The waiter greeted Nazneen with an iced caramel macchiato with little on ice and extra caramel sauce, crowning heart on top of it made a splendid view. A perfect drink or what they call it- Amrit of their little heaven situated next to boulevard, street covered with crowd keeping it busy for the rest of his existence.
It was a daily routine for the waiter to do the same for the past two months as she made herself comfortable in that cozy chair, waiter waiting for his name to be called out.
But this day wasn’t on the priority list of everyday procedures he guessed. Still placing the coffee on the table, would be genuine he inferred.
She sat in a Starbucks café, sipping her coffee and staring out of the window. The blood stained knife lay next to her handbag, covered with a blue silk scarf. Mind flooding with mysterious psyche and thoughts that might leak out and initiate to explore the whole new human world.
Resting coffee, which had appeared from nowhere to her, she dialled a number waiting for a reply, holding her breath.
“How’s my baby?” the person echoed with a zestful voice.
She didn’t utter a word. Her vocal cords suddenly froze to death for the time – being. Deep silence with grief that’s all was heard from her.
Where are you?” the person inquired with a worrying tenor.
“Starbucks” she mumbled, gathering all the strength in her body could offer.
“I’m heading straight your way,” the person responded.
As soon as she hung up the call her eyes rushed towards the entrance, wishing for the person to appear mystically. Thinking as if Starbucks may have installed ‘Time Machine’ straight from Dr. Hawking’s theory for an instant travel facility to attract more customers.
Disappointed, she swung back when the blue scarf caught her attention again. An Awful dream from which she wanted to wake wide open but was helpless.
Some mystery hidden deep in the silk scarf peeping from the corners, giving a ferocious smile. She would rub a lamp hoping for a Gin to pop up, putting her mystery in the darkest place that could never return haunting her back.
Suddenly she sensed footsteps approaching, breaking her out of the dreadful nightmare. Each second- sound of footsteps getting more distinct than the previous one. Each second her heart pounded twice the earlier beat.
The next moment she sprinted towards the door, embracing the person like it was destined by god himself. Tears rolling down her cheeks vanishing into thin air, eventually satisfaction visible on her face.
“Dad,” she sobbed, still making herself comfortable in his arms while the rest of the people in the café try to figure out the scene.
He too embraced Nazneen making her soothed in his arms. Nazneen’s tears gave him a hint that something terrible has happened. Still standing steady as a rock- not letting him shatter. He could feel the heat, the temptation through her vibe dripping deep straight to his heart. A sort of homecoming to teardrop which found an absolute way to their destination.
“I never knew my baby can cry too,” he chuckled, trying to make the situation, bit serene, magically transforming the looks on her face similar to a small sobbing kid- annoyed still adorable.
“I can,” she smiled to some extent.
Clearly he was a first-aid to any problems she faced. Guide to a lost pupil, rudders to a boat in high tides.
Snug as a bug in a rug, he made Nazneen comfortable in the chair. He didn’t want to frighten her by throwing questions. Getting Nazneen rid of all of her worries was his primary concern.
“Let me wipe those little droplets within those dwarf sized eyes,” he chuckled, reaching out for the blue scarf lying on the chair next to him. As he picked up the scarf something fell on the floor, which was intentionally concealed within it.
Cling! The sound of metal striking the ground drew his attention. Stun! His eyeballs stuck on the visual that the blue scarf revealed.
‘A knife with blood stains rested silently on the floor, which a moment ago was dancing around making vicious sounds.’
Immediately looking towards Nazneen trying to solve the knife-riddle appeared mysteriously to him. To his disappointment, she said nothing, masking her eyes out of his sight.
This was the first time she wasn’t able to look into his eyes. The gaze he used to see in her eyes was missing. Despite they were filled with shame, as it was visible to him.
But somewhere deep down in his heart, he couldn’t admit it. Like a piece of the puzzle was missing.
Removing a handkerchief from the pocket, he carefully picked up the knife concealing it back into the blue scarf without getting much attention.
