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Scars Do Heal

Scars Do Heal

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Scars Do Heal

Length:
335 pages
8 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Dec 21, 2015
ISBN:
9789352065738
Format:
Book

Description

Meet Sonal Kapoor. An entrepreneur who revived a closing florist’s store with her heart and soul, a young lady with a busy life in the heart of London, and a doting daughter who wants to do a lot for her mother, but simply can’t find the time. Sonal has a difficult past – one that she sought to overcome in her move from India to London. And yet, something or the other keeps the trauma alive.
Until Dr. Ryan Percy enters her life.
A chance encounter at their neighbourhood convenience store leads from one thing to the next – and eventually, Sonal is challenged in ways she never thought would be possible. Dr. Percy is everything one can expect in the man of their dreams – and he comes with a painful past, too. There is a piece in the jigsaw of his life that is missing, and he thinks of it as having been found – but whether that piece will sit or not, remains a question.
Does Sonal heal or hurt more? Does Ryan find what he is looking for? Does love conquer all?
Publisher:
Released:
Dec 21, 2015
ISBN:
9789352065738
Format:
Book

About the author


Book Preview

Scars Do Heal - Shilpa Menon

appreciated.

CHAPTER


M om, I have only 20 minutes left for my lunch break. You know how busy it can get during peak seasons! Be quick and tell me if you have anything else for me to pick up for you at the store, I told my mother over the phone.

No dear, I think you got all that I need. Carry on, now. I’ve made your lunch. Would you like me to pack it for you? Or will you eat at home when you come to drop off the groceries? asked my always worried mother.

Please parcel it fast, I should be home in 10 minutes! See you, mom! I responded hurriedly. I took a deep breath to recollect the last two pending items from the grocery list. I was irritated that I had to squeeze all this in between lunch, but I had to do it for her. She was all I had for family, here, in London. The whole of last week she really struggled with the diminishing supplies in the kitchen, as a result of me being unavailable to take her shopping. I owed it to her. Okay, so what was left was the cumin seeds and the sachets of red dry chillies. Just as I was about to turn around with the already overloaded trolley, still holding on to my handbag and mobile phone to head to the spices section, I was hit hard from behind. Ouch! My back hurt badly. I looked down and was flustered to see that my bag had fallen down with all my personal belongings on the floor. It was just not the time to have an accident! I looked around to see the jerk who knocked me from the back.

Oh, I am so sorry! I really did not see you coming back and bumped into you! said a guy, all of six feet tall, standing in front of me looking half guilty. I’ll help you! he said in his husky and masculine voice.

I gave him an agitated look and then bent down to collect my phone, my diary and some papers. When I looked up, our eyes met. He had deep, grey eyes. They must have been the most beautiful eyes I had ever seen. Everything went blank and I felt a sudden pull. There was something about those eyes that made me shiver. That was when the realisation and guilt flooded me. How did I allow myself to admire a stranger’s eyes? It happened just like that! I cursed myself, shaking my head, and focused on gathering my items. His hands were motionless. I glanced up. He was not helping me, he was still gawking at me! I frowned. He realised that I had caught him staring and quickly said, Are you okay? You seem to be upset. I am sorry, I said, though I think you should be careful to check your back before reversing!

He was not Indian like I was. He was a Caucasian, in his late thirties, and had very sharp features with profound eyes. Well, I don’t have much time now! I am sorry, too. You are right I should have checked! I replied softly.

Within a minute, he helped me collect my stuff and I gave him a faint smile and thanked him. Are you sure you are fine? he asked, seeming a little dazed.

He was right. I was not fine. It was ages since I was this physically close to a man. It hurt me that I allowed myself to admire his eyes. He stood just about a foot away from me and I noticed how his broad shoulders and muscular and lean physique did justice to his height. He had short, light brown hair that matched his eye colour perfectly. His radiant, ivory-coloured, clean-shaven skin tone, thick eyebrows, long and sharp nose and full lips, qualified him as handsome. He wore a grey shirt, a skinny navy blue tie, paired with a navy blue fitted sweater, a khaki jacket and trousers. His neatly combed hair and classy attire gave him a polished and professional appearance. I closed my eyes to stop myself from paying attention to all these details and felt sick instantly. Men were off-limits for me. Having permitted my thoughts to wander like this made me feel angry.

I have to go, I replied briskly, realising that I should not stand a second longer in his proximity as I was feeling extremely ill at ease.

