HBC – See You Next Time

Episode 03: See You Next Time

a woman standing
“I couldn’t even say her goodbye”

31 January, Saturday.

Heart Break Café.
12:30 pm. It’s a beautiful morning of the fresh spring in the Capital. Leo at the bill counter; Shreya, Preeti, and Pooja busy with orders. Kamal has gone to Dariya Ganj; apparently, he wants to buy some books on his syllabus. Half of HBC staff is still in shock after hearing this. Avinash Chauhan, 41 enters with his wife, Akansha, 39 with their girls Riya, 18 and Priya, 16. It’s a happy family; father seldom talks, mother is the chatterbox and two beautiful girls who every boy want to stalk. The family settles at the table, Akansha approaches the counter.

Akansha: Hi.
Leo: Yes ma’am.
Akansha: It’s my husband’s birthday. I know it is last minute call but can you arrange a birthday cake for him, I know you guys have lots of contacts.
She is elegant and the way she talks there is a refinement in every word.
Leo: I think I can arrange one for you but it will take some time.
Akansha: So kind of you, we can wait.
Leo: Anything else I can do for you?
Akansha: No don’t bother about it, we will order at the table. But there is one thing I am intrigued to know.
Leo: What is that?
Akansha: Yeh aapke cafe ka naam Heart Break Cafe kyun hai? Thoda sad-sad sa nahi lagta?
Leo(smiles): Hmmm…We all fall in love and love makes this world worthwhile to endure. For a moment, when we are in love, we are so happy, we are euphoric believing that we can have this feeling forever. But love doesn’t stay forever. Sometimes we outlast it and sometimes love leaves us, heartbroken and shattered. No matter how hard you try, your loved ones they just leave you, sometimes even if they don’t want to, life just takes them away. So you can say ma’am this whole world is just a club of heartbroken people, hence I named this cafe HBC.

Akansha looked at him with a sense of familiarity.
Akansha: So someone left you?
Leo: Yes there was someone.

Akansha thinks for a few seconds. She opens her bag and takes out a white envelope.
Akansha: I wanted to give this to some friend but I think giving it to a stranger whom I can trust would be better.
She gives the envelope to Leo.
Leo: What’s in it?
Akansha: Can you please give this letter to my husband?
Leo: When?
Akansha: Next week, it will be my birthday. I will bring him here.
Leo: Are you really sure to trust a stranger with this letter, you don’t know if I would read it or not?
Akansha: Actually you seem a person who understands love.
Leo smiles: Thank you, you are the first to say that.
Akansha: Even though I don’t want anyone to read it but I really need someone to read it.
Leo is surprised. He is curious to know the content of the letter.
Leo: May I? (Asking permission to open it)
Akansha: At least not in front of me.

Akansha leaves for the table. Preeti is already serving them orders.

02:30 pm. Chawla Bakeries has sent a boy with the cake. The cake is placed on the table. Avinash Chauhan cuts the cake amid smiling faces of his beautiful daughters and wife.
Leo looks at the envelope. He doesn’t want to read it but is provoked by the flaw of human nature; to know the unknown; to do what should not be done; to say things that shouldn’t be said.
He opens the envelope and reads it.

04:30 pm. Leo calls Maks.
Leo: Abe aaj jaldi aa sakta hai kya tu?
Maks: Aisa kya hai aaj?
Leo: Bas aaja na kuch kaam hai?
Maks: Dekhta hun.
Leo: Dekhta hun nahi harami, jaldi aa 10-15 min mein.
Maks: 10-15 min mein, Bank to mere baap ka hai na.
Leo: Abe aaj saniwaar hai, half-day hota hai saale, mujhe seekha raha hai.
Maks: Thik hai…thik hai…aata hun thodi der mein.

04:45 pm. The Chauhan family is done with their birthday celebration. As Avinash approaches the bill counter, Akansha pushes him away saying that it is her treat. Avinash and the girls go to the parking.
Akansha: Hi, bill kitna hua?
Leo doesn’t say anything just places the bill on the desk. He looks at her with the kind of respect that he reserves for only a few.
Akansha: So you have read it?
Leo: Yes.
Akansha trying to smile but the smile fails to grow from the corners of her lips.
Akansha: You know…love and life?
Leo: Yeah.

She doesn’t have to say it. Leo has read her letter, he knows what she feels.
Akansha: I totally enjoyed today. Thank you.
Leo: It’s my immense pleasure meeting you.
Akansha: Same here.
Leo: See you next week then?
Akansha: Yes…

They smile and shake hands.

07 February, Saturday.

11:30 am. Leo is at the counter. The café is on its usual course. Avinash Chauhan enters, he is alone. He takes the chair and sits quietly for a while. There is utmost sadness on his face. He looks shattered. He orders a coffee.
Leo goes to him.
Leo: May I sit here?
Avinash: Yes, please.
Leo: Your wife has not come? She said she will come, I guess today’s her birthday.
Avinash has tears in his eyes but he holds them; a mighty effort.
Avinash: She will never come. She is dead.

