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FF : I Feel Everything Part 25

August 16, 2012

Akash had been outside the building  in police custody…
“Mr. Raizada!”
Arnav turned back to the policeman…”NO! Not now! I don’t care what you do to my brother! Get him out of my site! I’m going with my wife…”
All the blustering noise came to a halt when Khushi cried out…”NO!”
Arnav’s head shot around as his worst nightmare started to relive itself…
Khushi refused to look at him as her raspy voice croaked out her words…”I don’t want him in the ambulance with me…please…”
His eyes saw her hands gripping the paramedic’s arm…
For the next few minutes, all sound and light ceased to exist…
He moved closer to Khushi…”Khushi? Sweetheart…? Please…please don’t do this…please…”
“Look Mr. Raizada, she can’t stop shaking, she’s in shock, please…for HER mental health….meet us at the hospital…“
Arnav blindly walked back to his car and sat behind the wheel, gripping it fiercely.
He felt numb.
Barely aware of anything, he drove closely behind the ambulance…
He tried to demand his way through the system to be beside her, but she didn’t want him near…
He was worried sick.
Arnav was soon approached by a nurse who guided him to her room…
He stood staring at the door, refusing to see the picture her voiced and unspoken words painted.
He moved his jaw back and forth, grinding his teeth.
“What have I done…My God, I’m a bloody fool…”
Taking a deep breath, he turned to see the cops standing in the foyer, pacing by the chairs in the waiting area.
Hearing the door open, Arnav stepped forwards…”Is she okay? Tell me please…Is she okay!?”
The doctor nodded…“She will physically be okay…but emotionally, she’s quite frail…”
Arnav felt pins and needles strike him as he listened to what the doctor had to say…
Aggravated attempted rape, from preliminary tests, with a deadly weapon.
Then there were the drugs in her system.
They’d have to wait on lab results to verify, but apparently Arnav had showed up before the bastard had . . . had . . .
Arnav stopped him, shoved the heels of his hands into his eyes.
But the black images danced behind his eyelids.
Shyam had beaten her, almost raped her…like a fucking animal.
Rage and fury roared through him, beating him into a red haze.
Blindly, he swung out and punched the wall.
The drywall gave with a satisfying thud against his knuckles. 
He bit down on his clawing temper and leaned his forehead against the wall.
He’d failed her.
Him and his stupid twisted loyalties to his sister…
He had been betrayed by one sibling, and that had clouded his judgement…he didn’t want to lose another family member…
But in that process, he’d completely abandoned the one person he swore he would NEVER abandon.
While she was beaten and terrorized, he’d been mollycoddling his sister.
A heavy silence cloaked him.
This couldn’t be happening again.
Not to her, not to Khushi…
“I don’t deserve her… Why the hell did I leave her alone?”
The doctor placed a hand on his shoulder,  “You showed up at the right time…You saved her…”
His bloodshot eyes lifted to the doctor…”Can I see her?…I mean…does she want to see me?”
“She hasn’t spoken much…we told her that we would send you in…and she didn’t respond…”
“I don’t know…I…She’s been hurt before, and I …I don’t know how to face her…I let this happen again…” his anger and helplessness was making his heart thud hard.
“Listen. She needs you right now. Sure she needs care, love, gentleness, but  more than anything or anyone, she needs you… Don’t let your anger at this bastard scare her into a corner…” The doctor told him…“She needs you.”
As the doctor walked away, Arnav stared through the glass of the room’s door.
She didn’t even look up as he entered…
He sat down beside her, unsure of what to say…nothing seemed worthy enough…
Gently, he lifted her hand to his lips…
As his tears hit her hand, he whispered…”I’m sorry…I’m so sorry sweetheart…”
She could feel him trembling, or maybe it was her.
It didn’t matter.
She was dirty.
She pushed him away, and brought the blanket up with her hands to shield her face.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him raise his hand to uncover her, and she turned away.
His hand hovered there. “Kh…Khushi…?”
Silence settled around them.
She was still so cold, she couldn’t stop shaking.
Her head shook back and forth, but she didn’t jerk away.
“Don’t touch me. Don’t look at me,” she whispered.
If he weren’t sitting so close, he wouldn’t have heard her.
Carefully, he pulled her hands down.
Her head was still turned away.
He saw the white butterfly bandage on her forehead, the dark bruise contrasting around it, the large knot bumping under the contused skin.
With one hand, he crooked a finger under her chin, noticed her stiffen, pull into herself.
“Sweetheart…Look at me.”
She shook her head.
“Khushi…” his voice became choked…”please, look at me.”
Her eyes slowly rose to his and he felt his world tilt, quake and shatter.
“Oh my God…”
The entire right side of her face was bruised, swollen and red.
