The auditorium that was buzzing with voices suddenly came to a silent still. The authoritative voice emanating from the speaker continued.
"Please form a straight row on the right side of the stage. As for the rest of the students, please leave the auditorium."
A split-second silence prevailed when the announcement ended, Kanwal hugged me tightly.
"Mano," Kanwal gasped, her voice frantic, "I don't want to stay . . . I don't want to go . . . Please take me with you. Please, please, please." Like every other final year student, her eyes were wide with panic, clutching on to their friends for dear life. My heart sank as I realize, I could do nothing but to pray for her.
I am a year younger then Kanwal and also her junior academically. Our families are very close. So, we have been friends for a very long time.
"Kanwal, relax." I tried to reassure her, barely holding on my composure. "Everything will be okay..... Have faith in Allah." I patted her cheek.
"I- I have Mano... but-"
"Hurry up Kanwal, they are almost here and you, Mahnoor, go outside now." A professor yelled at us from near the stage.
"Mano . . ."
My heart clenched painfully when she called out my nickname, pleading silently. Looking helplessly at each other, we both start walking towards our destinations. When I was about to exit, a familiar male voice echoed in the auditorium.
"Everyone can leave except for Nida Abdullah and Kanwal ...... Mehmood."
My steps came to a halt upon hearing my best friend's name. I turned my head to see the source of the voice and my eyes widened when I saw a familiar man approaching Kanwal.
"Ahad...!" I breathed out.
He walked towards Kanwal with a victorious smile on his face and Kanwal's face paled at the sight of him. I tried to go back to her but before I could do anything, a crowd of final year girls rushed past me, pushing me out of the door. After a long struggle against the crowd, I was finally able to reach the auditorium door again only to end up cursing under my breath on finding it locked from the inside. Frustrated, I decided to wait outside.
Of all the things the Black Eagle had done in this town, when it comes to the worse this takes the crown as far as I am concerned... I appreciate that because of them, education has become equal and compulsory for everyone. Even the kids of lower-class families are now able to attain good. They opened up schools for such kids, where education is free. But unfortunately, this is not the only thing that they do.
After the takeover of Black Eagle, they made it a custom to choose two to five students on every convocation ceremony of graduation. If the chosen students are boys, they are forced to join the gang or they will be banished from the city, without leaving any traces. All such students never came back. Only half of their salaries were sent home along with a letter saying they are alright.
However, if the girls were selected, they are forced to go along with the career that is chosen for her, or they are married to the gang members instead. I am now afraid for Kanwal. She will definitely be forced to marry Ahad. He was her fiancé before her parents broke off the engagement on him joining the gang.
I waited for almost an hour but Kanwal never came out, neither did the other girl. I ran towards the professors to ask about their whereabouts and I was told that both of the girls are gone with them long ago. At that moment, I felt like killing every professor for not feeling even a little shame for telling me this. I took out my phone and inform Kanwal's sister about it. Then, I called Bhai (Big brother) to pick me up from college. I won't be able to attend other classes now. My mind is total chaos.
"Ami (Mother), please take me with you. I want to see Kanwal." I practically begged her.
"We will send you there tomorrow. There is a possibility that all the top leaders of Black Eagle will be there." My mother reasoned.
Cold shivers ran down my spine at the mention of the Black Eagle.
"W-why will they be there?"
"I think you already know the answer."
"Don't tell me Ahad is asking to marry her?" Ami nodded.
I was suddenly overcome by anger, "How could he? That piece of garbag-."
"Behave, Mahnoor." Ami scolded.
I was a little stunned by the news, it was just a thought came in my mind when I saw Ahad in college but didn't know that he hasn't moved on and still waiting for Kanwal. Still, how can he be so selfish? Ahad knew Kanwal and her parents are not willing to go through with the marriage. How can he just force her into this?
"Dinner is almost ready. Eat it with Hammad, he doesn't like to eat alone. Your Papa and I will be out late, okay?"
"Okay! Be safe both of you." I whispered, still deep in thought.
Ami patted my cheek and left. After coming to my room, I collapsed on the bed, thinking about Kanwal being married off to a killer. 'Ya, Allah! Have mercy.' I mumble and plunged my face into my pillow.
"Mano! Wake up." I heard Bhai's voice, from a distance.
"What?" I groaned.
"It's almost ten-thirty. Are we going to eat or not?" He said angrily. Bhai is one of those people that cannot cope well with hunger.
"Oh! Sorry, sorry." I quickly got up and ran towards the kitchen.
I heat up the food and ate with Bhai while watching Spirit the stallion of Cimarron. After it, I cleaned up the kitchen and went back to my room to study for an upcoming test.
"Argh! Go to hell!." I dropped my head on the pillow and my mind wandered back to the morning when I saw Ahad approaching Kanwal. Her unforgettable pale face swam before my eyes. I sighed and walked towards the window. Opening it, I glanced up at the moon. The full moon shone brightly against the dark sky and its radiance together with the light breeze felt refreshing. I looked at the clock, it was one in the morning. Papa and Ami have sure been late. I shifted my attention back to the moon again. That is when I heard the light piano chords playing somewhere. I focus a little more wondering if it was my imagination or if someone really was playing the piano.
Few moments later, the melody notes got a little higher confirming my suspicions that someone was indeed playing a piano. The melody sounded beautiful. It was long before I turned on my heels and ran straight towards the roof to listen to it clearly.