As narrated by Maariah:
We pulled up behind Riza and Laeeka within moments of each other and when i looked at them, it was like looking into a mirror. For their faces held the same look that ours did.
The Patel’s still hadn’t made their grand arrival but the rest of us were here. Riza, Laeeka, Arshad, Zainab, Nemo, Sahal and his wife Kauthar , Aara’s parents and of course, Aara. Aara who looked calm and composed in a grey pants and top with a light black Cardigan and a plain black headscarf sat quietly at the far end of their large visitors lounge. Akbar sat on the seat next to her, talking, explaining… and she just nodded silently.
Her clothes seemed to reflect her state of mind and our once colorful Aara seemed lost in an overbearing fog of sadness.
When Zoheb’s parents did arrive, awkward wasn’t even enough to describe the atmosphere, and they were not alone. Much to our surprise, they were accompanied by an aloof Maaherah, her husband, who was courteous enough to greet everyone individually and… a lawyer.
Maaherah and her parents made a general salaam to no one in particular and took their seats across Aara, but never acknowledged her at all.
Their eyes wandered across the lounge.. As if they were searching for someone.
“I’d like to see my granddaughter please” , Mrs. Patel said finally
Aunty Salma took it upon herself to take Mrs. Patel to the nursery to peep at a sleeping Hana, assuring her that once she awoke she could spend all the time that she wanted with her. I wish that Mrs. Patel would have responded to Aunty Salma with the same warmth that Aunty Salma spoke to her with but she was as cold as an ice block.
The proceedings started off very somberly with Akbar reading the contents of Zoheb’s will. It came as no surprise that Zoheb had already transferred the house, his cars and his business to Aara , and requested that it be left up to her to decide if she wanted to sell his business or be a part of it. He requested that first choice be given to his loyal manager to purchase, should she wish to sell.
And she was still silent…
My heart swelled when Akbar handed all of us envelopes containing the details of trust accounts for all our children as a gift from Zoheb and he had left one for Nemo as well with his handwriting on the envelope… “For Nemo’s children”. I noticed Maaherah’s face tense up when she was handed hers..
He had left behind jewellery for his mother and sister and his property in New Zealand for his parents.
Aara was still silent, looking down without a reaction when Akbar handed her a small wooden box and a CD. I swallowed the lump in my throat with great difficulty as I watched her receive it with trembling hands.
It was almost over… or so i thought.
As narrated by Nemo:
I looked at her as she clutched onto the wooden box.. her eyes glued to the fluffy carpet, her face devoid of any emotion.
I hated that her inlaws treated her so indifferently, like she was worthless, like she was nothing to their only son, like her existence didn’t matter.
And I understood even more now than I thought I did then, why Zoheb kept her away from them and why he stayed away from them altogether.
” Leave now! ” I shouted in my head but Nasir Patel had a hidden agenda up his sleeve. They didn’t flinch at all when Akbar announced that Aara would receive this and that from Zoheb. They didn’t flinch at all when Akbar told them what they would be getting, because they weren’t here for the money were they? Oh no… They were here for something else.
“Ms. Ismail” , the Patel’s lawyer said, addressing Aara , ” these are papers that were signed by Zoheb himself, please read them aloud ”
Aara looked up at the lawyer for a few seconds, clutched onto the wooden box harder, and looked down again. She made no attempt to take the papers.
“May I? ” I asked hesitantly
Akbar nodded in my direction and I began reading the contents of this paper to myself first to make sure that whatever it was wouldn’t be a shock to Aara.
But I was the one in for a shock… And if I was shocked, how was she going to react???
“I’m sorry, I cant do this” , I whispered, shaking my head
“Nemo… What is it” , Sahal asked worriedly as he took the paper out of my hand.. And his face fell in shock as well
I couldn’t help but notice the small grin on Nasir Patel’s face and watched him nod to his lawyer after whispering something to his wife.
Akbar on the other hand, looked composed, yet worried. Like he knew what he was doing but he wasn’t sure how to do it..
“Would someone please tell us what is on that piece of paper! ” , Zainab demanded
“Basically, in a binding agreement that was done ten years ago by the Patel’s for both their children, to protect their lineage and ensure their legacy, if any of their children passed away before the other, the surviving sibling would be entrusted care of the deceased’s children. If that sibling chooses not to, then the Patel’s would receive sole custody. Zoheb signed the agreement in his full senses and accepted his parents wish. It also states that the surviving spouse would receive monthly financial support and be afforded reasonable visitation rights . these rights however, can only be disputed if the surviving spouse is found to be mentally stable by a psychologist” , the lawyer said with an unsettling grin
“What are you saying? How can you even think this??”, Maa asked in disbelief
“In simple terms, my client is here to take Baby Hana…today”
My heart jumped into my mouth. I couldn’t believe this…were they even allowed to do this?
“Over my dead body you will!”, Aara said softly
I turned in surprise towards Aara…
“What did you say??”, Maaherah asked angrily
“You heard what I said”, Aara whispered again, without lifting her eyes
“You can’t change what’s written in these papers Aara…Zoheb knew about this long ago”
Aara shook her head and tears slowly fell from her eyes…
Everyone started protesting amongst each other, everyone except Riza. His eyes were fixed on Aara’s face, watching her as tears dropped from her eyes uncontrollably, even though she was silent again.
I couldn’t understand at first…but then it made sense.
She had spoken.
She was crying.
The circumstances and the situation wasn’t ideal but for her it was a step forward.
“I will not leave my granddaughter with a mad woman like you!”, Mrs. Patel hissed, “look at you…you killed my son..you will kill his child too!”
The room fell silent. Everyone was too stunned to react. Everyone was too shocked because Zoheb was known for his kind nature…but these people…
They were starting to push her buttons…but maybe that’s what they wanted to do…
“And I will kill you”, Aara said sternly, “I will murder you if you lay a finger on my child”
Maa sobbed loudly, shaking her head at Aara…at her only daughter who was digging a hole for herself without even realizing it…
Naasir Patel turned towards his lawyer smugly…”Did you get that?”
They were setting her up!
I rushed towards Aara and pleaded..”Aara don’t say anything else…”
“Nemo you don’t know…”, she cried…”he longed for them…he begged them…they didn’t care…my Zoheb was hurt over and over again…he was mine Nemo he was mine..I felt his pain..for five years they kept no contact with him..now they want to take the only part of him that I have left”
Aara cried and crumbled…falling to the ground, completely inconsolable. Not wanting to give them another reason to point a finger at her, I backed away and allowed Maariah and Laeeka to comfort her.
“She’s not mentally stable…if you want to contest this, you can take it to court”, Mr.Patel said flatly
“Hana is our grandchild too”, Papa said firmly, “you cannot come in here and lay your demands, we have rights and we know how to use it”
“I’m sure you do”, the lawyer chipped in, “but in time, right now it would be in everyone’s best interests to allow us to take the child without a fuss”
Riza nodded to Immy, walked over to Aara and put his hand on her hand, consoling her as she looked up at him with tears in her eyes.
“He would never do anything to ever hurt you…you know that right”
Aara nodded her head vigorously…
“I need you to trust me okay?”
And she nodded again..
Riza smiled sadly at Aara, stood up and cleared his throat..
“That won’t be possible at all”
“And why not?”, Mr. Patel asked
“Because Hana isn’t legally Zoheb and Aara’s child…she’s mine”