Reposting this with some changes. Removed the old one.
Prateek fumbled for his cell phone, and finally managed to pull it out of his pocket. As he spoke into it, the waitress came by to pick up his empty plates. She smiled at him, and he smiled back, his eyes following her as she turned and walked away with just the right amount of sway in her hips. His voice was into the microphone of his cell phone, but his mind had long since left the conversation. It was now hovering around the waitress. There was something so familiar about her. It was near impossible that he'd even known her personally, but...his thought hung.
Mukti. Ah, yes, that's what she'd told her name was when she came in to take his order earlier. He had nothing against names, but he thought the name was a bit morbid. Just like the soul that waited to reach its final destination, her name hung in the air, waiting to get 'Mukti' from its own self. Prateek felt stupid at his own little joke.
He also normally didn't fancy stepping into a pizza parlor for supper, but there was no other eatery in the vicinity. The Americans knew their market well, and bang in the middle of (almost)nowhere, where inter-state lorries and cars whooshed by on the four-lane tarmac, was this lone pizza parlor, indeed looking like a beacon from a light-house. He'd spotted it from afar and decided to stop by, his stomach growling in protest. But now it was silent, while the mind wandered around Mukti, much like his six year old nephew, who absolutely had to go wandering around a restaurant after a meal.
He signed on the counter slip and their eyes met for a fleeting second again. He had the pen and the counter slip in his hand. She stood patiently waiting.
"Oh..oh I'm sorry. Here you go," he smiled, feeling stupid again.
"It's ok, sir. Hope you enjoyed your meal," she replied.
"Of course, of course," he rubbed his palm over his tummy. "sumptous," and chuckled.
"Thank you sir," she said and turned to leave.
"Uh, excuse me..."
"Yes sir?" She turned back.
"Do I know you from some place?"
All those gruelling training sessions on 'be patient with a customer, no matter how weird he or she behaves, service with a smile', and all that jazz, came in handy now. She had a straight face. Not for long though, it broke into a smile but not without a question mark curving her brow.
"Me sir? I don't know..I don't think so. I..." For once, her perfectly intonated almost-answering-machine-perfect voice quivered and she hesitated.
"Oh, it's ok. It's perfectly ok. It's just that..you have a very familiar face," he said smiling.
"Maybe, sir," she smiled back and left.
He hung around for a few minutes, looked back at the restaurant, let out a long sigh and drove out to the highway.
A month later. Prateek shut his laptop and rubbed his eyes, a loud yawn escaping his lips. There. That was done. The final version of the script for his movie was ready. He had to reach it to his child hood friend and director, Yogesh Viraj, the next day. This was a dream come true for him. In a way for Yogesh too. Yogesh was a couple of movies old, and he'd promised Prateek a break once he'd established himself.
He walked into Yogesh's office and they went over the script again, one last time. The next job was to make copies and hand those over to the actors.
"Yaar Yogesh, something's eating me the last couple of months. Ever since we completed casting etc. Tell me something, is Merilyn really our Disha?"
"What's this? All of a sudden. We hit the floors Monday, pal." Yogesh gawked.
"I know, I know..and..I also know Merilyn was the best among the lot, but..it's just that, our Disha is someone else. Someone..someone.." he left it hanging, his mind wandering back to the drive he had on the highway that night. He then shook his head.
Yogesh walked over to him and patted his shoulder. "Chill, writer saab. This is it. Don't think a lot. Merilyn will deliver the goods. She's excellent, man. Didn't you see her in that anger scene we screened her for?"
Prateek nodded. They'd screened close to a hundred and fifty girls and guys for the movie. It took a team of more than 10 to finally arrive at the lead actors. Both of them knew the trouble they took to get the perfect cast.
Yogesh was done with his meal and he rose. Then he stopped to remark, "Of course, there was this girl too who came a close second. Actually, I even thought she was better than Merilyn. I'd wanted to tell you that day itself. You left early because your sister had sprained her ankle, and your dear bro-in-law wasn't in town. Remember?"
"Hmm, yeah. So, what about that girl, why didn't we choose her instead?"
"Arre, our man friday Amol lost her number. And she'd not left any other information, address etc."
"Yeah, interesting name she had though. I remembered, because one of my aunts has the same name."
"Mukti." Yogesh replied, bringing a wide grin on Prateek's face.
"Apparently she works in a Pizza joint or something, but how do we...what?" Yogesh said chuckling at Prateek who was now laughing, shaking his head.
"Nothing," Prateek replied, laughing a little louder, holding his head. Ah, Disha. No wonder he felt it when he first saw her.
He patted a puzzled Yogesh's cheek, grabbed his car keys and rushed out.