As narrated by Aara:
You know that feeling that creeps up when things seem to be going smoothly after forever? That feeling that stamps a big fat question mark on your forehead? I hated it. With a passion! But this time, the question mark wasn’t my own uncertainty about anything, it was more like why the hell can’t people just understand??? Anger though, was not going to work so I didn’t even bother. I had no time for it anyway, nor did I have any place for it in my life, but the slight frustration that I still had more to do threatened to weigh down heavily upon me.
And so did the Joburg sun!
Hana had turned pink, completely flushed from the heat and it made me laugh through my own discomfort.
We were back in Joburg after almost five months of being away, lock, stock, in-laws and their barrels as well! They had insisted on accompanying us on our flight back home and I had no reason to decline. They wanted to make amends with my parents, visit Zoheb’s grave and spend some time in South Africa and it made me so happy.
It was quite the emotional get together at the airport, especially with my parents and ofcourse my friends, and seeing Laeeka so heavily pregnant made me feel so bad that I had missed out on so many of her milestones, but at the end of the day, all is well that ends well. I was back!
“Sahal is annoying”, I whispered to Hana, when it was just the two of us inside the kiddies play tent after Sahal the oaf finally crawled out
“Nooooo my jeejee”, Hana moaned. She called Sahal jeejee for a reason totally unknown to me.
I rolled my eyes at her, causing her to laugh her gorgeous, infectious laugh and when her dimples showed through her giggles, it transported me back into a world of memories that belonged to me…
“You know what I love the most”, he whispered into my ear
I nuzzled my face against his stubble and waited for him to continue…
“I love that in front of the world you are your strong , fearless self…but when you’re with me, when you’re next to me, you trust me enough to let your guard down completely”, he whispered, “You laugh freely, you don’t care who’s watching when you throw your arms around me, you make all these weird sounds to wake me up, you love me without reservation…it makes me feel like the luckiest man on the planet”
I wrapped my arm around his neck and curled in closer to him…
“It’s like a different world itself when we are together, the pillow fights, the midnight milkshake sessions, the way that you fall asleep in my lap while I read to you, the way that you never let go of my hand…the way that you depend on my presence… the way in which I depend on yours…we are truly blessed Aara”
I swallowed the lump in my throat, because I knew exactly what he meant when he said that. For us, marriage was bliss personified. We had never been happier and even though we had our share of misunderstandings and the occasional tiff, we longed to be in each others company, and would never tire of it. It was almost as though I was the unpredictable ocean and he was my shore. My heart found peace in his arms, a solace that I couldn’t describe.
“I will always love you Aara”, he whispered and kissed my forehead again, “Always”
I snapped out of my daydream and held Zoheb’s wedding ring that dangled from the silver pendant around my neck as a tear fell from my eye…”Always”, I whispered, “Always”
“Aara”, my mother called out to me…”Daddy and I are just going out with Zoheb’s parents, we’ll be back later”
My eyebrow shot up on its own!
These oldies were getting along with each other like a house on fire!
But this wasn’t the end of it..oh no..
“My angel..”, my mother said softly, ” Think about what your father in law said, it’s for your own benefit and Hana’s”
“Mummy please”, I said irritably
“I know that it’s hard but try at least..”, she persisted
“Oh really, you know?”, I said without thinking and then wished that I had never said that as I watched my mom’s face fall
“I’m sorry ma…”, I said quickly..”I didn’t mean that..it’s this heat.. it’s really getting to me”
My mother smiled and cupped my face in her hands..”We missed you a lot and we only want to see you happy”
I promised her that I’d think about it, and smiled just to make her happy, but inside, an inferno was raging within me…
As narrated by Riza:
“Spill”, I ordered, after placing the cup of strong black coffee in front of Aara
“Black?”, she questioned slightly obnoxiously, “don’t you have milk in the fridge?”
Laeeka chuckled from behind Aara and I rolled my eyes at her.
“You need black”
“I want milk!”
“Get it yourself then”, I grinned and ignorantly sat down
Aara got up in a huff and came back in a huff, and in between those few seconds Laeeka gave me numerous “looks”. Lol! In this pregnancy of hers, her moods were so unpredictable! Last night, her opinions were very much in my favor and today, she changed her party. Typical.
