When she looked up at her father, her eyes screamed in pain as they darted towards the body abandoned in the corner. A body used to his abuse, taunts, slapping, kicking. Had it given up? Or would it rise again, to justify and bear more humiliation?
2019 is the year in which our beloved writing contest, Muse of the Month gets bigger and better (find out how here) and also takes the cue from the words of women who inspire with their poetry. The writing cue for January 2019 is these lines from the inspiring African-American writer Maya Angelou, taken from her poem, Phenomenal Woman.
“Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed”
The second winner of our January 2019 Muse of the Month contest is Janani Balaji (Grade 8, Age 13)
Rachel dropped to one knee, but she was still fighting. She had lost her advantage, sure, but that didn’t mean she had lost everything else along with it. One thing was for sure, no amount of punches could ever be traded for her pride.
Blood streamed down her face from a large wound on her forehead, but she simply wiped it away as if it were simply copious quantities of sweat she’d accumulated from running long distances. She blinked away any that had gotten in her eyes.
The man continued to throw sloppy punches at the young girl. Though the alcohol ruined his aim, it only served to fuel his fury. But Rachel would not fall, not here, not now. She couldn’t leave until she had proven herself stronger than him. She couldn’t lose everything again.
When she looked up at her father, her eyes screamed in pain as they darted towards the body abandoned in the corner. A body used to his abuse, taunts, slapping, kicking. Had it given up? Or would it rise again, to justify and bear more humiliation? She stared at the man above her, his breath reeked of alcohol and his clothes were stained with blood. She didn’t know this man anymore.
With Herculean effort, she pushed herself up. Shakily standing on both feet, she managed to stand as tall as she possibly could. This was not the man she’d loved, this was not the man who took her for ice-cream when she passed a test, this man was not her father. He was a stranger in this house, a person who’d hurt her, the ones she loved. He deserved no sympathy.
She launched herself forward. The man sidestepped, easily, just as she’d predicted. He left the area open, just as she’d predicted. She threw herself out the window and into the waiting clump of bushes below. She landed up with multiple cuts to add to the bruises littering her face, but that was immaterial as she rang up the nearest police on her cracked phone. She thanked her stars and protective phone covers that it had made it out and she didn’t have to run all the way to the station herself.
It wasn’t what she wanted to do, but it was what she needed to. She let her tears fall as she hid in the park near her house. The police knew now. They would end this.
She couldn’t believe it. She had done it. Stepped out, stood up and made that call…all thanks to Leela, a 16 year old acid attack survivor she had met just a month ago. She was a waitress at a café. “There is no need to smile through the pain. You just need to walk away. You decide it is enough, you will find the strength”, she had shared. The glow in her eyes radiated a warmth Rachel longed to exude. Years of taunts and abuse had made her numb to pain and emotion. She was a rock, she didn’t care anymore, Rachel had thought. The tears and hugs that she had shared with Leela that day, made her realize, she was alive; she needed to live.
Suddenly, she felt the hairs at the back of her neck prickle, and turned to face…well, him. He had come for her.She wasn’t particularly happy with this new development, but now she was better rested and knew that there was someone coming to back her up. She was stronger, she was better. She could face him this time.
She wouldn’t run, she decided.
Not much filled her head as she dodged his, by now, predictable moves. Left hook, sloppy middle, sharp kick. Once in a while, he’d throw in something different. But Rachel had been training as much as she could. While her family thought she was in the school choir practice, she had signed up for martial arts classes. She knew she had to make sure no one could take advantage of her again.
It was only when his cheek was beginning to purple from where she’d landed a punch, did she stop fighting. She heard the sound of sirens. Her father, as if realizing that his time was running out, began to talk.
“You,” He slurred. “Are a worthless, disrespectful girl. I should have thrown you out. Your stupid mother decided that she wanted to keep you. She’ll be gone by now, and so will you by the time I’m done.”
“Look,” Rachel spat. “You’re not worth much to me right now, but when I was younger, you meant the world to me. And you decided that I didn’t deserve to have that. Who cared whether you were successful or not, we just wanted you to smile at us. Fine, okay, you didn’t have to be a stellar father, but you had no reason to take advantage of me.”
“You,” He snarled in that familiar threatening tone, eye ticking. “Belonged to me. I didn’t need to ask you for permission.”
Rachel lunged at him, using her momentum to propel herself forward and kick him square in the jaw. Stumbling, the man fell backwards.
The police arrived on scene at that moment, along with an ambulance which she quickly directed to her house to check if her mother was still alive. She felt a bit of guilt surge through her, but she continued to stand there. Her ‘father’ gave her one last dirty look and spat at her feet.
She felt herself lighten. He was a petty person now, a shadow of whom he used to be. She still owed him one last glance, simply out of obligation more than any familial love.
“I belong to me. I was given to you to raise and nourish. But you had nothing to give.” She said her tone cold and unforgiving. “I had the strength, just needed to find it. Now you understand, Just why my head’s not bowed.”
Janani Balaji wins a Rs 500 Amazon voucher from Women’s Web. Congratulations!
Image source: shutterstock
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