When she walked into the room, she didn’t make any noise. She wasn’t wearing any heels for she was tall enough and her toes were too big to be in heels. I didn’t notice her when she sat on a chair opposite to me, nor did the women and the men in the room. I had turned to take another glass of wine from the waiter, when my eyes fell on her, a small gasp escaped my mouth. The gasp brought everybody’s attention towards me and then everybody followed my line of vision to look at the woman i was looking at. The hall echoed with gasps. The lights of the hall dimmed and the only source of warm strong light came from the lamp hanging over the head of Sapna Choudhury.
Sapna Choudhury was sitting regally, her legs stacked one over the other, her flats peeking from under the hem of the heavily embroidered sari. She was talking to her mother. They were obnoxiously indifferent to the eyes of so many men and women on them. Suddenly Sapna turned and looked at us, the lights in the hall brightened. “Oh! Sophia! How have you been?” She smiled and walked towards me. Her strides were graceful and her heavy frame was moving effortlessly with each step. When did Sapna leave her childish face and grew into this dreamy and miraculous woman? I stood up to greet her and closely inspected her.
I had known Sapna since my birth, she was my cousin, we saw each other every week until I moved away. Of course we wrote letters and telephoned on occasion, but I hadn’t seen her in three years. The last time I saw her, we were eighteen and she was in love with a boy who didn’t have any affections towards her. I didn’t blame him for breaking my cousin’s heart, I understood his unwillingness to court her. Sapna’s eyes were small and dark half circles hung under her bottom lids, her voice had a lingering tone that irritated many ears including mine, she had a little girl’s annoyingly naive behavior which made it hard for her social standing in the society to increase in spite of her father being a top man in the ministry.
In the past three years, she had changed. From what I had heard she hadn’t been in Stillborough in two years. She had gone to Marlowe for her education and had stayed there in her grandmother’s house. Had she drunk some elixir or had she bathed in moonlight every night? What did she do to turn herself into this dream like figure? Her voice now sounded like small bells of an anklet were tinkling, her eyes now glittered and it looked like a diamond was shining in a pool of darkness. She had gained weight, more weight than it was attractive, yet her heavy body added to her appeal.
Most ladies were jealous of her aura and were glancing at her enviously. Married women were holding on to their men tightly. Single women with slim bodies and faces of actresses were admiring Sapna and were asking her to join their group. Smartly dressed men were devising plans to approach her. Rawal, an officer in the army and the most eligible bachelor in the crowd walked towards her with two flutes of champagne. “Miss.” He stood beside her and offered her a drink. Sapna turned from me and looked at him. She smiled courteously at him and took it, “Oh thank you, but you didn’t have to.” At this moment, the orchestra changed the music, the soft tune changed into an upbeat melody, the violin and the piano played the tunes of desire, youth and charm. The lights dimmed again and a spotlight shone on Sapna and Rawal. I had stepped back and had merged with the crowd, I was a spectator too.
“You look very lovely miss.” Rawal said, a small smile playing on his lips.
“Why thank you. Sir?”
“Sadhni. Son of Lord Sadhni.”
“Oh! I have heard great things about you father.”
“Would you like to dance miss?” Rawal held out his hand. Sapna took it. They danced in swift motions, their bodies brushing against each other. They looked magnificent as they danced, it felt like Aphrodite had choreographed the dance herself. They twirled and danced some more. When the song ended a laugh escaped from Sapna’s mouth and after a beat we heard another laugh and then another. She arched her neck and laughter spilled out of her like lava from a volcano. The sweetness of her laugh, her perfect pink lips, her hair falling backwards and her tender neck amused and attracted Rawal and the way he looked at her while she laughed showed his feelings for her.
“Sapna! Sapna! Ravindra has arrived in the rail station.” Sapna’s mother emerged into the light escaping the spectators in the dark.
Sapna stopped laughing and a smile played on her lips. She looked dreamily at her mother as if she was extremely pleased to hear the news.
“He has?” Tenderness washed over her face.
She looked at Rawal and gently bowed. “Thank you Mr. Sadni for the dance, but you see my fiance has arrived and I need to go see him.” She was about to turn away and leave when she turned to Rawal again, “We got engaged a week ago. He is the loveliest man I have ever met.” She laughed again and then in the light we saw a diamond sparkle on her finger. How did nobody notice it? Were we really that blinded by her beauty? “It was nice to meet you sir.” She bowed again and left the hall in a theatrical manner. She ran like a girl runs when she hears her lover is at the door waiting for her. Lights brightened again and the melody that the orchestra now played sounded gloom and somber. Nobody else danced that evening.