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There's a wedding and a bride without a smile.Chapter 1: The Wedding
The drums were followed by the trumpets, the trumpets were followed by tubas, the tubas were followed by the French horn, followed by the clarinet, followed by the throng of people dancing and moving alongside the music, and finally a groom, sitting on top of a horse, shining like a knight in the midst of it all. The groom was here, which meant the wedding was here too. I stepped towards the window and pulled the curtain slightly to witness the commotion outside. For a second, I had to squint because the jewels glittering on people’s dresses and the sparkle of their golden adornments became blinding in the light of the sun.
I closed the curtain and turned to the bride to inform her of her prince’s arrival. However, the same time that I turned to tell her, the women in the room surrounded bride. I strained to catch a glimpse of the bride. Her large almond eyes were lined with kohl and her eyelashes were curled perfectly so the tips touched the crease of her eyelid. A row of red and silver jewels followed the line above her eyebrows. The aunties, grandmas, and cousins all grinned at the bride. Though beautiful, her face was void of a smile.
My mother told her she looked beautiful, as did my aunties, my grandma and my cousins. The bride curved the ends of lips ever so slightly, and whispered a thank you that was barely audible. As the women began to disperse, I slowly walked up to her but became distracted by her hands painted gracefully with henna and the golden jewelry atop her hand that followed her index finger to her wrist. She gripped a book and I realized it was a sketchbook.
“Do you draw?” I asked her. Despite being a longtime family friend from India, I knew next-to-nothing about the bride or her family.
“It’s my favorite thing to do.”
“Can I look at it?”
As my fingers flipped through the pages, I came across vivid colors that reflected Holi, the Indian festival of colors. She had drawn designs of flowers painted in a myriad of colors and women in lenghas and saris, along with cities of the world.
“These are so beautiful! You should become an artist!” I exclaimed, closing the book and handing it back to her encouragingly.
“I wanted to study art if I could go to college.” The bride only gave me a small smile and turned towards the mirror - as if she was trying to look for something in her reflection.
Just as I was about to ask more about her art, we heard the groom and his parade entering the palace, signaling that it was time for the bride to go.
Suddenly, the bride gripped her mother’s hand tightly. She looked at her mother with pleading, glossy eyes. The bride’s mother stared at her daughter without a word. Her face was tense as she stared at her nineteen-year-old daughter.
“Ma.” The small voice of the bride croaked. “Please.”
The room was silent until the trumpets outside began to creep through the walls of the dressing room. I couldn’t understand what was going on. The bride took both her hands and gripped her mother’s own more tightly than before. She looked at her mother as if she was only woman in the room.
“It’s time to go Anjali.” The bride’s mother only said and pulled away from her daughter’s grip.
The older women in the room lined up alongside the bride and walked her down the staircase to a mandap, a canopy with a fire burning alongside a priest. They seemed to ignore the interaction between the bride and her mother without a single question. In moments, the bride sat next to the groom and they gave their holy offerings into the fire. But there was no smile on the bride’s face. Between the flames of the holy fire, I could see a tear drop running down bride’s cheek.