Ananya clambered out of the car and helped Akshay out. I slammed the door shut.
“Kayfe Coffee Day” Ananya read aloud.
“It’s cafe – not kayfe” I snapped. She fell silent.
“Look here –“ I told them, “ I am meeting someone. Someone important. So you two behave yourselves, okay? Just sit quietly and don’t make a fuss.”
Ananya nodded vigorously, her eyes straying. I strode off to find a seat.
Behind me, I could hear her whispering to Akshay, pointing out the Christmas decorations and the hanging lights. I lead the way to a cosy nook that could seat five people. Akshay climbed onto the cane couch with difficulty, his thumb stuck firmly in his mouth.
“Don’t suck your thumb! You are nearly six!” I snapped. He looked at me wide-eyed, without moving his thumb. I ignored them while I fixed my hair. But through the corner of my eye, I could see Ananya examining the plump cushions delightedly, bouncing up and down gently.
“Akka, is this a five star hotel?” she asked.
“This?” I scoffed, “No… this is just a cafe.”
“Ca-fe” she repeated carefully.
Shyam joined us 15 minutes later and looked quizzically at the kids.
“My cousins from Bellary….” I muttered, “Amma insisted that I take them out.”
“What do you guys want?” I asked, passing over a menu.
Ananya pored over the menu, her eyes growing rounder.
“185 rupees for coffee…”
I flushed with embarrassment as Shyam raised an eyebrow.
“Don’t look at the price… here, let me order for you…” I snatched the menu back.
Shyam and I tried to talk, but I was conscious of them the entire time – how Akshay spilt his Cafe Frappe all over his lap while reaching towards the too-low table. How Ananya got her hand stuck inside her glass while trying to fish out the ice cubes at the bottom. How they surreptitiously wiped their sticky hands on the cream leather couch. How they filled their pockets with paper napkins to take home…
The evening was ruined.