[expanded from original 3 client serialized shorts]

by Neale Sourna

        Khabir must go to a Garba dance and seek a bride, his father expects it; unfortunately Khabir is certain every attentive mother there is a hunting hawk seeing him as a juicy worm to be snapped up and fed to their unwed daughters; but, one girl on her own might prove to be his Lady Rescuer in Shining Silks....


        My back was against the wall, because Dad’d ordered me to come to the dance, way out here in the middle of nowhere. Parents do that sort of thing, even when you’re completely grown. Why?

        “Find a nice traditional girl, not those sluts you’re always hanging around.” Subtle, right? I’ve never paid for “it” in my life, nor have I ever gone out, or slept in, with a “bad girl.”

        I kept my back against the wall, so I’d have at least one direction out of four that someone couldn’t sneak up on me from, as pretty country girls and the not so pretty smiled hard, or their moms grinned too much, before pinching and prodding their daughters my way. I was very much trying not to make eye contact, while clutching my Garba sticks, and planning to just chuck it all and escape unscathed.

        She was laughing at me, that much I noticed.

        But some happiness in her eyes made me recalibrate my feelings and I just knew she wasn’t laughing AT me. No. At my predicament, yes. That was giving her great amusement. But it wasn’t funny, at all. Not to me.

        She made a face! What the hell?

        I made one right back at her. She made an “eek!” face followed by a wide-eyes heads up gesture, as a determined mom with the intent of a football tackler headed my way, obviously to find out “why you’re thinking yourself too good for my little girl.”

        I’d heard that kind of tirade before; so I ran. Irate mom chased me.

        My new friend intercepted.

        “There you are! You promised, you mean thing; promised to only dance with me this—. Hello, Mrs. Paritosh. Oh! Who’s that your Cecilia’s dancing with!” My rescuer boldly pulled me onto the floor, as Mrs. P was distracted by Cecilia being asked to dance by a boy who came just up to her breasts, while we silently danced the round together, as others talked, joked, and laughed.

        “Who are you?” I asked with a touch of wonder. She merely smiled and a part of me panicked, yes, flared with a touch of fear that she just might be toying with me; but....

        My lovely dancing rescuer had soul-filled eyes like warm dark brandy, and a graceful figure and lovely face that held my fascinated gaze. That is not a bad thing, if a somewhat shallow one. The Garba ended and the intense mothers were now concentrating on another apparently unattached man, like wolves on a tired gazelle. I flinched away from Mrs. Paritosh’s glance back to see if I were now attached and still engaged wi—.

        “Thank you, sir, for dancing with me,” my cunning partner said in bashful softness.

        “Why so shy now?” She blushed, looked away, as if about to flee. “No, really, why? Please tell me.”

        “You needed help. Mothers are ruthless when they find a fine catch, or even a man just barely still breathing.” That made me laugh, rather loudly, and Mrs. Paritosh glared at me, then at my rescuer, sniffed in disgust, and then turned her back on us. I felt better right away.

        “What’s your name? Who are your family?” I waited, like you do for the sale, ask the question and wait.

        My charming rescuer eventually began to speak, but abruptly stared over my shoulder, and frowned, as another dance round began. I looked behind me, and saw nothing there. Turning back, I saw no one I wanted to see among the swirling crowds around me; she was gone! So was my heart.

                    * * * *

        It’d been weeks. I’d say exactly how long, by days, hours, and minutes, seconds even; but it might sound too pathetic. The Garba dance. Irate Mrs. Paritosh on my trail about not dancing with her unmarried daughter. I was rescued and had shared one dance before my lovely rescuer had vanished without leaving me her name.

        Nor did anyone else know, not even somewhat famous or, perhaps, infamous Mrs. Paritosh.

        I left the office, distracted but not hungry for lunch, and entered the midday crowded streets, thinking I must get back to the country, to try again to find her — yes, I said again — and perhaps hire a professional investigator to find her with my description of “lovely, she was lovely to her soul,” when I found her.