Leo is not surprised.
Leo: I am so sorry for your loss.
Avinash: She was a good liar.
Leo: She was a great woman.
Avinash nods.
Avinash: I cannot believe she is gone. Last week she was here, with me, with our kids. We were so happy. She was laughing, singing and now she is gone, just gone.
Avinash goes silent. Leo lets him sink in his loss.
Avinash: I don’t know why she told me to come here. It just doesn’t make any sense.
Leo takes out the white envelope from his jacket and slips it across the table.
Leo: She was a woman of her words, she told me she will bring you here and I should give this to you.

Avinash doesn’t get it. Why would she give something to a complete stranger?
Avinash opens the envelope, there is a letter. He reads it.

The letter. It’s personal. He reads it.

Avinash finishes the letter, tears flow down through his cheeks. He holds the letter to his chest.
Avinash: She should have told me. She should have told me. She went through so much pain but never once showed me. How could she do that?
Leo: Perhaps she didn’t want you to get hurt.
Avinash: It is not fair. I didn’t get any chance to speak to her. I couldn’t even say her goodbye. On Monday, I left for my office like usual days and the kids went to school. By the time I came home, she was dead. This is not fair. Only if I would have known her condition, I would have told her that I love her so much.
Leo: She knew that.

Leo gives him a brown color packet.
Avinash: What is it?
Leo: Gift from a friend.
Chauhan tears the cover; there is a photo album. There are photos of the Chauhan family, from the last Saturday taken by Leo from a distance without their notice.

The following pictures from their family trip to Select Citywalk Mall:-
-Akansha looks at Avinash’s face as he sips coffee silently.
-She corrects the back-side crease of his shirt as he plays snooker with their girls.
-She holds the arm of Avinash while walking the road.
-He escorts her while going through traffic. She likes the attention.
-He whispers in her ears and she laughs.
-She looks at her family as they eat at the table. She wants to stop the moment. She wants to capture it. This is her last best memory.
-Her face looking away as she knows it’s her time to go.
-The final picture, her beautiful face super-zoomed in black and white. She smiles but there are tears in her eyes.

Chauhan starts sobbing. He doesn’t care if people are looking at him. He hugs Leo tightly.
Chauhan: Thank you for this.
Leo: She was a good person.

Chauhan leaves the cafe with eyes wet and album pressed to his chest. The left corner of the white envelope appears through the sheets of the album.
Leo (Whispers): See you next time…ma’am.


I Hate You

a girl and a boy on cycles
“My silly boy. I really hate you…”

11.00 am. Moon, 16, dressed in school uniform sits on the last bench in her class. Her beautiful face is slightly red with anger. Her best friend, Rose sits with her, tries to talk to her.
Rose: Come on Moon, say something. You are mad since morning. Are you gonna spoil your 16th birthday like this?
Moon doesn’t reply. Her head still down on the bench.
Rose: Are you mad that L didn’t come to wish you?
Moon (angry): I don’t want to see him. I wish he comes under a truck.
Rose: Don’t say that. You love him.
Moon (Mixed emotions): No. I hate him, I hate him, I hate him.
Rose: Hey! See he is standing there.

L, 17, tall, fair, handsome stands on the door of the class. He smiles mischievously and waves at Rose and Moon. Rose waves him back with a smile but Moon twitches her lips.
Moon: Tell him that I don’t want to see him ever.
Rose (shouting to L): Sorry L, she doesn’t want to see you.
L still smiling.
L (shouting): Tell her that I have something for her.
Moon gets little curious and raises her head slightly.
Moon (whispers): Ask him what it is?
Rose (shouts): What it is?
L comes closer to her desk with his right hand behind him.
Moon raises her head, pretending to be angry.
Moon: So you finally remembered?
L (totally clueless): Remember what?
Moon: You are joking right?
L (still clueless): What I am joking?
Moon: Then what’s in your hand?
L throws the Maths textbook on the bench and breaks into a laugh.
L: Thanks for the book, I wanted to look at some of the theorems that I skipped last year…hahahahah. By the way, what you were expecting?
Moon throws the heavy Maths book in her school bag and digs her head down on the desk.
Moon: I hate you, I hate you, I hate you. Don’t talk to me ever.
L: What happened, baby?
Moon: Don’t show me your face again? I hate you.
Moon starts crying with her head still down on the desk. Rose signals L to leave.

05.00 PM. L stands with his best friends Alex and Dev in front of a gift shop. He selects a heart-shaped pendant from the gift shelf.
L (to the shopkeeper): How much of this?
Shopkeeper: Rs. 350 only.
L: That much? Come on, it says 25 percent discount.
Shopkeeper: That’s after the discount.
L: Ok fine.
L turns to his friends.
L: Come on dudes, pay up…please.
Dev: Why we do that? It’s your girl’s birthday, you should give her a gift not us.
L: Yes quite true and I am the one giving her the gift.
Alex: So why you are not paying up?
L: I am paying up. See. This is my 50 bucks. Now take out your 150 each.
Dev: But why we should pay up for your girl’s gift?
L: Coz you are my best friends and very very soon she gonna be my wife.
Dev: But she is 16.
L: I know that idiot. That is why I have to wait two more years.
Alex: But you still can’t marry her, you have to be 21 to be eligible to marry.
L: Yes true, that is why I am waiting 4 years, you idiots. Now silently pay up and stop asking utterly nonsensical questions.

