He shut the door of the cafe in a hurry, the blackboard in one hand and flipping the sign on the door to CLOSED. He shook his head to get water out of his eyes.
He proceeded to carefully place the sign up against the till, making sure to let it lean so it wouldn't crash down and break. Dee would not forgive him for another broken sign. He checked to make sure and sighed in relief. He distinctly remembered the last and the ONLY time he had smudged her precious chalkboard coffee sign.
It was pouring cats and dogs that night too. He was charged with closing the cafe that night too. But it was his first night locking up and he was a extremely tired and groggy from a full-day of college/studying and then standing and serving coffee and doughnuts and sandwiches and muffins for another six hours.. And he'd... forgot about the sign.
Forgot?, he winced inwardly still remembering the hurt tone in which she had repeated the words back to him. She didn't yell or shout, which he would have most definitely preferred to the quiet disappointed tone and the slump in her shoulders. He couldn't blame her for reacting like that - she HAD built Coffeeology from scratch. Poured her sweat and blood into it, while supporting Patta and him with their college education. He should have.. No... he knew that every little thing in this cafe had a bit of his Dee's soul in it.
So it was a good thing the sign was intact - it was something that made Coffeeology unique, after all. His sister meticulously wrote out new coffee-related quotes on the board every other day, in her beautiful handwriting. It was her way of checking in with her beloved shop. And his negligence had erased all her effort in the rain.
The sudden flash of lightning across the sky shook him out of his reverie. The rain was turning into a complete full-fledged rainstorm. He could happily brave five such thunderstorms than see the look of sadness-and-disappointment on Dee's face. His sister was an extremely kind and gentle soul... a soul no one could stand the idea of hurting, much less Akbar, who was extremely protective of her, and yet, she had already seen more than her fair share of loss already too. In short, their cafe was priceless to her and them.
He rushed around finishing up the last of clean-up. Dee and Sau would be here in the morning to open the cafe for business. He didn't want to leave them a mess of muddy footprints and water puddles to clean up before they could prep for the opening. He rushed about mopping up the puddle of water he had managed to create around himself just by standing. In the ten seconds it took for him to bring the sign in and the WELCOME mat inside the door.
He looked at the clock and barely refrained a sigh.
1:00am. He was late. Again.
It always took him longer that Patta or Dee to close up shop.
And they were going to tease him about it.. Again.
It was because he only worked here once or twice a week for the evening hours, whereas Dee and Patta were here more often. At least that wouldbe his reasoning... Again.
It wasn't a lie - his other job at the dojo as a Jujutsu and Krav Maga instructor took up most of his free time of the week. Juggling between finishing his MBA with night classes, and the weekly training sessions with his students, and Coffeeology, it was hard to transition from sweaty, gritty, training sessions to studying to delicately balancing fancy coffee cups and plates with artfully baked muffins and croissants. He still enjoyed working at the cafe though. He liked the predictability and familiarity of his family; cherished it actually - difficult and unpredictable childhoods shared with his in-all-but-blood siblings ensured that.
He shook his head smiling at his reflection in the mirror in the bathroom, toweling his hair dry. No matter what Dee said, he did NOT look like a rogue pirate because of his hair. A handsome rogue pirate, she would remind him, with his shiny long front hair, hazel eyes, and movie star physique - was actually good for business - because the female attendance in the cafe always inexplicably went up when Patta and him showed up for work. They would both vehemently disagree.
That was the reason why he had even kept his mouth shut when he heard a group of teenage girls all giggling and calling Patta 'cute' one week, for his 'buttoned-down, but mysterious good-boy looks' while he was serving their drinks and visited them every week after that. He had laughed only once he was sure that it was just him and Patta in the kitchen so no one could hear him.
Just like Patta had kept his silence after witnessing his one conversation with an elderly woman who lived in the neighbourhood about romances and marriages (during which she had giggled like a young girl, the whole time), random women had taken to visiting the cafe with their daughters (their engagement ready/ commitment ready daughters), with probably the sole purpose of marching their daughters in front of him like they were prized show-dogs. Most of the daughters looked pained, embarrassed, vaguely interested, or a varying combination of all three emotions.
He always ended up smiling at them sympathetically as they left with their mothers in a huff. He usually got a grateful smile in return. It was apparently very hard to comprehend that he simply did not have time for romantic entanglements. Patta had only knocked over one set of plates and broken only one mug while laughing hysterically in the kitchen, the third time this happened. Nope. Dee really didn't need to know that.
