Shreya pensively gazed deep into her eyes. She was fascinated by her own reflection.

“I am pretty,” she said to herself. “You are damn too pretty, Shreya,” she repeated.

It was a big day today. Shreya was going to sign an indissoluble treaty. She was going to give legality to her relationship with Tarun. And so many people were going to witness the event.

While she powdered her cheek, her mother entered the room.

“You are still not ready?” she complained.

“Makeup takes time, mom!” Shreya defended herself.

“I know. But you are doing it too slow, dear.”

“Well, I am not an expert.” The soon to be bride shrugged her shoulders.

“That’s why I insisted on hiring one.” Shreya’s mother scoffed. “How can you take this so lightly? One gets married only once.”

“Priya married twice,” Shreya bantered.

The mother mocked. “And that makes you happy or what?”

“No, mom.” Shreya turned around and faced her mother. “I just want to say that we should go with the flow,” she explained. “One never knows whether the marriage would last or not. It’s a gamble, after all.”

“You are not sure whether it will work out?” The mother’s mouth was agape.

“That’s not what I am–”

“Then what?” Shreya’s mom interrupted. “You only chose your bridegroom. Been hanging around with him for the past four years. And now you say that one is never sure if the marriage will last?”

“I am being practical, mom. Things change after marriage, you know.”

“They don’t if one is flexible. The problem with the kids of today is — they don’t want to compromise at all. No wonder why the divorce rates are so high.”

“But Priya comes from an orthodox family,” protested Shreya. “Still, she had to undo her marriage.”

“Don’t talk about her!” the mom said in a coarse tone of voice. “She is nothing like what you are insinuating. From day one she had her eyes on her husband’s friend. While her man worked hard day and night, she shared bed with that halfwit. She is a slut who ruined the life of her first husband.”

“That’s not true. Yeah, she hung out with Ajay, but it was all platonic. She never opened her legs for him until she separated from her first husband officially. It takes two to tango. Priya’s first husband never gave her the time. Such a workaholic he was. Moreover, he was emotionally detached from her. She was lost and felt utterly neglected. It was Ajay who came to her rescue. Offered her the emotional support that she much needed. The rest we already know.”

“You needn’t be a lawyer for her. A woman should know how to use her charms. She should know how to keep her man in his place. While men rule this world, we women must know how to rule them. And of course, their hearts. You modern girls talk about love and fall for a new guy every now and then. Yet you don’t know how to make it lasting. It isn’t love if it doesn’t endure over a long period of time. Look at us. We still feel the same for each other even after thirty-five years of our marriage.”

“Oh, stop it, mom.” Shreya frowned. “Fine. I won’t talk about Priya, anymore,” she relented.

“You need to look ravishing.” The mother walked towards the door. “All of our well-wishers and relatives have arrived.”

“I will try my best.” Shreya gave a wry smile.

“Don’t overdo it,” enjoined the parent.

“I won’t. You know it very well. I am not into makeup that much.”

“Fine. Speed things up, for people are waiting for you downstairs.”

“Aye-aye.” The soon to be bride gave her mother a salute.

With that, the door closed. Shreya was all alone once again. She picked up the mascara and dabbed her eyelashes with the black liquid.

“You have incredibly beautiful and thick eyelashes.” That’s what Tarun had said to her when he had met her the second time. An incorrigible flirt, Tarun had always known how to talk to women. While many talented and accomplished men were after her, none of them was as charming as him. Tarun just knew how to seduce a woman. Moreover, he did that with such dedication and devotion as if he was an artist of some sort. A virtuoso perhaps. A Monet who knew exactly what he was doing. And that’s what she considered the most attractive quality about him. A man must know how to treat women. He must know how to play the game of love.

Shreya’s eyelashes were done. Now it was time for eye shadow. She picked up the palette and dabbed the brush to pick up the color. But before she could apply it on her eyelids, the palette fell from her hands onto the floor. Cursing herself for the negligence, she bent down to pick up the little box. To her dismay, a solid piece of square, peach in color, was out of the slot it was in. She sighed a little, picked the little square up and inserted the damn thing back into the groove. The moment she raised herself up and was back facing the mirror again a sudden thought struck her mind.

