Let’s Catch Up

He had been waiting by the roadside for some time now. Perhaps fifteen minutes. Maybe more. The tin shed overhead did manage to shelter him from the scorching sun but he had no shield against the heat, smoke and dust that was swirling about in the air, filling his lungs.

Across the road, the heavy wooden bar at the gate of the building rose and fell probably for the hundredth time to let yet another car pass. But there was no sign of her.

He squinted up at the building again to confirm its number. Was he even at the right gate?

Intending to call her again, he unlocked his phone, and flicked a quick glance at the gate. And he stiffened. Was that her? Twisting aside, he peered through the crowd, again.

Yes!

Swaying past the guards now, in her business suit, there she was, with a purse slung over a shoulder. His heart started pounding as he quickly hand-combed his hair, and smoothed down his T-shirt.

She came out of a small side gate, and looked across the road, shading her eyes against the sun. He took a moment gathering some courage, and then stepped forward raising a hand.

She waved him a silent ‘hi’ as he came into view, and saw him hurriedly crossing the road, dodging a speeding bike on the way.

“Hey!” She extended a hand, smiling. He had been expecting something more dramatic and emotional like a hug, but he took the hand anyway.

“You… look stunning,” he said, shaking her hand a little too eagerly.

“Can’t say the same for you, I’m afraid.” She grinned.

“I know.” He wrinkled his nose, and scratched a cheek.

“When did you last shower, Sam?”

“Hey, come on now… beard is in. And long hair never went out of fashion,” he protested. “I look no uglier than I used to.”

“Agree. There was no scope left for that,” she said, and both of them laughed.

“Let’s go someplace else. A restaurant or something. Should we?”

“Sure,” she said, and led him towards a building, a few yards away.

Inside the café, they picked their seats around a corner table, and settled in the chairs. “I’ll go order,” she said, picking up her purse.

“No. Let me.” He stood up. “You need anything to eat?”

“No, no, I’m full. Just the coffee. Thanks.” And he headed off to the counter.

Sweet old memories flooded his mind as the smell of coffee filled his nostrils. The days when he would sneak away to a café during breaks to write. And she would always cover up for him. Always. So many times, she had to finish my work… to save my ass, he recalled.

At the counter, he ordered two cappuccinos, like old times.

“Sir.” The man behind the counter squinted past him to where she was sitting, and suggested, “Would you like to reconfirm? Shariva ma’am never takes a cappuccino.”

Before he could say anything though, she was right behind him. “Right you are! Make it one cappuccino and an espresso. Thanks!”

Back at the table, he was still glaring at the counter, fiddling with a sugar pouch while she was stirring her coffee. “When did you change the job?” he asked abruptly.

“A few months after you left, I guess.”

Wrong direction, he realised, and swerved. “Well… it’s been around three years now. You must be on a senior position here.”

“Yes. A Team Lead,” she said, sipping her coffee.

“A Team Lead!” he exclaimed. “Well, you’ve always been fast.”

She shrugged. “You know me well.”

“Yes. I do.” He nodded, and a moment of awkward silence followed before he met her eyes again. “How’ve you been, Shariva?”

“I’m doing okay, Sam.” She held his gaze. “What about you? Found wisdom in the mountains, yet?”

“Wisdom!” He laughed. “I was wise all along, wasn’t I?”

“Wise! You?” She joined in the laughter. “But yes. Actually you were. At least in breaking up I’d say. I was no easy maintenance after all.”

“Hey!” He went pale. “I’m so sorry. I… I didn’t mean…”

“Oh come on! Chill,” she said, waving a hand, “I’m not gonna cry over a breakup I had in my previous birth.”

“Right.”

“And I know it was all for the good,” she added.

“Sure,” he said, but he wasn’t so sure about that.

“Okay. So we were talking about you. What brings this lonely writer back to the materialistic world?”

He smiled broadly. “I just wanted to see if you’re doing fine.”

“Really!” She raised an eyebrow. “Well, I appreciate the gesture. Now, come on, the real reason.”

“I am shifting back,” he let the words out finally.

“Shifting back…” She leaned on the table. “What do you mean? You said you’d not until… does that mean your book is complete?”

“Book…” He winced. “No… not that. It’s for the doctorate program I’ve enrolled for.”

“Doctorate?” She seemed surprised. “Where did that come from? You went away to write a novel,” she reminded him. “What happened?”

He didn’t need reminding of that. He wanted to tell her how difficult these last three years had been. He got the solitude he sought, all right. But along came the frustrations of writing. His depleting bank account didn’t help much either.

Writing was a pleasure, as long as he did it alongside a job. But alone, the expectations weighed heavy on him. The burden of getting a novel published was too much for him to bear. It affected his writing.

It was indeed foolish of him, he felt, to have left everything for a life of such uncertainty. Just as she had told him back then.

