Chapter 34:

(Maisha) A Second Chance

Cafe Eris


I’m an idiot.
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Why was lying about my name the first thing that I thought of? Like, am I braindead? What the actual heck is going on here. Also, how exactly did TREVOR NEAT find me? This is so HUMILIAAATIIIIIIIIING. Bookmark here

I’m going to kill mys-Bookmark here

“Maisha, Sana and I are going to the washroom for a few minutes”Bookmark here

NO WAY. Are you serious right now? I gave Sana a look but she got snatched away. I’m cutting everyone off today. Fake friends. Bookmark here

Trevor watched as Jess dragged Sana away by the arm, and then (unfortunately) focused his attention back to me.Bookmark here

“So…. it’s uh… it’s been a while.”Bookmark here

Yea? Well it should've been a little while longer. Ugh this is so awkward. Shoot, what if he thinks I haven’t changed since the third gradeÉBookmark here

“I see you’re still not really into public speaking.”Bookmark here

NOOOOO. Bookmark here

I scowled, “Ha ha very funny.”Bookmark here

He gave me a stupid smirk, “It totally was.”Bookmark here

“Ugh, maybe for you. Hands down one of the most embarrassing moments in my entire life,” I fiddled with my phone case.Bookmark here

AAAAAA I broke it. Damnit.Bookmark here

“Why? We were 8,” he said.Bookmark here

Ok? And? I guess the silence got to him because he felt the need to say;Bookmark here

“Pfft, you haven't changed at all.”Bookmark here

Excuse me? What the heck? Is that really what he thinks of me? Oh no, is that what everyone thinks of me?Bookmark here

“I have.”Bookmark here

He took the case out of my hand and reassembled it. “No… you’re still pretty much the unapproachable smart kid.”Bookmark here

Ugh I hated everything about this conversation. Also, am I really that unapproachable?Bookmark here

“Oh, shut up. I’ll have you know you actually did approach me. Also, how exactly do you know I’m smart? I could be failing my classes right now, don’t make assumptions.” Bookmark here

He pointed to the papers scattered on the table again, “Those are calculus worksheets marked with perfect scores.”Bookmark here

Dammit. I’m so dumb, I should’ve moved those. Bookmark here

“Also that speech from back then was actually really well written.”Bookmark here

HUHHH. He read it? Well that’s even more embarrassing. Not only did I fail to obliterate my assignment, the victim of my actions (no no, he wasn’t a victim) actually read it. Bookmark here

He pulled out a wrinkled piece of paper. No way. That can’t be what I think it is. Bookmark here

“No, you didn’t.”Bookmark here

“Oh… I did.”Bookmark here

Ew, what the heck. That’s kinda creepy. Bookmark here

“It was too well written for me to just throw out, I kinda felt bad,” he turned the paper towards me. “The world’s water crisis, a pretty mature topic for an 8 year old.”Bookmark here

I shuddered, “Ew, put that thing away. Burn it. Throw it out. I really don’t care.”Bookmark here

He laughed, “Maybe I’ll just eat it.”Bookmark here

I did not laugh.Bookmark here

Ok. Maybe I did give the tiniest smile. That one was a little funny.Bookmark here

He folded the paper and set it beside Sana art assignment. “It’s my contribution to the art project.”Bookmark here

I glared at the paper, “What was your speech about?” Bookmark here

Wait, did I just initiate conversation? This is terrible. Why do I even bother speaking? How did we get here? What am I doing with my life?Bookmark here

He looked to the side, embarrassed, “...10 reasons why soccer is the best sport in the world…”Bookmark here

I rolled my eyes and was about to respond until Akaash’svoice suddenly said, “Heyyy Maisha!” I spun around to see him standing beside our table. I swear this kid has the lightest footsteps, I can never hear him approaching.Bookmark here

“Where’s Sana and Jess? I thought you three came together?” He turned to Trevor. “Oh hi! Nice to meet you, I’m Akaash Roy. I go to the same school as Maisha.” He gave him a firm handshake.Bookmark here

“Hey, I’m Trevor Neat.” He nodded towards me, “We went to the same elementary school.”Bookmark here

Akaash’s eyes lit up “Wow really? What was she like-”Bookmark here

Oh hell no.Bookmark here

“WHO’S THAT?” I interrupted, pointing to the tall, very angry looking child beside him. She glared at me and the massacred heap of bread that once could have been identified as a frog.Bookmark here

