CHAPTER ELEVEN: HE PROPOSED
It was truly as if Cinderella had entered the ball, everyone turned to gape at her. It was not just because she looked so beautiful today, but it was that she never took too much effort to show her prettiness off that it came as a big surprise to everyone around her who had always known her. She was wearing a navy blue, elegant, silky sari with a broad and plain silver border. Those huge, shapely eyes of her, always the subject of constant ridicule shone out in all their glory, slathered with whip like lashes that curled so enticingly. And the shy, bashful expression she wore on her face when she saw that all the attention was directed at her brought out her high, supple cheekbones. She moved ever so gracefully and gently as she had never done before, as if she was in a trance, for she felt like that. Her queenly, classical presence drew away the breath of most boys standing there for they had never seen her like that. She had always worn clumsy clothes, free and wild hair and looked for all the world as if she did not give a care about her appearance but today she was the “Belle dame sans merci” of the ball. Her first thought was to see if he was one of her admirers but seeing he was not even on scene, she grew a little disappointed but the adoration did much to cheer her up.
“Oh my God” said Divya, almost screeching with awe. “Oh my darling, you look so beautiful” she said in complete admiration.
Jennifer gave a delighted little laugh as if she was not expecting this at all and she turned around anticipatingly to look if they were all still staring at her.
Meg gave a little snort of a laughter. Jennifer turned around angrily.
“Now you’ve gone and done it” she said in such a mocking tone, taking Divya’s hands into her own.
“Now, how in Heaven’s name am I to bring her back to earth again?”, she said and they chuckled together.
“Woo...” Meg said, tauntingly, and tip toeing around as if she was floating in the air.
“Ha ha” said Jennifer sarcastically.
“That’s no way for a lady to behave. Madame” she said, rendering a sweeping bow to her, “This way, if you please.”
“Stop the rubbish Meg. Okay it’s true, I may have just soared above ground when I looked at those people just gaping at me. I mean, come on, who doesn’t love that?” she said, with a sweet smile.
“No seriously, come this way, Rakesh was searching for you all evening. He probably wants to tell you something, you guys are doing a group song together right? He was asking every one around for you, running around like a chicken without a head”.
“Oh, okay, probably lost his stupid lyric sheet that I gave him for the THIRD time.” said Jen, exasperatedly.
They found him leaning in a debonair manner on the wall. He had fluffy, bouncy hair and remarkably warm and friendly eyes. A smooth, slightly dusky complexion and a perpetual broad smile on his comical face. He had come to be another one of Jen’s close friends. He was quirky smart and always energetic, the whole class bustled with joy because of him. She also loved his funny antics. He was such a contradictory person, an extremely clever, assertive, smart young fellow and on the other hand, completely irresponsible, generous, jovial sort of person with such an agreeable presence. He was known for making fun of and absolutely tearing down people without even slightly hurting them. She liked his hair and often played with it and teased him with it.
“Hey cotton candy” she said smiling, with a quick pat on his shoulders.
He turned back with his charming smile.
“If you dare tell me that you’ve lost the lyrics again, I..”
“Cool down sweetie” he said sweetly and as she looked at him, she suddenly wondered at the depth of his eyes that seemed to reach down deep into her soul, she did not know whether he was doing it deliberately or not.
He slowly moved his hands to reach inside the pocket of his coat and bought out a rectangular box wrapped with silver paper and with a satin white ribbon tied on top.
He smiled again, a melting sort of smile that made her heart beat with a dull steady throb against her chest.
“You playing tricks on me?” she asked cocking her head at him, looking at him with dubious eyes.
“Never when you look so amazing” he told her so seriously that she herself could not help laughing at him and gave him a playful nudge and with her fist, she gently took away the satin ribbon and removed the wrapper.
Inside was another box wrapped in a similar fashion.
“Still in character, I see where you’re going with this” she told him indifferently and with an unaffected look.
She repeated the action several times and shoved all the waste paper torn off the wrapping into his pockets and yet he said nothing, only looked at her in that same fashion, with his winning smile and tender doe-like eyes, and it seemed to her, he had moved closer to her and somehow that upset her a lot.
The last remaining box, she could do nothing with. It was long and narrow in shape with a black velvet cover on top with a lock for a key.
“I suppose you’re going to give me the key” she said quietly, looking into his eyes and they seemed to freeze her. He said nothing, but remained like before, captivating and still.
She threw up her arms in pretended frustration and moved away from him, after tossing the box into her handbag.
The annual day functions went on splendidly. The guest lecture was wonderful, the speeches were nice, but she felt very distracted and knew somehow that the night was not over yet. Next came the cultural events which briskly bought her to life again from the sweet lull of those dreams and she bore a slight resentment for that. The songs and the dances and the art parade did little to fully awake her from the reverie but when the countdown to announce the year’s department winners started, she was back again. She was screaming and jumping and yelling and when finally the results were announced, though the social sciences had won the prize, there was no scarcity for pomp and ceremony. It was a day of ruckus and cheerfulness and she never knew when she’d felt so happy before but at the end, those eyes kept plunging her heart into deep thought. The three stumbled down the road to reach the hostels again. It was dark and they felt so drained that had it not been for the occasional screeches and bouts of laughter, they would have fallen face down and slept on the ground till morning.
Suddenly they heard the sound of approaching steps and a faint hum from the strings of a guitar. It grew closer, such a familiar tune too.
“Rakesh” she said, eagerly running out to meet him.
He said nothing but gently raised her hands and resting them on his own, placed the key. She fumbled about nervously in the bag and brought out the box and impatiently opened it. There was a beautiful scarlet rose inside with a white card tagged on to it, that said in scrawling letters that he loved her.
Candle flames appeared out of nowhere and in an instant he was down on his knees, making her laugh delightedly and comically reciting the lines from a movie in which a hero proclaimed his love to his lady. Divya Meghna and everyone around, no one knew from where they’d come couldn’t stop giggling so joyfully. Jen herself was delighted and overjoyed. And after the recital, he got up on his knees and the flickering candles started to dance along with him to the tune of a lovely love song.