But, instead he said, “I think I’ll benefit from literary research. It’ll only help better my writing.”

“Well…” she began, looking unconvinced, but her phone vibrated and cut her off. She picked it up. He stole the moment to scan her face while she stared at the screen, frowning. He couldn’t believe he really once held that beautiful face in his hands, and kissed those lips.

It all seemed a dream now.

He was about to dive into it, when she pushed back from the table suddenly, startling him. “Sam, I gotta go, now.”

“Hey! What happened?”

“Something at work,” she said, stuffing her phone in the purse.

“No, please stay some more?”

“I can’t Sam. This is urgent.”

“Okay then. Five minutes? Just five more minutes. I need to talk,” he pleaded.

She quickly drew back to the table. “Okay. What’s it?”

“Thanks,” he sighed. Then, hesitating a bit, he started, “Shariva…”

“Yes Sam,” she urged him on, impatience written all over her face.

“I wanted to ask…” His voice was barely more than a whisper. “If you… are you… seeing someone?”

The sudden change in her expressions told him that the question was not welcome, or she hadn’t expected it at all. “No Sam… no…” She shook her head, her tone no more friendly. “You can’t really be asking me that. You simply can’t.”

“Why not? If you have a boyfriend, tell me, I’ll understand, but if not, then…”

“…then what? I should come running into your arms, right?” she said sharply, “Yes, of course, now that you’re back in town, it’s so convenient for you.”

“It’s not that Shariva.” His voice rose slightly, but he lowered it immediately. “I’m saying that I’m here now, and not going anywhere this time. I promise.”

“You promise!” She stared at him, incredulous. “Oh, you promise! Right, and you think that’s what I live for – your fucking PROMISES!” She lurched to her feet, pushing the chair so hard that it fell back, and snatching her purse, she turned around and walked off. It all happened so quickly. Paralysed, he watched her pausing a moment at the counter, and then storming out through the door.

It all came out wrong, so wrong. He slammed a fist on the table, as his senses returned. That wasn’t how he intended to say it. That wasn’t how it was supposed to go. I need her. I can’t simply let her walk away. No.

He jumped to his feet, and hurriedly dialled her number. It didn’t go through. He tried again. But the call didn’t connect. Only when he dialled it the third time, did he realise, with horror, that he was blocked.

Shocked, he stood there motionless for a moment, not able to think.

Then sighing deeply, he began shuffling towards the exit, disoriented. I deserve it, he thought. After what I did to her, I totally deserve it.

“Excuse me, sir.” His hand had just closed around the doorknob, when he heard the voice behind. He wheeled around. “Sir, that’s for you. From Shariva ma’am.” He was holding a packet.

Puzzled, Sam took it, and without wasting a second tore away the wrapper. “Her book!” the man beamed, and with a puffed up chest said, “She wrote it all here sir. Just came out last week only. Why don’t you take a seat and read it? I’ll go steam your coffee again. It’s untouched. Should I?”

He nodded, lost in thoughts. Her book!

He stared at the book in his hands, amazed, as the man walked away. With fumbling hands, he flipped through the pages, and read about the author on the last page, then came back to the cover to see her name again. It was her book.

He ran a hand through his hair, his heart hammering inside. How was that possible?

He took a deep breath, and sat down on a nearby chair, the book in his hands. He ran his fingers slowly over the smooth cover, his fingertips tracing the slightly protruding letters that made her name: SHARIVA SEN. It still feels mine, the name.

“I need the first signed copy of your novel Sam,” she used to tease, “write it quick. If you don’t I will. You know I’m a blogger, right? Who knows you might have a signed copy of my novel first…”

He quickly turned over to the page where her autograph was scrawled. She did it. Even with a job, she did it. He felt a surge of pride running through him.

He adjusted into his chair, as the coffee arrived, and looked up. “Sorry. Could you bring me an espresso instead? I’ll pay extra if needed,” he requested apologetically.

Then flipping over to the first page, he began reading, with a smile on his face.

