February 14, 11 PM, Forest Area... A 24 years old woman gasped heavily covering her hand on the mouth as hard as she can... She heard the leaves rustling sound. Her heart was thumping with fear that made her sweat profusely in the chilly weather. Her eyes were popping out looking for danger that is lurking behind her. She was praying to god insanely in her heart in a helpless way to save her. Suddenly, a man who was in his mid-twenties grasped her hand that was resting on the tree. "Caught you, my love! You left so early. Not fair, darling. It's time to celebrate. Come! I am waiting for you. Come...or else I may have to choose another way to take you by hook or crook." said the man, gripping her hand tightly. The woman started shivering and resisted his advances towards her. Finally, he got irritated and slapped her hard. The woman's lip was bleeding and tears were flowing from her eyes continuously. "Ritu! Come now. Enough of this drama. Let's spice up this night!" said the man with dirty intentions in his mind. "Rishi! I thought you are a nice person. Please don't make me hate myself for misjudging you. Please, let me go! I trusted you. Please change your thought process. Try to realize that you are trying to commit a crime. You are not my love anymore. Please!" said Ritu, trying to free her hand from Rishi. Rishi twisted her hand back and held her cheeks tight and said "Dear princess! Didn't your parents teach that you should never trust a stranger so easily? Didn't they teach you going to late-night parties will land you into trouble? See it's not my mistake. You were the one who danced with me at the party. You were the one who smiled at me. You were the one who became the scapegoat. So be ready to offer yourself to me." holding her hand still and kissing her cheek. For the first time, Ritu hated herself and his closeness towards her. She forcibly pushed him with her body in an attempt to free herself. Both fell on the ground. Ritu got a chance to escape and finally used her running skills. Ritu was a state-level runner which Rishi wasn't aware of. Rishi was stunned to see her run like a deer. With full determination to catch her, he chased as if she was his prey. Both ran deep into the forest. Ritu was feeling tired and was missing her parents. She was guilt-ridden and thoughts raced in her mind faster than her. "Sorry, mom and dad! I should have listened to you. I am paying for my wrongdoing." continued Ritu and started remembering the incidents that landed her in this grave danger. February 10, 8 pm, The Party, "Hi, Ritu! How are you? Glad to meet you. Finally, you have come to the party. Did your parents give the permission?" asked Ritu's bestie Reema hugging her tight. "Yeah! I pleaded with them a lot and finally, they accepted on one condition that I reach home early! Don't do this and don't ask that... Hugh...tired of hearing their preaching" said Ritu, making a displeased face. "Okay! Spend the time wisely. Gear up for the party. Keep the spirit high. Who knows you may find your prince charming today!" yelled Reema emptying a full glass of wine. Ritu joined her and started dancing when the DJ played the party theme songs. The host announced a surprise element "Here we present to dance with masks. Everyone must pick up a chit from this bowl and will be paired up with an anonymous partner. Let's have some fun " Everyone shouted and applauded with joy. Everyone picked up the chit and started dancing. Ritu too got a stranger as her partner. "What's your name? You are dancing pretty well. Who are you?" whispered the stranger in her ear softly "I am Ritu! I am Reema's best friend. I work for an MNC (Multi-National Company). So who are you?" Ritu questioned him back. "I am a Prithvi. I am a cousin of Reema. I work as a manager in a private firm. So, what are your plans?" asked Prithvi and continued to chat with her while dancing to DJ's tunes. Both danced sensuously and were appreciated by the people at the party. Prithvi got a call and excused himself for a few minutes. Meanwhile, Ritu and Reema were enjoying drinking glasses of wine and Ritu fell in love with Prithvi. Reema snapped her finger and brought Ritu back to her sense who was lost in Prithvi's thoughts. They competed against each other for the wine glasses playfully. Finally, they were fully drunk. A few minutes later, "Hi, Prithvi! So how about one more dance in the name of my bestie?" said Ritu losing her senses imagining a masked person in front of her as Prithvi. The person took this chance and danced with her. He behaved oddly with her which went unnoticed by others including Ritu who was drunk. He was taking advantage of her condition and was about to kiss her. Prithvi arrived there in the nick of time and stopped him from kissing her. "Rishi! I had fallen for her. She is my love. So let her go!" said Prithvi and took her close to his chest. Prithvi held Ritu's hand and searched for her whereabouts in her bag. He safely dropped her home. Rishi was green-eyed seeing his best friend Prithvi paying more attention to Ritu. He made up his mind to destroy Ritu's life. He stalked her. He took advantage of the masquerade party as Ritu did not see Prithvi's real face. He had become an imposter of Prithvi and grabbed her attention. Within three days, Ritu became so close to him that she decided to propose to him. Prithvi was startled to see this all. His best friend cheated on him to destroy a girl's life. This fact did not go smooth for Prithvi. He decided to reveal Rishi's intentions to Ritu. But Ritu who has fallen head over heels in love with the imposter Rishi did not believe him and insulted Prithvi in front of Rishi. Rishi took this to heart and became even more furious. Ritu was surprised to see him in anger and became silent. Prithvi felt dejected and left the place. "Why are you upset? He was trying to break our relation. You didn't say a word to him. Why?" said Ritu with a sense of doubt. "He is my best friend Rishi. That is why I decided to forgive him. But I am upset that you scolded and humiliated him in front of me so badly." said Rishi with a sly look. "So sorry. I am ready to make up for this. Please! Please forgive me. I can't live without you. I love you. I thought you are my prince charming. The way you danced with me at the party and the way you took me home safe was commendable. I loved your good heart. Please don't leave me." said Ritu with a loving look. Rishi took a deep breath and said "I am feeling