“What’s the matter?” he asked silently holding her hands gently.“
Can we go someplace- Alone,” she whispered
“Let’s go,” he nodded in affirmation, grabbing the Swiss knife masked with blue scarf cautiously, finding their way out.
He escorted Nazneen in the car and got on the wheel. He rolled the car out of the parking space, heading towards ‘The Alone Place’ Nazneen mentioned- still unknown to him.
It was halfway down the highway; neither of them was ready to utter a word, but only the sound of wind rushing into the car. Not much after some time Nazneen uttered.
“Dad, I stabbed someone.”
Tires made a screeching sound, as he applied all the force on the brake. Her words went sharp cutting through his eardrums.
“Now would be a good time to speak,” he triggered Nazneen.
“I can’t, with that look on your face. Maybe if you just keep driving might help me too. ”
She then started outlining the incident occurred few hours back. The wind, whistling sound, the afternoon canvas all of them were eyewitness while she narrated the whole scenario.
My cell phone went loud early in the morning. By then you were gone stuffing my pocket money underneath my pillow. As usual, it was Soumya’s wake up call.
“Get up you lazy ass,” Soumya screamed from next end.
“I’m already up, you Fatso” I mocked her.
“Fatso,” Nishant laughed like hell, letting me know that it’s a conference call.
“Dare you laugh Nishant,” Soumya yelled.
“So, Soumya is the culprit behind this secret conference call, now pay the prize,” I taunted her.
“All the fat people get on the floor. FATSO! FATSO! FATSO! ” Nishant started singing.
“I will kill you Nishant,” Soumya howled like a wolf.
“Calm down Soumya and tell me what’s up with the early morning chat,” I interviewed.
“Damn, its Sid’s birthday tomorrow, don’t you remember,” Nishant said in a sad tone.
“I do remember, just checking out if you do,” I quipped.
“Your FATSO did forget, I reminded her,” Nishant added.
“OK, Nishant, you don’t have to advertise it,” Soumya said in a growling voice.
“Stop it now! Let’s get to the point. We’ll meet at pizza hut at sharp 1 pm and decide a game plan for Sid’s birthday. But don’t let him know about this,” I interrupted.
“Brace yourself Nishant. I am going to eat you up at pizza hut,” Soumya warned.
After hanging up the call, I started getting ready for our outing. As decided, we all gathered at pizza hut at 1 pm, Nishant was late, though. I accompanied myself with a sun coat due to overwhelming sun burning. Nishant ordered a Margherita cheese as usual on our behalf. We missed Sid apparently, but planning for his birthday party never let us feel his emptiness. We decided all the things for the surprise party, licking off the melted cheese from pizza slice, fighting over chili flakes. Chili was always our weakness, spicy desert.
I grabbed a handful of flakes packets and stuffed them in my handbag, Nishant empty handed making foul faces at me. Funny was it!
It was 3.00 pm we headed back to our homes. On my way, I decided to go to a gift shop.
“This shop looks quite appealing,” I thought to myself.
Shopkeeper greeted me and suggested a variety of things, but none of them looked out of the bar. Eventually, I came across a piece that caught my eye- A Swiss Knife. Sid was crazy for such things. Also, its handle was red in color which was Sid’s favorite.
Once, Sid literally opened up gear box of Nishant’s bike with his little bulky keychain. It was fun watching them fight over it.
I asked shopkeeper not to gift wrap it; saved me a couple of bucks. “I will wrap it myself,” I thought.
Time clocked at 3.30 pm. Shit, I’m so dead. I was supposed to be at home. I gazed through the street trying to find Auto Rickshaw when I heard someone crying, screaming for help. The noise came from the basement of an old corporate building. No one else was around so I raced towards the basement without any help.
I witnessed two hooligans-a bald and a skinny one with long hairs and sharp cut on his face. They were trying to misbehave with a young girl. It got worse when the bald tore apart her top while the skinny grabbed her arm strongly. I couldn’t withstand the scene and shouted loudly.
”Let her go.”
“Oh! I didn’t know there’s another chick in the room,” skinny laughed.
“Go home dear, you are at a wrong place,” bald men suggested.
