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Have you ever woken up one day and felt all empty? As if there was nothing left of you except that body which you were clinging onto with all your might.

Today was one such day for me. 

The nightmares of the past refuse to leave me. Especially on lonely nights when all I can hear is my own heartbeats around. It was all fine till yesterday, or it seemed so.I woke up, had gone to office, finished my daily routine and was about to leave for home in the evening when Rekha called me.

"Hey, join us in cafeteria. We are planning for Soumya's pre-wedding functions. It's going to be lot of fun."

I politely refused. Even lied that my friend was waiting downstairs to pick me up. And hurried away from there.

What was I even thinking? The whole world knew I had no friends. Neither the type who picked me from work nor the ones who would call just to check on me casually.

I could hear their whispers in the corridor where I was waiting for the lift. "Why is she like this?" one voice wondered while other chipped in "Do you think she is jealous?" 

Leading to the grand conclusion, "Doesn't look like the feminist types who hates men? Why does she behave so strangely?" Followed by lot of giggles before the lift arrived saving me from further embarrassment.

How do I tell them why do I behave like this?

They don't know that since I was 11 all I ever dreamt of was becoming a bride. All decked up from head to toe, gushing, blushing, surrounded by friends and loved ones taking small yet confident steps towards a new life. That's how I always saw myself as an adult. A bride, a radiant, glowing bride who was the most beautiful person on the earth for that one single day.

How do I tell them that I had to pay a huge price for that dream to come true!

My mother refused to give me any jewellery from the heirloom stating it was for her son and his wife. I wore an old saree for my wedding instead of any hand picked bridal dresses. And the first compliment on that special day from my would-be-husband was, "What is wrong with you? You look so ugly today. Couldn't you have chosen a better colour to wear at least for today?" I can never forget the way his mother and other family members kept criticizing my looks, my attire and the amount of gold I was wearing. 

Nightmares do come true and my long cherished dream was turning into an ugly nightmare for me that day. 

The day went by in trying not to break down but night was the hardest. It was an unforgettable one as my husband decided to stake his claim on my body to proudly declare himself as the man and me, his wife. It didn't matter what I felt, or whether I felt anything or not. Sadly, this nightmare became my reality for next coming years as I lived a life of lies and deceit. I didn't recognize the person I saw in the mirror daily, still don't sometimes. It feels as if I was wearing a mask to please everyone around me. And now the mask was suffocating me, refusing to come off. I could no longer make out the real me.

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There was no charming prince to my rescue neither were there any Fairy Godmothers waiting to help me out of this situation.  I don't even remember how I managed to gather the courage to run away from there. All I know is, I survived. I am still undergoing therapy and my panic attacks are much lesser than before now. But somehow, marriages always trigger me. For that's the only thing I ever wished for, to be a happy bride and that one memory hurts me the most from my entire life. Nothing can perhaps break my heart as much as that!

That was yesterday. This is today. My anxiety has taken my whole body under control and I can barely move. I have called in sick at work and am trying to not think of anything that can trigger it further. But the ghosts are haunting me. I am trying to build a bright future, illuminated with hope so that the nightmares of the past can no longer scare me there. 

For I know, I have survived and I will survive. 

P.S: This piece has been written in response to the picture prompt for Friday Figment at Keemiya Creatives Blog

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