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The chain clinked on the ground as she tried to stretch out her legs. The harsh cold concrete rubbed against her bruised skin, creating friction enough to make her grind her teeth. It was dark inside; the lone candle that had lit up the room had gone out hours ago, leaving not even a wisp of its existence.

She absently wondered what time it was, but brushed aside the thought. At first, it had been easy to keep track of time with the meals that had arrived, but there was no established pattern to them anymore. Sometimes, it took until the only sound she could hear would be of her stomach roaring to the point of physical pain, for them to feed her. There were other worse ways of inflicting pain. She refused to think about them too.

The lack of meals and exercise led to weakness, but she was determined to stand up. Using the wall as a crutch, she managed to partially stand, hunched over at the waist. Her will to stand up was strong, but the agony took precedent; she clutched her hurting abdomen, and keeled over. She remained in a sitting position for a while before giving up. A wave of hopelessness hit her. Was there any point to standing up when the blow dealt with her knees had crippled her forever? No point to much of anything these days. Then again, what did she know of the day and the night; it was all the same in her prison.

When the panchayat had sentenced her to a year of house arrest, her cousin had urged her to run away, but she hadn’t listened. It was torture, filtering through the past in a repetitive cycle of helplessness at the hand she’d been dealt, and what a cruel hand it was.

After the lashes, she’d been thrown in here without any care for her poor back. It still hadn’t healed, and relentlessly ached. The punishment hadn’t ended there. The details of the house arrest were up to her blood relatives to decide. Her impression of being locked in her room had been grossly overestimated. Instead, this basement had become her new residence, the insects and reptiles to keep her company, but as the weather got colder, even they left the girl to her own devices.

What a crime to raise her voice in the name of love, to be silenced and sentenced to this limbo.

It was when the door opened and footsteps shuffled in that she knew something was wrong. The flashlights flickered over her dirty, naked form. She hid her face underneath her hair and tried her best to shield her vulnerable form from the searching gaze of the men she used to call family. No used to the light, she squinted through the veil of her matted hair.

When she understood what was about to occur, it wasn’t the face of the man she loved that floated through her mind, for whom she had deserted the values of her culture, because of whose betrayal she had been subjected to suffering and humiliation. It was her lovely mother, who had left her to fend for herself far too early. Her songbird voice softly humming a tune as she combed her nine-year old’s hair…

“…gone the winter wind,

Gone the springtime breeze,

Gone my love for you,

Gone, your love for me;

Gone, the summer sun,

Gone, the fallen leaves;

Gone, my love for you,

Gone your love for me…”

The noose dangled in plain sight.

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