The Sweet Pause

The Sweet Pause

A Story by Zai Hameer
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All that sugar will awaken you, child. And you remember what that’s like, don’t you?

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�"�"�"�"�" THE SWEET PAUSE �"�"�"�"�"

by Zai Hameer

[a first-person POV (point-of-view)
short story, 10 min read]

Happy reading!

�"�"�"�"�"�"�"�"�"�"�"�"�"�"�"�"�"�"�"

“You’re not supposed to stand there, you know!”, I motion my head, glancing over to see who is trying to disrupt my little morning escapade.

“And why not?”, shifting a strand of faintly wet, jet black hair to the back of my cheek, I ask this suede-jacket-wearing, jeans-embodied-legs, balloon-holding stranger that is blindingly picturesque for the early hours.

“I can see why all these children are lined up to get their hands on it. But you are alone. Are you bent on stealing their joy?”, he squints with a smile so coy, the sun is not even out!

“What is wrong in a woman waiting to get some candy for breakfast?”

“Besides that it’s candy? Nothing!”

I couldn’t tell whether to feel annoyed or charmed by someone who posed a good, healthier substitute for my tripping craves.

I smiled, shaking my head, taking a deep breath as my hands dug deeper into the luring pockets of my slender, favored black coat �" I wear this everywhere, I thought �" as I watched this children-bribing, should-be-teaching-a-class lean man hunching to little hands as he catered gas-filled wonders, before shifting my gaze to the joy I was levitating closer to.

“Red or green?” he asks, interrupting my thoughts.

“No,” I tittered, “I’m good, thanks!”

“Everyone going in there gets one, else I get fired!”

He is persistent, of that I can mentally chew. “Really, save it for the�"“,

“It can’t be that hard to pick a color!”, disrupting me, again.

“I’ll take the red, thank you!”, sheepishly smiling, as I grasped, tugging the string along walking past him, and exhaling into the finally opened, little ambrosial haven. “What an excruciatingly handsome creep!”

I let the teasing galore sink in as I ogled around, hearing the skids of kids stomping about and their winning lottery-ticket giggles float through the air.

‘Confessions Co’ �" the new glimmering store that has been spoiling all the children in this little town for well over a year now �" today marking the premiere, with sampling, of their new Cinnamon Toast chocolate truffles. It was utterly absurd not to be here.

With a taste of every luxury edible they had on display, I tapped my tapering fingers on the cold marble counter while ordering five boxes of the truffles to go �" with assorted candy canes I couldn’t resist. They deliberately place them so obviously right as you check out, it is hard not to pick one or a bunch.

It was a long way to Christmas, yet the spirit around here never ceased. This is why I never left �" everyone I knew got married, moved away, birthed a terror or two �" and here I was, all set to buy candy that would satiate me for a couple of weeks, at most.

Waiting for my treats to get neatly packaged, I sought the server’s tag to find “Jenna” gleaming at me, smiling �" “I can’t get enough of the ambiance of this place. It is one to last forever. The owner did an outstanding take!”, I delightfully exclaimed.

“Well, it’s your lucky day. You are welcome to praise him yourself!”, said Jenna with a lighthearted laugh.

A little confused, and feeling surprisingly anxious, I mustered �" “He is here?”

“Yes, right out there with those kids!”

“The balloon guy?”, I blurted, confusion growing, as I heard Jenna laugh and nod, “Reyaal Nautté. They all call him ‘Real’. He drops in every month,” as I watched her slip in a couple of vouchers, “He is not from around here. I am surprised you have never met him!”

“Yeah. Jack of all trades, huh?”, laughing nervously, as I peered out at him through the window, while my fingers paced the collar of my neck.

“Mhm. Are you feeling okay? You are all set! Don’t be greedy now!”, flashing a crescent grin that was beautifully haunting.

“Thank you,” I said, feeling my now clammy, shaky hands grab ahold of the sunny bag as I headed for the door, suddenly infiltrated with more confusion than I had, with every step.

