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SS-1; Chapter 2


It was at one such lazy afternoon when quite a few ladies had gathered at her home for tea that the lady of the house first heard about Ms. X. A wealthy spinster, she came each winter to the valley, laid her manicured claws on an able male, usually labeled quite a ‘catch’, and after a blink-and-you-miss it romance in the valley, made away with him, into the dark under belly of the city below. Nothing more would ever be heard of her rich and handsome-prey, yet she’d return the following year, intact, her pristine smile et al.
This had happened very many times over the past decade or so. But no one spoke about it in front of her, for:
a.)  The valley people were well meaning, dignified, and didn’t per say probe into anything that wasn’t their business.
and
b.)  Well, Ms. X seemed to be quite high up in the echelons of power, or so it would seem.
And so this trend had settled into being the rumour mongerers’ staple.
“Age is surely catching up! The lines are showing on her face.”, the women recall.
“Ah! But she’s still quite a fine specimen. ”, the men retort.
 “But how is she even managing such swift divorces?”, wonders a local woman, out aloud.
To which, “Quick out- of- court settlements”, says the eminent lawyer, offering a technical opinion.
And so the afternoon is spent regaling the new comers with anecdotes about some of the more colourful aspects of valley life.
It was a further fortnight of routine valley life, when the missus got a distressing call. Her only sister had been taken sick, and was at the hospital. The sister being childless, it was up to the lady to be by her sister’s side. And so she did, packing her bags and going down to the plains, the very next morning.  She left the lawyer behind, seeing as there was no particular need for him, and either which way only one person would be ample to help her brother in law handle the affairs at the hospital.
A hectic ten days followed before she could take leave of her sister, who having spent a week being tested and treated, had now been eased into convalescence.
And so the lady returned, exhausted, yet eager to be back home. She missed her husband, after all, it had been quite a while since they had spent this long a while apart in their many years of marriage, speaking of which, there were only two days away from celebrating their Coral (35th) Wedding Anniversary.
Barely had she managed to unpack and find her bearings, than she found herself in the midst of much fanfare and celebration. This time it was to be the Annual Ball in the Colonel’s house, to mark the onset of local fete, which would culminate with Christmas.
They had gone all out with the festivities, she noted. The entire valley was shimmering with fairy lights, the cheer in abundance, and the colonel’s property was as resplendent as a newlywed bride!
It was in the midst of this fanfare that she caught sight of the flowing gown, and the striking figure it adorned.

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