“One coffee, extra milk and no sugar please!” said a lady in a pink, chiffon salwar kameez to the waiter. I noticed her from a distance and instantly recognized her. Her burgundy-brown hair still bounced on her shoulders and her petit yet elegant body frame was the same. Today we were meeting at this cafe where we spent most our evenings, during college times. I was full of excitement since we last spoke and she told me that she was shifting to Mumbai after her husband’s transfer. Nikki, was my best buddy in college, we would share absolutely everything under the sun, from girly to flirty talks.

“Excuse me! Are u looking for someone?” said the café boy. I gazed at him and said “Yes and I’ve found her already, thanks.” Stealthily I stepped by her side and shouted, “Hellooooooo Rockstar” , that’s what we called her in college days when she played guitar for a local band. She looked at me with those hazel brown eyes and slowly a tear dropped from the corner of her eye. “Ananyaaa” she said. We hugged each other tight like old times and began talking.
“You haven’t changed Nikki, since we met last time at our graduation party, I guess 15 years back?” I said.
“Thank you dear and look at you! Lost oodles of weight, looking all pretty and classy.” She said and smiled.
“Got back into shape finally!” I said and winked.

As we were lost in our animated conversation, we heard a voice “Mam, your coffee, just as you asked, extra milk and no sugar, enjoy!” said the waiter.
Adorning a perplexed look I asked her, “Nikki, u always liked your coffee sweet with heaps of sugar in it and now without sugar??? Diabetes or dieting eh? I asked, giggling a bit.
And within a flash second, her face twinged, leaving me wonder what did I say to offend her.
“Nik’s what happened? Is something bothering you?” I asked.
For a while she said nothing and kept staring at her coffee, then she looked at me and said,
“Ananya, it’s been 15 long years since this secret is buried in my heart.”
“What secret?, whats the matter?” I said with no hint or clue of what she actually meant.
“Remember the dark, ruffled hair guy who followed me everywhere in college? She said.
“Who? Can’t really remember. Oh! the one with glasses?” I replied as I did not remember any particular face and then so many of them liked her.
“No yaa, the one who was from fine arts section, the one who proposed me on rose day!” She elaborated.
“Oh! that’s Dev, of course I remember him. How can I forget, such a cute guy and you let him go as your parents would not have accepted him, as he was not a ‘Brahmin’ just like you. You were so scared of telling them also.”
“Yes that’s right, I never wanted to go against their wishes and marry someone” she said.
“Ok so what about him now? Why did you take his name now?” I asked as this was just going all in circles.
“He had his Coffee without sugar! She replied with a guilt on her face. She continued talking, “I loved him Anu, and maybe I still love him. I have never seen him after that party though.

I was completely gobsmacked by what she just said. I was speechless and just sipped my coffee which had turned into a cold coffee by now.

Continuing ahead she said, “since then I always have my coffee without sugar and now it has become my only way of feeling close to him. Don’t worry I know what’s coming next? What about my husband and kids? Right?” As though she could read me. She went on “ I am very happy and satisfied with my married life. But Anu something somewhere is missing and nobody can mend it.

 

After chatting for some more time she said she had to leave as she had to pick up her kids from school and thus we departed. But as I bid her bye, I still was thinking how Nikki could hold this secret packed in her heart all these years and live with it.

I believe all of us have this one secret which we wish to cherish all our lives and never give away. I guess Nikki’s secret was hidden in the coffee which even though sugarless kept adding the sweet element in her life…