The party was in a fashionable part of town. Lots of people had come, for Rudra was a popular TV producer. Manali got down from the taxi and rang the doorbell. The door was opened by Rudra. She could hear the party noise coming from inside the house. Rudra gave Manali a glass of fruit juice, saying with a wink, ‘The hard stuff’s in the kitchen, for later.’ In the living room were twelve couples, all of them colleagues of Rudra’s from his office. Manali knew some of them only slightly. She sipped her drink feeling self conscious and strange.* As usual, to cover up her confusion she began to eat the food laid out on the side tables. She was the kind of person who always gravitates to the kitchen. There Rudra’s girlfriend Priya asked her, ‘Do you want some rum in your fruit juice?’ She nodded. Even though she was from a small town she had no problems with drinking.** ‘That’s a lovely dress,’ Priya said. ‘How do you keep so slim? I just balloon up.’ Manali started to say something but a rowdy group of boys came in, demanding to spike their colas with rum. She slipped away. She shouldn’t have eaten those cream puffs, she really shouldn’t. They were as heavy in her stomach as her guilt and shame. She had come out in the direction away from the living room onto a closed verandah with a washing machine and a pile of clothes. Beyond it a toilet stood invitingly open. She went inside, shut the door and balanced her drink on the cistern. Then she knelt and vomited into the porcelain bowl. She vomited again and again until her back and sides hurt. But it felt so good and she knew then that she deserved the compliment. She had suffered for it.
Rudra’s party was in a fashionable part of town: as a popular TV producer, he knew the value of having the right address on his business card. He opened the door himself for Manali, letting a wave of party noise spill over her into the street. He glanced at her polyester kurti and sequinned jeans just a touch too slowly and she saw the thought form over his head: small town girl from the sticks. The living room was filled with the gaiety of a dozen strangers, some of whom she vaguely recalled were his colleagues at work. Rudra gave her a glass of fruit juice, saying with a wink, ‘The hard stuff’s in the kitchen, for later.’ He moved off to laugh adroitly at someone’s joke, leaving her to fend for herself. She wished she was a disembodied pair of eyes, a wraith at the feast. Ah yes, the feast. There it was, spread out tastefully by the upmarket caterers on the little side tables, beckoning her. Mechanically she polished off a plate before coming to herself with a start. This wasn’t the way to blend in. She put the plate down as if it were suddenly hot and went in search of the kitchen. There Rudra’s girlfriend Priya sat hugging a collection of bottles. ‘Do you want some rum in your fruit juice?’ Manali nodded. ‘That’s a lovely dress,’ Priya chattered, pouring. ‘How do you keep so slim? I just balloon up.’ Manali started to say something but a rowdy group of boys came in, demanding to spike their colas with rum. She slipped away. She shouldn’t have eaten those cream puffs. What did these city people put in their food? She had come out onto a closed verandah with a washing machine and a pile of clothes. Beyond it a toilet stood open. She pulled the door shut behind her, latched it and balanced her drink on the cistern. The white curves of the toilet were smooth as expensive flesh. She hunched over and let her nausea squeeze her like a giant fist, like a sneeze, like an orgasm. The hairs stood up along her forearms; her neck stretched and arched and tremors ran down her thighs. This was cleansing; this was better than sex. As she retched for the last time, she imagined Rudra’s face swimming in the fouled water of the toilet bowl.
The asterisks in Version A indicate the following:
* There is a 'tell' before a 'show'.
** There is an out-of-sequence revelation of part of Manali's backstory, giving the impression that the writer has only just thought it up for his/her convenience. This breaks the illusion. Backstory is best delivered such that the reader does not need to suddenly revise the character of Manali they are building in their heads unless you intend this effect.
What can you conclude about the pacing and the emotional temperature of each version?