It was a beautiful day and the market place was buzzing with activity. Merchants were seeing lugging their wares and setting up stalls. Rosalin, Kayani and a group of other girls walked around admiring the ware. They came to stop at a shop displaying jewelry. They start to browse through giggling and laughing while at the same time admiring the stuff.
Kayani picked up some earrings and held it against her ears. ‘How’s this?’
‘Gee, that’s awful. Here try these.’ She handed over another pair to her. Kayani took the earrings from her and placed it near her ears. Rosalin looked at both her ears with a keen eye. ‘Yes, that looks nice.’ She took back the earrings and turned to the shopkeeper. ’ How much for these?
‘½ Reis Senora.’
‘Are you crazy? I could buy a complete set of jewelry for that sum. Hey Kayani, choose another pair and pay him ½ Reis for both the pairs.’
‘But Senora, I can’t afford to give 2 pairs at that price.’ The shopkeeper pleaded.
Rosalin slowly turned around to look at him directly. She gave him a hard look and the man flinched under her stare. She then turned on her charm and fluttered her eyelids seductively and innocently as she inched her face close to his. ‘If you desire, I am sure you’ll afford 3 pairs at that price, Senor.’
The shopkeeper went weak in his knees. His face went beet red as he spoke huskily. ‘If you desire, sure Senora.’
‘Then here’s ½ Reis.’ She said softly as she took the money from Kayani and handed the same to the dumbstruck shopkeeper. The shopkeeper took the money in a daze, his eyes still trained on her face.
‘Obrigado Senor.’ She continued. ‘You have been very kind. I shall see you again. Bye.’
Rosalin waved her hand gingerly in the face of the awed shopkeeper and with her eyes still on him seductively, turned around and walked away. The others stifled their laughter and followed Rosalin. As they turned a corner they couldn’t control their laughter and broke down laughing hysterically. ‘Oh my god, Rosa, you should have seen his face. My god, that man…’ Kayani laughed again. The others followed suit unable to control themselves. A voice interrupted.
Rosalin stopped laughing. With a long drawn pause, she slowly turned around with a smile to face Fr. Kane.
‘Hello Padre. Nice to see you again.’
‘Same here. You know how to bargain I see.’
Rosalin blushed with embarrassment while the others bowed their head in shame.
With an apologetic smile, she replied, ‘I didn’t realise you were around. I am sorry about that.’
‘It’s okay. ’
‘What brings you to the market place, Padre?’
‘I am supposed to meet someone.’ Fr. Kane looked at Kayani and the others. ‘Your friends I believe.’
‘Yes Padre. This is Kayani, my closest friend.’
‘Greetings Senora.’ He gently called out to Kayani who smiled and nodded her head in embarrassment.
Fr. Kane turned to Rosalin again. ‘You know something. It doesn’t hurt to come up to the church on Sabbath and spend some time with God. Next Divine Liturgy, I hope you will concentrate more on God and less on…’
‘Yes Padre.’ Rosalin responded slowly in embarrassment, her head bowed low.
Kayani walked over hesitatingly and whispered something in Rosalin’s ears. Rosalin looked at her in shock and nodded her head sideways quickly.
‘Is something wrong?’ Fr. Kane asked her with concern in his voice.
Hesitantly, she replied no.
‘Rapariga, if I can be of assistance, please feel free to ask me.’ Fr. Kane told Kayani. Kayani looked over at Rosalin intriguingly .
‘Padre, in 3 days time, Kayani is getting married according to the Hindu customs in the confines of her house. And she said she would be highly honored if you were to attend the same.’ Rosalin told him hesitantly.
Fr. Kane pondered hard. He looked at Kayani silently. Her eyes were lowered. He looked at Rosalin and then at the others.
‘We are sorry Padre.’ Rosalin said softly. ‘Please ignore her plea.’
Antonio’s voice rang out from behind them. ‘Am I interrupting anything?’ Kayani and the other girls quickly stepped backwards. ‘Greetings your highness.’ Fr. Kane called out softly.
‘Greetings Padre.’ He turned to Rosalin. ‘Greetings Senora.’ She nodded her head in reply.
Antonio turned again to Fr. Kane. ‘What brings you to the market place Padre?’
‘I had to meet someone your highness. Sorry about this but if you will excuse me, I’ll take your leave.’
