Beautiful Stranger Beyond the Panorama July 22, 2020

Beautiful Stranger

It’s 9:00 PM and the café is lit up with groups of people, some chatty, the others inhaling the contents of the bread basket, waiting for their ordered food to arrive. It’s a Friday night and the air is chilly; blowing out clouds of icy smoke from my mouth, I get comfortable on the little wooden stool and tune my guitar. 

More often than not, the songs I sing don’t attract any audience attention, and the static noise of the microphone is shrugged off as background music by lovers in the crowd. 

“Please send in your requests if you have any”, I say to no one in particular, and a balding middle-aged man seated alone somewhere far off gives a half-hearted cheer as though I had just finished my set. 

Whatever it may be, this is my routine and someone’s got to pay the bills. I don’t mind it all that much, but night after night of straining your voice does call for the slightest hint of acknowledgement, if not appreciation. 

But this Friday night is one of the wilder ones. Seated right under my nose is a rather pleasant man, with gorgeous eyes and tempting smirk. He’s seated alone, slicing through his steak and gulping down his wine, giving me a loud ovation after each song. He has initiated a domino effect and now all of the customers, old couples and even those seated alone clapped for me. 

He’s sending in one request after the other, and then cheers for me at every note change. As I step down for my dinner break he walks up to me and introduces himself. My voice is angelic and the strum of the chords gives him goosebumps. He hands me a little note and walks out of the café. 

The next morning, from my closet, I rummage through the ironed section for once, and pick out my favourite pink skirt and black pumps. I’ve put on lipstick after ages, and then proceed to walk through the cloud of perfume I’ve just sprayed all over the room.

The crumpled little note informed me that he’s going to be back tonight, and there in the corner he scribbled out his phone number. He mentioned once again that my vocals were breathtaking and that he had a favour to ask of me. 

I hadn’t received a flirty note in years, and the thought of being asked out on a date made me jittery and excited. 

The Saturday night crowd was milder, but the 9:00 PM rush was as busy as ever. Somewhere I caught the whiff of melted cheese and my stomach gave out an involuntary grumble. One of the lights was flickering, and the fan creaked with every spin. 

Tuning my guitar once again, I fix the wires and ensure all the connections are made, sneakily looking out into the crowd to catch a glimpse of lover boy. 

The 9:00 PM crowd faded into the 10:00 PM crowd but there was still no sign of him. 

Sighing, and mentally beating myself up for getting my hopes high, I jumped off the stool for my break. I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned around to find him smiling at me. 

“You’re late’, I said. 

“I didn’t give you a time, did I?” 

I scoffed and he laughed. “Come on”, he pulled my hand and took me out of the café’. 

“Where are we going?” I ask, rubbing my shoulders with my hands, slightly shivering in the cold. 

“I want to ask you something in private”.

As we walked, I couldn’t help notice the grip he had on my wrist. It was strong but warm, not too overpowering, but just enough. He caught my eye and smiled again. 

At last we came to a stop near the banyan tree, not too far from the café. The spot was eerie, and the hollow sound of the wind painted the night a shade ghostlier. He offered me his coat but I refused, ensuring him that I had just left mine back at the café.

“Can you tell me now, what it is that you wanted to say?” I asked, cockily. 

“First I want to show you something”.

He pulled out this phone and showed me a photograph of a woman smiling at the screen. “What do you think?” He asked. 

“What about her? She’s nice I guess”, I was losing interest in the conversation and urged him to get to the point. 

“She’s a big fan of yours”, he stated. 

I wondered if she had been to the café before. If she had, she wasn’t a regular, her face didn’t seem familiar. 

“So that’s what I wanted to ask”, he said a little nervously. 

I didn’t quite understand him. I was expecting a sneaky kiss, or even a shy will you go out with me? But not this. 

I raised my eyebrows in question and asked him what he was on about. 

“Will you sing at our wedding? We’re in love with you!” 

Nandini Sethi
Nandini Sethi

Nandini, a student at Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University writes short stories and poetry that make you smile, giggle, and cry. 

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