As narrated by Aara:
Everything in life does not go exactly the way in which we plan it to…and tonight was a perfect example of that. Everything happens for a reason and ultimately Allah is the best of planners.
I looked at Immy..now on both his knees, holding the ring in his hand.
Rejection. I knew that feeling all too well.
Everyone stood where they were standing…in shock…no one moved. For a change, even Ziyaad was silent.
Laeeka stepped up and started to walk down the pathway, presumably to talk to Maariah when Immy finally spoke…
Immy: Laeeka no
Laeeka: but Immy..
Immy: (shaking his head) I don’t want to pressurise her…don’t go after her
Riza: Immy…I’m so sorry
Immy: if you guys don’t mind, I’d like to be alone for a while please
Riza walked over to Immy and placed his hand reassuringly on his shoulder, stood there for a few seconds and walked away. No words right now, would be right enough for Immy…
We walked away silently and when we were out of Immy’s sight everyone expressed their thoughts verbally.
Arshad: I cannot believe it! I mean fine I know that they weren’t together but…no man not this!
Laeeka: I can’t understand…I feel so horrible for Immy! Why is Maariah holding back like this? This is not her at all!
Ziyaad: there has to be a reason we all don’t know…anyway I’ll see you all tomorrow. If there’s anything that I can do…I’m just a phonecall away
And with that, Ziyaad and Ebie left. Sahal,Riza and Arshad went off to their rooms leaving the rest of us behind.
Me: Zoheb walk with me?
And he held my hand without question and both of us walked towards the garden at the front, until we had reached the garden swing. This was where Zoheb had first opened up to me…the day on the beach, my family braai and those priceless moments thereafter.
With his arm around me, I rested my head on his chest. And we sat there in silence for over an hour. It’s true, sometimes you can have the best conversation with someone you love without saying a word. This was my second favourite place in the world, the first being my musallah.
I don’t think even Zoheb knew what he meant to me. I closed my eyes and listened to the sound of his heart beating as he held me close to him. Happiness, love, to be cared for, to care, to be so close to someone, to feel their heart beating close to yours…to be removed from the reality of this world and its harshness. To be enclosed in a world where you write your own story, where you live with reckless abandon, a world where there is no need for a single tear or no want for any forgiveness because in this world you cannot be hurt.
My heart was filled with gratitude to my Creator for giving me this small world that I could call my own, for helping me to realise what I needed to do and for making me understand that I needed to do it now…
When we had gotten back into the house, everyone was asleep. Zoheb kissed me on my forehead and we retreated to our rooms.
I stood in the darkness and looked at my three best friends asleep in my room. I got what I needed to and proceeded to wake Maariah up.
Me: (whispering) Maariah…Maariah…wake up
Mari: (she wasn’t sleeping) hmmm
Me: I need you to come with me
I unlocked the door to my balcony and waited for her.
Me: (sitting down) sit down
Maariah was silent. I could see that she had cried a lot…
Me: (taking out the pieces of paper from my pyjama pocket along with Riza’s lighter) regret…(Showing her the paper with “regret” written on it) burn it!
Maariah: ( looking at me with questions in her eyes) I don’t understand..
Me: (exhaling) a long time ago, you did things that you’re not proud of, you regret it and I know that…burn it Maariah
Mari burst out crying as she held the small piece of paper in her hand and then finally lit it…
I had a lump in my throat as I watched her…
Me: (handing her the third piece of paper) sadness….the place that you’re in right now..I can’t see you in this place Mari
She cried a little louder as she closed her eyes and clutched onto the piece of paper. By now, tears were streaming down my cheeks too…
Me: (whispering reassuringly) burn it…
And she did…
Me: (handing her the fourth piece of paper) hate…stop hating yourself Maariah…what’s done is done…but the good always outweighs the bad…if Allah can give us millions of second chances…then we are only human
Maariah sobbed and sobbed…and it broke my heart to see her like this…and she finally lit the piece of paper.
Mari: (choking on her tears) Aara I’m so sorry…I’m so so sorry Aara…
I didn’t hesitate to wipe her tears and hug her.
Me: I know…I forgive you Maariah…for everything…from the bottom of my heart and I mean it
Maariah didn’t try to compose herself, she was broken and I could see it.
She lit the last piece of paper and we watched it burn silently…
Nemo had climbed out of Sahal’s room window into my balcony.
