Shalini tapped her fingers on the railing, in time to the music she was hearing on her music player. Occasionally, her foot also tapped, independent of the music and in time to her impatience. After having all checked in together, her friends had gone on an impromptu, and yet, seemingly pre-decided loo break, leaving her to mind the luggage. Now she was attracting the stray, curious glances of people, glances which needed no words to ask the question – Why was this girl looking after so many pieces of luggage?

 Someone apprached her and asked, “May I sit besides you?” Shalini shrugged and emptied the chair next to her and then paused to look at who had spoken. It was a girl her own age, and looking like she’d gotten married yesterday. She had all the typical signs about her – the armful of bangles, the long smear of sindoor, the newly shining mangalsutra , long jhumkas swinging in her ears . And yet, she was no village belle. Her clothes were of a fashionable cut, she was wearing stilettos, and her hair was casually yet purposefully twisted into a neat knot. 

‘Definitely newly married, and going on her honeymoon’ thought Shalini. The girl smiled at her, probably understanding her thoughts.

“I’m Natasha. I am flying out with my husband to visit some of his relatives.” Shalini smiled back, but invited no further conversation. Natasha however persisted.

“Have we met before? I feel very sure I have seen you.”

“No, I don’t think so.”

Her mind however, whirred on, drawing up an image of how the husband would look like. Natasha got the hint and sat down quietly. Soon though, she got up and started walking towards someone. Her hubby, probably.

‘Let’s see how he is.’

Then Natasha moved aside, holding someone’s arm.

“It’s good you came soon, I was getting bored.”

The husband smiled indulgently at her, and glanced over at Shalini.

“I am getting some coffee, would you like some?”

“No Nats, not now.” 

“Ok, I’ll be back in a minute then.”

A benign smile at Shalini as she introduced Arun, and she was gone. Shalini’s mind emptied of all thoughts, and there were no words on her lips.

 Arun and Shalini stared at each other. Her mind which had stopped suddenly came alive again. Arun, her Arun, until a while back. Her boyfriend, whom she had broken up with a year ago and had not contacted since. Not that he’d tried to, either. Arun, who had become a stranger to her overnight, now standing in front of her, and with a wife in tow. As some words finally forced their halting way to her mouth, he gave her the fleeting smile which one reserves for strangers, picked up his wife’s bag and walked away.

 Her friends returned en masse, chattering and grinning.

“So how was the hunk?” “We thought he would come this way so we scrammed. Did it help and how!” “Did he talk to you?” “Is he on our flight?” “Say he is, we’ll adjust somehow – you must get a seat next to him” ..

 Shalini smiled wanly at her friends. “He is already married.”

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