“Oh, this is Mishti, my younger sister.”Bookmark here

Mishti…. I don’t know if that name really suited her.Bookmark here

I recognized her, “Ohhh, you’re ‘Masuke Ruchiha’, Maruto’s friend-“Bookmark here

“No!”Bookmark here

“No?”Bookmark here

“Maruto is MY friend.”Bookmark here

“Isn’t that the-“Bookmark here

“It’s different.”Bookmark here

I didn’t press the issue any further.Bookmark here

Trevor looked super confused, “...so he’s like a... bootleg naru-”Bookmark here

I put my hand up, “Don’t even. It’s a touchy subject around here.” I turned to Akaash, “Want to contribute something to the art project?”Bookmark here

“Hmm… I don’t have much on me, but here,” he handed me a blue paperclip from his pocket.Bookmark here

Sana and Jess walked towards us. I guess their trip to the “washroom” was over since Akaash showed up.Bookmark here

“Oh my gosh! Hi Kash! I thought you weren’t gonna show up today, super happy that you did though. We haven’t all chatted together for a while. Wow. It's super nice here, perfect for hanging out, right?” She noticed Mishti beside him, “Awwww who’s this?”Bookmark here

“My name’s Mishti Roy. Can you stop talking? your voice is annoying,” she grumbled.Bookmark here

Jess just smiled, “Aww, I love kids, they’re so funny,” She pulled out one of the chairs, “You should sit and chat with us if you’re not busy.”Bookmark here

“Oh sure,” he said, taking a seat beside Trevor. Bookmark here

Mishti snatched her hand away and ran to sit at the frog table and play games on Akaash’s phone. Bookmark here

Scanta noticed our group and came over with a plate of cookies for us to share. Rahim took his work break to join us. It wasn’t nearly as awkward as I thought it would be. It was even kind of nice.Bookmark here

Rahim and Trevor seemed to get along, Jess kept pestering Akaash while he remained obliviously friendly, and I talked to Sana as she finished her art project. We all sat laughing over how Scanta looked like a bald eagle, quietly of course. Trevor asked everyone about where we were headed after graduation. It was nice that I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know what was going on in their life.Bookmark here

Later, Ms. Park and Coco entered the café. Kai, who was at the counter, put his hoodie up and darted out of the vicinity with his stuff, and Scanta took over the counter for him.Bookmark here

Coco glanced our way. As soon as he saw us, his face turned gloomy. I gestured for him to come sit with us. He was our age, and even if we weren't close at all, it felt wrong to exclude him.Bookmark here

He reluctantly left his mother’s side and walked over.Bookmark here

“Oh my gosh! Is that Coco-chan?” Trevor exclaimed.Bookmark here

I gave him a look.Bookmark here

His face turned tomato red. “What?” he whispered, “Everyone knows him. What’s he doing at a café like this?”Bookmark here

I sighed, “He’s a regular here. Don’t be weird, treat him like a normal person.”Bookmark here

Coco took a seat beside me and awkwardly said hi to everyone. Bookmark here

“We’re talking about our plans for next year! What’s yours?” Jess inquired.Bookmark here

“Oh… uh. I’m thinking of dropping an album, maybe…” he paused, “Sorry. You guys are probably asking about things like school and stuff. I’m homeschooled so…”Bookmark here

“Nono! It’s all good. It’s so cool that you're an artist at 18,” Rahim gave him a friendly smile and gestured for him to take a cookie.Bookmark here

Coco’s personality was unexpectedly stiff. He was nothing like the countless interviews, talk shows, and dramas I’d seen him in. He seemed like just another regular boy at the moment.Bookmark here

He timidly took a bite of the cookie, looking to see if his mother was watching him. She was busy yelling… Or maybe she was just talking to Scanta. I guess that was her idea of an indoor voice.Bookmark here

“Speaking of art,” he pointed to Sana’s clock, “Is this like an interactive thing?”Bookmark here

“I guess now it is. Everyone from the café gave something to add to it. Oh, but it’s alright if you don’t! It’s voluntary.”Bookmark here

He took off his very real and expensive looking diamond earring and handed it to her, “Is this ok?”Bookmark here

