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   Chapter 6 A Pleasant Day

Broken Past By Arathi Characters: 12128

Updated: 2018-08-02 19:40


JT and I return to the market in no time. The walk was pleasant. We seemed to speak about everything, from the weather to the people, the houses, even the trees. Every so often he would point out a monkey or two hidden in a flowery bush eagerly peeking at passersby.

He walked me into this tiny little eatery in a back alley somewhere. The road was narrow and steep, and covered in potholes. The building itself looked quite shabby. For once this wasn't a tin shack, but really not very different. The house was built of solid cement and bricks with ample woodwork. The once white walls were now bordering on grey, and the paint was cracked and peeling. Windows were clean but hidden by fading pink and blue curtains with a floral pattern. Inside, the interior was tiny but surprisingly full. On every laminated table sat a customer or more. I wasn't surprised. If the food tasted as delicious as it smelled, oh dear, I could feel myself salivating!

JT walked to what was perhaps the payment counter and hugged an old woman standing behind. Her salt and pepper hair was long and neatly braided. She wore a typical Indian Saari that was a pale yellow color. Although it was still quite warm in the daytime, she wore a black sweater. She was many shades darker than JT and all wrinkled. When she smiled at me, her eyes lit up with warmth, as if she were genuinely delighted to meet me. Her eyes were the same chocolate brown as JT's, but old and tired. Aside from that, there was no other family resemblance.

"Aunt Jasmine, meet Gwen. Gwen, this is my Aunt Jasmine. She runs this eatery, and she's one of the best cooks around here. She can plate us up a mean lentil curry." He rubbed his hands eagerly and probed, "So Aunt, looks like its house full again! Got a special table for your favorite nephew?"

Aunt Jasmine walks up to me and puts her hands on my cheeks and shakes my head gently, scrunches up her face and speaks quickly in a local dialect. She shakes my hand with both of hers before speaking with JT excitedly for several minutes. I'm sure he blushed, but it disappeared so quickly, I couldn't be sure.

As she led us down the hall, JT translated their conversation for me. "My Aunt apologizes, but she's not very comfortable speaking in English. She would like to welcome you to her eatery. She's offered us seats in the back room. It's where the family dines when they visit."

The hall was narrow, and the paint matched the outside of the house. At the end, a room was hidden behind a yellowing curtain. She lifted it and motioned for us to follow. Here, the smells from the kitchen were more pronounced, and so was the clattering of dishes. Perhaps the kitchen was behind the door at the end of the room.

We took a table closest to the window and a little boy, perhaps no more than eight years old scrambled out from the kitchen with glasses of water. JT shook his head and politely said something that sent the boy scampering back into the kitchen. Couple minutes later, he returned with chilled bottled water and empty glasses.

As he neatly arranged these on the table, I smiled and thanked him. He looked at me funny and scuttled back towards the exit.

"Don't mind him, Gwen. You're probably the first foreigner he's seen up close." JT chuckles at my bewildered expression.

As I cracked open the bottle of water, the boy returned with two steel plates and several steel bowls. He placed these in front of us and then returned to the kitchen. He re-appeared, this time with two steel serving dishes and put them on the table. He scurried back to the kitchen and materialized by my side carryi

to heated political debates over coffee and cinnabons. By contribute, I mean he would talk to his friends, and I would get to listen. There was also the odd late night drinks at a rowdy bar, followed by raucous meaningless chatter. At the end of the shindig, I would find myself fighting off groping hands.

With JT, we talked about completely different things. And sure, there had been some contact. He did hold my hand and hug me, but he hadn't gone further, and I was glad for it. I wasn't sure I was up for anything deeper yet.

I needed a friendly face in this alien world, and I had indeed found one.

I was happy for once and not about to feel guilty for it.

"And then what?" I ask looking at him.

He doesn't answer me. Instead, he diverts the conversation. He points to a tree and comments that the berries it bore were fit for consumption. He looked at a bush and said that was poison ivy. A few short steps later he bent low and plucked a yellow flower from the ground and paired it with a purple flower no bigger than my fingernail and offered them to me. He didn't know what they were called and we decided to name them butter current, after our favorite ice-creams, butterscotch, and blackcurrant.

We were quiet the rest of the way. He seemed pensive, and I had run out of things to say. It was at times like these that I wished I had better social skills. After all, it was unfair that he would have to be the main driver in our conversations while I, the often, mute spectator.

My brain was saved from my probing as the gate for the rest-house came into view.

"So this is you, " he says stopping just outside.

"Yep this is me, " I said for lack of anything better to say.

We stood staring at each other for a couple of minutes.

"So I'll come to get you in a couple of hours if that's ok?" he asks.

I smile and nod. "That would be all right."

He says goodbye and turns to walk away. Even though I know he's returning soon, my heart sinks as I stare at his back. Suddenly he turns around and jogs back towards me, grabs my left hand and begins scribbling with his pen. He smiles at me sheepishly and says, "Here's how you can reach me just in case you need anything. Ask for Major James, and they'll come to find me."

We both laugh, and JT waves once again before turning to walk up the trail. I watch him for a few seconds before turning and heading through the gates.

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