As she sat across from her prospective husband she wondered if he found her pretty. He had looked at her with interest and then had looked away. He hadn’t looked her way since then.
But she was used to this. Men and their families had asked her to put herself on display before. There was nothing new here. She just wanted this to be over as soon as it could be so she could get started on her paper.
Her mother sensed her indifference to this whole situation and tried to send telepathic messages. She remained bored. They finally left. It had felt like a lifetime.
He kept stealing fervent looks at her. She felt her face getting warm in the chilly afternoon. She finally looked in his direction. The warmth of his smile reached her heart.
It felt good to be desired. She thought some more and wished he’d ask. It would save all the humiliation that she would have to go through if he didn’t. If he asked she’d forget all the injustices that people had subjected her to.
His smile deepened. He looked shy. Could he possibly be more shy than her? But aren’t men supposed to be sure of themselves? He looked like he wanted her but then why did he hesitate from asking her out?
For a few minutes she thought of what life would be with a partner whom she had shared a part of her life with. There would be so much to talk about and reminisce about. They’d have the same interests and friends. Some people become friends after getting married. She’d marry a friend. Wouldn’t that be a dream?
The sun suddenly changed color. The sky turned red. Someone said it was getting late. They both got up. She felt his mouth moving. Afraid that he might say something that she wasn’t ready to hear, she ran towards the gate and boarded her bus.
She sat in front of her classroom lost in thought. More men and their families met her last night and more were coming tonight. She hated herself for being so easy to reject. She examined her face some more in the blank screen of her cell phone and didn’t find anything overtly objectionable. She felt like crying. Her parents wanted her to get married. But why? Would her getting married make their life or death easier?
He paused when he saw her. She sensed his presence. He looked at her for a long time. She willed him to say something. Anything! He didn’t. She felt like crying. She wanted to die. What happens when hope doesn’t give hope?
What is this game, she asked herself. He looks and talks and smiles and laughs as if he likes me. Then why doesn’t he ask?
Last night some people had finally called back and expressed more interest in her than anyone had until this point. She was worried that she’d be married off, like her sisters so she could be one less thing to worry about for her parents. Her heart ached. Would it be fair to her future husband if she married him knowing that she loved another man? She continued to argue with herself about how she had no recourse. Then she felt his eyes on her. Then she felt her anger rising. Then she felt her spirit rearing, like a caged animal, urging her to finish this silent exchange of heated moments. The winter afternoon suddenly became very hot.
Years later, she didn’t remember what happened after. She got married in a rush and didn’t have much chance to think or prepare for anything. All she remembered was that one winter afternoon, when her heart screamed for some autonomy in a man’s world, she had gone up to the man of her dreams and asked him to be hers forever. In a man’s world where she was rejected by one man after another, she finally followed her heart and claimed ownership of the man who ruled her heart. In a world ruled by ruthlessness and cold-hearted rejection, she had proved that may be pretty she wasn’t, but strong she was.