The little girl was missing.

A thousand storms burst over my head. Lightning flashed in my eyes and thunder roared in my ears. A little girl entrusted to my care was missing! What could possibly be worse?

“I don’t know where she is, Madam!” The ayah who was supposed to keep an eye on the children waved her hands up and down in a pointless gesture that could mean that she was terrified, or that it was not her mistake, or that she didn’t know what to do. When I turned towards her, I could see the fear in her face. She seemed to be more frightened of my rage than of the fact that the child was lost. The same fear that was in my eyes, but for a different reason.

If I could vanish with the lightning, I would gladly have. I ran my fingers over my eyes.

The ayah just stood there, bewilderment and helplessness on her face, waiting for my orders, whereas she should have been running around looking for the girl.

“Go, find her! Go find her! Go!” I yelled. She just ran, possibly to hide herself from my fury, I thought vaguely.

I took a few deep breaths. She was right there, an hour ago, when all the children were taken for lunch to the third floor. I was there myself, supervising the proceedings, making sure all the bouncing, squealing, laughing seven year olds were within view. It was only a matter of a few more hours, three at the most, and the ordeal would be over. After the children finished their lunch (during which I had to keep yelling every two minutes to make it fast), we took them as carefully back to their classrooms. Yes, Nishika was there then, I was sure, for I remembered noticing the way she straightened her dress and pulled her hair back carefully behind her ears like an adult. She always made sure she looked right and set her lips in a way some women do to pretend that everything was alright. She must have seen someone do it. Then she sat down by her model to wait for the next visitor.

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