As narrated by Aara:
Two hours. Two long hours and by now my hyped up spirit was beginning to dampen. I know that I had showed up unannounced and that this is a big company etc etc but like..he’s the damn boss for crying out loud!
Another hour passed, and his secretary gave me a sympathetic smile before she fired away at her laptop again.
I was seething and starving- a deadly combination that I haven’t felt for a long, long time and Naasir Patel was going to be the man with the red t shirt because he was forcing me to become an angry bull!
After weighing my options I decided to just get on with it- what was the worst that could happen anyway? Kick me out- no problem, been there done that already!
And so I barged into his office, leaving his secretary in total shock and causing him to spill his cup of whatever it was that he was drinking , all across his table.
“I am sorry to barge in like this, but I am tired, hungry and very, very irritated right now. You will give me a hearing because I will not move from here”, I said in one go
“Sir I am so sorry”, his secretary said (after she picked her chin off the floor), “I don’t know how..”
“It’s alright Jenna…just please get someone to clean this up for me”, he said kindly. That’s right, kindly. I didn’t know that he had it in him!
“We’ll talk here”, he said, gesturing towards a visitor’s lounge on the far end of his elaborate office, “ can I order you something? We have our own canteen…”
“I’ll have a coffee…decaf and a toasted sandwich please..doesn’t matter what the filling is”…I said without thinking..” thank you”
Shoot me, I was starving!
An awkward silence settled itself in the office once Jenna left , with neither of us making the first move. He just stared out the window as though he was lost somewhere…
I cleared my throat, making him turn his gaze towards me…okay, here we go
“With all due respect Sir why won’t you see us?”
He looked away again and stayed silent for a good few minutes…
“I was very proud of him you know”, he said finally..and a small smile played across his face that was STILL facing the window..”he made it on his own and he made a good life for himself”
That I knew.
“Ego is a dangerous thing Aara, the power that we allow it to have eventually takes over our own rational thinking”
I kept quiet…
“Maaherah told me everything eventually”, he said softly, looking into his hands, “but how does it help now when it’s too late?”
“It’s not too late”, I said quickly, “it’s never too late”
“It is…he’s gone, I have lost the chance to have another chance”
“Honestly, if he was alive would you have given him another chance?”. I was annoyed! This man was so proud and so egotistical , I doubt that it would have changed things if Zoheb was still alive.
His mouth hung open in shock and I stared at him with my eyebrows still tangled in an irritated frown!
“ I suppose I deserve that”, he said, looking down
“That’s not it”, I sighed, “ It isn’t about what you think you deserve, it’s about the present”
Mr. Patel went back into silent mode and my tummy threatened to give me away as it rumbled on!
A knock on the door broke the silence and marked the arrival of my long awaited sandwich and coffee. He gestured for me to eat and so I did.
“Why are you here?”, he asked as I sipped my coffee
I paused and reflected for a moment, as Zoheb’s face flashed before my eyes…
“For him”, I said softly, “For Hana…for me”
He gave me a puzzled look and I wanted to pour this coffee on his head!
“Zoheb always spoke about how he wished that things could be right between all of you and him, he wanted his daughter to know who her grandparents were “, I said softly..”he had faith in you, he knew that somewhere buried inside the metal exterior, was a heart”
“But he isn’t here anymore”, he said again
“No…but I am”
I couldn’t read the look in his eyes, was it confusion, shock, regret???
“We’ve done a lot to you…and I “
“It’s in the past Sir, I am here with a lot of hope..I just want to fulfill your sons unspoken wish”
Out of nowehere, the ogre returned as his personality went from Jekyll to Hyde! “Zoheb has shares in this business too obviously…”
That was it! I didn’t give him a chance to complete his sentence. He thought that a part of me was here for his money?????
“I don’t want your money Sir, my husband has left me enough and even if he didn’t I have full faith that Allah will look after me”, I said angrily, “life isn’t about the next million that you make or how many people get trampled under your shoe, life is about emotions…your son has left behind such a fantastic legacy that even if you tried in a hundred lifetimes you would never be able to match up to it and I am sorry I know that I am being rude but you have left me with no choice. Zoheb told me that you were stubborn but you don’t know that I am just as stubborn and I will not go until you open your eyes and smell the coffee!”
