As narrated by Aara:
“I know this place”, I said to myself as I lingered further into this bright meadow. I know that I had been here before, many years ago, in my dreams. I was one of those people who had vivid dreams and there were many times in my life when I had the same dream a few times, or had been to the same place in my dreams with different scenarios. I also knew that I had a hyperactive imagination, but sometimes, some things are better left unexplained.
After Zoheb had passed away, I had often visited this place in my dreams. I had often sat with him on this soft green grass, often rested my head on his strong shoulders, and I spoke to him for what seemed like hours on end. I accredited this to my longing for him, I would replay different scenarios with him in my head, relive memories and pretend that everything was okay during the day. So naturally, my mind would contort the events of the day into a dream at night. That would be the logical explanation. And that was fine with me. It meant that I had something to hold onto and when night would pass without a dream, the next day would be miserable. I would pray earnestly to travel to those daffodil filled meadows again, to speak to him again, to be with him again. But the mind is a strange thing, I would sometimes end up dreaming of the darndest things!
But it would happen, suddenly, out of the blue, once every few days, sometimes weeks, sometimes months and it would fill me with so much of happiness. It’s been years since I’ve been here though. The last time was a few days before Nemo and I got married, and then it was such a strange dream. He was standing with a bunch of yellow daffodils in his hand and a bunch of pink roses. And when I had reached out for the daffodils, he handed me the roses instead, with the biggest, most endearing dimpled smile on his face.
I walked on, barefoot, my long green dress sweeping up tiny speckles of glitter from the ground. It was beautiful. Tall trees lined a massive meadow of yellow daffodils that seemed to sparkle under the sunlight. And with every flutter of the wind, glitter seemed to lift off the ground, spin themselves off the petals of those daffodils, it was a sight hard to explain, because words wouldn’t be able to do justice to it.
The sound of gentle laughter could be heard in the wind, drawing me towards it… towards the source of it. And I eagerly rushed in that direction…
Hana…My darling Hana dressed in a pretty blue dress with a sparkling diamond headband on her jet black hair had her hand in Zoheb’s while he playfully twirled her around in circles around him. And in his other hand, he carried a baby who seemed to be a few months old, dressed identically to Hana, and she giggled gleefully with every twirl and swish! And as he moved, glitter rose from the ground in small soft circles around them. The sight itself…was beyond enchanting.
Zoheb smiled at the children and blew them kisses in the air and it seemed as though they were oblivious to me standing right there watching them until he lifted his eyes and smiled at me..
I opened my mouth to say something but no words would come out…
” Tell Naeem… Yusra’s name is just perfect”
I frowned in confusion…who’s Yusra??
Zoheb chuckled softly and kissed the baby on her forehead…
“He knows” , he smiled, blinked his eyes at me and carried on playing with the children
And just as suddenly as I had gotten there, I started moving out in reverse until my eyes shot wide open in my bed. It took a few seconds for me to register my surroundings as I tried to sit up.
My room, mum’s house. That was a dream. A very vivid dream. Zoheb and Hana… Who was the baby? I peeped over into the crib right next to me and stared at my four day old daughter, my heart swelling with love with every passing second. She was so adorably perfect and so perfectly fast asleep.
” What are we going to call you”, I sighed, and touched her soft brown locks
With little difficulty, I changed out of my pyjamas into a long comfortable dress. My mother was going to have a fit! She would insist that I just go from pyjama to pyjama after every bath and I got it, I mean, I did give birth a few days ago but being permanently in pyjamas made me feel unnecessarily sleepy and cranky, so this change was quite welcoming.
“Zai I need a favor please”, I said into my phone and in a few minutes Zainab and Maariah were upstairs in my room. “I won’t be long, she’s had her feed but if she wakes up phone me please and I’ll come back as fast as I can”
“There’s not too much of a walk for you Madam”, Mari grinned, ” we’ve all been there, we know who you were missing so we already asked him to wait in Sahal’s room for you”
“Well played”, I grinned, as my cheeks turned pink in agreement, “I’l be right back”
And so I made my way down the passage, slowly and carefully, unable to fully understand why I suddenly felt nervous and excited. The truth be told, the only time that I was alone with Nemo since the baby was born was when I was fast asleep and he sat at my bedside! It was a weird feeling, but a good kind of weird.
“Are you okay?”
I looked up at Nemo, and at the lines of worry that stretched across his forehead.
“I’m okay”, I smiled, “I just wanted to see you”
And like a teenager, I blushed and looked down and then up at him again. He reciprocated with an endearing smile and pulled me in for a hug, careful not to squish and squash but just enough for me to feel his heart thudding against his chest.
“What’s wrong?”, I frowned, “your heart feels as though it’s going to jump right out at me”
At this, he chuckled and planted a kiss on my forehead, ” Haven’t hugged you like this in days sweetheart”
I leaned back in and rested my head against his chest..” Have you thought of a name for baby yet?”
