tagFirst TimeSweet Child 'O Mine Ch. 03

Sweet Child 'O Mine Ch. 03


Mauve. Or Indigo. That is how I would describe the colour of the sky when the sun decides to retire for the day but not before it decides to put on a show before its daily last bow. I have never had a way with words.

That man would be Steve. The quintessential ladies-man. The man of words. He is a man of many words, whereas I am a man of my words. Does that make any sense?

That became clear with the "C" I got in Mr. William's English class. Whereas Steve never got less than an "A+" in his class. But somewhere I think his essay on "How to eat pizza without burning your tongue" was not as good as my "Understanding the social construct of high-school hierarchy post 2002." But Mr. Williams thought otherwise.

Now, as I stood by my desk at his cafe', trying to figure out what colour had graced the horizon this evening at the time of the sun's descent, I heard the dying riff of November Rain playing in the background somewhere mixed with the self-taught symphony of the wind-chimes.

The wind chimes always knew how to capture the dull thudding of my heart with perfection. Maybe, my heart always decided to dance to its beat whenever it heard them somewhere.

Intruding my chain of aimless thoughts was a sound of wood being dragged against stone. I knew someone was behind me as my back was towards my desk and I was staring out the narrow space between the cafe's wall and the tarpaulin that covered it.

"Please, go away," I said without turning.

"Let me enjoy the carnival invading my thoughts at the moment."

"How did you even know that I was here? I was trying to be as crafty as possible and trying not to make any sound," Steve said, his face flushing to the few shades of scarlet that it knew.

"Because this here, is my haven. I know every sound to come out of surroundings." I say, not before sighing deeply and quite audibly, pointing to the enclosure in the unfrequented corner of his cafe', a place I had come to call my make-shift office.

This was not the first time Steve tried to sneak up on me. I was aware of all the tricks he had up his sleeve. This was not my first rodeo.

"Okay, I'll leave. Just tell me this, did you apologise to Anna or not?" He asked, twiddling his thumbs idly on his phone, another sound I had come to recognise. He always did this when he was trying to buy time.

"Yes I apologised to her Mom."

"Whew. Thanks man. You know I cannot lose a customer."

"Yes, I am well aware of it. Now may I please have some space. I really need to clear my head before I start winding up for the day." I irritably told him, my eyes fixed on the clouds that were blocking my uninterrupted view of the sunset.

"Fine, be like this. Dick," he said, before sashaying away in a huff. Now I do not know that he sashayed. But that is how I pictured him waltzing away.

My eyes trained themselves back on the sunset that was playing hide and seek with a cloud that looked like a kite. The cloud made sure that my view of this sunset was constantly in jeopardy.

Looking at the sunset had become my ritual. After a hard-day, I would bask in the afterglow of the sun as the day ended. It reminded me that I had survived another day. It reminded me it was another day when my dysarthria and my issues had not overtaken my psyche.

Just as the cloud had decided to pass and I regained my my view of the sun, I heard the sound again. Wood against stone. Gosh, how I hated that sound.

"What's a man to do to get some peace and quiet around here?" I said angrily without turning, certain that it was Steve back to his antics.

"Well, he could tell me his secret to becoming a marketing guru," I heard a timid voice that seemed pre-occupied.

I whirled immediately only to see a smirking Anna fiddling with my laptop.

"What are you doing?" I asked her as I hurried towards her. I did not allow anyone to touch the laptop. Its nothing personal against them. Its just my mild OCD acting up.

"I am trying to get an answer to my question," she said to me, taking a few steps backs and gently raising her hands in mock surrender as I charged towards her.

"Its KISS," I say to her absentmindedly, turning my laptop upside down to check if she had messed with anything.

"What now? What's a kiss? Who gives you a kiss? You get a kiss everyday before you start work? Lucky guy," she said to me, a crestfallen expression evident in her demeanour.

"No Ma'am. Not an actual kiss. K-I-S-S," I say to her, unable to raise my eyes to meet hers. Though my eyes caught a good look at her footwear. Nice shoes, if you were going hiking that is.

"You know, I know how to spell kiss. Even my phone's auto-correct never does that, corrects me, that is."

"No. It stands for Keep It Simple, Silly. Its a mnemonic device I use to remember it." I said, finally gathering enough courage to face her, but failing to meet her eyes.

