Nissa was a beautiful hilly town, where the wild flowering balsam threatened to usurp the land, and softened the pain Antara felt from Mama's constant beatings. Opposite their home, shaded by a giant plum tree with honey-sweet fruit, stood a lover’s lane embraced by trees filled with birds. Antara wished to walk it with the handsome Pandit Sir, her art teacher, who had anointed her forehead with the sacred red powder in a temple on a hill, leading the students to whisper that she was now married to him, for the red powder was a symbol of matrimony. But she only laughed, knowing that it had just been an excuse for him to touch her. When he was fired from his job, she knew it was because of that school trip to the temple on the hill. She was seized with the headiness of capturing the first skull on her Kali's necklace.