Party time!

Chapter 4

There isn’t freedom

Till there’s no free will

The lure of freedom

Makes chained restraints keel

Her mother’s words rang into her ears as she panted her way to her room. Her saree caught in her heels twice, almost tripping her. But Aarti had been there to support her as always. The latter had, however, been silent throughout.

The poor girl must have been shocked to hear about the impending royal engagement. Padma wanted to console Aarti, saying she wasn’t interested in marrying Keshav and would talk to her father later when things cooled a bit. Her father was also stressed by the MLA’s unforeseen visit that evening, and she didn’t want to burden him before the guests.

But at that moment, both Aarti and she got busy changing into their casuals. Padma had warned Aarti to wear black, and finally, they covered their respective beds with pillows and blankets to give a sense of someone sleeping. They then tiptoed their way to the west side exit.

They made it to the groves uneventfully. The added bag containing their party ensembles made movement complicated in the darkness, very often the bag getting entangled in the low boughs of trees, but somehow, they managed. Unfortunately, Aarti was still silent and Padma didn’t know how to convince her and put her at ease.

Aarti drew her mobile phone, and for once, Padma was envious of the girl’s freedom. Her phone calls back in the palace were monitored, and that knowledge brought down her guilt about tonight. As Aarti placed a call to her friend about helping them when they arrived at the venue, Padma felt she was being watched.

She turned around, but there was only blackness with a minimal rustling of leaves in the night breeze. But, wait… was there some subtle scent in the air? Padma had a strong olfactory sense and raised her nose to figure out the fragrance. But it disappeared as quickly as it breezed its way into her nostrils.

She turned towards Aarti, who completed the call, but the feeling of unease didn’t dissipate. Did her father have any inkling about her escapade that night? She shuddered at the thought but realized that if it were true, the King wouldn’t have sat still. She wouldn’t be here in the depths of the woods but instead, locked in her room.

Fortunately, there was no rain that night, and they trekked their way down the hill slope with only Aarti’s phone torch occasionally for illumination.

As promised Aarti had arranged for a motorbike parked in the wild buses with two helmets. Padma wasn’t sure, but Aarti turned out to be a pro, and as they strapped the helmets, she started the bike and drove down the hill, the road a blurring black strip, moving towards the dark plains.

As they neared the town, Padma was mesmerized by a different kind of atmosphere, filled with lights, and from her line of vision, they resembled the sequins on her evening saree. She had rarely been here that too, only during the daytime, and her visits were restricted and heavily guarded.

They rode for about half an hour. There was barely any traffic except for a few bikers and a couple of cars. No one seemed to be bothered about the two young girls on the bike. However, the strange sense of someone watching them never left Padma. It felt eerie, but Padma didn’t want to let it bother this rare opportunity. She didn’t know when she would get to escape… till the hole in that wall wasn’t discovered….

A while later, they arrived at the nightclub nestled in the dense flora on the city’s outskirts to a waiting group. None of them knew Padma’s identity. Aarti had a tough time arranging for fake IDs for both of them. Padma for hiding her true identity and Aarti for her underage. They quickly went to a changing room along with the waiting group and changed into their party wear. Aarti helped her with the make-up and Padma was unrecognizable in the smoky eyes and bright nude wet shine lipstick, the brownish dazzle highlighting her non-existent pout.

Soon they were grooving to the latest Bollywood hits on the dimly lit dance floor. Padma didn’t feel claustrophobic despite the crowd swelling.

She felt liberated. She felt free… for once in her 18 years, she was living life as per her free will. No rules and regulations, no security entourage choking her, and no judgments about the royal family etiquette since no one here knew her. She felt like she was in a different world.

The music changed to soft tunes, and she took a water break with Aarti.

“Want a fruit punch, Padm… I mean Ria?” Aarti corrected immediately.

“Yes, sure Mona…” Padma giggled as she addressed Aarti with her pseudo-name.

As she sipped the punch, the cold drink passing through her food pipe calmed her soul. Aarti went back to dance while she waited to finish her drink. A couple of guys approached her for a dance, but she politely refused them. They weren’t bad looking at all, but strangely, she wasn’t interested…

A minute later, as she finished the drink, she decided not to dance as her new heels were biting into her feet. She bent down to loosen the strap of her footwear when she felt someone watching her… yet again. Instantly she stood to her total height and looked around. The world spun as the drink she just had threatened to rise in her food pipe.

The dim lights weren’t helping, but she thought she saw someone move behind a pillar a little ahead of the bar. She turned around and saw Aarti dancing with her friends and decided to check on the person. It wouldn’t do any harm, would it? No one knew her here.

Just then, someone strutted before her.

The giant of a man reeked of alcohol, and she was immediately put off. But wait… he seemed familiar. That crooked nose… where had she seen it? Was he the one following them?

He chuckled unsteadily.

“So, the high and mighty princess is here amongst us lesser mortals?”

Padma was stunned. Who was he and how on earth did he know her?

It was time to leave before anyone else got a whiff of her true identity. She turned around but couldn’t see Aarti anywhere. The strobe lights now began to play havoc with her senses. Why was she suddenly seeing double?

She felt she was swaying. Her head grew heavier by the second as if someone was continuously loading something on it. Nausea rose yet again. Finally, the man came closer and held her hand. She didn’t want to go with him but found herself being dragged along. His hands dug painfully into her biceps, and she knew she would have bruises to show. Panicking, she wondered what was happening. Where was Aarti? Was she alright?

Her father would be outraged for sure…

She didn’t have a mobile phone on her. She found herself walking along with the man, stumbling with him, and they went towards the pillar. Why was she unable to resist? He dragged her to a room behind that. Was he watching her all the time? The door shutting with a loud bang as he pushed her in sent a tormenting headache shooting up her skull, and she grasped her head. The lightbulbs around her seemed four in number, and they were dancing.

The lights were switched off, plunging the room into the darkness with just a stream of light tiptoeing through the window. Padma saw a double bed… no it was a single bed… what was going on?

Her body wasn’t under her control anymore.

She felt the zipper of her dress being lowered, and a pair of hands groped her derriere while a wet pair of lips nipped her neck. The man’s pungent odour made her gag. She didn’t like it at all. It didn’t feel like what she had read in books, and she wasn’t ready for this. No… this wasn’t right… nothing was right. She only wanted to leave. This was a nightmare.

The man pushed her on the bed, and she bounced on the mattress. The world was reeling around her… NO … no this shouldn’t happen… NO… who was this man? He knew her. He pushed her further as she sank into the mattress, and she felt powerless to move as if she was paralyzed. She wanted to scream, but her voice was lodged in her throat. He held her hands above her head even as tears slipped down the corners of her eyes.

Then, he suddenly released her hands, and her blurring swimming vision saw him hold something above her. Oh God was that… a phone? Was he clicking her picture?

She was doomed…



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