‘BREAKING NEWS: Debutante actress, Maria Fernandez is getting married: But, that is not the big news. The big news is that she is getting married to Samarendra Pratap Singh.’

Sitting in my bridal gown at the church, I looked at this 2-month-old magazine cover and then at myself in the mirror. These two months, probably have been the most eventful time of my life since my childhood. Samy aka Samarendra Pratap Singh was the most eligible bachelor in town and of course a multi-millionaire businessman with a family inheritance on his own. He belonged to the royal family, and currently managing all their businesses. He lost his dad at a very young age, so he had to take care of the business. His mother and his younger brother, Raghavendra Pratap Singh adore him in every respect. Everyone praised him and respected him a lot; he created a name for himself by achieving a lot at a young age. It seemed that Samarendar Pratap Singh was flawless. He had his group of friends and well-wishers but he also had his share of business rivals and enemies, both inside and outside the family

Nevertheless, he was ‘the’ talk of the town and everybody KNEW him. But, I didn’t, at least till two and a half months back. I came to the city from a small town to make a career and a life of my own. I was good at dancing, something I had picked up from my mother. After some initial struggle, I got a break in a TV soap with a very small role. Gradually, I got noticed and last a couple of months back, I got a big break in a movie under a moderately famous banner. People like my work and moves. It was at the launch party that I first saw Samarendra Pratap Singh and got to know about him from my friends in the industry. Men were envious, yet they were either courteous or obsequious, and the women were head over heels for him, but mostly for his wealth and power, I guessed.

I was a nobody in front of him, and suddenly my director introduced me to him. I was still not sure how to react in front of such an influential man, but he was chivalrous enough to make me feel at ease. Our first encounter wasn’t eventful, but my friend, Mona later told me that his eyes were following me throughout the party. I dismissed by saying that she was exaggerating, but I was soon going to find out.

A couple of days later, I got a call from Samarendra Pratap Singh’s office. I was not sure why I was called, but I didn’t refuse as I was looking out for opportunities.

Samarendra (I started to call him Samy) hired me for a project, which later I came to know was modelled only because of me. Our meetings started increasing, and so did our intimacy. I liked the person I got to know, and Samy loved me to the core.

Considering the poverty and problems that I had seen in my childhood, this was such a pleasant and refreshing change in my life. He never asked me about my past, and I never bothered to tell him. One day, Samy took me by surprise, when he proposed to me in a media event. I could not help but say yes. I felt that I was on cloud nine. Samy took me to his mother, who was not particularly happy with our alliance because she wanted a more royal bride for his son. But, later she agreed as her son’s happiness came before anything. She accepted me and insisted that we get married soon.

On my insistence, we decided to have a quick ceremony at the Church and then the gala Hindu wedding according to their traditions. We were all over the media, and people waited eagerly for the mega marriage event of the town.

Finally, the day was here, and I stood there with anxiety…

I was surprised to see the Police Commissioner at the wedding, that too in uniform. He and his men walked up to Samy’s mother and spoke for a few seconds. Her reactions scared me. She sat on the chair with a thud, and Raghav ran to hold her.

From a distance, I was not sure what was happening, but the reactions and commotions indicated that the news was not something pleasant. By now, everyone in the audience knew what was happening, and Raghav walked down the aisle and came to me.

He said, “Maria, I have some bad news. Brother’s car met with an accident and toppled off the cliff. We don’t know how, why and what he was doing there when he should have been on his way to the wedding. Though the police are yet to recover his body, they think that no one can survive that fall.”

My mind went back to the events last night. It was the day that I lost my parents, so I was not in the best of moods. But, I was happy that I will start a new life and thought Samy will also mend his ways soon. I was tired and I just wanted to sleep off. But, Samy called me for a surprise before the wedding. I refused, but he was adamant. I reached one of his farmhouses in my own car, he has insisted. There was no one except us. He took me to a room lit by candles. Samy was already drunk and he started getting physical with me. There was a sexy dress on the bed. I was not in the mood, so I kept refusing. Soon, the real Samarendra Pratap Singh came out and he started losing control. He took out his belt…suddenly, the demeanour of my father flashed in front of my eyes. And, I got a similar strength as I did as a child, and took a brass vase and gave a blow to Samy’s head.

