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By the beginning of the next week, Lily was sent back to her hostel by her parents. She left with great reluctance and a long face that humored Daniel. He promised when he dropped her off that one of these days, he would come back for her and take her to his village again to help him out in building his house.

"Make it quick," she told him.

He left her with a firm embrace and a kiss on her head. He came very often to Imphal to buy wood, metal, and other necessities for the construction. He often stopped by her college or her hostel to see her, sometimes taking her with him for lunch or shopping, but he hadn't so far offered to take her to the village with him.

Once when he stopped by her college, she asked him when he would take her to the village again. He answered that the house was nearly finished and he would take her to help him build the school instead. For now, he required her to attend her classes.

"But I wanna help!"

"You will get many more opportunities to help me. Don't worry."

"I wanna help now."

"Okay, you could come and try carrying cement bags on your back."

She scowled at him and he laughed.

He came to take her after a month and a half during her summer vacation. Lily waited at a bench under a palm tree in front of her department as he maneuvered a truck into the parking lot. She stood and walked to him as he climbed out of the vehicle. She couldn't help herself at the sight of him. She laughed.

"What happened to you?"

He smiled back at her, aware of what she was talking about. His color. His complexion. He had come back from the city as fair as Snow White. And it hadn't passed a month since and he was already looking as brown as toasted bread.

She gazed up at him, a wide smile on her face, and she shook her head, amazed. She had always noticed the gradual change of his color every time he met her, which was normal. Every single person comes back fairer than ever from the city and they would shift back to their normal light-brown at home in the matter of a week, but Daniel seemed to be over-doing it.

"Did you apply some tan cream?" she asked. She had never seen him this brown.

"Of course, not," he laughed. "I think I worked in the sun for too long this week. And I seemed to have gotten sun-burnt yesterday. My cheeks are burning a little."

"Don't you use any cream? A sunscreen or something?"


"You should! They're not only for girls. You should take care of your skin. Oh my god, you are completely burnt!" she reached up and softly patted his cheeks. "But you still look good." She grinned at him. He now wore his hair in a man-bun, and his jaws displayed traces of overgrown stubble. His eyes were deep brown and warm. Lily could stay locked in his gaze forever. They were her comfort.

"And?" Daniel held his hips and jerked his shoulders up, asking her what he thought of his body, smiling confidently. He took fitness very seriously. He often hit the gym and played badminton or football as often as he could afford even while he worked in the city. His goal never was exactly to grow muscles or look like an Abercrombie model, but it clearly made him very healthy and strong. Lily just might believe him if he tried lying he built his house all on his own without a single help. Arguably, he was fit enough for it and crazy enough to try such a feat.

Lily sighed and rolled her eyes as she often did.

"My eyes hurt," she said, causing Daniel to laugh again as he ushered her into the truck, which Lily bet wasn't his.

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