Two drinks later, they step out of the bar and discover it's raining. He goes to fetch the car. She stands in the doorway, hands snuggled into her pockets, drawing her coat tight. When did it get so cold?
A hand's breadth away from her, the run-off from the awning falls in a steady stream. Caught in the headlights of a passing cab, the drops of rainwater look like sparks. She remembers that it's Diwali today (or yesterday - is it midnight already?). She'd meant to call her parents. Well, too late now.
It's been three years since she moved to this country, but there's a part of her that's still surprised by how the festivals of her childhood pass unnoticed. Diwali, Holi - words that once meant weeks of anticipation, days of giddy excitement, have become items on her calendar, less important than meetings, more easily missed. It's as though the first contact with this different world had shrunk them, the way the rain shrinks a beloved sweater, until it's too small to wear. What was once essential becomes a curiosity.
She gives a mental shrug. She's romanticizing again. It's ridiculous for her to feel nostalgic about this, she who'd always hated Diwali - the smoke and noise of it, the endless stream of relatives, the sense of forced revelry. So much nicer to spend the evening the way she just had. She ought to be grateful.
What's taking him so long? She may as well have a cigarette while she waits. She pulls one out, puts it between her lips, reaches into her pocket for the lighter. After she lights up, she holds the lighter open for an instant, the flame still shielded by her palm, vivid and helpless in the alien night. Then she puts it safely away.