I looked up at the man I was going to be marrying in a matter of minutes. I gulped when he smiled at me, showing off his crooked, yellowed teeth. His skin crinkled at the eyes, but not just there. He was so wrinkly that I'd overheard some of the more scandalous women in town joking that he needs a good ironing.
I forced myself not to cry out and pull away when he leaned in for the deal-closing kiss. His mouth touched mine and I nearly gagged. But since the elders were watching, it was quick, just a repulsive taste of what was in my near future.
"It is done! They are married!" my father declared happily.
It took a great effort to not cry and scream and stamp my foot. It was not appropriate to do any of that, especially now that I am now officially a woman, not a girl. I am twelve years old. Before I was born my parents decided who my husband would be and I never had any choice in the matter. My husband is turning thirty two in a few months. He's very close to being an elder. I am married to an elder.
"Well, we must be getting home. Come along, Priya," my father boomed.
I hurried to catch up to my parents.
"Priya!" my mother said in a scolding tone. "Ae you not going to honour your new husband?"
I turned back to Pintar - resisted the urge to roll my eyes - and bowed to him.
"Good night, Pintar. We will see you when the new day begins." I tried to make my voice as loud and proper as possible. I turned back to my parents.
My mother was wearing her lovely red silk Sari with the gold dots that look like tiny birds if you look hard enough. My father just wore his everyday clothes, including his grey trousers and white t-shirt.
I was wearing my red cotton Sari, but a much lighter red than my mother's, with black dots that were just dots. My long black hair was done up in a very formal bun. But I didn't feel beautiful, despite my clothes.
"Yes, yes. Good." Was all Pintar said.
I walked back silently to my home with my parents. Niether of them spoke until we saw my father's friend, Sirdar, and his wife, Ralla. They talked until it was nearly dark, but I said nothing. In my family, it's considered disrespectful to speak around people that aren't family at my age.
Life has always been unfair for me, but of course I never say anything about it. It is not up to me to decide what I can and cannot say or do. Nothing is ever up to me.