Calm Before The Storm


The featured image has been Googled and has no bearing to the story  apart from being a pencil.

*****

Raza could see Zoe was about to snap. He had known her for a mere months but he thought he could read her well. She had become a friend in this new place.
Zoe was not a person who was comfortable talking about her personal life and thus most of her remained a mystery. Like in that instant, Raza knew something was bothering her but he had no idea what. What he did know with a certain certainty was that the woman was at the end of the tether.
It was the lunch hour and all of them at work were standing around the waist high file cupboards that they used as a sort of table for lunch and snacks. The only thing different was the addition of a couple of men who were clients. They had come in as he and his co workers had started eating. Out of courtesy, they have asked the 3 men to join in. One of them, Farhan, was looking at Zoe when he thought no one was looking.
Raza thought everyone noticed it. Everyone but Zoe who was making a conscious effort of not looking at the man. Every time Farhan said something, Zoe would ignore while pretending she had not heard what was being said,
Something was definitely wrong.
“That’s my phone.” Zoe said as a phone started ringing. Excusing herself, she went back to her seat to get the mobile phone she had left there to eat in peace.
“Raza, that is my cold drink you’re sipping at.” She stated with a sigh as she took her place between Raza and Farhan. Putting her phone besides her plate, she started eating again. She had a sharpened pencil in her other hand. Strange, again. What did she need a pencil for at lunch, wondered Raza.
“Will you stop pretending you do not know me, Zoe?” Farhan said in the lull that had occurred in the conversation. The resultant hush was short lived.
“I do not know you Mr Sidiki.” She was calm.
“I made a mistake, I accept. I apologise.” Farhan looked a little agitated at having to hash whatever it was in front of an audience.
No one else uttered a word. Raza was sure that like him, no one else knew that these two knew each other.
“As I said, I do not know you. What you do or not do is none of my concern.” The calm was complete. Just like the calm before a storm.
Farhan snorted, “This coming from the woman who said she’d kill me if I stepped a toe out of line.”
Zoe finally turned to look at the man provoking her. Raza could tell the fury in her was about to be unleashed. But not he, or anyone for that matter, could have predicted what happened next. Or how matter could have gone to hell.
“You’re right Farhan.”Zoe started with a calculated deliberation as she played with the pencil she held in her right hand. “What you did, devastated me. You must suffer equally.”
Raza could see Farhan’s body going still, as if expecting a lethal verbal volley. His next words a harsh and loud whisper.
“You will cheat on me?” The words sounded to have been released from him without his will.
“You see,” the smile on her face was so cold, it even gave Raza a pause. It was not a Zoe smile.
“There is no more an ‘us’.” The cold smile in place she paused for effect. “I can’t cheat on someone I am not in a relationship with.”
The exhalation of breath seemed to have left Farhan depleted of the fight. What sort of a man was he, anyway?
“Don’t despair though,” It seems now that she had given free reign to her fury, there was no stopping her. “You get this instead.”
With a force that her small frame should not have been capable of, her right hand slashed the air as the pointed end of her pencil found itself about to tear open the jugular of the man. The place would have been blood spattered if not Raza’s equally instant reflexes. Holding on to Zoe’s hand, he shouted to the other man who stood shocked, “GET THE HELL AWAY FROM HERE!”
“I can’t.” Farhan whispered even as he started walking backwards towards the door. “I am so sorry.”
With the door closing after the man, the fight went out of Zoe but she held her own.
Taking a few deep breaths, she asked to be released. Once done, she went to her seat and started working as if nothing had happened. As if she hadn’t almost killed a man.
All of them kept on staring at her.
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