Some things never change. We change, the world around us changes, the seasons change, but there are some things... Some things that, no matter what will stay with you forever. Whether we move, or change jobs, or change lives, some things, like love, never change.
The suns rays were blinding, sending tingling sensations all over my face, arms and legs as I floated front side up in the pool at the side of my house. It was about one o’clock on Tuesday afternoon and Indi had come over to swim in the new pool Papa had installed just a few weeks ago. Her idea of something to do after school for exercise. Yeah right, she hadn’t left the lounge chair since she’d put her bright yellow bikini, sun hat and glasses on.
Opening my eyes, I lifted my head a little to see her taking another sip of her spritzer from a straw out of a champagne flute. If anything, Inderjit Singh was a diva. But what would I have done without her for the last eight years? When my mother died three years back, is when Indi became my true sister. Now that we were finished school, we’d found ourselves with much more extra time on our hands. I had promised myself that I’d put the new pool to use, and started to float around the outside.
“Divya, seriously. Can you believe that we’re finally finished?” Indi took another sip of the cool, fruity drink in her hand. “Five years can feel like forever, you know?” Indi, only a year younger than myself, raised her chin from under her hat.
“I finished in four and a half, remember?” Scoffing at her, I kicked a little, letting the cool water soothe my burning skin.
Indi rolled her eyes as she sat back in the chair, taking another sip from the straw. “Like finishing faster is better... You’re always rushing through Divya, you’re going to miss something.”
“Indi, you decided to stay an extra year, you didn’t have to.”
“And if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have met Ranjit and we wouldn’t be engaged now,” Indi looked down at the bangles on her wrists from his father, and the ring on her finger from him.
I couldn’t help but smile inwardly. The day Ranjit had proposed to her had been something else. I’d never seen her so happy. He’d surprised her in class, asking her in front of a student body of over fifty people.
“If you keep rushing through Divya, you’ll miss your Ranjit,” she raised an eyebrow.
Don’t get me started... “How am I supposed to meet anyone when all I’ve been doing is helping to plan your wedding? I have barely had time to sleep, much less do anything else. I can’t even think about trying to find a job right now...” Finding a job was all I wanted to do really, maybe something in my environmental business field. But the markets were currently slim, it was harder to find a job in environmental business than it was to get milk from a chicken. It wasn’t happening.
“Like your father would even let you...” Indi added under her breath. There was also that. Danny Sankar was a strict man. Especially when it came to me and especially after my mother Preeti had died with such short notice, killed by a gang of burglars. His promise to my late mother was to always make sure I had everything I needed, to make sure I finished school, and against my own ambitions, to see me married before he left the world to join her.
“He’s probably already got some gentleman from his office already lined up for you Divya. Your father doesn’t leave anything to chance,” Indi took another sip, turning her other cheek to the sun. What bothered me most was that she was probably right.
“Ugh!” Thinking about it drove me crazy. Which is why I never really talk about it. School was done and all I should have been thinking about was finding a job, or at the very least, getting some well deserved relaxation. Hence, the pool. Pushing the thoughts out of my mind, I used my legs and pushed myself away from the edge of the pool to float on my back in the center of it. With my eyes closed, the sun resumed tingling on my face and skin as I lazed in the water trying my best not to think. Of course, it was useless. “I don’t want to just be daddy’s little rich girl. You think anyone from his office would care that I’m even a person?! They see my father’s money and are all ready to jump in line for the dowry.”
“Well then you have to get out and meet people Didi. It’s not like the man of your dreams is just going to show up at the door.”
Just as she said it, a black SUV pulled up the driveway of the property and parked just out front, just out of view of the pool at the side of the house.
“Are you expecting someone?” Indi poked her head up and stretched her neck as far as she could to catch a glimpse of the strange vehicle. No one ever came on to the property without either me or my father knowing about it, and Papa rarely had anyone over.
“Not me...” I swam to the side closest to the front of the house to try and sneak a peek. The man stepped out of the car and walked up to the front door with a brown, manila envelope in his hand, not even glancing in our general direction.
“Who was that?” Indi smiled, getting up and tip toeing around the pool to my side, trying to get a better look at the car or the man before he disappeared inside, but no luck.
“I don’t know...” I had never seen the car before. Usually when someone showed up at the house that didn’t work there, they had a driver. This guy got out the driver’s seat.