“Nemo came to see Hana in New Zealand a few weeks ago and during that short visit, he made a huge impression on my father in law”, she said looking down
I already knew what she was talking about because Aunty Salma had phoned me this morning and told me everything, but Aara couldn’t know that.
“He observed Nemo and Hana’s bonding and he asked me to consider marrying Nemo”
“That’s a shocker coming from him”, I said honestly. I was truly shocked when Aunty Salma told me that because I didn’t expect that from Zoheb’s father because of his nature…
“He wants to speak to Uncle A.K himself”, she continued…”he spoke to my parents last night”
“And…?..What did you tell him?”
Aara took a sip of her coffee and was silent for a few seconds…”I didn’t tell him anything”
“You do realise that when it comes to issues of an indian girl and a proposal, silence is generally taken as a yes or an “I will think about it” ?”
“What bullshit! We aren’t living in the freaking 60’s!”, she said angrily
“Whatever makes you sleep at night Aara”
“You know I don’t get it”, she edged on, “Just because Nemo is single it’s sort of expected that we need to get married, I mean sure Hana loves him but she loves all of you..”
“Yeah but it’s not the same and you know it”
Aara inhaled deeply and then exhaled slowly…
“It’s just over a year that Zoheb passed away Reez”, she said softly, ” I can’t do this”
“Okay Riza..you can do this”, I said in my head
“So no one is asking you to get married now”
A look of shock replaced the look of anger on Aara’s face…”What is your problem??”
Great! Now we’re getting somewhere!
“If Laeeka dies tomorrow will you get married again??”
I gasped. I couldn’t even think about that!
“Don’t use us as an example, we’re talking about you here”, I said calmly
“Ofcourse. But that’s the point Riza”, she snapped, “put yourself in my shoes, feel what I feel and then talk”
“How are we supposed to do that?” ,I asked, trying not to sound as dumb as I must surely have looked at that moment
Aara looked at Laeeka in disbelief and then back at me…”Will you stop behaving like a dumbo!”
“I will if you stop behaving like…like Oprah!”
“Oprah???”, she asked wide eyed and I almost choked myself with the water I had to guzzle down to stop myself from laughing
“Where the heck did Oprah come from??…Aara was now not only shocked but annoyed too!
“You! You are behaving like Oprah…just toot around the world on your save everyone’s family mission with that calm smile that I want to smack off your face and your goody two shoes attitude…YOU are fake! THIS is not you!”
“Well excuse me for trying to fix my husband’s dysfunctional family!”, she shouted
“You’re excused’, I dared to say aloud , and then caught the second look of disbelief on Aara’s face,”All that is fine Aara but in the process you’re making your own life dysfunctional…this facade, this pretense”
“And you would know?”
“I would actually, because I know you and the Aara that I know..she broke all barriers”
“You are making absolutely no sense at all Riza Ahmed”
“I agree, even I don’t understand what you’re saying Riza Ahmed” Laeeka said with a straight face
“What I’m saying is…do what is best for you, Hana and Nemo…you know him Aara”
“He’s a grown man for crying out loud Reez!”, she said angrily
“Have you spoken to him?”
“He should know that he’s a grown man come on!”, she said..probably without thinking
“DUH..I’m talking about the whole proposal thing idiot!”
“It’s a big joke isn’t it? That’s what it is!”, she said angrily
Aara was now seething and I was a little worried but at the same time, relieved that my motive was finally culminating into what I hoped it would. It was never about this whole marriage saga, it was only about waking sleeping beauty who now looked like a troll on a mission being this mad!
“Well people are expecting an answer so you had better get thinking”, I said calmly
She stood up, and banged her fists on the table in front of me
There we go…
“Go to hell!!”
“Hopefully not”, I said calmly
” Oh just shut up Riza!”
And with that she stormed out of our house in a huff and walked back in 30 seconds later
“I forgot my keys!”, she said as she grabbed it off the table
“Bye Aara” I waved in her face, irritating her further
I grinned to myself when I heard her rev her car angrily..lol..and I made a mental note to thank Sahal for babysitting our kids.
“That was very nasty”, Laeeka said with an annoyed look on her face
I wrapped my arms around her and kissed her on her forehead..
“No sweetheart…that was very needed”