My family keeps pressuring me to get married and I keep promising them, “Someday I’ll get there.”
“Don’t wait too long,” my father warns. “I was married at your age, you know.”
“What about Namita?” my mother asks. “She’s a sweet girl and a very good cook–so her mother tells me. She’ll make you a very good wife.”
I sigh. “Mamma, I don’t want to marry Namita.”
“Why not?” she demands. “What’s wrong with her?”
“I didn’t say anything was wrong with her. I just believe that you should be in love with the person you marry.”
“So, you’re not in love with Namita. That can change. Look at your cousin, Aarush. When he married Bimala, he wasn’t in love with her but now he is. It’s possible that you can grow to love Namita.”
“I don’t think so, Mamma.”
“You were always a difficult child,” she mutters, shaking her head.
“Mamma, leave the boy alone,” my father says. “So, he doesn’t want to marry Namita. It isn’t the end of the world. There are other Indian girls out there. One of these days he will meet the right one.”
“Well, I hope we’re still alive when he does.” She glares at me before bustling off to the kitchen where she and my aunts are preparing a sumptuous dinner for my paternal grandmother’s 80th birthday. Tantalizing smells waft into the living-room making my mouth water.
I get up from the chair and walk over to the window. Across the street I notice a group of girls talking and realize that one of them is Imka. She’s talking to my younger sister, Chanda and Haima, a girl who lived next door to my parents. I don’t know. I watch them for a while longer and then, I turn to my father and say, “I’m going outside for a little while.”
“All right. Make sure you’re back in time for dinner.”
When I get outside, I see Imka saying goodbye to the Haima and Chanda. I wait until they leave before I cross the street.
Imka sees me and smiles. She looks pretty as usual. “Hello,” I say.
“Hello,” she replies.
“May I walk you home?”
She nods and we head off. “You look very nice,” she remarks.
“Thank you. I’m dressed up like this because it’s my grandmother’s birthday. We’re having a special dinner for her.”
“Chanda mentioned that you are having a special celebration for your grandmother. Is Namita going to be there?”
“Um. Do you like her?”
“Not in the way you mean. Why do you ask? Has Chanda said something to you?”
“She said that Namita likes you and that there has been talk about the two of you getting married.”
“Well, let me clear this up right now. My mother has been talking about me marrying Namita but, I’m not going to marry her because I don’t love her.”
She looks relieved to hear that. “I’m glad you cleared it up for me.”
We are walking over a bridge and I stop and face her. “You might as well know too that I like you, Imka.”
She looks shyly up at me. “I-I like you too, Sahil.”
“Please tell me you don’t have a boyfriend.”
“I don’t have a boyfriend.”
“Good, because I want to be your boyfriend.”
We continue walking until we reach her apartment building in Hannover Park. We stop and face each other. “I’d like to take you out for dinner tomorrow evening,” I say.
“I’d like that too,” she replies, smiling, her eyes shy as they meet mine.
“I’ll pick you up at six. Goodbye, Imka.”
I lean over and kiss her on the cheek. Her skin feels so soft. When I draw back, I’m breathing heavily and my heart is racing. I wait until she goes into her apartment before I leave. The sun is beginning to set and I realize that if I don’t hurry, I’m going to be late for dinner.
I barely make it back to the house in time for dinner but still receive a glare from my mother. Namita is sitting next to me. We chat but I’m sure that by now, she understands that there will be nothing more than friendship between us. The food is out of this world and we are all having a pleasant time, especially my grandmother.
I leave after eleven and am happy to let myself into my apartment. After I shower and change, I hit the sack. I don’t fall asleep right away. My mind is on Imka. I can’t wait to see her again.
Imka and I have dinner at Belly of the Beast. Afterwards we go for a drive. The following evening, I take her to The Oude Libertas Amphitheatre where we enjoyed a concert under the clear, starry sky over a picnic and glasses of wine. Imka and I see each other every day. By the end of the month, I realize that I’m deeply in love with her.
Today, we are on the beach, walking along the water’s edge, holding hands. We stop and I propose to her. She accepts and we kiss. I pick her up and run into the water with her clinging to me, laughing and squealing at the same time.
Tomorrow, I will break the news of our engagement to my parents.