Nine hours earlier, Mehroon had just returned from school. Her father was sitting outside in the courtyard and drinking away to his heart’s content. Ever since Mehroon remembers, she has only seen her father either drinking or sleeping. Her mother would earn their living by knitting woolen apparels for other kids of the village.
Mehroon paused to glance a pitiful look at her father and continued to walk inside the house.
“Ammi…” she shouted while still in the courtyard… “I’m home.”
“Yes Mehroon… Freshen up and sit for lunch…” Fatima responded back from the kitchen.
Mehroon dropped her bag on the bed and went outside to the tube-well. Just as she began pumping water from the well and washing her feet, she heard a loud scream from inside the kitchen, which was followed by some sound of banging and breaking utensils. She turned and saw that her father was not outside any more. She ran into the kitchen and found her mother lying unconscious on the floor. Blood was flowing from an injury mark on her forehead, and her drunk father was standing above her with a cooking pot in his hand.
“Bitch refused to give me money…” Mehroon heard her father mutter under his breath.
Without wasting any time, Mehroon ran out of the kitchen and and straight out of the gate to call for Dr. Mukesh. Mukesh was not really a doctor. Actually his father used to be a doctor in the village, but after the good man’s death, his son took up the profession as though it was any other business and continued with the little knowledge that he had gained from his father. But for the people of Amanpuri, he was an angel, and it was quite obvious because there were no other doctors in or around the village.
Mehroon kept running as fast as she could and before long she could see Dr. Mukesh’s chamber in the distance. Through the rusted iron grills on the window of his chamber, Mehroon could see that the man was leaning on his chair looking at something with great concentration. Mehroon ran right in and found Dr. Mukesh in the same position on his chair, buried into some magazine and moving vigorously under the table. Amazed by Mehroon’s sudden entry, Mukesh was taken aback and he immediately threw the magazine below his chair.
“Uh… mmm… yes. Yes? How… How can I help you?” Mukesh stammered while trying to compose himself.
“Mother… Mother has had an accident… She is unconscious. Please come with me. Fast… Please…” Mehroon pleaded while still breathing heavily from all the running.
“Ah… But you see… I’m quite busy right now. I’ll come later.” Mukesh replied in a much more composed manner now.
There was not a single patient waiting outside his chamber. It was an extremely hot evening and there were barely any people even on the streets.
“But you have no patients right now.” Mehroon replied in an innocent tone.
“Shut up!” Mukhesh pounced back. “Get out of here.”
Mehroon stood there, with her head down as tears started to roll down her red cheeks.
“Ohho… Now don’t cry…” Mukesh’s voice softened up while he got up from he chair and approached Mehroon. “Come…” he said as he held Mehroon’s hand and started to pull her towards himself. Mehroon gave in as Mukesh walked back to his chair still holding on Mehroon’s hand. He sat on his chair and with a sudden jerk, pulled Mehroon, making her sit on his lap.
“What are you…??” Mehroon tried to raise her voice.
“Ssshhhhh…” Mukesh said, as he hugged onto her real tight, sliding his lips on Mehroon’s neck.
Mehroon tried to free herself from his grasp but the little girl’s strength was no match for that huge man.
“Dr. Mukesh… Let me go… Or I’ll scream…” Mehroon was already screaming.
Understanding that he had no way with the girl, Mukesh left his grasp and pushed Mehroon away. “Get out of hear. And do not blame it on me if your mother dies. You filthy bitch. Who do you think you are? Out of my sight! Now! Get out!” Mukesh was shouting in rage.
Mehroon stood there like a statue for a few minutes as the image of her mother lying on the ground kept playing in front of her eyes.
The little girl closed her eyes and took a deep breath… Then as slowly and as reluctantly as possible, she walked up to Mukesh once again and sat on his lap… her eyes still closed.
With a short wicked smile Mukesh started to hug Mehroon once again. But out of the blue, Mehroon got up and slapped Mukesh across the face and ran out of his chamber.
Mehroon wanted to run straight home and do whatsoever she could to save her mother. As she was crossing the market, Asif, her classmate saw her and ran to catch up to her.
“What happened Mehroon? Where are you going to in such a hurry?” Asif asked, while continuing to run along with Mehroon.
“Ammi… She was… Abbu…” Mehroon struggled to get the right words.
“Oh… I understand.” Asif replied while keeping pace with Mehroon.
Asif was Mehroon’s closest friend and knew everything about her family. How hard Mehroon’s mother would work to feed the family and how her father would spend all the money on rum and whiskey, and how he would beat her mother if she did not give him money. He knew it all. But he did not know about Dr. Mukesh’s true face. Mehroon wanted to tell him, but she could not. Silent tears kept pouring from her innocent eyes.
Soon, Asif and Mehroon reached her home. There was pin drop silence around. Mehroon slowly walked in… Asif followed her. The entire house was in a complete mess. Mehroon’s father was no where in sight. Her mother was still lying unconscious on the ground. The two kids managed to pick her up and brought her from the kitchen to the living room. They laid her on the bed and while Mehroon sat next to her mother, Asif got some water and washed the blood from her forehead.
It was already eight o’clock and Mehroon’s mother was still unconscious. Her father was no where to be seen.
“Asif… You have been here long enough and helped me a lot. But now you should go home. Or else your parents will get worried.” Mehroon did not want Asif to leave… She was scared of being alone… Yet she had no choice but to ask him to leave.
Neither did Asif want leave Mehroon alone, but even he had no choice. “Alright Mehroon… But I’ll come over early tomorrow morning and we will see what we can do. Hope your mother regains consciousness before that.” Asif gave a hug to Mehroon and took her leave.