A Colorful Life: Drawn in Broken Crayon by Melissa Storm
- Women's Fiction
- 80,000 Words
- Mild Heat Rating
A handsome stranger. A whirlwind trip to India. A life forever changed.
For Daly English, life is a series of one disappointment after another. Rather than dealing with the fall-out, she locks herself in her studio and works tirelessly toward completing her art school portfolio. Unfortunately, fate isn’t done with Daly quite yet.
Time and time again, a handsome stranger refuses to be ignored, forcing her to come to grips with the loss she’s been harboring for years and to trust herself to love again. Their whirlwind romance transports her from the drab Midwest straight to the bold and colorful capital city of India where a slew of quirky characters cast a stark contrast to her world at home. Will Daly continue to fade into the background of her own life, or will her journey transform her into exactly who she needs to be?
Read an Excerpt
When the plane touched down in New Delhi, Daly shot up from her seat, but Kashi immediately pulled her back down. “Who says we need to be the first off the plane? Let everyone else go. We can enjoy our last few moments of openly loving each other.” He reached in for a kiss, then two, three, as many as they could fit in before the flight attendant shooed them away.
“Don’t worry,” Kashi said. “We’ll find a way to be together in private. I’ll make it happen.” He gave her one last smooch before grabbing their luggage from the overhead bin.
Daly nodded and took a deep breath. “Okay, let’s go meet your family.”
They left the empty plane and immediately ran into the pulsing crowd huddled at the arrival gate. Daly clung to Kashi, dizzied by the blur of activity. A series of five sharp whistles rose from the excited shouting.
Kashi jerked his head and shot off toward the right. “They’re over there.” He pointed toward the sea of faces ahead of them.
“How can you tell? This place is jam-packed!”
“Did you hear that little song? La la la la la. That’s our song, the one my sister and I wrote when we were little. We used to bug Chai-ji by singing it over and over and over again. Poor Chai-ji, we used to bother her so much!”
The swarm of people wearing fantastic, motley garments overwhelmed Daly. It took her entire focus not to lose sight of Kashi as they zigzagged through the terminal.
As they passed, a group of children pointed to her and giggled.
Smells from the street wafted through the automatic sliding doors—air pollution, dung, incense, street fare—and the cacophony of dozens of languages danced in her ears. She had no idea what the people were saying, but they sounded happy.
She wanted to ask Kashi about a group of elderly men who wore bright orange outfits and danced to the chime of a tambourine, but before she could, he sped up and disappeared into the crowd. A moment later, Daly was pulled into the group by a pair of unfamiliar hands.
“Hi, Haaaaye.” A girl who bore a striking resemblance to Kashi greeted her. “It’s so nice to have you here, Dolly. We are going to be best friends. Don’t you think so?”
More unknown people closed in on her and picked at her hair, clothing, and cheeks. She couldn’t even see Kashi anymore, but she could hear him laughing, chatting, and sobbing with those who weren’t tending to Daly.
“You must be Dolly,” said a bespectacled middle-aged woman. She wore a bright blue sari with gold-colored trim. The corners of her eyes crinkled into a million little creases—a stark contrast to Laine’s smooth, expressionless face.
“Welcome to this, my home,” a second woman gushed, opening her arms as far as the crowd would allow—apparently referring to the entire country, or at least the airport.
“Dolly, was your flight good? Did they give good food to eat?” asked a white-haired, potbellied gentleman wearing clothes straight out of a seventies disco. He pointed over the group and made introductions, none of which stuck. “Dolly, this is my wife, Meenu.” He motioned to the woman who had welcomed Daly on behalf of the entire country. “My daughters Priya, Jaya, and Mishti, son-in-law Vijay, grandson Ritesh, mother Susheila, who is lovingly called by Chai-ji, brother Vibhor, his wife, Vandana, their children, Vidhi, Veer, and Vibhuti, Auntie’s sisters, Shobna, Pooja, and Anjali, their children Danesh, Neetu, Simmi, Shyama, Sunil, and Abhishek, and family friends Bipasha, Taposh, Shivani, Surinder, Naresh, Sandeep, and Kiran. And of course, I myself am Rishi.”
Daly gave a hesitant wave and accepted her name in India was going to be Dolly. No way of getting around that now.
“Tcho Tchweet,” one woman said as she pinched Daly’s cheek. Her fingers were decorated with red mehndi tattoos.
“Arey wah!” a younger girl said. “They are so pretty in Amrika. So fair.” She examined her own arm in comparison and scowled.
The crowd parted to allow a withered old woman to hobble over to Daly with the aid of her wheeled walker, which was decorated with a shiny welcome banner and curly-cued streamers. The wispy, white braid that hung down the center of her back slid side to side, as she struggled with each small step and let out a series of low, muted grunts. The others stood back patiently and allowed her to pass.
Mishti pushed in beside her. “Dolly, this is Chai-ji. You must touch her feet. In India, you touch the elder’s feet for respect.”
Daly shrugged and reached down to cover Chai-ji’s toes with her palms.
Suddenly, everyone was talking. The clamor made Daly uncomfortable. She wondered if she should remove her hands, but decided not to. If she wanted Kashi’s family to like her, she had to do as told.
That’s what he said, right?
“No, unmarried girls don’t touch the feet!”
“It is not right for her to do peri pona before marriage.”
“But she’s not an Indian, maybe the rules are different?”
“It’s okay, yaar. She is just showing her respect.”
Daly glanced up at the bickering family. Was she somehow in trouble for performing the ritual incorrectly?
Mishti pulled her to a standing position, while the others continued to debate how unmarried Western girls should appropriately greet their elders.
“It’s okay,” Mishti whispered. “You can pick and choose your rituals. Clearly, we don’t know what all the rules are.” She giggled childishly. “Anyway, when you do peri pona, just touch the feet and then come right back up.” She demonstrated, allowing her gleaming black hair to shift over her narrow shoulders while her bangles slid up and down her forearms. “No need to stay for a visit. You don’t get extra points for respect.”
“Dolly’s riding with me!” Mishti announced in an abrupt change of topic. The more she smiled, the more she looked like a younger, thinner Kashi.
Kashi peeked his head over the crowd and yelled to Mishti, “Didi, be nice to her. No tricks!”
“I cannot believe you think I would do such a thing, Akash bhaiya. I will take good care of Dolly. Come now,” she said, turning to Daly. “You will ride in the auto-rickshaw with me!”
“Oh-ho, bhala hoye,” Kashi’s mother cried in her native tongue. “No, Mishti, not the auto-rickshaw. That will be too much for her, na? Take the taxi.”
“Oof, Mummy, you worry too much, yaar,” Mishti shot back. She held her hands in a prayer position and tapped them against her chest in a repetitive motion.
Her mother rolled her eyes to the ceiling in exasperation, allowing Mishti time to grab Daly and abscond with her through the sliding glass doors.
“Bye, Dolly!” Kashi called over the crowd, shooting her a quick wink then immediately returned to his welcome committee. Wasn’t he at all worried about her disappearing into the city? Because she certainly was.
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