Nisha/Wave #writephoto

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Photo courtesy of Sue Vincent

Her sister, Nisha was dead and she felt nothing.  As she stared at the sea her mind traveled back to what happened to her ten years ago.  She was 13 at the time.  She left her home with Nisha and her husband, thinking that they were going to Delhi but instead, they ended up in a remote village.  She was sold into marriage to a man old enough to be her father.

Hatred toward her sister and her brother-in-law welled inside her.  They had betrayed her.  She trusted them and they betrayed her.  They made her believe that they were going to Delhi but instead they took her to a village where strange men were coming into the room where she was kept and looking at her as if she were a piece of merchandise and offering money.  All the while Nisha stood outside, knowing what what was going to happen to her and not having a change of heart.  She kept hoping that her sister would rush in and try to stop what was happening but she didn’t.  Fortune meant more to Nisha than her sister did.

She managed to escape and was rescued by an anti-trafficking charity.  She was sent back to her parents.  She was among the lucky girls.  Many of them are lost to their families and trapped in a world of sex and domestic slavery.  Several days later, word got back to the family that police busted a human trafficking ring.  Nisha and her husband were part of the ring responsible for selling girls to men in the same village where they had taken her.

Now ten years later, she was working for the charity which rescued her.  She was determined to fight people like Nisha and her husband and all the evil forces to protect other girls from going through the horrors she did.  Nisha was dead now but there were others like her out there who preyed on young girls for profit.  She was going to fight them.  And more traffickers were going to end up in prison like her brother-in-law.  She hoped he was rotting in there.

One thing she learned from this whole experience was that the face of evil didn’t have to belong to a stranger–it could very well belong to someone very close to you.  She felt no sorrow over Nisha’s death–only peace.  It was one less evil person to fight against.

To remain silent in the face of evil is itself a form of evil – Sue Monk Kidd

Do not accept an evil you can change – E. Lockhart, We Were Liars

This was inspired by a true story of a teenager who was sold into marriage by her sister and brother-in-law.  It was written in response to the Thursday Photo Prompt – Waves at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.  For more details click here.

 

Sources:  The Guardian; Washington Post

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Orphans

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“I wish we could stay here,” Joey sighed.  He swung his feet as he leaned back on the bench.

“We can’t,” his older brother, Mark told him.  “We have to be careful.  They must be missing us at the foster home.  We have to make sure no one recognizes us and takes us back.”

“I never want to go back there.  It’s horrid and they want to separate us.”

“Don’t worry, Joey.  They won’t find us.  I’ll make sure of it.  And we will always be together.”

Mark kept his promise to Joey, right up to the cold afternoon when Police Constable Harris found him on the grated vent cradling a gravely ill Joey.  He rushed them to hospital where Joey died.  He had tuberculosis.

Mark stood now at his grave.  “One of these days we will be together again.”

Constable Harris joined him and putting his hand on his shoulder, he said, “Come, son, let’s go home.”

Mark looked up at him.  “Could we go to the park first?”

“Sure, Son.”

172 words

This was written in response to the flash fiction challenge.  For more information visit Here.

To read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

Lost

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Photo Credit: Susan Spaulding

Brenda spotted the crowd.  Anxiously, she made her way toward them, skirting around the two pink flamingos.  “Excuse me,” she called and pushed her way to where her mother stood, looking bewildered.  Brenda put her arm around her.  She was trembling.

Her mother looked at her.  “Who’re you?” she asked.

Brenda replied calmly, “It’s okay.  Don’t be afraid.  I’m Brenda and I’m here to take you home.”

“You know where I live?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t know who you are but you have a kind face.”

A man standing there asked Brenda, “Do you know this woman?”

“Yes.  She’s my mother.”

“How come she doesn’t know you?” a little boy asked and his mother shushed him.

“She’s having trouble remembering people and things,” she explained to him.  Then, she gently led her mother away from the curious and sympathetic gazes.

“How did I get here?” her mother asked as they walked slowly along the beach.

“I suppose you wanted to take a nice walk along the beach and didn’t remember how to find your way back home.  But, I’m here now and I’ll take care of you.”

Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

The above quote is from a true classic, A Streetcar Named Desire.

