Chiran did a double take when he saw her face on the screen. She had a small part, only a peasant girl among many, but the delicate curve of her cheek, the way that her dark hair lay on her shoulders, and the way that her lips curled up in a smile, he knew that she was Padma. A deep panic filled Chiran, and he almost missed the intermission.
He had flown to London from India believing that he was following some deeper calling, and the woman who his dreams told him called out to him was back in India. Chiran stepped out of the projectionist booth during the intermission and made his way down to the bathroom. As patrons moved about between the stalls, sink, and doors, Chiran splashed his face with cold water.
“The movie’s not that bad is it?” a voice asked as Chiran wiped his face with a towel.
Chiran lowered the paper towel to see Kumar Bhave looking at him in the mirror. He knew that face. Anyone who lived in or around Mumbai did. Kumar rebuilt the school in Chiran’s village after the earthquake and visited the village often to see how money he invested was spent. Chiran had never trusted the charity. Kumar had never given him reason to distrust it, so Chiran always thought it was jealousy.
He doubted the Kumar would recognize him. Chiran balled up the paper towel and gestured to his nametag.
“It gets a little hot in the projection booth,” Chiran said.
Kumar smiled. “I suppose so, with all of the computers in there. Thank you for making sure we have a good show.”
With that, Kumar walked out of the bathroom. Chiran looked at himself in the mirror and wondered about his own feelings. He always felt a strange misgiving about that man, but now something else was at play. Was it dread that he felt, or something else? He had no idea why seeing him here would be unnerving. It was certainly not surprising. Kumar Bhave had made no secret about his financial support of the movie.
It was, he thought, just his panic over realizing that he had missed his Padma somehow.
Chiran opened the door and walked out of the bathroom. He tripped over something and nearly spilled into a sea of silver that was a woman’s dress. He caught himself on a potted tree and offered his apology anyway.
When she turned, Chiran’s breath caught in his throat. She was his Padma, as beautiful with her dark hair pulled up into an untidy bun as she had been on the bank of the river in his dream. Her onyx eyes widened and her hand flew up to her soft lips. Chiran could not move. He could only look into her eyes, as he knew that she recognized him.
“Amrita!” Kumar’s voice spoke from the crowd.
Chiran blinked as Kumar’s hand reached for hers gently. She gave him a smile and turned to him.
“I’m sorry, my mind drifted,” she said as Kumar brought her hand to the crook of his arm. She followed him into the crowd as Kumar explained that they needed to get to their seats.
Chiran remembered that he needed to get to his projection booth and hurried back up the stairs. He wanted to be relieved that he had not left Padma behind, but his mind raced as he closed the door to the booth and displayed the signal for guests to return to the theatre. He wanted to be relieved, but he thought it was an ominous coincidence that she was with Kumar Bhave.
He only wished he could remember why.
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