Sunday, December 12, 2021

With every footfall, I tell myself that it’ll be all right. Nothing bad will happen to me.


My pulse is hammering in my ears as I swing away from the car and take my first step across the road. There’s no reason why I should tiptoe my way back—after all, the so-called Dr. Patel is expecting me—but I do, out of fear. 

With every footfall, I tell myself that it’ll be all right. Nothing bad will happen to me. My boyfriend will watch over me. Even if I find myself in some kind of trouble, he’ll see it on his cellphone and call the police at once. Yes, it’ll be all right.
As I pass under the lamppost, steps come rasping over the asphalt behind me. Here comes a tap on my shoulder. I turn around. Michael looks pale, but somehow he manages a faint smile.
“Wait,” he breathes, handing me a pair of my elegant high-heels, which he must have found in the back of his car. “You must look your part. Better change into these.”
Standing on one foot, then the other, I take off my ballerina flats. “You make me feel like Cinderella, only in reverse.”
My attempt at humor is a bit clunky, but we both laugh. 
Nervously.
Despite being aware of how dangerous Kabir is, Michael makes no attempt to stop me. Nor does he even warn me against going forward with this ill-advised date. Saving our friend, Karishma, is now our top concern. It has overridden both his caution and mine.
He wraps my shoulders with my red scarf. “Scared?”
“Who, me? Of course not,” I say.
Both of us know that’s a lie.
He kisses me, long, hard, desperate, as if that’s our last moment together. “My mother used to say, ‘If your path demands that you go through hell, walk like you own it.’”
“That’s what I’ll do.”
Another kiss, and he sinks back into the shadows. 


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