"Isn't that an acronym and not a mnemonic device?" She asked me, visibly puzzled.

"I guess it is an acronym. But I use it as a mnemonic device." I say, baffled at the simplicity of her question. Why had I never thought of that?

"What are you doing here? I thought us exchanging names was an indicator that all conversation between the both of us had terminated," I say, the rising panic of interacting with her again quite evident in my voice.

"Are you always this rude when someone disturbs your chain of thought?" She asked me, glancing around her to take in the surroundings of my desk.

"Well, only when they answer my questions with more questions," I tell her, as I close the lid of my laptop to slide it into its sleeve, which will then be nestled in a cushioned backpack.

"But why simple? I mean, in this world of ever-complicated plans and techniques, why at all keep it simple? I mean, does it work?" She asked me in a rush. Her shallow breathing indicating her rapid chain of thought.

"You want the long answer or the short one?" I ask her, picking up my well-worn notebook and black fountain pen that was lying unopened on the desk.

"Judging by the swiftness with which you are packing up your stuff clearly indicates that you are uncomfortable with this discussion. So, I'll take the short answer and ease your pain." She said.

"Well human beings like simple. Not everyone does, but the lowest common denominator always appreciates simplicity," I say, without looking up at her while making sure everything was properly stuffed in my backpack and the fountain pen was not leaking.

"Does anyone really go for that these days? I mean, isn't a large part of your target audience tech-savvy millennials?" She asks, unconsciously shifting her body to block my exit from the enclosure.

"Just because I emphasise on simplicity does not mean I intend to go back to the dark, tech-free ages. My messaging to the audience is simple. That way, everyone understands and everyone is happy."

"And that works?" She asks, her hunched shoulders showing her genuine interest in the conversation.

"Brought you here, didn't it," I say, with a triumphant smile lurking on my face.

"Touché," she said, "But the friendly staff is one of the main reasons that I come here."

"I see that. Anyway, what are you doing here? Don't you have someplace to be and people to bug?" I ask her, hoping this question would show my effort to get rid of her.

"I am doing just that," she said, stealing glances over her shoulder, as if trying to catch a glimpse of someone.

"Are you waiting for someone?" I ask her, obviously confounded by her behaviour.

"Yes, you. I am waiting for you. I want to get to know you better," she said, with a twinkle in her eyes.

My mind started whirling. What was happening to me today? I strained my mind to think if I had woken up on the wrong side of the bed in the morning? Or had they slipped something in my coffee? This never happens to me. Never.

"Then why are you glancing over your shoulder?" I ask her, the bewilderment in my voice apparent.

Before she could answer the question, she spun and latched her arm with mine.

Something was up, obviously.

And then, a few seconds later, a smiling Steve, who was confidently striding in my direction partly answered my question.

"Anna, you need a ride home?" He asked her, beaming at her oblivious to my presence.

"No. I don't. Sam is going to drop me home," she said, a hint of panic underlying in her voice.

Steve raised his eyebrow and said: "But Sam takes the bus home. How is he going to drop you home? Plus he lives on the opposite part of town. It will be quite late when he gets home."

"Oh..." she said, flummoxed by the development.

Me? I was between the devil and the dead sea here. On one hand, the tightening of Anna's fingernails on my arm was begging for a vocal response, one I decided to internalise. On the other hand, Steve's expression of anger at the development had me shifting uncomfortably where I stood.

"How about you drop us both home," I said, unable to come up with a better solution at moment's notice.

"Sorry mate. But you live further from my house than Anna does. Her house in just on my way. So, I thought she might like to hitch a ride me," he said, his eyes still boring into Anna, who was looking everywhere but meeting his eyes.

This situation was making me more uncomfortable with every passing moment. But Anna's fingernails kept digging into the skin of my arms. I did everything in my power not to wince at the growing pain.

"What is it going to be Anna?" Steve asked impatiently.

"Well, Sam said he would love to walk me home and then he'll take the bus from there. Weren't you just telling me that Sam?" She said, turning her head to look in my direction.