Dark purple marks colored her jawline.
Gently, he moved her chin to the side, but at her grimace he let go.
She cleared her throat and averted her eyes… “I…I need to take a shower.”
Trying to sit up, her shoulders seized up in pain and he reached out to help her, but she flinched further away.
“D-don’t. Please don’t—don’t touch me.”
The words sank home.
No. No. God, no.
Khushi turned to walk to the bathroom and stopped in the door frame.
She stood in front of the mirror.
He saw her reflection, the shock on her face.
Her trembling hand rose to her face…
Arnav swallowed hard.
The bandage around her wrist flashed at him.
Her other hand came up and the blanket dropped.
What he saw made him stand up in horror…
Her neck was scratched and scraped.
A bandage wrapped around both wrists and her upper arm.
Tears trickled over her cheeks.
He slowly walked towards her…
Abraded and bruised…THAT shook him, made him fist his hands at his sides.
He saw the fear, the anger in depths of her eyes.
 “He did this!—he—he . . . Oh, God.” She swayed.
Arnav moved and caught her before she crumpled to the floor.
Rage pounded through him.
Disbelief warred with the bruised and battered woman in his arms.
Her body shook so badly, so deeply, he wondered that her bones didn’t snap.
“Shhhhh sweetheart…I’m here…” He held her, gentled his voice even though he wanted to yell.
She stiffened, pushed away from him… “Don’t—don’t touch me! Don’t!  I just want to take a shower. I have to get him off. I can’t . . . I don’t . . .” He reached out, but dropped his hands back when she shook her head and stepped away.
All he could do was watch helplessly as she took small steps to the door of her rooms.
He fisted his hands at his sides until they shook, bit down till his teeth hurt.
At her door, she stopped.
Without turning, she asked, “Could—could you get me—get me some clothes?”
Arnav could see her trembling from here. “Anything. Anything you want. Anything you need.”
She nodded. “Clothes. I need some clothes. He—he . . . I need some.” With that, she shut the door to the bathroom
He walked to the cupboard that was in to the side of the room and found plain white cotton pants and a shirt…
Gently tapping on the door, he said, “I have some clothes here for you, do you want me to…”
“Please…just …just leave them there…”
Her breaking voice made him want to beat his chest in sorrow…
Before he could say anything else he heard the shower turn on…
The scalding water filled the bathroom with so much steam she couldn’t see herself in the mirror.
Just as well.
She didn’t want to see.
Didn’t want to see the bruises, the cuts, the marks he left on her.
“I won’t let this break me…” she whispered to herself…”I refuse to let this break me…”
The skin on her arms was pink, almost raw from the pumice stone she’d used, and the entire bar of soap.
And still she scrubbed.
“I need to get his touch off me…”
The water heated her already reddened skin.
She’d taken off the wet gauze from her wrists.
The spray bit into the raw skin, stinging at first, until it grew numb.
Water ran off her hair, down her face. She stared at the cream tiles, the steam so thick on them, water trailed down.
A sob choked her, tore out of her throat.
She leaned back, slid down the wet wall.
With her knees to her chest, she bowed her head and tried to stop the tears that washed away her shame as uselessly as the hot water beating unmercifully down on her.
Arnav sat on the bed…
He thought of nothing but Khushi…
“Yeah, NOW you want to give her your attention…after failing her like this!” he berated himself…
He looked at her door, then at his watch—over an hour.
She’d been in there over an hour.
Before he could move, his phone rang.
“Yes Nani?”
“Chote? Did you find her?”
Arnav sighed and thought about what to say, what not to say.
Taking a deep breath he spoke… “Yeah,I—uh—yeah, I found her.”
“Oh, thank God. We have all been worried sick. Anjali has just delivered her baby and is asking for you. Payal is asking questions…But I know . . .” His Nani’s  voiced trailed off.
“I know something happened. Tell me she’s okay.”
Closing his eyes, he blinked his pain over his cheeks…“She… she will be. . .”
“Anjali is fine, she had a beautiful little girl…she has been asking if you would come…”
“NO!” he all but yelled.
“Chote, she said for you to come, only when you’re ready to…”
Calming down…“As long as you’re there, I know she’s safe…Please tell Payal that Akash is fine, but there is…more to be said at another time, just keep her with you…” he said, not knowing how to explain it all.
“Okay, Let me talk to Khushi,” Nani said.
 He rolled his neck…“She’s in the shower. She had a few scrapes and bruises. When she gets out, there are some questions that need clearing up and then . . .”
“What exactly happened to her?” she carefully asked.
“I—it. Nani, the police are still here and want to question us, I’ll call back when they’ve finished…” He needed to get off… “I’ll call you back in a bit. Bye, Nani…”
With that, he hung up and puffed out a sigh…
Silence settled again.