Wait! Miss! Uhh… You have… I ran to the till without letting him finish.

Simmy, I need a favour! I swiftly said to my old friend at the counter. Please tender the total and keep my goods safe. I have to rush. I am running late. I will collect and pay for my stuff after work. Can you do that for me?

Simmy and I were friends for over three years. She was a sweetheart from the day we met at a wedding. When we realised that we lived close to each other, we started meeting often and since then, we grew close steadily. She was 23, around 10 years younger than I was, but the age gap did not stop us from developing a strong friendship. Simmy was a bright marketing student. In her free time from college, she helped her father manage their family-run grocery store, called Patel’s. Mom and I would find most of what we needed to live in a foreign land, as they would stock many ingredients needed for Indian cuisine.

Simmy knew me well. She must have realised that I was in a state of panic. What are friends for? Sure babe, don’t worry. You look really pale. Are you okay?

I have to go. I will catch you six-ish? I whispered and ran out.

I reached my car in the parking lot and took a full minute to let go of my uneasiness. I started to reverse when I saw the stranger in the rear view mirror. He ran and came to my car, waving and trying to say something to me. Oh no! I would not stop to talk to him. This would be a bad idea. I pulled the car as quickly as I could and left the parking area. I could see his hands waving, but as I sped on, I noticed in the rear view mirror, he put his hands down and looked confused. What on earth was this all about? He was caught red-handed, checking me out, and now he wanted to strike a conversation? Stranger! I hated men.

What was taking my mother forever to open the door? I wondered to myself after waiting for over three minutes at our doorstep. I was just about to press the bell again when the door finally opened. Maa, what took you so long? I lashed out at her while I ran to the kitchen to grab my packed lunch.

Sonal, where are the grocery bags? she asked, sounding annoyed. Please don’t tell me that you didn’t buy the provisions! She sounded nearly desperate, and had all the right to feel that way. I wouldn’t be able to run a kitchen like the one we were living on for the last one week, which was my fault, again. My mother did not drive, so she relied on me and I felt bad for having let her down.

I ran back to the door to find her still waiting for an answer. I held her by her arms, looked into her beautiful dark brown eyes to grab her full attention. Maa, just trust me. I know with work going crazy for a few days, I have been unfair to you. I promise that today after work I will bring you all the stuff from Patel’s Store. I’ll even get you a few chocolates to make it up to you. Something happened at the store and I had to dump it all on Simmy. Anyway, I have to go, Maa! There is too much work to attend to at the store. The girls are waiting for me to vet the bouquets for the day’s hotel deliveries.

Mom sighed heavily. Oh Beta, okay, but you work too hard. You should take it easy. Carry on now and do not drive fast please. She held my face and kissed me on my forehead. Hearing the word ‘beta’ and the feel of that kiss soothed me and gave me the instant energy I needed to deal with the rest of the day. Nothing like motherly love!

As I opened the car door at my reserved parking bay I saw our delivery van standing outside. Michelle came running to me with a frown. Sonal, hurry up! We are running late. We just managed to get hold of Berkey’s hotel chain contract! We cannot afford to lose them.

I couldn’t agree more. Last month, we secured a flower arrangement contract with this new chain and I just couldn’t afford to lose them. We ran in. I checked all the flower arrangements and made some small changes. They are all ready to go. Good job girls!

I looked at my three assistants running in all directions to get the arrangements out of the store. In five minutes, they came running back in. We did it! That was a close one. Sonal, please don’t do this to us again! Michelle said in triumph.

I walked to the trio. "What would I do without you, Michelle, Brenda and Corinne? Now, go grab your lunch.

I will take over from here. You deserve your break!" It made them glow and they giggled as they walked out. These were my three girls–they hadn’t left me since the day I opened shop.

When I moved to London around six years ago, I had no idea what to do. I was a mess. I did not want to be working under a man or any boss for that matter, although my degrees in business administration would have given me ample opportunities to get a pretty decent job. It was not appealing at that time. I was frail, weak and much damaged from within. When I saw a For Sale board outside this store, it was a spontaneous decision to buy it outright. I loved flowers and something about the store was catchy. Even mom felt the positive vibes when we inspected the place with the realty agent. The previous owners were growing old and decided to move to Australia to be with their children and grandchildren. They were very attached to the place and I could feel the pain in their hearts when they handed me the keys. They were letting go of a business that was 30 years old, in which they invested their time, effort and love. It pleased me to see them happy when I told them that I intended to continue running the florist’s business. They were relieved that their loyal customers would be catered to and they entrusted me keep the place alive.

