Chapter 12: A Coffee at Balzac
Ranveer put on his jacket while staring at his reflection in the mirror. He observed the smile on his face, something that he had forgotten to do in a long time. Putting on cologne and strapping on his watch, he merrily left the room, humming a tune to himself. He reached the end of the staircase when he saw Martin and Claudine embracing.
Quickly turning his face to the other side, he cleared his throat loudly before both of them yelped away from each other, color creeping up their cheeks at the sight of Ranveer.
"Ranveer! What are you doing here?"
"I suppose this is my house." Ranveer snickered while Claudine rolled her eyes. "What kind of a question is that, Claudine?"
"Oh c'mon, Ranveer. You know what I mean." Claudine gave Ranveer a meaningful look before speaking.
"No, I don't." Ranveer feigned innocence while Martin shifted his feet uncomfortably.
"You still have one day of bed rest remaining."
"Oh no, my last day of bed rest was yesterday." Claudine let out a yelp of surprise before she asked him, confusion evident in her voice.
"Would you care to explain how did you manage to cook up this brilliant calculation?" Ranveer gave her a cheeky grin before he continued.
"Oh it's simple. See, I had my anxiety attack on Thursday night, and since Friday, I've been on strict bed rest. Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Today is Monday. See, three days counted off." Ranveer nodded his head with a smirk while counting the days off of his fingers. Claudine stared at him, her mouth agape.
"That's not fair! I confined you to bed rest on Friday evening!"
"But you didn't say it was from effect since Friday. For all I know, I've been resting the entire day on Friday. So see, I'm scot free." Claudine turned a helpless look at Martin, who simply shrugged his shoulders. She glared at Ranveer before speaking grudgingly.
"You're simply impossible!"
"I told you my calculation was brilliant." Claudine scowled at him while he threw his arm around her in a side hug. "Relax! I'll have my medication on time, alright?"
"Yeah, yeah. Show those puppy eyes somewhere else. They aren’t going to work with me." Shaking her head in amusement as Ranveer pouted childishly at her, she gave Martin a swift peck once again before bidding them both goodbye and leaving for work. Martin turned to look at Ranveer guiltily while the latter gave him a dazzling smile.
"Thanks for the idea, Martin! It worked a wonder."
"Oh Monsieur, it is completely alright. But, just... don't let her know it was my plan. Today is our third wedding anniversary and I don't want her to be upset with me."
"Ofcourse Martin. This will be just between us. Promise." Martin smiled at him happily before speaking once again.
"I see that Madame has been a regular visitor in these two days." Ranveer shrugged happily at him before turning back to Martin once again.
"I almost forgot. You have the day off today. And when Claudine gets back home, do make the day memorable for her. Afterall, three years is as good as an eternity if you have the right person alongside." Martin nodded at him affectionately before Ranveer smiled at him and left.
Ishaani roamed around the library, bored and alone. The library was unoccupied except for herself while she yawned steadily with the stifling heat of the afternoon. She missed having Martha around and the library was considerably lonely without her presence. She walked through several shelves, randomly picking out books and reading a few paragraphs from it before getting bored and replacing them again.
She yawned softly as she neared the shelf of horror books and novels and removed a copy of House of Leaves, dropping another book alongside. Letting out a groan, she replaced back the book and picked up the fallen book, a copy of Frankenstein while the book had fallen to open up at a random page.
Picking it up, she was about to shut it when the word 'Plainpalais' caught her attention. Curious, she continued reading, her mind getting steadily involved in the mysterious activities mentioned in the chapter while she now got fully involved into reading. After finishing three chapters, she had half an impulse to shut the book for it was spooking her more and more by the second, yet her mind wanted to read more.
Out of nowhere, she felt two hands slither over her eyes and she shrieked loudly, the copy of Frankenstein flying out of her hand. She spun around quickly, kicking and thrashing blindly in the air, color drained from her face and her eyes bulging in fear. She felt herself get pinned to the wall, a hand over her mouth before she realized that it was only Ranveer, who looked afraid by her reaction.
"Calm down and stop kicking! It's only me." Ishaani looked at him and heaved a sigh of relief, wiping the sweat beads from her forehead. Looking at him angrily, she slapped his hand off her mouth and pushed him away.
"Are you insane? You almost gave me a heart attack!"
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to frighten you." Looking at the fallen book, he asked her curiously. "What were you reading anyway?"
"Oh. No wonder you reacted this way. But since when did you start reading horror novels?"
"I don't. I was getting bored and I randomly picked out a novel and started reading it and then when that guy... uh, never mind. That book made me sick anyway."
"Oh do sit down. You've gone all pale in fright." Ranveer guided her to the nearest table and made her take a seat while he took the one beside her. She took deep breaths for a couple of moments before she looked at him staring at her with concern.