        “Hey! HEY!”

        Everyone looked around, startled at my outburst, all except her, as I followed after her. Down long streets and an ally or two. Into a flower market, I’d always only ever been to before when I was quite small. I grew tired of following, wanting to know the cherished answer she’d not given: her name. And more.

        I caught her up, and I fear I forgot myself and grabbed her around.

        “Ah!” she started, wide-eyed, her body recoiling in energized fear from me, nearly instantly followed by a defensive steeliness that made her arm rigid in my hand. I let go; showing my open hands, my open and hopeful face.

        “No. It’s me. You rescued me at Garba, from Mrs. Paritosh’s wrath?” It meant a great deal to see her relax and open like a flower, well, not fully open, but budding and turning to me like I might be a sun. Or a fairly strong artificial light she liked.

        “Oh! It’s you. It really is you.”

        “You really move. I’ve been following you for blocks.” Her beautiful eyes went wider.

        “You have?”

        “Don’t faint.”

        “I-I’m not.”

        “I’m not convinced.”

        Then, in the midst of a rainbow of flowers and herbs and peoples of all kind, and the rumbling vehicles, horns, yapping dogs, and laughing and crying children, we were silent.

        “I … I have to go.”

        “I’ve just found you, again.”

        “I found YOU last time,” she flipped back at me, then she blushed, and was backing away. No!

        “Tell me where I can find you, again. Please. I must see you again.”

        She smiled, head tilted in a charming fashion, yet shyly, and still backing away. I took a step and she shook her head “no.” I stopped. That pleased her, but made me desperate, until—.

        “Tomorrow, noon, here.” She slipped off through the crowds.

        And I’d still not gotten her name.

                    * * * *

        I’d gotten to the flower market far before noon the next day, to wait for her, right where she had left me standing alone; but she snuck up—.

        “Boo!” I jumped, and she giggled, and then said, “My name is Lilla. What’s yours, besides ‘that snotty fellow’?”


        “That’s what Mrs. Paritosh and the other mothers called you at the dance.”

        “Really?” Forget those mothers, pun intended. “Lilla. Your name’s lovely; and they’re vipers.”

        She giggled again, for “lovely” or “viper,” or both, I wasn’t certain.

        “It’s foreign. Short for Elisabeth, but not Lillia or Lillian, I don’t understand why though.”

        “Your given name’s Elisabeth then?”

        “No. Just Lilla. Mother prayed at the temple for a name for me, and that was the first that came to her. ‘Like a soft voice in her ear,’ she said.” I swallowed rather hard, lovely really wasn’t a word good enough for Lilla. “You haven’t answered.”

        “Answered what?”

        “YOUR name, snotty!” She giggled, and I thought “charming.” And that word was inadequate as well.

        “Um, it’s Khabir.” She then pulled a “charming” face, as she thought about it, then smiled.

        “I like it, which, I am of course certain your mother and father have waited decades to hear.”

        “Just my father.”

        “Oh. I’m terribly sorry. I.... I’m—.”

        “It’s fine. Mother didn’t die recently.”

        “But still....”

        “It’s fine. I’m fine. No faux pas on your part.”

        “Good. I’m glad. Very glad.”

        “Oh, dear Lilla, how could you make my father so right?” She looked perplexed, and charming not understanding my spoken heartfelt thought. “Well. Do you want something to eat?”

        “That’s not necessary.”

        “So let’s do it anyway. My treat. Please?”

        “A-All right. If you wish,” she said quietly, again the bashfulness back, after teasing me so boldly.

        She was nervous and stiffened when I took her hand, until she let me place it on my arm, before I placed my own trembling hand over hers, securing her presence beside me. And a peace, a happiness I have no words for bubbled up in me like a sacred fountain of fresh, cool water.

        Poor Mrs. Paritosh will kill me, because like father’d said I would, I’d found my bride at the country dance.


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