[Editor’s Note : Every week we will be publishing one chapter from Ansh Das’s book, The Memory Of A Face. Needless to say, we are super excited! Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Chapter 9, Chapter 10 & Chapter 11]
Diamonds in the windows
As Diano continued admiring the decor, Andy called his friends one by one to see if anybody was out that evening.
It had stopped raining by the time food arrived. They started with a platter of satay, shrimp cakes and spring rolls. The Tom Yum Goong soup was perfect.
Diano noticed crayon sticks on the table. That the restaurant cared for artists and children, made him smile in appreciation. He picked one up and started doodling on the paper tablecloth. It wasn’t long before he had filled a corner with balloons, birds, eyes, candy and cars. Andy looked at him and smiled but continued talking to his friends. A few of them said no and others said maybe but he didn’t give up.
For main course they had Pad Thai, steamed rice and green duck curry. Andy put his phone down and said that two of his friends would join them later.
The soothing Thai music added to the ambience, making it very romantic. Absent-mindedly, Diano started drawing a heart. He had coloured one half and was trying to decide which colour to use for the other half when Andy picked up a crayon stick and filled up the other half. Diano looked up and caught him smiling.
“You are quite an artist.”
“Sorry, I messed up the table.”
“It looks romantic though,” Andy said.
“Do you want some dessert? I think the mango with sticky rice should be good.”
“Yes. But let’s get one and share?”
Diano placed the order.
“I hope you’ll like my friends. James and Rock were best friends before they became a couple and still are, after they broke up. They hang out with each other all the time.”
“I see,” said Diano. “Tell me more about yourself.”
“About me? What do you wanna know?” Diano saw Andy stiffen.
“Oh. Just general stuff. How’re you doing in Shanghai? How’s work? Where do you live? You know — that kind of stuff.”
“Shanghai is okay. It is expensive but I hope I can continue living here.”
“I still remember your room in Guilin. And your busy schedule.”
“Ha-ha. That seems such a long time ago. Yes, definitely a lifetime ago, although it’s just six months. I haven’t been home since I moved here. My mom’s worried and wants me to go back next month.” Andy looked sad.
“You must. She misses you.”
“Yes, I will!”
The dessert arrived and disappeared quicker than Diano had imagined. He asked for the check and footed the bill. Andy took out his wallet but Diano waved him away.
“It’s my treat tonight. Thanks for being with me.”
“My pleasure. Thank you for the lovely meal. Let’s go. It’s stopped raining.”
“Where are we going?”
“Let’s walk along Nanjing Road. They’ll join us in an hour’s time.”
“Okay. Let’s go.”
They walked out of the restaurant and onto the street and made a right turn. It was chilly and they had to walk with their hands in their pockets. Diano had gloves but he didn’t want to wear them because Andy didn’t have a pair.
They crossed a major intersection and hit Nanjing Road. It had a very magical look that night. The raindrops on the window panes and shades glittered like diamonds.
As they were passing by an old-fashioned telephone box, it started drizzling again. They got into the telephone box to stay out of the rain.
“Now this is what I call romantic.” Diano laughed.
“Don’t get naughty. Ha-ha.”
“What if your friends don’t show up? We could wait here all night then?”
“No, man. This is Shanghai. Plenty of places to go to. Say what, do you feel like a coffee? There’s a Starbucks nearby.”
“Yeah. Sure. This is perfect weather for coffee. But I want a hot chocolate.” Diano said.
“Sure. Let’s go.” Andy opened the umbrella, which could shelter only one person. Diano, being taller of the two, took it in one hand and wrapped his free arm around Andy to pull him closer so that both of them were covered. They walked slowly trying to stay as dry as possible.
“I hope you don’t mind my tiny umbrella.”
“It’s big enough for both of us. That’s what makes it a very special one.” Diano gave Andy’s shoulder a gentle squeeze.
“Ha-ha. Now you are trying to hug me. You should ask my permission first!” Andy said.
“Oh. I’m sorry.” Diano moved out from under the umbrella and into the rain. But he held it over Andy’s head so that he didn’t get wet.
“Stupid! I was kidding. Please come back under the umbrella. Don’t get wet!”
“Thanks. I thought I was a goner today!” Diano heaved a mock sigh of relief.
“Come on, move closer. Your hand is sticking out. Your sleeve’s getting wet.”
They laughed and tiptoed along the street trying to avoid the puddles. As they were walking by a florist, Andy stopped.
“Mind if I take a look inside?”
“Sure.” Diano followed Andy inside.
Two salesgirls were busy attending to the flowers and plants inside. It wasn’t a big shop but the floor design made it appear long. They walked from one end to the other and back.
“Do you like any?” Diano asked.
“I like shades of blue or purple. They don’t have any.” Andy looked sad.
“What about another choice?” Diano asked.
“White. But it’s expensive,” Andy said.
“Let me buy you one.”
“Oh, Thanks. But not tonight. I don’t want it destroyed in my bag and obviously I can’t carry it around.”
“That’s true. Another time then.”
They walked out of the shop and across the street to Starbucks.
“One Hot Chocolate, please.” Diano told the lady behind the counter. “And a—”
“Caramel Macchiato. Thank you.” Andy completed the order.