As narrated by Amz:
“It won’t work. The reserved table, as was probably done purposely, is right at the back. Dee won’t be able to watch that table from across the road,” says Uncle Ismaeel.
I look at Dee, my heart rate speeding up.
“It’s too late to change the plan,” she says, shaking her head as she glances at her watch. “We’ll have to stick to it.
“I don’t think the person will hurt you, Amz. If that’s their intention, they’ve chosen the worst place,” Dee points out.
“What do you mean?” I ask.
“Look around you. The street is busy. And inside a cafè there are always people, staff, etc.”
The observation doesn’t do much to ease my fear.
“C’mon,” says Dee, breaking the heavy silence. “Let’s go.”
“I don’t know why I’m allowing you’ll to do this..” mumbles Uncle Ismaeel.
“Love you,” Dee says, squeezing my hand.
I give her a small smile. “Love you too.”
Opening the car door, I get out, and make my way down the street as confidently as I can.
When I hear the word Cafè, I instantly think of warm coffee and a cozy interior. I think of the sun pouring through dusty windows, of smiling staff and soft sofas. I think of antique cups and saucers, with overflowing hot chocolate, topped with swirled fresh cream. I think of a rich, welcoming aroma, which makes you feel content and at home.
Not this time though.
The moment I step through the shiny glass door of Schnazle’s Cafè, an aroma of bitter black coffee hits me. Unsmiling staff walk around, carrying trays carefully, so as to not chip their perfectly polished nails. Their tight uniforms attract the wandering gaze of a group of men, all clad in expensive suits and polished shoes. Porcelain tiles cover the floor and climb the walls, stopping at the edge of the patterned ceiling. Uproarious laughter and loud chatter echoes off the walls, making the hum of machinery almost inaudible. The uneasiness I feel increases as I make my way to the back.
I glance at my phone screen.
I sit with my back towards the wall, so that I can see out front, and hopefully Dee can see me too.
A huge air conditioner blows icy wind, but it does nothing to help the claustrophobia I feel.
My thoughts are racing, and every time the door opens, I stiffen.
It’s at exactly 3:30 pm when someone oddly familiar walks through the door and makes their way to the table I’m seated at.
My forehead creases slightly.
He doesn’t say anything until he’s seated.
“I didn’t think it was possible, but I see you’ve grown even more beautiful.”
My body tenses.
“What do you want, Ali?” I ask bluntly, my anger giving me confidence.
He seems slightly startled at my lack of etiquette.
“I’m certain your father didn’t bring you up like that, Amaani,” he says, using the same tone I used on him.
I clench my jaw.
“What, do you want?” I repeat slowly, forcing myself to remain calm.
“Well, we can start by you placing your phone right here,” he commands, jabbing his finger onto the table in front of him.
I hesitate, and notice his eyes darken with anger.
“You want my phone?” I ask, frowning.
Is he being serious?!
“So that you don’t call for help,” he explains, looking at my confused expression.
Realization strikes, and fear creeps into me again.
Why would I need to call for help?
“You obviously won’t need to call for help if you cooperate,” he says with a smile, as if reading my mind.
“Can I at least call my friend to tell her I’m fine?” I ask, my voice now shaking slightly.
He casually stretches his hand to the back of his head and scratches his neck.
His suit jacket moves at the action..
And then I see it..
Nestled against the grey material, the black metal stands out as vividly as a light in a cave.
“What makes you think you’re fine, love?”
My blood runs cold.