As narrated by Zainab:
Charade. Facade. Show. That’s what this was. That’s ALL that it was. I couldn’t do this anymore, why should I?
I settled back into the conversation at the table. Riza was saying something about the kids and Maariah was enlightening us about a new recipe. I was just zoning in and out of everything.
Arshad was such a master pretender. He had the sly ability to make our broken relationship look beautiful in front of everyone and it made my stomach churn.
I just wanted this night to be over. I didn’t want to say anything here because it was the first time that Aara was out of the house and even though she was quiet, it felt good seeing her groomed and a little bit like her old self after ages.
“So I was thinking, maybe we should all go to Hartees this weekend? ” , Riza asked, “the boys have been wanting to go fishing forever already”
“They’re three years old what do they know about fishing” , Nemo mumbled aloud
Riza smacked Nemo lightly at the back of his head and scooped another spoonful of Nemo’s salad.
“Your salad is fabulous I didn’t know you had it in you” he laughed
“There’s actually alot of things that we don’t know people have in them” , Nemo said looking straight at me
I flinched uneasily. The look on his face was one that I couldn’t read at all.
It’s not like I didn’t want to be here. I loved my friends, but life has changed and I was no longer able to pretend to want what I no longer didn’t. And sometimes things just had to end, what good is there in pretending when all you are, is miserable inside?
And the conversations went on, they talked about cricket and Krispy Kremes, the neighbours dogs who almost daily overturned their bins and the latest winter range. I pretended to be interested but my mind was somewhere else.
Arshad blended in perfectly as usual, and every so often flashed me a smile that edged me on to punch him in the face even more. I couldn’t understand how he could be this candid, why was it so hard for him to just let me go???
And as it turned out, albeit ever so slightly……luck was in my favor
“Random, I know”, Immy said through his loud sips of water ” but the other day Adnaan asked me what was divorce… like what are you guys watching man he’s so small to ask what that means”
“I can picture him asking you that actually”, Laeeka laughed, “Immmuuuu what’s zeevorce”
I smiled. Adnaan refused to call Immy mamajee, and insisted on calling him Immu no matter how many times we tried to correct him and his d’s were always replaced with a “z”
“He gaps in sometimes when we watch series”, Arshad lied with a smile on his face
And my blood pressure literally hit the roof! He put his hand over mine in a pathetic attempt to make us look like a happy couple and I couldn’t take it anymore.
” He asked about divorce because he probably overheard us talking about it” I said irritably
The table fell silent.
“Yeah you know, I discuss some of my patients cases with Zainab sometimes and he must have heard us” , Arshad said nervously
“No, we were talking about ourselves” , I scowled angrily, looking at him
Silence. Pin drop silence.
The cat was out of the bag. The facade broken. Now it was time to face the music and I knew that it was going to be very far from being a sweet serenade.
As narrated by Nemo:
Somebody say something. Anything.
Everyone was silent and it was so awkward. Riza and Immy exchanged glances, as though they were expecting Arshad and Zainab to burst out laughing any second now.
Everyone seemed to be waiting for the next one to open their mouths!
“Is everything alright? “, Maariah finally asked
Zainab looked at Arshad , and Arshad looked down. The air was so thick with tension, we could cut it with a knife! Arshad looked like someone had hit him in the head with a hammer!
” Well? ” , Laeeka asked anxiously
“Arshad and I are getting divorced”, Zainab whispered finally
” WHAT?? “… Everyone seemed to say together
” We are NOT getting divorced ” , Arshad mumbled
“Stop it Arshad I’m tired of repeating myself! ” , Zainab lashed back
“You guys WHAT is going on?? ” , Riza asked loudly
“Wont you just listen for once Zai and give me half a chance”, Arshad begged
” How can both of you get a divorce guys… its you… You guys have no issues ”
Some level of reality seemed to have hit home with Zainab as tears escaped her eyes… “Just because we don’t say anything it doesn’t mean it isn’t there”
“This is a joke right? ” , Maariah asked in disbelief and searched for an answer on both their faces
“But we knew better than that didn’t we Aara” , I said in my mind, but looking right at her. In return, she shook her head at me slowly and looked down.
“Look, we will always be friends and I don’t want you guys to have to choose.. ” , Zainab continued
“But they aren’t your only friends are they? ” , Arshad said suddenly
“Arshad give her a chance to speak” , Immy pleaded, trying to maintain some order, “and Zainab this isn’t about us or us having to choose between the two of you, this is about both of you”
Maariah placed her hand over Immy’s and Zainab looked down..
Mayhem. Madness. Disappointment.
And then it started again.
Everyone spoke above each others voices, Zainab cried and then shouted, Arshad cried and begged. I looked back and forth between them and everyone else.
The only person who seemed slightly unperturbed by everything was Aara, as she stared into her plate and picked on her food quietly.
No one was holding back. Well, the no ones being Arshad and Zainab and it was too shockingly unbelievable. They were having SO many problems and none of us knew. It was hard to actually pinpoint the exact issue but I was just stunned that THIS was what they had become…
“Please Arshad.. I can’t go through with it anymore I just want out I am SO tired of fighting”, Zainab sobbed suddenly, silencing one and all…
And it stayed silent for a few good minutes with no one knowing what to say at that moment…
While she sobbed at the silent table, Arshad softly begged her to calm down and talk to him , fix things, try again…
It was unsettling and heartbreaking. One of our friends had passed away, one was widowed, and two were on the verge of an ugly divorce.
We had sat around a table together a countless number of times , almost always in happiness, enjoying each others company, we sat together in times of unexplainable uneasiness before marriage joined our table, taking a seat between us with its joyful demeanor. We sat together in sudden grief, the silence between us then becoming a source of comfort because we were still together. But today, we sat around a table, divided by an invisible and unwanted guest who threatened to break us apart by choice.
And just as Riza was about to open his mouth..
“Just go through with it already, it will save you the heartache when one of you dies” , Aara said without hesitation
She never lifted her eyes to meet ours, and continued staring into her plate.
“Aara! “, Laeeka gasped
I slapped my forehead in an attempt to wake up from this slow motion nightmare!
“I will die if you leave me Zai… “, Arshad whispered
” Then that is your problem “, Zainab said, shocking us and ran off to the bathroom, with Laeeka and Maariah in tow.
All the food just like that on the table. All this preparation gone to waste.
Arshad burst into tears right there at the table. He just sobbed continuously while the rest of us sat there not quite knowing what to say.
Aara was looking so intently at her plate that I thought she’d actually end up going inside it!
Riza clasped his hands together tightly and looked between Aara and I.
I didn’t know what was going on!
It was as though our voices had been muted and nothing came into our mouths for us to say.
This was not how any of us had hoped this evening would turn out. And just when we had thought that it wouldn’t get any worse, the sound of a car hooting at Riza’s driveway gates signalling the arrival of Zainab’s father, confirmed it. It had just gotten worse.
Zainab rushed down the hallway, grabbed her bag.. all the while, sobbing away.
I will never forget the look on Arshad’s face when she turned to face him as all of us begged her to resolve things without involving their parents…
“I’m going Arshad, I’m not coming back home… ever”
Salaams…hope you lot are well!
Two Important things…
1. A favor to a reader which is long overdue..I’m so sorry
2. Something that I’ve been meaning to copy and paste for a while. It’s a wonderful initiative, please do support them:)
I apparently have the day off from “responsibilities” tomorrow, so Insha Allah I will dish out another post. lol, no promises but I most certainly will try!
Remember to read right to the bottom please
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