Another bolt of lightning and the rumble of thunder seemed to have gotten a lot louder. The lightning lit up the inside of the cafe, the light filtering in through the glass doors and windows and putting the wooden chairs and tables in stark relief. It was almost beautiful, in its own way.
It also meant that it was going to be extremely hard to drive his bike back home.
One last thing before he walked out the back door - he paused. He almost missed it in the shadows but the last bolt of lightning illuminated what looked to be a silhouette
Seriously? He checked the clock. 1:20am. Who in their right mind thought the cafe would be open at this time? , he thought annoyed.
But then he looked - really observed. And he could see the hunched shoulders, the legs and body curled into the stomach - an effort to make oneself as small as possible - as effort to go unnoticed. Curled up in the darkest corner of the cafe.
This was not a regular customer. This was someone trying to hide - a girl, by the looks of it, with long wet hair forming a curtain over the face. He couldn't see her face from where he was standing so he decided to - very carefully - walk over. He didn't want to startle her...
"Ahem", he cleared his throat loudly, hoping to be heard over the loud patter of the rain, but not threatening enough to scare the person into a flight or fight response. Not that he couldn't hold his own in a fight - but he didn't need to let their strange visitor know that. Yet.
Her head whipped around, with her left hand swiping at the hair obscuring her vision and he noticed the sparkle of heavy gold bangle on her wrist as she looked up at him, eyes wide, alarmed, alert. The right arm came up with a kitchen knife as a weapon aimed not at him, but more like a shield raised between them. He still couldn't see her face in the dark just her glistening eyes, and hear the shallow breathing sounds.
"Hey", he said quietly, by way of greeting, hoping that the small smile on his face conveyed that he meant her no harm. He put up both his palms up in surrender, to show her he was not armed, and took a very small step forward to the light switch when he heard a sudden, definite "No!" from the girl.
He easily dodged the shine of the blade, that seemed to suddenly enter his field of vision and looked back. He could tell simply from the way the blade had entered his peripheral vision, she did not intend to hurt him. And that she could speak.
"Urm... okay.. No lights. Got it.", he said stepping away again. He noticed he was about six-feet away from her and he could easily overpower and disarm her in a couple strides. As though reading his mind, she seemed to shrink into herself further.
He ran a hand over his face. Raising his eyes heavenward, he sighed quietly to himself. Why did all the weird things only happen when he was alone around here? Why couldn't Dee have been around here with her uncanny ability to put every skittish being (human or animal) at ease and get them to pour their heart out to her?
He paused to think what Dee would do this situation and realised, him standing over the girl, even at this distance, was probably intimidating. Her unwavering gaze on him made it a little hard, but he sat down on the balls of his feet and said in, what he hoped was a calm voice, "Look, I don't know who you are and I don't mean you any harm. But you did just barge into my cafe, after closing, and you won't even let me switch on the lights so we can talk like normal civilised people."
"You are brandishing a knife at a completely innocent man and you are hiding in the darkness on his private property. No to mention, I'm really tired and really really want to go home."
"You have given me no reason to believe that you won't attack me. But I haven't made any move to hurt you, or even tried to disarm you, which would be very easy actually, since you are not even holding the knife right - to be able to hurt anyone, I mean. Thought it's the perfect hold for chopping fruits...", he paused in his monologue.
He wasn't even sure why he was talking to this strange girl, instead of just disarming her and throwing her out. No. That was not completely true. He knew why he wasn't reacting - why he wanted to give her a chance.
She cocked her head slightly to the side, seemingly mulling his words over, looked back at the knife in her hands, and the alarmed expression in her eyes seemed to switch to something else, but he couldn't be sure. It could be amusement or exasperation, but in the darkness, it was impossible to tell. She waved her hand, which he understood to mean asking him to move back further.
He took a few steps back and she took a few steps forward. Putting the knife down, still within reach, she moved into the light streaming in through the main door. His breath caught in his throat.
Her pale skin shone with the orange glow from the street lights, and the startling brightness of her emerald green eyes. She wore, what seemed to him an expensive deep purple long dress with a deep pink lace scarf, and heavy gold earrings, one of which was missing from her left ear and matching gold bangle on the delicate right wrist. Everything was soaked in rainwater highlighting how petite she was and she shivered a little from the cold. She looked extremely vulnerable and devastatingly beautiful - the kind of beauty that drove weaker men to madness.
