She started walking- while her mind was aware of the direction she should be heading to, her feet seemed to be taking her somewhere else. Crossing lanes and paths that she had long forgotten. Unaware, yet aware, with lyrics of the past floating in her ears, Roxanne walked and walked, almost as if she were in a dream.
M looked around, the office was almost empty. He glanced at his watch, it was 6.30. He should pack up his things and head home too. His whole new life awaited him. He needed some more time. He looked at the thin pile of files around him. Nothing was urgent enough to be an excuse to stay on longer. Especially not for a newly married man. His head started hurting again. He needed a walk, a cigarette, and some chai. In that order. He packed up and walked out of his office. Just after sending a message his wife.
“I’ll be late. Sorry.
Love you.” She sighed.
Roxanne walked and walked. It only struck her to look at the landmarks around her when a passing car honked, forcing her to stay alert. It took her a few minutes, but when realisation hit her, she smiled and turned right, into the small narrow lane.
He was almost finished with his cigarette when he saw-
Well, at first glance he knew it was her.
Roxanne had this way about her. Her long black hair was always dancing around her; sometimes even with no wind around.
Second, the way she walked.
Always being the shortest person around had her in the habit of taking tiny, yet quick steps. It made him smile, even today.
Her last message suddenly flashed in his mind and that smile quickly vanished.
The headache was back.
And she was now standing only a few steps away.
Her eyes wide open in disbelief.
Her lips slightly parted.
Emotions worth a thousand words and more etched on her face and unmoving body.
“How could you do this to me? To us?”
His reply reached her too late. She had blocked his number.
He threw the cigarette on the floor. Crushing it.
As a tiger studies the deer he wishes to attack, he studied her.
Fight or flight.
Fight or Flight.
She didn’t look away. Like a deer being studied by her prey. She stood motionless. Waiting for him to make the first move.
She watched M throw the cigarette, and walk inside Kala Ghoda Café.
Was he alone?
Should she follow?
Can she run fast enough?
She was better than this!
M was watching the door.
He saw it open.
Her eyes full of confusion.
She walked in and picked the table right behind him. He heard the chair directly behind him move. He couldn’t help but admire his brave deer.
She ordered a cappuccino.
No one else was there, except the two of them and eleven years of history – all in this one tiny, quaint café.
It’ll explode. They both thought the very same thing.
“When will you be home? It’s late.”
His phone beeped once.
She wondered if it was… Her.
Was her coffee too bitter?
Was there not enough sugar?
Did they use bad milk?
Should she say ‘Hi..’?
She heard his chair move.
It was the right thing to do.
He should leave.
She would breathe once he left Kala Ghoda Café.
He pulled the chair in front of her and sat down.
The barista sensed something was wrong, but also that this was personal. He went into the pantry, but stood close enough to the door, in case she needed him to be outside.
As he walked in, her eyes caught his.
Before Roxanne could say a word, M said his-
I was a coward.
It wasn’t clear if she watned to hear more, or nothing.
Roxanne was unsure herself.
She watched him struggle to find the right words.
The white walls around them seemed to have more to say.
She never looked into his eyes.
Not when he saw her for the first time.
Not when he said his words to her.
Not when they say with eleven years of silence stretched out between them.
Not even when she stood up to leave.
He didn’t deserve to see the love for him that had found a space in her soul and would eternally stay there.
He didn’t deserve her forgiveness either.
But she gave herself the one thing that she deserved-
Her words, as she walked away, out of Kala Ghoda Café, and as she finally moved on.
He stared at the untouched cappuccino she had left behind.
Even though the seat was empty, her presence lingered in the air, along with eleven years of their love that turned into heartbreak.
He had never known what good bye truly felt like- never known until he watched her walk away.
Good Luck- it was almost a whisper now. He tried to remember the sound of her voice.
The way her hair moved, even when there was no wind. Her walk, her eyes…
But she had moved on and with her, she took all of their memories.