‘Ciao Sarah’, shouted Shanna while putting her laptop in the bag hurriedly. It felt like she had passed with flying colors in her most challenging examination today. It was exhausting yet exhilarating. Only thing she needed now was her coffee at her favourite place after such a great day!
Shanna had never missed a chance to enjoy her coffee in Starbucks whenever she felt elated in the past 3 years since her joining this new advertising agency in Connaught Place. She is heading the research department and has been a great analyst and critically acclaimed employee in the organisation. Secretly she thanked her virgo instincts sometimes for being completely critical, while researching for new campaigns.
She liked walking till the Café as she could pass glance at all new arrivals around in the cottage emporiums. “I need to buy some fabrics for the blouse from Nalli’s”, Shanna reminded herself and thought of dropping in at Nalli’s which was just round the corner.
The coffee tasted a little better today, she had a wonderful presentation regarding the new upcoming project which almost took her six months to give a face to. It was a project very close to her heart called “Say Yes to a new start.” The context of this project moves around the status of divorcees in the society. She and her team really wished to insinuate a fresh perspective in the lives of people, who encountered bitter experiences in the most celebrated institution called marriage. It is so evident yet neglected fact that a man or woman have to keep dragging a non-functional relation due to some rigid beliefs in this society.
Small advertisements shot by them were establishing that fresh perspectives around this topic and encouraging these people to break the social barriers to overcome mental blocks to start afresh. She herself has done that!!
Her coffee was ready and she moved towards her favourite corner with her paper glass almost brimming till the end with coffee. She recollects Sarah’s favourite statement fondly, who is an Italian photographer for their advertising company. Sarah hated Starbucks and actually cursed them as “the thieves of coffee culture” of Europe and blamed them for playing mercilessly with the quantity and quality of it, but Shanna had no complaints.
Starbucks seems to be a place where she can unwind herself with a coffee looking at the unfinished décor’ on the walls around which gave an ambience to the place that almost seems similar to her life, shaping up!
She was a young woman in her early thirty with an average height and a lean frame. Her long straight black hair with the centre parting contoured her round face giving a clear look at her forehead and features .She loved her hair to stay open and hanging down on her shoulders. They were too straight and silky to be tied.
Today, she had a final presentation for these clients, so she chose to wear a long black jersey dress that contoured her figure extremely well teamed up with the blue silk scarf, which she bought from Thailand adding to her blue grey eyes. Although she was an Indian but people would easily mistake her for being a European.
Her coffee was ready and she moved towards her favourite corner with her paper glass almost brimming till the end with coffee.
Europe was otherwise her favourite place to be, whenever she wanted to be at peace with herself. Her organisation gave her ample opportunities to explore the places here as the Head Office for her company was in Milan.
She has travelled to different cities in Europe but she loved Florence the most .The way city had maintained its culture and heritage, she felt like visiting there time and again. But it was Paris, where she went for her honeymoon with Ronnit. She got to know him through shadi.com, a common website meant to seek matches in India. The match seemed to be so perfect and the families took hardly any time to plan her engagement.
She enjoyed her courtship period for two months and each day was specially planned by Ronnit as a romantic Bollywood film journey. But what followed was beyond imagination and she never wanted to think about the mental and physical pain she went through. She kept reminding herself about the same, as her psychiatrist Dr Banga instructed her to do so; if she would not have helped, Shanna could have never come out of her self-destructive depression followed by divorce with Ronnit.
It was quite warm and cosy inside, so Shanna took off her scarf and kept it with her handbag on the table to enjoy her coffee. Shanna was lost in her past days sipping her coffee and suddenly she could see Diyali with a person on the extreme right, this person who seemed to be a young man almost in mid-twenties was engrossed in a deep conversation with Diyali.
She hurriedly got up and reached out to Diyali with a little surprised expression and tapped on her shoulder.
Hiiiiii, how are you? shouted Diyali, the moment she turned around and saw her elder cousin sister standing there with a cup of Coffee and a confused expression on her face.
“I am fine and a little shocked to see you in India, when did you arrive? “asked Shanna with a confused look on her face to see Diyali here as she just spoke to her a week back and Diyali said that she was in Australia and is planning to come to India by next year.
Diyali was a model by profession and travelled a lot due to her assignments. She had chosen this profession out of her parent’s will so she lived on her own and Shanna was the only family member, she was in touch with.
“I am in a conversation, Sha and will wrap it up in a while “, said Diyali and asked Shanna to join but she chose to go back on her table and told Diyali to finish and join her.
Diyali finished hurriedly and came to Shanna’s table and hugged her tightly again and expressed her joy to see her.
“But Dia, I spoke to you last week and you never said you are coming so soon”
“The day I spoke to you, this assignment came on board and it has a shooting schedule of 20 days in India; so I just grabbed it up. The person I just met was the coordinator and he is leaving for another assignment, so I came to meet him straight from airport and thought of giving a surprise to you”, explained Diyali without any breaks in conversation, unfolding the whole situation.
Shanna loved Diyali for her chirpiness and was proud of her for managing her personal and professional life on her own.
Shanna was so taken aback with the situation of meeting her sister that her coffee was just left unattended. Shanna excused herself for getting another coffee and asked Diyali to stay back till she comes. Diyali had another meeting to attend so she walked up to the counter and took leave but decided the menu for dinner before leaving. She hugged Shanna again and told her that she will be at home for dinner in time.