“I’m not waiting around!” By the time I turned to answer, Indi was already making her way to pool house to change.
“Hey!” Just like her to leave without me. I pulled myself up out the water and the hot red brick immediately scorched the bottom of my feet. I’d been in the pool so long, I hadn’t realized how hot it really was. Gingerly, I stepped along the path to the pool house, throwing the side door open so I could jump in from the hot brick to the cool tile on the inside.
As soon as I did, a flash of my mother ran through my head and I could almost see her in the tiny kitchen across from me. She used to spend her spare time in here, making it a little retreat of her own she didn’t have to go far to get to. Since she’d died, I’d kind of taken it over, Papa allowing me to make it my own little apartment.
To my surprise, when I reached the only bedroom, Indi had already thrown on some coverall shorts and slippers. “We don’t even know who it is!” I shook my head at her as I grabbed a long linen skirt and a loose matching vest over my bathing suit top.
“So what Divya. No one ever comes here. Other than me, no one. So I’d like to know who the mystery man is!” She fixed her hair in the mirror quickly before turning back to face me. “Finally a little something in our hum drum lives.” Rolling my eyes, I shook my head at her then shrugged.
“What do you think he’s here for?” I had to admit I was at the very least a little bit curious. Papa hadn’t said he was expecting anyone and really the only thing going on that I knew about was Inderjit’s wedding. To be completely honest, the thought of Papa trying to set me up wasn’t completely horrible. It meant he cared enough to do something.
“I don’t know, but you’re not going out there like this!” She hurried over to me and undid the buttons of my vest, exposing my stomach and bikini top. “God Divya, you’re not eighty.” I couldn’t help but laugh as she strapped her heels on, adjusting her sun hat and glasses in the mirror before heading towards the door again. “Come on!”
She grabbed my hand and dragged me from the house, down the path to the back of my estate, knowing it was closest to my father’s office and where we were most likely to not get caught. I couldn’t help but admire her candor. She was always up for just about anything, and she could make you excited for anything. We quietly made our way through the service entrance at the back, Aatish, one of the servants bowed his head respectfully as we made out way in, a grin appearing in the corner of his mouth. He always knew when we were up to something. Sometimes, he’d even help.
“Divya,” Indi waved me down the hall towards Papa’s grand office. There were two in the house, one upstairs just for him, and this one, in which he held all his meetings and important gatherings. It was where business happened. As we drew closer I could hear them talking inside, Papa’s deep, rolling voice and another. I took up position on the opposite side of the office door, both of us trying to figure out who that second voice was. It was deep and strong, yet calmed after my father spoke. From what I could make out, it sounded like maybe he worked for my father, maybe one of the men from his office.
“He’s negotiating your dowry in there!” Indi whispered, giggling as I shook my head at her seriously. If that was the case, I wanted to know how much I was worth! How much was this guys going to get for taking me away from here?
There was a sudden bang on the desk from inside and Papa yelled something I couldn’t understand. Indi and I looked at each other surprised before the other man said something back. I could hear Papa one last time before I heard him move his chair back from his desk to get up. Immediately, we both ran around the corner and up the staircase out of sight.
The door opened and Papa walked out followed by the mystery man. They headed towards the front foyer as I craned my neck over the railing to catch a glimpse of him, my supposed future fiancé. Indi could always get ideas stuck in my head.
“I believe it’s for the best, Sunil,” Papa put his arm around his shoulders. His crisp, black, well-pressed and collared shirt pulled tight against his contour of his back. I shook my head of the thought. They must have been close. “If we do this now, she might still have a chance,” he shook his head looking down at the marble floors. “I’m just trying to do what’s best for everyone.
“Sir, I only said it because I care as well. I meant no disrespect to you at all,” the man shook his head nervously, waving his hands in front of him. If only they would stop and turn, I just needed to see his face, for a second even.
“I know, I know. We’re all a little shaken up right now. With your help, things will be getting better soon.”
“Thank you sir,” he bowed his head respectfully as they made their way to the door. “I can’t thank you enough.”
“Now don’t forget to schedule my final meeting in a month. I think we should have everything wrapped up by then. I don’t think this should take longer, do you?” Papa dropped his arm to the side as the doorman opened the door for them.
“No sir,” he bowed his head again.
“Good, good. Okay, we’ll see you on Friday then.”