She was wearing the same eye shadow, she mused.

The peach color had reminded Shreya of the small incident that had happened yesterday. It was the pre-wedding function, and there Tarun was, flirting with one of her distant cousins. Yes, it was innocent flirting, but still, it had irked her. She had always given Tarun the space he needed and had even accepted and allowed him to flirt with other women. But lately, she had been feeling insecure especially as the day of the wedding was arriving near.

No doubt the spark between them had died, and they no longer felt the rush. Still, it bothered her when Tarun gave too much attention to other women.

“We two no longer feel the same,” she said to herself, as she applied the eye-shadow. What her mother said had affected her. “If true love endures over a long time, does that mean we are deceiving each other?” she asked.

Why am I even marrying him? Shreya reflected. Just because I don’t know any other guy so well? We no longer feel the same for each other. Still, we are ready to jump together from the cliff. Is Tarun the best guy that I could ever find? Is it too late to back out? Oh, God! What am I doing?

A tear or two gushed from her eyes. And with that dribbled out the eyeliner that she had so carefully applied. Her makeup was all messed up, and there was a black trail of fluid on her face, which originated from her eyes and went down up to her chin.

“What if I too end up like Priya?” she murmured. “What if Tarun turns into a philanderer again? He was indeed a womanizer before he met me. What is the guarantee that he won’t fall for another woman?”

With such thoughts in her mind, Shreya shuddered. But the very next moment, there appeared on her face a wistful smile.

I should have accepted Anil’s proposal, she thought. What a guy he was. Genius, creative, ambitious, kind, and rich. But no! I chose Tarun. Just because he is such a sweet talker and a handsome looking man. Poor Anil. I rejected him just because he was not as smart as Tarun is. I rejected that incredibly romantic man just because he didn’t know the art of playing the game of love. Do these things even matter in the long term? The social acceptance and looks? Oh, God! I wish if I could find something in my life which is permanent. If only I could find something that is lasting. The love between Tarun and me is taking its last breath. He loved my body and now that he had gotten into my pants so many times, he has lost interest. Even I have lost interest. I am tired. I am sick of seeing Tarun’s face and listening to his voice. And he is tired too. Tired of me.

Shreya wiped her face clean with the tissue. Her makeup was spoilt, and all her efforts had gone waste. Things were back to square one now. Time for her was a commodity far too scarce. Soon her mother would be back again and would be horrified to see her daughter in that state. But despite knowing all of that, Shreya stared at her pretty face and did nothing.

“Is there is nothing that can survive the ravages of time?” she said aloud. “Is there nothing that is permanent? Soon these firm breasts of mine will sag. Soon there will be wrinkles all over my face. Back out before it’s too late! Find someone better, Shreya! Find another man who is better than Tarun. Find him before your hair turns grey. Find him while you are still fertile. Find love which is true and unconditional. Find something that would last till you take your last breath.”

The thoughts that plagued her mind scared her to the core. Just three hours were left for her wedding ceremony, and here she was, doubting her decisions. The chain of her grim and forbidding thoughts broke when her cellphone started ringing. It was her mother.

“Hello,” Shreya said.

“Hello, my child. Called you up just to check up on you. Do you want assistance?”

“No, mom, I don’t need anyone’s help.”

“Fine. But can you tell me how long you will take? There are people here eager to meet you.”

“Fifteen more minutes, mom.”

“All right. Do call me if you need assistance. Okay?”

“Okay!”

With that, the call was over. Shreya placed the phone back on the table and looked deep into her own eyes. Although she could recognize her face in the mirror, she no longer knew who she really was. Tears trickled down her face again. She wanted to shout and to cry aloud. But couldn’t even gather enough courage for that. There was no point crying. There was no point regretting the choices she had made. So somehow after a lot of struggle, she gathered herself together.

“There is nothing that lasts forever,” she said aloud. “There is nothing that lasts forever,” she repeated.

She sniffled and wiped the tears off her face. The next moment she sprang into action once again and picked up the eyeliner with an alacrity, which surprised even her.

“At least I know Tarun,” she said. “At least I know who he is.”

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