On Time (contd.)

She replied in the affirmative.

The waiter who had been a mute spectator all along, hurried led them to a table overlooking, well, nothing actually. Or to be really truthful, overlooking a wall. His expression was pitiable. And he was pitied. At least, this time.

“More Coffee, Madam?” The waiter blurted.

The Avenger looked bewildered. And then it dawned on him.

“I am really sorry, I didn’t mean to be late. Actually, my watch stopped working and I thought that if I enetered early, you would realise that I have fallen hopelessly in love with you. And I am blabbering again. But I can’t help it. Will you marry me?”

But it was too late. She could not control herself. She was in stitches. He looked at her helplessly, with the face of an injured puppy. He turned to the waiter.

“A strong black coffee. The strongest you’ve got. And a vegetable sandwich. The lady will order shortly. As you can see, she is quite indisposed currently.”

With these words, the barrage of laugh, that seemed to be subsiding, burst forth again with renewed vigour. He simply looked at her and smiled.

“Tell me when you are done laughing. I wanna tell you something.”

“Wh… wha…. what?” She said between chuckles.

“I said, when you are done laughing.”

“Ok, Ok. Go Ahead.” She raised her hands in a mock defensive pose.”Hit me with all you got!”

“I was not kidding when I said I want to marry you. I really want to.”

“Oh my God, you haven’t realised yet? Don’t you know who I am?”

“Why, you are a nurse, at the Academy. No, please don’t start laughing again. I would really prefer it, if you said it in simple words instead of ridiculing me.”

“Ok. I’ll say it really simply. I am the Temptress. Or rather I used to be the Temptress. Until I joined the Academy, that is.”

The Temptress looked at him with an eager eye. She wanted to see how he would take it. All the others before him had broken down, convinceed that they were merely enchanted by her and that they were not really in love with her. She wanted to see how he would react. Of all the come-on lines she had heard, his had been the best. And the fastest too.

“I know. Is that supposed to make any difference?”

“It is. After all I can enchant anyone who crosses my path. And so I have done with you.”

He thought about this for a while. Then he slowly shook his head.

“Not possible. I was smitten by you even before you looked at me. So it does not wash with the rest of the evidence. Moreover, the effects of your enchantment do not last for more than an hour, by which time you usually made good your escape. This time, I was dying to meet you.”

“Sure didn’t seem like it. You made me wait half-an-hour. I thought you were gonna stand me up.”

“Uh-huh,” he shook his head, “I repeat, my watch stopped working.”

“Well, if that’s the truth, then that settles it.”

“Settles what?”

“Settles the answer to the question.”

“And the answer is…”


He held his breath.

“I’ll have to think about it.”

He was dissapointed.

“How long?”

“How long does it take to buy a wedding ring?”

A smile appeared on his face and widened into a grin and then broke into a laughter. When the tide had subsided, he found enough breath to ask, “Are you sure you don’t race cars in a Grand Prix?”

“As a matter of fact, I used to.”

The stryofoam cup in his hands was empty. He threw it out of the window. Painful memories. He hated those kind.

The train was slowing down and it came to a halt. He alighted and was soon engulfed by the huge tidal wave of people. The indicators announced in a clipped-mechanical voice, “Train arrived on Platform number Seven is running on time. Passengers are requested to kindly check their belongings before they alight the train.”

Sigh. The train was on time. He was on time. The passengers were on time. And on that fateful day, someone else had been on time too.

To be continued…