She asked, "Where are you taking me?"
He said, "Hold on, have some patience. We'll reach soon."
The rickshaw turned at the corner and stopped. They both got down.
It was a busy street but fresh and wet from the drizzle a few moments ago. Trees lined both sides of the road, and little droplets from the leaves caressed her face as she took a look at the quaint but elegant café. She saw a few people waiting at the entrance, while some were heading home with takeaways.
"Let's cross," he said.
They held hands and reached the entrance.
She asked, "Upstairs or downstairs?"
He said, "Upstairs."
An old couple was getting down the stairs as she waited for her turn to head up. The staircase was made of wooden planks. The old lady held his stick and shawl while he worked his way down the stairs, taking one step at a time and making sure his lady love followed him. She smiled at what she saw. He noticed her. They headed upwards.
It lead her to the verandah that was lined with small coffee tables and matching chairs. A huge fish tank adored the wall at one end. The verandah was divided into sections by semicircular arcs that descended from the tiled roof.
She felt at home in a moment.
"Let's head over to the corner," he said after scouting for a place among gossiping ladies at one table and college kids at the other. Theirs was the last table in the row. A board in a tiny little corner read "Self-service". She settled herself while he went to fetch the menu.
A sparrow sat beside her as she saw the busy street again from her seat. She thought of him. It was such a lovely place—tiled roofs, glass chandeliers, watching the drizzle from the balcony, soothing weather—perfect for the date. She smiled thinking of him.
He came back with the menu.
"I like this place. It's just perfect."
He smiled, "I knew you would. I remember you telling me that you like ancient heritage buildings, so I brought you here."
Their eyes met. The sparrow continued to hop around.
"Alright, so what do we order?"
"I love cheese. Anything you pick, make sure you have cheese. I hope they have it on the menu."
He noticed the gleam in her eyes as she spoke of cheese. She coyly smiled. He excused himself to fetch the order still thinking of how cute she looked at the mention of cheese.
Her phone rang.
"Hello, yea, I reached safely. Took us three hours but it was comfortable. I am at this nice café lunching. Quite a find I must say."
He came back with the fare.
"Food's here, I'll call you back in a while." She hung up.
"So, veg pizza toppled with cheese, cheese burger, veg roll with cheese dip, and cheese sandwiches—cheesy enough, eh?"
"Are you sure this will suffice?" she winked.
"Really? It won't? I'll get you more in case that happens; just as you like it."
She laughed and he smiled. More people kept pouring in and heading out. The sparrow continued fluttering.
"This place is amazing, isn't it? I love everything about it—the food, the décor, the ambience—everything. Oh! cheeessseeee... yumminess!"
He continued munching.
"I must say I'm impressed," she said as she took a bite from the pizza.
"When you are with me, you can be assured that you'll have a good time. You can count on me." he said with a charming sense of confidence.
She playfully punched him. He left the last slice of pizza for her.
"Tell me something, how did you find this place?" she asked.
"A friend told me about it. I was to come here with someone else, but I guess I was destined to come here with you."
As she smiled at his words, her phone rang again.
"Hello. Yes, I just had lunch and I'll be leaving in a while. I was just about to call you. Yeah, no problems so far."
He noticed the sparrow this time and looked around the café to avoid eavesdropping. She hung up and finished the last bite.
Silence ushered in for a moment. They both looked at each other but didn't say anything.
As he walked away, she thought about him. He was a nice guy and she liked spending time with him. It was interesting so far. Probably, she would… but then she stopped her thoughts and searched for the sparrow.
Meanwhile, he thought of her. He wondered if he liked her since she seemed quite right for him; the conversations, the connect, the fun, and that smile. Was it something ...and just then he was interrupted by the cashier.
When he returned with the coffee, she was looking at the street. If only, he thought.
"Shall we?" He pulled the chair for her. She rose and they headed downstairs. The sparrow was nowhere to be seen.
As they got down, she made a call.
"Hi, I am leaving the café now and I'll be there in a few hours. Yep, I ate to my stomach's and my heart's content. Of course, there was cheese! Why do you even ask?" She chuckled.
"Take care darling; I love you too." Then she hung up.
After a brief pause that followed the call, he asked her, "How's the coffee?"
"It's delicious, mesmerizing, and rejuvenating—just as it should be. However, you must know, coffee is not my cup of tea."
They both laughed aloud at this while leaving the cafe to cross the street. It started raining again and they took refuge momentarily under a tree. He waited for her as she opened her umbrella.
As they walked along sipping coffee in the shared umbrella, the ponderer got his answer and the dame controlled her thoughts.
Photo credits : A S Deshpande