Wings

Wings

by Sunny Angel

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781999763206
Publisher: Red Admiral Press
Publication date: 07/10/2017
Pages: 298
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)

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CHAPTER 1

TOWN CALLED MALICE

I'm Sunny, a single mum from Woking with one beautiful daughter, Maya, a cat called Mo and two snakes, Houdini and Jaya. People have often told me I should write a book about my life.

*
I was born on the 4 of July 1978 at St Peter's Hospital in Chertsey, Surrey. My family lived in a village on the outskirts of Woking, a commuter town twenty miles south-west of London. My parents are Indian – Hindu Punjabis – and we were the only Indians in the village.

At 16, I went to college to study A-levels, but my mother and older brother, Dilip, told me I wouldn't be allowed to go to university. Dilip was studying Maths at Oxford at the time. Traditionally, big brothers have considerable influence and responsibility in Indian families. This attitude was far from the norm in our community and both my brothers married university graduates. But the family envisioned an arranged marriage for me in the future, and higher education was not on the agenda. So, I didn't see the point in continuing in full-time education. I dropped out of college after a year and started working, aged 17. I also took up smoking and drinking in the pub, but only at lunchtimes – I wasn't allowed out at night, or allowed much of a social life, really, so I wasn't streetwise.

I got my first job in 1995 at Modo Merchants, a paper wholesaler in Weybridge. It was a warehouse on an industrial estate. My role involved making mock-ups of books and CD covers. The pay wasn't great, but I loved being able to buy my own clothes and run a car.

At work, I used to sign for the parcels that came to reception. There was an Asian delivery man who would take my signature and always gaze at me, unembarrassed, with a piercing stare. This was slightly creepy, although, he was quite good-looking, with a goatee beard, but I didn't pay too much attention at the time. In February 1997, I got a job at Galleon – BBC Magazine Subscriptions in Woking. It was a call centre within walking distance of my parents' home. The people were nice and I enjoyed the work.

Around this time, I began to sense that I was being watched. When I was driving, a car would flash me for no reason. Talking to a friend in the street, I would feel someone staring at me. But, when I looked around, no one stood out. I noticed camera flashes and believed I was being photographed. I became obsessed with the idea that I was being followed.

One Saturday morning – 15 March 1997 – I planned to go to Woking town centre to meet a boy to sort out a misunderstanding. Just childish stuff. Even though I was now 18, I wasn't allowed out on my own without good reason. As a diversion, I went to see a girlfriend, Naz. Mum dropped me off at Naz's house. I only had two hours to get to town and back. I did have my own car, but Mum didn't let me use it, except for work. I asked Naz to cover for me. She wasn't entirely happy, but agreed, urging me to 'Just get back in time.' I hurried to town on foot. It took about thirty minutes as I went the long way to avoid my parents' house. I wasn't used to going into Woking alone. I felt nervous – I wasn't comfortable lying and wondered whether I was doing the right thing. The sky was light grey, spring was still around the corner, and I remember feeling something wasn't right about the day.

I rang The Boy and arranged to meet him in the bandstand area, a slightly secluded place outside the back of the shopping centre. He arrived after me and we sat on a bench. It was early; not many people were out shopping yet. The Boy was Asian, of Pakistani origin. Like me, he wasn't supposed to hang out with the opposite sex and seemed worried about being seen in public with a female. While we were talking, The Boy suddenly looked up and stared at an Asian man in his thirties, about ten yards away, leaning against the bandstand, watching us intently. The Boy blurted out nervously, 'That man's a nutter!' and began telling a story about the man and a girl, but he was mumbling and not making sense. I don't think he wanted the stranger to hear what he was saying. The man continued to stare and, after about a minute, he walked towards us. The Boy seemed frightened as the stranger drew closer and hurriedly arranged to meet me somewhere else in five minutes. Whispering, 'Go quickly!' he stood up and disappeared swiftly into the shopping centre where he worked. The stranger approached, staring straight at me. As I stood to leave, he strode right up to me, blocking my path. I tried to walk around him, but he stepped sideways and held his arm out in front of me.

