Finally, after thewedding, they were alone. They had checked into a city hotel whose whereabouts had been kept a secret.
Rahul looked at his new bride and smiled. Although he didn't move towards her he held out his hands to her.
"Here I am. There are you. One day we'll run to close the space between us.
In the meantime, Ashal, my dearest one, welcome to my life. Today we married but you're still Ashal, businesswoman, artist and dancer with a heart of gold. You are the wonderfully independent young woman that I fell in love with.
I am still Rahul, pharmacist, dancer and social worker. My eyes will often look at yours and our souls will rejoice. Even though we don't physically touch, our souls will dance and sing together."
"Yes Rahul, here we are now but I know that I'm the problem. What are we going to do?"
"I'll tell you what we'll do now. We'll begin packing. We leave tomorrow night for Austria. Here are your clothes and your travel bags. Start packing, please. I'm going to make some tea for us. Don't forget to leave a space in one bag."
He spoke from the kitchen. "For your seventh veil, of course."
His casual remark struck an agonising chord within her. She held her face in her hands and then stared forlornly at the kitchen door.
"What will we do in Austria?"
"We'll rent a car, travel around, sleep in hotels and we'll go up one of the mountains and then ski down a slope. Don't worry. It'll be a beginner's slope."
"Why will we do that?"
"My darling, we've got to get to the tavern at the bottom of the slope."
"A tavern? Why? What will we do there?"
"We'll drink glühwein, my dear. Glühwein. I want to see the reflected glow of the glühwein on your cheeks and in the sparkle in your eyes."
"What is this glühwein, Rahul?"
"First of all, glühwein means glowing wine. A wine that glows. It really does, you know. There is a little verse. I don't remember it properly but It goes something like this..."
"They say that there is truth in wine,
But my friend, hear me, in glühwein there is love."
"Rahul, I'm suddenly very tired. I want to sleep now. You can sleep there."
She pointed perfunctorily to the left side of the bed. As they lay down next to each other, Rahul placed his arm gently over her waist. Impulsively, she held his hand tightly.
"Rahul, you know that you can't ever leave my side tonight. Not even to go to the bathroom."
He thought that he heard a very faint chuckle. As his eyes moistened, he spoke softly to himself.
"Thank you, God. My old Ashal is slowly coming back."
She spoke again.
"Rahul, come let us have the same dream tonight. About this glühwein."
Thirty-six hours later, the interconnecting flight from Zurich was preparing to land at the Innsbruck Airport in Austria.
Ashal had been staring out through the window at the beautiful landscape. She saw the mighty snow covered Alps in the background. The rapt expression on her face was a tribute to the beauty below.
Once they had landed and collected their luggage, they got into their rental car and were soon on their way to the ski resort of Seefeld.
After they had checked in, they were taken to their room. They enjoyed a hot shower, a change of clothes and a brief rest before going for a walk on the wooden veranda that encircled the tavern. Ashal could not resist the temptation to run down a flight of steps to touch snow for the first time ever in her life.
They enjoyed a brief snow fight. Excited and with cheeks glowing, they sat down in the main dining room. Unable to understand the German menu descriptions, they ordered by pointing at items on the menu randomly. With childlike gaiety they examined the courses that were eventually placed before them.
Early the next morning, the couple rose and, with some professional help, selected suitable skis from the hotel store for their first snow trip. After more help from attendants, they climbed onto seats on the ski lift and travelled high above spectacular valleys to the special ski site set apart for beginners.
A magnificent looking ski coach with blonde hair and blue eyes explained and demonstrated several secrets of the art of skiing to them. He spoke for about an hour and a half and then gave a firm command "and now you will begin your first ski run. Good luck, my friends. Good luck and good skiing."
Ashal looked down the slope. It seemed gentle enough. There were no trees or rocks to be seen. She pushed with her ski rods and her maiden journey began.
After she had fallen three times and once again lay on the snow, Rahul came up to her side. He bent over and grabbed her ski jacket by the lapels.
"Ashal, look at me. This is not you. You're an athlete. You're a dancer. My Ashal would not fall so often. She wouldn't give up. I'm going to help you up now and then I'm going to ski on. I want you to follow me but without falling. If you're late at the tavern, I'll go in on my own and drink the glühwein all by myself."
She looked at him, first of all in surprise and then suddenly her expression hardened and she forcefully removed his hands from her jacket.
"OK, Mr. Rahul. Let's make it a race. Let's see who gets to the tavern first. It may not be you, Mr. Big Shot!"
The atmosphere in the tavern was jolly. There had been dancing, singing and even yodelling. The couple had found a table that was a little away from the loudest activity.
Rahul was looking at some Austrian folk dancers when he felt Ashal grip his forearm. She whispered to him "Rahul look at me".
He turned to look at her. She was holding a large glass of glühwein in front of her face. Below the blue flames that were flitting across the surface of the liquid, he saw her beautiful eyes magnified by the wine in the glass.
As he looked at her he knew that what had been haunting her for the past few months had been left behind. Somewhere along the ski run, somewhere between her falls, she had found a reason to begin again.
His smiled but there was a glint of moisture in his eyes.
"Hello dearest. You look devastating behind that glass. Are you playing a game with me?"
"My beautiful man, will you come with me now? I want to take my seventh veil, the last veil that I must still shed, crumple it up into a tiny ball and throw it out of our window onto the Austrian snow. I'm through with it. I don't want it any longer. I have no further use for it."