I kept walking not knowing why I was, that I found the nearest bench to take a breath on. I heard my phone vibrate, as I bailed it out of my coat’s pouch, only to see �"

“Good morning. I was in a show last night and I couldn’t talk. Can we now?”, from ‘Abe’, as I felt my insides grow ferociously warm.

The only thing that made sense to me in this smoggy moment was this comforting name, what he meant to me, and what was conveyed �" as I rubbed what was now a perspiring head.

I looked up to find an aesthetic, pink-and-white walled confectionery looming over me with dark gray clouds for a backdrop.

“Where is this place?”, I thought, as I felt my heart pick up, unable to fathom what I was doing there, or where I was �" quickly flicking to locate myself on the map, only to be greeted with an address I had never embraced before.

I stared down to see my clutching a bag I couldn’t grasp what was doing in my right hand �" and a bright, doted red balloon wafting by it with the wind shamelessly teasing it to kiss my face �" scanning around, I could see a couple of children next to a man with balloons that looked like a Holly shrub, and this build that shared the very name that was plastered on to what I had, across from me �" trees, greener than I had seen, conspicuously whispering with sway.

I slid in for the receipt, only to further get cloaked in bewilderment by what was staring back at me.

I finally stood to step into the store, as I saw a stampede of balloons galloping towards me in the peripheral of my eye.

“Heading back in for some more already?”, said a sharp-looking gentleman with a big, goofy grin.

“I am sorry, do I know you?”

“You can’t be holding that balloon and asking me that!”, he said laughingly, and surveying me in a way I found highly alluring �" but I was befuddled by it all.

“I can’t place you,” I breathed out, momentarily shaking my head. “I don’t even know how I got here, or what�"what this bag is doing with me?” I said, in a tone that grew clamorous with each pause.

“Are you alright? Can I get you some water?” �" I shook my head, barging into the store with a nostalgic aroma infusing my senses as I whisked to the counter, “Hi �" I am sorry, but I don’t remember buying these. Can I return them?”

“You were in here just five minutes ago. Is everything okay?”, asked this lady with a smile that I had not seen over a decade.

“Yes, I think so. Why does everyone keep asking me that? I am not supposed to be here, and I don’t�"I don’t eat all of this, so if I could please return these,” hearing my now shrill voice and feeling more than a couple of eyes on me.

“I am Jenna. I served you a moment ago,” I heard her say, looking confused. “Do you have a number of a friend or a family member I could call?”, with every word dripping from her plum-glossed mouth, I could only inhale paranoia �"

“Nevermind!”, placing whatever I had of theirs on the bar, as I brushed past the customer behind me dashing outside to gasp some air.

“Please, just take this!”, handing over the balloon to the very handsome man.

“Allow me to help�"“, he started saying with an overly concerned tone �"

“I’ll be fine, thank you!”, as I swiveled my back around him heading West.

I could feel myself growing lighter as I walked away from a place that I would never conjure up in, and yet, somehow, I was there. “I don’t know what THAT was all about! And that man. There was something about him.”

Taking a couple of more deep breaths, I felt myself begin to shrug it all off, grabbing ahold of my phone to help guide me home.

I could sense the fog dissipating within my head from the distance of every stride, and now found myself at a crossroad I was outright familiar with �" not the only I familiarized with at that second, as I saw Leena and Hamid walking up my way. I didn’t realise they were visiting �" and with their young boy.

“Ahh, I cannot believe I am running into you!”, Leena said excitedly.

“It is so great to see you!”, I said, as I kissed her cheek, soaking in a coconut, musky give, “You smell great!”, as I nodded a smile at Hamid saying hello.

“Yes, Hamid and I just got in yesterday �" and this young boy here brought the roof down to want to roam outside,” she said, brushing a vine of lush, rich-brown hair away from her face. Her deep, hazel eyes were hard to miss. What a lucky Moroccan to get to spiral into those pools of honey, I thought, my eyes swiftly darting at Hamid and back again. They met in the unlikeliest of places that sired hope for a wedding �" a laundromat. “I tried calling you yesterday, but I didn’t get through.”