Word Count:  198

This was written in response to the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge, hosted by Susan and the photo is courtesy of Susan Spaulding.  For more details visit here and if you are interested in reading other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit here.

Sources:  Mayo Clinic; Aging Care

The Check Up

Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live – Jim Rohn

Women, I urge you to encourage the men in your lives to go for their annual checkup.  I wish someone had urged my father who now has prostate cancer which has spread to his backbone.  If only it had been caught early.  He hadn’t been for his annual check up for years.  And recently, he complained of back pain but it wasn’t until it was really bad that he went to the hospital.  Now, he is in a serious state although my sister has told me that people in his condition live for ten years.  His brother had prostate cancer but it was caught in time and now he’s fine.  My father is the youngest of four siblings.

I have been reminding my husband to call and make an appointment to see the doctor for the longest time and I hope that after sharing with him the bad news of my father that he will be motivated now to go for his annual check-up.

Why don’t men like going for annual check-ups?  The top three excuses are:

Too busy – Twenty-two percent of the men surveyed said that being too busy would stop them from going to their annual checkups.

Fear – Twenty one percent of the men surveyed said they would avoid a checkup out of fear that the doctor would find something seriously wrong with them.  One guy put off seeing the doctor about a lump in his testicle and when he eventually went, it turned out that he had testicular cancer.  He received treatment and is now cancer free.  Facing his fear and seeing the doctor saved his life.

Discomfort – Eighteen percent of men say they would avoid an annual checkup in order to get out of an uncomfortable body exam like a prostate check.  No one likes invasive examinations–for women, it’s the pap smear but like it or not, we have to do it every two years.  The little discomfort lasts but a few seconds and it could save your life.

When it comes to our health or that of someone we love, we must never procrastinate getting symptoms checked out.  Don’t let fear or make excuses.  Your health matters and should never be taken lightly or for granted.

Sources:  Men’s HealthBrainy Quote

Rough to Romantic

Brie leaned her head against the back of the sofa.

The soft cushions were soothing against her tired

body.  It had been a long and very exhausting day.

Jasmine was especially cranky today because she was

teething.

 

Nothing she did seemed to work.  Desperate, Brie

had searched the Internet for teething tips and

tried them.  There was some respite but as soon

as Jasmine woke up, the fretful crying  began again.

Holding the wailing child in her arms, she called her

husband, Gabe and begged him to take home Infant’s

Advil.

 

It seemed to take forever for relief for both mother and

child to come but soon, the sound of the key turning in

the lock was music to her ears.  She went into the foyer

and as soon as Gabe stepped through the door, she

asked, “Where’s the Advil?”

 

He glanced down at the crying child and putting down

the briefcase, he took her in his arms, trying to soothe

her.  “It’s in the right pocket of my jacket.”

 

Eagerly, she reached into his pocket and took out the

life-saver, her fingers, gripping the package tightly.

“Thank you, Honey,” she said. “It will help with the

fever.”

 

Gabe’s eyes shot up to her face, alarmed.  “She has

fever?”  He felt her little face and it felt a bit warm.

 

“It’s nothing to worry about,” Brie assured him.  “They

said that sometimes a low grain fever can develop

with teething.  The Advil will relieve it and the pain.

I’ve been rubbing her gums with my finger and trying

other ways to relieve the pain.”

 

Gabe’s features relaxed.  “Okay, I’ll hold her while you

give her the Advil.”

 

After Brie gave Jasmine the Advil, she took her from Gabe

and went over to the sofa.  She sat down and gently rocked

her.  While Gabe removed his jacket and shoes.  He went

into the living-room and leaning over, he kissed Brie

on the shoulder.

 

“Once the baby is asleep, we can have dinner,” she said.

 

“All right,” he said.  “I’ll be in the study.”  He turned and

left.

 

Alone with Jasmine who was looking up at her with

big hazel eyes,  a tired smile tugged at her lips.  What

a beautiful baby she was.  It had been a text-book

pregnancy.  No morning sickness and a short labor.

 

She remembered how Gabe had held her hand as

she went into labor, encouraging her to do the

breathing exercises she had learned in the

Prenatal classes and the expression on his face

when he held Jasmine for the first time.  The love

she saw there had brought tears to her eyes.

