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Essa

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I came out of the club banging the doors behind me. Damm I always thought not to pop my head in this betting stuff but I cannot stop myself. I am addicted to gambling and betting as people addicted to alcohol and smoking. There should be rehabs to get rid of this kind of stuff from my head. Now I have to pay three lakh rupees within 24 hours. That’s it, an eighteen year old boy standing in the middle of the road, searching through his sources for the money. Can’t ask my parents with lame reasons as I always do. They started doubting me for that. I already sold my laptop and stuff. Consequences for not paying the debt are too high to just run away from this shit. Fuck this money.

I called my friend who knows about everything I do and every lie I tell. “Amy, I am in deep shit again.”

“Oh god! Not again. How much?”

“Three”

“Sid are you fucking serious? What gives you the courage to play with such a big amount?”

“It was so close, so freaking close. So tell me can you arrange that for me? I will give the money next month when my parents send me the college fee.”

“Are you serious? You haven’t paid your last semester fee too. They’re gonna kick you out if you don’t pay now.”

“I will deal with that. Just give me the money if you have.”

“I don’t have such an amount.”

“Please Amy, I have to pay them before tomorrow. It is so serious that they won’t even hesitate to kill me if I don’t pay them.”

“I have a very unethical and cruel idea that my friend follows for money.”

“Tell me, please.”

“Child trafficking.”

That word made me stop for a second. What is she talking about? Child trafficking? Thoughts ran through my mind like a million kites flying in a hurricane. I need the money very badly. Is that need worthy of doing such a crime? Am I the one who is talking about crime? Isn’t betting and gambling is a crime?

“Give me your friend number. I will talk to him.”

Any messaged me his number. I promised myself not to do any betting or gambling after this. I know I shouldn’t do this but all my doors are closed. I have only two choices left. Tell my parents about what I did which would break their heart and I don’t want to do it. Another one is to get killed by the gambling people. I don’t want this either. I took every possible loan from all my friends, banks and everything. I don’t have any other option left. So I dialed his number.

“Hey Ryan. This is Sid. Amy gave me your number to talk about..”

“Hey Sid, hold on there man. This ain’t any milk powder business we are going to talk about. Meet me now at the subway near Amy’s house.”

“Okay I will be there in ten minutes.”

With that I took off my bike and started my ride thinking again and again about what I am doing. It’s like my mind pushing me to do anything for the money but my heart knows that I am violating my values and that I am going to regret it for the rest of my life. I reached the spot Ryan asked me to come.

“Hey Sid. Amy told me everything. I know how desperately you need money now. I am glad you found this quick and straightforward way to earn.”

“But Ryan, I am worrying about the consequences and about the kids”

“Come on man. We are not going to steal children from their parents. Listen to me there are many kids roaming around the roads searching for a penny or a piece of bread to fill their stomach. We are just showing them a proper path. People who are going to buy them will give them work, shelter and food. We are not sex traffickers man. We are just giving them a proper home and food. They can work and feed their stomachs. Trust me we are doing it to give them a better life.”

“Okay okay. Tell me what to do.”

“Find a girl who is less than ten years old. Offer her food and talk to her nicely. Tell her you are going to give her a home and food. Make her believe you. Send her picture to me when you feel she trusts you. Then I will send you the address, bring her there and you will get your money. Trust me it will be not less than four lakhs.”

“Is it necessarily a girl?”

“You can get a boy too, but you will be paid less like one lakh or something.”

I nodded and got back on my bike. I went to a place where a lot of people sleep on footpaths and craves for the leftover food in the dustbins. I looked around for kids. Right away I found a girl who is struggling to open up a closed peanut butter jar. She looked so cute and innocent. My heart started to question me again. I know I have to ignore them for a while to get the job done. I parked my bike aside and went to the girl. She is wearing a XL sized T-shirt with a lot of stains on it and that seemed to cover her height. She is biting her lips trying to open up the jar. I held my hand forward and said, “Let me help you with that.” She looked at me surprised and startled. She seemed to have a fear on her face. “It’s okay I will help you with that.” She slowly gave the jar to me and I opened it with a hard twist. There are few spoons of peanut butter left in the jar but it’s spoiled. “Hey this is not good for your health. Let me take you to a restaurant.” She stood up eagerly. Is she ready to come with me? Just like that? Her parents, god! “Let’s tell your parents, where are they?” She popped her lower lip out and nodded horizontally. “You don’t have your parents with you?” She did it again. Orphan. Am I doing this to an orphan that too with such an adorable face? But I have to do it. “I am sorry. Come with me. We will go and eat.”