My mom was very supportive of my decision. She knew that I needed to do something different from my work back in India. We worked for a full month, renovating the place. I gave it an Indian touch to make it comfortable and cosy for me. During the rebranding, it was my instant decision to name the store ‘Khushboo’, which means beautiful fragrance. Since that day, there was no turning back. My spontaneous business decision proved to be more successful than I had hoped and imagined. Not only did I manage to maintain the old clients, but also attracted a whole lot of new clients and kept doing something or the other for the growth of the business. Over the last two years, I managed to get hold of a dozen major hotel chains in and around London and a decent bunch of other assorted corporate clients. Khushboo was not only my source of income–it was my passion. I got many online orders from clients overseas to deliver flowers to their loved ones in London. My retail daily walk-in client base was pretty good, too, and kept all of us up and running. Sometimes, when we had wedding and party orders, I asked my mother to help. It was a place I worshipped and found solace. That made it my safe haven: a place where I was always surrounded by flowers, which I loved. The ambience of the store made me forget the deep scars from my past, at least in the time I was in there.

CHAPTER


Ialways wondered how time would fly when I was at Khushboo s , but that day was an exception. For some unsolicited reason , the stranger’s deep grey eyes kept flash-ing in my mind. It disturbed me. At almost 6:00 PM, I heard Brenda calling me, Sonal, we received all the fresh deliveries and brought the flowers in! Can we shut down now ?

Content with the more-than-decent revenue we had made for the day, I concurred. Sure, just give me two minutes! I replied while I quickly reviewed all the cash and cheque transactions for the day and closed them all in the safe. Let’s go, I will get Corinne to do the accounts tomorrow morning! We finished our two minutes’ meeting going through the next day’s schedule, I grabbed my handbag and followed the girls out for our daily ritual. The girls closed the shutters, we waved bye to each other and left in different directions.

It was very cold that winter, so I practically sprinted to my silver beetle and switched on the heater first then steered out to head to Patel’s store. I pulled up in the parking area to find Simmy waiting for me with my shopping bags. Simmy I have not even paid you yet! I said frowning as I approached her.

Sonal, you can settle the amount next time. Neither of us can run away as we are pretty much stuck here, she chuckled. Once we loaded all the shopping bags in the boot, Simmy told me that her father had already taken over for the night shift and asked if I could drop her home, to which I gladly agreed. The Patel’s house was only three blocks away from mine. Our mothers were close friends and would enjoy watching their favourite daily Indian soaps on the television while chopping vegetables for dinner. I loathed those programmes but never objected as that was the only time when both of them would relax and feel close to their motherland.

Before I forget, there was this guy who was asking about you when you left at lunch, said Simmy, a few minutes after we started driving.

Oh god! I was damn sure she meant that stranger. Really? Who was it and what did he want? I asked as if I was oblivious to whom she was referring.

He wanted to know about you and I told him your name, your address and your work place, she replied as if she did a great job!

What? I was shocked at Simmy’s immaturity. How could you give all this information to a stranger? You should have at least asked me first! Simmy Patel, you are in big trouble. I am so mad at you right now! I said.

Relax Sonal! I am kidding. I am not as imprudent as you think to give your details to anyone without your permission! I was pulling your leg, she said, sensing that I was upset. But I have to say this. Number one, he is not so much of a stranger to me. I see him once or twice a month at the store. Number two, he is really cute, looks more or less your age. Number three, I think you would look good together. If you wish, I can feed him information about you the next time he comes shopping, she continued shamelessly.

Don’t you dare do that, I cut her off instantly.

Sonal, he is so hot and he tried really hard to extract some information from me. I know you hate and shrug this topic off every single time but I am serious, it is high time that you date someone now. I raised my brows and showed her my discontentment and lack of interest in the topic. What? Don’t look at me like that! I am serious. I mean just look at you. You are so pretty. Five feet six, slim with curves all in the right places. Beautiful face, lovely chocolate brown eyes, luscious lips, wavy and long black hair, wheat complexion. You are blessed with all sharp Indian facial features. You are smart and intelligent. You are successful at running your own business.

So? I replied.