 

He had reached over and kissed her, his own eyes

moist.  “Brie, you are my first love and Jasmine is

my second,” he murmured huskily when he drew

back to look at her.  “I called her Jasmine because

she’s a gift from God.”

 

“Yes, you are a gift from God,” Brie whispered now

as she watch those big, beautiful and innocent eyes

close, the long lashes brushing against the chubby

cheeks.  She until she was sure that Jasmine was

asleep before she slowly got up from the sofa and

tiptoed upstairs to the nursery.

 

After putting Jasmine down, she left the

door to the nursery slightly ajar and was

on her way down to the kitchen when she

noticed that the light in the master bedroom

was on.

 

Curious, she went inside and was surprised

to find Gabe standing in the bathroom stark

naked.  Immediately, she felt her body respond

and she went in and closed the door behind her.

His eyes darkened when he saw the look on her

face but, he said, “Let’s take a hot shower first.”

 

Nodding, she got undressed and stepped into the

stall.  He joined her and closed the door behind him.

The hot water beat down on them and it felt really,

really good.  She stood there under its force until

Gabe turned off the faucet.

 

She closed her eyes as she felt his hands lathering

the soap all over her body.  It was erotic and relaxing

at the same time.  Then, it was her turn to slather the

soap on him.  When she was done, he turned on the

faucet and they washed off.

 

They stepped out on to the mat and dried off. Taking her

by the hand, he led her into the bedroom and instructed

her to lie on her stomach which she did while he rubbed oil

on her.  She closed her eyes and relaxed. His fingers massaged

the oil into her skin. When she turned over, he joined her on

the bed and they made love.

 

Two hours later, they were sitting cross-legged on the rug in

the basement, having dinner and watching a classic movie.

The baby monitor was on the coffee table—just in case.

 

She turned to look at him.  “Thank you for turning a rough

day into a romantic night,” she said, leaning over to kiss him.

“I love you.”

 

“I love you too.”  They kissed and then she reached for her

glass of non-alcoholic wine.

 

Sources:  Mayo Clinic; Infant’s Advil

Pampered

She sat there, depleted

Chores, chores and more chores

No rest until everyone had

gone to bed.  Too exhausted to

sleep, she collapsed on the sofa

eyes closed, ears alerted to the

stillness.  When had her life

become so joyless and tiring?

 

It began when she had to care

of her mother who was suffering

from Parkinson’s until she had

no choice but to place her in a

nursing home.

 

Guilt plagued her, especially

when she saw her mother,

looking so frail in the wheel-

chair and her face brighten

whenever she visited.  She spent

hours with her, talking to her,

reminiscing about the good old

times and reading to her.  She

brought flowers to brighten her

room and did her laundry.

 

Her life consisted work,

church and the nursing

home.  It was at the nursing

home where she met David, the

man she would fall in love with

and marry.

 

David’s father, a widower had been

in the nursing home for a couple of

years.  He too was confined to a

wheel chair but that didn’t dampen

his spirits.  He was a very upbeat man.

He would sing hymns and read His

Bible every day.  When he met her

mother, they became very good friends.

 

Two years later, David and she got

married in the chapel at the nursing

home so that their parents could be

there.  The honeymoon was a two week

Mediterranean cruise.  When they

came back, they bought a house

in the country.

 

A couple of months later, they had

twins. And that was when life as she

once knew it changed.  She had a

family to take care of now and

they took precedence over

everything else.  She had no

time for herself and was always

on the go.

 

By the time David got home, she

was frazzled and totally exhausted.

The twins had finally settled down

and she barely managed to wash her

face and fix herself before

she sat down to have dinner

with her husband, thankful

to have adult conversation.

 

Things had become a bit

strained between them

because she was too tired

to make love and most

nights he went to bed

before she did.

 

Now, she lay on the couch

trying to figure out how

she could change things

so that everyone got what

they wanted.  She wanted a

break.  She wanted to be

able to have some me time

and pamper herself with-

out feeling guilty about it.

