The One That Got Away

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She wanted revenge, and it was worth the wait. She had waited patiently for him to return to her city. She was going to play his whore for a night — his last night. Her plan was elaborate, almost theatrical. But isn't that what he deserved after what he had done to her?

She sat in the Starbucks café, sipping her coffee. The blood-stained knife lay next to her handbag, covered with her blue silk scarf. Surprisingly, the coffee tasted insipid and cold. Anandita tried to get the attention of the waiters, but they seemed to be deliberately ignoring her. In fact, nobody in the café seemed to notice the scarred side of her face, the glass eye that stared lifelessly out of her right-eye socket, and her disheveled hair. Even her saree, which was in disarray, did not seem to attract unwanted attention. Anandita was used to being stared at wherever she went, so this inconspicuousness was a welcome change. Usually, she would cover her scars with the scarf, which had become a part of her life ever since that fateful day three years ago. But today, that scarf was concealing the consequences of another act of violence. An act that she believed would finally put her tormented mind to rest.

Her thoughts leapt back to March 30, 2012. The day that had turned Anandita's carefree life into a painful nightmare...

Anandita had woken up to the incessant drone of her mobile ringtone.

"Hello?"

"Anandita, get down here fast. We need to replace one of the photos...you had shown me another photo where Kangana's hair was neatly tied in a French knot, right? I need that photo to replace the current one on our spread. We go to the printers in four hours!"

Anandita's boss, Karan, had always been direct and to the point. Being one of the senior photographers at Fashicon, a Mumbai-based fashion magazine, Anandita had gotten used to his calls at ungodly hours, especially when they were nearing the release of the next issue.

Anandita had showered and gotten dressed quickly. She had not even paused for the Poha her mom had prepared for breakfast. She had gotten on her scooter and had started driving like a maniac down the regular route to her office. Anandita had been so stressed that morning that she had hardly noticed the black Kawasaki that had started following her as soon as she had left home.

As she had waited at a signal, she had suddenly felt being pierced by a thousand needles. Anandita had had very little recollection of anything after the acid had started eating into her face. But in the few lucid moments before she had collapsed, she had remembered clearly hearing the voice of her ex-boyfriend, Bhaskar, screaming, "Bloody tramp, you thought you were too good for me, na? Now, let's see if you are good enough for any other man!"

And then the deafening silence of her soul had overpowered all other senses.

Bhaskar had used his influence and wealth to turn every witness to the attack hostile. Anandita still remembered the smirk on Bhaskar's face, and his parting words to her after he had been acquitted of all charges.

"Women like you need to be taught such lessons! You think you can just dump a man anytime you feel like and then get away with it, na? Look at yourself now. Actually, even you can't look at yourself in the mirror!"

That day, Anandita had vowed revenge, no matter how long it took. And it had taken her a long time to trace Bhaskar because he had fled India after being exonerated. Every day over the past two years, Anandita had walked past Bhaskar's house, when her work got over to see if there was any sign of him. Then one day, fifteen days ago, she had seen Bhaskar alight from his car and walk into his house.  Discreet inquiries had revealed that Bhaskar had come back from Malaysia to get married to a girl that his parents had found for him. His wedding had been fixed for April 15th, 2015. He was to return to Malaysia with his bride, the day after the wedding. Realizing that she had no time to waste, Anandita had started following Bhaskar after she left work, and that was how she had discovered that Bhaskar liked visiting the brothels in Madh Island. He had sought a new girl every day. And it was then that Anandita had known what she needed to do.

Her thoughts were abruptly interrupted by the din of the television because one of the Starbucks waiter had turned up the volume, and was watching the news with great interest. As Anandita waited fruitlessly to get the attention of one of the Starbucks staff, she relived the events of the previous day.