06:00 PM. A visibly sad and dejected Moon opens her new school bag. This was her birthday gift from her parents. A new school bag, the last one was far more spacious and lucky for her. She hates her life. It is her 16th birthday, which she was expecting to be extraordinary. Or at least, memorable. But here she is; in her room, with her books doing homework.
She sees the Maths textbook and it reminds her what L did in the morning, which makes her furious. She throws the Maths textbook away on the table. While in the air, something falls from the textbook. Moon looks at it, it’s an envelope.
Moon opens the envelope, there is a letter. It’s from L.

My sweetest girl,
Wish you a very happy birthday my baby! I know you will be mad that I haven’t wished you yet but actually, I remember your birthday all along. I wanted to tease you a little that is why I didn’t wish you in the school. Anyways I have planned something special for you tonight. Here is the itinerary for our date.

07:00 PM: I will come to your house and shout your name while standing in front of your door. You will be inside your house doing homework but your parents will come out and not mention, dozens of other nosy neighbors.
07:05 PM: I will ask your father, his permission to take you out for a date. Of course, he will say no. But then at first, I will threaten him that if he won’t let me take you on a date, I will kidnap you. Then I will say him politely that, I am gonna marry you one day anyway, so let me take you out. If that doesn’t work, I will beg him to let me take you for a date coz it’s your birthday.
07:15 PM: He still will be reluctant. Your mother will stare me from the sofa, cursing me inside her head. She doesn’t like me much. Then I will assure your father that I will bring you very soon, finally, he will agree to let me take you out.
07:20 PM: I will take you to my favorite restaurant; they make the best pastries in the city. We will eat until we are full.
07:45 PM: I will take you to a movie show. There is a romantic Hollywood movie that is releasing today. I want to watch a movie with you holding your hand.
09:45 PM: After the movie, I will take you on a long ride on my bike to the highest point of the city.
10:00 PM: Under the full moon, and clear winter sky, we will watch our beautiful city glowing with thousand lights. The night will be a little cold. First, I will give you my jacket and then I will hug you from behind to make you warm. In the quiet night, we will be alone there and we will talk, talk and talk.
10:45 PM: You will tell me that we are late and your father is going to kill you, so I will speed my bike fast to your house.
11:00 PM: Your mom and dad will be standing at the door with their glaring eyes on us. Before they could scold you, I will tell them that tyre of my bike got punctured so we got late. Your father will want to scold me but when he will see the joyful face of yours he will let it slide this time but not without a last warning, which I will accept with a playful smile. You will go upstairs to your room as I will watch you.
11:05 PM: As I will come out of your house, you will be standing on your balcony. You will say I love you to me (in sign language) I will do the same. Then you will give me a flying kiss and I will accept it on my heart. You will say (in sign language) that if I will come closer to you now, you will kiss me. I will ask you, really? You will say, yes. But very little you know, I will look at the pipe running along with your house and climb it to come to your balcony, much to your surprise, where you have to kiss me. THEN YOU WILL KISS ME.
11:11 PM. Yipeee! I will be so happy, I will say you goodnight and speed my bike towards my home as you watch me from the balcony.
That’s our date for tonight baby. I promise I won’t be late. Be ready by 7. See you then.

Only Yours Love L.

Moon finishes reading the letter, a beautiful smile read on her lips and reflects on her pretty face. She kisses the letter.
Moon: My silly boy. I really hate you.

06: 55 PM. L is riding his bike towards Moon’s house. He is excited about the date. He sees the little gift box in the upper pocket of his jacket. He imagines that when he will take Moon to the highest point of the city in the night, under the moonlight, he will tie the pendant on her neck and when she will be happy seeing it, he will kiss her pink lips. He is very happy and can’t wait to reach Moon’s house. Before L could realize, his bike comes in front of a speeding truck and a loud ear deafening screech of tyres stops in silence.

06: 58 PM. People gathered around the accident site. There are shouts, cries, horns, and people talking.
A passing man on a motorcycle inquires to one of the bystanders.
Passing Man: What happened?
Bystander: Nothing, a bike collided with a truck.
Passing Man: Anybody dead?
Bystander: Yes, the boy on the bike.

07:15 PM. Moon impatiently waits for L. She calls him 15th time on his mobile. But there is no answer. Moon throws her phone on the bed.
Moon: I hate you, I hate you, I hate you.

On the accident site, under the tyres of the truck, the gift box is crushed and the heart-shaped pendant is dipped in the pool of blood…


[Photo by Everton Vila on Unsplash]