She said in a mellow voice, "I don't intend to hurt you. But you can't switch on the lights. It'll make it easier for them to find me, if you do."
Great, another complication he did not need - someone was chasing her. He decided to completely skip over the sudden protective urge that came over him, from hearing that. He didn't even know this girl!
"So someone's after you? Why? Wait! You didn't hurt someone, did you?", he asked eyes suddenly narrowing as he noticed bruises on her knuckles and what seemed to be thin scrapes on her arms where the sleeves on her expensive dress were torn.
"No! How dare you?!", she said, voice suddenly full of anger and some other emotion. He looked her straight in the eyes and recognised the other emotion. Guilt.
"Excuse me?" He couldn't keep the irritation out of his voice. "How dare I? You barged into my shop, not the other way around. I'm the one trying to help you, but I refuse to give shelter to a criminal!"
"Criminal?!! Do I look like a criminal to you? Forget it, this was a mistake! I should never have come here, but this was the only door that was open and I needed to get out of the storm since I couldn't even see anymore! Never mind, I'll leave right now", she responded with indignantly and began to stand up.
He stood immediately, and definitely did not flinch with guilt when he saw a sudden flash of fear in her eyes, and said in as steady a voice as he could, "Leave it. You can stay - for now. But you will leave as soon as there's a break in the storm." He turned and walked back into the kitchen without looking to make sure if she stayed or left. Still angry, he started moving around the kitchen, his actions a muscle memory since his brain was completely pre-occupied by the mysterious young woman outside.
What the hell was happening? A knife-wielding strange girl walks into a cafe on a stormy night... It was like the beginning of a really bad horror movie or a romantic movie. He sighed. He shouldn't have said that - he had no reason to believe that she was a criminal. But she was carrying a knife!, a part of his brain pointed out - which she didn't really seem to know how to use, another part of his brain helpfully supplied.
He let out a deep breath and made up his mind.
Two minutes later he walked out of the kitchen, to find the girl still hunched up the same corner and the storm going full strength. He stopped at the same spot he had been crouching down earlier and she looked up hearing his footsteps. There was surprise in her eyes as they fell on the small candle on the tray he was carrying. She had evidently missed him going around the shop to pull down the shutters for the cafe.
He silently handed out a large soft towel to her along with his own clean dry spare T-shirt and Dee's spare yoga pants. She looked up at him inquiringly and he supposed it was because of the odd combination of clothes he had just handed her. "The pants are my sisters, she runs the cafe with me and my brother. I couldn't find her spare shirt, so I pulled out mine. You can hang up our wet clothes in the bathroom", he answered with a shrug.
"I hope you don't mind", he added his eyes tracking over the closed shutter. "But I assumed that if you were worried about someone chasing you, then the open door would be a dead giveaway. Besides, I was about to step out the back to do just that, before you came in."
She nodded quietly taking the clothes. He stood up again and walked back over to the kitchen.
By the time she returned a few minutes later, her hair pulled to one side in a neat bun, her face and eyes looking clearer, he was laying out another tray this time with two steaming mugs of coffee and some blueberry and walnut muffins that he had warmed up. She accepted the soft fleece throw he handed her, that they kept in the kitchen for those nights one of them (read: him) ended up staying in the cafe overnight.
She raised her eyebrows at the steaming cups of coffee and then at him. "Don't worry, it's just coffee. I promise I'm not trying to poison you or anything. Also, it's an apology coffee. Putting poison in it would kind of defeat the purpose, don't you think? And these are blueberry walnut muffins - my sister's an excellent baker, and you look dead on your feet."
"Thanks", she said dryly before adding, "Apology coffee?", sitting down quietly with her back against one of the plush chairs, while he made himself comfortable in front of her with his back against another chair.
"For blowing my lid earlier - I shouldn't have accused you being a criminal or anything. Plus, that was unacceptable behaviour towards a lady in need - my sister would be appalled."
"Ah yes... the one who runs this cafe. I've never been here before", she added waving her arm slightly.
"You are not from around here, are you?"
She shook her head slightly, finally taking a sip of the coffee and groaning. He felt a strange warmth spread deep in his belly at hearing that sound.
"This is good", she said, indicating the coffee.
"Just good?", he asked keeping his voice light to let her know he was only teasing as he sipped from his own mug.
