* Note : Contains Explicit Sexual Content
Part I: The Coffee shop
Zarina walked into Theobroma on Colaba Causeway and sat at a table by the window, at the very last one so she could be far away from the rowdy college students, who occupied a table near the entrance. Pellets of rain speckled the glass and looked like teardrops. Outside, rain clouds gathered to unleash the second torrent of rain that day. The grey skies mirrored what Zarina felt inside. She had been walking around like a zombie for a week now.
One week ago, Zarina had done the unthinkable; she had allowed her ex-girlfriend, Mallika back into her life. Well, for just one night of passion, but it had left Zarina unravelled and forlorn. Ever since that night, Zarina had called in sick to the office and had been coming to the coffee shop every day. She would sit by the window, a hot chocolate in front of her, her laptop open, and her mind replaying the events of that night over and over again.
It had all started when Mallika called up. Zarina, unable to resist the number flashing on her blackberry screen, answered the phone after a couple of rings. She planned to play it cool, even be cold, if necessary. Mallika wanted to meet up for coffee; she had something to discuss. Even though she was dying to know, Zarina said she wasn’t interested. Eventually Mallika cajoled her into it. It didn’t take much. Even after all these months of not being in touch – eight in all – the sound of Mallika’s soft yet raspy voice had the power to dislodge her.
From the moment Zarina laid eyes on Mallika the day of their meeting, her knees turned to butter, her heart melted. But she was determined to show a brave front. She would listen, but not get involved. She sat down, somewhat awkwardly. Mallika, who always appeared cool as a cucumber, seemed out of sorts. Zarina wanted to reach out touch her arm, reassuringly, but she thought better of it. She kept her arms crossed instead, gripping her arms on either side somewhat tightly.
Zarina gritted her teeth at the memory of the pain she had gone through when they broke up. Zarina had believed for the 3 years they were together, that she was the only one for Mallika. If anything, it was Zarina who had a roving eye. Not that she ever did anything: she was crazy about Mallika. But Mallika was the soft-spoken, committed kinds. The fact that she had strayed…well, Zarina still couldn’t fathom it. Her bruised ego welled up next to a broken heart. She stiffened.
Mallika started with pleasantries. The “how are you?” and “how are things?” and enquired after Zarina’s family. Zarina gave short, monosyllabic replies. The last answer almost came out as a snort. She was determined not to be sucked into Mallika’s vortex.
“Why are you being so cold?” Mallika asked finally.
“You wanted to meet up so I am here. You wanted to discuss something so come out with it. I don’t have fucking time for chit-chat.” Zarina could feel the hair rising on the back of her neck. Why was she being so damn aggressive?
To Zarina’s surprise, Mallika said nothing. She looked down at her coffee, picked up her spoon and started stirring aimlessly. Then she dropped it and turned her face away from Zarina. Her left elbow was on the table, her chin rested in her palm. Her profile, elegant as ever – her aquiline, golden features, her warm chestnut brown locks falling effortlessly around her shoulders, the glint of the sweet diamond nose stud – in the cool light that came in through the window took Zarina’s breath away. They both fell silent.
Finally, after some time, Mallika looked back at Zarina.
“I did love you, you know,” she said tenderly, lowering her already soft speech by a few notches so no one around them could hear.
“Not enough.” Zarina felt nauseous all of a sudden. “Anyway look,” she continued, fighting the emotions that were starting to erupt inside of her. “What did you want to say? I have to get back to the office.”
Mallika thought for some time, and then replied “Nothing.” She stopped. “I just wanted to see you. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have.” She looked straight into Zarina’s eyes as she nervously rubbed the back of her neck. “Anyway, I should go.”
To Zarina’s dismay, Mallika made to leave.
“Wait,” Zarina blurted out before she could stop herself. She took a deep breath, closed her eyes and stepped over the threshold.
“I’ll walk with you.”
(To be continued…..)