Child marriage is a crime. But promises aren’t. Maybe that’s how I, Rohini, ended up in this situation. Getting married to a guy I had never even seen was just frustrating.

  The frustration wasn’t because I was being sent off to a village from a city, but because of all the dreams which were so mercilessly crushed when it happened. Before the marriage, I didn’t plead.  Why? Because I knew that there was no one who would understand me.

   My father regarded me as a burden that needed to be lifted off his shoulders. He saw marriage as the only means to do it. So he made a deal with his childhood friend, who, at that time, had a one-year old son, to marry me to him. There, it was settled. The burden was officially off my father’s back. But no one asked that six months old innocent baby how she would feel about this deal after twenty years. Especially when the deal was going to decide her life.

   I kept quiet all the time- smiled when someone congratulated me, laughed when someone cracked a joke, nodded when someone told me something and said ‘thanks’ when someone complimented me.  

   I thought things would be alright after marriage since Arjun, their son who I was supposed to marry, had lived all his life in the city and maybe he knew about the sentiments of a girl like me. But I had never been so wrong in my life.

   He despised me. He despised me because he had to leave his dreams behind for the marriage. He wanted to shift to London after completing his studies but his decision was suppressed when the marriage came up. And I despised him because I had to leave behind all my dreams and aspirations for him. Yeah, we made a pretty good couple, considering we shared the same opinion about things (Note the sarcasm).

  He spent all his time in the city, coming to the village for only two-to-three months while I stayed in the village like a good daughter-in-law and worked hard in the house. His family was rich and had a big house- a house you could never own in a city. They also owned a large land and were amongst the rich people of that village.

   It had been two years since I was married and no one knew that when I was all alone, I sat locked up in my room and played my guitar, wondering what would’ve happened if I wasn’t restricted to achieving my goals. Nothing had changed. In two years, all Arjun and I had done was hate each other. When we were around the family, we would act like love birds and when no one was looking, we wanted to choke each other to death. We just couldn’t tolerate to stay in the same room.

  But all changed with one incident. Arjun had come back to the village and as usual we both acted sarcastic and snarky with each other. I was sitting by the window and humming a tune while he was doing something on his laptop.

 “Stop humming that tune” he said in irritation.

  I hummed louder, “Sorry, but who are you?” I mocked.

 “Someone who wants to punch you?” he suggested.

  I was about to reply with a bold comeback when we heard a loud gunshot. Both of us jumped up a little and looked at each other in horror before running outside the house to see what was going on. There stood a man, his face covered. His silhouette was visible in the dark of the night and I could see him holding a gun which pointed right at father-in-law. Mother-in-law and Arjun’s sister stood horrified in a corner.

  Bandits. They were common in the village. They came in the dark of the night and robbed the rich houses often killing the members.

 The man pulled the trigger and Arjun pushed his father out of the way on the right time, missing the bullet by an inch. But before he could compose himself, the man had already pulled the trigger again.

  I didn’t know what took over me at that time. I jumped in the way. The bullet didn’t hit him, instead, it hit me. I clutched my stomach and fell on my knees as the blood oozed out, making me dizzy.

   “ROHINI!” Arjun shouted in terror. The last thing I remembered was him leaping on the Bandit and snatching the gun out of his hand. Then I blacked out.

  I woke up in a hospital bed recalling the events which had taken place. Surprisingly, Arjun was sitting right beside my bed, his hand clutching mine.

 I still hadn’t figured out why I had jumped to save him. I could’ve let him die. I hated him. I didn’t care. But when the man had pulled the trigger, a sudden fear had settled in my gut- the fear of loss. I feared losing him. I didn’t know what that fear was, but that was what made me jump in the middle and take a bullet for him, for a guy I hated with all my heart.

  “What were you thinking?” Arjun scolded me, his hand still clutching mine, “You could’ve died, you idiot.”

   “So you care about me, huh?” I teased.

  “I didn’t say that” he quickly said making me chuckle. We were silent for some moments before he said, “Don’t ever do that to me again, understand?”

  I smiled and nodded weakly.

 Two months after the incident, I found myself sitting by the window of our new apartment in the city. We had permanently shifted here and according to Arjun, we weren’t going back. I was free to take up any profession I wanted, to pursue my dreams. And I was glad.

  We were still snarky and sarcastic around each other and we both got into occasional arguments, but for once we knew, we needed each other. And that was the beginning.