Poking fun at Bollywood movies, nominally Devdas and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.
She sits alone in her bedchamber, the gauzy curtains dividing the airy roomy from the balcony twisting in the wind.
Her fingertips are painted blood red, her eyes deep khol. She is elaborate--covered in gold bangles, anklets, and necklaces. The gold thread in her red sari sparkles in the light of the flickering candles sitting on her vanity table, and she sighs.
It is night. The stars burn like coals in the sky and although the air is cold, she feels heat breathe into her face. The hand resting in her lap twists her sari while the other adjusts her dupatta, feeling the pins holding it in her dark hair.
There is movement below her balcony. The marriage ceremony must be starting soon--she hasn't been paying attention to the time. Her mother is welcoming guests and her sisters left her hours ago to attend to their husbands.
She is waiting for him. He will come, she knows. She saw it in a dream. He will arrive at the bottom of her balcony, in white linen, enter the mansion without being seen, and climb the many stairs to her bedroom. She won't notice him right away--he walks quietly, and the doorway is shrouded in darkness. His face will be slowly illuminated by the candlelight, and they will stand there, watching each other.
The sari feels rough between her hands. She drops it and rises, stretching. The wind picks up and blows against her, sending folds of fabric sailing in the wind.
A few more minutes pass. Her feet become sore from standing so stiffly, and she shakes them, listening to the sound of the anklets chiming. Something like doubt stirs in her heart and she feels unsettled.
Time is running out.
She would be called 'little mother' in her new home--her husband-to-be has four daughters and is fifty-two to her twenty-one.
But Raj has the chance to save her still. She would dishonor her family, leave her home, sell all she owned, cross half the world--anything to leave with him tonight.
She drops her head in her hands, the smell from the mehndi drifting into her nose and mouth. Her lips tremble as despair washes over her.
A moment later, she straightens. There is the sound of fabric swishing across the floor behind her. Her heart dares to hope and she is afraid to turn and look for fear of losing everything.
A hand touches her left shoulder gently and pulls her around.
Their eyes meet, just as she saw it in the dream. His soft features are fuzzy as her eyes fill with tears.
"I'm here," he says simply, drawing her into his arms. "And I will always love you."
"Will we go?" she murmurs, pressing her head against his chest. Visions of her mother, father, sisters, and friends dash in front of her eyes as guilt sinks onto her shoulders.
"We will go to your father. If he will not give us this chance, we will run."
Her eyes fill with tears once more. They walk to her father's office. Raj knocks strongly on the door. She clings to his arm, still daring to hope.
Her father is within, and his eyes do not betray any disapproval of Raj's presence. Anjali runs to him, takes his hand, and falls to her knees, kissing his feet.
"Father," she says, "will you let me love or force me to live?"
"I would see you happy, my daughter. Your life should not be lived in regret. If it is your wish to marry someone else, so be it."
Anjali's heart beats harder than it ever has. She leaps up and hugs her father, who laughs and holds her tightly.
"It has been a long while since I have seen you smile, Anjali," he says, touching her chin.
She turns to Raj.
They do not speak. She takes his cheek in the palm of her hand and smiles, a tear sliding down her cheek.
He holds her until the moon has sunk below the horizon and the stars are extinguished in the sky.