I was so annoyed that I didn’t realise what I had just said..”open your eyes and smell the coffee”. Was he supposed to smell from his eyes? Not to forget that the coffee was also actually in my hand…
After reaching for my handbag, I stood up to leave ,” I am notifying your secretary that you are taking a few days off to spend with your grand daughter and I am taking up Mrs.Patels offer to move into your house for the rest of my stay here so I will see you at home Sir”
And with that, I turned on my heels, chin up, highly rejuvenated by the caffeine rush and made my way to the door , when what he said made me stop and smile….
So I turned around, nodded my head and swallowed the smile that threatened to make this serious and momentous moment funny…
“Thank you”, I nodded
I had crossed the bridge alright, but what I hadn’t remembered was, there was a jungle on the other side!
As narrated by Laeeka:
“Are you serious????”
“Oh my Goddddd!!!!”
Riza looked at me weirdly from across our bed as I shrieked in delight!
“Aara this is so good! It looks like New Zealand was the best thing that you could have done !”
I had my earphones on and was chatting to Aara on Skype. She was visiting Sahal and Kauthar at their hotel so she decided to Skype me, although even Sahal probably knew that she had only come to visit them so that she could Skype me without worrying about anyone hearing her :-p
“And how’s everyone with you at Zoheb’s house?”, I asked eagerly
“Wait she’s staying with Zoheb’s parents??”, Riza asked wide eyed
“Yeah from a few days ago”, I nodded
“Pull those earphones out will you babe”, he grinned as he jumped across to my side of the bed and settled himself right next to me, much to Aara’s joy.
“This is true?”, he asked her
“yyyyep”, she laughed
“How did this happen?? I mean Uncle Naasir is a hard nut!”
“Allah is great Reez..I’m so glad that it’s finally coming together”, she ssmiled…”they have all taken to Hana and she’s taken to them it’s so so amazing! And we’re staying in Zoheb’s old room so it’s like extra special”
“Wow A ! I’m happy for you and for them too…I just wish that it had been under better circumstances”, Riza said sadly
Aara nodded. There was something in her eyes and it wasn’t sadness, perhaps contentment,but I couldn’t put my finger on it…
“I needed to speak to Nemo but we’ve been missing each other for the past few days, when he’s available I’m not and vice versa..and it’s difficult to talk from there if you know what I mean…I don’t want them to get the wrong idea”
“ He’s coming to Jhb tomorrow, I can let you know what time and then maybe we can Skype?”
“Doubt it…Zoheb’s dad is taking us to Hobbiton tomorrow ”
“No freakin way! I can’t believe it”, Riza laughed
“And you wish that you were here!”, Aara grinned
These two were die hard Lord of the Rings fans, and they probably watched all four parts atleast ten times each! Even that might be less!
“Make sure that you take lots of pictures!”
“You make sure that you tell Aunty Maseeha just how much Naasir Patel has changed!”, Aara sighed
“Oh we will and and I’m sure that Mummy will be super stunned!And you enjoy..we’ll tel Nemo that you were looking for him and well whatever you wanted to tell him you can tell him when you get here, you’ve got a few days left there anyway”, I reminded her playfully.
I was missing my best friend and although these Skype convos were helpful it just wasn’t the same.
Aara looked down nervously and I could see her gulp hard…O boy..I knew that look!
“Spill!”, I ordered
“I’m not coming back anytime soon…”, she whispered
“YOU WHAT!!”, Riza and I said together
“I’m staying for a little while longer..I can’t leave just yet”
“I feel as though I belong here, as though I can feel him here. Maybe my place is with his family”, she said softly
“Zoheb is gone and he’s not coming back”, Riza said sternly
“I know but..”
“Stop living in the past…it’s almost a year and I know that it’s difficult for you but don’t pause your life in a world that’s not yours because once the holiday wears off everyone has to get back to reality”
I put my hand on Riza’s to stop him but he just continued…
“You’re there and you’ve done what you wanted to but remember you have some responsibilities towards your parents and your loved ones too, you have a child that needs to have some grounding and can’t jump from place to place every few months! You’re our strong soldier and I know that you will be okay but it’s necessary to come back to routine …take the little bit of extra time but come back home okay?”
Aara had tears in her eyes but she smiled and nodded. I sighed and punched Riza in his arm playfully..
“And I need you here for this”,I grinned, pointing at my growing belly, “ You have 4 months max dudette”
“Hello when I said extra time I meant like a few extra days you’re giving her four months!”, Riza laughed
“Finish up whatever you have pending Aara no matter how long it takes but come back home okay?”, I said reassuringly, ” we miss you and Hana too much…oh oh I almost forgot to give you some really good news!!..Zainab’s coming back!!”
