As narrated by Nemo:
Watching my dad surrounded by all his grand kids, was heartwarming. Nuzayh’s two boys, Aaliyah’s son and daughter,and Ammaarah’s twin daughters commanded every second of his attention and he seemed to love it!
Watching them reminded me of just one person only…Hana. How I missed her…
Those bouncy black curls with a smile full of drool..lol..innocence personified.
Who would have thought that my family can actually do a picnic, and when I voiced that out aloud, Aaliyah being her usual sarcastic self, made it known that they did this all the time- I was just nowhere in the picture to be bothered about it. To my surprise- and everyone else’s, it was Nuzayh who shot her down for being “rude” and “insensitive”. That shut her up for sure but I doubt it was because she felt bad about it..nope she was probably just in shock that Nuzayh actually stood up for the black sheep. My brother had my back, and that felt insanely satisfying! Like Wow..a really BIG WOW!
“I don’t mean to make you feel bad or anything but can I ask you something?”, I said slowly…a few minutes after Nuzayh chose to come and sit with me some distance away from everyone else
“I have a feeling that I already know what it is but go ahead”, he grinned, without meeting my eye
I hesitated at first but after a few seconds I cleared my throat and spoke…”You’re being nice to me”
Nuzayh burst out laughing, startling me!
“That was not a question”, he laughed
“Yeah but you know what I mean”, I chuckled, “it’s just so strange”
He exhaled deeply and then pointed at his kids. “Look at them..”
As always, Faheem (the older of Nuzayh’s boys) was teasing Zayn (the younger one). Faheem was a carbon copy of Nuzayh in every way possible, and he was always like this , for as long as I can remember.
“Faheem bullies him so much”, Nuzayh said sadly…”always putting him down and never standing up for him or even helping him”
I nodded in agreement..
“My heart always goes out to Zayn and I’m always trying to shield him, build his self confidence, explain to Faheem that he shouldn’t be like this..and it hurts me so much because both of them are my sons and I love both of them differently yet equally”
“Yeah he is a softie no doubt”, I said
“Naeem…”, Nuzayh said with bated breath…” Zayn reminds me of you when we were younger… and Faheem…”, and he stopped. He looked down and took a few moments to compose himself.
“I was such a jerk”, he continued, “and I’m seeing it with my own sons. No one pulled us apart when I would bully you or hurt your feelings..no one noticed and I used to love it”
I swallowed hard. I remembered all too well.
“History has a painful way of repeating itself”, he said softly, “in the form of those who you love the most…it makes you feel so helpless”
That was true, unfortunately. But I didn’t say that aloud.
“And do you know what I constantly find myself praying for, for Faheem?”
“What?”, I asked softly
“I pray that he also gets an Aara”
My breath hitched and formed a temporary knot in my chest, as if it momentarily froze around a piece of one of my memories of our childhood, just by the mere mention of her name…
“I was insanely jealous of her”, Nuzayh laughed, but his laugh was filled with regret, “ever since she came into the picture, you changed. You weren’t forced to need me anymore and no matter how much I would taunt you, it didn’t seem to matter to you. You had no friends, it used to be so easy to make you pick up after me I mean okay I was 10 you were 6 and it was a power thing as stupid as it sounds but ever since her..you never gave a shit and no matter how many times I tried to put you down in front of her too…she also never gave a shit”
I looked down and didn’t say a word…
“I thought that maybe it would fizzle out and that she would eventually tire of you because let’s face it bru you were a niggly kid”
I burst out laughing!
“No seriously”, he continued, with his hand in front of me not giving me a chance to defend that comment, “You were awfully annoying..or at least that’s what I thought…but as the years passed and you left to go to Joburg, even though you got hooked on..” , and he paused…”she didn’t give up and then she had Riza and Arshad..no wait..YOU had Riza and Arshad and it’s something that I didn’t have. You were such a lost cause that even Dad gave up on you..do you know that I used to come and stand by your door at night when you used to scream and cry begging to be let out..and it felt like such an achievement”
I raised my eyebrow at him questioningly and he looked down guiltily…
“I’m not proud of it”, he shrugged, ” I wish that I had helped you when you needed me instead of thinking that I had a one up on you”
“It’s in the past Nuzayh…”
“I know, I know”, he nodded…”but what goes around surely does come around ,and only when it came around did I realise what I’ve done… albeit 25 years later…but…I’m sorry bru..I genuinely am…I really was a jerk”, he said very apologetically
“You still are”, I grinned as I nudged him, trying to hide the fact that I was overwhelmed but I didn’t know how to react to him.