He fell on the floor in a pool of blood. I didn’t realize that I killed him until I  checked his breath, and my blood froze. What I did next was like a process; I just executed. I dug up a section of the backyard. It started raining so it was easy to dig the moist soil. I wrapped his body in a sheet and I buried him deep down. I cleaned the room as if no one had been there, and once I was sure that everything looked normal, I drove back home in the rains. I hoped that no one saw me going and coming. I had switched on my phone while coming, so I went back and switched on my phone at my home. Leaving my phone there, I drove back to the farmhouse, drove Samy’s car to a nearby cliff and let it roll down. Then, I drove back home and started getting ready for the wedding, the next morning as if I had no remorse. I meticulously took care of all the loose ends to make the crime look ‘perfect’.

Since our wedding date was announced, I got to see a new side of Samy. His unusual demands, his madness, his possessiveness, his anger, his rage and his ABUSE. I saw a completely different person from what the world knew. His physical abuse increased and every night I shrieked in trauma and pain whenever I did not agree to give in to his demands. He wanted me to forget myself and be his puppet, be at his disposal ALWAYS.

And, last night, he broke all boundaries, and I had to break mine…

Yes, I had killed my husband-to-be, the love of my life, else I would have died every day and every night, just like my mother did…

I was born to Sunanda Mahtre and Benny Gonzalves in a small town. My mother named me Meera. My mother was a dancer, a bar dancer, and my father was one small-time contractor. As I grew, I became aware of the family problems – poverty, abuse and social degradation. The money went faster than it came. With time, my father kept losing money in gambling and made no efforts to earn. He would come home drunk, and abuse my mother, both physically and mentally. I had seen my mother work day (working as a maid)  and night to earn, and my father wastes all that money on alcohol and gambling. There was a time when he wanted me to join the dance bar and start earning money. But, my mother protested and faced his wrath. Soon, my mother got pregnant once again, but that did not stop my father from abusing her.

But, one night, hell broke loose. My father pushed my mother in a rage and her stomach hit the table corner and she fell on the ground, crouching in pain. I could see blood coming out of her abdomen. I knew that my sibling was no more. In a fit of rage, I took a knife and plunged into my father’s heart, and he fell beside my mother crying in agony. My mother took the knife from my hand and asked me to run, run as fast as possible and go away as far as possible. I was in tears, but I did what she said. I hid in a nearby bush. The police came and declared both my parents as dead. The neighbours informed them about me, but the police thought that I must have run away and they had no time to search for me. The case was closed stating that my mother killed my father due to domestic violence.  

My journey from Meera to Maria Fernandez is another story.

I knew that I had committed crime that is punishable by the law, but in my heart, I knew that I had to SURVIVE with my life and my self-esteem.

The wedding was called off, and I knew that I had survived but till when?

Six months have passed now. The police still have no clue about Samy’s body. They even think that he might be alive, but there is not strong evidence. They decided to close the case. Raghav is taking care of the business and he is doing pretty well. We have become closer than we used to be. The memories of Samarendra Pratap Singh are gradually fading away from everyone’s mind except his mother. He remains to be one of the best men that the town has known.

Today is my wedding day. Dressed in the same wedding gown, I wait for my groom. We decided to have a quick Christian wedding before the main Hindu wedding. He walked down the aisle and faced him for his vows.

After the ritual, we were pronounced husband and wife. Raghav leaned and kissed me on my cheeks. The reporters managed a few quick shots, and the audience applauded with claps. I was ready to forget and bury my past and start afresh.

That night, Raghav held my hand and said, “Maria, I love you, and I wanted to give you some good news on this day. I know you loved brother a lot, and you are still probably in love with him. It is difficult for both of us to forget him. So, I have decided to re-open the case and this time, I will personally look into the matter to find out the real truth. We will KNOW what happened to him and how. I will not let go of the person(s) who are responsible.”

I managed a lame smile and we hugged. Deep inside, my heart cringed. Will my present husband spare me when he gets to know the truth? Will my past come back to haunt my future?

With this fear, I started a new phase in my life and I hope to SURVIVE like I had done last time!!!

*****