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from Hiren's Journey by Rebecca Onkar

Chapter 9
Gone and Back Again

Hiren woke in the middle of the night to sounds of heavy breathing and the occasional grunting snore.

“They’re asleep,” she thought. She had meant to stay awake all night to keep on guard against any advances on their part. Just thinking about it made Hiren’s grip on the washer woman’s knife tighten. She had picked it up while the woman swept up the shorn hair and slipped it into her apron pocket.

Hiren felt around on the floor for the shoes that she had been given the night before. She had never worn shoes like this. These covered her whole foot and even up on to her ankle. She had trouble lacing them last night but once she got the hang of tying the strings as she always tied her skirt she had no problem. The shoes felt funny on her feet and they were a little loose but they would protect her feet.

Hiren was running away.

She managed to put on her shoes and stand to her feet without making a sound and she could tell by deep breathing coming from the bed that she had not been heard. She just had to make it out the door. Hiren had watched carefully last night and saw the fair one close it and secure it with a long piece of wood. She would have to remove that soundlessly to make her escape.

Inch by inch she crept toward the door, freezing every time the wooden floor creaked beneath her feet, but still neither man stirred.

Her muscles were taut and her breath was coming in short gasps but with one last large step she stood in front of the door. She took a moment to calm her breathing and she tried to relax but the longer she stood staring at the door the more agitated she felt.

At last she reached out with both hands and carefully, inch by inch, lifted the wooden bar up and out from its metal holders and then, pausing to listen for any sounds of stirring from the men and hearing none, she placed it on the ground. Now with freedom so near Hiren didn’t pause before pulling open the heavy door. It scraped a bit along the floor and made a scratching sound as it opened, but she only needed a few inches to slip her body through. As soon as she was outside she...







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