Nemo: (wiping Mari’s tears) it’s over now okay
Mari: (breaking into sobs again) I’m so sorry Nemo…please forgive me I’m so sorry
Nemo: (stroking her head gently) shhhh…it’s okay Maariah…we love you…we forgive you and we still want you to be a part of our lives. Maybe if you hadn’t done what you did, I wouldn’t be here today. Aara would have never known until I was probably beyond salvaging. This is life, I am lucky to have both of you…please let it go…
Me: (wiping my tears) he’s right…let it go…
And I squeezed myself into a group hug with both of them resulting in an initial little bout of laughter from the three of us but then reduced us to tears. We held each other and cried our hearts out. This was it. It was finally over!
After what seemed like ages, we broke free and composed ourselves…or tried to rather.
Nemo: (wiping his tears) Maariah…you really like Immy don’t you?
Mari wiped her tears, looked down and nodded slowly
Nemo: you like him enough to marry him?
And she smiled a little and nodded.
Nemo: well in that case… (And he looked at me)
Me: (wiping my tears and smiling) in that case there’s no time like the present!
Mari: (looking at us shocked) no no guys…how can I face him after…no…I can’t..
Me: Maariah…we burnt regret remember…don’t add a new regret to that list…I’m going to wake up Laeeks and Zai
Waking everyone out of their slumber was torture! Zainab was so out of it that she grunted at me when I shook her!
Finally, we were standing in the passage, lol,everyone in their pjs..rubbing their eyes but bottom line…they were there! Mari was fiddling with a piece of cotton in her hand…Nemo insisted on going downstairs to bring the chocolate cake that we had bought earlier and even put some candles on it.
We slowly opened the room door and I tiptoed over to Zoheb to wake him up.
Zoheb: (mumbling in his sleep) I’m so tired love…
I shook him gently until he too woke up and stood beside me as we looked at Immy sleeping. We probably looked like a bunch of psychos right now…Nemo, Mari and I with our red puffy eyes, Riza with his big hair all standing up, Arshoo with his glasses looking as though they would fall off his face any minute now…
Maariah knelt down beside Immy and stroked his face gently. He didn’t wake up. Then she shook him gently. He STILL didn’t wake up. Then she shook him a little harder. No luck
Arshad: (rubbing his eyes) is he dead or what?
Riza: Arshad! Maybe he took sleeping tablets I dunno
Nemo: the candles are starting to melt…
Zai: (whispering) who asked you to bring the cake??
Mari: ( sadly) we can do this tomorrow
Zoheb: uh uh…wait this guy sleeps dead. Yesterday when I tried waking him up also, he just wouldn’t until Sahal came up with this crazy idea that actually worked
And Zoheb walked towards Immy,held his shoulders and made him sit up in his sleep.
Zoheb: (winking) Arshad..I could use some help here
Arshad: (smirking) with pleasure
Arshad stood on the bed and on the count of three booted Immy off the bed while Zoheb moved quickly. Within seconds, Immy was flat on his face! I was now more than grateful that my mother had insisted on carpets for all the rooms!
Me: that is so…nasty!!!
Everyone was torn! Immy was groggy and turned over onto his back as he muttered a few unrecognisable words until he opened his eyes and saw all of us grinning at him.
Shame his eyes were also red and puffy and he sat up silently. He looked at Maariah for a few seconds but didn’t say a word.
Maariah knelt down beside Immy..
Mari: (with tears in her eyes and her eyes spoke a million words but right now only a few words mattered) I love you Imraan…
Immy lifted his head and looked at her in shock
Immy: but you said…
Mari: (nodding her head) I didn’t think that I was worthy of you…(And she looked at me for a second) but someone made me realise that life is short..love is once…and all I want is to love you…and to spend the rest of my life with you..
Immy looked at her with tears in his eyes as he held her face gently.
Mari: (holding out the cotton ring that she had been fiddling with) will you please do me the honour and make me your wife?
Immy: (smiling through his tears) I love you…(And he grabbed her into his arms and hugged her as both of them cried together)
All of us were also reduced to tears…
Nemo: (kneeling down beside them) these candles are going…
Immy and Mari wiped each others tears and blew out the candles together.
Zoheb opened the bedside drawer and took out the little Neil Lane ring box and handed it to Immy.
Immy: (slipping the ring onto Maariah’s finger) you have just made me the happiest man alive…you don’t realise it but you have given me a new life
And here we were, at 2am sitting on the room floor in our pj’s, gorging on chocolate cake, celebrating Immy and Maariah’s new found relationship.
We didn’t realise it then, but we were slowly going through lifes different emotions in the guise of our roadtrips. Amidst all the fun and laughter…we were sharing in each others sadness and happiness, learning as we grew, growing as we shared.