We all stared at the shiny rock in her palm.Bookmark here

“...uh, yeah…Thank you very much,” she smiled.Bookmark here

His mother trudged over to us, “COCO! WHAT ARE YOU EATING!?”Bookmark here

She slapped the cookie out of his hand. Her eyes did a full circle around the table, examining each one of us, “OH SO I SEE YOU MADE SOME NEW FRIENDS,” her eyes narrowed. He looked a little terrified, the colour drained from his face.Bookmark here

Her eyes locked on the art project.Bookmark here

There was a dramatic pause.Bookmark here

“THAT IS INCREDIBLE!”Bookmark here

Huh? I think we all were expecting a different reaction. Everyone looked at each other with mixed expressions of confusion and relief.Bookmark here

“ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL. WHOSE PIECE IS THIS?” she demanded.Bookmark here

Sana tentatively raised her hand.Bookmark here

“STUNNING, MARVELOUS, BRILLIANT, REMARKABLE, SENSATIONAL. WHAT’S THE TITLE?”Bookmark here

Sana paused to think for a second, “A Second Chance. Because all these items got a seco-“Bookmark here

“IT REALLY DOES SPEAK TO THE SOUL,” Ms. Park put her hand on her heart, “HOW MUCH?”Bookmark here

“Sorry?” Sana looked a little freaked out. I mean, so did the rest of us probably.Bookmark here

“WHAT’S THE PRICE?”Bookmark here

Sana shook her head, “Oh, uh it’s not for sale. It’s just a school project…”Bookmark here

Coco sneakily took another bite of his chocolate chip cookie while Ms. Park was distracted trying to convince Sana to sell the clock to her.Bookmark here

“OH PLEASE, EVERYTHING CAN BE BOUGHT. IF I CAN’T HAVE IT IN MY PERSONAL COLLECTION, I INSIST ON DONATING IT AS AN INSTALLATION FOR THE CAFÉ.” Bookmark here

Scanta had noticed the ruckus and came over to see what the commotion was about. Ms Park turned and glared at him, “THIS PIECE MUST BE HUNG UP.”Bookmark here

He grinned, “Of course, I absolutely agree.”Bookmark here

Everyone turned to look at Sana. Although, at this point, I don’t think she had much of a choice.Bookmark here

“Sure.”Bookmark here

“SPLENDID! ARE YOU CERTAIN YOU DON’T WANT TO SELL IT?”Bookmark here

She shrugged, “I don’t mind donating it to the café.”Bookmark here

Ms. Park wasn’t about to take that as an answer. “NONSENSE.” She handed her not one, but two crisp 500$ bills. We all gaped. Bookmark here

“HERE, THIS IS COMPENSATION. ARTISTS MUST BE PAID. DO NOT RETURN IT.”Bookmark here

She turned towards Scanta and gave him a crumpled 20. I had to stifle my laugh.Bookmark here

“I SUPPOSE THIS IS YOUR CUT, I ALREADY DONATE ENOUGH TO THE ESTABLISHMENT.” Bookmark here

Scanta looked ecstatic over the money, and shook her hand, “Pleasure doing business with you! Now, where should we put it?”Bookmark here

She pointed to the middle of the orange dot painting, “THERE.”Bookmark here

He looked delighted, “Excellent choice.”Bookmark here

“I think Sana should do the honours,” Trevor chimed in.Bookmark here

Everyone nodded in agreement. Bookmark here

Scanta happily (a little too happily) drove a nail through the painting and we all watched as she hung the clock. Everyone clapped instinctively, even the people scattered throughout the café.Bookmark here

Sana turned back to our group. “If you guys are free, let’s go for dinner at that Korean BBQ place across the street. My treat,” she waved the two bills, beaming.Bookmark here

Coco took a step back and looked up at his mother.Bookmark here

“You have to come too,” Sana said to him. Bookmark here

Ms. Park raised her eyebrow. “WELL, GO ON THEN.”Bookmark here

“Wait, really?” Coco looked shocked.Bookmark here

“YES, BEFORE I CHANGE MY MIND.”Bookmark here

Rahim looked at Scanta who gave him a thumbs up.Bookmark here

We all grabbed our stuff and ran out of the café. Bookmark here

Today wasn’t so bad after all. Maybe I should give social interaction a second chance. Bookmark here

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