The stranger was only a little taller than me, but carried himself confidently. He had waxed, shiny hair and thick, black eyebrows that perched above dark brown eyes – bloodshot eyes – which bored into mine. I looked away,overpowered, then back at the stranger, who held my gaze like a cobra with its prey. The corners of his mouth pointed down slightly, like he knew pain.

'Excuse me!' I protested, trying to get past. My mouth was dry – there was no one else around.

'You shouldn't speak to that boy, Sunita.' I was stunned. How did he know my name? 'Your name is Sunita, isn't it? Stay away from that boy, I warn you. He might rape you. I've been looking out for you.'

A chill ran down my spine, but I felt I had to say something.

'Who are you? How do you know my name?'

'I've been watching you, Sunita, for a long time. Following you. You drive a white Nissan, don't you? You parked on the corner by the car park the other day, didn't you? You wore a skirt and boots on Friday. You smoke, don't you? And drink? Your family don't care about you much, do they?' This was scary – everything the stranger said was true. Then he added, 'I loved and lost a Sunita once. Tell me, could you be my Sunita?' He sounded disturbed.

'I'm sorry you lost a Sunita. No, I'm not her. I had a feeling someone was following me. Now I know I'm right. You're a nutter, please go away! Leave me alone!' As I tried to walk away, he grabbed my wrist and forcefully pulled me towards him.

'I know where you live. You will do what I say. My name is Raj. I'm Indian like you.' He seemed to make a point of saying that – I'm one of you. Raj is a popular Indian name that comes from the ancient Sanskrit for king. Still gripping tightly, Raj told me, 'I know about your family. I've been watching them, too. There's your mum and dad, and two brothers. I know what time they all leave and come back to the house.' I tried to twist my arm free but couldn't. Even my bones felt Raj's grip.

'Why are you doing this? I don't know you. Have I ever hurt you?' I asked.

Raj clarified his intentions. 'I always get what I want, and I will get you!' Then he let go of me. I laughed nervously and tried to walk on, but he stood in the way again and recited my number plate, Dad's number plate, and told me where Mum worked. When Raj explained that he used to work for a parcel delivery company, the penny dropped. He was the delivery man from my first workplace, now clean-shaven. 'I used to follow you on the train when you went to college.' I'd been on a day release course at my previous job. Raj seemed more proud than embarrassed by his revelation, adding, 'It was rude of you not to acknowledge me.' My chest felt heavy, I was breathless, but now knew I'd been right about being followed.

I'd forgotten to keep an eye on the time. My mobile phone rang. It was Naz, panicking. Mum had turned up at her house early, so Naz had to tell her I'd gone into town. Now I had to call Mum, who didn't even know I owned a mobile. My big brother, Dilip, had set up a phone contract for me in his name when I was 17, without my parents' knowledge as they wouldn't have approved. Mum shouted, 'Where the hell are you?' and arranged to come and pick me up. Raj listened to my conversation and teased me.

'I can't believe you lied, that's so bad! What are you gonna tell your mum now? Tell her you're with me!'

'What? No way! If my Mum sees me with a man, she'll kill me.'

Raj put his arm around me. I didn't try to stop him. He wasn't using force now, so it seemed safer that way. He whispered, 'Your mum doesn't care about you,' before adding, 'May God protect you from evil.' Then he wrote a landline number on a scrap of paper and put it in my pocket. I wanted to rip it up, but I was frightened of his response. Raj stayed with me while I waited for Mum. When I saw her pulling up, I moved away quickly from Raj, who melted into the background, promising, 'I know where you are, you'll be seeing me.'

CHAPTER 2

BIG BAD WOLF

Mum shouted at me all the way home. She had a habit of making me feel worthless. 'Gandi goori (dirty girl). Why you lying with me? Where you go?'

During the day, I just kept looking at Raj's number, like I was drawn to it. I rang The Boy, but there was no answer.

I called my friend, Adil. 'Look, I saw this man, Raj.' My description of Raj struck a chord with Adil, who warned, 'If it's Khan, stay away.'

'No, he told me he was a Hindu called Raj.'

I decided to ring Raj and tell him to stop stalking me. Dialling the number, I heard Dad coming up the stairs, so I hung up – Dad didn't know about the phone either. In my panic, I failed to realise that Raj would now have my number. A little later, I received a voice message – this was before texts. It sounded like Raj.