‘Sure Padre’. Antonio bowled low. Fr. Kane nodded in his direction and then at Rosalin and the others. Antonio saw Fr. Kane walk away with slow enigmatic gait. People bowed their heads low as they greeted him. Antonio and Rosalin watched him talk to one or two people gently. ‘That man surely emits an aura of charisma.’
‘Yes your excellency.’ Rosalin whispered softly.
‘I need to talk to you Rosalin.’
‘Sure your excellency.’ She replied eyeing him seductively. ‘Wait while I inform my friends.’ She walked to the group. ‘Kayani, you all carry on, I’ll see you later at your place.’
‘Where are you going?’ Kayani asked her in a hushed voice.
‘Guess.’ Saying this, she walked back to Antonio. She could see he didn’t have his horse with him. They walked out of the market place as the onlookers gave them curious glances.
As they walked in silence, their hands seemed to touch unconsciously with each other’s and a shiver seemed to pass through her body. There was something about his touch that electrified her. They had reached a dense wood. ‘This way your excellency.’ She called out. They walked down a small path. They could hear the low gushing sound of water.
They reached a clearing from where a stream flowed. In the middle of the stream, there was a huge boulder. Rosalin picked up the hem of her dress and lifted it up a bit and waded through the cold water. Antonio silently followed her. He looked around. There wasn’t a soul in sight. The place was remote except for the sound of birds chirping up in the trees.
He saw Rosalin climb atop the boulder and slowly dipped her feet in the flowing waters and watch small fishes swim around it and nibble at her toes and tickling her. Antonio followed her and sat down next to her. ‘This is a nice place, very calm and serene.’
‘I come here often when I need to relax, your excellency.’
‘Antonio, call me Antonio.’
She nodded in agreement. Silence followed. She then spoke again softly.
‘You knew I was at the market place?’
‘Yes.’ He answered.
‘You went out of the way to meet me. Why?’
‘Cause I wanted to see you again Rapariga.’
‘Well we did meet the other day.’
‘I wanted to meet you again.’
But then why me? There are a whole lot of other beautiful women out there.’
‘But not as beautiful as you.’
‘You are joking Antonio.’ She said with a smile.
No. I am not. Ever since I first saw you, I had been fascinated by you. You are an enigma to me, an enigma.’
She gave a shallow laughter. ‘So why don’t you try and unravel this enigma, this puzzle?’
‘I am hoping to do that and soon.’
‘Pray, what do you have in mind, your excellency.’
‘Marriage?’ She knew she got him right. ‘Did I hear you right?’
Antonio got up and turned his body around to face her. He knelt in front of her and gently taking her face in his palms, kissed her delicately on her lips. He then looked her in the eyes. ‘Would you marry me Senora?’
There was a silence.
Antonio continued. ‘I had spent my childhood in Goa. I always had fond visions about this place. And over the years while I lived my life in Lisbon, my life was devoid of something I couldn’t fathom. Something that made me dream of this place night and day. Something that made me come back. I could have lived the rest of my life in Lisbon, enjoyed a luxurious life, married one of the beautiful women there but no. I had to come back. And then I met you and my life turned beautiful and wholesome. You added that extra color to my life and made it a majestic masterpiece Senora. Fill my life with more colors Senora. Color me beautiful that I may become the envy of others. Marry me Senora, marry me!’
She pulled his hands away and looked at him, her face devoid of expression. She then burst out laughing and giving him a gentle push, jumped in the stream. She then started splashing water all over him. Antonio found himself getting drenched. He jumped in after her and started splashing water all over her. As her gown got wet, she found it clinging to her body. She realized that her body was visible through the wet cloth and Antonio’s gaze was fixed on her breasts. She crossed her arms to cover it. He gently pried her hands way and kissed her.
He then let her go and climbed out of the stream. ‘I can wait darling.’ He called out loud over his shoulder. She didn’t say anything as she followed him out of the stream. She tried to drip the gown at her ankle dry as much as possible. Antonio watched her in silence. She looked so lovely with the wet hair falling down on her shoulder, the droplets that glistened on her tanned face, the curves of her body that was clearly outlined. Softly he whispered close to her ears. ’You damn very well amaze me! He paused. ‘You haven’t answered my question Senora?’
She stopped what she was doing and looked at him. She then dropped her eyes low. ‘Yes.’ She whispered back. A beaming smile irrupted on his face and he quickly gave her a tight hug and held her close. ‘You made me a very happy man Rosa. You have been more than generous with that one word you just uttered.’ She remained silent and let the warmth of the body melt the icy chill in her.