Sarvanez shifted in her chair. The corset pinched into her waist and it was every bit as uncomfortable as it looked. How do the women here wear these every single day? She thought to herself, feeling irritated.
Still, in being a good visitor, she had agreed to wear one, along with a dress of hundreds-or what felt like hundreds- of layers of petticoats underneath beautiful yellow taffeta. She was still surprised she had been able to find such an appropriate dress in her size at the tailor’s shop a few days ago.
She hadn’t worn her hair in an updo though. It was nearly impossible to fit her coiled curls into the elaborate updos the other pretty women at the party were sporting. But then again, her curls did look naturally crimped, so it could look like she had just crimped her hair. Now, she stood out in the crowd, as if her dark skin wasn’t indication enough that she was from the Indian subcontinent and not from New York.
But her uncle had firmly stated that this was a very important visit, and he wanted to have a good impression on his American friends.
Sarvanez wouldn’t have even agreed to come here had it not been for…Peyman. Ever since her fiancé had left to visit America, just like her uncle had now decided to visit, he hadn’t ever come back. It had been many months and there was still no sign of him.
Sarvanez still thought of the strange note that had found its way into her stuff back home, a note that was clearly in Peyman’s handwriting.
If I don’t come back in a month, something went wrong.
Only Peyman hadn’t even told her truly why he had come here. America, of all places! And New York. The streets smelled filthy to her, the fashions were horrendous, and on and on. She had seen it all out of the window of the horse-drawn carriage she was in.
But she had loved that boy, she really had. She missed the warm glances he would give her, the soft smiles. They hadn’t just been engaged to marry; they had been good friends. And then, he wasn’t there anymore. They couldn’t be married if he didn’t return. They couldn’t start their happy life together if he was missing in an entirely different country and continent.
So Sarvanez had jumped at the chance when she heard her uncle was going. She was going to find Peyman.
But coming with her uncle meant going to parties like these. Because this was the reason why her uncle had come.
Sarvanez snapped back into the present as her uncle brought over a heavyset man wearing a suit and a plain-looking woman wearing a not-so-plain looking, elaborate gown. Even though she knew the gown had to have taken forever to actually put on, Sarvanez had to admit that it did look rather elegant.
She put on a smile, sure that it looked like a grimace. For now, there were plenty of people to meet, even if she didn’t want to meet them.
Late that night, Sarvanez sneaked out of the hotel room that she was staying at, wearing only her nightgown and a shawl wrapped around for warmth.
Outside, waiting were three people. Sarvanez whispered their names to herself again to be sure that she had gotten the pronunciation right. Jeremy was the thin one with the monolid eyes. Andrew was the really tall one with the tan skin and striking blue eyes. And Esperanza was the tiny girl with the waist-length dark hair and medium skin.
She had said she would pay them all of course. She couldn’t navigate the streets of New York on her own. And she had taken the time to know about some of them, so they weren’t total strangers.
Esperanza was a clothing factory worker, who would gladly trade in those long working hours to show Sarvanez around New York instead. Not to mention, trading in a little pay for a lot of pay.
Andrew was a student at Columbia University. He was incredibly smart, but short on cash. The housing bills needed to be paid, and the reward money was his best shot.
Jeremy was still a mystery though. But having four in her little group was far preferable to having three. The more people she had with her looking for Peyman, the better.
“I was actually looking forward to tonight,” she said. Yeah, socialization wasn’t her strong point. But business relationships were something she could handle. “I hated being at that stupid party in that stupid dress.”
“What, a pretty young girl like you with the riches to match can’t enjoy herself at an elite New York party?” Jeremy asked with a smirk.
Sarvanez smirked back. She was good at snark though. “This pretty, rich girl is more of a reader. Plus, that corset was horrible.”
“I hear ya,” Esperanza said in her usual kind voice. So far, Sarvanez’s favorite was Esperanza. “I wore one once and I wanted to take it off the minute I put it on.”
“Nice talk and all but can we get down to the point?” asked Andrew, trying to stay calm but starting to sound just a tad bit annoyed. “I got exams to study for.”
“Absolutely,” Sarvanez said. “I have a list of all the places I think Peyman would have gone to. You guys tell me where we should start.” Of course, she had explained to them that she didn’t just want a nice tour of the city. She was out to find her fiancé and she had emphasized how important it was to her.
She took out a piece of crumpled paper and handed it to Andrew. Andrew studied the list while Esperanza stood on her tiptoes, trying to get a good look at it. Jeremy stood to the side, waiting his turn.
“So,” Andrew said, leaning forward towards Sarvanez as Jeremy took the list from him. “I think I know where we can go.”