The One Who Stole Beauty

“What are you doing?” asked the menacing voice of the little Aditya, cornering the poor girl under the slide. Mihika pulled her knees closer to herself, trying to instinctively protect the most precious thing she had from this bully, which was a story book that now quivered against the stretched material of her frock. She whimpered a little as he stalked closer, certain that he was going to brutally pull at her hair in an amusement and bracing herself for the pain to come. Aditya, an intimidatingly large 6 year old, repeated the question, certain of an unsatisfactory answer and certain of the outcome that was to follow.

“Nothing! Go away!” she claimed, rather helplessly, hoping that he would leave her alone. His muddy paws crept closer and Mihika sincerely hoped that she was protecting the book well enough. As a first strike, he pulled her braid so hard that her eyes watered and in the painful squeal that followed, swiftly captured the book with colorful pictures and beautiful words.

“Oooh. Look. The ninny brought her stupid book with her!” he declared to his allies, now forming a circle around the silently sobbing victim. “Please give it back to me,” she cried softly, knowing that she would rather submit to further physical injuries than watch her beloved companion be mangled under his grubby rough paws. Her skin or her hair would grow back, but the beauty of her stories would be lost forever if he claimed possession of it.

“Did you see how she squealed?!” continued the bully, garnering the necessary admiration from the group of other little boys who were confused with their loyalties but none so brave to step up for her cause. “Little Miss Ninny and her stupid paper friends and stories. Look how she’s crying now!”

Mihika knew then that her tears were an open sign of her weakness and she hastily gulped them down, following his every movement with her panic-stricken eyes and sincerely hoping that some intervention would get the book out of his hands.

“Oh, and what have we here?” Aditya jeered, thumbing through the richly adorned pages of the book with his brutal fingers, straining the fragile binding and leaving dog-eared pages in his wake.

“Give it back to me!” Mihika shouted, finding the sudden strength in her voice and launching herself onto him. His eyes narrowed as he found her real vulnerability. He was too strong for her and she was thrown back into the mud, her face landing among the flowers and her limbs aching from the impact. The book soon followed on her head, and again she had to close her eyes to hide the tears. Three pages which had been disembodied from the book floated beside her, leaving her story forever violated.

Mercifully, he had decided that he had done enough to her for the day and he was bored with her already so he rushed off to find fresh victims on the play ground while she wondered if she should report the matter to the adults. Altogether too often, they dismissed her horrific tales of the afternoons, claiming that it was normal for children to bully each other, that it was normal for boys to be somewhat abusive to girls, that perhaps his vested in her meant that he liked her. Aditya’s mother especially could brook no complaint that her angelic son would be capable of something so heinous and the little 6 year old hypocrite knew exactly how to clear his own name.

Mihika tried to reach out to a few of the girls on the playground, but they shied away from her, knowing that that her mere presence was an invitation for trouble. She went home lonely and miserable, blaming her bruises on herself and devastated that her lovely book of words and stories and eternal companionship had suffered a wrath that she didn’t know how she had deserved.

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