She watched the sun-laced patterns move slowly across hIer legs as the hours passed. Mitali stretched her small frame on the wicker lounge chair, shorts barely covering her hips; the top exposed her pierced navel. Her hand lingered long on the metal; the first step towards independence.
The scholarship brought her to Boston College; away from home, she’d lived twenty odd years in. It did take a lot of convincing. Ma was reluctant; Baba ambitious, yet hesitant, giving in, to her tears and sobs, the endless nights of being locked in the room.
The single-room apartment was her sanctuary. No wrinkled brow or smirks on the pink sheers on the window, the bed unkempt, her dress or make-up.
Mitali remembered the first day like yesterday.
Half-an-hour early for her Literature class, seated next to the open window, she mused over the book opened in front. Nervous about unfamiliar surroundings and new faces, she didn’t notice, half of her nails disappeared. With glasses plopped, she concentrated hard on the words.
“Hi! I’m Rob.” The heavy voice startled her. Dark eyes met green, reminding Mitali of the cat at home. A boyish face, with the body of a man, hair cropped, there was a vulnerability, which made Mitali’s stomach churn.
A trip to Greece and the relationship developed from brief his and hellos to exploring mutual interests; discussions on Shakespeare and Robert Frost, tunes of Beethoven or a game of Scrabble.
Mitali remembered, the first time, his hand slid across her shoulder, over buttered popcorn. Couldn’t afford being a klutz, she held the pack tight. Deep down, the touch made her world stop. A warm feeling rushed down her spine, as she closed her eyes, savoring every moment.
The hand remained firmly on the shoulder much to her disappointment.
She liked being a lady.
Sex discussions with Ma were frank. She’d emphasized on Indian culture, marriage, virginity and the right person. The last talk was intense, raw and real. Her wet palms held Mitali’s for long. “Take care. Now you’re on your own.” She took Mitali in her arms.
Mitali loved her parents; her body sang a different tune.
The feelings for Rob were strong; the attraction intense.
Ma stressed on the right person; Rob was a gentleman, respecting her space. Numerous times she felt his urge in the touch, in his eyes, but he never imposed.
Today, Mitali walked down the steps, to a crinkled bed and dark circles under her eyes. The constant battle hovered under closed eyes. The decision was made.
Ma’s advice was long forgotten, like old friends and old letters; the green eyes hard to resist.
“Let’s have dinner tonight.” She spoke to Rob, sipping the first tea of the day.
“Sounds good. Where? Your favorite Thai place?”
“No. My apartment.”
The stress on words was a dead give-away.
Dark eyes met the sunshine streaming from the blinds. Pulling herself up, she filled a glass of ice-cold water. Mitali had a couple of hours to decide: the dress, the menu and her life.
The shrill ring of the phone filled the room.
It was Ma. The long-distance call was expensive, yet, not enough to keep her away from the phone.
“Mitali, how’re you?”
“I’m fine. How ’bout you guys?”
“We’re doing OK. So what’s the plan for today? It’s Saturday.”
She always told Ma everything, but today, the truth would hurt.
“Mitali, is everything OK?”
“Yes. Why do you ask?”
“I was restless. Take care.”
“Give Baba a kiss.”
The hesitation faded into oblivion with the click. There were no second thoughts.
Her thoughts drifted to the halter dress in the closet, the yellow against her skin, the hair let loose, Rob in his denim and checkered shirt, his breath smelling of beer. The medicine cabinet was equipped; she wasn’t ignorant.
Rob was the right man; it was the time to feel things she’d read, talked and dreamt.
Humming a tune, Mitali stepped into the shower; no guilt, but experiencing a strange pleasure in surrendering herself to nature