Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Fleeting Moment of Freedom

               That particular night, Farheen rushed us into the set of 'expensive' clothes and doubled our makeup. We knew someone special was coming to see us, otherwise rags were all that he could afford off stage. As for Farheen; all 6''2  of him was dressed in an eloquent sherwani with ebony embroidery. The kind that matched mine, or it was meant to be the other way around, I was not sure. Hell, I was never sure why he dragged me like I was a complimentary gift that came with him or why he had to coordinate our clothes. But I was sure like every other time that they'd praise him, for getting such a beauty by his side and other things I'd make my ears deaf for. And yet I was the envy of the girls surrounding me; they wished to be in my shoes. Fact was, they wouldn't dare want to once I removed those shoes outside our 'home'.
             We had 2 hours before the show was scheduled to start but my act had already begun. I smiled through the ache from the bruises that Farheen absently revisited while he introduced me to the guests of our grand theater. I imagine they'd be potential sponsors in our upcoming shows as talks on money surfaced and my mind drifted off everywhere but there. Not too long after I was in my dream world, he snapped me out of it by deliberately taking my arm around his. Posing to be his muse was the most disgusting thing and that thought throbbed throughout the show. While the cheers and applause died down, I ran my fingers over the warm velvet fabric that I had just worn. A deep sigh and I let go of it along with the ornaments that made me look like a princess. Ready to face reality, I looked into the full length mirror backstage and saw the real me. Another sigh.
          'Wow brother! Our collection is just off the charts today!" Zavier exclaimed counting the cash, one sly eye at me. I pretended to dust the files in the office whereas I secretly viewed the names of people locked up in different dressing rooms. There was no point, the security was too tight and if I opened a door I'd probably set off an alarm, yet checking it was a habit that kept me alive.
         ''Eh.... Didn't you eat yet? Go... Eat" Farheen said pushing an empty plate towards me. I politely nodded and walked up to the half eaten trays that he and his boys had left behind. I shoved it all onto the plate, and segregated the portions to make it look as if someone bothered to serve me well and then stared at the plate. There was hardly enough. I looked out the window that connected the office and the huge hall. The caterers were packing up, but it was still worth a chance. Not at getting food, but at getting a fleeting moment of freedom. I inched towards the door.
"Where do you think you're going?" said Farheen as he breathed his cigarette down my back. I pushed my hair back and replied.
"There's not enough food. They might have some left overs." He considered it for a while; chuckled.
"Haan haan, go. I wouldn't want you making me look bad. Eh Rahul, go with her." Rahul, one of his silent boys got up, rubbed his hands over his shirt and walked ahead of me.
"And listen! Get some shopping done for the show on Friday night" he said pushing some crumpled notes into my palms. Rahul took them from me almost at once.
              Out there the caterers looked at me like I had faded to grey in my early 20's already. Of course they didn't recognize me. I undid the knot of my skirt where I hid my hope - a scrap of ticket paper with scribbled letters pleading for help. I scanned for Rahul ... he was chatting with the caterers, hands in his pocket. I quickly moved to the man who was putting hot steaming leftovers on my plate and dropped in into his basket of rotis. At first he was puzzled, but then he grabbed it and inserted it into his pocket in a hurry. It felt like someone had undid a tight corset. I could breathe. I hid a smile as I looked at Rahul again. This time his eyes bored into me like black beads.

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