"Urm.. no actually... It is quite possibly the best coffee I've ever had", she replied gracefully with another hint of smile making its way on her face.
"Meh.. it is good coffee... but you need to try the stuff my sis and bro make.. They are much better baristas than I", he answered with a self-deprecating smile.
"Why do you say that?", she asked, sounding genuinely curious.
"Because this is not my first job... I mean, I work here, and run the place sometimes, but not quite as often as Dee and Patta. Hence, I'm not quite as good", he answered easily.
"So... may I ask a difficult question now?"
She shrugged in response.
"Who is chasing you? I'm not trying to pry... I think I should be prepared for just in case... if someone comes looking for you... not tonight... but whenever...", he trailed off.
She froze for a few seconds... he saw a number of emotions run through her eyes until she closed them. Taking a deep breath, she seemed to give herself a small nod, as though making a decision.
"My.. family... or.. Men who work for my ... family", she finally said.
"Your family is... threatening you?", he asked waving his hand to the knife still by her side.
"Not.. really... They... Look.. this is personal... and I don't even know you. But I will tell you this much - I'm sorry that you got pulled into this, but please do not tell your ... family about this. It's best they don't know. That way, if someone comes looking for them, they will be clueless and won't have to actively try to lie.. About or for me", she answered.
He shrugged. "Fair enough".
If she noticed he didn't ask her for his own safety, she didn't say anything.
For a few moments, they both sat in silence.
"What about you...?", she asked so softly, he had to strain to hear her over the rain spattering on the windows that he had been busy observing.
He turned back to see her observing him carefully, but also curiously. As soon as their eyes met, a light blush suddenly appeared on her face and she swallowed before continuing, "Your family? You said earlier you wanted to go home and you have mentioned your sister and your brother... Dee and Patta... wouldn't they be worried about you?"
"I texted them earlier and said I was staying back here tonight. Oh and my sister's name is Ajabdeh - I just call her Dee... Anyway, since I drove here on my bike, they agreed I don't need to battle with what is shaping to quite possibly be the worst rainstorm in the history of this city ever, and should just stay put. They also mentioned the storm is likely to break by four o'clock in the morning... according to news reports", he replied.
She nodded. And then did a double take. "Does your name tag say King of the World?"
That startled a small laugh out of him. "What? Are you saying you don't think I'm King of the world?", he asked.
"Sorry, but no. You have pretty eyes though", she answered with a laugh of her own, suddenly ducking her head in embarrassment realising her gaffe.
"Seriously? Pretty eyes is definitely not the reason I get to wear this tag!", he said, his tone incredulous, which seemed to help her overcome her embarrassment. "My family made me this! I'm a barista... I make the drink of the Gods... do you know how many people would turn into zombies if I didn't make or give them their coffee? I keep people alive. And safe from a zombie apocalypse! I'm practically a superhero!" he added puffing his chest out in mock pride.
She burst out laughing. It was melodious... he thought it was one of the beautiful sounds in the world and felt his own face break into a wide smile before he could stop himself.
"That is possibly the strangest and unfortunately true speech I have ever heard from a world-ruler", she said, still giggling, but getting her laughing under control. "So what would you do if the masses revolted against your rule?", she asked her voice laced with laughter and curiosity.
"I will deny them coffee of course - didn't you know? Coffee makes the world go around. The whole system would collapse!", he answered, making his words sound as sincere as he could.
"I thought it was love that made the world go round", she pointed out.
"Yeah well... it's coffee and love, as we like to say here in Coffeeology", he added with a shrug. That got him another peal of laughter as she continued drinking her coffee.
"And what about you?", he asked.
It was her turn to look at him, expecting him to continue. "Your family? Isn't there someone who might be worried about you? Who thinks you are King/Queen of the World..?", he asked gently.
She looked at him then, her eyes suddenly swirling with a million emotions, the light atmosphere of the last few minutes evaporating and being replaced by another heavy silence - and he recognised one of the emotions very well - sadness.
She shook her head.
He sighed. He wanted to wipe the sadness that seemed to have shadowed her whole demeanour. "The answer is no", he said suddenly.
At her confused glance, he continued, "You do not look like a criminal to me. Actually you look like the V.V.I.P. at a big fancy gala or something", he observed.
Her face showed her guards going up, so he continued, "Your clothes and jewellery... they scream money in that understated sophisticated manner of the super-rich."
