She heard the loud cheers of the crowd. Through eyes brimming with tears she could almost make-out the outlines of a few audience members seated nearby, now on their feet cheering and chanting her, name, Shamina...Shamina, and waving the colourful lion flag. The flag of her country. The tiny island of Sri Lanka. As the last year’s winner, removed the crown from her head and placed it gently but ever so carefully on hers, as the crowd roared even louder.
She could hardly believe it. “Is this really happening?” She asked herself as the runners-up and the other contestants flocked about her, showering her with congratulatory kisses and hugs to last her a lifetime.
She closed her eyes and stood there in the middle of the stage surrounded by a bevvy of beautiful women from all over the country, gathered under one roof to vie for the coveted Miss. Sri Lanka crown.
She’d won. She had finally accomplished what she set out to accomplish.
She heard a faint chime. She woke up startled as she could hear the shrill noise ringing in her ear now. The sound of the alarm had woken her up.
She rubbed her eyes, lazily, yawning and banged her fist on the device which had rudely woken her up. Reminding her that she had only been dreaming. The same dream she'd been having for the past four years.
She sat up and glanced towards her husband lying next to her, dead to the world. She leaned over and touched his head. Running her fingers through his thick hair. Slowly coaxing him from his deep slumber.
A few moments later she was in the kitchen preparing breakfast. Her three-year-old daughter Misha in the high chair happily playing with one of her dolls near the small wooden round table. Eagerly awaiting her Amma to feed her, her breakfast.
She glanced at the small clock on top of the refrigerator realising that her husband was taking way too much time getting dressed this morning.
She went near the small stairwell leading to the upper floor from the kitchen and yelled, “Mahen, hurry up. You'll be late for work!”
“I am almost done. Be down in a minute!” came the reply from upstairs.
Several minutes later Mahen came down showered, shaved and dressed. He stood there for a moment at the bottom of the stairwell gazing at his wife. She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Tall and slender with long straight hair, fair-skinned with sharp beautiful features.
“What are you doing standing there gawking at me? Come and have your breakfast quickly!” she said smiling with her hands on her hips.
He approached his wife who busied herself again, serving the contents of the breakfast onto two plates and planted a kiss on her head and said, “You were up early. Do you have any plans for today?”
“I was thinking of taking Misha to see her Achchi today. Maybe spend some time with her and my sister,” she said as she sat down at the table.
“That’s a great idea. I’m sure she'll be thrilled to see Misha and you,” Mahen said with a grin sitting down opposite her.
Shamina was seated at the lobby nervously fidgeting in her chair. Her sister who was sitting next to her nudged her gently and whispered, “Mina will you relax! You're making that poor receptionist nervous with your fidgeting.”
She glanced over at the receptionist and gave her a nervous smile. The receptionist returned an equally nervous smile and carried on with her scribbling.
“I can't help it, I am so nervous. Krish, please tell me I am doing the right thing. Sneaking around Mahen like this!” she implored.
“Pull yourself together, will you? It's not like you are cheating on him!” Krish whispered her reply.
“I feel like I am cheating on him. Well, not with another man but with this whole pageant business. I shouldn't have let you talk me into this. I shouldn’t have registered!” she retorted under her breath.
“Oh, for the love of God, will you quit being so melodramatic. You sound like a character in a soap opera!” Krish shot back.
Krish folded the magazine she was flipping through and tossed it aside, turned toward her younger sister, looked straight at her and said, “You had every chance of winning the crown several years ago. Everyone said so. Even one or two of the judges. Not to mention a handful of the other contestants. Mahen was the first person who encouraged you to register, remember?” she said matter of factly.
“Things were different then. We weren't married. We are now and we have a child!” she said.
“Which is exactly the reason why you've registered for the ‘Mrs. Sri Lanka Pageant!” Krish said beaming.
“I know he supported me back then but still I feel rotten sneaking behind his back. I lied to him saying that I am taking Misha to visit Amma and you!” she said.
“Which is not a lie entirely. Misha is visiting with her Achchi and you are with me!” Krish declared chuckling.
“It's not funny Krish. What if he calls your place to check on us?” What if Dilan spills the beans?” she asked feeling nervous again.
“If Dilan spills the beans he will have me to deal with. Mahen will be calling you on your cell phone. If he wants to check up on you. You can always say you stepped out for a little bit, if he does. So stop being such a worry wart!” Krish said rolling her eyes heavenward.
“You're right. I should stop worrying” Mina said leaning forward to pick up a magazine.
“Mrs. Shamina De Silva, the President of the Organizing Committee will see you now,” the receptionist announced as she walked toward her.
