Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: India (02/12/09)
- TITLE: Not alone
By Elizabeth Jackson
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“But Preeya...” Neena protested as she picked up another palm fruit from the roadside.
“Come on! The school bell will ring and we'll have to do our prayers and anthem, and I'll have to wait for after school. You know Pune is in the other school. Besides, I don't want to see the scary-looking man today.”
Every day for the last several days, a man had been watching the two of them go to school. Preeya was scared, but determined not to let her mother know.
“I want to see the new goats at Mari-Mem's house,” Neena said.
They were approaching the small gray brick building now, and both girls could see that the doe they had christened “Star” had twins.“We can see them this afternoon. Ama said not to play. Besides, it doesn't look like she's there right ...”
She stopped. The scary-looking man was in front of them. Quickly Preeya tried to push past him.
“Hello pretty girl!” the man said, blocking her “Are we going to school today?”
“Yes, and we will be late if we do not go.”
She tried again to go around him, but he grabbed her arm. Preeya began to pray silently. Her heart was pounding and it was hard to think what to do.
“You should not be filling up your pretty heads with schooling. I have a better idea. Why don't you come with me?”
Preeya dropped her sister's hand. “Run!”
Neena took off quickly, and Preeya rejoiced while trying to twist herself free. The man held firm.
“Feisty, aren't you? Come on.”
He dragged her into a nearby house, a large fancy house, painted yellow. Some other men sat around drinking chai. They greeted her with shouts of delight. “Such a pretty prize you have there, Jamal,” one called out.
He bobbed his head in agreement, and took her into the house, shoving her into a dark room. Preeya stood, remembering how Muthu had disappeared, to be found three months later in a biscuit factory up north. At least he had been found... She knelt and continued to pray.
Peace stole over her. God was with her, even here. She got up, and began to feel around the room. She came across a chair, and then a desk. Feeling over the desk she came across a telephone. Hesitantly, she glanced at the door. There was no sound. Softly Preeya lifted the receiver and began to dial Ama's cell phone number.
It rang, and rang, and rang. Preeya was about ready to give up when she heard her mother's voice,
“Hello. Ama. I want to say... some men caught me.”
Her mother gasped.
“Are you okay? And Neena... ?”
“Neena got away. I am okay. Jesus is with me.”
“Preeya, where are you?”
Preeya hesitated. If her mother came, then the men might catch her too. “I love you, Ama,” she said, and hung up.
All was dark and still. She could faintly hear the men in the courtyard, but that was all. Preeya began to recite her memory verses. Time passed. The voices stilled. She crept up and put her ear to the door.
She asked God for help, and turned the doorknob. It wasn't locked! She slowly pushed the door open, and crept through the house, watching every shadow. When she reached the front door, she threw it open and raced into the street. She didn't stop until she was safe at the school playground, where she burst out crying. Aganagi Mem, Neena's teacher, ran over, and relaxing school rules, began to speak to her in Tamil.“You are safe now,” she whispered drawing Preeya in for a hug.
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