Shanna walked back to the table with another coffee and was a little anxious with the sudden situation. She was happy, confused and a little uneasy for some unknown reasons.
She had to buy fabrics for her blouse so she hurriedly finished her coffee and picked up her scarf to tie back again.
She felt as if she has touched a naked electric wire and she kept the scarf back immediately. “Is it actually there”? Her breath almost choked and tears started brimming up. There was a blood stained knife under her scarf.
She could not believe her eyes and was almost freezed.Her mind was not working at all to understand that where did this blood stained knife come from?
“NO”, she almost shouted without realising. Diyali…how could you? Why was she here? What did she do???She can never do this!!!…All kind of thoughts were hammering her head and she almost lost her mind with no answers that made sense.
“But it can be someone else too, why am I thinking that Diyali did so? How can I think like that for my younger sister”? mumbled Shanna to herself.
She caught the corner of her chair and struggled hard to sit and once more carefully raised one corner of the scarf and could see the knife with blood stains. It was right there! She dropped the scarf immediately. The people around have seen her sitting on the table Also she was a regular here so the waiters passing by have nodded and acknowledged her presence.
She tried calling Diyali but the phone was not reachable every time she called. She made up her mind and decided to dial 100 and report the matter. She took another ten minutes to finally gather courage to pick up her phone to make a call to police to report the matter.
‘Diyali Calling’…her phone screen flashed and vibration almost scared her again. She forgot to switch on the volume back after her presentation.
“P.l.e.a…se forgive me Shaaa”, sobbing voice of Diyali was audible from the other side of phone which made her condition more vulnerable. She had no idea what was going on. Was she dreaming or it was real?
She gathered herself and only managed to say, Dia…What??Why??
Dia was continuously crying and trying to tell her that she did not want to do it but it just happened accidently and there was no other way to run out from the situation.
Shanna gathered her courage and told Diyali that she should come at Starbucks immediately and then they will call police. But Diyali was inconsolable. Shanna was trying all efforts to convince her to come back as this situation can put her into more trouble.
Diyali begged Shanna to help her with disposing the weapon but Shanna told her that she was calling police and is reporting the matter even if that puts herself into a situation and disconnected the phone. So many things were making rounds in her head and she could see faces of her family members revolving around herself and visions of Diyali behind bars, but she had to take a call.
She walked up to the Manager’s desk and asked him to call police and shared the matter with him. The manager was really supportive and told her to control herself in this moment and helped her with a hot coffee. He dialled the number and informed Shanna that cops will be there in ten minutes. She almost felt numb and senseless and walked back to her table with trembling hands holding her coffee as if it was the last support she had.
She sat in the Starbucks café, sipping her coffee and staring out of the window. The blood stained knife lay next to her handbag, covered with her blue silk scarf.
A loud chaos just broke her attention and she got confused by looking around when she saw Diyali and her gang heading towards her seat with no signs of agony or stress in such a situation. Suddenly everyone started laughing and applauding and Diyali just hugged her with an expression of “please forgive me” written on her face. Shanna also spotted the same man beside her whom she saw with Diyali earlier. Shanna just did not know how to react to all this. Diyali just came near her table and removed the scarf with ease and picked up the knife in the other. She picked some blood on her finger from the knife and licked it saying, “Heinz Tomato ketchup…As red as blood”!!!
Shanna took a while to understand the whole scenario and was shell-shocked to realize that her little sister just got her and she just wanted to do one thing in that moment desperately, to kill Diyali with same knife.
Diyali knew that Shanna was really angry and it would take her a little while to come to terms with reality. She hugged her many times and apologised also to scare her like that.
“What is it all about Dia”? an exhausted and pale Shanna asked.
Diyali explained that she was here for a new show for Channel X and campaign and her director shared that this script was to be tested and shot on some real person before the final shoot and when she spotted Shanna there, her first thought was to give it a try. It was a trend these days to shoot real life experiences and adding a little zing to it.
Shanna felt completely drained and dead after this prank played by Diyali; she thanked the angels above for it being unreal and shook her head to come back to reality. Also her love for Diyali just forced her to let it go. Finally she overcame the shock and reminded Diyali to head for home to execute their dinner plans.
They started walking towards the parking to reach for the car. “Would, you have handed me over to police Sha, if it was a real situation”? asked Diyali.
“Would you ever put me into a situation like this in real, Dia?” asked Shanna instead of replying.
They hugged each other and both felt a little moisture in the eyes. Diyali suddenly became the mischievous devil again and shouted loudly, “Never Sha, I cross my heart and hope to die”, with her one hand on the heart and another raising high like taking an oath.
‘Chup Badmash’, and never repeat that again!!! Shanna replied and switched on the music after putting the keys into ignition.
This story has been published in Vol.04 Issue.12 of our magazine. Find such stories and more in print and online.
About the Author
As a kid Shalini has been fascinated by all kind of stories and her love for reading encouraged her to read all kinds of fiction whether it was a short story in a local newspaper available in the small town she lives in or Tin-Tin in library. Shalini is an Assistant Professor in a Design College and has been teaching for almost two decades. She used to write small reflections and memoirs for herself but a contest on Times of India pushed her to write a story which lies published here.