Weeks had passed and by now his hair had grown back at the sides. It was early Saturday morning. He hadn’t slept well and after tossing and turning, he decided to get up. The sun had just risen. He shaved and took a long shower before fixing himself breakfast. After he ate, he washed up the dirty dishes and brushed, he went into the living-room. He picked up the magazine and stretching out on the sofa, he flipped through it. It was a fashion magazine but Sarika said that it had articles which he might find interesting. She had brought it over the last time she visited.
He skipped over the pages with the fashion until he came across the first article which was about a human trafficking survivor. Immediately, his mind went to Rehema. With great interest, he read Faith Robles’ harrowing account of what happened to her at the age of 14 after she was smuggled into the United States and sold for sex by a family-run human trafficking ring. For years she suffered before she managed to escape and later faced her traffickers in court, helping bring down the trafficking ring.
After years of abuse, the investigation, and the court process, she hadn’t been able to share her story but now she was and she was also helping other trafficking survivors. Her nightmare began as a love story when at 13, she met a 16 year old boy in a park in the small town in Mexico where she was from. They talked and he asked her to be his girlfriend. She thought he was handsome and kind. He told her that he loved her and he made promises such as taking her to the US here they would work together, build a house and have a family. She had no idea that he was part of a human trafficking ring until it was too late.
By the time, Trishan finished reading the article, he felt sick to the stomach. He closed the magazine and tossed it aside. He got up and walked over to the window. That poor girl, duped by the boy she thought loved her. Rehema had been deceived by a woman whom she thought was her friend. Even though she and the teenage girl had both been victims of the same thing, his reaction to each ordeal was so different. He felt sorry for the girl but disgust filled him when he thought about Rehema’s plight. Disgust with the friend who had deceived her, the woman who forced her to prostitute herself, the men who violated her and…Why on earth should he be angry with Rehema? What happened to her wasn’t her fault any more than it was that teenage girl’s fault but he couldn’t help feeling angry.
His expression darkened. Actually, it was more than anger. It was jealousy but why on earth should he be jealous? How could he be jealous of those monsters who had to pay for Rehema and the other women to have sex with them? It seemed ridiculous but he couldn’t help it. Every time he thought about Rehema being forced to satisfy the men’s sexual demands, he saw red. Yes, red, hot jealousy coursed through his body. The jealousy was stronger than the sympathy. He knew he was being irrational and that he should be thinking about Rehema and not about himself but how could any man be rational about something like this?
He recalled the conversation the had with his colleague, Brent. They were having lunch at a bistro ten minutes from the office and he casually mentioned that he had heard stories about human trafficking in Delhi.”
“Yes, I read the story online. The trafficker was a Nigerian woman and she was arrested for trafficking three Nigerian girls to India for prostitution.”
“Yes, I saw that on the News but I was talking about the one where a Kenyan girl who was trafficked to Delhi and forced into sex work to satisfy the demands of many African men in Delhi,” Trishan told him. “The story was on BBC.”
“Yes, I remember that one. She went undercover for the BBC to expose the dark world of the illegal sex network which has spread from India to Africa. That was two years ago. She’s back in Kenya rebuilding her life. I believe she’s studying and working part-time.”
“How does a person rebuild her life after that?”
“It takes determination, I guess. It took a lot of courage for her to tell her story.
“Do you suppose she would ever have a normal life?”
“A normal life?”
“I guess so, although I don’t know how many men would want to marry her and other women who have been through what she has.”
“You mean because they have been with so many other men?”
“Yes. As far as I’m concerned, these women are damaged goods. And they could have STDs, HIV or worse, AIDS.”
“There are tests which can be done to find out if they are infected. I have a cousin who always makes sure that before he becomes involved with a woman, she is tested for these things. I’ve been with one woman and we were both virgins.”
“How old are you?”
“And how long have you and this woman been together?”
“We’ve been together for over four years.”
“Oh. Well, that’s good that she was a virgin when you and she had sex for the first time. She wasn’t a health risk but there are women out there who are. As I said, no man in his right mind would want to have anything to do with a woman who has been in sex trafficking or prostitution.”
“How would you know unless she told you?”
“Easy. Like your cousin, I don’t sleep with a woman unless she has been tested and is negative. I will never risk my health or life for any woman, no matter how attracted I am to her.”
Trishan dragged his fingers through his hair. Was Rehema a health risk? Did she have unprotected sex with any of those men? Did she get STDs? Did she get pregnant and was forced to have an abortion? When she ran away and was taken to the Kenyan Embassy in Delhi, did they take her to the hospital to be examined and tested? Or did she wait until she was back in Kenya? She looked healthy to him but how could he be sure?
The doorbell rang, interrupting his tortuous thoughts and he moved impatiently away from the window, wondering who was stopping by to see him at eight o’ clock on a Saturday morning. It was Sarika.
“Good morning,” she said, greeting him with a hug and reaching up, she kissed him on the lips. “I hope I haven’t come by too early but it was such a lovely morning, I came by to see if you wanted to go for a drive in the countryside.”
He really wasn’t in the mood to go anywhere or for company. “Maybe later,” he said.
“What’s the matter?”
“Are you going to visit your Aunt Savitri today?”
“It has been a while since you have visited her.”
“Yes, it has been.” He hadn’t visited his aunt since the day he ran out of Rehema’s flat. He missed seeing his aunt but was afraid that he would run into Rehema. He wondered if she had mentioned what happened to his aunt. Somehow, he doubted it or he would have gotten a phone call from Aunt Savitri by now to ream him out for running out on Rehema. Did she mention that she had bumped into him and Sarika at the train station a few weeks ago? Again, he wondered if she was on her way to meet someone. It really wasn’t any of his business but…
“How come you haven’t been to see her?”
“I’ve been busy.”
“Did you two have a falling out?”
“When was the last time you saw her?”
“It was at the barbecue.”
“That’s a while ago.”
“Yes.” He didn’t like being pressed about his aunt and she could probably tell that because of the expression on his face.
“Would you prefer to go to a museum instead of the park?” she asked.
“I’m not in the mood for the museum.”
“The park then?”
“I’m not in the mood for that either.”
“Have you ever been to Shoreditch?”
“No. Would you like us to go there?”
“Yes. A co-worker has been and she said that there are lots of things to do there. We won’t be bored.”
“All right. Let’s go.” It would be a welcome distraction from his thoughts.
Sarika smiled. She was looking forward to the street art, the boutiques and vintage shops and the street food. Most of all, she was thrilled that Trishan was going to be spending another Saturday with her instead of with his aunt.