low. Please! Let me go." making a sad face to make her do what he wants to... "Sorry!" said Ritu and hugged him. Rishi was expecting this and was happy to succeed in his evil motive. "Okay! So, there is a surprise for you on Valentine's Day Feb 14 at my farmhouse. Do join! Even Reema and other friends are coming." said Rishi with an innocent yet sharp look. Ritu on hearing Reema's name assured herself that she is safe and agreed to attend the party. "Okay! Let's meet." chuckled Ritu with a lot of expectations from her prince charming. ********** 14th February, 8 pm, Rishi's Farmhouse, "Happy Valentine's Day!" said Rishi welcoming Ritu inside his farmhouse. Ritu felt very special and for the first time hugged him lovingly. Rishi's lust grew stronger. "So where are the others? I am unable to find anyone here. Is this any kind of prank you are playing on me?" smiled Ritu. "No, my love! They all ditched me at the last moment. They made excuses and wanted to spend with their lovers alone including Reema. I was about to tell you but in this place network is low and my phone battery is dead. Sorry!" said Rishi sympathetically. Seeing him with a sad face, Ritu said "I am here. Let us celebrate." trying to keep him happy. Rishi saw his plan working successfully. He brought the cake and glasses of wine. When they were about to cut the cake, Reema and Prithvi arrived and accused Rishi to be the imposter. Ritu stood still and was shocked to see that Rishi was the one who had enacted as Prithvi to take advantage of her love for Prithvi. Ritu started analyzing the truth slowly and steadily. She recognized the watch which Prithvi wore at the party. Also, the tattoo was on his wrist. Ritu quickly approached Prithvi and checked for the tattoo and found it on his wrist. When she checked for the same on Rishi, she couldn't find it confirming that he was Rishi not who she thought to be. She was in intense anger and slapped him hard. She was walking away with her friends outside the farmhouse. Rishi was enraged and ordered his guards to catch hold of Reema, Ritu, and Prithvi. They caught them and brought them to Rishi. Prithvi was injured badly in an attempt to save the girls. "You only saw my good side. Now, it's time to see my evil side. Get ready Ritu... Lock them in the room." said Rishi to the guards. They followed his orders and locked Reema and Prithvi in the room. While Ritu was scared to hell seeing the happenings, Rishi was busy talking with guards about what to do next. She saw the opportunity and ran from the backyard into the forest. ************ Present... "Dear! I must admit you are a champ in running. But you are forgetting, your best friend and prince charming are in my custody. If you don't surrender yourself to me, then without mercy I am ready to kill them ruthlessly." shouted Rishi with a wicked laugh following her tracks. Hearing those words, Ritu stopped at once. Left with no other option, she surrendered herself for the sake of Reema and Prithvi. Rishi's closeness made her feel irritated. She closed her eyes and silently prayed to the Almighty. He pushed her onto the ground and removed his jacket. He pounced on her. "Ritu! Ritu! You are a brave girl. Don't give up so easily. Life is never easy. Especially you will encounter testing times that will try to snatch away everything you have. Be smart enough to fight them back. You are a special child. Don't let your fear overshadow your braveness." were the words she heard in her mind. These were the words uttered by his father when Ritu gave up estimating she will lose a final match at the State level. "I won't give up! I won't. I am brave." said Ritu instilling courage in her and kicked Rishi who was about to kiss her. Rishi got hurt and was writhing in pain as she kicked his tenders. She got enough time to think about what to do next. She took out her scarf and tied his hands tightly by hitting him with a wooden log lying on the ground. "Now, You are my Prey! Time to pay for the sins you committed," said Ritu lifting her head high. "Ritu! No! You are committing a mistake again. Once I free myself, you are going to meet a fate which is frightful to even imagine." said Rishi growing vengeful and trying hard to untie the scarf. Suddenly, they heard the tiger's roar. Both feared at once. Rishi pleaded softly. "Let us make a truce! You let me go and So I will!" To which Ritu replied, "I am not afraid of that cruel animal. At least it eats to satisfy its hunger but you the cruelest beast. Get ready to meet your fate! Bye forever!" trying to run away from the spot. Ritu succeeded in tracing back the farmhouse. The guards were not found as they were also commanded to search for Ritu who eloped earlier from the farmhouse. She broke the door lock and freed Reema and wounded Prithvi. Three ran out to find a vehicle to escape from the farmhouse. Just then, they heard guards' conversation. Ritu breathed heavily and whispered "Let's fight for our freedom. And let the evil rot in hell." They hid behind the furniture and waited for the guards to enter the room. The guards entered and Ritu turned off the lights. When the guards were about to turn on the mobile flashlight, Prithvi and Reema hit their heads with flower vases making them lose consciousness. Ritu turned on the lights, took the mobile from one of the guards, and had called Police. Finally, Ritu's nightmare came to an end. Police arrived and made arrangements to send them home safely. They searched for Rishi and found his belongings in the forest close by. They intensified the search. Next day... "Good morning, Ritu!" said Ritu's father Kiran caressing her hair affectionately. Ritu woke up and tried to overcome the past incidents. After having breakfast, they sat and started watching TV... "Breaking News! Tiger attacked a man in the forest. Police claimed that his name was Rishi." said the news reporter displaying his blurred half-eaten body. Ritu cried and hugged her father. "Sorry, Dad! I will never commit any such blunder again, I will never trust a stranger easily and fall for his tricks," said Ritu crying inconsolably. Kiran tried to calm her offering a glass of water. "For the first time, I realized my bravery. Had I not been brave, today I wouldn't get my life back intact from that beast. Proud to be me!" said Ritu to herself. ******* The End... Life is not a fairytale. Dangers in our life seem closer than they appear. Be aware!
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