Don’t you get it? You are the perfect marriage material, Sonu! Even your age is perfect for you to get settled now. I mean there are so many men out there who would be so keen to date you, if you stop drowning yourself in work and make yourself available, Simmy replied sounding very serious. When I did not respond, she shuddered. Look, I have a plan. Start coming with me to socialise during weekends at the club. You can also accompany your mother every week to the temple. Start meeting people and you never know you fall on some interesting and charming eligible bachelor! Or, there is no harm in even extending a hand of friendship to your today’s admirer at the store, she teased.

And you think by hooking me to a stranger you will increase my chances of getting into a relationship? Do you know how dangerous that can be? I asked her anxiously.

Okay, I give up. Fine! Don’t date anyone, stay single, continue being boring, spend the rest of your life alone and depressed! she lashed out.

As much as I was baffled, I felt bad for having hurt Simmy. After all she was only trying to be helpful out of concern. Simmy, I know you worry about me, but please dear. Give me a break. A stranger? Of all the people around?

She sighed. Okay, I agree, it can be dangerous. He could be a serial killer, a stalker, a rapist, a psycho, a sociopath or a drug addict. Gosh. I was only trying to fix you up with someone! she blurted out.

She said the one word I just did not want to hear: ‘RAPIST’. It sent shivers down my spine and a rush of adrenaline took over. I felt a lump in my throat and for a second, I choked so badly that it almost blurred my vision and I just managed to navigate the car to the left and halted abruptly.

Hey, Simmy screamed as she was taken aback. What happened? Are you okay? she gently patted my back to help me and quickly gave me a bottle of water.

I sipped some water and came back to my senses. My head was spinning and memories were coming back to me. I controlled my tears and tried to put up a normal face. Simmy knew nothing about my past and scars. Don’t worry, I am fine. I don’t know why I choked, I lied. I tried to calm down and steered back towards home.

We hardly spoke during the ten minutes’ drive back home and I was relieved that Simmy was busy on the phone with one of her friends, which meant she was not going to question me further. As I pulled over in front of her house, she thanked me and invited me in for a cup of tea but I declined pretending that I had to attend to some pending work. In reality, all I wanted to do was to crash on my bed and cry. I had to deal with the old memories, gather all my courage as my mind would relive the worst moments of my life.

I did not want mom to see me in this state. I let myself in using my own keys instead of ringing the bell. I opened the door discreetly, quietly placed all the shopping bags on the kitchen table and rushed up to my bedroom. I saw her sitting in the hall from the stairs, looking at me. Mom, I had a long day. I will just shower and come down, I said in an attempt to make things sound normal.

Yeah, sure. Come fast, I made your favourite dishes today! she answered.

Once I reached my room, I closed the door, locked it and ran to bathroom to run a hot shower. I let the water flow on me while I cried. I cried till there were no tears left. I must have been in the shower for over 20 minutes when I heard mom knocking at the bedroom door and reminding me that the food was getting cold. I told her I would join her in a short while. No matter how much I would shower and clean myself, the dirt would not leave me.

I wore my red pyjamas, my brown sweater and socks and ran down to the kitchen. I put on a brave face and said, Wow, mom, it smells great! I pulled out a chair and mom served me some hot rotis and some gravies. I could sense that she had all eyes on me. I kept my head down to hide the redness in my eyes, not wanting to get her worried. She came closer, lifted my face up with her hand and made me look at her.

Have you been crying? She knew me too well.

No, I have not been crying, I tried to change the topic. Oh wow, you made chicken curry.

Don’t lie to me. You used your own set of keys today, ran up the stairs without hugging me. Your eyes are red. I am your mother. I can read your eyes and I can see through you! She could read me like an open book. That was it! I couldn’t hold it in any further. Tears poured from my eyes and she held me tight. I am with you. Did you think about it again? she asked.

Yes, Maa! I said and the tears came gushing back. She brought her chair closer to mine and held me tight. Some 15 minutes later, when I felt lighter, she convinced me to eat. She broke the silence to ask if I wanted an appointment the next day with Dr. Peters and I agreed straight away. Dr. Peters was the psychologist I had consulted since I moved to London. She was remarkably good and specialised in counselling rape victims, helping them cope with Rape Trauma Syndrome (RTS).

Later at night, mom and I watched some television, and then she insisted that I get to bed early. She handled me like I was a child. I wished her goodnight and snuggled in my bed. She left my room, but I was not sleepy. I tossed and turned, and was agitated. It was at around 3:00 AM when finally my eyes gave in to the heavy drowsiness.

