Preface: This is a sequel / prequel to "Stupid Roses". Do read that as well, if you haven't already.
He glanced around the room. He did not want to be late. There was something missing but he could not figure out what. A dozen or so items lay on the table, neat and tidy. He ran through the list once again. Chopped onions, mashed garlic cloves, tomatoes, capsicum, coriander leaves, butter, salt, pepper and of course eggs. Ah, chilies, he had forgotten green chilies. He rushed to the refrigerator. He did not want to be late. Not tonight.
She could handle this on her own, she told herself. Vials of various sizes were spread around. The pills, at last. She gulped down two at a time. This should ease things down, for a few minutes at least, though she could never be sure. They came in waves – these attacks, in ebbs and flows – and they were becoming far more frequent; and punctual. For now, though, she was calm. In the distance, the second hand of the wall clock was loud as a drumbeat. The breathing had slowed down. That was a good sign. She stared at the keypad, unsure. She could handle it. Today, she had to.
The eggs were in for a treat. He was never too harsh with them anyway, but tonight he was especially soft – as if he was caressing them with the spatula. He hummed along as he beat up the froth. The pan was sitting on fire. A dollop of butter went it – he hesitated, contemplated – then a dollop more. What the hell. Today was special. The aroma of roasted garlic filled the room. He looked at his watch and chuckled. It was time, almost. The phone rang.
She let it ring once, twice – then hung up. This was not a good time. She could really use some comfort. She just needed to hear his voice. But this was not a good time. She knew it. They had been over this before, more than once. She had thought that he would learn over time. Yet, it had only grown worse. He acted like a child, she thought, carefree. Sometimes that was cute, not on nights like these. The palpitations got worse; the knot in the stomach tighter. She breathed heavily, twice, and stared at the screen.
1 missed call. He was surprised. Why did she hang up? The pan was still simmering. He checked his watch and turned out the flame. That was his secret. He liked them slightly undercooked on the inside. He thought about calling back. Should he? He was wary of the past. Such conversations did not pan out well. Not for him. He never quite knew what to say, ending up with monosyllabic replies, which she took as a sign of disinterest. How could he stay interested in times like these? Three guys in suits chattered on the telly.
She heard the clock strike seven. He looked at his watch, again. Against her better judgment, she dialed the number. His phone rang – once, twice, thrice – then he picked it up. She was not sure what she was going to say. He could not make out the words he heard.
She was slightly upset, he judged from her voice. It was expected. He tried to calm her with his onomatopoeic responses. He did not succeed; she could tell that he was distracted. She was feeling cheated. Calling him was her last option. He thought of the eggs and walked towards the kitchenette. She could hear him fidgeting with the pan.
She hated herself for having called at all. She fell silent. He was busy with the eggs, one eye on the watch. He was silent. The clock seemed to be ticking faster; time seemed to have slowed down. It was getting late, he thought.
Suddenly there was a sparkle in his eyes. “Can we talk later”, he said. She hung up without a reply.
He ran to the hall. She sank to the floor. Messi had opened the scoring in the final. She wept.
“Lovely Omelette”, he said, and turned up the volume.