“Let her go, I say,” I ordered approaching towards them, slowly inserting my arm in the bag, crushing the chili flakes packets inside, gathering some in my fist.
“You’ll not listen, I guess. Now face the consequences,” skinny man said trying to grab my hand.
At that fraction of a second, I swung my fist right on his face. Chili flakes found their path in his eyes.
“My eyes, they’re burning. Hurry! Get me some water,” he pleaded to his mate, still holding the girl firmly.
Stubborn was he, but getting the girl out from his grip was more important. Sid’s gift in my handbag got my brain running. I pulled out the Swiss knife very next moment and started striking his hands vigorously till the girl was free. I was like a wild animal hunting his prey to death.
The Skinny man groaned painfully lying on the floor, crying for help.“Run away or your next,” I added furiously.
Bald men ran off, disappearing into thin air leaving his mate behind.
I covered the girl with my sun coat to hide nail scratches on her shoulder. The girl was terrified at the incident, still spoke something uneven.
“Di, a man watched all this but changed his path without helping me. You, on the other hand, came from nowhere to save me, fighting with those evils. Was the person too blind to sight my pity condition? For a minute I thought, humanity has lost its meaning, but I was wrong.”
“I just want to ask a simple question. What made you risk your life for me, but not that person who just walked away?” “I’m confused, I’m so confused!”
With these words, she just paused bursting into tears. I couldn’t leave her like that; I called OLA cab and asked the driver to carefully drive the girl home.
With her question, it raised thousands of them in my mind too. Airing through the valley figuring out the answers to them, unknowingly, I called an ambulance and asked them to help out the injured man down the basement. Mind didn’t allow, but heart did. I don’t know why till now.
Eventually car reached its destination, a police station situated right in front of them. Nazneen explained all off she had in her heart till then.
Gasped, she exhaled deeply, staring right in her father’s eyes unknown of the placed they had arrived.
“Did I do the right thing? I couldn’t justify what was the appropriate thing to do at that time. To help her was the only thought running through my mind. Same like the girl back there, I’m confused,” she revealed her perplexity.
Eyes filled with droplets and tempting happiness on his face, he kissed Nazneen’s forehead.
“Today is the proudest day of my life. What you have done needs courage, which other people lack. You saved a daughter, a sister, inspired her to do the same. I feel honored to be your father.”His words answered to all of her confusion, her queries she desperately needed to know. All of her commotion burnt like flash-ash.
“We have far more work to do now,” he recited. Both stepped out of the car.
“Jai Hind Sir, you with your daughter. Is everything fine,” hawaldar saluted instantly.
“At ease officer, I’m not here as Inspector Khan, but as a citizen to report a crime my daughter committed,” he confirmed, handing over the blue scarf with blood stained knife to hawaldar.He then explained the whole story to hawaldar also requesting him to log a complaint against Nazneen.
“But sir, she’s your daughter. Why would you do this?” hawaldar quoted, puzzled a bit.
“Duty comes first. I should be honest towards my responsibility.”
“Don’t bother officer. My daughter has done a job which others wouldn’t dare to do. She will get out of this, she will be fine and I am here with her. More importantly, her deed! ” He looked towards Nazneen with pride.
Six months later, Nazneen was released from all the charges in the court. The hooligan arrested from the hospital after treatment, accepted his crime. Court too affirmed- What Nazneen did was against the Law, but in favor of humanity.
A few days later Nazneen sat in the same Starbucks Café when suddenly she felt a hand on her shoulder.
“Hello Di, How are you? I wasn’t able to thank you for that day, neither was I able to during the court hearing of the case, nor can I today. It wouldn’t be sufficient. I cannot repay your debt my entire life,” girl thanked her.
“Zoya, Wow! What a surprise? Nice to see you again and don’t be so formal, have a seat. ”
“You asked me a question that day- Why did I help you, but the man didn’t? I have the answer.”
“COURAGE is all it takes,” Nazneen affirmed.
Zoya smiled at this, satisfied with the answer.
“By the way those chili flakes really are devil,” Zoya cited as both of them giggled broadly.