“There’s an art exhibition in town that we could go for.” I balled my hands into fists deep within my pockets.
She mumbled incoherently and walked a little faster, bambi-eyes glancing shiftily at the pavement, the trees, at everything but me.
“Rahul, I really should be going now.” She tripped nervously over her words.
“But why?” I was stunned; I thought I’d been doing well.
“It’s not your fault Rahul.”
“You see that man Rahul? I’m engaged to him.”
I goggled stupidly at the man she pointed out, a tall, hazel-eyed Greek-god. She took refuge behind my back as he passed, her breath very warm on my ear. She was clearly terrified lest he should see her with me. I felt suddenly protective of the poor, hunted woman.
But I was hurt; why had she led me on?
She couldn’t bring herself to tell me, she said, hanky twisted around delicate fingers, she’d really liked me. I realized she was genuine; it was oh so visible in the glistening, kohl-rimmed eyes, in the unsure, parted pink mouth. And I swelled with pride at the fact that I could make this perfect specimen of womanhood go to pieces over me.
Come away with me, I said.
She couldn’t, she said, Daddy had picked him out and Daddy was so old, so ill, he wouldn’t be able to take the shock.
So I let her go. Watching her walk away, I wondered about what could’ve been.
The Greek God reappeared from a shop, carrying a baby and accompanied by a woman with a dark red streak in the middle-parting of her hair.
Far, far down the street, the tiny figure that was my girl gave a little leap of freedom and disappeared into the grey wintry morning.