Is love a momentary bliss, not unlike the endorphin rush received from eating a curry rich in red chili powder, with perhaps a few extra green chilies chopped in for an overwhelming kick? Is love a quieter kind of springing joy, a sense of well-being, of knowing that you are in the right place, at the right time, with the right person, the person who knows you better than anyone else in the world? Is love a willingness to compromise, to set aside your own needs and desires for the sake of the other, the beloved? Or to go beyond compromise, to abase yourself at the altar of love, to endure torment and grief and uncertainty, all manner of abuse, in order that people might say of you, afterwards -- she really did love him. Perhaps love is merely the ability to endure the beloved's company for the next sixty to seventy years, without wanting to strangle them by the end of it.
Shefali didn't know which, if any, of these definitions actually fit love -- she was just glad that she was out of the game at last, giving up on the endless, frustrating, exhausting chase for that perfect love that always seemed to hover on the edge of the next relationship. She had tried -- no one could claim that she hadn't tried. She had fallen madly in love, over and over again, had offered her heart to one lover after another. There had been times when she had thought she'd found it after all, that great love that had been promised her by all the storybooks, all the fairy tales. The happy-ever-after kind. And then love had disappeared, dissolved in her hands like fairy gold come morning, leaving only dusty dry leaves, crumbling, in its wake.
And now Shefali stood here, in this city council office, beside the man who would soon be her husband. She felt calm, content, sure of her decision. The clerk looked up from his desk, his form, and asked her, "Do you, Shefali Chelliah, take this man, Roshan Manavalan, to be your lawfully wedding husband?" She answered with a steady voice, "I do."
So, y'all complained about my last attempt at an opening to the new novel. Too grim, too depressing, you said. Like this one better? Would you keep reading? (Standard caveats apply -- all of this obviously very first-draft-ish.)