I sit by myself, in the little corner tinted green.
It was curious, the colour. The checkered tablecloth, the tiny cups, the frosting on the cake I regret ordering- all a pale verdant hue. I despised the colour at first.
It had been years since the first time though. This little place down the block. I had been but a child, attending the first birthday party since shifting. They taught us how to rhyme at school.
Afterwards, a tea party and paint tattoos.
But that was so long ago. So long, even dreaming of Wonderland seemed an outlandish figment of my memory.
A little girl who learned to love the fantastical, growing up. The very concept seemed absurd.

The day was overcast, feeble sunlight filtered through the panes, illuminating my little table in the café.
An elderly couple sat not far off, engrossed in their screens, scarcely deigning to meet my languid stare. A shadow hid the man from my gaze, but the woman held an aura of authority, a subtle radiance, in her maroon ensemble. What would soon be wrinkles played at her weary
expression. Her hand on the table lay still, in anticipation of another.
I wondered if she loved the man sitting across from her.
I wondered if she, too, wondered if she loved him.
I wondered if, when her eyes met a looking glass, and perused the growing lines, she, too,
mumbled to herself “I was quite an Alice, back in the day.”

We met in middle school, this friend and I. Christmas carol competition, Western Choir. First place. We wanted to be singers. She made me a ‘friendship forever’ bracelet. We lost touch in sophomore year.
Both of us can hardly mumble a tune now.

We’ll both move to new cities within the week, and those school halls will echo only in our memories. It’s strange, how quickly the last year went by. As if the prayers of a thousand final exams had been answered in those final nine months, and the world had pushed us through the
year in half the time.

She was late, and the afternoon was languorous in its expectation of her. My coffee was cold, and the cake looked more unappealing by the second. All this I endure for her, and she can’t leave the physics lecture on time.
I sighed, and the woman in maroon glanced in my direction, giving me the faintest warmth of a brief smile. Soon enough, the man called out to order and her face was once again clouded in folds.

The little tulips on the table drooped in their miserly existence, and so began another round of She loves him. She loves him not. She loves him. She loves him not.

I wonder if I’ll end up like her. In the same café, with a man I only probably love, reflecting on the last time I was here, and how I wished I’d never done whatever it is I did in my hypothetical life.

Thus, occupied, my mind wandered, and as I saw her make her way towards the entrance through the tinted glass that lent the place its colour, for the first time, I knew. I was too old to think of the haze as magic.

– Yashi Sharma, Amity International School, Noida


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