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Published: July 14th 2013
An envelope arrived in Frank’s in-tray one day. It contained a note from Sabitha which stated baldly: Sunita has returned. You may visit her if you wish. Yours, Sabitha.
This was a huge surprise. She was not due back for a couple of months. What kind of reception could he expect? She wanted to see him, which was promising, but maybe she and Sabitha were planning to rub his nose in the mess he’d made. He called on her the same day, immediately after work, and was invited up to the guest-room for tea and fried egg. Neither Sabitha nor Yesha made an appearance. He was still, he guessed, in the dog-box after the 'electricity' incident.
With her short Parisian hair, and coquettish mannerisms, this was a revised version of the old Sunita. Her long Nepalese pig-tail, her contrariness, and her uninhibited sexual curiosity had always given her an air of child-like innocence. Now she looked as though she had walked out of the pages of Paris Match, with the worldly appearance and attitudes of a fully-fledged adult. This new Parisian Sunita, with her French-accented English, both repelled and attracted him. And yet it was a relief to find her more open and broad-minded than before. Perhaps she was capable of adapting to life in the west after all.
“So? Why did you come back early?” he asked.
“My brother came to Paris and persuaded me to come back,” she said, pouring his tea. “My mother was missing me.” Frank had never met her brother, but he recalled that she had proudly reported that he was, according to his own account, so potent that his lovers eventually had to beg him to stop.
“It was a pity not to finish your course,” he said.
“Don't you want to see me?” she asked. “Or maybe you want to have more electricity with Sabitha or Mrs Lopchan?”
“Oh, that!” he said, uncomfortably. “I just missed you, and Sabitha reminded me of you.” She looked at him with a quizzically. “It wasn't serious,” he added, unconvincingly.
“You're really stupid,” she said. “Did you not know that brothers-in-law can go 'aah' with their sisters-in-law?”
“I'm sure I wouldn't want to go 'aah!' with your sisters,” muttered Frank hurriedly, dismissing the intriguing possibility with a frown. She gave him an old-fashioned look. It was time to change the subject. “Did you have a good time?”
“I had a wonderful time,” she said brightly. “Look!” And she turned her head one way and then another to reveal an expensive looking pair of ear-rings. And then he had to look at a pair of dress shoes that had not yet been worn. “The shops in Paris are wonderful."
They were stepping around each other rather warily. The familiar landmarks in their relationship had shifted.
“Apart from the shopping. How did things go?” Frank asked.
“Do you speak French?”
“Bien sur! Je parle Français tres bien. France is a wonderful country,” she said in her new French-accented English. “The people are very friendly and so fashionable. And they have a wonderful Metro.” She turned and picked up a leather handbag. “Isn't this nice?”
“I can see the shopping was great, but surely there's more to life than shopping?” he said. “Spending money isn't everything, is it?”
“Of course spending money is everything! We only have short lives - why not enjoy them?” She looked at him defiantly. It was time for him to go. “When are you coming over to my place?” Frank asked. She looked at her hands.
“I am not sure. Some time.” She paused, and then added: “Maybe.”
Frank left feeling somewhat downcast. This was not quite the Sunita he recalled. Did he like this new version? Had she forgiven him? He was relieved at least that he had not been subjected to a ritual humiliation.
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