Walking through the snow covered streets , She clutched her coat tightly. The Path was lonely and deserted. The trees, all of them were covered in thick layers of snow. The only music that touched her was the one played by December winds of Shimla and the “tak tak” of her boots that occasionally managed to reached her ears. “Thank god, I made it on time” she said in her head, as she saw the big coffee mug sticker on the door ahead.

The whooshy sounds of the winds stopped abruptly when she pushed the Glass door open and made her way towards the Red-cushioned arm chair – her Savior and comforter for the past one year. Unlike her mind, the arm chair seemed to be extremely relaxed, it felt like the chair was enjoying the view of Snow clad mountains and the angelic sunset through the huge window by its side. Fire was crackling just behind it and the place was unusually quiet.

“How did you even make it today?” Said the cafe owner in his rustic cheery voice. It was a valid question given the snow storm that took place less than 24 hours ago. “Oh! Evening Uncle, I am not here for my usual reading session, I am meeting someone”. The old man smiled and asked if she wanted her regular cocoa or would she like something new. The thought of something new made her shudder, it was a reflex ; She said she wanted to wait for her company to arrive. The old man smiled in approval and went back into the kitchen.

She took off her scarf and settled comfortably on the arm chair, resting her arms on the sides and pushing her head back. The chair seemed to be welcoming her back into its warm embrace, comforting her. She was grateful for this chair though, it was the only comfort she remembered. “Why would this man even want to meet me? Flying in from Delhi and that too during this weather ?”. And then it clicked her mind that her mother, in desperation to get her 32 year old daughter married, must have done some serious editing to her pictures and made her look like some sort of international celebrity. “Oh my god” she whispered to herself and shut her eyes tightly, may be thinking, that how would she face this man who probably has a mental picture of her that was nowhere close to reality. 

Suddenly, she heard the whooshy winds again and looked up. A Gentleman had opened the cafe doors and seemed to be looking for someone. Her heart was pounding so hard that she could barely hear the noise his shoes made on the hard wood floor while walking towards her. “I am so very sorry, It’s my mother who edited the pictures. I am so sorry that you had to fly down here” She was already forming apologies in her head. It was clear to her now that her pictures had been definitely edited; otherwise why would this tall, handsome, muscular, man even want to meet with someone like her? “I am sorry I am late” he said smiling, extending her a handshake. 

As soon as they settled down, she saw his face even more clearly. This was a very beautiful man with captivating features. She felt a wanting in her heart, stronger than an infatuation. “So have you ordered yet?” he kindly asked. His voice sank deeply into her, it was even more soothing than his physical features. She said she hadn’t. “Should I order cappuccino for both of us?” He asked while reading the cafe specials, still smiling. “Oh, I don’t know what it tastes like” She realized that she was staring at him and lowered her gaze quickly. “You’ll like it, allow me to order dear lady” He said in  a flirting tone that had a piercing effect on her. She was surprised that she agreed to try something new.

With drinks in their hands and sun setting back behind the mountains, they had a great time talking about their lives, their likes and dislikes in the comfort and warmth of the fireplace in the little cafe. She told him everything about her life, every little detail that she thought that mattered. Her accident that she had an year ago, was already mentioned in her “Matchmaker.com” profile. She had convinced her mother to mention it,  because not mentioning a life altering accident felt like deceiving, though she was not sure what else was there for her mother being very strict handled her account and never let her see her own profile. But she, being an introvert was surprised that she had told him every detail of what she remembered about her life. Her growing up in Pune and vacation visits to her grandparents to Shimla. About her love for music and poetry and her college graduation when she was awarded the gold medal in economics.

“Children, I am really sorry to interrupt but I have to close now” The old man said in an apologetic tone, he was still smiling though. His eyes appeared large behind his old fashioned glasses. “I will just settle the bill, then I can walk you home”He spoke like a true gentleman. She insisted on paying her half but he asked for an ice cream treat from her for their next meeting. He went to the billing desk and she sat there playing his words in her head “How about I pay this time, and you can buy me an ice cream when we meet again. ”  He wanted to meet again. Suddenly, she turned and noticed that it was dark now and the huge window reflected her own face. A jolt of realization shook her as she came back to reality. She ran her hands on her right cheek, on the mark that the accident had left her with. It ran down from her cheek all the way down to her jaw line, she remembered her mother telling her that it was the stitch mark. She tried to remember the accident but the only thing she remembered was the scarring sensation of trauma.

At the counter, He had paid the bill and was waiting for the change when his phone rang. “Dad Calling” it displayed. He glanced back and saw her touching her cheek while staring at her own reflection in the window. He picked up the call while still looking at her with a somber expression “Yes dad, the meeting was nice. Yes we are just leaving, I’ll drop her home. Yes,yes I know the way.” Then after a pause and a sigh he continued “No dad, no improvement yet but trust me . Your daughter is also my wife dad and you remember what doctor told us right? We’ll have to take it slow otherwise she can get worse and I promise you, I’ll make her fall in love with me all over again, for now, I am relieved to see my sweetheart after so many days. She looks more beautiful than ever’

That night, he laid down in his hotel room and revived the memories from six years back. He was in Shimla for a friend’s destination wedding but being an introvert had come to a little cafe to enjoy solitude. Every seat was occupied, except for the one by the huge window, opposite to it, he saw a girl sitting on an arm chair reading a book. “Do you mind?” he had asked, she said she didn’t. Two introverts bonded over a cup of cappuccino and their favorite book. The first meeting had resulted into a second one then a third. After two years of dating, they got married and their life turned into a marital bliss. They could spent hours together, without uttering a single word. He would work on his laptop while she would read resting her head on his shoulders. He remembered their passionate nights, cuddling with their limbs intertwined.

Untill one unfortunate day, on their third wedding anniversary; he suggested that they should try “something new” She kept telling him that she didn’t feel good about it, and he kept calming her down. At the restaurant that day, They witnessed a terror attack. They saw people getting murdered. His wife wanted to save a kid risking herself, but he had held her back.  He still distinctly remembered the screams, the shouts, the terrorized face of the kid. His wife protesting to let her go. He remembered every damn thing in its frightening depth.

“I was a coward, It should’ve been me” He had said to himself numerous times, he even tried to compensate for it by donating generously to various charities but nothing had worked.  The kid lost his life, and he lost his wife that day to a brain disease called Amnesia, triggered by traumatic events. She suffered numerous memory loss fits untill one day, when she woke up screaming, next to a man, that according to her was a stranger. 

The next thing he remembered was his wife running out of the house in panic, screaming for help, when it happened. In the blink of an eye. He saw her lying unconscious on the road just in front of their home, covered in blood. He saw the car speeding away without looking back.

 In a way, it did good, for she no longer suffered any fits ,But lost a part of her memories permanently . “You can never understand the brain completely” The doctor had remarked.

He reached for his bag that was kept at the end of his bed and pulled out an album, their wedding album from four years ago.  While flipping through the pages, he found his favorite one, the picture of their first kiss. “I love you so much’ he said while looking at her smiling face. Suddenly a message popped up on his cell phone. “I really had a great time, what ice cream do you wanna have tomorrow?”

Featured image from travel triangle.

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Supriya Patnaik

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