Watching her elaborate on her sufferings made me sympathize with her until the plot twist…
The ambiance of the place was peaceful as usual. After all, there was a reason why this was my all-time favorite restaurant. The antique furniture, the painted portraits, the rare indoor plants, and the newspaper-styled menu- Freddy’s Cafe remains parallel to none for me. Sipping chai at the last table, usually reserved, the rare outing where I ate alone was turning out to be better than expected. As a friend once stated, “Go and eat alone sometimes. If you enjoy your own company, then you will know true happiness”, I was out here testing his hypothesis, knowing that I was likely to prove it right. The difference between today and any other visit was that whenever I came to Freddy’s it would be in the company of someone I loved hanging out with. You would not want to ruin a favorite restaurant with the wrong company, right? Fair to say, I gate-keep this place for only the best.
With half cup empty, my right arm extended to reach the bread in front of me, while my left got hold of the knife, waiting to spread honey on the bread. As the knife dipped itself in the small bowl, the fingers trying to maneuver the blade, a burst of shrilling laughter caught my attention. The whole restaurant was full of people, but this particular laughter refused to go unnoticed. It was not hurting the ears, but rather, reminded you of someone. Despite the numerous sounds that engulfed the air, the brain picked this one, with nostalgia overpowering the other senses. Was this someone I knew? It just had to be. But who was it? With the jog down memory lane proving to be of no use, it was time to publicly embarrass yourself by moving your neck, left to right, scanning the whole place, hoping to solve the mystery that troubled the mind.
The first table full of ladies well older than me? The second table where two gentlemen were engaged in a serious conversation? Strike 1 and Strike 2. BINGO!!! At the third table, where a couple was sitting, I found my answer. The boy was sitting in a position from where it was impossible to recognize him, but the girl was exactly opposite to me. With her pink striped sweater, fresh haircut, and constant use of hands to express what she was saying, it was not hard to recognize who she was. A smile ran across my face, realizing who she was. Should I go and greet her? Would it be appropriate? Maybe when I am done with my food and on my way out, only then. As the mind was busy figuring out these complications, overthinking suddenly re-emerged. Suddenly, the whole chain of thought broke down. There was no reason to be uneasy or fazed, but a chill ran through my spine. All because of a smile.
With Faaiz deciphering infinite possibilities, forgetting that he was still staring at the couple, the girl noticed his presence, passing an evil smile with eyes depicting that today is the day for revenge. Maybe I am overthinking, and she is just messing with me? Their conversation, which was inaudible before, suddenly became crystal clear, with the girl raising her voice to ensure I heard it. “Let me tell you a story about someone who ruined my life”, she began. With the fear of invading their privacy, I pulled myself out of possibly eavesdropping on them and took out my phone to distract myself. Call of Duty Mobile makes me forget what’s happening in my surrounding, but I could still understand some of the phrases said at the table adjacent. “He’s the innocent looking bully…pretends to be wholesome but wicked in his ways…deceives people with his kindness”.
These phrases compelled Faaiz to dismiss the game and look up with a sense of curiosity. Knowing her, who could bully her? And that too someone she is claiming is kind and innocent? Got to admit, was eager to know. As my face turned towards them, the face of the girl slightly twitched, almost as if she celebrated catching my attention with her words. Perplexed, I shrugged it away, waiting to hear what she is going to say next. “He hated my friends and tried to gatekeep me for himself. I was not even allowed to meet anyone when he was around me, while he debased my friends regularly”. DID SHE SAY THAT??????? That is so unlike her to ever face anything like that as last I remembered, she was straightforward in what she thought and believed in.
Although I could not see the face of the guy, it was evident at this point that he was agitated and angry at what he was hearing. His biceps were twice as muscular as mine, and it was not hard to figure out that he was a regular at the gym. He screamed ragefully, “YOU WENT THROUGH ALL THIS AND YOU NEVER TOLD ME? WHO IS THIS GUY? I WILL TEAR HIM APART!” While the other guy was losing his mind, I was too invested in the name reveal, and the reaction from the boy only annoyed me. Let her tell the name, and then you have my permission to do whatever they want. Was confused that which tea was better. The other that I was sipping moments ago or what I was hearing right now?
“The worst is yet to come…” whispered the girl. At this point, I wanted to jump off my seat and sit between her and the boy to get every detail. With a deep breath, she murmured, “I tried confronting him, but that is when I learned the concept of gaslighting. He blamed me for everything, and I went in the vicious cycle of trying to hold on and tell myself it is fine if he is acting shit.” As the words escaped her mouth, my hatred for the person she described multiplied. I agreed we were not friends anymore, but I still cared enough to show sympathy for her struggles and hate who wronged her. With a sense of sorrow, I looked around for the waiter, to enquire why my Mushroom Steak took so long to arrive. As I raised my hand, the story from the other table resumed with the lad red with pure anger. If you have seen Dragon Ball Z and the episode where Goku turns into a Super Saiyan, you would be familiar with how Goku looked before he transformed for the first time. The boy’s reaction suddenly reminded me of my childhood cartoon. In a chilly voice, he calmly asked, “Tell me where he is, and I will make him beg for mercy”.
The finger was raised dead straight. “He’s right behind you”, as she passed a sly smile. Eyes followed the pointed finger, and the conviction with which she did, left no room for error. I WAS THE ONE WHO DID ALL THAT??? The world spun around, and it was hard to get a grip on reality. Such massive allegations were raised with no effort. Blabbing for words, Faaiz was too confused to defend himself. Nothing escaped his mouth. What was he even supposed to answer? The allegations were way too diverse to pinpoint where to begin. The neck moved side by side to show resistance, but the body was paralyzed with hands unwilling to comply. Before I could even think about answering, an immediate threat was four feet away. The lad had thrown his chair on the ground and was marching towards me with his humungous muscles, letting me know that I stood no chance.
One step, two-step, here he came. His left arm rose in the air as he screamed, “Hope that teaches you a lesson” and descended with such ferocity that it reminded me of watching eagles descend from the sky to catch their prey. BOOM! SQUARE OF THE JAW!
I screamed in disbelief but felt no pain. I screamed and threw the pillow I had underneath. I screamed, thanking myself that it was just another nightmare, as I found myself teleported from Freddy’s to my bedroom. The nightmare was too realistic to feel like a dream…