Rent A Husband

By: Sally Mason

Finding Forrest, true to his word, waiting for her on the platform.

Living with Forrest and Lakshmi in this crumbling palace.

Deciding to invest some of the proceeds of the sale of her house (after making a generous bequest to the Children’s Shelter) in restoring the palace, and finding that she has a previously unknown talent for décor—for creating an environment of fantasy and opulence for well-heeled tourists.

And, most dream-like of all, falling in love with Forrest in this world of spices and dust and chaos and poverty and breathtaking beauty.

Standing at the window, looking out beyond the palace toward the sprawl of low buildings, she thinks of her wedding yesterday, riding with Forrest in a howdah on the back of Kipling—he is real!—after being swathed by Lakshmi and her friends in layers of cloth, wearing a garland of flowers that her husband removed once they were alone in their bed.

Vows were exchanged in the garden of the palace, the ancient maharajah officiating, and Forrest slipped his mother’s ring onto Darcy’s finger as a crowd of locals looked on.

Well, nearly all were locals: she has a vivid memory of Eric Royce in a turban, dancing wildly late into the night.

The festivities had included traditional dancers, snake charmers, fire eaters, jugglers, and even a fortune telling parrot.

Lakshmi tried to shoo away the parrot’s handler, but it seemed to be customary for the bird have its say, so it had perched on Darcy’s shoulder and rattled away in Rajasthani.

When Darcy insisted, Lakshmi—sworn off lying for life—reluctantly translated the prophecy into English.

“He says you will have many children. I’m sorry, Darcy.”

But Darcy, laughing, knew the molting old bird was right.

She’s no Mother Teresa, but she knows there are hordes of kids out there who need help.

And she’s here, isn’t she?

The door opens and Darcy turns as Forrest enters.

He’s dressed in a white toweling robe, not jodhpurs, and carries two glasses of fruit juice, not a riding crop.

But, as Darcy crosses to him and he takes her into his arms, she hears sitars and flutes and tablas, and the morning sun does look just like a cocktail olive speared on the nearby minaret, and she knows that, yes, dreams do come true.