With the newly bought suit over one arm, he fished out his cell phone from his pockets.
“Hey hi…yea I’m at the mall…will take some time…yeah ..okay see you at home for dinner then..where is Ria?... hmm okay.. Do you want me to pick up something??...hmmm .. okay..see you then…bye.”
And now for a cuppachino…thought Neel as he strode ahead towards the CCD. As he walked in, familiar smell of coffee greeted him. Heavenly! So far he has had a good day, he had bought a book he had wanted for the last few months but couldn’t manage to hit the bookstore for it, he had picked up his suit after much reminders and now sitting at his favorite coffee joint, reading his book and sipping coffee. Coming to the mall alone, was an ultimate escape on a Saturday afternoon to steal sometime away from the regular humdrum of life for himself!
As the coffee was served he looked up only to see the most adorable sight in the world! Two kids, identical to one another, maximum aged two, sitting on those high stools, taking a dig at the ice-cream and having a gala time half eating, half feeding one another and ending up feeding the bib. Somehow he felt transfixed to the scene, the little girl was having her ice cream with glee, and in the attempt she had some on her nose, her chin and almost all over her tee. The other kid, most probably her brother, was trying vehemently to fix his sister, by wiping her face and feeding her. They looked quite a sight, what was the best part was even though the mother was present at the table, her back towards him, seemed least perturbed by the mess her kids were making, instead she seemed perfectly happy and at ease. Something about the scene touched his heart, a part of him that he wouldn’t ever acknowledge he had, was alive once again and he winced. The sloppy smile of the little girl, eyes twinkling with naughtiness, the little boys attempts to discipline his sister, the affectionate way in which he wiped her face clean time and time again tugged at his heart. They looked quite a sight but what surprised him was the mother who just sat there quietly drinking her coffee, seeing her kids up to their antics, whipping out her camera now and then to capture the moments but clearly enjoying herself, not once did she reprimand her kids for the mess! Something about her struck him, the way her glasses were perched on her head, her hair, wavy and long...
Realizing with a start that he had been a voyeur to an extremely private family scene, he decided to get back to his book and to the coffee which was now getting cold! After several attempts at concentrating, he gave up. He felt unsettled, the book didn’t interest him anymore, and somehow the restlessness made him uncomfortable. He got up after paying the bill only to realize the twins had left. He smiled at the half eaten bowl of ice cream, and the two empty coffee cups that lay abandoned on their table. Having remembered that he needed to go to the departmental store, he mentally made a list before stepping into the store.
With the things he needed he headed towards the counter to get them billed when a squeal of laughter caught his attention and he turned around. It was the twins again, but this time they were perched on the shopping cart with their mother striking things off her list and putting things in the trolley! Do people practice making list these days other than me?! Suddenly he was reminded of her, and her fanatic ways of making ‘to do lists’ to label things in the kitchen; he shook himself out of her reverie, it has been long but her thoughts were still very fresh in his mind and he couldn’t still deal with the fact that she had gone without a trace. He could still remember that last day at the air port; her smiling lopsidedly when they had hugged for the last time then she just turned and walked away. Blocking his mind from her thoughts, he made his way to the counter only to realize that while he was lost in his thoughts, there was a long que which meant some more time to go before his turn!
The twins and their mother were there in the que too; the little girl was drinking water from her sipper while her brother helped her with it! Their eyes met and he smiled, the girls smiled coyly and he felt his heart melt. The lady in front left to join her son in the other line, so now he had to move a step ahead! So now he was directly behind the twins who by now were engrossed watching the billing being done. With their mothers shopping amounting to two huge bag, he wondered how with two kids would she manage it all. Next was his turn, with just a small bag of shopping to pay for, it didn’t take him long, he turned to find the young mother trying to figure just how to carry her kids and the bags. He strode up to her from behind and offered to help.
“Here let me help you with the bags?”
She turned around and for the first time he saw her face and time stilled.
“Erm … thank you………” She couldn’t complete the sentence…
“How have you been Noyona?”
Her face white as chalk, as if she was face to face with her worst nightmare, she was visibly shaking. It took her a few seconds to steady herself and she looked up at Neel.
His expression had changed from initial surprise to happiness and now his face was masked, unreadable almost as if he was mighty pissed about something. To avoid any kind of conversation, she said.
“Hey I really think I should go…. it’s getting late!”
“Where do you think you are going?”
“Home....it’s getting late… it’s time for the kids to eat…”
“I will drop you.”
“No thanks… I’ll take a cab… it’s not a big deal. I can manage”
“Who are you kidding Noyona, with two huge bags of shopping and two kids. Let me help you and don’t be stubborn. Here let me help you!”
Angry and dejected that she lost this round of argument, she followed him with Ankhi and Ayon in her arms. She couldn’t believe fate could be so cruel to her. After all these years, she was back in the city for a short stint and of all people she had to bump into Him!
“So where do you stay?”
“Noyona stop acting dumb, I’m not going to rape you… I merely asked you where you stay so that I can drop you!”
Having directed him to her house, something she totally hated! Now he knows where I live, she thought angrily! Soon the car pulled in front of her house, and the gate keeper came and helped her with her bags. She got off the car and turned to face him.
“Thank you, I appreciate it… “
“Cut it out Noyona…. Take care…”
With that he drove away! Leaving her confused and angry… Life was playing games with her once again but only this time she will have her way! She hugged her kids closer and stepped into the elevator.
To be continued...