She got on my back. We started to ride. I looked at her face in the mirror and realised she hadn’t smiled since I saw her. She is looking at people around her and I noticed others are staring at her too. Her dress. God! I decided to buy her a neat gown. I stopped my bike near a shopping mall and we went in. “Hey I forgot to ask your name. What’s your name?” She didn’t answer my question. Is she dumb? She got her lower lip out and nodded her head. “So you don’t have a name. Let me give you a name. Essa. You are Essa.” She didn’t respond. She is looking at the beautiful white gown hanging at the entrance. “You want that?” She nodded yes. She is surely not deaf. I bought her that gown and asked her to wash her face and hair in the restroom and to change her dress. She did as told and came out. She looked so pretty and cute. Is she the same girl sitting beside the road? She came to me quietly and held my hand. She already trusts me. What did I do to gain her trust? Talking to her nicely? Maybe she never came across people who care about her. How can people ignore her, she deserves to be loved.

We got on the bike and went to one of the famous restaurants in the town. Now people still stare at her but now because of how adorable she is. She really is. We went to an unoccupied table. I dragged the chair back at one side asking Essa to sit. She took the seat and I came and sat opposite to her. She looked a bit nervous. She stood and came to my side and sat right beside me holding my hand. She is not smiling yet she feels secured beside me. I really found it very cute and can’t stop myself pinching her cheeks. Her cheekbones and collar bones are visible and she is kinda weak. She needs good food and nutrition. I ordered a good amount of food for both of us. She found it a bit difficult to eat food with the spoon and fork. I helped her all the way through. God, how can her parents and relatives leave her all alone on the roads? I wish I had a sister like her. How did she manage to pull this off all along? She ate till her little tummy can’t take anymore. I bought her a chocolate in the end expecting to see her smile but she didn’t. She is still holding my hand all the way to the parking area. When I was about to reach for my keys. A message popped up.

Ryan : You found the girl? 

I almost forgot the purpose. I looked at her still holding my hand and looking desperately with her adorable eyes.

Me : Yes.

Ryan : Send a selfie.

I took a selfie with the girl and sent it to him. He then sent me the address to deliver the girl. I don’t know but suddenly I felt a pain inside of my heart. I asked Essa to get on the bike and started my ride to the address. I told Essa that I am gonna take her to my home. I looked again through the mirror, now I felt sad. I cannot accept myself doing this but I have to. Only way I can convince myself is that I am giving her shelter and food. We reached the address and got down. Ryan is waiting in a van to pick up Essa. I got myself onto my knees to talk with her. I said, “Essa, he will take you to the home. I will come back finishing a small work.” She nodded and went straight to Ryan. What did I do to deserve her trust? Can I get through this guilt ever in my life? Ryan came to me and handed over the cover with money in it. Ryan got into the van and Essa was about to get in. I am still standing there looking at her and don’t know why. She looked back at me and came running towards me. I got to my knees to reach her height. She then hugged me tight. She took something out of her pocket and gave it to me. It is the chocolate wrapper cut into a love shape. I looked at her with tears in my eyes. She is smiling. SHE IS SMILING. She waved me a bye and started walking towards Ryan. I am looking at the love shaped wrapper she made for me. At that moment I realised I shouldn’t be doing it. I should stand against it, not along with it. I got up and saw Ryan touching and pressing Essa’s back. Fury bursted through my eyes. I ran to him and hit him with the cover of money spilling currency all over the floor.I didn’t care about Ryan or about money. I took Essa’s hand and asked her to run with me. We quickly got onto our bike before Ryan could come after us. Essa is hugging me from behind and I cannot stop my tears. I held her hand and said, “I am sorry Essa. I am sorry.” I don’t know what she understood but she hugged me tight. I decided that I am gonna tell my parents about the betting and settle the issue. I know it would be hard for them but this is a needed change for me. I came straight to our house with Essa holding my hand. I rang our doorbell. My mother opened the door asking, “Who is she Sid?”

“She is Essa and she will be my sister from now on.”

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