“Hi ma’am, what would you like to order today?”
“Uhm… An ice tea, with crushed ice and a roasted chicken sandwich.”
“Will that be all?”
“Yes”, she smiled. “Wait, a minute! Could you be a dear and make sure the chicken is tossed in cream cheese?”
“But, it’s not in the menu.”
“Your chef knows how to improvise.”
“Thank you.” She went back to reading her book.
The waiter went to the table behind her to get the next order. The man sitting there had his morning newspaper before him, but his mind was locked on the order of the lady.
“Hello Sir, what would be your order for today?”
“Hot Lemon Tea, with three cubes of sugar and a corn coleslaw sandwich with pickles on the side.”
“No, that’ll be all.”
The voice, the order, everything seemed so familiar that the lady’s heart skipped a beat. But none of them gathered the courage to look back.
The waiter left with their orders and when the chef took the order, it startled him.
“Are you sure this is the order? The old menus were removed right?”
“Yes, long time back. Is there a problem?”
“Did you tell the person that this isn’t there in the menu?”
“I did. But the lady said, you knew how to improvise.”
In the meantime, while their orders were getting ready, the man called the waiter, whispered something in his ears and handed him a note written on a paper napkin. The waiter came with their orders. He served the man and went up to the lady’s table. “Here’s your order ma’am.”
“But I don’t remember ordering a tiramisu.”
“That’s from the man at the next table, and he gave you a note too.”
She opened the note, and it read “Like AlwaysJ”. She kept it aside and gave some instructions to the waiter. He went back and returned with a plate of french fries with freshly ground pepper.
“Sir, the lady sends her regards.” He gave him the note and the plate of fries. The note said, “Your choice of food still sucks!”
As the waiter left, he started laughing and they both finally looked at each other.
Five long years had changed quite a few things, the way they looked, the way they talked. But the thing that did remain same were the butterflies in the stomach they both felt when they saw each other every time.
“What’s with the intense look? Still trying to impress people?” she mocked him. Her carefree smile still brought warmth to his soul like a mug of hot chocolate on a cold winter morning.
He chuckled and nodded a yes. “So what’s up with you these days? When did you get back?” He was awed by her innocent face. She still fidgets with her hair while talking. When did she get those highlights done, he wondered.
While the two of them were busy catching up, the waiter went up to the chef with sheer curiosity. “How do you know the two of them? I never seem to have seen them around here?”
The chef started to recall the initial days when the café opened and those two were amongst the first few customers. “They used to be our regulars. Bunch of crazy, happy spirited people.”
“But what was so special about them that you still remember their orders? The café closes in 5 minutes, should I inform them?”
“No, let them be. Five years are a long time. They have a lot to catch up on.”
“Tell me about them.” The waiter was excited to know their story.
The chef was ready to take the ride back to the days when the café had a different spark to it.
“The café was opened in the year 2010. And Shristi and Sarang were among the first few regulars to the café. Shristi was working on her food blog and Sarang was working on his business idea. Back in those days, I used to interact with the customers to get their feedbacks and suggestions. Shristi used to work closely with me, gave me better ideas and took my help for her blog. We came up with a menu named “The Rebel’s Choice”, where we allowed the customers to play around with the menu and get their dish improvised. The two of them were best of friends. They tagged along always, knew each other’s likes and dislikes. I had a wonderful time with them. I had reserved them their own special table. Be it a birthday, or a milestone of 1000 views achieved, or a successful business idea, every occasion was celebrated at that special table.
In the spring of 2011, one evening, they both came to the café, all dressed up to celebrate a happy occasion. Shristi went up to me, gave me a ring and told me to stick it on to their dessert, the tiramisu and bring it to them. An hour later, I went at their table with the ring. They both seemed so happy that day. Shristi was ready to propose Sarang. Her eyes sparkled and her face glowed with happiness. He wanted to share his news first and told her that he met a girl a month back and now they were getting married in a month or two. I was shocked and looked at her. She quickly hid the ring, hugged him and wished him all the luck. The evening fell silent that day. They parted promising to meet the next day. But she never came. I couldn’t control myself. The pain in her eyes came right before me and I told Sarang what she had planned the last evening. I told him that I always felt that they were meant to be together, but he said that he couldn’t afford to love her. I never got a chance to ask him the reason, because he rushed out of the café, and I never saw them again. All I know is that the food blog is still up and running strong.”
The two of them had completely lost track of time and didn’t realize it was almost the end of the afternoon. Sarang was still married to that woman and Shristi was on her food journey, travelling places. They recalled their first moment of togetherness when he was too lonely and she came over to make him feel better, their first accidental kiss at his apartment, the one they both had designed, and slowly all good old memories were right before them, like that was just yesterday. The chef came to greet them. It was an unexpected sweet reunion. Shristi got up to leave, when Sarang held her hand and said, “Let’s get back to my place. It’s still the same apartment. We could get some coffee. I still can’t believe that I met you. My wife would be back in an hour or two. You could meet her too.”
She simply smiled, took back her hand and said, “I rather not.”