 

Just then, David came into

the living -room, clad only

in his pajama pants.  He looked

really good because he had been

working out.  She felt desire stir

in her and she got up from the

sofa.

 

Not saying a word, she put

her arms around his neck

and buried her face in his

chest.  She felt him hold her

tightly and she closed her

eyes.

 

They stood like that

for a long time and then,

he drew back to gaze down

at her.  “I’m going to stay home

with the twins tomorrow while

you go and treat yourself to a

day at the spa.”

 

She stared at him, hardly

believing what she was hearing.

“A day at the spa?” she repeated.

 

He nodded.  “Yes, Honey.  I know

how challenging it has been for

you taking care of the kids, the

house and me.  This is just my

way of saying thank you and

how much you are appreciated.”

 

Tears sprang to her eyes.  And she

hugged him tightly.  “Oh, David.

Thank you.”

 

“You’re welcome.”

 

She drew back and taking his

hand, she said, “Let me thank

you properly,” she murmured

huskily before she led him

to the bedroom.

 

For once in her life she was

going to be pampered so

she planned to enjoy every

second of it.  And the best

part, was she wouldn’t

feel guilty about it.

 

 

 

 

A Father’s Wish

The arias which always helped him to relax and enjoy his evenings did nothing to quell the uneasiness plaguing him.  He switched off the radio and the silence which followed was a painful reminder that he was alone.  It was near mid-night and she wasn’t home as yet.  Where on earth could she be?  He had tried calling her cell many times but it was turned off.  When he came home that afternoon, she wasn’t there but he thought nothing of it.  She was probably with her friends or at the library.  However, as it got late and she hadn’t come home or called, he began to get worried.  A couple of hours earlier, he looked across the street and saw a group of young people congregate outside of his neighbor’s home but she wasn’t among them.

He put off calling her friends because he didn’t want to come across as overprotective but eventually, he had no choice.  None of them knew where she was but promised to call him if they heard anything.  He closed his eyes in despair.  Tonight was supposed to be a special one.  He was going to tell her that he loved her but first they were going to enjoy the dinner he had prepared for them.  It was probably cold by now.  Oh, Rebecca, where are you?  Why don’t you call me?  It was not like her to do this.  He was out of his mind with worry.

The last time he felt like this was nine years ago when they were in the shopping mall and somehow they got separated.  One minute she was right there beside him and the next she was gone.  Frantic, he went through the mall, looking for her until finally, he went to the courtesy desk and asked them to make an announcement.

Ten minutes later, the embarrassed and distressed twelve year old showed up.  After hugging her tightly, they left the mall with him holding her hand in a firm grip.  He didn’t lecture her right away because she was visibly upset.  Suffice to say, they never got separated again whenever they went out together.

He would never forget the first time he met Rebecca.  She was eight at the time and it was at the company’s annual summer picnic.  Her father brought her with him that year.  It was two years after her mother died.  She and her father have moved out of the house and to a flat in the old neighborhood where he grew up.  He and her father worked together and over the years, they had become very good friends.  He always used to tell him, “I hope that Becky ends up marrying a good man like you, Noel.”

Rebecca stared up at him with those huge brown eyes and stole his heart.  So, three years later on that fateful day in the hospital when Clyde asked him to become her guardian he said yes.  Clyde died two days later and was buried next to his beloved wife.  Noel took Rebecca home and raised her as if she were his own daughter.  He was thirty at the time.

They had a very close and loving relationship. He took her to museums, concerts, operas, on day trips and the movies.  His life was never the same and he was thankful for that.  She filled his heart and home with such joy.  Whenever they visited her parents’ graves, he would silently thank Clyde for bestowing such an awesome responsibility on him and promised him that he would make sure that Rebecca married a good man.

He knew that she still missed her father, especially when it was his birthday or Father’s Day and she always talked about how conversant he was with movie classics and that it was from him that she developed her love for them.  So, whenever it was her father’s birthday or Father’s Day, they would watch old movies on TCM in his memory.