I kept sporadically making funny faces at their beautiful child, all the while glancing at and absorbing Leena, and twirling with my fleeting internal musings �" “My phone has been acting up lately. It is not the only thing that seems to be!”

“What do you mean?”

“I ended up at a candy store today. Me in a candy store? How often does that happen!?”

“Like never!”, Leena snickered. “What were you thinking? Wait, did you say candy? Where IS this place?”

“Oh, he has had enough sweets for the day,” I heard Hamid chime in. He only spoke when it deemed necessary, I noticed, over the period I had known them.

“Whoever said it’s for this little guy? I am craving some sugar, and certainly not your kind!”, I heard her express, poking her beloved, all lit up for the whereabouts.

She is still the same. It felt like I was seeing her after such a long time. I could feel her there, with her tropical mist still tangoing the chasm between us, yet it felt like I was looking at all of them through a glass. Perhaps, I just need to catch up on some sleep, I thought.

“Yoo hoo!”, alerted Leena, snapping her perfectly manicured fingers a few inches from my face. “You drifted there for a second.”

“Right, sorry. It feels like it has been a long day. The store �" I don’t know how I got there, but I can tell you where it is,” turning around, pointing, “Just head up East, two blocks past that little café you like, and it is right at the bend. You can’t not see it. There are a bunch of kids around going crazy on all shades of balloons!”, I said, chuckling.

“Sweeeet. Thanks!”, I felt her tender hand warmly squeeze my arm. I never quite fancied anyone touching me, unless I desired so, but hers I could pray for. “How’s dinner this week?”

“Sounds unavoidable!”, I expressed with wide eyes, as we all laughed. “Just give me a call. You will get through. They always do.”

Leena appeared a little confused, but her excitement landed the throne as we all hugged good bye.

“See you! And see you, sunshine!”, tousling his golden-brown curls, I could feel the boy’s piercingly jade eyes on me, with an assuring smile as we parted.

I turned right, heading down Pleasant Street, with a sense of attainment �" passing Surreal Shore with its lifeless mannequins �" felicitous as this town was, it was rather quaint; with no coast in sight, yet pompously sporting beach wear, it was scrupulously dwelling with Walter Mitty characters �"

The jutting attic finally slipped into view, placating the thought of home at the end of the road �"

As I felt a mischievous smile tickle my face.

“I am sure we are at the right place. Two blocks from ‘Prises and by the corner!”, a surprised Leena told Hamid.

“It’s a dead-end from here. Didn’t she say there were a bunch of children?”, Hamid asked, scoping around. “That’s strange!”

“May be there was a turn we missed. Oh well. This area is�"“, caught mid-sentence, Leena walked up to the washed out red balloon fighting to break loose off of the electric pole, the letters H-A-H-A huggingly felt-tipped, she read under her breath, as something crunched beneath her sneakers. Worn out candy wrappers. A pile of them.

As she followed the trail, she noticed an old, rundown build that read, “Jenna’s Confections Co” on the upthrusted tattered signage.

“Odd. There is a store here, like she said. It seems shut down for over a decade, though!”, cried out Leena, raising an eyebrow over to Hamid, mildly sulking at the thought of no sugary munch.

“This little man is fussing. We should head back. We will ask her about it.”

“She never misses an address!”, catching sight of an old man out of the corner of her eye seated in solitary, that she didn’t take deep eye of prior, with a papier-mâché box cut-out held up �"

“CONFESS, OR EAT YOUR LIES!!”, as Hamid followed his wife’s curious gaze.

Suddenly, they realised they were standing in the middle of a desolate ground, with only this very queer man by the far-end bush and an eerie stillness enveloping the air, that now gave Leena the creepers.

“Yeah. We better make a move!”

�"�"�"�"�"�"�"�"�"�"�"�"�"�"�"�"�"�"�"

TO BE CONTINUED...

�"�"�"�"�"�"�"�"�"�"�"�"�"�"�"�"�"�"�"

© 2020 Zai Hameer


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Added on September 16, 2020
Last Updated on September 16, 2020
Tags: writing, shortstory, mystery

Author

Zai Hameer
Zai Hameer

Tanzania