"How many women will be there?" asked Amrit's mother, her arms crossed.
"I don't know," said Amrit, his cheeks reddening.
"Usually it's five or six," said Lal, his cousin.
Amrit's mother brushed imaginary lint from the front of his suit and he swatted her hand away. She slapped him lightly on the cheek.
"Are they from good families?"
"I don't know," said Amrit. "What does it matter? They're girls."
"I want my only son to have a good match!" She hugged him suddenly. "I can't believe you are a grown man already," she said into the warmth of his neck.
Lal snickered and held his hand up to his mouth.
"We should go," said Lal as Amrit tried to wriggle free of his mother.
They were out of the house a few minutes later, walking down the brightly lit street and into the possibilities the night might bring.
"Do you think they will look at me?" asked Amrit.
"Of course they will. You are young and innocent. They'll want to corrupt you. Luckily these girls don't usually have marriage on their mind."
They both laughed, and Lal practiced his best dance move. Amrit followed, awkwardly imitating his cousin.
"You'll need to work on that," said Lal darkly.
Amrit slowed his pace, not wanting to approach the dancehall so soon. He leaned against a streetlight.
"What is it?" asked Lal.
"I do have marriage on my mind," said Amrit.
"Ah. A traditionalist. I think I've always known. Don't worry though, you'll change your tune when you get picked for the first time."
"I just want a family and a full home with a wife."
"Hey," said Lal seriously, "don't say that sort of thing to these girls if you get to talk to one of them. You'll scare them off."
"I know I'm probably asking for too much, to have what my father had."
"My father had it too," said Lal. "But it didn't make him happy. All the quarreling."
"That was different," said Amrit. "He was different, but I don't think he meant to offend your mother, or to hurt you."
"It's lucky that I like girls," said Lal ruefully. He looked down at his small hands, which he tucked into his pockets. "He paid so much for the surgery to make me a boy. What a waste it would be if I couldn't fit in after all that."
Amrit regretting bringing up the topic.
"In an earlier time, we might have been promised to one another," he said.
Lal laughed again.
"In no time, past, present, or future, would I ever marry you Amrit. But I have to admit, I think you would make a good husband to someone."
Lal slapped his cousin on the back and they smiled at each other. Then they ran off down the street to join the long line of men that curled around the dancehall.