As narrated by Zainab:
He said that he would come…but would he?
What if he didn’t want to anymore…what if he didn’t want ME anymore??…
Could I blame him…Would things be the same? Would they get worse? Was this time out a bad idea…Would Adnaan remember me…why didn’t I think about of all this before….
All these months of learning and absorbing had challenged me and changed me and I didn’t know that I was capable of this. I could have gone back home the way that I had come but I didn’t want to…I wanted him to see me here, I wanted him to see that I hadn’t gone off to a spa somewhere, nor was I sitting at some fancy self help centre.. and that I had come only because I truly wanted to change.
I hoped that he’d come…because I really missed him and I really wanted to go home…
It is often said that there is a different and unexplainable feeling in waiting for the one who you love and in every second towards his arrival an excitement like no other fills your heart…The anticipation makes it beat faster, the expectation makes it flutter..it was such a beautiful feeling.
The truth be told, I had never felt this way, not even on our wedding day and I suppose that was my fault too…
I smiled to myself thinking that Arshad probably felt this way and to know that I was the cause behind that, filled my tummy with a million butterflies and made my cheeks flush a deep shade of pink..
Along with it, a pang of guilt too. In my aim for “perfection” I had lost years of moments like these, I had lost that moment on our wedding day and every day after that. I hoped that it wasn’t too late…
When seconds turn into minutes and minutes turn into hours, your breath takes on an entirely different course…
I sat outside on an old wooden bench that had witnessed many of my emotional breakdowns during these past four months, closed my eyes and made dua, for it was only through the mercy of Allah that my heart had opened.
I was too scared to open my eyes, if this was a dream then all that I wanted was to capture the sound of his voice in a capsule in my heart…
I swallowed hard and slowly lifted my eyelids, as my heart rate quickened and tears gushed from my eyes like a river in full flood…looking at him after four long months…
Arshad’s eyes were also full of tears and I did what I should have done long ago…
I stood up and threw my arms around him, holding onto him, apologizing a million times and even then it wouldn’t be enough.
“I missed you”, he whispered in my ear as he wrapped his arms tightly around me, holding me in a safe embrace
“I’m sorry Arshad’, I sobbed, clutching onto the back of his shirt, “I’m so so so sorry for everything that I put you through…I don’t deserve you at all”
“Shhhh”, he cried
“I don’t want anything else…I just want to come home with you… I want to try and make up for everything that I have done…”
“All I want is you”, he whispered as he cupped my tear stained face in his hands and kissed my forehead
A fresh new downpour of tears streamed down my face, what I fool I had been! All that this man has ever given me, was love. If he could put his hand down for me to walk on so that my feet wouldn’t get dirty, he would do it. And what did I give him in return…Was marriage a joke to me?? An enactment that was just one of life’s processes?? I had taken this great blessing for granted…
“Mummy!”,Adnaan shouted happily from the car, “Daddy can I come out now?”
And he ran towards us after Arshad gave him the green light, and jumped into my arms. I sobbed even harder, what kind of a heart did I have to leave my own son behind…
“If you didn’t do it Zainab..we wouldn’t be here like this today”, Arshad said emotionally
The three of us like this together, was my whole world in a hug….away from the flashy life, away from everything…outside the quaint, dilapidated little madressa that was my home for four months and that changed the entire outlook of my materialistic life…
As narrated by Nemo:
“She whaaaat?”, I laughed aloud
“She asked him to come and fetch her”, Riza laughed
“Only Zainab”, I grinned, shaking my head, “can run away leaving the man alone with their child and then phone him months later to ask him to pick her up”
“I told Arshad to take her to the dentist and secretly install a tracker or something because you can’t trust that one”, Riza laughed again
“Stop it you two”, Laeeka chided, “atleast she’s coming back”
“You say it like it’s a good thing”, Riza laughed- and harder this time- before he went toppling off his chair!
He clutched at his stomach and tried to shut up ––in vain.
I wondered if other people just randomly fell off chairs, walked into walls and sliding doors etc as often as we did!
I had come back to Jhb to see my mad bunch. Although I was having such a great time in Durban, I missed these nuts! Jhb wasn’t the same without Aara and Hana though, but she was making much progress in New Zealand so that was one thing less to worry about. She had texted me saying that she had something to tell me, but we kept missing each other…this distance was annoying!
