Despite all her initial attempts to stay cool or walk in late, she reached the cafe fifteen minutes before the stipulated time. She wound up the class a little early; she had to. The minutes ticking by were making her anxious. She found it hard to concentrate. And now she was there, her hands holding each other, pressing, her feet tapping and all that she could do in nervousness.
He walked into the cafe and was surprised to see her sitting there already! Well he was sure she would come but so early, he hadn’t expected. He felt a strange flutter in the heart to look at her like this.
As he marched inside, Aastha for the very first time noticed his physique. He was tall and well built. In those rusty blue jeans and grey top, he obviously was at his charming best. She couldn’t explain the blush that appeared on her cheeks as he came ahead and took to the adjoining chair.
“What, you haven’t ordered coffee as yet?” He gave her a shrug. “I’ll just be back.” He sat down only to get up the next moment.
Aastha had her head down to hide her blushing face, as he sat near her. Now she saw him near the counter, placing order for himself… well… for her too!
“How would he know how I take my coffee?” She wondered. He didn’t have the courtesy to ask. The initial nervousness was going away but returned the instant he came back to the chair.
“So, explain all that you said last night.” He asked.
“Look, I just meant that I didn’t want to bother you. As it is, You have helped me… I mean supported me..”
He just shrugged, listening to her words.
“No, I mean it, you have silently given me so much of your time, talked me out of it. I was never clear of my feelings, as I am today. You can’t even realise how relieved I am at the moment… it feels so….”
“Free…” he completed her sentence.
He had been looking at her all through the time she had been talking. She simply nodded, lifting her gaze to meet his.
“So now you understand, you never said anything which I never wanted to listen. You would tell because every time I would ask. And the conversation was not always about you. It was about me as well. Just know that it was never one sided. We had more of a discussion than just a monologue.” He arched his eyebrows, asking if she agreed. Again her nod and they knew the point is mute now.
“Please no more discussion about him. I mean, let’s say its over. So let’s quit…” she stated.
He nodded smilingly, his hopes rising. She wants to talk. It is a good sign. He thought.
Their coffee arrived and she was surprised that he had ordered her blend, the way she liked.
“I have seen you sitting here solving papers, along the sips of your cappuccino.” He disclosed. I think I’ll get something to eat.” He said, while getting up.
Aastha for the first time in life, found herself flustered even to think sane. She had been hit by some unexplained emotions that agitated her.
She began fidgeting with her phone, scrolling through facebook, when a post caught her attention.
“It’s your birthday tomorrow?” It was more than a question. She asked, the instant he returned, showing him the post she just noticed.
“Ohh that!! Yes, it is my birthday tomorrow.” It was his turn to blush. “My friends are after my life for a party, like a way to cheer me up, you know. After mom’s death, they just wish to celebrate so that I, kind of, don’t feel sad, don’t miss her as much….” Now he could mention about his mother, without hitch.
“That’s so sweet….” she swooned.
For a while they sat just sipping their coffees. When he saw her eyeing his coffee, he simply pushed it towards her. “Here take a sip.”
Obviously embarrassed by his gesture, she refused.
“I know you like cappuccino, that’s what you always have. But trying something new never harms. Sometimes it is good when you come out of your comfort zone.” His soft tone was trying to make her feel at ease.
It was almost time for her next class. She got up to leave when he blurted, “Would you come to my birthday party tomorrow?”
“NO…” She almost shouted, then softening the next instant, “It will be for your friends. You enjoy and have fun.”
“So what? It’s just an informal treat. Join us, please. Tomorrow at 3pm, Cafe Carolina.” He said.
“Look, its almost a week left for the exam and don’t you have to study?” She tried to steer away the conversation.
“Which exam?” He asked.
“What? Off course the entrance exam. You’ve been taking the coaching for it, come on. What happened?” She exclaimed, a little irritated by his ignorance.
“Oh that, remember I asked you whether you are filling forms for it? You said no. So I also said no. You would not have been around during the exam so, what’s the use…!” He spoke as a matter of fact.
She stood there rooted to her spot, trying to comprehend his words.
“Tomorrow 3 pm, Cafe Carolina. Don’t forget and don’t be late. l’ll wait for you.” He said as he made an exit.
This conversation bothered her for the entire day and night.
They didn’t have any other conversation that day or the next day, when it was his birthday. In response to the birthday wishes she had texted, he thanked with a blushing smiley and also sent a text back reminding her the time and place for the party.