Read first part of The Picture #ShortStory here.

Kriti stealthily looked up the edge of her cubicle at the animated, growing crowd near the water cooler. The picture of last Friday’s disaster was still fresh in her mind and she was dreading today’s inevitable invitation. The girl gang at work was making elaborate plans to get sloshed, splurge foolishly and flirt with guys, all of which would expediently get wiped off their collective memories tomorrow. Not for her though, she remembered everything alright!

Her younger colleagues often sneered at her saintly workaholic behaviour. Kriti was the Project Manager in a reputed software company, in her 40s and happily single. She had reached a stage in life where her parents finally let her be and silence had become a welcome companion. Why was it unacceptable to people or even any of their business? Was a woman incapable of happiness without a partner or spouse?

Sitting in a comfortable chair at a table lit up with annoyingly dim lights she wondered how she got tricked into joining them. Her mind was concocting imaginative theories to slip out of there at the first available opportunity. While the girls were guzzling one beer after another she had hardly touched hers. She meekly looked around trying to make sense of the alien environment. Her youth was a completely different picture!

They hadn’t been there for long when a group of middle-aged men came and took the Reserved table next to theirs. The noisy bunch seemed to have no regard for the ambience of the place or privacy of fellow diners. They hollered their orders and bullied the waiters. The manager politely had to ask them to keep it down. Thankfully, they obliged. Her friends were gushing something about them in each others’ ears while her blood boiled at their ignorance. The alcohol has probably started working on them, she thought.

An hour later, she was still there. Both the tables were cluttered with empty bottles and half-eaten food and the drunkards (as she called them in her head) were relatively silent. She felt sane again. The guys on the next table were talking slowly and fondly now. Sober and somewhat settled with the situation she curiously overheard them. Her casual eavesdropping didn’t seem wrong or impolite and she realised that it was their reunion gelled with a birthday celebration.

They were talking about their college days. She caught the name of their college and city and suddenly felt a stab in her heart. As if on cue, just then someone cursed him for not making it there due to work reasons. Was it a mere coincidence? Wait, did they just take his name? They were his batch mates? Friends? Could this be true?

To be continued.‌

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