“I heard that it snowed in Durban”, Immy grinned, as he dished out even more of Laeeka’s famous gram dhol and mutton
I knew what he meant. Hell , even I thought that it was going to snow there!
“Bru I was and am still utterly shocked”, I admitted, “Nuzayh really surprised me and I can’t deny that at the back of my mind somewhere I’m just waiting for the ulterior motive to come up”
“Nah maybe he’s really changed Nemo give him the benefit of the doubt”, Maariah said as she tried to convince Uthmaan to eat
A good few years ago, it was just us and now it’s the smaller versions of our group who take up all our time and energy. Well not mine but yeah…
“What happened with your samoosa runs?”, Laeeka asked hesitantly
A small smile crept onto my face, lol, girls will always be girls. Always inquisitive!
“It didn’t work out”, I said truthfully, “it felt so forced and my mother took me to see girls in their “circle” if you know what I mean and I don’t need that in my life”
“Did you tell her what kind of girl you’re looking for?”
I paused and looked down…”Yeah…I’ll give it another shot when I get back from Detroit InshaAllah”
The death stares were there alright but I didn’t give them a chance to voice any of their doubts…
“My old boss needs a favour and I can’t say no”, I explained
It was the truth actually, but no one seemed to buy it!
“Don’t ever think of running again bru”, Riza said after allowing the kids to leave the table, “your place is here..you stayed away for way too long”
“My place is nowhere Reez..I mean I get it , I belong etc etc and I also have my family but I don’t have my own…”, I sighed, not taking my eyes off the plate..” but no I’ll never run even if all I have to be is a vagrant my entire life”
Everyone kept quiet. It was okay, I wasn’t looking for a reaction or any sympathy I just needed to vent to my friends because they’d understand. At some point everyone needs to be grounded, everyone wants to go home to someone and a part of me was just so tired. It was hard to put it into words, because words wouldn’t do justice in describing the state of my heart…
A look past between all of them…
“I’ll talk to her “, Riza said softly…”but I can’t promise…”
“No Reez bru..it’s not that it’s okay really , it’s okay”, I said honestly, because I meant it
Maariah looked down sadly…” if only all those years ago..”
“Mari no”, I said quickly. There was no need to go down that road again. We had made peace with it years ago already..
“Hello…we tried to help also but all our plans backfired”, Laeeka chirped, trying to lighten things up again
“Yeah those early days”, Mari smiled…”Cape Town in particular”
“But taqdeer was playing out its own story “, Immy smiled
“Sometimes I think if only I had told her all those years ago”, I smiled sadly, “Maybe things would have been a little different because certain things are in our control but we’re just too dumb”
“Don’t say we , say I “, Immy laughed
“Mari thought that you were a stalker bra so “we” is on point”, I grinned
“I always wanted to ask you something if you don’t mind…?”, Laeeka asked after a little hesitation
“Was it because Zoheb came in the picture? Because you were not like that before that….”
I burst out laughing! Oh my! We were having a confession session!
“ I was trying to tell her a few weeks before Zoheb came into our lives and then the day that Mari and I met her Nana on that first task I decided this is it I’m going to tell her but….their story had already begun”. I looked down as those memories came back in flashes…”it’s good…Aara finally got her happiness and we got to know Zoheb and Zoheb was Zoheb.. he was awesome”, I said honestly, “ maybe I would never have appreciated her because there never was a threat before”
Maybe. Maybe not.
“Doesn’t make a difference now” , I sighed, “ but I really am missing my baby Hana and the whole time difference thing makes it so hard to talk to her”
Laeeka fumbled with her bracelet awkwardly , and we all knew that when she did that, she was sort of hiding something and we had pointed it out to her on numerous occasions but she still did it!
I raised his eyebrow at her questioningly…”Well?”
She fumbled some more and looked at me…”They aren’t coming back any time soon”
And with those words, my face and my heart…both dropped…
Way overdue post so i made it long…3600 some odd words;p . Next post is in the pipeline with a three month leap bringing us very close to the end…
Thank you thank you thank you for a million hits! It was such a wow feeling when I saw that on my stats the other day, it is a milestone that I will surely cherish InshaAllah!
Can’t promise another post this weekend but I will try, if not then I’ll just take another week to type out the next one in bits.
Have a lovely, lovely weekend!