'How are you?'

The phone rang again – I ignored it. Raj left another message. 'I'm coming by your house in two minutes. Look out the window.' My parents' house was quite secluded, so I thought he couldn't possibly know where I lived. But a couple of minutes later, Raj was standing in the street right in front of our house. The realisation that Raj had been here before, hit me. Worried sick, I went downstairs to tell Mumand Dad, but wasn't quite sure how to tell them. Part of the problem was, I'd tricked Mum into believing I was going to Naz's house, but had been caught out sneaking secretly to town instead.

'There's this man been following me for months, flashing his lights at me in the car.'

Dad laughed. 'Don't worry about it. It's just someone having a joke, maybe. Bewakoof!' This is Punjabi for stupid.

'Why would anybody follow you?' added Mum. They didn't seem interested, so I went back upstairs and looked out of the window. Raj was still standing there in the street. He saw me, turned away and walked to the payphone up the road, and called me again.

'See? I told you. Now, next time I ring, you answer your phone. If you don't answer your phone, I'm going to burn the house down. Do you understand me?' Raj spoke very deliberately. He sounded like he meant every word. Terror struck me as I tried to digest what he'd said. I hoped Raj was joking, but I didn't really think he was. Peeking out of the window anxiously, I saw that Raj was now back in front of the house with a gas lighter, flashing it: on – off – on – off. The features on Raj's face lit up. He looked up at me, a look that said he meant business. I put my hand up as if to say, please stop.

I turned away briefly as Mum called me from downstairs to help with the cooking. When I looked back to the street, Raj had disappeared. Had he given up his little hoax? Or had he gone to get petrol? Was he already putting petrol around the house? My phone rang. 'If you don't do as I tell you, I will throw acid on your mum's face. I'll stab your dad. I'll kill your brothers. If you don't do what I tell you, this is what's going to happen. These are the consequences.'

Time seemed to stand still – I felt faint. I pleaded indesperation. 'OK. Please don't hurt my family. Right, now, cards on the table. I've got a mobile phone, which my Dad doesn't know about. If you want to carry on talking to me on this number, you've got to know that I can't answer it every time you call, but I'll pick it up when I can. OK?'

Twenty minutes passed. Raj called me once more from a payphone. He said he wanted to see me again. He wanted me to come outside the house. I begged him not to, telling him, truthfully, that I wouldn't be allowed out. Raj accepted this, but told me he would come back on Monday morning and walk me to work. He dictated which route I was to take and at what time. Of course, he already knew where I worked and what time I started.

I realised I was in trouble and out of my depth. I tried to tell my parents about Raj again. It was difficult. We just didn't discuss things. 'Someone stopped me in town. He's been following me for months.'

But I couldn't get through to them. Dad was in a world of his own, watching television and drinking beer. He looked at me, then back at the telly. Mum had followed me into the room. 'Tsoh! No one following you!'

Sunday was nerve wracking. I wondered what would happen on Monday. Should I do as Raj asked? Or should I call the police? It's hard to explain now. I feared for my safety and that of my family, but I couldn't talk to them about it. I didn't know what to do. I was young and inexperienced, very naïve, and felt I had no choice but to deal with Raj myself.

Monday 17th March 1997. I took big, deep breaths as I got ready for work that morning. Mum had caught me lending my car to my friend, Moonie, the week before, so I wasn't allowed to drive to work and had to walk. As soon as I left the house, I spotted Raj at the end of the road, waiting for me. Damn! Call in sick, I thought. But then I realised I would be home alone. Better to be in public should Raj turn violent. Warily approaching the end of my road where Raj stood, I looked back at the house. When I turned around, Raj had disappeared. I looked left and right at the junction but couldn't see him anywhere, so I continued walking. When I crossed the road, Raj appeared suddenly from a footpath and grabbed me, covering my mouth so I couldn't scream. I struggled, but Raj tightened his grip. I was helpless, but I tried to pull his hand away from my mouth and nose so I could breathe. He whispered slowly in my ear, a sinister sound that haunts me still.