CHAPTER


Having forgotten to set my alarm, I woke up late in a state of panic. I just about managed to get ready in record-breaking time, wearing a pink knee-length dress and a white jacket. With little time on hand for breakfast, I resorted to a bowl of wheat flakes. Mom joined me. Dr. Ryan Percy came by yesterday afternoon to give you this, she mumbled, placing my brown pouch in my hand. She set a cup of piping hot tea before me.

Dr. Who? I asked her, perplexed.

He is such a nice boy, Sonal! He came all the way to our house to hand deliver this. Had it been another person, your personal information could have been misused, she said.

I was still clueless. Mom, hold on! Just relax, tell me who is this Dr. Percy and how on earth did he have my pouch with him?

Well this Dr. Ryan Percy came home yesterday around three, last afternoon, looking for you. When I said that you were at work, he asked me to give this to you. Apparently, you bumped into each other yesterday at Patel’s. He helped you collect your belongings but this pouch was left behind under a shelf. He carefully pocketed the papers that had fallen while Simmy was busy. She did not notice your little accident. He tried to return it to you, but when he came out of the store, you had already left. He went back in the store and casually asked Simmy about you. Simmy refused to give him any information so he decided to return it personally, especially when he saw your bank papers. He saw our address and that is how he landed up here, she explained.

Now it made sense as to why Mr. Stranger was waving and following me yesterday when I was leaving Patel’s parking area. I quickly went through the pouch and found all the original contents intact. I was relieved, but at the same time, appalled and uncomfortable at the thought that he must have checked my bank statements and my store’s courier, to figure out how to return the pouch to me. It was a nice gesture, but unnerving, at the same time.

He is so well mannered and, you know, he is single, said mom. As if I wanted to know!

Good to know, mom. I suppose by now you already know his favourite TV show, his date of birth and his shoe size, I mocked her, knowing how inquisitive and curious she

could be.

Don’t be silly, I didn’t ask for his full bio data! She was not happy about the comment I had just made.

Why didn’t you mention this yesterday? I snapped.

Last night, you were upset, so I felt it was not appropriate. She appeared serious. Sonal, I know it’s not what you want to hear but it’s been six years now. You need to move on and start seeing someone. I have turned down so many good proposals for you as I did not want to push you. But now it is high time that you come out of your shell. You need to secure a good future.

Are you trying to hook me up with this stranger who just landed up at our doorstep yesterday? I argued, upset. I cannot trust a man, mom. We have talked about this a million times. Please let it go.

She stayed quiet and then blurted, Ryan enjoys Indian food. As a token of appreciation of his kind gesture, I invited him this evening for my homemade chicken masala samosas and tea.

Brilliant! That was just what I needed to hear! Oh great, mom! Since you have been so kind to him, feel free to have him over. I will not participate in this plan of yours so please expect me to return home late tonight.

No! You cannot do that. I told him that you would want to thank him personally. So don’t duck out, she ranted. He will be here at 6:30. Don’t make me look like a fool by being absent. Let me remind you that it was your personal belongings that he brought back home, not mine.

I was so mad at her that I just stared at her and said, mom, you are such a…

Mom was a champion at changing topics. I managed to get your appointment with Dr. Peters at ten, you are running late. Get going now. I’ll inform the girls that you will come late today so you can head directly to the clinic! I swallowed the tea in one swig, and drove out of the house in a few minutes.

I reached at Dr. Peters’ clinic sharp at 10:00 AM. She was in her fifties and was one of the most renowned psychiatrists in town. If I was alive, I owed it greatly to her. She received me first when I was going through my acute stage of RTS. I was very dull, disorganised, sick and anxious. I had the obsession of cleaning myself. I was profusely confused, hysterical and crying all the time. I was acutely sensitive to people’s behaviour towards me. She managed to pull me out of that stage slowly, but effectively.

According to Dr. Peters, I was still progressing in the Outward Adjustment Stage of RTS, which could last from many months to years after a rape. She did make me understand that each victim had various mechanisms of coping in this stage in order to resume a normal lifestyle. Those included pretending that all was fine, dramatization, suppression of the rape episode and changes in lifestyle and the environment. I was suppressing my assault as I hated discussing it. I made changes to my lifestyle with a change in career and the country I lived in. I was trying to work on my sense of helplessness, mood swings, hostility towards men, sleep disturbances, nightmares, flashbacks and panic attacks with Dr. Peters.

Dr Peters was happy to see me, as always. I briefed her on what had happened at the store and the incident in the car

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