March 30th, 2015, exactly three years to the day that had unhinged Anandita's idyllic life, was like any other work day for Anandita. But only until evening. Before she left office, Anandita changed into a red saree, wearing a red, diaphanous blouse that exposed as much skin as possible. She had earlier purchased a fancy costume mask that would keep her identity intact. This mask along with her blue silk scarf and a recently-acquired knife were safely tucked into her handbag. She used the pallu of her saree to temporarily cover her scars and her exposed flesh. Anandita had already identified a corner that would keep her hidden from other pimps and prostitutes in the Madh Island area, but would put her in plain sight of Bhaskar when he approached. Luckily for her, Bhaskar was very punctual in his routine. As Bhaskar drew nearer, Anandita let her pallu slide off her shoulders to expose her scantily-covered bosom and a blouse that left little else to imagination. Her wavy, unruly hair was swept back and left uninhibited to dance with the salty breeze from the Arabian Sea. The mask was firmly secured to her face with the help of black ribbons that camouflaged themselves into the dark curls of her hair. She posed seductively with her right hand on her hip, thrusting her pelvis out. As she had rightly anticipated, Bhaskar showed no hesitation in approaching her when he noticed the creamy fairness of her exposed flesh.

"Ooh...you are a sexy whore!" he gushed, ogling at Anandita's ample bosom that was on display.

"You want to go somewhere?" Anandita asked, delicately tracing her fingers across the swell of her breasts.

"Haan...but why are you hiding behind a mask? Are you new here? Show me your face, na?" Bhaskar reached out to remove Anandita's mask. But Anandita deftly caught his hand, and held it hovering enticingly over her bosom, just inches away.

"I will show you my face, jaanu. But only when we fuck. Now, tell me if you are interested or not." Anandita pushed his hand away from her.

"Okay, okay. Where is your room? What is your rate?"

"Two thousand rupees. I have a place not far from here."

A couple of days before, Anandita had found a lone, vacant house near Marve beach on Madh Island to carry out her plan. The owner of the house had gone on vacation and was not expected back any time soon, which had suited Anandita's plan just fine. She had already broken into the house and made all the arrangements for Bhaskar's last night as a living man.

As Anandita started guiding Bhaskar through the narrow alleys of Madh Island towards their destination, she wound the pallu around her body and face so that nobody would recognize her later. By the time they reached the house, she could see the distant lights from ships anchored at the Mumbai port. The house was bathed in an eerie glow reflecting from the half-moon that glinted through hazy clouds.

"Is this your house?" questioned Bhaskar, a little perturbed.

"Of course not. My pimp has rented it for conducting business. Come, let's go upstairs. My room's on the second floor."

After Bhaskar entered the bedroom, Anandita surreptitiously locked the door behind him so that he would not be able to escape. Bhaskar hardly noticed because he was more preoccupied with removing his clothes.

"Do you like to play rough?" Anandita asked, as she slowly loosened the saree off her body. Bhaskar opened his mouth in awe, swallowing the salty air and unable to take his eyes off her curvaceous figure. He barely responded with a grunt.

Anandita approached him languidly, while removing her remaining garments, until her body was just inches away from him, naked. Anandita reached out and ripped the rest of his clothes away until he was also standing in the buff. As Anandita pushed Bhaskar to the bed, she picked up the end of her discarded saree.

"Lie down. On your back."

Bhaskar followed her instructions obediently. Anandita tied one hand and then his other hand, using the length of the saree, to the bed poster. She repeated the same steps to tie his feet so that by the time she was done, he was lying spread-eagled on the bed, in full anticipation.

"Show me you are desperate for my body. I want to see you struggle against your bonds."

Bhaskar moaned and writhed with desire, struggling to release himself from the knots that bound him. After Anandita was satisfied that he would not be able to free himself, she turned around to reach in her handbag. She withdrew the ivory-handled knife and the blue silk scarf from the hold of her handbag, making sure that Bhaskar did not see the weapon.

She moved towards him with both hands behind her back, one holding the knife and the other holding the scarf. Bhaskar's breathing quickened as she straddled him.

"Open your mouth, jaanu. I have a special treat for you."

As soon as Bhaskar opened his mouth, Anandita stuffed the scarf deep into it so as to muffle his screams. Bhaskar looked confused, even a little shocked. For the first time in the evening, Anandita noticed a trace of fear in Bhaskar's eyes.

