A note from Alissa:
Hello again Dear Readers!
Here is your Chapter Two! Once again I will stress this is of no Bollywood movie, but a Bollywood actor. The story is fresh, and new! Hopefully you like it as it's inspired from my real life, and a bit of imagination! I own everything in this story respectively, except for Shahid Kapoor, who I do not own. Because slavery is illegal!
Charlotte stared at the one bedroom apartment. The marble floor shone in the early morning sunlight. Her landlord eyed her skeptically as he laid the keys on the table.
"Is everything to your liking?" he questioned her. His English thick with the accent of the region. Mumbai looked in at her from the window, and the glare from the sun only shone more prominent from the gloss of the buildings adjacent.
Charlotte turned to the stout man with a smile, "Yes. Thank you." She replied. Her landlord took out a handkerchief from his pocket and dabbed at the sweat beads on his balding scalp. He eyed her, like almost everyone did in India, and nodded before turning around and leaving.
The door stood ajar, and the neighbors had begun getting nosy and peering into the dwelling with fervor to find out who this strange girl was living alone in the heart of Mumbai. Charlotte smiled politely at them, and closed the door as quickly as she could. Securing the lock, she wandered through the apartment to inspect it closely. Her suitcases lay forgotten in the sitting room. In her bedroom she let the cold marble cool her warm feet as she stood in front of a wall full of windows, the curtains pulled back exposing the very intimate workings of the city. Below she saw rickshaws weaving between heavy traffic, and people, lots of people.
She let her mind wander as she found herself in the sitting room once again. Her failed marriage had been a three month torment to her. The fact that her husband turned out to be nothing like she thought; he was a drunkard with pension for violence. His fame was that of a B list equivalent in the states, and his ambitions lax she was left wondering why he married in the first place. But of course it became clear soon after their honeymoon. America was what he was after, a chance at Hollywood, and how better to get there than to marry a native? Shame washed over Charlotte's face at the remembrance. How naïve could she have been. When she landed in India with no idea what she was meant to do, she never expected to be made a fool such as she had.
But now she had come to Mumbai to rebuild her life. She left the life in the north behind her and pressed on. She had a small job helping out in a nearby clinic. The pay was nothing to write home about, but her savings was more than enough to cover her for a time. Although doctors were not scarce in India they indeed were short on help for vaccinating the poorer population. Isn't this why'd she come? Charlotte wondered to herself. To help those in need. Indeed she would be doing it with the right motives, but for how long could she hold out like this?
The scars left on her heart didn't relent as she sat on the couch which was settled in front of a modest television. She clicked the remote and watched the T.V spark to life. The news was on, in Hindi. Charlotte flipped the channels searching for an English channel that might help her pass her lonely time. Finally resting on a cooking channel that had only old British women teaching how to cook authentic Indian cuisine, Charlotte half-heartedly listened to their banter.
Then as if inspiration came down and knocked her on the head herself, Charlotte stood up quickly ignoring the remote that clattered to the ground and began to rummage in her suitcases. She pulled out a very beautiful soft pink salwar and kameez suit. Walking briskly to the bedroom she began to change out of her skirt and top into a more traditional dress.
Exiting her apartment she turned to lock the door behind her, flipping the dupatta gracefully over her slender shoulder she turned and began descending the stairs to the street below. She had gotten to the lobby and was walking briskly through while heads turned in her direction. Out of modesty Charlotte pulled the dupatta over her golden hair that fell around her shoulders and willed her skin to become a darker shade. But alas when she looked at the backs of her hands they were still the milky white that had cursed her all her life. Blushing she put on her overly large sunglasses and stepped out into the dusty street before her.
She had the sudden muse to cook something. She would have to eat correct? Of course she would, no avoiding that. She looked to her left, then to her right, then up into the sky. One simple problem, she had no idea where the nearest market was. Something that might be of use to her, she never did her research of the area, only knowing the simple right, right, left, right, left to get to her new job, and nothing more. She sighed exasperated, and began to wander to her left down the crowded street. For the most part, no one noticed her with her cover and sunglasses, but the ones who did made no secret of it.
"Dekhana!" one man said elbowing his buddy who sat perched outside a small shop. Both watched in awe as she passed by. Charlotte could feel the flush of her cheeks begin to hit maximum capacity when something caught her attention. A book store. A rather small, dusty looking one, but a book store none the less. She changed direction walking up the small steps into the small shop. Only there did she feel comfortable to remove the dupatta perching on her head, and sunglasses.
