“Here, have a look at yourself.”
Srina looked up at the reflection in the small round mirror her cousin held up in front of her. She couldn’t help but smile, her small white teeth flashing between darkened lips of rose-colored lipstick.
“Like it, eh? Don’t you worry. You’re going to amaze them. He won’t be able to keep his eyes off you.”
At the mention of ‘him,’ Srina’s heart fell. Outwardly, she kept her cool. It wouldn’t do to let people know of her apprehensions. After all, this was something long in the making, and it was supposed to be a happy day.
There were limits to how much one could tell one’s heart though, and though she had been promised to her childhood friend long ago, she could not dictate to her heart whom to love. For her family’s sake, however, she had to go through with the match or mire them in shame. That would never do. One might as well put a gun to her old father’s head and pull the trigger.
Srina realized that her unconscious knowledge of the fact that she was going to enter an arranged marriage probably explained the excesses she felt she needed to indulge in as an expatriate’s daughter in England. Now it was all over. The waters were figuratively closing in over her head, and there was nothing she could do about it, no one she could appeal to. All those nights with their Western excesses had paid, she told herself over and over again. It had paid.
The tickling sensation on the back of her hand brought her back to the present. Henna was being applied in intricate patterns on her hands and feet. To smudge them was to invite more fuss and bother at a time when she just felt like being alone. Like a bird in a cage, finally realizing it was trapped.
The last she had seen him was way back when they were both in elementary. To cement the bonds between their families they had been betrothed to each other since they were children. She remembered a simpering weakling she had saved from a couple of teasing bullies. She had seen him weeks ago at his family’s beach resort. He hadn’t appeared to have changed much. But then again, she hadn’t spent much time with him at all, so she was wary of judging him.
When it was all over she found herself alone with him, a bit tired and a bit frightened. In the shadows of their honeymoon suite she saw him turn to her. “Are you all right?” she heard him ask. “If you want to rest…” He moved enough that the light filtering in through the windows highlighted his eyes. They showed his concern.
“No, I’m alright,” she said. “A little tired, that’s all, dear husband.” Suddenly, saying those last words didn’t seem so difficult.
“Then rest,” he told her, laying a gentle hand on her shoulder. “I am new at this, and would like to make it work between us.” His voice was hesitant, unsure.
“I would, too,” Srina murmured. After all, a bird, though caged, could still sing, couldn’t it?