Nuzayh shook his head and laughed..”there’s so much that I don’t know about you and I hope that it’s not too late”
“We’re still alive aren’t we?”, I smiled and he nodded gratefully…”And thank you Nuz…it means alot ”
We sat and watched the kids play for a little while longer and all the while I could only think of how Aara and I used to moan about Nuzayh. She used to actually put alot of it into action though…
“Hey Nuzayh”, I asked, “remember when you were in Grade 5 I think…someone had stuck glue on your chair and you sat on it unknowingly?”
‘yeahhh”, he said after hesitating…
“That was her”, I laughed
“What! Aara put glue on my chair!’
“I’m going to kill her!”, he said wide eyed
“and the time when there were caterpillars in your pencil box?”
“Oh my..that was her too?”
I laughed harder! Nuzayh must have regretted his confession for sure!
“And the time when you fell flat on your face during assembly and later realised that someone had tied your laces together…?”
Nuzayh held his hand to his mouth in shock as his eyes widened even more..”She was rotten!”
And I burst out laughing thinking about all those times…well..I won’t mention the rest of it to him, this much is okay for now.
“She had your back from back then “, he smiled, “I wish that life had been kinder to her”
And I knew that he meant it. The way in which he said it was so genuine…
“Did she ever tell you about your trust fund?”
“What trust fund?”, I asked, confused
“Oh boy”….Nuzayh thought for a few seconds and then continued…”a year ago…a few days after you turned 30, she came to see Dad. She mentioned that you didn’t want your money that Dad had entrusted her with and she refused to keep it any longer..she said that if she died then it would become too complicated and that she also didn’t want you to forfeit it so we created a trust and she trusted me enough to make me a trustee. She said that she would oversee it to make sure that Dad’s hard earned money didn’t get blown but that she also trusted you and knew that you would do something fantastic and memorable with it instead”
Aara had pestered me for a while to take the responsibility off her and I had told her to keep it, do what she wishes with it. Obviously I had to hear an earful after that but she never mentioned this trust fund…
“Honestly, I thought that she’d take it…I mean it’s ALOT of dough but she never touched a cent. And yeah well she also subtly threatened me not to touch it either”
I smiled a small, heartfelt smile.
“Can I ask you something?”, Nuzayh said with much hesitation in his voice
“Why don’t…why don’t you ask her to marry you? I know that the only reason why your samoosa runs aren’t working is because of her”
I sighed deeply…”She would never say yes…she’s proud and independent and she’s finding her way again…it’s not that I don’t want it but I will never ask her…it would look too convenient, like I’m doing her a favor or something”
“You can atleast try”, he persisted
“No bru”, I said softly
He just nodded and looked down, and when I lifted my eyes…not too far across from the two of us, I noticed our parents smiling at us but it was a smile that I hadn’t seen on their faces before…
We often heard the saying, “It is better late than never”, but only today, as I looked back at them, my heart bursting with emotion, did I realise how much truth there was in it…
As narrated By Aara:
“Atleast tell me now!”, I asked yet again
But Maaherah grinned in oblivion.
“Patience patience we’re almost there”
Not that I didn’t like surprises, but I was so anxious it wasn’t funny. Maaherah had been telling me from yesterday that she has a surprise for me and that she wasn’t going to spoil it by giving away the slightest hint.
“Hana poppie tell mummy to chillll”, she laughed
“shilll”, Hana babbled and now I couldn’t help but laugh!
Hana had taken to Maaherah and Zoheb’s mummy so wonderfully that figuratively it felt as though I had already crossed half the bridge that I was journeying on. Just Mr. Patel remained…
“And we’re here”, Maaherah smiled as she steered her car into a cute driveway. Cute because it was circular in shape surrounded by quirky picket boards with some funny and some inspirational quotes on them. Whoever lived here, definitely loved their life!
From the outside, the house looked warm and inviting with its bright colours…it looked like something that Adnaan,Uthmaan,Isa or Yahya would draw!
“Let me take her from you”, Maaherah said as she happily scooped a playful Hana out of my arms while I stood nervously at the front door
After a few moments of waiting, the door opened…and I froze.