Sayyam hated the smell of coffee.
By the time he realized this, it was far too late. He had already stepped into the coffee shop. The dark, earthy smell was so strong that he could barely take a breath without it overpowering his senses.
His upper lip curled on impulse. He sat down at an empty table and waited.
He’d been used to waiting for as long as he could remember. Ever since he’d gotten into that damn car accident, his life had revolved around waiting.
Waiting for his doctor. Waiting in the kitchen, eyes squinted shut, temples throbbing, as memories tried to resurface; memories of loneliness, memories of leaving something behind, but he’d shaken them off every time, not wanting to uncover the past without knowing he could handle it. And so he kept waiting.
He leaned back in his chair, his foot tapping a rhythm on the polished wooden floor of the cafe.
His doctor had told him to always keep a tape recorder or notebook with him, to note down his feelings, his thoughts, his experiences. Sayyam didn’t see the point in that though.
He inhaled deeply; and a familiar feeling come rushing back at him. It was like a strange case of deja-vu. He saw flashes of himself, he could hear tinkling laughter, and he felt her soft hair brushing against his face.
His head suddenly hurt. The smell of coffee didn’t help.
Sometimes, he would forget things. It made everyone angry, which in turn made him angry too. His temper had apparently gotten worse since the accident, at least that’s what his doctor had told him. “Keep a journal, it’ll help you vent, it’ll help you remember things you want to remember.” That’s what Sayyam had been told.
He was jolted out of his thoughts as the chair across from him shuffled against the floor, slightly squeaking in protest. A woman sat down and waved over the waitress. She wore a deep chocolate brown scarf that matched her hair.
“Excuse me,” he said as politely as he could. “But I’m waiting for someone.”
She looked over at him, her eyebrows arching in consideration. Then, she smiled. “I’ll be out of your way soon.”
The waitress arrived, looking very smart and eager in her white shirt and black apron. “What can I get the two of you?”
“One latte with a shot of hazelnut and one hibiscus tea,” she ordered crisply, glancing up at the waitress.
Sayyam regarded her suspiciously as the waitress hurried off with the order. She was familiar with this place. He watched as she pulled out her phone, a small smile gracing her face. There were streaks of gold in her hair. When she looked at him, he quickly looked down and found himself wishing he had brought his notebook. Something told him he didn’t want to forget this.
“I ordered for you,” the woman stated. Her hands were folded neatly on the table.
He looked up into her twinkling eyes and frowned, “you didn’t need to.”
“Do you like hibiscus tea?” She asked tentatively, looking like she had hoped to please him.
“Better than coffee,” he muttered.
She nodded curtly.
“I’ll pay,” Sayyam added, trying to keeping this encounter as formal as possible.
She smiled. He noticed that she did that a lot. It made her face look nice. “So this is kind of like a date,” she commented, tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear.
He hadn’t offered to pay for hers. It was a misconception that he didn’t bother to correct; it would have been rude to. “I’m waiting for someone,” he told her purposefully.
“I’m waiting for someone, too,” she nodded understandably, her lips pursed.
This surprised him. “Then why are you sitting with me?”
“It’s good to have some company while we’re both waiting, isn’t it?” She unwound the long pecan-colored scarf from her neck. She smiled at him again, her eyes crinkling at the corners. “You looked like you weren’t really enjoying yourself.”
Their orders came on a round, black platter. The hibiscus smelled sweet and familiar, like a perfume he had once loved on someone. He paused, eyes squinted. His lips thinned in concentration.
“Is something wrong?” Her eyes looked especially wide over the rim of her latte.
“I’m trying to remember something,” Sayyam told her truthfully. Her words had broken his concentration. He shrugged and sipped at the tea.
For a few moments, neither of them spoke.
“It’s a beautiful day outside,” she sighed. Her face was reflected in the glass window of the shop, and he noticed just how beautiful her eyes were. They were so vivid, bright. They could probably light up a whole room.
“It is kind of nice,” he nodded, looking outside. “If you’re into that gray, misty weather type of thing.”
“This kind of weather is a little grouchy, but it has its charms,” she grinned optimistically at him.
“It’s a bad day for driving. Kind of foggy- bad visibility. All types of accidents happen in this weather.” He took another sip of tea. It made him feel better and almost forget about the person he was waiting for.
“Speaking from experience?” she asked conversationally.
He nodded. “I was in a car accident last year. It was pretty bad.”
“I was in a car accident, too, last year. A big one. My fiancé almost died in it.”
Sayyam raised his eyebrows. He felt oddly sulky at the mention of her fiancé. He wondered if they were still together. She was rather pretty. “How is he now?” He set his cup on the table, waiting intently for her answer.
She shrugged, taking a gulp of her latte. She deeply breathed in the scent of it. He wondered how she could do that without feeling nauseous. “He’s neither here nor there.”
“I know how that feels.”
Her lips curved up wistfully, “I don’t know how you can stand it. Sometimes, I feel like I can’t even stand him when he feels like that.”
“It’s not like we can help it,” he said, slightly on the defensive.
“Oh, I know that.” She set down her mostly empty cup and absent-mindedly ran her finger along the rim. “You know, we were supposed to get married this past summer.”
“Winter weddings aren’t bad, either,” he replied quietly.
She looked up at him. “You really think so? Don’t you think the winter weather’s a bit…gray?”
“You yourself said that the weather was beautiful today.”
“But what do you think?” she pressed, chewing on her bottom lip thoughtfully.
“I think the weather doesn’t have anything to do with the wedding, frankly. A wedding is about love, it’s about being with the person who means everything to you. I don’t think time matters when it comes down to it. I don’t think waiting needs to be an option.
A smile appeared on her face, but never completely reached her eyes. “Well, I think I’ll wait until next summer anyways. He’ll be better by then. I want the wedding to go smoothly. After all, your wedding day only comes around once.”
“Unless you get married a second time,” he pointed out.
She finished her latte, shaking her head. “I don’t think so. I really love this guy, so I think I’ll stick around.”
“He’s lucky to have you,” Sayyam told her sincerely. “Is he the one you’re waiting for here?”
“Yeah,” she nodded, then sighed softly. “But I don’t think he’s going to show up today.” She pushed back her chair and stood up dejectedly, rewrapping her scarf around her neck. She moved her hair out from under the scarf as she reminded him of something, “you promised to pay, right?”
He hesitated, but nodded in the end, a soft smile peeking out through his stoic features. “Yeah, sure.”
“Thanks.” She turned away, that usual smile on her face, and walked out of the coffee shop. He watched her straight auburn hair swish from side to side as she strode away. The bells on the door jingled.
There was a faint scent of hibiscus flowers. He finished his tea. After waiting two more minutes, he called for the check.
As he flipped open his wallet, he noticed a picture inside of a pretty brunette, who had faint golden streaks throughout her hair, he wondered how he’d never noticed this before.
He squinted, his eyes shifting out of focus. Quickly, he put some money on the table and ran out to the street. There were some busy shoppers, but no sign of the chestnut hair.
Finally, far down the street, he caught sight of an amber dot.
“Krishna!” he called, chasing after her. He used his elbows mercilessly to get through the crowd. Everything came rushing back at him, the conversations, the unspoken promises, the memories, everything.
The woman turned around.
Sayyam paused to catch his breath, then leaned forward and kissed her, pulling her closer to him. He wouldn’t let go, never again. And when they parted, he grinned down at her, adjusting the scarf around her neck,
“Sorry I kept you waiting.”
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