I swear, I turned my head in slow motion to face her. There was a pleading in her eyes. I was obviously uncomfortable with the development. I like my routine, so much so, that I never waiver from it. Also, this game of people expressing their emotions through their eyes was making me nervous. I hated being a dick to my friend who obviously wanted to spend some alone time with this girl, something that Anna clearly did not want. My reddened arms were witness to that.

But, her discomfort with the situation got the better of me. "Sure, I'll walk her home Steve. You seem tired. You go home. I'll get Anna home safely and I'll make sure she texts you once she gets home safely," I said, expressionless.

"Works for me. See you both tomorrow," Steve said, turning on his heels and walking towards the door. His disdain was apparent in his voice and the way he emphasised on 'both' made me a tad bit uncomfortable.

"Thank you," Anna silently mouthed to me, relaxing her fingernails on my skin and giving my arm a loving squeeze.

"What was that all about?" I asked her immediately after Steve was out of earshot.

"Well he asks me the same question daily. Something in his demeanour just kicks my spider sense into high gear," she said, rubbing my arm absent-mindedly.

"You do know that he has a thing for you, don't you?" I ask her as I begin walking towards the door.

"I know. Every girl has a sixth sense about this kind of thing," she says, her feet remaining planted, her hands on my shoulder displacing my momentum of moving forward.

"What on earth.." I trail off as I am jolted back in my position right next to her.

"Oh shush," she says to me, moving her hand to loosen her hair from the bun she had tied behind her.

"I don't know about you but I really need to get back home. I am feeling hungry," I say, feebly trying to free my arms from her vice like grip.

I am briefly enraptured by her hair as they cascade and land gracefully on her shoulders, bouncing enough to let them shimmer in the light that glows behind her.

Shaking my head vigorously to snap out of the mood, I try my best to think straight. Home. Food. Bed. I hate when my routine is disturbed. And then I glance at my watch, a three decade old family heirloom. I have evidently missed my bus. So waiting another seven minutes till the next one gets here is not too much to ask.

"Why do you take the bus? Do you not have a car?" She asks me, having turned to stare at the sky that housed the dying light from the sun that looked like burnt embers of a flailing fire.

"Err... No, I don't. I am not allowed to drive. Ergo, the bus." I tell her.

"But why? Everyone has a car these days. I hope you earn enough to afford a good car." She said, not turning.

"I do. I just like the bus," I tell her, unwilling to tell her how the accident had robbed me of enough co-ordination to be allowed to drive.

"You know, you pique my interest." She said, as she twirled on her heels to face me, the twinkle restored in her eyes.

"Well, though I am glad to be your interesting guniea pig, I really need to leave if I want to catch my bus on time. And I suggest you should come too before they shut down the place for good," I said.

"Oh shush. I have a scooter. I'll drop you home." She said, her irritation with my impatience apparent.

"Well, why didn't you just say that to Steve. It could have saved my arms a world of hurt," I said, my fingers involuntarily reaching out to the dull ache that remained after Anna's fingernails had done their deed.

"Now where is the fun in that? I wanted to see Steve squirm and wanted to spend some more time with you," she said nonchalantly.

"Now that is just downright mean. I don't want any problems with Steve," I said as my mind just refused to register the fact that she had just told me that she wanted to spend time with me.

"Why are so scared of Steve?" She asked me, locking her gaze with me, giving me little wiggle room to look away from her.

"Can we please leave now," I said, almost begging, as I saw the minute needle of my watch inch dangerously close to the departure time of the bus. I was not going to let her drive me home. Not her. Not happening.

"Okay. On one condition," she said, a devious smile now playing on her lips. I did not like where this was going.

"What's the condition?" I asked, exasperated by my circumstances. Even though my brain was screaming and directing me to leave, every fibre of my being rejected the brains orders.

"Tell me one thing about you that no-one knows?"

"But why?"

"Because I want to know," she said, her voice unwavering.

"No. I will not. You cannot hold me hostage like this," I said, at my firm best.

"Fine. So be it. You will find me here, at this very spot when you come back here tomorrow," she said and sat down on the floor, making a thud as her warm body made contact with the hard cold floor.

"Ow!" She said, jumping a little when she her backside met the cold floor.

"Can we please just leave and put a lid on the theatrics," I said, as anger seeped into my voice.

"No," she said as she shook her head like a two-year-old who did not want to part with her favourite stuffed animal.

