In a dimly-lit corner of the coffee house sat four women in their mid-forties. The classmates had found one another a year ago on the social media. Born in the middle class conservative families, they had a strict upbringing. After doing graduation they got married to rich businessmen, and left their jobs to look after the home and hearth. Once their children were settled they had plenty of time and money, and abundance of both pulled them towards a life of depravity and vanity. Their childhood male friend had chosen the coffee house as the rendezvous, though the women would have preferred a bar where they could smoke and drink freely.
The first woman was tall with a dusky voice that revealed her unfulfilled desires. Her eyes rolled in mischief when she spoke. The second one was short, of fair complexion and looked gorgeous. She had a melodious voice. The third had average looks but her sharp features made her attractive. The fourth woman had a long face and nose, and high cheekbones. She often lapsed into a brooding silence. They had shed the prime of their youth many summers ago, but were yet to reconcile to that fact. With bright dresses and heavy make-up they vainly tried to hide their nascent wrinkles.
A table away in an obscure corner sat a boy and a girl. Their coffee had gone cold. Holding hands, they leaned towards each other and chatted in whispers. Now and then the girl put her head on the table to hide her blushes. The boy had a steady mischievous grin on his face. Like Alcibiades, he hoped to seduce the girl he had met a few days ago as he wanted to spend a night of adventure with her in his apartment.
Closer to them were seated five men with white hair. Dressed in jeans and T-shirts, the men relished coffee and freedom from their spouses, enjoying the latter more. At the next table the conversation was about the ongoing cricket match between India and South Africa. Two tables away people chatted about the latest Hollywood blockbuster, Joker.
The women’s eyes were glued at the entrance. They waited for their childhood friend with whom they had often played hide and seek. As a child he had kissed one of them and they were dying to meet him. In excitement their eyes glowed and hearts pounded. They had faint memories of their childhood. What would he look like now? They all waited with abated breath. Suddenly a handsome man, dressed in jeans, half-shirt and casual shoes opened the door and held it for an old man exiting it. They all sighed in relief. His walk was as impressive as his manners. The women sized him up from head to toe.
They missed a beat when he stood near them and said, ‘You guys, called me.’ He introduced himself and shook hands with them one by one. His hands had the firmness of a farm laborer but his touch had the softness of a palace painter. The man’s confidence had shaken theirs. The women’s faces paled in many shades of nervousness.
“I’m surprised and happy to see you all after so many years,” said the man pulling the chair.
“We all are,” they fumbled and mumbled. Then they caught up with one another’s life. He listened to them in rapt attention. The women regained their composure. Smiles replaced anxiety on their faces. They ordered coffee and sipped it at leisure.
“One of you spoke to me last evening and said that you had something important to share with me,” the man said shuffling his gaze among them and tried to fathom who had spoken to him.
After a brief pause a sweet voice filled his ears with honey, “It was me. The other day we recollected that during childhood we played hide and seek and you kissed one of us, taking advantage of the dark. So, we placed a bet that you can still identify the girl you kissed that day.”
The man knitted his eyebrows, twitched his lips and then smiled, “Yeah, I remember that day. She was a beautiful girl. I couldn’t resist it.”
“Were you in love with her?” asked the dusky woman.
“It was a spontaneous act. I liked her,” the man replied. “I’m yet to comprehend what love is all about.”
“Did the girl respond well,” queried the bossy woman.
“She kissed me back with more intensity,” the man grinned with an intent look to the questioner.
“Why didn’t you marry her then?” asked the woman with longish face.
“Perhaps, the fate didn’t want to punish us with life imprisonment for our lone act of imprudence,” the man became serious.
“Do you miss her?” asked the tall woman.
“No,” the man shot back. “I believe ‘As long as you live, shine forth do not grieve, life exists for a short while, time takes its course’.”
“Are you married?” asked the short woman.
“What’s the bet,” he deflected the question.
“Can you tell who among us kissed you that day?”
“How can I?”
“We will kiss you one by one. You can ascertain by the feel of our lips,” the tall woman gave him a naughty grin.
“Are you guys serious?” he fumbled and looked sideways.
Their collective ‘yes’ shook him to the core. In shock, he asked, “Here?”
“All right,” he stood up, closed his eyes and waited. One by one the women leaned and kissed him longer than it was necessary. In their brief passion play each one outdid the other to win his affection with the sweetness of their breath and candor of their desire. For some time he struggled with smells of their stale breaths and expensive perfumes.
And when it was over, they sat down. The women looked at one another and giggled. The man sat in silence. It was no wonder for him that they sought bliss outside of their homes where they had buried it after a few years of marriage. After a while he was himself again. He lifted his head and his gaze fell on the women who waited in anticipation.
“So, who was the lucky girl?” the woman with sweet voice asked.
“None,” his response was polite but firm.
The women huddled together and fell into a long whisper. Then the woman with dark complexion said, “Didn’t I tell you? The guy wouldn’t remember the feel and smell of that childhood kiss, but you guys weren’t ready to believe me.”
“Who cares?” the woman with sharp features whispered. “We had our revenge on the boy who rejected us.”
The murmurs reached the man’s ears. His face twitched, his heartbeats increased and his gaze shifted from one beautiful face to another. The women chatted in a conspiratorial tone. With each passing minute the man’s anxiety heightened. Suddenly they fell silent and gave him a long, hard stare.
“We know you didn't kiss anyone of us,” they grinned. “During the childhood you always snubbed us and preferred the blue-eyed girl. Last week we decided that it was time we had our revenge.”
“What!” the man yelled and watched them leave the coffee house one by one.