"I didn't take you for a fashion expert", she answered in a light, but still guarded tone.
"Hey, I wasn't always a barista", he replied.
He never talked about his past if he could avoid it.
But the openly curious gaze of this mysterious, beautiful girl, made him open up, especially since she seemed to forget her own sadness, to hear his story.
So he answered, "My father was a very wealthy businessman. We were well to-do but when I hit my teens, he suddenly lost all his money. And we were left homeless and penniless."
"My mum passed away when I really young and my dad passed when he couldn't handle the shock of his business collapsing. Dee and Patta's family took me in, but their mom was also a single mother working extra hard to make us comfortable. They had already battled hardships of their own and moved away from their hometown to make a home here. When she passed, it was just us - and we were still kids, teenagers - suddenly faced with the realities of making ends meet, paying our bills, and finishing our education, by ourselves. This", he said waving his arm to encompass the cafe, "is the fruit if my sister's sweat and blood. This is her soul."
Silence followed his words and he finally looked away staring into nothing, obviously lost in reliving the events of a painful past full of loss and grief in the way that bad memories have of sneaking up on you, when you least expect them.
"My... family.. Isn't... I mean, I'm an orphan. My mom, who was always a little fragile, died giving birth to me. My dad worked at a factory and died in a mishap when I was two.", she said in a soft voice that mirrored his sadness and his loss, he realised. "I was six years old living in an orphanage in Delhi. One day, a man came to the orphanage, and he looked important. But our caretaker had gone out so I brought him water, and tea and biscuits, while he waited. He asked me a few questions and I told him about my parents - or the story that my caretaker had told me."
"He listened intently and asked me for my father's name, so I told him. He didn't say anything for a long time after that so I left to go play with my friends and forgot all about him. A few months passed until one day, my warden asked to come to her office. I saw the man again, in her office, and this time, he was smiling. The warden told me that I was being adopted by this nice gentleman."
"And just like that I was moving to a new city, new life, new friends, and new family. When I was old enough, the man, whom I had come to think of as my Khan Baba told me how my father was a worker in his factory and how he had tried to find me for years so he could take care of me. Said it was the least he could do for my father. And how I had brought him happiness in every way possible. His son Peer and I grew up together, going to the same school, making the same friends, moving around in the same high-society circles. Khan baba NEVER treated me any differently than he treated his own son."
She stopped, for the first time registering the tears flowing down her face. He handed her a paper napkin. She accepted it and patted her eyes dry.
"He sounds like a good man", he said softly.
"He IS! But he's also one of the most powerful men in the city. A few weeks ago, he brought us all here and today... at the... party he was hosting for all the important people in this city, he declared that his son and I were going to be married. He announced that we were going to be engaged in a month. A month! I had to get out of there after that", she spoke very fast, stopping to take a breath as she finished. Her voice was breaking and he could hear the panic in her words.
"You don't want to marry his son", he stated. It wasn't a question. More like an observation.
She shook her head. "I mean I know him very well and we are friends but I have never been able to look at him as anything more than that. Khan Baba ... I owe him my life but this... I feel like I'd be lying to the most important person in my life, and to myself, if I just went along with this farce of a marriage...". tears finally spilling down her cheeks. He ached to reach out and wipe them from her face. But he curled his finger around his mug tighter, till his knuckles almost turned white, and hoped his mug wouldn't shatter in his hands instead.
"But you feel like a monster for breaking his heart by saying "no", after he made the announcement to all his friends and colleagues", another observation.
She looked up at him, with the same guilt that he had seen before. That's why she looked guilty, because she believed she had hurt the one man who had gone out of his way to take care of her, all her life.
Another flash of lightning illuminated the windows.
"May I add my two cents?", he asked.
He took her silence as permission.
"Your Khan Baba - he sounds like a man who genuinely cares for you, and loves you for who are. Just because you tell him, honestly, that you do not wish to marry his son, doesn't mean that he will stop loving you like you are his own. Love is unconditional - that is not a saying - it is the truth. True love - may it be of a parent, of a sibling, or a friend, or a partner - thrives despite the faults of the people involved."
"From what you have told me of him, he sounds like a man who values people, and their emotions. You are not giving him enough credit by running away like this."
He paused only to see her motioning him to continue, so he did, his arms wrapped around his knees, gaze focused on a far point over her shoulder somewhere.
