(Story writing after long. Warning: in Mallu, we call this kind of writing ‘painkili’)
The advocate agreed to offer a couple of books that may help him. He was about to say thanks when she knocked and came in with a cup of coffee. She extended the cup towards the advocate. What a weak little thing, he thought. “Your coffee Sir”. The lips hardly moved.
The advocate looked up, rose from his seat and slapped her. He stood up, too shocked to speak.
“How many people do you see in this room?” the advocate yelled.
“Two Sir,” she said biting her lips. No tears, he noticed. He found his voice at last. “What’d you do that for?”
The advocate looked at him. “No one can be this dumb, coffee for one!”
“I don’t want your coffee. You can’t just slap people for something so trivial.” He tried to raise his voice and wished he knew sharper words.
“Trivial,” the advocate said thoughtfully.
“I can’t believe you!” he said and because he could not think of anything harsher at the moment, walked out. She, after miraculously balancing the cup all this while, placed it on the table and left the room. The advocate sipped the coffee dreamily. As she came out, he was waiting at her table.
“Why do you let him treat you that way?”
“I am his secretary,” she said packing her bag.
“So? Your job is to get slaps?”
“Was his maid.”
“Was his maid before. He offered this job and a hike because I know to read and write,” she paused and added “Time to go.”
He followed her out mechanically. “Did you go to college?” he asked at the gate looking absently at his bike.
“No, I stopped after school.”
“Does he do that often?”
“I guess so.”
“You don’t mind?”
“I wouldn’t get a better job with my qualification.”
“Can I help?”
“Do you write?”
“I like to but my qual…”
“I know someone. Can you bring me some samples?”
She thought for a moment and said “Yes but…”
“We could go there tomorrow. If you come here, I will take you there.”
She looked at his bike. “Could you give me the address, I will reach there.”
He thought she looked uncertain. But she turned up the next day at the precise time. He took a look at her samples and led her in to meet the HR. She walked in nervously. Timid, very timid, he shook his head. As he waited outside, feeling anxious, he pondered over the strange situations one lands in. Here he was worrying about a girl he didn’t know existed a day before. But at the moment, he had nothing else in mind. She came out excitedly. “I got it. I really got it.” More shocked than happy. He smiled. “I knew it. You write well.”
“Thank you so much. What can I do for you?”
“Buy me a coffee,” he smiled.
Her smile faded. “Ok.”
She walked on and turned back. “We’ll go?”
She was silent.
“Is everything ok?” he was confused.
“Yes,” she smiled. “Come.”
He went along, not sure how to react. She ordered one coffee. “Aren’t you having anything?” he asked.
It suddenly dawned on him. “Gosh! You don’t have money!”
She looked up worried. “I have for one coffee.”
“But not for two. Gosh I was only kidding. You don’t have to buy me coffee.”
“You did me a big favor. You don’t know how big.”
“No I didn’t. You got the job because you have talent. Ok?”
“But you took me there.”
He stared at her. “This is silly. Ok, let me pay for both of us this time. And when you get your first salary, you take me out. Ok?”
Her emotions flickered like the flash of a camera. “Ok.” All smiles again.
“Would you please let me drop you this time?” he asked after coffee.
She hesitated. “I have already troubled you much.”
“How come whatever you call trouble is my idea of pleasure?”
She smiled again.
He had to keep asking her if she was still on the bike. She strived best to sit away and lightly. Her idea of ‘not troubling him’. He watched her expression in the rear view mirror and smiled. “Do hold on to the bars behind if you don’t want to hold me. Else the wind will blow you away.” For the first time, he heard her laugh freely. It sounded like the sweet ripple of water on rock.
He thought of her that night. He liked to imagine she was part of nature like the leaves and the woods and not of an evolved species. He spotted her face on tree tops, among the fluttering butterflies, on waves that touched his feet. That’s where she belonged.
He would see her again next day. She was going to offer her resignation at the advocate’s. He knew it won’t go well and volunteered to go with her. She would hear nothing of it. But he was going anyway.
Turned out he was a little late. He just about managed to stop the third slap from falling on her. “The nerve! She was a maid here! For five years! A maid, I tell you!”
“Shut up!” he hissed before shielding her. The advocate looked confused. “You, you are behind this!” he wasn’t angry, just surprised. Without a word, but staring hard all the way, he took her hand and walked out of the house. He expected to see a tear-stained face but instead saw a calm one. He realized what he thought unjust was part of her life, like waking up every morning was to him. The advocate too was a strange man. Not cruel, just strange. He didn’t mean to hurt her. This, the advocate must have thought was the way of life and tried to fit in by playing his part. Human beings are strange. He looked at her and happily disassociated her from this weird species. She was nature’s. Somehow made a wrong entry into the human world.
Unaware of these thoughts on her, she said cheerfully, “I will start new work tomorrow. Thank you again. I remember coffee next month.”
He wanted to say a hundred things but chose to nod and depart. The next few days were the hardest. He knew where she worked but he also knew he wouldn’t go to meet her no matter how much he wanted to. He smiled. He didn’t even know her name. But his role in her life was over. He will have to miss that coffee next month. Right?