"Now, let's get down to business shall we?"

Anandita brought forward the hand that held the knife. Bhaskar's eyes widened in terror when he saw the pointed blade of the knife staring at him. He struggled against his bonds, trying to loosen them up. He tried to scream, but all that he could manage were piteous moans.

"Shhh...shhh...shhh. There is no point in creating a commotion now. There is nobody within miles of this place who can hear you. You must be wondering what this is all about. Maybe, this will answer your question Bhaskar."

Anandita then untied the mask to reveal the face that he had defiled three years ago. It took Bhaskar a couple of seconds to recognize her, but when he did, the fear in his eyes turned to disgust and rage. He renewed his struggle against his bonds, his muscles straining to break loose.

"All this while there was just one thing I had wanted to say to you Bhaskar, but I never got the chance until now. You are still not good enough for me, and you will never be!"

With that, Anandita plunged and twisted the knife into Bhaskar's chest. Bhaskar roared in agony, coiling his body away from Anandita. He managed to loosen the knot on his right hand, and tried to pull the knife out with his free hand, but Anandita blocked his hand and wrenched the knife out of his chest. Even as Bhaskar started bleeding profusely, he lunged at her trying to grab her. But Anandita was swift and she stabbed Bhaskar again, this time near his neck, before pulling away.

"Die, you bastard! Die!"

Bhaskar was screaming in pain, but in a matter of minutes, his screams softened to whimpers and then there was silence. Anandita watched Bhaskar until he stopped moving. She approached Bhaskar's prostrate figure cautiously, afraid that he might still be alive. When she was close enough, she nudged his free hand gently to see if there was any reaction. But there was none. Anandita pulled the scarf out from Bhaskar's open mouth, and then quickly untied the saree that held Bhaskar captive.

After she had worn her saree, she moved to retrieve the knife that was sticking out of Bhaskar's immobile body. As she removed the knife, Bhaskar sprang up from the bed, snarling with rage, and caught her hair. Anandita yelped in surprise, but she used the knife to stab him again on his neck. As they grappled with each other, Bhaskar and Anandita moved towards the window.

"I will kill you!" growled Bhaskar, pushing her out of the window, but not before Anandita pulled him with her. They crashed through the window, and went hurtling down to the ground.

When Anandita came to her senses, she found Bhaskar lying next to her on the ground, his eyes glazed with the shadow of death. In spite of falling down two stories, she had miraculously survived without much injuries. Anandita picked up her handbag, along with the blue scarf and knife, and started running. She wandered around aimlessly and unnoticed for hours on until she saw the Starbucks café, which was swarming with the evening crowd.

Anandita found a secluded, recently-vacated table in the corner of the café. She was too disoriented to notice that the table was not clean, and that the coffee that she had started sipping was the leftover coffee of the previous customer.

As Anandita waited to get her coffee replaced, she suddenly noticed Bhaskar's and her photos being telecast on the television. Fear swept through Anandita. She had not expected to be identified so quickly as a suspect in Bhaskar's murder. The news flash read "Murder in Malve".

Anandita got up and moved closer to hear what the reporter was saying...

"...preliminary investigations have revealed that this may be a case of murder, rather than suicide. Three years ago, Bhaskar Savarkar had been acquitted of all charges related to the acid attack on Anandita Chaturvedi, who had insisted that he had been responsible for the attack. While Bhaskar had moved to Malaysia after the trial, Anandita had lost her job as a photographer at Fashicon, and was working at a local NGO that helps acid attack survivors. A couple of days ago, Bhaskar had returned to India, and it appears that Anandita had planned her revenge upon hearing of his return. However today morning, the lifeless bodies of both Bhaskar and Anandita were found next to a vacant house after having apparently fallen from its second floor. While Bhaskar seems to have died from knife wounds, Anandita had broken her neck during the fall. Like they say, crime never pays. We will keep you posted on further developments to this story. Now to other news..."

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