I still remember the look in her eyes that day. They burned with a flame or, perhaps more accurately, with embers waiting to ignite a fire.

In fact, it was those embers that caused me to even notice her that day. Most of us didn’t pay each other much attention. We each sat there emotionless, staring. Some watched cartoons on a small television. Some scribbled drawings on scraps of paper. The only thing we shared was our existence – a painful, empty existence.

Making things worse, we all knew they were there. Those…animals…vultures…monsters. We knew they were just outside the window looking at us, deciding which of us looked ample to satisfy their evil hunger. But we refused to acknowledge them. We busied ourselves in an attempt to ignore them – as if ignoring them would prevent their assaults.

But Kali was different. Kali didn’t stare off into the distance or pretend to watch cartoons. Instead, she stood in the middle of the room and stared directly at the window. Her jaw was set and her eyes were focused, declaring a stark defiance. Her arms dangled at her sides.

I remember watching her and wondering where this energy.. this… life… came from. She was not naive. She had been abused many times over the past three months since she had arrived. She was well beyond the point when most kids retreated within themselves and shut the world out. It was pointless to fight or to hope or to dream. This was our life now.

But there she stood, staring angrily at the window as if daring one of these predators to choose her. Like most of the other girls she was wearing a red dress. And, like the others, she wore a number. Her number was 146. Mine was 113.

It would be several days before I found out everything that happened that day. The rumors that circulated were obviously tainted by lies told by the family that imprisoned us. Having lived inside the children’s brothel and witnessing part of the event I could eventually separate the fact from the fiction.

Apparently one of the buyers that day had selected Kali. It’s likely he was aroused by the challenge that this brash young girl’s demeanor conveyed. From my experiences, I imagine he was determined to break her spirit and control her.

Apparently Kali had somehow secured a small piece of metal that could be used as a knife. I have no idea how she managed to hide it without being caught. I do know that she must have waited for the right time to strike because she was gone for several hours that day before the chaos began.

From what I gathered Kali stabbed him in the throat. Oh, I wish I could have seen that. The chaos and yelling began only after she was spotted in the hallway dripping of blood. She didn’t try to run, choosing instead to walk deliberately down the hall toward her captors.

I have often felt guilty for running that day. I resent not trying to help Kali. She had done what all of us only wished to do – strike back. But my opportunity was brief. The door was unguarded and I knew it was likely my last chance to run.

I think of her every day. She gave me my freedom. She also gave me much more – she gave me these embers that are still burning today waiting for the right time to ignite a larger fire.

 

Footnote: This story is fiction, but it is unfortunately inspired by real events that happen every day around the world in practically every country. To read the real story that inspired this fictional account and learn more about modern day slavery, check out http://love146.org/love-story. Also, check out http://www.itsnotmyfault.org/ to learn more.