"Fine. I am going. See you tomorrow." I said, turned and began marching towards the stairs.

She had obviously not anticipated this. As I inched closer to the stairs, I heard a flurry of clothing rushing in my direction. And then something pinned me to the wall next to the stairs.

I felt two arms slither around my waist and a heavy head with tousled hair resting on my chest. "I can't believe that you were just about to leave me there," I heard a meek muffled voice emanate from my chest.

With my backpack in one hand, I pushed her off of me, uncomfortable with the unanticipated contact. And then I saw something that truly baffled me. Tear-streaked eyes. Hers. Those deep brown eyes had tears in them. And then my insides melted.

"I told you that I am leaving. How is that hard to understand," I said trying to sound stern but failing.

"But I thought you liked me. My spider sense told me so." Twirling her lower lip in an adorable pout, she said to me.

"Well, in this case, your spider sense was off by miles," I said to her, averting my gaze from her.

With her still pinned to my chest, I started walking towards the stairs. Just an FYI, It is difficult lugging a five foot woman to your chest down the stairs. They are deceptively heavy.

"Would you please get off of me, so that we can go down?" I asked her gently, running my hand through her hair, as I looked down at her.

It is then I realised that this was the first time I was voluntarily touching her. It was as if her previous touches to me had not registered on a sub-conscious level. And a chill ran down my spine. This was not the first woman I had touched but there was an odd familiarity in our touch.

"But why are taking the stairs when we have an elevator here? You know it is a long ten storey descent." She said, slowly unpinning herself from me. My body somehow enraged by this uncoupling. A few more seconds, I could her my cells that were in contact with her telling me.

"Because it is not ten storeys. It is about seven. A few flight of stairs never hurt anyone." I said, calming my nerves.

"But I am asthmatic. It will hurt me."

"No you are not. Now quit whining and let's go," I said to her, somewhat firmly. My confidence in the situation surprising me as well. My will to stick to my routine outweighed my body's need to be close to her.

"How do you know that I am not asthmatic?" She asked me with a bemused expression on her face. She turned to look at me.

"Your spider sense kicks in about men. My spider sense kicks in when someone is bullshitting me," I said, not looking at her, walking down the stairs.

"How do you know it is seven storeys," she asked me, her wheezing amply audible in her voice.

"Because, I like to count the number of stairs and floors. Now, could we please get a move on here. I really need to catch that bus," I said, stealing glances at my wristwatch.

"Why do you look at time on your wristwatch? Nobody does that anymore. People just look at time on their phones," she said, her wheezing continuing.

"Can we please play this game of twenty questions later. I really need to rush," I said.

"Can we please just take a small break. Let me get my breath back. Please," she said, bending at her mid-riff, trying to catch her breath.

"Okay. See you downstairs." I said while continuing my descent to the foyer.

"Wait..." I could hear her wheezing voice call out to me as I continued down the flight of stairs. My need to get away from her and catch my bus was looming in front of me like a fate I did not want to encounter today.

As I jumped off the last three stairs, I rushed to the foyer only to be met with the backside of the bus. Dammit. You can always count on these buggers to be late but never early. Then I glared at my watch. The bus was on time, it was I who was late.

Mentally kicking myself for this lapse in my calculations, I heard shuffling of footsteps behind me.

"Why are you rushing? I told you, I'll drop you home," I heard a wheezing Anna call out to me from a distance.

"If it is all the same to you, I would rather get home on the bus," I said to her, without turning towards her.

"It is not all the same to me, you punk. Can't you just take a woman's kindness when it is offered to you?" She said with consternation.

"The last time I did, it did not go so well for me," I muttered under my breath.

"I'm sorry. Did you say something," Anna said, now standing right next to me as I watched the bus turn the corner. I could still catch it if I rushed to the next stop. But, leaving Anna alone on the sidewalk was not something I wanted on my conscience.

"Fine. Let's get you home. I'll take the bus from the nearest bus-stop near your house," I said, my voice losing the confidence it held a few minutes ago.

"No, I am going to drop you home. And that's that." She said, as she started walking towards the parking adjacent to the building we had just descended.

"But why are you doing this? I barely know you," I said, rushing behind her, trying my best to keep up with her.

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