The Henna Wars(9)

“Coming?” Flávia asks with a tilt of her head. I nod, hoping she’ll take my hand again, but she doesn’t.

We’re ambushed by my sister before we’ve even descended from the stage.

“I told you not to go up without me!” Priti cries, standing at the bottom of the stage with her hands on her hips. She looks so much like Ammu when she’s angry that I have to bite back a smile.

“Sorry,” I say, not really meaning it. I figure it’s best not to mention how much she looks like Ammu because it’ll make her even angrier. “Just … Flávia here doesn’t know anyone.” I nod at her standing beside me. “This is Flávia, by the way.”

“Hi,” Flávia says.

“Hello.” Priti looks Flávia up and down, judgment flashing in her hazel eyes.

“She used to go to school with me,” I say, and add—again—“she doesn’t know anyone here.”

“She has a sister. She was a bridesmaid, remember?”

“Priti.” I try to squeeze a lot into her name; a warning, and some of my excitement about the fact that Flávia was holding my hand only minutes ago. And also an apology.

Priti obviously doesn’t understand any of it, because she just glowers at both me and Flávia.

“I actually better go find my sister,” Flávia says, and even though I want to say, no, stay and hold my hand for longer, I say, “Okay, see you later.”

But of course, I won’t see her later. Or maybe ever again. Then all I’ll have to remember her by is the way our hands fit together for those few short moments.

“You know we can go up to the stage again,” I say once I’m sure Flávia is out of earshot. “It’s not like there’s a rule you only get to go up once!”

“I … I know,” Priti says, some of the fight gone out of her now. “I just … wanted to go up together. I’ve never heard you mention her before.”

“I told you, we went to school together. A long time ago,” I say, feeling deflated. And we probably won’t see each other for a long time again. If ever. “Well, do you want to go up then?”

Priti looks so huffy that for a moment I think she’ll say she really doesn’t want to. But she nods, even through her pout. I have to smile because it’s kind of adorable. I even mumble an apology as we step up to the stage again, taking either side of the bride and groom.

After the photographer has clicked away for a few moments, Priti rushes toward her—heels clicking loudly—and hands over her phone.

“Can you please take a few on this?” Her voice is all sugar and sweetness.

The photographer looks a little exasperated, but nods. It’s as she clicks away with Priti’s phone that I realize how ridiculously forgetful I’ve been.

Why didn’t I do this when I was with Flávia? I had the perfect opportunity to document the moments we spent together—fleeting and out of the blue as they were. But I was so busy telling Sunny Apu about Priti being in the bathroom doing her makeup that I missed my chance.

“Wow, these are definitely going up on Instagram,” Priti says, flicking through the photos on her phone as we step off the stage. “You look really nice.”

“I doubt it.” After all, I didn’t dash off to the bathroom with Priti to touch up my makeup. I haven’t even looked at myself in a mirror in hours. I can’t imagine what all of those helpings of food has done to my makeup.

“You do. You look even happier than Sunny Apu in this one. Look!” She holds the screen up in front of my face. It’s zoomed onto my smiling face. I don’t look half bad, even though my urna is half falling off of my body.

“Wait. I’m sitting next to Sunny Apu here. But I was sitting next to Dulabhai?”

“Yeah, in the picture with me. This is the one I took of you with … you know, that girl.”

“Her name is Flávia …” I mumble. I can’t really mean it as a reprimand when Priti has done what I naively forgot to do. I feel a strange flutter in my stomach that I know too well but don’t want to know at all. “Did you take many photos of us?”

“Only a few.” Priti’s head is buried in her phone once more.

“Can you send them to me?”

Priti looks up at this, a frown on her lips.

“Okay, what’s with you today?” she asks. “And with this girl, Flávia?”

“Nothing. I don’t know what you’re on about,” I say. “Look! They’re cutting cake!”

I cry it out loud enough for a few people in front of us to turn their heads and look at me. I don’t care because Priti does look ahead at where Sunny Apu and Dulabhai have come off the stage to cut a cake that looks to have at least eight different layers.

“Oooh, what kind of cake do you think it is?” she asks.


FLáVIA IS FORGOTTEN UNTIL WE PILE INTO THE CAR LATER on. It feels strange that the wedding is over and done with; all those months of planning resulted in an event that lasted only a few hours.

Ammu and Abbu are in the front of the car discussing someone they ran into at the wedding. The intricacies of the conversation are more or less drowned out by the loud music blaring from the radio.

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