Ziyaad was the perfect guide. He definitely knew his way around these parts. I’m not much of a hiking person but just being out here made me feel so relaxed. Zee and Mari chatted away ahead of us while Aara, Immy and I walked in silence until…
Aara poked me and motioned for me to look at Immy. I grinned as I looked at Immy’s sullen face…he was clearly not very happy about Mari “ignoring” him and talking to Zee non stop.
Me: and now?
Me: (eyeing Mari and Zee) that!
Immy: don’t ask
Aara:(grinning) it’s that bad Nemo
Me: why don’t you just tell her?
Immy: it’s not so easy
Aara: (laughing) he’s not denying it either!
Immy: sure sure laugh…how about some help?
Aara: with her…no ways
Aara: what? Any other girl Immy and I would do it with my eyes closed but not for Mari
Immy: (probing on) that’s the tip of your tongue talking, not your heart and you know it
Me: yeah and since it seems to be the season of love you might as well help the man
Immy: season of love?
Me: (looking at Aara) does he know?
Aara: officially, no
Me: Aara and Zoheb are a “thing”
Immy: (laughing to himself) they aren’t a “thing”…they are made for each other…they are a couple and that’s old news..even a blind man could see the sparks between them
Me: I guess I was blinder than blind then
Aara: no you’re not…leave it out now
Me: (my heart was really just waiting to burst) so that brings us back to Immy and Maariah..
Immy: no rush relax…Zee will be out of the way soon enough 😉
Aara: (busting) out of the way??? Are you for real?? I hate to break it to you Immy but he’s coming with us to Durban!
Immy: oh come on why????
Aara: (holding her tummy and laughing) because that’s where he lives!!
Immy frowned and didn’t say anything else. I had no idea that he liked Mari in “that” way. So Riza and Laeeka, Zainab and Arshad, Immy and Mari and…Aara and Zoheb..leaving me alone. It’s not as though I didn’t pick up the vibes…I chose to ignore them. I didn’t think that she was serious. But hearing it from her mouth…and I drifted off to last nights conversation in the garden..
I was on the edge ever since she said that she was scared of losing “Siddharth” but once again, I dismissed that as one of Aara’s antics because of the prank she pulled shortly after that.
Me: so what did you want to tell me sweetheart?
Aara: (nervous and jumpy) remember that we said we would tell each other first if ever…you know…
My heart was literally hanging on a thread…did I possibly have even a shred of hope?
Aara: Nemo…I think…I think…I’m in love…
This was the moment of truth…a few seconds could change my life forever…
Me: I also wanted to tell you..
Aara: (cutting me off) no wait me first..I’ve been rehearsing this for a while and I just need to say it
I looked at her…her face was pink..she had this glow about herself. Looking at her now, I wasn’t looking at my best friend Aara…I was looking at a beautiful young woman Aara…how did I ever turn a blind eye to her all these years?? She was right next to me all along…and I never noticed.
Me:(softly) so say it then..
Aara: (smiling and biting her lip) say it?
Me: (smiling back at her) say it
Aara: ok…(Taking in a deep breath)..Nemo…Naeem..Nemo..
Me:(grinning) yeaaah that’s my name…
Aara: wait stop it stop it..(Walking around me)
Me: what on earth are you doing?
Aara: (still fidgeting) I..I..
Me: (holding her shoulders) stand still and tell me already!
Aara: (in one fast sentence) I think I’m in love with Zoheb!
Me: (it didn’t hit me yet) you what???
Aara: I think I’m in love with Zoheb!
Me:(shocked) you think or you know?
Aara: I think I know..no…I know I know…(Covering her face with her hands)
Me: (snapping out of it) sorry what were you saying?
Zee: I said we are almost there..are you going to be climbing the chain ladder or not?
Me: I dunno…is it bad?
Zee: there’s nothing holding you bro you’re climbing up a ladder against the face of a cliff..its just 30 metres but if you fall you’re falling hard…if you’re afraid of heights then I suggest you don’t do it
Me: 30 metres is not bad I’ll climb
I looked behind me but Aara and Immy were no where in sight..
Me: where’s the other two?
Zee: (laughing) ahead of me…I came back for you because you just trailed off behind us for I don’t know how long…its almost 3 hours that we are hiking you do know that
Me: 3 hours already!
Zee: bro are you okay?