"I'm alright now. God, I really had a bad fright. But I'm fine." Ishaani gave him an assuring smile before a frown crossed her head.
"What are you doing here?"
"I mean, your ban isn't over yet. You should be at home taking rest, not over here."
"Oh, don't worry, Claudine let me off." Ishaani cocked her eyebrow at him and Ranveer explained the entire scenario to her. Ishaani shook her head, bemused.
"You are really impossible to beat. But all credit goes to Martin hands down. I knew it that the guy had brains enough to get out of any tricky situation." Ranveer's modesty filled expression changed into a flabbergasted one.
"Hey! That's not fair!" Ishaani simply stuck out her tongue at him and he narrowed his eyes at her.
"Yeah, you can go about showing that tongue all you want. You didn't look that cheeky enough 5 minutes ago though."
"Oh yeah, you didn't look any better."
"You were raining kicks and slaps at me. What do you expect?"
"What were you even doing in the first place?"
"I was trying to surprise you!"
"That anxiety attack has really shaken up your brain." Ranveer scoffed while Ishaani laughed at him heartily, the former's scowl changing into a warm smile within a matter of minutes and both of them broke out into tumults of laughter seconds later. Getting into control once again after a couple of minutes, Ranveer massaged his throat that felt dry with all the laughing, while Ishaani simply caught her head.
"Oh God, I've never laughed this much in an eternity. Why did we ever become such sobbing suckers?"
"That's one question I've never had the answer to. But I'm happy to get shot of that moronic self of mine. Being happy and carefree feels good." Both of them smiled at each other before Ranveer sighed.
"Before I forget why I really came here. What time do you get off?"
"I'll be free by 5. Why?"
"I was thinking maybe we could grab a bite or maybe have a cup of coffee after work. What say?"
"Sounds fun. Where do you want to meet up?"
"Cafe Balzac at 24, Vorreadon Street?"
"I love that place."
"Good, so see you there by 5:30." Ishaani nodded at him while he got up. "So, I guess I'll be seeing you around on time now." Ishaani chuckled at him before speaking.
"Yeah, yeah. I'll be there at dot point 5:30. I know you hate people who disrespect time, though how you still love me puzzles me a lot."
"Oh, stop getting all deep meaningful. Just be there on time, alright?"
"You got that."
Ranveer entered the cafe at exactly 5 minutes to half past five. He looked around and spotted Ishaani sitting on one of the tables, looking at the doorway eagerly. Their eyes met for a minute and the world seem to glow stronger around them. He walked towards her and gave her a swift hug before settling down.
"I see that you're early."
"Always the tone of surprise." Ranveer shook his head in amusement before calling the waiter over.
"Yes sir, what would you like to have?"
"I'll have a Frappuccino and a vegetable sandwich with mayonnaise."
"And you, ma'am?"
"I'll have a dark mocha and a vegetable puff." The waiter smiled and took away the order while Ranveer stared at Ishaani confused.
"Dark mocha? But isn't that supposed to be really bitter in taste?"
"It's repugnant." Ranveer frowned at her now.
"I don't understand. You used to hate having anything bitter. Then how come you settled for the mocha? "
Ishaani smiled at him. "It's a long story."
"The order isn't going to come anytime soon. The place is packed." Ranveer raised his eyebrow up suggestively before Ishaani sighed.
"Alright. It was nearly 3 months after I moved here. I was having one of those days where everything goes wrong. That day, I had an ugly fallout with my boss, I lost my wallet, I was having one of those day when I missed you loads and if anything worse, my car broke down on the way back home. That was one indeed dark day."
"What happened then?"
"My car broke down in front if this cafe and I was pretty much hungry for I had not eaten anything the whole day. I called up my friend to send for a mechanic while I sat in the cafe. I'd ordered for a chocolate mocha but my order got exchanged for a dark mocha. The moment I sipped it... ugh, it was so awful that I nearly threw up. But I didn't have any more spare change, so I had to have the whole thing."
"Didn't you tell at the counter that your order was exchanged?"
"I didn't. Somehow, the bitter mocha gave me a soothing of its own since I was extremely thirsty. But it also taught me an important lesson alongside."
"What was that?"
"That there are several things bitterer than life itself. So enjoy what you have for what it is, rather than reflect upon its bitter counterpart." Ranveer smiled at her, as the waiter brought the order and laid it across the table. Ranveer thanked the waiter while turning his attention to Ishaani once again.
"And ever since that day, I made it a point to drink this mocha just so that I can remember this lesson of life. And trust me, it's helped me through a lot of tough spots. Besides, I kind of can't get through a day without having a cup of this. You get used to the bitterness eventually and learn to appreciate its sweetness."
"Impressive motto." Ranveer held out his cup of Frappuccino while Ishaani held out her cup of mocha.
"To the sweeter aspects of life." Ishaani smiled at him as she repeated his toast.
"To the sweeter aspects of life."