“Good. Take care now,” Papa waved him off as he got into his car and drove off down the driveway.
As soon as the door was closed Indi turned to face me on the step just above her. “Did you see him?” I could hear the excitement in her voice. Somewhere deep down, I knew she was wishing for my father to marry me off. I think I was more the fact that she wanted the both of us to be engaged at the same time, but that was neither here nor there.
“Not even a glimpse,” I shook my head watching as Papa made his way back to his office. Just before he reached the door, he glanced up at us for a half second.
“You two girls should not be snooping,” he shook his head, barely looking at us and disappeared back into his office.
“That was close,” Indi let out a breath and started down the stairs not looking back. “I thought he was going to turn around for sure,” she stopped at the bottom and waited for me.
“I thought you wanted to see him?” I smiled.
“You know what I mean, I wanted to see who he was.”
“Well he’s still the mystery man and he’s gone.” I had to admit, I was disappointed myself in the fact that we didn’t get to see his face. I longed for something other than normal nothingness to happen, but it didn’t look like it was going to pan out.
“Oh well,” Indi pulled her cell phone out the pocket of her coveralls and flipped it open. “I should probably get ready to go anyway, Ranjit will be here any minute,” she closed it and put it back in her pocket.
“You guys aren’t staying?” I had been under the impression that she was inviting him over.
“No,” she shook her head looking a little annoyed, “we have some people to meet for the wedding. His family...” She let that last word out like it was a death sentence being handed down.
“What’s wrong with his family?” Looking at the wall clock behind her, I realized all her things were in the pool house. “Did you want to grab your things first?”
“No,” she waved the idea off, taking her glasses of and perching them atop her head. “I’ll be back next week, I can grab it then.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, it’s just some clothing and towels, it’s okay,” Indi made her way to the front door, the click of her wedged heels echoing off the walls and high ceilings of the foyer. “Unless you don’t want me to come next week?” She looked up at me, only half joking. I don’t know why, but the way she said it actually made me sad.
“Of course I do!” Pulling her close and hugged her tightly, leaving a kiss on the top of her head. “Your my best friend Indi, always.” When I let go, she finally gave me a genuine smile.
“Okay, next Tuesday, I’ll bring some movies for after the pool so that we can exercise and then lay around and eat junk food,” she smiled probably knowing that, that’s exactly what we would end up doing. Just then the gate opened and Ranjit pulled up in his BMW. Rolling down the driver side window he waved from the driveway.
“Hey Divya!” He smiled brightly as his eyes flicked to his fiancé, blowing a kiss in her direction. Granted, Ranjit was no Imran Khan, but he was attractive enough with his short hair and blue polo and khaki shorts. What was most important, was that his whole heart belonged to Inderjit. It was romantic to say the least.
With that thought, I wondered if maybe I did want it more than I thought did. “Hi Jitu!” I waved back, calling him the nick name he only sometimes tolerated. “Off to see the in-laws?”
His face dropped. “Don’t get me started! It’s going to be war over linens and sweets tonight. Be thankful you’re single Divya,” his eyes raised up as Indi made her way to the car to slap him hard on the shoulder through the open window.
“Ranjit!” She bit her bottom lip playfully angry with him before walking around to the passenger side and getting in.
“So next Tuesday then?” I leaned down beside the driver’s side window to look over Ranjit at Indi who was buckling up. I wanted to make sure she was coming since I knew there wasn’t going to be anything else going on all week. I would be bored for the next seven days until she came to rescue me.
“You know it sistah!” She smiled up at me, at the same time grabbing hold of Ranjit’s arm resting on the gear shift. “Love you honey!” She waved as Ranjit put the car in gear and drove off shouting salutations and waving out his window.
Well that was that, and now it was back to doing a whole lot of nothing. My chest grew heavy with the idea of spending the next seven days with just Papa. Not that I didn’t love him to death, but something was happening with his business that had been taking up his time. For the past week I’d only seen him in one of three places. He was either in the kitchen eating or in one of the two offices in the house. Something had been troubling him, but every time I ask, he tells me everything is fine, and not to worry.
I planned to take his advice, and not worry too much about it. If he said he was okay, who was I to tell him otherwise? Not that he would listen anyway. Right now, I plan to put on a good movie and try not to get too bored. Here’s hoping.