Ruvee sat by the window as the bus rumbled its way through the streets of the quaint city. Filled with plantations and shrubbery, the hills of Coonoor looked picturesque. Life had been gentle on her over the past year. Her uncle had urged her to move in with him after looking at her pitiful state. He had been considerate enough to give her a job at the horse stables in his farm.
‘This would help you to move on’ he had told.
The bus came to a halt at a stop. She turned towards the window to behold the sight of pink skies at dusk. She felt the seat cover sink as a burly man settled down beside her with a heaving sigh. He reeked of stale smoke and eucalyptus. For some reason, his scent felt awfully familiar to her. She turned to eye him from the corner of her eyes, and the sight startled her.
It was the same scar!
She glanced and immediately turned her face away. Her heart sank and she felt bile rise in her throat. She felt a sudden desire to flee from there. Her brows were knit in utter shock. It was him! The wretched murderer who recklessly killed her little Ashi – her dearest sister. Profound melancholy began trickling in, drifting in like a gentle water stream.
The bus halted. She watched the man get up and descend from the bus. She jolted, got down hurriedly, and began following him at a safe distance. She watched him enter a shack. She paused.
‘But what could I possibly do?’ she wondered.
Feeling weak and helpless, she receded and returned to the stables in utter dismay. That night, sitting by the rocks – lost and forlorn, she stared into the far, misty horizon. The guilt of not protecting her sister haunted Ruvee like the Grim Reaper. It created a chasm in her soul that longed for the return of Ashi.
She had started afresh, keeping the urge to seek revenge at bay. But life had other plans. ‘The past.’ A despicable one. Yet, at times the only proof of the life we have lived. Despite attempts to leave our past behind, it returns. Time and again, it takes us hostage whilst the thought of it sends shivers down our spine.
She looked up – gazing at the pale moon, as though it caressed her burdens away.
As though it was her Ashi who looked back at her. Her eyes lingered on that fine beauty for a few moments. But it seemed to last an eternity. A tender smile crept on her face, as though a revelation had hit her.
‘Ashi, I vow to avenge your death. I’ll forgive him, but not before I murder him!.’ she mumbled to herself.
She strode back to her cottage, picked up a fillet knife from the kitchen, and wound it in a tattered piece of cloth. She mounted on her horse and galloped to where the shack was.
It was well past midnight and it was pitch dark barring the lowly lit lamp at his shack. She tiptoed and peeped inside. In her favour, the man was drunk and was lying sprawled out.
She braced herself for a moment. Then, she walked in undauntedly, took out her fillet knife and pierced it in his chest with immense might. He looked at her in confusion. Then, his eyes widened with shock and pain. He gurgled whilst struggling to breathe.
Ruvee stood dazed as her mind wandered off.
On the night of her sister’s death, Ruvee was away when she had heard sharp screams from their house. She stumbled and ran as fast as she could.
‘Ashi? Are you alright?’ Ruvee distinctly remembered her yelling as she ran towards their home.
But it was too late.
Her heart shattered into a thousand shards when she saw her little sister. She lay there helpless, completely motionless. Blood trickled down from Ashi’s skirt. Her lips and nose were profusely bleeding from the assault. Ruvee wailed whilst holding her sister’s tiny palms to her eyes. She cried uncontrollably and cursed herself for not protecting her little sister.
Suddenly, she heard a ruffling noise amidst the shrubbery. She saw the silhouette of her sister’s killer. She couldn’t see his face in the immense darkness that engulfed the night. But she pranced on him immediately and bit his shoulders.
‘Argh! Stop it, you wretched woman!’ he screamed.
She paused to notice that the killer had a large scar on his neck. It looked bruised and puckered. The man reeked of stale smoke and eucalyptus. Before she could act, the killer shoved her aside with this elbow and she hit the ground with a loud thud.
The neighing of the horse brought her back from this deep trance.
There he was, lying in a pool of blood. His muffled cries reverberated through the plantation’s expanse. Perplexed, she dropped the bloodied knife and receded. She turned and strode back to where she had secured her horse. Unhitching the horse from the tree, she shut her eyes. A tear escaped her eye. It was her way of telling her little sister that it was over. But deep down, she knew that it did not change a thing. The mere act of killing him couldn’t bring her sister back. But a strange satisfaction enveloped her.
Mounting her horse, she turned hesitantly. He lay there writhing in pain, his hands clutching his wounded chest. His eyes pleaded her and his lips silently screamed for help. She let her eyes linger on him as though savouring the moment. He had wrecked the life of the one person she cared for, the one person she unconditionally loved. It was time to atone for his evil-doing. Tranquillity overpowered her sorrow, akin to the sunrise at dawn devouring darkness. Shifting her gaze away, she tugged the hood of her sweater over her head and galloped away into the sunrise.