July 1st, 2007
ANCD fic-a-doodle. Thingy. Yes.
“So tell me,” Priya said. “Who is this boy?”
The pan was hissing with steam, hot smoke billowing up and fanning out around Radha’s face, permeating the stray, unbound strands of her hair with the scent of spices: cumin, turmeric, the faintly tingling sting of peppercorn. She her swiped her hand across her forehead, the back of her hand meeting skin, nose wrinkling at the pungent scent coiling up in the air. Stirring the spoon about briefly with a curt snap of her free hand, she stepped back and surveyed her work with a critical eye. Then – ritual properly complete – she said, “What boy?”
“What boy, you’re saying,” said her mother, waving about one arm with obvious disbelief. Priya’s body was expressive, quick and dramatic in a way that shone out in the sudden tilt of her head, hair tossed back in a motion so neat and efficient that it appeared almost practiced. Her scorn was almost palpable. “You know what I mean,” she continued, stabbing her knife viciously into the poor, forlorn carrot beneath it. “You are going out late every night, and telling me you’re with friends. Such excuses you give me.” Cut. Stab. “And so many sleepovers. You have never liked them.”
“I’m always with friends,” stated Radha. It was not technically a lie. She liked some of them well enough, and had no particular dislike for the rest (or so she told herself, over and over and over again).
“You were always such a good girl,” Priya said mournfully. “You did not make trouble, like other girls. I had thought I had an honest daughter.” A pause. “So, what is this boy like? Why have you not introduced me to him?”
“There is no boy Mu-“
“Respect for consequences, behti, that is what you are lacking,” she announced smartly. The carrots were cut. She piled the slivers up and threw them into the pan. “Your father and I waited. But we were living in different times.”
“Mum,” said Radha, dutifully feigning horror, because it was expected, and because it would please her mother, who undoubtedly relished the rare spark of drama she managed draw out of her reticent daughter.
“Well. Well. Accidents happen, you know this. And you are too young for babies and marriage. And what if he is not a nice husband, eh? Or he does not marry you? There are many boys like that.”
“I don’t have a boyfriend, Mum.” She ignored the way her hands shook as she lowered the heat, swishing about the contents of the pan. It was the scent of spice making her clumsy, maybe; or she was tired. Killing zombies in the dead of morning was wont to make a body disagreeable with its owner, after all. “And I do not think I am prone to accidents.”
“Of course, you are right, who am I to say that you are not, hah?” She slammed down a tomato with pointed force. Sniffed. Reached for the knife again. “You remember Auntie Neeta’s son? Tall boy? Long hair?”
Radha did not respond immediately. Instead she paused, brow furrowing in faint frown as the soft swell of her lips thinned with concentration; distantly, she conjured up the image of broad-shouldered young man. Pleasant enough, if rather egotistical. She’d read enough in his confident strides, his easy smiles, and grown bored soon enough.
“You took me to his sister’s wedding,” she said. “I sat at the same table as him. He ordered me lemonade.”
“And what did you think?”
“He seemed nice.” It was a noncommittal sort of answer. Nice could mean anything. She’d figured out long ago that it was a useful sort of word to have: You look nice, that was a nice meal, it was nice to meet you. Set phrases, set uses; they didn’t require honesty, and they didn’t require lies. So Auntie Neeta’s son was nice, and that sufficed.
“Is that all, hah?”
“Yes, that’s all Mum.”
“He was such a good-looking boy,” Priya said, and gave a tragic little sigh, her shoulders growing limp with some awful of strain. She began idly chopping the tomato, her apparently sluggish motions forming thin, even slices that fell into each other, fanning out like a red rainbow. “He would have made a good boyfriend for you. But you tell me his is nice. Tch.” A handful of tomato landed in the pan, and hissed. “I don’t know what you want.”
“I want,” began Radha, and stopped. She weighed her words, tasting their shape and worth on her tongue before voicing them in that cool, sweet voice that matched the hiss of the pan, the steaming air, and drowned them both. “I want someone who is. Likeable. A person prone to smiles, that does not mind my lack. Who interests me. Who demands nothing of me but what I choose to give, and remains complete without me. But requires me regardless.”
She lifted the spoon to her lips, and tasted. “I want someone who allows me to be content,” she said simply, as if it explained it all. “And this needs more flavour,” she added thoughtfully, as if the secret of the universe sat in the pan in front of her. She put down the spoon.
“But you know behti,” said Priya, perplexed, her head shaking with mingled confusion and strangled annoyance (this girl; why did her daughter insist on speaking in riddles?). “You will never find a boy like that.”
“I know,” said Radha. “Please pass the salt?”
I really liked that! You still write? Or is this old? You really have a very distinct writing style..I missed reading it.