As narrated by Arshad:
We made our way back into the garden with smiles across our faces. I put my arm around Nemo’s neck and yanked him hard.
Me: that was a top one bro!
And I thought of Nemo’s words to Zainab’s father
Nemo: the thing that we want is more beneficial to you than us..
Zainab’s father: (raised eyebrows) what is it?
Nemo: this guy is madly in love with your daughter (pointing at me and I’m sure I had turned all shades of pink!) You will never find anyone like him even if you travel the entire world…err..trust me on this one (laughing to himself) he spent R15,000 on a hot air balloon ride with all the frills just to surprise her…okay he’s a little nerdy but he has a heart of gold…please say yes?
Zainab’s father: (laughing and walking over to me) Arshad, is this true?
I was so nervous that all I managed was a nod..
Zainab’s father: well then I want to meet your parents!
We were over the moon to say the least!
Me: thank you bro
Nemo: you should thank that Aadil, he made the job much easier…Reez I need to know where exactly is his home and whether they’ve moved back to Jhb
Nemo: if he says he’s changed and he means it then he’s gone for good but if that was a lie boet…he will be back
Zoheb: maybe we can talk to Immy…get a restraining order against him just to be safe
Riza: we probably should
Zoheb: I’ll give him a call now(excusing himself)
The girls turned to look at us as we approached the table. They were unusually quiet.
Riza: Zainab…good news for you…your dad wants to meet Arshad’s parents, he’s agreed for your marriage
Zainab: really??? Really reallly????
I smiled at her as she jumped into my arms and I spun her around and kissed her on her forehead.
Me: yes really really really…thanks to Nemo
Zainab: (hugging Nemo) thank you…for this and also for saving me from a relationship with Aadil
Nemo: (hugging Zai back) its my duty Zai…
Nemo: you ok sweetheart? (Putting his arm around Aara)
Aara: I guess
Nemo: want to talk about it?
Nemo: (raised eyebrow)Aara?
Aara: seriously…I’m fine I didn’t think I’d ever see him again but I’m ok
As narrated by Zoheb:
When I took my phone out to call Immy, I saw Aara’s message
“Now you see why I told you that there’s things that you don’t know and that you should know”
Oh Aara..why don’t you see it?
I made my way back to the garden…everyone seemed a bit more relaxed. Nemo and Aara were sitting next to each other and Nemo had his arm around her…and was talking very softly to her.
His words rung like alarm bells in my head ” you tried to touch MY Aara…you tried to touch MY Aara” Shoot me, I’m only human. I wanted to comfort her or just be next to her but I couldn’t. Nobody knew that we were together anyway. I sat down silently across her.
Laeeka: are there any more secrets that we don’t know about? Because I’m finding it very hard to accept that my best friend went through so much and I didn’t know a thing!
Laeeka: no Aara…I’m not mad at you..I’m hurt
You didn’t tell me anything…you didn’t tell ME anything!
Riza: babe please
Laeeka: (ignoring Reez) so I’m asking all of you again…any more secrets?
And the glances that shot from Riza to Aara, Arshad to Nemo…answered that question. Laeeka had her head down so she didn’t notice it. Mari was another story on her own because ever since Aadil showed up her face just didn’t look the same…
Nemo: some secrets are better left buried Laeeks…
Laeeka: so they can surprise us like this??
Riza: Laeeka please!
Aara: I’m sorry Reez…
Riza: for what Aaroo?
Aara: for everything…Laeeka..I’m sorry (her eyes pleading)
Laeeka didn’t answer Aara…
Aara stood up and walked towards me
Aara:(fighting back the tears in her eyes) can we go now please?
Me: (standing up) sure
She didn’t greet anyone or say anything, she just walked silently next to me.
Me: (once we got into my car) it doesn’t change anything Aara…everything is still the same
But she looked down and kept quiet.
I drove silently all the way to her flat.
Aara: I want to show you something
And she walked back from her room with a book in her hand.
Aara: this is my diary…I’ve never shown it to anyone before. I want you to read it and then decide because I don’t want anything from my past to raise its head and shock you
Me: Aara please..
Aara:(tears streaming down her face) no Zoheb…this is who I am, this is why I was afraid to take a chance, this is why I am better off alone..
I took her diary and turned to a new page…..and I wrote todays date and…”I love you Aara,more than you know…nothing in these pages will ever change that…I don’t need to read this to make a decision, you need to read this to make a decision…I will always be yours…Zoheb”
I closed her diary and handed it back to her…touched her face and kissed her on her forehead.
Me: (whispering) no pressure okay…
And Aara hugged me!
Aara: Zoheb…seeing him again was just…reliving my worst nightmare
Me: (engulfing her in my arms and stroking her hair)it’s okay…
Aara: (sobbing and holding onto me) everytime I try to take a step forward…something happens…I’m so tired I’m just so tired…
Me: (hugging her tighter as tears fell out of my eyes) let it out…just let it all out…you will feel better
Aara didn’t reply initially…but I could feel her breathing ease a little.
Aara: Laeeka was in hospital…that’s why I didn’t tell her anything…and Reez…Reez was torn inside yet he still helped me…it’s not like Aadil and I had a “thing” going…it was campus we were younger and immature and we had a class together. We gradually became somewhat friends and would study together sometimes in a group….and that night…that night he called me
Aadil: hey Aara what are you upto?
Me: nothing much, just finishing off my assignment
Aadil: work work and work…woman you need a life!
Me: (laughing) I take it you aren’t busy with your assignment?
Aadil: nooooo…I need a break..want to meet up for coffee?