Things continued in much the same vein until Rebecca turned eighteen.  That’s when his feelings toward her began to change.  It became increasingly hard for him to be around her and not want her.  He continued to kiss her on the forehead as they bid each other goodnight every evening but how he ached to kiss her on the lips.  He considered sending her away to college in Washington, but quickly squashed the idea because their separation would be unbearable for him.  They still spent a lot of time together but he encouraged her to hang out more with people her own age.  At first, she protested, preferring to be with him like old times but he insisted so, she acquiesced.

He remembered one night when she came home from a friend’s birthday party and was aghast at the dress she was wearing.  Her hair was pulled up in a ponytail, she wore makeup, the gold earrings he had given her as a birthday present and the dress–if you could call it that, was short, hugged her figure and had fine straps.  Her cleavage was there for the entire world to see.

His face suffused with color and he took a deep breath before he muttered, “Please go and take off that dress.”

She went and ten minutes later, she was wearing a pair of pajamas, her face was scrubbed clean and her hair fell about her shoulders.  She watched him warily.  “You’re angry with me,” she said.

He dragged his fingers through his hair as he struggled to remain calm.  His heart was racing.  He wasn’t upset with her only but with himself because of his body’s response to seeing her in that dress.  He was relieved to see her in the pajamas because they were a bit loose on her.  “Rebecca, what were you thinking wearing a dress like that?”

“I’m sorry,” she mumbled.  “I wanted to look good.”

“Wanting to look good doesn’t mean you should expose yourself like that.  That dress was tacky.  You’re a beautiful young woman, Rebecca.  You don’t need to flaunt yourself in order to fit in.  I don’t care if your friends are wearing those kinds of dresses, I only care about you and so, I don’t ever want to see you in a dress like that ever again.”

She nodded.  “All right, Noel.  I won’t dress like that again, I promise.”

“Do you still have the receipt?”

“Yes.”

“Okay.  Tomorrow, I would like you to return it.  I’m surprised they sold it to you.”

“I’ll return it right after school.”  She went over to him, her eyes wide as they met his.  She put her arms around his neck and hugged him, burying her face in his chest.

At first he stood there, stiff as a board, unresponsive and then he put his arms around her waist and hugged her tightly, closing his eyes as strong emotions washed over him like a tidal wave.  After several tortuous minutes, he extricated himself and put a little distance between them, his eyes dark and stormy as they returned her gaze.  “Goodnight, Rebecca,” he said quietly.

“Goodnight, Noel.” She hesitated for a moment and then turned and walked out of the room.  He watched her go.  He had dared not give her the usual kiss on the forehead because he might have ended up devouring her lips instead.

The loud peal of the phone jolted him back to the present and he grabbed the receiver, his heart thudding.  “Hello?”

It was Chloe, one of Rebecca’s friends.  “Hello, Mr. Harding.  I’m sorry to be calling at such a late hour but I thought you might want to know that one of our friends saw Becky talking to a woman right outside of the university campus.  She said they looked like they were having words and then Becky ran off, very upset.”

“Did you friend describe what this woman looked like?”

“She said that she was blonde, stunning and drove a red Porsche.”

His fingers tightened around the phone.  Emma.  “Thank you, Chloe, for calling and letting me know.”

“Has Becky come home as yet?” She sounded very concerned.

“No, I’m afraid not.  When she does, I will have her call you in the morning.  Goodnight, Chloe.”

“Goodnight, Mr. Harding.”

As soon as he rang off from Chloe, he dialed Emma’s number, fuming.

“Hello, Noel.  Why are you calling me instead of coming over?”

He ignored her question.  “Why were you here this afternoon?”

“I stopped by to see you, of course.  Where were you?”

“What do you say to Rebecca?”

“Why what did she tell you?”

“I haven’t seen her since this morning and I’m out of my mind with worry.”

“Well, she’s probably doing this to spite you.  When I came by, she looked at me as if I were trespassing and when I told her that we were seeing each other, she as much as called me a liar.  So, I showed her a photo of the two of us together–you know the one I asked the waitress to take of us when were having dinner at that Italian restaurant? You should have seen her face.  I told her that she was only there because of the promise you made to her father–”

“How dare you tell her that?” he demanded furiously.  “I agreed to be her guardian because I loved her.   She means the world to me.  Damn you, Emma.  Don’t ever show your face around here again.”  He slammed the phone, shaking.  He could kick himself for ever getting involved with her.

