She was out of breath.
It had been raining without a break for several hours now and she was caught in it – right and proper. She had just walked up to the shop in the corner to get some snacks for a guest she was expecting later. Despite the drizzles, she refused to take an umbrella.. She hated the commitment that came with holding an umbrella – the obligation to hold on to it while the winds worked hard to bend it in the opposite direction – ‘umbrella etiquettes’ – the need to fold it back and hold it close to your body to make sure you don’t drip water on anyone else. Hated it all – Despised the monotony of umbrellas.
She had walked daintily, avoiding mud puddles, to the store and bought a few things – all replacements for the originals she had on her list. She did not care – after all none of these were going to be the point of her rendezvous later. She frowned to mask a smile that dared to escape.
She walked back – the rain was much heavier now. Each drop fell with a purpose – her hair, restless in a make-shift knot, unwound itself and carelessly fell over her shoulders. On another day, she would not let her conservative, gossip-thirsty neighbors see her like this. But today it did not matter. She knew something that none of them did. Something that put a spring in her step and a smile on her lips.
By the time she got back home, she was dripping – head to toe. She walked through the living room, through the dining up to her bedroom – leaving a trail of water droplets as she walked by. She caught her reflection in the long mirror on her walk-in-wardrobe as she walked past. She had never considered herself pretty – at best – average. But today, there was something about what she saw in the mirror – a sparkle in her shapely brown eyes, an extra curl in her long tresses, a happiness she had not felt in a long long time.
She changed into a new red salwar with thin golden lines on the sides – made to her specifications by a local tailor. The color added subtle drama that the day called for. She decided to leave her hair lose, and drew an elegant but convoluted design on her forehead with her eyeliner brush. No more makeup – she wanted to look pretty – not made up, not rehearsed. A couple of red bangles and a crumpled gold stole. One more glance at the mirror – She gave herself credit for looking so composed with all the fluttering she felt inside.
For a minute an uneasy feeling crept into her. What if her guest considered this “just” another meeting? What if this was thought of as nothing more than another chore to get done – another box to be ticked? For her own benefit, she quickly dismissed those thoughts. In her mind, she built up his inquisitiveness. She projected her excitement on to him.
She laid out the precious china ware that was reserved for special occasions – the one with the thin gold line around the rims of the cups; small grey flowers on the sides.
She had seen him earlier on several occasions – but this was different. This was a date –or at least as close to one as she could get. In her mind, she flipped through the images she had of him since forever – of how they had first met, of all their meetings thereafter. So long ago and in such different circumstances – those images seemed fuzzy at best.
The initial excitement made way for a feeling bordering on anxiety as the said time came and went. She wanted to stop the clock there and not visit the possibility that he could have forgotten or made a conscious decision of not coming. Could that have happened? Between when they spoke last and now, had they traveled in completely opposite directions? While every waking minute of hers was spent imagining this perfect day, had the date for their meeting got lost in his busy calendar? Now that she gave that thought a chance, it seemed more and more probable.
The gushing happiness she had felt a few minutes ago was completely replaced by an uncomfortable, tangled knot in her belly. Her eyes welled up as she thought about how she had planned for his visit for days on end – dreaming during the days and staying awake at night. She dabbed her eyes with a tissue– in case he walked in at this moment, she did not want to be seen like a rag-doll with mascara all over her face.
An hour had passed after the time and her guest was conspicuously absent.
Did she feel a sense of relief now that she was sure that he would not turn up? Uncomfortable conversations, awkward silences and cringe worthy references to the past – now saying the truth – she was looking forward none of this. She tied up her hair, and stacked the cups and saucers. While nibbling on the coconut cookies she had laid out, tears streamed down her cheek. She did not make an effort to stop herself this time. It had taken so long for her to get here and for him to just ignore her like she did not exist was just not fair. She hated herself for needing any acknowledgement from anyone-especially him. She cried her heart out –the closure she needed.
She walked over to the bathroom, washed her face clean and heaved a sigh of relief looking at the mirror. This was now a closed chapter – and she felt fresh and light again.
She sunk herself into the plush sofa and closed her eyes.
The doorbell rang!
Her world froze again. Her heart skipped a beat and danced a happy dance. An unannounced smile escaped her lips. Looking into the mirror, she carefully wiped her face, let her hair down from the knot, rehearsed a calm ‘hello’ and ran to the door – justifying to herself the wait all along!