I felt his muscles tense up slightly and I held onto his arms a little harder..”what’s wrong Nemo?”, I asked again
“Nothing”, he said, kissing the top of my head now, “and baby’s name is entirely up to you, you’ve carried her, went through all the aches and pains and even ate paaya for her, so it’s your right babe not mine”
I sighed into his blue t-shirt and decided to test the waters…” Yusra”
At the mere mention of that name, he stiffened again and then started laughing. ” Riza can’t keep anything in his stomach!”
“Who said that Riza told me?” I said, raising an eyebrow at him playfully, ” who else did you tell besides me?”
Nemo seemed to have drifted off into an old memory for a few seconds and then a big beautiful smile replaced the previous look on his face” Once, long ago, when us guys were talking, I think it was when Zainab and Maariah were expecting their first kids, before I moved to Detroit, and the topic of baby names had come up”
“You mean guys also discuss baby names??”
“Don’t be so shocked”, he laughed, ” we probably discuss much more than you ladies do”
” So as I was saying”, he continued, “Arshad was so convinced that he was going to have a daughter so he was busy searching for names ,so basically everyone started giving their personal input. I can’t remember what the others were but the day that Hana was born and Zoheb sent me her picture, I knew that she would be “Hana” before you guys officially named her….that was Zoheb’s choice that day”
“And yours was Yusra…”
Nemo shrugged. ” I guess I felt that if I had to have a daughter, Yusra would be perfect because Yusra means ease and it would be an ultimate life changer, a reward. But from the day that Hana came into my life, I already have that reward, she was my life changer, my peace , my ease… Everything else is just the cherry on the top”
I could hear my heart say awwww and I hugged him again..
“So Yusra is our *ease” then isn’t she”, I smiled
Nemo looked at me for a few seconds and I knew, I just knew that something was bothering him and he wasn’t saying it, so I wrapped my fingers around his and silently asked him to tell me…
“I feel like I’m living a borrowed life”, he said finally, ” I have no right to this much happiness after all the shit I’ve done, I feel like it’s going to burst any moment now and I’m going to wake up in that awful room in my father’s house and realize that I’m having the longest bloody dream ever”
I gasped in shock!!
” I feel like I’m going to wake up and you’re going to be gone, I feel like I’m going to turn in my sleep and wake up to an empty bed… I feel like I’m going to wake up realizing that I’ve only dreamed of touching you and feeling your heartbeat against mine”
I closed my eyes as tears fell from his…
” I feel like my Hana won’t call me Papa anymore and this new little angel is a figment of my imagination..I’m so afraid Aara, I’m so afraid that everything is just going to end”
“After 5 years too?”
“We both know how the first two years of our marriage was”, he whispered as he held my hand and looked down, “I know that if you had a physical choice, if things were different, I wouldn’t be standing here and it’s okay, it’s really okay I have no problem being second best but sometimes I think and I probably have no right to think it that…”
“That if I had a choice again, would I choose you?”, I asked, completing his sentence. I knew what this was..it was not insecurity nor was it jealousy. Nemo didn’t know how to handle this much happiness, not as a child, not as he grew, even after we had gotten married he had tried to make everything so perfect that it nearly broke us.
Nemo’s eyes filled with guilt and he looked down and gulped hard.
“No…”, He whispered
“I chose you”, I whispered back, ” and if I had to choose today, after everything then…”
He looked at me expectantly and I smiled as tears fell from my eyes and while raising my hand to his face, I noticed a tiny speck of glitter on my index finger, my smile broadened and my tears fell harder…
“Zoheb was a beautiful page from my past. A page that was necessary and one that I can never and will never rip out. If it wasn’t for this page in my life, this story would have ended long ago and it would never have been what it is”
“I know and I can never imagine our lives without Zoheb having been a part of it… it’s something that I wouldn’t change either and I’m not upset or anything”, he pleaded, holding my hands tightly in his
“I love you…”, I whispered, “Allah Ta’ala has given us the ability to love many times, He has given our hearts the strength to open its doors more than one time, don’t you think that He would do justice with us when that day comes? And Allah knows Naeem Moolla, for the man that you have become, I would choose you a million times over and over and over again”
Nemo looked up at me in shock, as if he had just awoken from a trance!
I rubbed my nose against his and kissed his lips softly. “You are my happy place Naeem Moolla, until the day that I die and hopefully even after that”
Nemo engulfed me in the tightest of hugs until he realised that my insides were still quite sore and as payback he carried me back to the room where our baby lay fast asleep.
I was truly so lucky, so blessed, so at peace. Nemo and I had evolved in our marriage and relationship, and life was never quite the same again- it just got better and better.
Some things are best left unknown, and some things just cannot be explained, for He knows, and He sees and He is the greatest of planners, the Giver of Life, the Creator of Love, the Master of Destiny- Allah the most High, Most Merciful.
From what we were to what we became, is proof that there surely is hope, there surely is a chance. Never give up, ever, because that turning point could be right around the next corner….