He looked back at the door.
Was she all right?
Panic began to flood him…
He knocked at the bathroom door…
Again he knocked.
“Khushi? Sweetheart?! You’re scaring me! Please talk to me!”
Still nothing…
This time he knocked harder. 
Perhaps she needed the time alone….
He’d left her alone before and look what he’d allowed to happen…
He heard the water spraying in a constant uninterrupted stream.
He frowned at the door, ran a hand through his hair.
If she were in the shower, wouldn’t he hear the change in the water?
But there was not a single sound.
She might hate him, but be damned, he had to know she was all right.
He pulled at the handle ferociously and broke it off, releasing the lock..
As he pushed the door open, thick hot steam rolled out, engulfing him.
It was hotter than a sauna.
The room was a muted wall of heated mist; most of it escaped out the open door.
Still no answer.
His heart slammed in his chest.
The water ran ceaselessly.
The bathroom was empty.
“KHUSHI?” he asked louder, striding to the shower stall.
She wasn’t in there.
Fear shot through him and he jerked the door open.
Hot stinging spray splattered out on him.
She was curled on the bottom of the tiled floor.
He reached in through the scalding water and shut it off.
Her skin was bright pink and heated as he touched her.
She didn’t even flinch as he stepped into the shower and scooped her up against him.
“Oh God…Khushi…You’re safe… It’s going to be all right… You’re safe now.”
The heat and water from her soaked through his shirt.
She slumped in his arms, boneless.
Holding her close to him, he reached out and grabbed her robe hanging by the shower.
For a moment he looked around, then sat on the toilet, with Khushi on his lap.
He leaned her head back, her eyes were closed.
Fear slammed through him.
“Khushi…Khushi?” Reaching to the side, he grabbed a washcloth and soaked it with cold water.
Gently, he feathered it over her face, careful of the bump on her head, her swollen, already bruising cheeks.
He bit down at the sight of her abused face.
Still she didn’t stir.
“Khushi…Jaan, talk to me.” He placed a soft kiss on her forehead…. “You’re scaring me here…please…”
She was hot, too hot.
He kept up his nonsensical words.
A moan finally drifted passed her lips and her eyelids fluttered.
He rubbed the cool cloth over her neck.
Her eyes stared at him, but she didn’t stiffen as he expected her to.
He sat the cloth on the counter and gathered her robe up.
Her gray stare was blank.
As easily as possible, he shifted her so that they were both standing.
He held her up with one arm and tried to put the robe on with the other.
His gaze ran over her, her body that he swore to protect, a body he loved.
Now, bruises darkly contrasted against her pale skin.
Some part of him catalogued the damage someone had inflicted on her, but a red haze threatened the edge of his vision, blacked the border of his sanity and temper.
Khushi didn’t need his rage.
Taking a long breath through his nose, he studied her.
He looked down at her torso…
Her breasts were red and bruised….
He gently reached out and ran a hand over them, sliding his hand down her belly…
Her stomach muscles tightened under his fingers.
“I’m so sorry…so sorry.”
He took his hand away, but looked at her. 
Biting down, he shoved the air out of his lungs.
As carefully as possible, he helped her put the robe on.
He covered her gently, mindful of her bruises.
What the hell could he do to help her?
How could he . . . What was there . . . Did she even . . .
On a silent curse, he flicked the water back on and filled a glass.
He held it up to her lips. “You need some liquids in you.” She drank the entire glass down.
When she lowered her hands, a hiss escaped her.
Arnav stood tall beside her.
“What? What is it?” he asked quietly.
She shook her head, but mumbled, “My wrist… The robe hurts my . . .” She trailed off.

Arnav reached out and took her fine-boned hand.
Carefully, he pushed the cuff up.
All he could see when he looked at  her wounds was her screaming, and struggling, trying to escape.
On another curse he rose, all but ripped a drawer out of the bathroom sink.
There was a box of bandages and a tube of antibacterial ointment.
He lifted her carefully in his arms and took her back to the bed…
His hands shook as he applied the clear cream to the bandage.
Then he wrapped the white gauze around her wrist.
He tried to hold her gaze, but she looked away…
The control on his emotions almost snapped. ..“I’m sorry. I’m so damn sorry….”


“I am strong. I am strong. I—I—I am strong.” She thought firmly, wiped the tear from her eye, then stood and faced the mirror.
The sight made her tremble.
“I’m okay. I’m okay. I’m okay,” she repeated, hoping she would believe the mantra.
But the woman staring back at her reminded her too much of a past she’d tried to leave behind.
Shyam may have tried to break her, but he wouldn’t.
He wouldn’t.
She might crack and tremble, shake and fear, but she would—not—break.

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