Copyright © Sundaram Chauhan

98 comments

  1. This was a MARVELLOUS read, Sundaram. I enjoyed every bit of it. The twist at the end was brilliant and unexpected. Pretty soon, I’ll be holding a book with your name on it. I’ll be able to tell everybody, guess what, the author and I are great friends!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Goodness, I was captivated from top to bottom. And my lips was just smiling from the very beginning I started reading it. How you described their meeting, anxiousness at first, then turned to light (cranking jokes -like old times, I guess), the conversation on the coffee shop, I could picture it on my mind. My heart sunk when they started the odd-awkward convo (must be something from the past, broken promises). And ended up with surprised! Brilliant write Sundaram!👌 I am looking forward for another fiction or a continuation, may be?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Sundaram… This was amazing. Wow. I was skimming through the sentences just because I wanted to know what would happen next so bad 😛 Wow… You’ve got such a knack for this sort of stuff. I think you’ve really found your element with it, and I think it’s going to take you far. Soon, I believe you will have the recognition you deserve. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I really like the contrast between Shariva and Sam. Sam ran away from the world so he would have no distractions but was unsuccessful in producing a novel while Shariva juggled building her career alongside writing her book. Also, fantastic dialogue. It was very engaging.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sundaram, I was so hooked to this story♥️ so that’s it? Do you intend for a part two? Please say you do! It was interesting, crisp, extremely well written so much that I lost track of time and it’s midnight! Kept waiting for more. I had no idea you were such a fabulous storyteller. There is another one I noticed. I will read it tomorrow.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Vageesha! So good to hear from you. Thanks so much for reading, and leaving me such an awesome comment to begin my day with. I’m happy you liked it so much friend but this story ends here :)… thanks for these kind words. And I wish to see more of your posts too. I must have checked your site several times in the past two months to see if there is a new post. Come back Vageesha… miss your lovely words.:))

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sundaram, that is such a kind and heartwarming comment. It sure made my day😄 Thanks so so much for showing so much kindness towards my work. I am working on something, will post it as soon as I get around to finishing it.
        Never mind if it ends here, I’m sure, we’ll have more and more of your fictions to read, I’m actually looking forward to them now!
        And your work deserved all the praises! It was really great talking to you after so long😊

        Liked by 1 person

  6. An engrossing read! Lovely story with an unexpected twist! I loved it…the 2 friends and 2 coffees and the old friends brought back a lot of memories…thank you for this story..it reminded me of a long lost friend..

    Liked by 1 person

      • You have a beautiful blog and what’s life without investing time in gorgeous words…eh? And yes the coffees did bring back memories of me and a childhood friend meeting once a year at the same coffee shop and ordering the same cappuccinos and yapping away about the past year’s happenings…good times those were. I will be back to your for more such stuff..soon..thanks much!!!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. OMG , it felt like a novel or a movie. I could literally visualize everything. What a great story. I was completely hooked. Please write second part as it was so interesting, you must write more parts.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This is yet a worth reading post of yours, Sundaram.😍
    Their accidentally meeting each other. And then having coffee..the thoughts or rather nostalgia in his mind was relatable.
    Of course, the dialogues and the description is something you have already a good hold on. ‘Her book’ acted as a twist. And the idea was also a bit different to me, like the way you ended it up.
    Actually, having read your other stories, I also wanted something more at the end. And ykw, it is also because the way you pen down makes it seem so real that a reader feels it and then there are always endings in the real life haina! (Irrespective of good or bad ones 😂) it was just that, I as a reader was looking for a conclusion.

    But anyways, I loved reading it like always.😍💜💫

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s again a great compliment that you would have liked more of it. And theirs was not an accidental meeting. They had scheduled it. And that’s why he was waiting for her, nervous, because of what he had in mind. She came especially to meet him, leaving her work. But if that’s not clear in the narration, I’ll be happy to make the required changes.
      And for me, since Sam was taking her a bit for granted, the story ended right where it did. For all his lofty talks of leaving her (not just a job), all those years ago without once considering whether she would have supported him or not, he deserved a kick in the groin with her book (though she had intended only to delight him when she came).
      He didn’t deserve her, even though he wasn’t a bad guy, but sometimes, the decisions we take in a relationship, without giving the other equal say in it, tells us how the person feels about us.
      Anyway, again, there is so much more I know about the two of them that I can keep going. Sam deserved to hang in a limbo, and unfortunately the reader had to too because of him. Wow, I’ve written much…I’ll stop. 🤐 Right now. 🤐 Thanks for reading 🤜🤕🤐 ok.

      Liked by 1 person

      • No. I guess o mistook it. You started your story with waiting.😅
        Okay. I guess there is more of them as persons in your mind than you have put it here.
        I couldnt agree more to you on this. In any relation, the decision is never of a single person but both of them.
        Haha. I dont mind long reads…okay in some cases i do. But you can feel free to say anything or everything in your comments. 😂

        I tell you one thing. I just watched a short film which had quite the similar idea. A couple broke off, and they meet but accidentally and they catch up over coffee. But the reason they broke off is their ego. And that prolongs so they were unable to patch up.I guess, i unconsciously related your story with it. And now i get why your story seems a bit incomplete. I t was because you gave a strong point to hope and hold on. Guess what? Her book !!
        This is why maybe a reader is expecting the story to go on..yk.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Perfect. Then some day I might really explore more of them. Their past, their future. Yeah, sometimes life seems to be too short to explore all that goes on in our heads. Thanks for joining in my writerly talks Chetna… 😀😀..

        Liked by 1 person

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