For just a moment time stopped, and this handsome, golden-skinned man looked deep into her eyes, hatred burning tension into a face carrying the tiniest, moon-shaped scar above one eyebrow. Then he sneered, slashing into her with a knife before losing himself in the crowd.
Kavita touched her side, gazing calmly at the redness of blood dripping from her hand, warmth pulsing from her side. Then realization hit and she crumpled to the ground, pain throbbing with every heartbeat.
“Kavita!” Seema knelt by her side, whispering something, sobbing.
She groaned, consciousness fading.
“Kavita.” Hearing the pleading in Seema’s voice, Kavita willed herself to focus.
But Seema was smiling—a grin that quirked around the edges, confusing her sister. “Wake up, sleepyhead. We’re in Patankot. We’ll take a taxi from here.” The grin deepened, sparkling in Seema’s soft brown eyes. “I was beginning to think you’d sleep all the way to Chukkibank.”
Kavita relaxed. It was only a dream.
But their situation was real enough. Fear had driven her throughout the dream, and she didn’t feel she knew her sister anymore. Three years ago, Seema had gone to Jodhpur to help care for Dadiji, but didn’t return when cousin Manu arrived to take over.
Instead, Seema took a room at the Umaid Bhawan. Rounds of polo and late-night parties consumed her, and she behaved as a woman without honor. She stopped going to church, and when the family telephoned her, she always made a reason to get off quickly. Most of this they heard from Manu, who was only too happy to tell the family what rearing daughters in America turned them into. “It’s that blasted MTV,” he’d say.
So when Seema had called Kavita, begging her to come without delay—but hurriedly ending the call before saying why—Kavita had contained her irritation with difficulty, days ticking by while she waited for her Indian visa.
When she’d come through customs in Delhi, Seema had been waiting for her...impatiently, glancing over her shoulder. She’d hurried Kavita from the airport without stopping for her suitcase, bargained quickly, and taken a rickshaw to the train station. Seema hurriedly bought tickets, walking boldly to the head of a long line, silencing every question until they reached the ladies’ lounge and sank gratefully into battered sofa cushions.
“They’re trying to kill me,” she stated simply, as if that explained everything.
“What? Who’s trying to kill you?” Kavita struggled to understand.
In response, Seema stuck her hand deep into the couch, pulling out a blue-covered book written in Hindi. “Maybe the BJP.” She pulled out a folded note, reading quickly. “My contact sent this. He’ll meet us in Dharamsala; we have to go now.”
Huddled together on a sleeper in the ladies’ compartment of the train that night, Seema whispered quick-spoken words barely comprehended as Kavita, beyond weary, slid into deep sleep. She had a hazy memory of Seema covering them with blankets, peering from beneath, and a sound of clicking footsteps, but woke only when Seema called her name, nudging her at Patankot.
“I really need you here with me.” Seema’s voice was low, sincere, as they pressed their way through the masses, past the old man squatting by the track.
Hurrying into a corner, she pulled the book from beneath a fold of her sari. “You’re wondering about this,” she said, amusement sparkling in her eyes, knowing Kavita couldn’t read Hindi. “This is a Bible. We visit local villages, and smuggle Bibles into tribal zones—not that everyone we teach can read. I guess I’ve altered more than Manu knows.” She grinned. “The Jesus I never really knew growing up has changed me, and I have to take this message to other lost people. We need this kind of love so badly.”
Seema smiled wanly, continuing. “You know the Bible, could help me teach it. You could actually make a difference here, you know. But it’s dangerous. Not everyone likes what we’re doing. We’ve been accused of forced conversions and insulting Hindu gods. It’s not true, but we barely escaped from our last prayer meeting alive.” She shivered, remembering the fire and confusion. “Now someone’s trailing me.”
Kavita considered, then nodded, ready to serve the Lord even here. Seema looked relieved, pointing toward a tall man standing nearby. “Here’s my contact, Anand. Anand, Kavita will be coming with us.”
Kavita looked up and paused, startled, as she gazed into the face of a golden-skinned man with the tiniest moon-shaped scar above one eyebrow.
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