'Stop struggling. I will let you go. Don't scream, OK? Just smile and I will walk you to work.' I will – not I'll – Raj spoke like this when emphasising a point. His voice was slightly high pitched, almost like a buzzing sound. With Raj's hand still over my mouth, and his other arm gripping me tightly, I nodded my head in submission. It all happened so quickly, I couldn't think straight. Raj let go of me but stayed close, like a shadow. He kept bumping into me and pushing me. I couldn't understand why, but he was like a dog with a new toy. As we went past The Bridge Barn pub, Raj shoved me hard and his mood turned nasty. 'Recognise this place? This pub? This is where I've seen you having a drink with a white man. What do you think you're doing? Indian girls don't do this. How dare you!' He then changed his tone and laughed. 'You must be very special and strong. You have guts. I admire you.' We were nearing my workplace, which wasn't far. Raj kept looking me up and down, examining me. He said he wasn't happy with the office suit I was wearing. I told him it was none of his business. Raj replied, speaking very deliberately. 'I am here to help you. I care for you. Your family don't, Sunita. It's a cruel world out there. You are so special.'

No one had ever called me 'special' before. Raj told mehe would meet me for lunch so we could talk more without my family knowing. Just before lunchtime, I looked out of the window. Raj was already waiting for me. I felt uneasy, but didn't say anything to anyone. I went downstairs, where Raj greeted me at the entrance. He asked what I normally did at lunchtime.

'I go to the petrol station for a sandwich and a drink.'

'You may do that today,' he replied, as if giving me permission. So, we went to the Jet Petrol Station, a minute's walk away. The Asian cashier looked oddly at us, as if he knew Raj, who approached the counter without leaving my side. The cashier greeted him with a Muslim greeting, 'Salaam Sahib', which seemed strange as Raj claimed he was Hindu, like me. After lunch, Raj walked me back to work. He called later to say he would be waiting to walk me home and dictated the route. When home time arrived, Raj was outside as promised. He accompanied me to the end of my road and watched me until I entered the house. It felt like I was in a strange dream. Was I imagining all this? I went to help Mum in the kitchen. I wanted to tell her what happened, but couldn't. We didn't have that type of relationship. I went upstairs to my room, confused and isolated, and I cried, hugging my teddy bear.

The next day, Raj took me to a pub car park at lunchtime, pretending he was taking me for a drink. He shouted at me and pushed me into his car, where we just sat. He wouldn't let me eat my sandwich from the petrol station, so I spent the afternoon hungry. He was controlling me, testing me. I was angry, but, again, I was too scared to protest. On Wednesday, I made sandwiches to eat at my desk, which made Mum ask why. I told her I was working through lunch.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Wings"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Sunny Angel.
Excerpted by permission of Red Admiral Press Ltd..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Prologue – Ray's Ashes,
Chapter 1 – Town Called Malice,
Chapter 2 – Big Bad Wolf,
Chapter 3 – Rock and a Hard Place,
Chapter 4 – The Wrath of Khan,
Chapter 5 – Methadone in His Madness,
Chapter 6 – Stargazing,
Chapter 7 – Poster Boy,
Chapter 8 – Wings,
Chapter 9 – Big Brother,
Chapter 10 – A Walk in the Park,
Chapter 11 – Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow,
Chapter 12 – Knight in Shining Armour,
Chapter 13 – A Passage to India,
Chapter 14 – The Exorcist,
Chapter 15 – Tissue of Lies,
Chapter 16 – Back to Blighty,
Chapter 17 – Fred,
Chapter 18 – One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest,
Chapter 19 – Looking for Mr Right,
Chapter 20 – Employee of the Month,
Chapter 21 – Knight on a White Charger,
Chapter 22 – A Box of Chocolates,
Chapter 23 – Toy Soldiers,
Chapter 24 – Dud Chacha,
Chapter 25 – Honeymoon,
Chapter 26 – Happy Birthday, Sunita,
Chapter 27 – Eight Days a Week,
Chapter 28 – Poison Pen,
Chapter 29 – Pieces of Me,
Epilogue – A Tale of Two Husbands,
Helplines,
Dedications & Acknowledgments,

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