The little cafe downtown Larris Road, bears a deserted look. Even though the fog has still not cleared and cold winds brush past every now and then, people don’t stop by for a coffee. She doesn’t want to, as well.
But somehow, she does.
He is there.
The mist has settled on the window panes, painting a rather distorted image of the world outside. Beyond the window, people in their buttoned-up coats and tight scarfs, walk past. She wants to retrace her steps and go back to being one of those busy people trudging down the street, but she’s already inside the warm, little cafe and it feels good there.
With heavy steps, she walks to one of those corner tables and takes a seat.
Her face pulls up of pretence of carelessness. Inside, there is a storm raining down on her heart.
Her lips quiver as she hears a pair of sneakers squeaking down the hallway. A second later, he stands in front of her.
“What would you like-” he pauses awhile. “Ma’am?”
His words sting her. Yet taking a deep breath, she manages to look up at him.
His button-down black shirt is sticking to one side and his dark hair glows under the flickering lights in the cafe. His shoes are worn out, yet he wears them with so much pride.
He is not looking at her. Instead, his eyes are focused on the blank page of the notepad.
“Two coffee, please,” she mutters, with too much care.
He quickly turns around and walks to the counter, without bothering to ask her if she needs something else. It’s as if she has ceased to exist for him.
When he arrives with the two cups of coffee, carefully balanced on the tray, she doesn’t know how to ask him to stay.
As if he can read her mind, setting down the tray before her, he carefully pulls out a chair and takes a seat.
“What are you doing here?” he asks.
Her fingers curl around the cup, and she breathes out a slow sigh as the warmth of it trickles down her skin. Bringing the cup to her lips, she gives it a slight blow.
“I miss people,” she manages to say.
Her fingers jerk tighter around the steaming cup as her eyes start to sting. She rubs at the them at the same stupid pretext that he’s grown accustomed to.
He pretends like he didn’t hear her.
Emptiness wafts around them. She can no longer hear the brisk footsteps of people outside. She can no longer hear the slight squeaking of shoes near the counter. It’s as if the whole world has stopped and is somehow looking right at them, waiting in anticipation to hear the next word uttered.
At the corner of her eye, she can see him fiddling with his cup, his head bent down, probably watching her the same way as she is watching him.
“Why are you here?” he whispers.
At that moment, she bites back her lip to hold the swell of emotion waiting to burst out.
“I miss you,” she finally says. “I miss people when they drift away. These days, it feels so empty. There are people around me, yet, I feel lonely.”
A drop of tear trickles down and she looks up to meet his eyes.
“Why can’t you just let go of things. Why do you have to cater your ego? Why can’t we just go back to being the friends we were?”
“Look-,” he starts to say.
“No,I’m not staying here to hear you push me away. It’s tough to live through everyday, knowing that the people you thought would be there with you forever, are no longer there! I miss you so much! Yet every time I pick up my phone to call you up, I’m afraid that you’d just push me away. I want to go back to the time where things were not so complicated!”
He places a hand on her shoulder, as if trying to calm her down, but it is not working.
“Think of the world we could build! With memories so beautiful! We could go back to being friends again! We could go back to the same old routine of meeting here for coffee everyday! Wouldn’t that be wonderful?” her voice breaks.
Inside, his heart breaks into a million pieces on seeing her cry. He wants to hug her, console her and hold her till an eternity, but he knows that the scars will remain. That, things will never be the same between them as they were.
“We can still meet each other,” he says. “Look, here we are now. Everything will be fine again.”
She shakes her head and stands up.
“You don’t miss me. You don’t miss me like I do. And I know you are lying. You are lying when you say that everything will be fine again. For nothing will ever be,” she says and a moment later, she’s gone.
Through the misted glass, he watches her walk past hurrying people. A while later, she’s gone. Her shadow’s merged into the crowd.
He picks up the two cups, places them on his tray and stands up. For a second, he lingers there.
“I miss you too,” he finally says.
Only, she’s not around.
Somewhere, down the street, the girl stops and leaning against the metal lamp-post, slipping to the ground, she cries.
Somewhere, at the back of the coffee shop, against the rising vapours of the coffee mug, he sits and sighs.
Theirs could have been wonderful stories.
Stories that could have been..but never were.