Every fight you put to gain your freedom is worth everything.
The lobby was silent; it was 3:30 in the night. The only sound was of her heels hitting the ground. Even the hotel’s night shift staff sat silently in the common room at the ground floor. Reaching down she ordered a cab and takeaway breakfast. Everyone looked at her from head to toe. It wasn’t an unusual sight for them but she somehow stood out. She was wearing a white satin material shirt, which was tucked perfectly in her grey pencil skirt, with a grey blazer and black stilettos to complete the outfit. It wouldn’t be wrong to say, she looked more presentable than their manager, who now stood behind the checkout counter, clearing her bills while talking to her, chuckling.
“Excuse me ma’am, here’s your luggage and takeaway order.”
“Thank you, sir.” She spoke with a smile. She was so fresh at this hour in the night.
“Who was she?” Out of curiosity, asked one the staff members, to their manager.
“One of the most influential women, owner of the largest hotel lines.” Everybody stood their ashamed of judging her.
The cab dropped her at the international airport.
As she walked into the check in counter, she saw her assistant waiting there for her. She was then made thorough with her schedule for the day. She had to first fly to Singapore, to meet some investors and then come back to attend her daughter’s play in school, she even had to pay a visit in her NGO today. She had promised the people there, that she will manage to meet them every once a week, and she already broke it last week.
After 6 hours, she landed in Singapore. The investors had sent a car to pick her and her assistant up. Reaching the investors office, she could make out almost everybody knew her there. They bowed to greet her. She realized how different it was to what she saw earlier this morning. Her own country people did not recognize her and saw her with judgmental eyes. Smiling and bowing back to everyone, she entered the cabin where the meeting was to be held.
“I shall seal the deal, then?” She asked the head of the investing team after finishing her presentation. He looked at her and then to his team member. It seemed like they communicated with their eyes.
“Deal then.” The head said, shaking her hand.
Landing back in India, she ran to her daughter’s school. She couldn’t miss even a minute of her play.
She saw her daughter, Ritika, peeping from behind the curtains to make sure her mother had arrived. They exchanged a smile and the shortly after the show began.
“It was amazing. You were amazing there, Ritika.” Spoke the assistant.
“Oh Thank you, Derek” Ritika blushed and continued, “Did you like it, mom?”
“Of course, Darling. I loved it.” She said, covering the belt marks on her daughter’s back.
“It is okay, mom. I am not ashamed of it.
“I know. It is very brave of you. Still allow me.” She spoke kissing her forehead.
Soon they reached the NGO. BLOSSOM Organization, the board read. It was a huge house with two floors and a garden that surrounded the house.
They had collected Christmas gifts for everyone there while coming down here.
“SHEERRRYY” young ones ran shouting towards her.
“You are late, you know, right?” The elderly spoke.
She apologized to everyone and asked Ritika and her assistant to distribute the gifts. There weren’t a lot of women in her organization, may be twenty or so in all, and she provided them everything she could. She arranged schooling for the younger ones, different kinds of classes for the elder ones. She managed to get some of them jobs, not that she wanted to get rid off of them. But she wanted them to realize that, just because they are women it doesn’t make them any less deserving of a better and respectful life. She wanted them to move on from their past and start a new life. Like her. She knew how difficult it was for them. She had seen not just herself but even her daughter suffering, who was then a mere 4 year old child. Each and every female in this house had suffered and she did everything she could to not let them suffer anymore. She went into the kitchen to help the women there to make today’s dinner. Every time she visited, she made sure she had one meal with them, so that they feel like they belonged there and like a family.
After having dinner and catching up with everyone, the three left for home. Derek dropped Sherry and Ritika home first and then went to his house, which was only couple of blocks away.
Ritika could see her mother tired with so much of travelling in one day. She knew how lucky she was to have a mother like her. There never was a day when Ritika would wish for a father. The society did not accept it very well, the idea that Ritika, such young girl, never felt the absence of a father. But that was the reality, not only did she not miss it; she wished to never have it again. It was because of the society that she and her mother had to go through so much in the past. It was the society because of which she had those marks on her back.
“Go, change. It was one hectic day.” Her mother said, and she did so.
Taking off her shirt, Sherry noticed the cigarette burns on her shoulders and chest. Even though she knew that her daughter had seen them in the past, she made sure she doesn’t have to see it again. Looking at them, it gave her reasons to be more successful, to help more women, to face the society who judged her for being a single mother. It never failed to remind her, the pain she had been through for those 5 years. Even though she was well educated, she was thrown into a pit of illiterate people because outcaste marriage wasn’t allowed. Those people took away her freedom to study more and work. First they forced her into getting intimate with her husband, whom she barely knew, then they forced her into abortion twice because she conceived a girl. The third time, by putting up a fight she did manage to give birth to her daughter, Ritika. But it came with a great cost, for both of them. The burns on her and the marks on her daughter, they paid a life time cost. She managed to run away and get a divorce. She was no more answerable to people whose thinking was narrower than the stem of some flowers. That day they both pledged never to let society affect their life or any decision ever again. It took her a while to get back into the work state, making Ritika come out of the trauma. It’s been 11 years now and those struggle, that fight, it all seems worth it now.
She kissed her forehead. Even though they never looked back, they never forgot. It had made who they are today, braver than they might have ever been. Lying in their bed, they slept in peace.