Humming a soft tune to myself that kept ringing in my ears, I added a spoonful of salted butter on a slice of bread and stared as it disappeared into its pores. Emptying a sachet of coffee powder into a cup of warm water (and managing to burn my finger in the process), I flopped a couple of sugar cubes which dissolved and enclosed the brown liquid. I stirred the liquid, looking dreamily into the miniature cyclone that was being formed inside my porcelain cup. Carrying that mug of coffee on one hand and walking towards my room, I took a sip, burning my throat, coughing, spluttering and taking another sip.
“Gosh, I really ought to not have stayed up so late drinking with the girls last night,” I muttered, feeling my head throb. “But, why does it seem like I’m the only one who’s aging? No, surely, it’s not that. I’m as young as ever, it’s just the alcohol, it doesn’t agree with me, it never has,” I reassured myself taking another sip of the throat-burning coffee to reduce the feeling of my head exploding. “Maybe banging my head on the wall will reduce the pain,” I joked without even a slight smile. Flopping myself on the armchair, placing my mug on the handle, I craned my neck towards the shelf and started rummaging through the books.
“There,” I muttered to myself, satisfied, as I pulled out a leatherbound book, wiping the layer of dust that had comfortably settled itself on it. Waving my hands about to wave away the warm fumes of the coffee, I took another sip and started flipping through the pages, being greeted by a million flashbacks of the past forty seven years of my life.
I smiled to myself seeing my seven year old self seated on a stack of books in the book-store with a fat book on my lap that was practically drowning me, being too heavy for me to carry. My mind raced back to that day. It was a rare Wednesday afternoon when my mom wasn’t busy at work. To my enormous surprise, she was there at the school gate waiting for my classes to get over. And when she had asked me where I wanted to go, my meek and innocent reply was ‘The Book-store’. Perhaps, at that time I had no idea that ten years later I would be in the book-store four days a week, rummaging through every shelf for- algebra workbooks which were all Greek to me at the first sight, works by Shakespeare which I only opened the week before my examinations and what not.
I laughed one of my rare laughs as I flipped to the next page. There I was nine years later, leaving for a new journey- high school. I observed my posture and the reluctant smile, carefully noticing how much confidence I lacked back then. I felt pretty certain that my confidence level in pre-school was double than that in high-school. My thoughts were rudely interrupted by the phone’s ringtone which always decided to greet my ears at the wrong times. Swearing at that inanimate object, I clicked on the ‘receive’ option several times before it actually worked. “I don’t know what gets on my nerves more- the ringtone or the touchscreen” I grumped to myself but to the other side of the line I barked “Whaddya want, you insolent, inconsiderate brat?”. “No. ma’am. Nothing ma’am. Just wanted to ask if you would be interested in… never mind ma’am. Have a good day, ma’am.” came a scared reply as I hung up getting back to my photo album. “Ah there, now there’s eighteen year old me, having my first sip of red wine,” I smiled remembering how my friends had dragged me to a cheap, nearby bar on my birthday. It would have been better if they had dragged me to the library instead for I ended up getting high, over-sleeping and missing my accountancy examination the next day.
Flipping through some more pages, I froze at one particular picture, being overcome by a sudden melancholy feeling. There I was standing in front of my college in black robes, with a graduation hat. And there beside me was a boy, an inch taller than me, with black, messy hair and black rimmed glasses. I swallowed the lump in my throat capturing the picture of him holding me in his arms with my eyes.
“You promised me, Jake, you promised me,” I whispered, my eyes fixed at the picture. I still remembered the last words that we exchanged.
“Listen to me, Mary. Give me some time, alright?” he had said.
“But why Jake? Why can’t we just start our life together?”
“Because your dad thinks I’m not good enough, Mary. But I promise you I’ll come back as soon as I get a proper job. Alright honey?”
But that was it. He never came back.
My calls? Denied.
My number? Blocked.
My letters? Unanswered.
I missed your hands running through my hair, your lips pressing against mine, your eyes locked in mine… the list could go on.
There was no one to tell me that the scars that settled on my wrists showed my battle, no one to tell me that my stretch marks showed my growth, no one to reassure me saying that my waist was fine. It had been more than twenty years, but I was still waiting for Jake, my heart full of hope reducing into a single streak as the years passed by in front of my eyes. Looking out of the window, my eyes searched for Jake, meticulously observing each one. My heart sank understanding he would not be waiting outside my door like I had been waiting for him for all these years. I failed to understand why I was even surprised anymore. If there were no expectations, there would be no disappointment. Then why do we hope for so much? Perhaps, the world would be a better place with negativity being unexpectedly covered up by surprise. My phone rang, interrupting my thoughts once again. Ready to bark again, I peered into my screen. Swallowing my impudent words which immediately dissolved into a lump in my throat, I stared at the name caller which to my enormous surprise said ‘Jack’.
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Hey there! Critique circle here. Nice story. Love the details of making the breakfast, very clear descriptions.
Wow!!! What a beautiful piece Sampurna. I don't know if you noticed though, you wrote Jack at the end instead of Jake. It didn't affect the story at all. 😘😘😘😘
Noted, thank you so much for the feedback!