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Firecrackers shone bright in the sky as the ceremony came to an end. The exhausted couple were finishing up the last rituals and a car for their departure was already at the gate of the venue. The family and friends of the beautiful bride were in tears as she was about to bid adieu to them. The air was thick with sadness and a big fat Indian arranged wedding was coming to an end. The bride was unable to accept the fact that tonight she would not be sleeping in her own cozy bed but with a stranger whom she met only a few months back. “You will eventually fall in love with him completely, he is such a sweet guy.”, she consoled herself as they proceeded towards the exit. The wedding zest was now over powered by loud sobs and wails of her relatives. Her now-husband walked ahead of her while she trailed him. It felt as if he was a little too eager to go back home, making her shudder at the thought of what awaits for her in the future. To seek some comfort, her gaze met her father’s eyes and she broke down on seeing him cry uncontrollably. This man, who was her strongest pillar, looked so pale. He hugged his departing daughter tightly and whispered, “Remember papa loves you a lot!”. Her childhood days flashed in front of her eyes as they embraced each other. From the days when he used to hug her every night before bed to making sure she was at home in time for bed, when did she grow up enough to get married? From holding her hand and travelling around the world with her, to holding her hand only to give it away to an unknown man, what changed? Her heart pounded as she recalled those days. “Don’t worry Divya, Arjun has promised to protect and love you more than papa.”, she reminded herself as she moved behind her husband. Her mother, weeping in a corner, finally mustered the courage to rush towards Divya and engulf her. Broken sentences of loving forever were spoken amidst the incessant tears. Divya recalled the days when her mom used to dress her up for school and compared how different it felt to when she dressed her up today for her wedding. Her makeup smeared across her face because of the constant tears as the goodbyes continued. Finally at the exit, they said their last goodbyes and got into the car. Arjun shuffled in his seat to extract a handkerchief to wipe his wife’s tears. “You know you will meet your family again, soon.”, he said as he caressed her tear strained face. She nodded. “Will Arjun love me as he promised? Will I be able to adjust with his family? What if I can’t do something they are expecting me to do?”, such questions haunted her and a frown appeared on her face. They reached Arjun’s house soon and his parents were already waiting for their welcome. They made her feel at home and retired to their own room, giving the newly weds their privacy. Arjun’s eyes danced with excitement as she settled in her new room. Divya knew what was expected of her on the wedding night but was she ready to do anything with Arjun? But again, was there any option? She gulped. She reluctantly dressed up for the night, not wanting to defy an Indian woman’s duty to make her husband happy on their wedding night and on every night after it, whenever her husband felt like it. She just hoped for it be to beautiful, full of love and exciting. Arjun already in bed, asked her to join him. She hesitantly obeyed. His hands stroked her hair and then moved towards her neck. She closed her eyes, his soft skin brushed her gently, making her feel weak in her knees. Heat radiated from his hands and she was caving into his touch. He leaned in closer, hovering over her face. His warm breath, tickling her. “Aaghhh!”, she choked suddenly. Realization struck her when she was unable to breath, his strong hands were around her neck, pressing it hard. Her arms flailed as she tried to escape his painful grasp. Her vision blurred within moments and she kicked her legs and clawed at him to let her go. His laughter reached her ears faintly before she gave up. That's when he released his grip. Gasping for air, she moved away from him frantically and looked at her husband with fear and disgust. “I’m sorry, are you alright? It will never happen again.”, he quickly asked, his voice laced with concern. Not understanding what just happened, she stared blankly at him. He pulled her softly, apologizing and holding her close. After making her feel better, he got on top of her. His eerie eyes shone brighter. He looked at her calmly before he slapped her right across her face. She shrieked in immense pain and his laughter echoed in the room. Her husband derived pleasure by inflicting pain. How will she survive this?