“One starter platter, one large Pizza and a Salad bowl”. She finally placed the order.
They fought for at least 10 minutes before deciding who it would be to call the waiter and dictate the menu for lunch. She probably had the best choice amongst all those present, making her the victim of deciding what should be ordered. She even knew what everyone would like.
They were seeing each other after 8 years. I saw them after 16 years. I was only in touch with one friend leading me to having a lunch with the other three who I knew but didn’t remember very well. Although it was really astonishing and amazing to know that they remembered me fine. Their explanations about how I used to be back then, the stupid things we would go around doing at school, our old teachers; a couple of whom had died already, our other class fellows, everything we talked about was just so nostalgic and clearly recalled in my mind that I could visualize and see everything happening in front of me again. Everyone settled in with their lives, some of them working abroad, some happily married, some still studying and so on…
I did remember her name but couldn’t associate her with any of the faces I could recall from my memories of that time of school. Whenever we discussed about our other class fellows and discussed any incident associated with them, she would point to her neighbor with her eyes wide open, as if they both recalled something they shouldn’t be discussing in front of everyone, and then they would burst into laughter, giving each other a hi-five. She wasn’t different from other girls. She would talk, laugh, pass witty comments and would do just about everything that any other ordinary girl would have done after meeting her best friends after 8 years.
“Did someone order for the ice-cream?” Inquired one of the friends.
“No I’d order for it when the meal is served”. She said.
“But it’d seem odd yar, we don’t want to be eating Pizza’s with you waiting for your ice-cream. Call a waiter and order your ice-cream flavor immediately”. She was rather ordered than requested.
And there started again the fight about who’d call the waiter this time. They didn’t let go the possibility of making use of any passing moment to its fullest. They were thoroughly enjoying this meeting.
Two scoops of strawberry ice-cream was what she ordered I suppose. “You have your meal first ma’am and we’d serve the ice-cream after that” responded the waiter.
“No you serve it with the meal, because they’d all have Pizzas and I’d only have ice-cream”. She said with her hands pointing to the other four people sitting around a circular table.
Everyone knew she couldn’t eat anything available except the ice-cream that she had already ordered. The starters were here already. “Self service everyone”, announced the person sitting at my left and took a piece of garlic bread.
“Couldn’t you ask the ladies to start first?”. Her neighbor said angrily and took hold of the garlic bread basket.
The Pizzas were delivered soon as well. “Make room”, she said while starting to move the empty plates and sauce bottles aside to make room for the Pizza pan.
“Move your plate forward”, I said and put a piece each in their plates.
“Won’t you even taste it?”. I inquired. She brought a trace of smile on her face and shook her head. When everyone was busy deciding if they should use the knife and a fork, or just hold the Pizza piece in their hands and byte it, she was served with her ice-cream as well.
“Why don’t you eat anything?”. The person sitting on my left asked.
“Because I can’t”, she replied.
“Yeah I have been thinking about asking this. It seems everyone else knows but only I don’t know why you’re avoiding eating anything at all”, said the lady sitting next to her.
She smiled, she probably wanted to say something when he intruded again. “I asked her before as well but she said its a long story and that she’d tell me about it later…”
She put her ice-cream bowl on the table, stretched her left hand behind the lady sitting next to her, took a deep breath and very confidently said “I have been fighting cancer for the past two years”.
She had a lazy smile on her face. She was trying to control herself. “Two years”, she said, slightly raising the two leftmost fingers of her right hand. She tried to smile back again but this time, she couldn’t control her tears. She unfolded the tissue she had in her right hand, one that was probably served with the ice-cream bowl, held both ends of the tissue in her hands and kept it on her eyes. Everyone started to cheer her up. They all knew that there was something wrong, but they probably didn’t know the scale and intensity of her illness. It was a shock for everyone.
“Only I know how painful those two years were for me and how I have spent them”, she said, still trying to gain back control on herself. “Anyways”, she said, “I am recovering now Alhamdulillah, and it won’t be long when I recover completely Insha-Allah”. She was confident. She had will. She had determination. I could tell from her face that she had fought hard, and that she had fought well. She was destined to win Insha-Allah. That was when she also reminded of a couple of teachers from that time who had already died. They even recalled meeting each other on the funeral of one of the teachers, almost about 10 years back.
“Guess who this bride is?”. She took out a passport size picture from her purse and gave it to the lady sitting next to her.
“Don’t tell me its you…”. Exclaimed that lady. To which she nodded and brought that girlish smile back up on her face.
“Show it to me too”, said the person sitting next to me, and was handed over her picture. She took out another picture from her purse in the mean time.
“This is my son”, she told him, taking back her wedding picture.
“Give it to me”, asked the lady sitting next to her. “Awwww shoo cutteee”, the lady said when she was shown the picture. “Whats his name?”, the lady inquired.
“Ahmed”, she said. She was back to normal again.
“So when are we meeting next?”. I asked. “And who’s planning for our next meeting, just so that the venue is mutually agreed upon and we don’t flop the plan?”.
“So what you’re saying is our plan flopped today?”, asked the lady sitting at my right.
“No it didn’t but I’m not in favor of such short notice plans”, I replied.
“Lets have a one dish at someone’s place”. We were now done with paying the bill and were getting up when she said this, totally letting go of the fact that she almost cried a few minutes back.
“Remember how we met at that place back then and you came to pick us but didn’t come inside that place…?” She asked inquisitively, pointing at the lady who was sitting next to her, and they burst into laughter again…