"I understand not wanting to go through the pain of confrontation, the fear of disappointing someone you love... My dad, he wrote me a letter for how he was sorry for disappointing me, for losing the business. He assumed I blamed him for our situation. The truth is I didn't. I blamed him for leaving me an orphan when he decided to take his life. But never for the failed business. I just wish he had been honest with me, and I'm sure we would have built a life of our own. May be not with all the luxuries that we were used to, but a life together anyway, as a family. But he never gave me the chance. I wish he'd given us a try... And that what if?'... It haunts me to this day...", he stopped, feeling like he had said everything he needed to, at this point.
When his eyes found hers again, he could see them reflecting his own pain of loss, and understanding. He nodded as he got up to clean their empty coffee mugs and plates of food, leaving her to her thoughts. When he returned, his books in hand, he saw her still propped up against the chair but her eyes not swirling with a million questions and emotions like before...she seemed calm as she smiled at him.
"You should get some rest. It's nearly three o'clock in the morning", he said with a small smile.
She simply nodded but as she picked herself off the floor to curl on the couch, her eyes seemed to be laced with a tinge of sadness that seemed almost wistful. He shook his head slightly to clear his thoughts. No. He was just projecting... thinking of her impending departure. There was no reason for her to be sad about leaving. They were just a couple strangers - thrown together to spend a stormy night together, in the strangest form of serendipity he had seen, but that's all it was - coincidence.
An hour later, when he suddenly woke up as though by an internal alarm, he looked around to find himself propped up in a chair, the storm having died down, and a gentle footsteps. He opened his eyes groggily but they cleared almost immediately as her face came into focus, really close to his own. He felt rather than saw, delicate fingers pushing his hair away from his eyes, and soft lips very faintly brush his forehead with a murmured "Thank you!"
Two hours later when Dee and Sau showed up to open the cafe, there was no sign of the mysterious girl of the night before. He wasn't sure if he was happy or disappointed.
Six months later
The door to the cafe opened but he stopped himself from looking up hopefully. It had been six months. He really needed to NOT expect to see her walk in to Coffeology again.
This was ridiculous. Half a year later, and he still carried some hope of meeting his mystery girl again. Nope. Not his, he reminded himself sternly as he continued to brew another patron's coffee. The only reason he even believed her to be more than a figment of his imagination was that his spare t-shirt and Dee's pants were still gone. And the gold earring he had found and immediately hidden away from prying eyes when he was cleaning up in the cafe the next day. The earring now sat in a box hidden deep within in his own cupboard. He shook himself out of his thoughts, handed the elderly gentleman his coffee and walked back to the till, straightening his name tag, his professional smile in place to greet his next customer.
She stood at the counter, looking resplendent as ever, with her sunglasses pushed over her head, her bright green eyes full of life, wearing a plain white knee- length dress that fit her like second skin, and a nervous smile on her face like she was just as surprised to be here as he was surprised to see her.
"Welcome to Coffeeology! What can I get you today?"
He wasn't even sure he had said the words until he saw her eyes go slightly wide in surprise, but was glad for his steady voice, even though his throat was running on auto-pilot, and felt inordinately dry.
"Yeah.. urm... I.. would... like a coffee. Yes, a coffee", she answered sounding more sure of herself. She absent mindedly fidgeted with the ID he saw clipped to the side on her belt, that he noticed for the first time. She was now a working, independent woman.
"What kind of coffee?", he asked tilting his head slightly.
"I urm... dunno actually. I have been coming here for the past month, but Ajabdeh always says she doesn't make the kind of Coffee I like - the kind that can prevent a zombie apocalypse, do you have one of those?", she answered.
It was his turn to look at her wide-eyed. So this is why Dee had insisted he work this shift with them.
"Anything else I can get for you?"
"Urm.. one blueberry walnut muffin, with two spoons to share, and five minutes with the King of the world", she answered confidently, giving him the most beautiful smile he had seen.
His startled laugh made Patta and Dee who were prepping other orders jump and look at them with knowing smiles of their own. He never told them about her, but they were family.
"Hi! I'm Ruqaiyya! Nice to meet you!", she said, extending her hand to him, her smile full of promise.
"Hi! I'm Akbar! Nice to meet you too!", he answered shaking her soft hand, with a smile of his own.
xxx----The End ----xxx
Topic started by RuVa
Last replied by Suranya_Titli