Puja sat crouching inside the closet, her lips pursed. Her almond eyes now trembled with the weight of impending doom. She could clearly hear her mother shouting at the top of her voice. Her father’s voice could be heard too, although less frighteningly. She looked down at the fleshy wound on her arm, which failed to stop aching however hard she prayed to God. Her mother had never hurt her before. She had never ever raised her voice at her, not even that day when she had returned home leaving her tiffin box back at school. It had started a week back and till now she couldn’t understand why her mother was behaving differently. Something was really wrong with her.
Wait. Could she hear another voice coming from outside the door? Was it her little brother? Her parents had suddenly stopped talking too.
Her eyes widened in horror. What if their mother heard him cry? Wouldn’t she hurt him too? Or had her father already taken her to the hospital as he was saying the day before?
No. Her mother might still be out there waiting for a chance to hurt him too. She couldn’t afford to take a chance. Not waiting a second longer, she pushed open the closet door and yanked her brother inside. To her dismay, his cries didn’t cease, rather it grew louder, probably due to he being shocked by the sudden thrust.
Puja placed her sweaty palms on his face and sealed his lips tight. She pressed harder on his face, so that not an iota of sound escaped his mouth.
‘I will never let him be hurt. I will take care of him. Isn’t that what mother used to say before she turned angry? To always take care of your brother just like she had taken care of her?’
She let her brother’s head fall back on her shoulder and sat caressing his hair with her one free hand. The other rested on his face, firm enough to keep him silent forever.