I had always seen it in movies; always read it in the papers—how young innocent ladies are forced into unholy matrimonies, and how they are compelled to tie the knots with men they barely knew. But I had always regarded the issue as one would regard a myth or a legend, that is, I didn’t believe it was something that could actually happen in reality.
I always wondered what sort of parents would thrust their own child into a home they’d rather not be; what sorts of monsters would condemn their daughter to a lifetime of pain and misery.
It wasn’t possible. It couldn’t happen… or so I always thought.
One evening in July, 2008, as I took a walk in an abandoned park not very far from my house, I found a weepy, thoroughly distressed lady sitting on a fallen oak tree. That evening in July, the weather was harsh and unkind. It was extremely cold and frigid, and the park was relatively quiet because most people had chosen to embrace instead the warmth of their dwellings. I had just lost my only job, and my mind was numb. There was nothing the unpleasant weather was going to make feel me that I didn’t already feel.
A thousand thoughts roamed my mind as I walked through the park like a zombie. I wondered what I was going to do with my life now that I had lost the only thing that gave me a sense of purpose and kept my hands busy. It had only been a week, but I was terribly bored and lonely. I was already drowning in despondency. I was slowly losing my mind.
The moon, full and elegant, struggled to peep under a fleeting, endless sheet of cloud. A spinning pillar of wind danced through the park, and lifted dry, decayed leaves off the ground. A great number of bats flew directly overhead, and made strange, shrieking noises. Otherwise, the atmosphere was quiet and sober and moody.
As I strolled mindlessly through the park, a bunch of toddlers suddenly crossed my path and jerked me back to earth. They screamed and shouted and ran riot, like only kids can. I was at once disgusted and irritated. But I also envied how they had seemed so happy and so wild. They didn’t have a thing to worry about. For those little things, life was perfect. They made me feel even more miserable.
Sorry, I digressed.
As I was saying, that evening in July, as I made up my mind to head back home and figure out how I was going to react to my new realities, the strangest thing happened.
Towards the end of the park, in a relatively-darker section, I stumbled upon a fair, ravishing beauty dressed impeccably in an off-white wedding gown. Her eyes were dewy and vacant—they held in them subtle hints of pain and betrayal. A white bouquet rested by her side and her right hand seemed permanently stuck to her cheeks.
In spite of the weather, the lady was calm and completely still, as though she had been through hell and was now completely immune to the cold; as though she couldn’t feel a darn thing anymore. Perched on the edge of the oak tree that once stood tall and proud, she stared into the night sky like a lost puppy. The sight melted my heart and kicked it into a new gear.
She’d been crying—I knew because her eyes were swollen and her make-up was messed up. Tiny streaks of mascara ran down her cheeks, and her lips trembled slightly. The young lady had been running; she had broken free; she had escaped, obviously, from an unwanted wedding ceremony. My reality was distorted. I was both dazed and shocked. I felt great
pity. The sight of her instantly melted my own troubles into sheer insignificance. What was she doing alone in the park? Who was she running from? More importantly, why had she run? Every lady dreams and fantasizes about their wedding, but not this one. I was immediately curious.
To Be Continued…
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