The store owner could hardly believe his luck. A foreigner here in his store ready to spend lots of foreign dollars. He beamed and walked around the desk where he was sitting to oblige his new guest.
"Welcome! Welcome! Is there anything I can assist you in finding?" he asked his voice sounding a little clearer and more educated than that of her stout landlord. Charlotte smiled nervously and nodded her affirmation.
"As a matter of fact, I'm looking for a book to teach me to speak Hindi." She replied feeling her face become flush once more. The man snapped his fingers at a younger man sitting in the corner, and after obviously shouting orders at him the young man began busying himself with rifling through mountains of books.
"I'm sure he'll find what you're looking for in no time. However in the meantime, would you like a cup of tea?" the man said cooly motioning to a plush chair that sat near a small side table. Charlotte shook her head. She never was a tea drinker, and if so it was the green tea sort, nothing like the sweet creamy spiced chai of India. "Very well. Is there another book I might interest you in?"
"A map of Mumbai." Charlotte said finally getting the courage to look up from her feet and peer around at the wall to wall book collection that engulfed the tiny space. The man nodded in understanding before shouting a few more orders to his apprentice and standing awkwardly before Charlotte. Not knowing what to do or expect Charlotte stood still as well, letting her gaze continue to roam about the store. Half the books the man had for sale were in fact printed in English. She could imagine this was due to the fact that the English had occupied the country only sixty so years before.
The young man then came forward with a pile of six books and laid them on the table and returned to the pit of books in search of a map. The owner motioned for her to come and take a look. Charlotte peered over every book, all had odd symbols and photos on the covers that made her feel all the more hopeless, but finally settling, she picked the newest version against the owners persuasions to buy all six. Turning she came crashing into the young man who was holding a stack of maps that quickly fluttered to the floor upon their collision.
Murmurs of sorry came from both parties as Charlotte bent to pick up the fallen maps. The younger man seemed almost embarrassed that she was doing it, and hurriedly joined her in the task. The perturbed noises of the owner could be heard at his assistant's obvious infatuation with the customer. Handing the maps back to the man he proceeded to lay them out on the table for her to examine. She quickly chose one this time without much debate.
"How much?" Charlotte asked beginning to roam in her purse for her wallet.
"Three thousand rupees for the book, and two thousand for the map." The shop keeper said as if this seemed like a reasonable price. Charlotte began pulling out the crisp bills when there came a clatter from behind the desk as a woman about Charlottes age walked down a flight of stairs and gawked at the new clientele.
"Papa!" The girl exclaimed looking crestfallen she put her hands on her hips. She began to chastise him in Hindi while Charlotte stood bewildered and confused at what was going on. Her father seemed bashful after the tongue lashing and turned to Charlotte.
"My apologies, one thousand for everything." He said while stealing a side glace at his daughter's now beaming face. Charlotte looked more bewildered but paid the man none the less. The girl then crossed the distance between the two and began peering intently at Charlottes face. Her deep brown eyes peered into every pore of Charlotte making her more than uncomfortable. A bright red blush crossed her cheeks which sent a huge grin on her admirer.
"Look at that Papa! How beautiful!" She exclaimed pinching Charlotte's cheek between two soft fingers while making a noise you'd expect from a mother cooing over her child. "Hello, my name is Sonia!" The girl announced jovially.
"My name is Charlotte nice to meet you." Charlotte replied a bit quieter than expected. Which only made Sonia beam more and speak with the two men in the room once again in Hindi. Confusion painted Charlottes face as Sonia directed her attention back to Charlotte.
"I think you should stay for lunch!" Sonia beamed all too happy at the prospect. Charlotte then let the blush flood her face as she began to politely decline. "Nonsense! I insist!" Sonia chimed pleasantly as she hooked one of Charlotte's arms and began leading her up the stairs. Charlotte could hear the laughter of the young man below and the exasperated sighs of Sonia's father as well, but when she looked at Sonia all she saw was a beaming happy face.
End Chapter Two.
Cultural clue. I'm not making my character overly beautiful by American standards, but if you have a little sense about India you can guess that a foreign white girl is a pretty odd sight. Especially one described above wearing traditional Indian dress. If you're not following some things I'm writing you can message me, or use Google. Thanks so much for reading!