The bowl of cereal her mother had left for her remained untouched. Food. It seemed so unnecessary and alien to Anita as she sat on her bed staring blankly at the photo frames on the wall. They were a happy family. The pictures that hung there were proof enough. Radhu’s first birthday, she looked so happy in the beautiful pink princess gown laughing in sheer happiness looking at the stuffed animals that surrounded her. A picture of the three of them standing at the top of the lighthouse looking away into the horizon.
Tears silently rolled down her cheeks as she remembered the image that would haunt her for the rest of her life. A picture that was burned into her brain. Her dear little Radhu lying on the ground- “No” , she said to herself. She couldn’t think about it anymore. She just couldn’t.
It had been a week since the incident and she was at her house now. Her parents were taking care of her now, they were torn up as well but refused to show it. They knew their daughter needed them to be strong now and strong they were.
Her father had come up again, loitering around the door as he did so every now and then. He usually went back down after checking on her, this time however he sat beside her on the bed. He was silent for a few long minutes.
“Dearest”, He started as Anita looked up at him.
“I do not know how to comfort you. To lose a child is something no parent should have to go through and to lose a child like this… I.. You cannot afford to be weak now. Like you, your mother and I do not believe that Shiva is capable of doing something like this. But the world thinks he did. Here look at this.” He handed her the day’s newspaper. The headline read ” FATHER CHARGED WITH DAUGHTERS BRUTAL MURDER” she read further until the subheading caught her eye “Wife’s silence further confirms Mr. Shiva Harindran’s guilt”
“They are going to crucify him and your silence are the nails they’re using. You have to be strong if you want to save your husband. He lost his daughter too and he’s in jail, branded a child killer without anyone to support him. You need to do something.”
He sat beside her for a few more moments and then left. She sat there immobile. She had not believed for a moment that Shiva would ever harm their beautiful daughter or any other human being for that matter. She thought back to a day at the mall where he had interfered with a girl being teased by a group of boys. He wasn’t a person who tolerated things like that. He was a genuine good guy.
She looked at the paper once more and thought to herself the wife’s silence won’t be used again. She got up. Her grief pushed aside with determination. He needed her and she needed him. They would have an eternity to mourn together. Together. They needed to be together.
She cleaned herself and dressed. As she reached downstairs she saw a sense of relief flash over her mother’s face as she placed the empty cereal bowl on the dining table. She asked her father to take her to Shiva.
On the way her mind kept remembering the incidents of that night even though she tried her best to shrug them off wiping away the occasional tear.
A few nights ago, Shiva’s Cell.
He sat in the dark corner wondering when the other inmates would start. Verbally abusing the daughter-killer was now the prime past-time in the prison. He hadn’t eaten properly in a week. They never let him. They didn’t even give him an opportunity to mourn his daughter, a constable had warned him that doing so would agitate the other inmates and would lead to an uncontrollable situation.
He kept to himself and spent his time in a corner silent. He knew the whole world believed he was the killer, even Anita. He had no hopes of getting out of this alive and he refused to go down crying. He would be strong. His resolve was admirable but nothing could’ve prepared him for what was coming.
It was near mid-night when he heard the lock click. He looked up to see his cell door slowly swing open. He got up, a huge wave of fear washed over him. Three men in the same uniform he wore stepped out from the shadows. They looked at him in disgust. All three of them were well built. After a short silence, the one in the middle spoke,” So you thought you could kill children and just live life easy in jail? You’re worse than the other child killers you bastard. You killed your own blood.”
Shiva stood there staring at them in silence. The man to his right started,” There’s no point talking to this bastard, Ajeesh. He probably fucked her to-“ He was interrupted by Shivas fist connecting with his jaw. The other two took a moment to recover from the shock. A moment that was too late. Shiva turned and raised his foot with such force between the first’s man’s legs that he kneeled over howling in pain. He reached for the last man, and took a step towards him when someone caught him in a hold from behind. A fourth man had entered the cell. He held Shiva tight with his hand clamped behind Shiva’s neck. Shiva flailed, the lock was too strong to break.
The one he had tried to lunge at stood in front of him now, flexing. The man started punching him in the face and stomach. It didn’t take long for Shiva to pass out.
As soon as Anita stepped out from the car, a swarm of reporters circled her. She felt suffocated under an avalanche of questions that ranged from “Are you here to see your husband?” to “How does it feel to be a murderer’s wife?” .
It took around twenty minutes for her to get inside the prison, that too after the policemen stepped in to help her. She was shaken now, her recently found confidence was nowhere to be seen now. Her father took care of the formalities as she waited quietly, staring at floor, anxious and scared. How would he react? was he okay? would he understand why she hadn’t come sooner?
A constable soon approached her and asked her to follow. He left her in a room that was divided by a metal net just like what she had seen in the movies. She walked to it half expecting Shiva to walk in the other side with the “commissioner” tune playing in the background, but what she got instead, was a limping Shiva being reluctantly helped towards her by a constable. She gasped as she got a better look at him. He was covered in bruises, his lip was cut and his left eye was swollen shut. The constable left him leaning against the net and he stood there silent, facing away from her. Her eyes welled up as she touched his shoulder with the tips of her fingers. As he felt her touch, he spoke, almost to himself, “I didn’t do it.”
She leaned in, her forehead as close to him as she could. “I know.” she replied softly. “I’m sorry i didn’t come sooner, I- I couldn’t..”
He turned around to face her now. She looked down, she couldn’t bear seeing him like this. He moved his hand to hers and they stood there silent and as close as they could be, wishing things were different. As the bell announcing the end of their allotted time rang, she looked up at him and held his gaze. “I’m getting you out. I’m clearing your name and getting you out. “ She said, her voice gaining strength with each word. He looked at her as he was being led away and nodded.
As she turned to leave she wiped her eyes. She wouldn’t cry anymore, she wouldn’t be weak. She couldn’t. She needed him and he needed her, they were all they had left now.
As she was leaving, she heard something that would set her path out for her. She heard one of the policemen tell another, obviously wanting her to ‘overhear’ , “Did you hear? The child-killer’s brother woke up. He’ll live.”
This time I decided to upload even though the conditions weren’t met. I don’t think i’ll do that again. The condition for this chapter is “40 Facebook shares” ; i.e. the facebook button at the bottom of the page should display the number 40 (or above). Use #thewrongman if you talk about this on social media.