Taara sat on the family room area rug in her Minnesotan suburb. Head bent over her sketch pad, pencil in hand, and tongue twisted out to the side of her mouth, she drew lines, erased, and redrew. As she worked, glow from the fireplace cast shadows around her.
Dimple sat on the sofa and stared into the fire. Her thoughts traveled to her valley, the place of her birth, her home of 18 years. She remembered how Ammaji had sat her down one afternoon. An old friend, Kalavati from Kandhar days, was coming for tea with her nephew, more like her son, orphaned at a young age. Ammaji had picked out Dimple’s emerald green salwar kameez shirt pant with white thread embroidery. A chiffon chunni scarf had been draped shoulder to shoulder over her breasts. Balancing a tea tray, she had walked into the drawing room, her eye lids lowered, her steps measured. Kalavati had invited her to sit next to her on the wicker sofa.
Dimple had felt his presence in the wicker chair adjacent to her. From the corner of her eyes, between stolen glances, she had noticed his thick dark hair and bushy eyebrows over intense eyes. He sat with a polite smile pasted under a full moustache, listening to the old women reminiscence. She poured elaichi cardamom tea which he quietly sipped. As she offered pista biscuits, he took one from the plate and thanked her, as he looked into her eyes. She could feel his gaze following her as she moved to the other side of the table to offer the biscuits to Ammaji and her friend. Dimple took her cup, found her seat, and sipped the fragrant, creamy tea. The chatter of the older women continued as a background chorus to the melody in her head. She stole a glance in his direction from the corner of her eyes, but his look held her there and she felt hypnotized.
Ammaji and Kalavati slipped out of the room, taking their musical refrain with them. Her grandfather’s clock ticked away in its place on the corner table, each staccato note at a time. He cleared his throat and leaned forward, empty cup in hand. She reached for the teapot but he held up a hand and placed his cup on the table.
He cleared his throat again and said, “What does religion mean to you?"
Teapot still in hand, she set it back with a louder thud than she had intended. She sat at the edge of her seat, kept her back straight, and placed her hands on her lap. Keeping her gaze on her hands, she spoke softly, “Family.”
From the corner of her eyes she saw a smile appear on his face. She looked up and noticed a biscuit crumb on the dark hairs of his moustache. She smiled with him and had the urge to reach out and brush the crumb away.
Dimple slowly traveled back to her cozy home in the Minnesotan suburb, her gaze fixed on the flames in the fireplace.
“Mummy.” Taara repeated.
“Hmmm…?” Dimple said dreamily, a smile pasted on her lips.
“Mummy, what are those flowers called?” Taara pointed with her pencil.
Dimple looked toward the sun-bathed corner of their family dining room. The glass of the sliding double doors welcomed the warm rays inside and left the snowy chill outside. A large pot sat by the window balancing a trellis. Ivy of green leaves crept over and around it. The tropical plant had rooted itself firmly into the new soil. It flourished and even bloomed in the winter, flaunting its heart shaped purplish flowers with a hidden tiny white flower within.
“Bougainvillea.” She told her daughter and went back to staring into the fire.