returned. 
“Perfect. Took you long enough to get ready. Anyways my friend and his son are coming, having travelled quite some distance and are willing to see if you would be fit to accompany him as a wife.”
I nearly choked upon hearing the words before exclaiming “No!”
My father, outraged by my response striked me hard right across my face, every inch of it turning bright red and stinging with pain. “What did you just say?” he questioned.
The only words that could stumble out of my mouth were “yes father, sorry master.”

With that I didn’t say another word. They came, inspected me, touched me but I remained silent. I did exactly what my father wanted, and only that like a puppet with him controlling my strings. The only time I spoke was when they asked my name, mocking how my parents had wrongfully named me. India means strong, a born leader but I was far from. It felt like weeks before they finally decided to leave but before they did they nodded in agreement.

Adiish, my father’s friends son whose name, if any insight into his character means king or master then began;
“Your skin fair as snow,
Character equally innocent,
Obedient and opinion-less,
Your perfect, each of these words meant.

Your father's business a guarantee
For a life of comfort ahead,
You are not poor however,
Not of upper class bred.

It is my duty to marry,
Honour my family name,
And so with this ring I ensure,
Your devotion I may claim.”

He walked closer, however I remained frozen. Picking up, almost snatching my hand from the side of my weak body he slipped the ring unto my finger. Continuing to place his hands around my waist, almost squeezing so tightly I was unable to breath, he placed a kiss on my cheek still stinging from earlier. Brushing his hair, hard from excess use of gel against my ear he whispered “You’ll learn to love me,” and then both of them left.

* * *

I haven’t seen him or his father since that day. I dread the moment tomorrow when I will, when the week of ceremonies begin and I am bound to be his forever. Every girl has the unspoken book of rules they must follow of which breaking has its own set of consequences. This was mine, to experience love and never have it. If I had not I might have at least been able to grow to be happy, but never could I be. Without love what is life.

Please read my message to the reader!

Message to Readers

With many of my pieces the feedback given is something I try to incorporate into the next one because I am not one to republish pieces often. However this piece is one I would absolutely love all the feedback you can give! I don't write short stories by choice, it is not my preferred style and I don't know much about writing them however my school assessment coming up is short story writing which is slightly worrying for me. This is about gender expectations in quite an extreme way. Before you comment on me appropriating or mocking even another culture, both of my parents are from India and I visit there often. This is not the reality there for most I would like to think, and mine is very far from it. It is just a story that I wrote about an idea I find confronting. Thank you!

Peer Review

This was so sad. But I loved the way you outlined the thought processes of the character.

This is fine.

Reviewer Comments

I sincerely hope these kind of things don’t happen in India. You did a good job of writing this in a realistic way. Congrats!