They met in Pizza Hut, or more specifically just outside the toilet. The shopping centre management, following government guidelines, had marked up which direction to walk. She began to walk the wrong way and someone shouted ‘follow the arrows love!’ Dorothea became confused about which way to go. She didn’t know whether to go back or forward. Just then he stepped forward. She could only describe him as beautiful. His dark smiling eyes looked at her as if she was the only person in the world. His hair looked slightly overgrown and she reckoned that he normally kept it short. But she could see little wisps of black curl just nestling around his neck. She wanted to reach out and touch it. He held his hands out towards her, offering to help her find the way back. His hands were slightly calloused and large, unusually large for his frame. He was tall and slender but not skinny, with beautifully defined features.
Saleem offered his hand, and Dorothea took it. The arrows took them out into the shopping centre. She knew her mother would be waiting at the table tapping her fingers, checking her watch. She knew that she wouldn’t wait around. That she would pay the bill and leave for the hospital. She had people who needed her.
Dorothea and Saleem walked around the shopping centre. They walked and talked and didn’t even realise they were holding hands. He told her about his life, his brothers and his work as a carpenter. He was the fifth of five sons. He was named Saleem when he was born as five is a lucky number for that name. She was named Dorothea after a rich aunt, who had no children of her own. Dorothea imagined Saleem’s family celebrations with lots of fun, laughter and children running around. It was not a life she had ever had or envisaged that she would have. She was an only child. Her father loved Dorothea fiercely. He protected her in a cocooned lifestyle. She had few friends outside the family home. She felt like she was continually waiting for her life to start.
Saleem’s two older brothers had married according to their parents’ wishes. The brides were lovely girls, well known to the family. The brothers had known them since children and were very much in love with them. But finding suitable brides for all the brothers may be too much for his parents and he feared that when it was his turn there may only be cousins left to marry.
The shopping complex protected them and she felt safe and secure with Saleem. She knew however that a time would come when they would need to leave. It was at that point they found themselves on the car park roof and the realisation that there was only one way that they could leave together. She felt her eyes open for the first time. They held hands, looked into each other’s eyes and simply stepped off.