Me: (looking at my watch) ermm sure okay, where about?
Aadil: we’ll think about it on the way, I’ll fetch you in a few minutes
Me: no its fine, I have a car I’ll meet you
Aadil: really its okay let me fetch you
Me: really its okay,I’ll meet you
After a regular coffee between two study pals and a lot of campus chit chat, we decided to go for a walk. The place was packed it wasn’t as though it was isolated but we ended up walking further and further away until there was no one in sight. I remember feeling in my jacket pocket for Sahal’s knife…
Me: I think we should turn around now
Aadil: nah let’s sit we’ll go back just now
And so we sat down on these rocks and the topic went on to school days. It seemed harmless, just regular banter I guess…until…Aadil put his arm around me
Me: (shrugging his arm away)what are you doing?
Aadil: I really like you Aara…
Me: thank you, but…don’t do that again ok
Aadil:(a sinister smirk draping itself on his face) ohhh but it’s okay for Nemo to hold you and hug you?
Me: Aadil…Nemo is my best friend..I don’t even know you well enough to put you anywhere close to him (and I stood up)
Aadil: does Nemo feel the same way about you?
Me: what are you talking about?
Aadil: its obvious isn’t it…(The look on his face changing)poor little Aara running behind hotshot Nemo who by the way doesn’t give a damn!
A chill ran up my spine…
Aadil: actually(walking around me)come to think of it…I don’t really like you…I mean sure you’re hot but the only reason I befriended you is because….(Laughing to himself)behind his don’t care a damn exterior… you’re his weakness aren’t you?
I backed up..
Aadil: (kicking a stone) do you know Amreen Vawda? Ofcourse you know her…Nemo’s last “chick”
Me: what does this have to do with me?
Aadil: everything! Amreen was the one girl who I really loved but she..like every other girl was in love with…guess who..NEMO! And Nemo the king of bullshit broke her heart and Amreen left…she left everything including me!
Me: Aadil this is so pathetic…I mean really…
Aadil: (getting angry) you think that’s pathetic? I’ll show you “pathetic” Aara! And I’ll turn your Nemo into “pathetic” also!!
Me:(anger,panic and disbelief flooding into my body) if Amreen really loved you don’t you think she would have chosen you!!
Aadil: Shut the F*** up!
Me:(telling myself to get out of this now) I’m going to forget this happened…sort your shit out, because if Nemo finds out what you did he WILL murder you!
I started walking away when Aadil grabbed my hand and yanked me towards him…
Aadil: (laughing) your Nemo won’t save you tonight!! I’ve taken pretty good care of that!!
Me: (screaming) let me go!!!
I could feel his breath on my face as he twisted my arm behind me. I tried to free myself…and slapped him hard across his face. But instead of taking him by shock he had only gotten angrier and grabbed me by my hair..and scratched my face while doing that.
He pushed me to the ground and tried to pin me down with his hands…
I booted him with every ounce of energy that I had in me and woke up quickly… but..this …this animal had no mercy as he kicked me in my ribs so hard that I went crashing into the rocks. I feared the worst…it was as though I could see my life flashing infront of me…and as I lifted my head and saw Aadil take off his jacket and starting to unbutton his jeans…I realised then that it was now or never. All I said over and over in my head was O Allah please help me O Allah please help me and Zoheb I charged at him with all my might and knocked him onto the ground and I ran…I ran as fast as my legs could carry me…I couldn’t go back to my car and I couldn’t go back to where we had coffee because…I was a mess…my jacket was ripped at the back, I couldn’t let people see me like this.. I dialed Nemo
But before I could even say anything…
Nemo:sweetheart..I’m kinda busy..call you back in a few ”
And he hung up on me. The only other person I knew I could trust was Riza…and he came.
I had two broken ribs, a scratched face and a mild concussion and a bleeding nose…the outer scars disappeared with time but the wounds inside didn’t even get a chance to heal properly…
I didn’t blame Nemo at all…Aadil was twisted and his reasons were…not justifiable not in the least
And seeing him today…it was as though…I could see the whole incident infront of me all over again…
Laeeka: (standing at the door with tears in her eyes) I’m sorry Aara…I’m so sorry
And she ran to Aara and hugged her. And the two of them cried as Riza(who had also been standing at the door all this while) and I wiped away our own tears and smiled at them.
Laeeka: I should never have snapped at you (wiping Aara’s tears) you’re my sister and I hurt you..
Aara wiped Laeeka’s tears and they hugged each other again….
As narrated by Riza:
Laeeka cried all the way from Zainab’s house to Aara’s flat as I told her what went down with Aadil and Aara a few years back.
I didn’t regret the thrashing that we gave him. That was mild. It should have been much worse.
We had just reached Aara’s door when we overheard her talking to Zoheb and when I peeped in, she was sobbing in his arms and telling him about what had happened with Aadil that night.
My heart really broke for her…sometimes strangers come into your life unannounced and make themselves a place in your heart. Aara and I were not related by any family but she was my sister and I always considered myself lucky to have that relationship with her. She truly is one of those rare people that very few have the opportunity of knowing. Aara always thanks me for being there for her…but she doesn’t know that I draw my strength from her, …I didn’t know that a person was capable of being so strong and so forgiving until I watched Aara become Nemo’s strength, and I had watched her cry, I watched her laugh, I watched her sacrifice and I watched her silence…I watched life knock her down and I watched Aara pick herself up….
And I watched her now with Zoheb…and I couldn’t help but think at that moment that maybe my dua was answered…maybe…