He went to the window and looked out, his forehead pressing against the glass.  It was then in a moment of sheer desperation, that he mouthed a silent prayer, his eyes squeezed shut.

“Noel?” a timid voice called behind him.

Swinging around, he found himself staring at Rebecca.  For a moment, he thought it was a figment of his imagination.  Had God answered his prayer that quickly?  In a flash, he was across the room and pulling her roughly in his arms.  “Oh, Rebecca,” he moaned.  “Where have you been?  Have you any idea of the torment you’ve put me through?”  He drew back to stare down into her face.  She had been crying.  Her eyes were red and swollen.  Even now, tears were glistening in them.

“I’m-I’m sorry,” she cried.  “I didn’t mean to worry you but I was so upset this afternoon.  I had just come home from the library when I heard the doorbell.  It was a woman I’d never seen before.  She asked for you and when I asked her who she was, she told me that the two of you had been seeing each other.  I didn’t want to believe her and told her that she was lying.  She showed me a photo of the two of you and I realized that she was telling the truth.  I got so jealous and upset that after she left, I left too.  I couldn’t stay here.  I had to get out and go somewhere–anywhere.

“I went to Daddy’s grave and stayed for a long time, telling him about you and how much it hurt that you were with someone else.  On the day after my eighteenth birthday, I told him that I was in love with you and that I’d loved you since I was eight.  That day when I first saw you, I thought that you were the tallest and handsomest man I’d ever seen.   And you were so kind to me.  Next to my father, you were the only other person I really and truly loved.   I love my mother but I didn’t know her.

“Anyway, I told my father things that I never told another soul.  I know he can’t hear me but it helps to talk about things whenever I visit his grave.  I imagine that he’s listening.  This afternoon being at his grave didn’t help so I left there and went to the park you used to take me to when I was a child.  I sat in the same bench we used to sit on and I wished that you were there so that I could yell at you, let you see how much I was hurting inside.

“After I left the park, I just wandered all over the place, trying to forget about you and her but I couldn’t get the photo out of my mind.  You had your arm around her shoulders and you were smiling.  You looked happy…” her voice broke and a sob rose from her throat.  Tears fell afresh down her cheeks and she tried to push him away.

He caught her hands and held her immobile, his own emotions evident on his face.  “She doesn’t make me happy,” he told her thickly.  “You do.  My life wasn’t complete until you came into it, Rebecca.  You filled it with so much joy.  The moment I met you, my heart belonged to you.  I loved you as a father loves his beloved child but when you grew up, that love changed.  It turned into the love a man has for a woman.  What I’m trying to say, Rebecca, is that I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you–not as your guardian but as your husband.”

She blinked at him.  “You want to marry me?” she asked.

He nodded.  “Yes.”

“Oh, Noel,” she cried, her heart in her eyes which were sparkling now.  She reached up and kissed him on the mouth.

Groaning, he released her hands and cupped her face between his hands as he kissed her passionately, letting go of all the pent up feelings he had kept bottled up inside for so long.  For several minutes, they exchanged hungry kisses and then, he raised his head to gaze down at her, his face flushed and his eyes dark with desire.  “I won’t make love to you now although I want to very badly,” he muttered, breathing heavily.  “I want us to wait until we are married.”

Disappointment clouded her face.  She was on fire and ached for him.  “I don’t know if I can wait,” she admitted, trying to catch her breath.

“We’ve waited for four years, so six months wouldn’t hurt–”

Six months,” she exclaimed.  “That’s too long.”

“That’s when you turn twenty-two,” he reminded her.

“I can’t wait until then.”

“What about three months?”

“Two weeks.”

“A month.”

“What about three weeks?”

He smiled.  “All right, three weeks, it is.”

She smiled because they had reached a compromise.  In three weeks, she was going to marry the man she had loved for most of her life.  “I love you, Noel,” she whispered.

“I love you too, Rebecca,” he replied before he lowered his head and kissed her.

Three weeks later, as they faced each other at the altar in front of their friends and his family, he smiled as he imagined Clyde saying to him, “I got my wish, Noel.  My girl is marrying a good man.”