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The unembellished cake, pressure-cooked on a stove, made it’s way to the rickety table in the crowded quadrangle. Someone carved a Five with a knife and lit a candle.

She picked her daughter up and the hall reverberated with the Happy Birthday song as the little one blew the candle. Women, young and old, dressed in whites applauded merrily. With eyes moist, she held her little girl tight.

“Someone’s here.” A lady constable nudged her.

She made her way to the waiting room. To find her estranged in-laws and their lawyer.

“Your daughter turns five today, that’s for how long children of incarcerated mothers can stay here. She belongs to them now.” The lawyer stated.

The child bawled as they snatched her from the mother.

“Wait, please don’t.” She pleaded.

Shooting her a glance of utter loath, they took the screaming kid away.

She stood rooted. She had always hoped this day wouldn’t come so soon.

Five years since she attacked her newborn’s molester, her husband. Five years since she got lodged here when he succumbed. Five years of shielding her daughter safely, in this place they called prison.

Five years, and suddenly too old for her mother’s nest?

Note: This story won the first prize at ‘Beyond The Box’ 200-word story competition Feb 2024.

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