Kavita Nalawde

Coffee @ 4:00 (Look inside..)

Sunil finished his breakfast, had a shower, gave Ria a brief peck on the cheek and went to work. The kiss was as fake as the plastic flowers Ria had in the vase in her living room. There was no emotion involved and he was just doing it for peace in the house. There was a specific reason for that as well.
It had actually started when Ria was in a naughty mood one day. She came upstairs after dropping the children till their school bus and saw Sunil reading the Economic Times. She crept up behind him, gave him a kiss and started nibbling his ear gently. Ria knew it was time for him to go to work but a little mischief would do no harm she thought. Sunil pushed her away.
‘You know I don’t like when my ears get wet,’ he said with somewhat irritation.

Ria was full of rage. Sunil wouldn’t try to do anything proactively and now when she tried something he got irritated.
‘You never kiss me anymore,’ Ria said to him with anger.
‘There is no occasion for it,’ he said as a matter of fact.
‘You don’t need an occasion to express your feelings to your own wife. Do you have any feelings for me Sunil? Am I needed in your life?’
‘You are taking things too far. Alright I will kiss you every morning,’ Sunil said with some hurry and went to get dressed.
After this conversation the kiss became a daily routine. It would be as thoughtless as the bread he put in the toaster every morning.
Ria never discussed the same topic again after that and today was the same. She came up as usual after waving goodbye to Ravi and Richa in their school bus. They always insisted that she should come down to see them off and also be there when they came back from school. The bus used to drop them outside the main gates so all they had to do was come up the building to their flat on the fourth floor but Ria would go down as the kids loved it. The children want me to come, I am needed is what she would always think. With Sunil however, she was not sure... not sure at all. He had all the money in the world but where was Ria’s place in his life? All this would make her cringe.
The house seemed empty once the children were gone and Ria decided to read the newspaper. ‘WHY do women demand sex?’ was the main article in today’s Life supplement. The article suggested that women always desired things rather than blankly thinking about it. She kept the paper with frustration.
She looked at the calendar in front of her and smiled. It was Thursday today. This was the only day of the week when Ria was cheerful as this was the day she went to the cafe ‘Around the Corner’ to meet two of her closest friends Ryan and Geeta.
She loved her little rendezvous on Thursday afternoons and actually made an effort to get dressed nicely. You do not realise the importance of friends until you are lonely and Ria had realised this very early in her marriage. She had loads of friends at college but they were all settled and busy in their own life. She did try to get in touch with them once her children started school but the conversations didn’t last long. Time constraints and everyone’s different lifestyle made it impossible to catch-up. She got bored soon and longed for something more stimulating.
After her marriage with Sunil her life had come to a standstill. It was like an end of a chapter but her close friendship with Ryan and Geeta was the start of a completely new phase and she loved both of them to bits. She wouldn’t miss her coffee at 4.00 on Thursdays under any circumstances.
Ria grabbed the car keys from the kitchen table, made a mental note to buy the groceries and pick up the kids from their activity classes on her way back and left the house. She was driving the car and felt that the roads were a bit busier this afternoon. She was waiting at a traffic signal and thought about her carefree college days. She longed to rebel, to come out of the boredom and become the same Ria again, the bubbly, chirpy, uncontrollable Ria that everyone liked. She had done a course in journalism as she always wanted to be part of a big daily. Her favourite was the crime reporting section and she wanted to be a crime reporter, someone who is there at the scene, someone who has the guts to report the truth. However, once out of college she realised that getting a job as a fresher in Mumbai was even tougher than reporting. Once you are established you have many avenues but the first break was very important and extremely difficult. However, when she was on the brink of loosing hope she got her first job. It acted like the much needed confidence boost. It was a local daily with a small circulation but she was extremely proud to be a part of it as it was her very first break. Just when she thought that she had achieved a little something in her career her parents found a suitable boy and got her married to Sunil.
Sunil was from an orthodox and a really old fashioned family. Her in-laws were against their daughter-in-law going outside to work and she had to leave her job with a very heavy heart. Thus in short, Ria’s career started and finished at a very premature stage. Ria became a housewife and within a year and a half became the proud mother of twins. Her married life that was not perfect began going more downhill after that. She became involved in her kids and Sunil in his career. Her children were growing up and so was Sunil’s designation. Within eight years he had become the Financial Director of a leading firm and her children had become more independent and were at school full-time. They didn’t require Ria’s attention as much as they used to earlier. Ria felt kind of happy but lonely.
‘Beep’ the loud horn from the car behind brought Ria back to the busy junction. The signal had become green and Ria was still lost in her thoughts. This is one offence you can never make in Bandra. The Linking Road was crowded at almost every time of the day and she couldn’t wait to reach her destination. She took right at the next signal and came to ‘Around the Corner’ cafe. She had been coming here every Thursday since the time she met Geeta and now she couldn’t imagine any week without it.
She had almost parked the car outside when she got a text from Geeta,

 ‘wll b 15 min late, srry babe, c u soon’.
Ria smiled. They always called Geeta ‘Late Latif’ as she was never on time. Ria had almost half expected a text from her when she reached and there it was!
Ria on the other hand was a person who was never ever late for any occasion believing in reaching five minutes early rather than late and she sometimes wondered how two people with such different attitudes in life would become such close mates.
She went inside the cafe and sat on a table next to a large window. It was nice here as she could see the people rushing on the street outside and her thoughts went back to Geeta. Her first meeting with Geeta was an extremely strange encounter at Chruchgate station but it had made them lifelong friends. Geeta was the one who had introduced her to Ryan. Ryan was a very cheerful and happy person and Ria liked him instantly when they first met. The three friends gelled in a very special way and became regular visitors to the cafe. They always joked and pulled each other’s legs. Geeta would comment on how love deprived Ria was and make her blush. Ryan who was the most melodramatic of the three would say that he was always there for both of them if they needed him and the girls would both hit him on his back and say 'Dumbo'.
Ria smiled at the thought and looked back at her watch again. Where are you Geeta?
Ryan was deciding what to wear. It was very important for him to dress smartly and he took no shortcuts when it came to grooming. He was six feet tall with a good physique and a charming personality. He had natural brown soft hair that was the envy of everyone at the gym. He was happy almost every day but today it was Thursday, the day when he met two of his most favourite friends in the world Geeta and Ria. Well, there was one more special friend Pam as well but his friendship with Pam was different maybe slightly more mature. With Geeta and Ria it was more of careless fun. Thursday was the day he called his weekly booster and he loved to go to ‘Around the corner’ and meet his friends...
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