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   Chapter 17 May

Broken Past By Arathi Characters: 17749

Updated: 2018-09-03 08:31

Over the next week, Gwen spent her days learning everything about the shelter and the women. She shoved thoughts of JT out of her mind and focused on the tasks put before her. Yes, Aunt Jasmine ran a tight shelter and everyone, even a temporary guest, was required to pull their weight.

She rose as early as her system would allow her to and helped out in the kitchen. She couldn't interact well with the women, but they were helpful nonetheless. They showed her where the utensils were kept and gave her simple enough chores such as peeling potatoes and carrots or steaming rice.

Gwen watched and learned, somewhat, about the ins and outs of Indian cooking. The care and energy gone into soaking and washing lentils, the exhaustive selection of spices that found their way into curries, and the nimbleness of fingers demanded to roll perfect circles out of dough.

Despite being shy, what Gwen enjoyed the most was the feeling of being in a community. There was no 'alone' at the shelter. It didn't matter how much or how little space was in the kitchen, these women sat where they saw fit, in groups, on the floor. It didn't matter if they picked an inconvenient spot like perhaps, next to the door or right in front of the kitchen sink. The funniest part is, no one minded. There was no overbearing, short-fused chef overseeing kitchen activities. There was a hierarchy, as is always in a group home. Here, it was the senior-most women; not the strongest, bitchiest or meanest ones. Things got done without nastiness. Perhaps, such was the general way of the Indians, and not just the case with these women.

Another aspect that baffled Gwen was that these women didn't look at chores as if they were chores. It was an opportunity to mingle, and so, they sat cross-legged on bare floors unmindful of the cold, enjoying their time. The gossip was endless!

When everyone had eaten, and the kitchen was immaculately clean again, the women found other chores over which to gossip. In groups, they washed clothes by hand, oiled each other's hair, painted nails, and knitted and stitched. Their entire existence seemed to be almost about chatting. You couldn't look at them and guess their history of abuse. Everything about them screamed normal. Of course, they had their fears. But then this was India, and from what Gwen understood, women were still living in an age where they accepted what came their way. You worshipped the men in your life because it was your duty and place to do so. So why were they stuffed like sardines here? Because every one of these women had that one enlightened person in their life, who thought they deserved better and had come to their rescue.

So what did these women think of their situation? Nothing in particular. They didn't mind. Sure it was nice to be away from men who degraded them and humiliated them, even violated them. But, they still felt like they belonged at home. They believed there was some form of karma in play here. That they received monsters in their family for having done something terrible in their previous life. And this was the challenge Aunt Jasmine faced in getting them to stay. Their mental anguish was borne from being removed from their homes, their lives, their family, and their identity was far greater than any abuse a man or woman handed out to them.

This is what Gwen couldn't seem to relate to at all. In her society, something wrong was just that, wrong. There were no shades of grey, at least none that she was aware of. Women were considered enlightened, allowed to be educated, and self-sufficient. They received equal opportunities. If someone did otherwise, it was because they had the choice to do so, not because they were compelled to. She figured that perhaps she was still sheltered from reality even though she was smart enough to know that not everyone had a choice.

Here, things were different. A girl who had been beaten her whole life didn't mope about it for the remainder of her adult life in a therapist's chair. She merely accepted and moved on to the best of her capabilities. Gwen didn't know whether to pity them for accepting their lives and situations or to be in awe of them for their hidden strengths. Of course, ignorance, superstition, and lack of independence and education had a significant role to play in their mindset. They grew up witnessing such horrors and learned early on that such was a man's natural right. If you begin to think of something as normal, then surely it must be?

She understood, somewhat, why these women needed a place like a shelter but not the services of a therapist. After all, who could undo generations of warped thinking in one lifetime? More importantly, who would be masochistic enough to even try? She recognized that her thoughts towards the issue were rather harsh. However, she also knew they couldn't be helped. It was as though she had been transported back to the 18th century. The thoughts and feelings she was confronted with just seemed so bizarre. So unlike the world in which she had grown up. She also knew that these women weren't trying to fit into her world.

On the contrary, she was trying to fit into theirs. The shelter per-say wasn't her new home, no. However, the society was. Also, she couldn't be the one to speak out and make the oth


And then his lips brushed against hers.

It was the simplest of kisses; almost like a breeze. Warm, gentle and fleeting. Gwen was confused. She didn't know how she felt. She was uncertain about how he felt. The kiss should have been an indicator right? But no, her mind still toyed with thoughts of uncertainty. Seconds passed as he waited for her to react. Unsure of what to do or say, Gwen looked out over the mountains. He squeezed her hand, and she pressed back. More confident, he leaned forward again.

The warmth from his hand disappeared as he let go of hers. Cupping her face, JT brushed his thumbs across her cheeks. He touched his forehead with hers and stayed like that for what seemed like an eternity. She ached for him to kiss her again, but he seemed conflicted and hesitant. Gwen wondered if her signals were off.

With the slightest of movements, Gwen rubbed her nose against his. That was all the encouragement JT needed. His lips parted and reached for hers, but the distance seemed too great. Impatient, Gwen encircled his neck with her arms and pulled him closer. She slid over and seated herself on his outstretched legs.

JT stiffened, and Gwen cursed herself inwardly for being too forward. When he didn't move, she bit her lower lip, eyes still glued shut lest she further ruined the moment.

Hands slowly traveled up her legs and settled on her hips, holding her in place. A moan escaped Gwen when she felt JT's breath tingling her skin as he traced his way up her neck, across her jawline, and over her chin to her quivering lips. Soft and gentle, and still unsure, his lips barely stroked hers. As she bit his lower lip with need, his fingers dug into the softness of her hips before skimming over her waist, past her ribs, to the underside of her breasts. They continued their torture up to the smooth skin of her neck, stopping at her cheeks. Just when she thought they were as close as they could be, he sat up straight and bent his knees sliding her further into his embrace. His kiss grew more demanding as a primal need took over, blocking the world out. Nothing else existed, and nothing else mattered.

That is until bright lights shone in their faces. As they awkwardly separated, the roar of engines died out and excited chatter filtered through.

"Dude! You've gotta come this second!" Aalam's voice echoed across the distance.

JT jumped to his feet with a frustrated growl.

"I'm sorry, I'll call you, " he whispered to Gwen before jogging off to meet his friend.

Gwen watched as the two men exchanged words briefly and then her heart sank when JT rushed off towards his bike. He took off without so much as a backward glance at her and suddenly, all her thoughts and doubts resurfaced with a vengeance.

As Aalam walked away from her, Gwen jogged to catch up with him.


Aalam turned and surprise reflected in his eyes, having not spotted her before. "Gwenny" he screeched before hugging her.

Ohhkay she though in her mind, not having expected such a gesture from him.

"How have you been? We've missed you!"

"Sure you have."

"No seriously… We did! JT especially..."

"That explains why he ran off, " she mumbled looking at her feet.

"Oh him, nah, don't worry. He'll be back soon, " Aalam grinned.

"Where did he go?"

"He didn't tell you?"

Gwen shook her head.

Aalam hummed with irritation. It was just like JT to go about mucking things up.

"He forgot he had to collect May from the station."


"Yeah, JT's girl!"


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