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Chapter One    In the summer of 1990, the bright clear sky looks as if Dali painted it himself. I walk down St Vincent Street on my way home. As I pass Radio Rentals window, I see on the television screens that it’s half-time in Scotland’s World Cup match against Brazil. My eyes light up when I see the half time score. One nil to Scotland! This has been a good day indeed. “Wow!” I tell myself, “A result in court this afternoon and now Scotland in the lead.” The goal scorer’s name flashes on the screen. David Narey. God! A defender getting the goal! “They’ve got it wrong,” I direct my angst at the screen, “it should’ve been me, David Merchison, and I’m better looking than him too. He doesn’t know how lucky he is that I play rugby instead of football. Anyway, his balls are the wrong shape. Poor guy!”   Throughout Italia 90, the atmosphere is electric! It’s a time of pasta and Chianti, the tricolour of red, white and green littering the stadia. The chanting of the Azurri, the backdrop of Pavarotti and the awesome Nesun Dorma flood you with emotion reducing you to tears of joy. And then there’s Toto Schillaci! Well! He’s something else! His goals are sheer poetry.   In the shop window, I see the players traipsing off at half time. In five minutes I’ll be home. I could watch the second half while Sumi makes the dinner, after which, I’ll be able to spend some time with her before I drive her back to her family tonight. I suppose I can sleep without her for one night. Tomorrow is another day to get through when Sumi and I will be married. She’s the woman I’ve waited nine years for, and I’m not the kind to wait patiently. Mind you, she was a fourteen year old waif when we met and now the ugly duckling has turned into an elegant beauty. Some wedding it’s going to be, her a Scottish Hindu, a doctor, and me, a Scottish protestant, a lawyer. What a combination! And all I have to do is turn up.” In the last few days I’ve met so many relatives, Sumi’s and mine, who have turned up. Hers came from India, Kenya, Goa and America. Her father’s associates, mainly civil servants and professionals come from all over the world. My relatives came from Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Amongst my guests are, at my father’s invitation, the show off, the Lord Provost, a previous Lord Provost, assorted doctors, lawyers, and journalists. At my invitation, various dubious celebrities, footballers, snooker players and rock musicians, who pass as the glitterati of Glasgow. Then there will be friends from legal beagles to dustmen and cleaners. Over two hundred are expected. The reception will take place in Pollokshields at the opulent home of my future in laws. Two large marquees have been erected on the lawn. I must admit, I’m ecstatic, pleased that my parents gave us their blessing, and me, their one and only son having a Hindu ceremony. This is high acceptance indeed, especially from a traditional family who is used to having things done their way. But right now, apart from Scotland and Brazil, my mind is focused on Sumi who is waiting for me at home. The more I think of her, the more anticipation I feel. Arriving at our building, I press the buzzer for our flat and enter through the security doors. I look up at the camera before entering. I grin like a dirty dog knowing she looks out for me on the television monitor. Briefcase in hand, surprise wedding present in the other, I walk towards the lift anticipating the warm welcome, the glow of scented candles and that wide beaming smile. I step out the lift, oozing confidence and elated. At the door, I smell the aroma of freshly baked bread hanging in the air. I pause for a moment, prepare myself, thinking it’s great to come home. I never know what I’m going to get. After two and a half years Sumi still manages to surprise me. I open the door and walk in. I wait, expecting she will sneak up and surprise me, like she does. The flat is in darkness. The silence gives me an eerie feeling, making the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. Something feels wrong, dreadfully wrong. I flick the switch to throw some light on it. “Sumi,” I say nervously, “what you doin’?” There’s no reply.   “Sumi, this isn’t funny. C’mon! You’re making me nervous.”   I follow the whiff of food, into the dining room. Foie gras is already on the table. A half bottle of Sauternes oxygenates next to a basket of warm petite pain. I look at the wine, the table and the typically French setting and suddenly remember a meal we had in France one Christmas Eve. I now think of tonight. She said we have something special to celebrate, so she can’t be far away.


In the bedroom, the flame from the candle flickers. The wardrobe doors lie ajar, the drawers pulled wide-open and her clothes gone. On the pillow, is a typewritten note. A feeling of foreboding sweeps over me. I’m devastated, stunned. My stomach churns violently. I feel dizzy as the blood drains from my face. My head swims and my legs turn to lead. The typewritten note feels heavy in my quivering hand.  I stare at it in disbelief as my well organised life plunges into the depth of confusion and despair. Not knowing where to start, I pick up the phone and dial the number I’ve been dialling for years. The phone rings and rings as I reflect on the incongruity of the candle and the note. Our evening ritual is that first in lights a red candle to welcome the other. “So,” I ask myself, “how the hell can she light a candle and leave a bloody note like this?” The phone seems to ring forever before an excited voice says, “Hello, good evening.” It’s the familiar voice of the always happy Samaroo Ramzanie, Samu for short to his friends and family. He’s Sumi’s twin brother and my close friend since primary school. In fact, it was Samu who introduced me to his sister, Sumintra, Sumi, when she was fourteen. Before then, she went to a private school, West Kelvin School for Girls in Kelvinside, where they developed girls into young ladies, one of which was my twin sister, Liz, who was the exception to the rule. West Kelvin School for Girls was one of those late Victorian blonde sandstone facades with high windows. Come to mention it, so was Hillhead Academy, the boy’s school for budding gentlemen that I went to. These two schools had merged when we were fourteen, just at the point where I was discovering my first hormonal flush. We were dreading having our sisters in our class. But we were also excited that other girls were coming. But that was then and this is now. It seems so long ago. “Hello! It’s David,” I say, clutching the phone tight. “Can I speak to Sumi?” I am distraught and unusually abrupt. “She’s not here, David. She said you were going to bring her over at ten o’clock after you’ve both had dinner,” answers the perplexed Samu, “she should be with you.”     “Well she’s not,” I replied tersely, “why did she do it now, Samu?” “Do what?” Samu asks, not grasping the situation, “What are you talking about? You got bollock ache or something?” “She’s gone. She’s left me.” I tell him.    “Don’t be ridiculous. The house here’s swarming with relatives from all over the world,” replies Samu, “She says she had good news from the scan today. She wants to tell you first before she would tell us. She was bursting with happiness. I‘ve never seen her so excited before.” He reaches for his drink as he continues. “And my parents, you’d think they were taking happy pills all week.” “I know, I know,” I agree.   “She collected her wedding dress this morning,” says Samu, “it’s laid out on her bed. Right now! Sumi said that you both had something special to celebrate apart from the wedding.” “So why’d she write me this fucking note?” I scream at him in desperation. “And why isn’t she here?”                 “David,” says Samu exasperated, “you‘re not making any sense.  “Where the fuck is she then? It’s like the Marie Celeste in here. The dinner’s on the table but not a soul in sight. We’ve got to do something now. Something’s wrong.” “You’re making me nervous, she’s not here. It’s no time to joke,” continues Samu, “We’re waiting for you both, the celebration has already started. Look, I can’t speak freely now. I’ll be over in fifteen minutes.


From the River by Deveena Maharaj