“Please follow me” she said gesturing toward the passageway.
Shamina stood up, with a renewed sense of nervousness and started following the smartly dressed receptionist for her interview. Glancing back at her sister who gave her the thumbs-up sign grinning from ear to ear and mouthing the words ‘good luck'. She smiled back nervously. Turned and continued on her way.
By the time Shamina arrived home, Mahen was already there waiting for her.
“Mahen, you're home early!” she exclaimed, somewhat surprised.
“I got off early. Mina, I need to talk to you” he said.
“Sure, just let me put Misha down. She fell asleep in the car seat on the way back.” She replied somewhat concerned.
Several minutes later she was back downstairs only to find Mahen pacing back and forth in the living room with a pained look on his face.
“Mahen what's wrong?” she asked walking toward him.
“Where were you today?” he asked.
“I told you. I went to see Amma and Krish,” she replied nervously.
“I called you on your mobile it was switched off. Then I called your mother only to find out that you had gone out with Krish. What the hell is going on Mina? Why didn't you answer the phone?” he yelled?
“Shhh...Mahen calm down. You'll wake up the baby!” she said calmly.
“I went for an interview” she continued sitting down on the sofa.
“An interview? For what? A job?” he asked perplexed sitting down next to her.
“No. Not for a job. I registered for the Mrs. Sri Lanka pageant. Today was my interview” she replied softly.
“It was wrong of me to do so. I should've told you. The reason why I didn't, is because I thought you'd be upset with me. I am sorry. If you want me to withdraw. I will do so” she concluded with her eyes downcast.
“Is this the reason why you've been sneaking around behind my back?” he asked amused.
“Yes” she replied averting her eyes, refusing to make eye contact.
“Phew!...I am relieved. Here I was assuming the worst. Thinking that you're cheating on me!” he said with a giggle.
“So you are not mad at me?” she asked in disbelief.
“Darling why would I be mad at you? I am the one who pushed you to enter the Miss. Sri Lanka pageant years ago. You should've won that year. If only you'd stuck around,” he said reaching over and covering her hands with his.
“You know the reason why. Thaththa had an accident which claimed his life. Winning a crown was the last thing on my mind back then,” she replied her eyes brimming with tears.
“But now you have a chance. There's nothing to hold you back. You have my support. I'd even stay home and look after Misha,” he said.
“That won't be necessary. Krish will look after Misha while I am away preparing for the pageant,” she said smiling for the first time.
“Good. Then it's settled. In a way I am relieved” he said smiling.
“Why relieved?” she asked confused.
“At least now you'll stop talking in your sleep!” he said breaking into a laugh as she grabbed a sofa pillow and playfully hit him with it, laughing.
Several months later...
Shamina sat in front of a mirror, while the hairdresser busied herself with setting her hair. Her make up all done to perfection.
The makeup and hair section of the dressing room was a hub of activity with hairdressers scurrying about with the event coordinator yelling and reminding them the time every five minutes or so.
They had been preparing for this for months. Now the day had finally dawned.
“It's finally happening. In a few moments we we'll all be back on that stage again for the evening gown competition. I am one of the top five!” she said to herself.
“You look like a million bucks!” the hairdresser said looking at her through the mirror.
“She certainly is!” a voice declared from behind.
“Mahen, what are you doing here? How did you get here? No ones allowed in the dressing room,” she said beaming at him through the mirror.
“I have a friend who is volunteering. She let me through,” he said winking at her.
He continued as he came closer, “I just wanted to wish you good luck. Please remember that win or lose, you'll always wear a crown in my eyes. Because you are the queen of my heart. You are a loving and caring wife and mother. And a wonderful person!”
“Now, be careful. Don't make her cry Mr. De Silva. You will ruin her makeup,” said the hairdresser wagging her finger at Mahen.
“Thank you, darling. Now you'd better go and take your seat,” Shamina said blowing him a kiss.
He blew her a kiss back, turned and walked out of the room.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the winner of this year’s Mrs. Sri Lanka pageant is...”
Everyone held their breath as the two finalists stood in the middle of the stage holding hands and waited with baited breath for the host to announce the winner and the first runner-up respectively.
"Shamina De Silva!”
The crowd jumped to their feet cheering loudly.
Shamina was almost in tears as the last year's winner placed a sparkly diamond and crystal encrusted crown on her head. And another draped a sash across her shoulder.
“I've won. I made it. I am the new Mrs Sri Lanka!” she said to herself grinning happily from ear to ear as she accepted a bouquet of flowers from one of the sponsors.
“Mrs. Sri Lanka, if you please, take your ‘victory walk' on stage for one last time,” announced the host beckoning her.