The first time I set foot at a police station, I sat in one of the dingy corners, on a thin, short, hard wooden bench, with my arms folded across my chest. Despite the hot weather on the outside and the bright reflection against the metal counter, my whole body continued to shiver, my palms ice cold.
I kept asking for answers from deep within me; how does an innocent person behave when summoned by the police? How is it different from a guilty one, but pretending to be innocent?
I cracked my knuckles every time one of the police officers walked past me, threw sneers my way, and walked away hissing obscenities beneath their breaths.
What had started as a simple, ‘Please come over so that we talk about what happened at the house’, had turned out to be one of the worst Saturdays I would ever have to live.
Two hours later, with a rumbling stomach and armpits drenched in sweat, the policeman, the politest of the three, walks to where I am, and hands me a wide book, dog-eared at the edges.
“This is the statement that has been recorded against you. Read through it, and if you have anything to say, you will say it in court.”
I skim through the writings, half-hoping, half-certain that this will be the last I ever see the outside. Why? Because Sofia doesn’t let go of anything until she has it her way.
“Do I get to give my side of the story?” I ask.
“Nah. You will get to do that in court, if we get time.”
“Because it is how things work. "
“When do I go to court? "
“And where do I spend the rest of the weekend? "
He looks around, eyes darting from one corner to the next, then finally on my thighs.
“You might want to ask for trousers instead of that dress you are wearing. It is going to be a long night, and flesh is not something you want to be proud of while inside here..”
I want to cry, but my heart is too heavy for that. So I sigh, and sigh again, and when I cannot sight anymore, I bury my face in my laps and let out a loud shriek.
My mind staggers back to the night before the unfolding of these misfortunes.
In my sleep, I hear a loud thud that immediately sends the duvet flying off my face, and my petite body finds a spot beneath the bed. With my phone in hand, hoping that this is all but a nightmare, I text Phil;
“I think there is someone in the house.”
Delivered. Read. 11.25pm
Just when my screen lights up and displays ‘Phil calling’, I hear the footsteps drawing closer towards the bedroom door. They stop abruptly. Another loud bang. Muffled voices. Shuffles.
I watch as my screen records one missed call. Then two, three, four….twenty three missed calls. A text pops up:
Are you okay? Please, just send even a dot, or comma, or anything, so I know you are safe.
I click on the period on my keyboard, press send, and power off the phone.
I hear muffled voices, again, only that this time, it sounds too familiar. I definitely have heard it before. Not once, not twice. However, I am having trouble matching it with a face.
With my heart in my mouth, I crawl from under the bed, leap towards the door, and for the first time in my life, I regret why I left the key in the keyhole. Even if I peep, I will not see a thing, and if I remove the key from the keyhole, I risk blowing my cover.
I crouch just next to the door and press my ear, slightly, against the frame.
Shuffles. Muffles. Thud. Bangs. Then:
“This was easier than I expected. She will never know what hit her.”
“Where do we go from here?”
“I will go back to my workstation at the gate. You carry these to your place. We will sort them out tomorrow.”
I am startled from my thought as the policeman grabs the book away from me. Just then, I realize my tears have already messed up a greater portion of the writings.
“There are cameras, you know. You could check them out.” I say.
A darkness fills the spaces around me, and my stomach rumbles for the hundredth time. I think of Phil and the amount of fear and uncertainty I must have put him through that night. I think of him, lying half-naked in his bed, struggling to remain awake, gazing at his phone, waiting for a response from me. I think of him, as the morning breaks, trying to call in vain.
I think of him, making his way to work in the mid-morning, still hoping for a ray of sunshine from my side.
I think of him as he gets back to his place in the evening, falling asleep in between the cold sheets, still, with no word from me. I imagine the heartbreak, and the uncertainty that drives him to the edge.
I think of the gate man, and the sudden terror in his eyes when I finally opened the door and let out a loud scream. I remember his hands instantly n my neck, as his partner struggled to muffle my scream with a handkerchief. I remember his kick at my abdomen, and the words that gave failed to leave my head since then:
Any word abut this to Sofia, and you will be as good as dead. Any way, she wouldn’t even believe any word you say. She puts up with you just because you two are related.
Morning comes and finds me clutched in my corner, eyes wide, and traces of tears on my cheeks. I struggle to my feet as the police officer walks towards me, points me to the counter, and then unlocks the door.
At the waiting bay, I come face to face with Sofia. There is anger and betrayal plastered all over her face. She looks at me once, makes as if she wants to vomit, then steers away.
“I do not want anything to do with you. I want all my things back, before tomorrow. If you make it to court, you are on your own.”
I have begged for my freedom too much to the point I cannot anymore. I have tried to tell my side of the story, but no one is listening. I allow the waves to drive me ashore, and wait for the worst to happen.
When I finally manage to leave the cell, my back has three dark marks of the strokes, running from just beneath my neck to my waist. My left eye is swollen, with patches of blood drying up on the sides of my cheeks. There is a slight limp in my steps, and as I make my way into the arms of Josh, my best friend, I think I can smell my own urine mixed with sweat.
I call Phil, and when he sighs in relief, I let him know I will be away for a couple of days, or weeks, because I urgently need to reorganize my heart, body and soul. I need to find something to hold on to. Something to wash away the stains. Something to clear the memories. Something to remind me of humanity amidst cruelty.
I spend the next weeks in bed in my friend’s house, waking up only for bathroom breaks and occasionally, to drink water. Everyday, Josh comes by and takes me for evening walks by the beach. We watch the sun set; we watch lovebirds hold each other’s waists. We watch birds finding their ways into their nests. And as the last bit of waters touch our feet, he looks in my eyes and says:
All these will be over. You will rise, stronger than you were. One day, no matter how long it takes, she will look for you, and maybe, just maybe, apologize.
It has been almost two years now. The memories have faded, albeit not in entirety. I have learnt to shed off the shame. I have managed to rise above the scars. I have managed to breathe, without the fear of it being my last.
She called, last week. Then texted. She says I look good. That she misses me. That I was like a daughterto her. That maybe, she was blinded by greed, or envy. She adds love emojis. She waits for an answer. Then deletes the message.
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