Me: yeah just a bit tired
Within a few minutes we joined everyone else…
Zee: so this is how its going to go down..we are now beneath the northern face of the Sentinel at 3165m! And the next on our list is the Chain Ladder climb after which we are going to hike for another half an hour were you guys are going to get a terrific view of the Tugela Gorge and the Tugela falls and you can explore the Mont Aux Source plateau. This (his hand in the air) makes up part of the famous Amphitheatre That’s where we are going to be camping tonight and then tomorrow morning, we will then head up to the top of Mont Aux Sources peak and we’ll end the day with the Gorge walk. Sounds good enough?
Zoheb: sounds very good
Zee: so who’s climbing up the ladder?
Laeeka: this thing looks so rickety! I’m going to walk thank you
Riza: come on babe its not that bad just don’t look down
Laeeka: and I suppose you’re climbing right?
Laeeka: good luck…I’m not breaking any bones I’ve got to get married in two months but I’ll gladly push you down the aisle in a wheelchair
Aara: (busting) I cannot believe that you said that!
Zai: I’ll join you on the walk Laeeks..I also don’t wanna be breaking any bones
Zai:(pulling Arshad’s cheeks) don’t feel left out I’ll also push you down the aisle in a wheelchair baby
Ebie: okay then I’ll walk with you…I’ve climbed this a few times already…rest of you are climbing right?
Everyone else: YESSS!!
As narrated by Zoheb:
Aara was standing next to me watching Riza, Arshad,Nemo,Mari and Zee tackle the chain ladder.
Me: (whispering to her) scared?
Aara: (looking at me) a little
Me: do you want to walk?
Me: let’s walk then
Aara: but you want to climb
Me: walking with you will be just as exhilarating:)
Aara: (smiling softly…and holding my hand) it’s okay we’ll climb
Aara: I mean…it’s a once in a lifetime thing to do and the others seem to be doing alright
Riza: (reaching the top) wooooooah super super cool!! Come on A what are you waiting for??
Arshad: (now reaching the top) I guess we don’t need those wheelchairs after all! (And he high fived Riza)
Mari and Zee reached and Nemo was almost there too.
Me: shall we?
Aara: ok..(She was trembling though)
Aara took her first step onto the ladder..and I climbed onto the one next to her
Aara: Ya Allah!
Me: just don’t look down…focus on the ladder baby
We were almost halfway up when Aara…looked down!
Aara: o my word!! We are so high up!!
Me: don’t look down keep going…you’re halfway there
Aara: I can’t I can’t I wanna come down!
Nemo: (shouting from the top) Aara are you okay?? I’m coming down!
Riza: (holding Nemo) bro from the top you’re not really going to be able to get her!
Aara started crying…and she clung to the ladder.
Aara: I want to come down..
Me: hold on tight…I’m coming
And I quickly climbed down the ladder that I was on. Luckily, I didn’t have a fear of heights…but I don’t blame her for being scared -we were really high up with nothing supporting us at all.
I started climbing the ladder that Aara was on until I reached her. I put my feet on the bars that her feet were on and kissed the tears that were on her cheek.
Me: we’re going to do this together okay
And we took a step together
Me: (trying to lighten up) don’t look down and panic…if I fall then no more Siddhart
Aara: (laughing through her tears) don’t say that
I engaged her in conversation as we took another and then another step upwards..
And another step
Me: because what..
Aara: because I’ve gotten too used to having you around
Me: aww that’s all?
And another step
Aara: because I can’t live without seeing your dimples…
Me: breaking my heart baby…that’s all?
And another step and we were almost at the top..
Me: because…you love yugoslavia?
Aara: (smiling) no
Three steps more and we were done..
Me: (whispering) then?
Aara: because…I love you
My heart skipped a beat…she just said it!
Me: guslavia..right I get it..you’re going to get me again
Aara: no..I love you. fullstop
Me: my ears are a bit blocked…come again?
Two steps to go…
Aara: I love you Zoheb
If we weren’t climbing up the face of a cliff I would have carried her and spun her around
Me: can’t hear you Applepie…
And we were at the top…
Aara: I love you!
And she reached the top as I took my final step and stood beside her, pulling my beanie off
Me: were you saying something because I think my ears are blocked because of the altitude (rubbing my ears)
Aara: (screaming) I said I love you Zoheb!!!
And that did it…everyone fell silent and stared at us..shocked! Aara, realising what she had done-covered her mouth with her hands as she stood there completely stunned.
Me: (smiling a full dimpled smile at her) I love you too
And I engulfed her in a tight hug while everyone now whistled and cheered and clapped- even complete strangers who had made the climb as well!
I honestly felt on top of the world…Aara in my arms…and madly in love with her.