Joined: 02 June 2012
"Here's an apple," Farida says immediately as he steps out of his room. Glancing at the black bag trailing behind him, she raises her eyebrows. "Packed everything?"
His eyes share a bright gleam as his lips curl upwards. "Like always, Ma."
Farida scoffs lightly, but he realizes that she can even make that look lady-like. "Acha? Who left the towels here last time? And the iPhone charger, too. We couldn't talk to you for three days because your phone was dead and in some corner of your hotel room."
A realization seems to have dawned on his face as she finishes speaking, she notes. She only observes him for mere seconds and then smiles.
"You forgot the charger again, didn't you?" She asks amusedly. He gives her a sheepish grin and heads back inside.
When he walks out less than a minute later, she's still holding the apple expectantly. He gives her a dreaded look.
"I just took a banana a while ago. Now an apple?" He asks with disdain.
"Don't argue," the mother says with a sudden sense of command in her voice. "You know that eating an apple is better than the coffee you're going to drink to stay up anyway."
Ashar Hussain can't hold his smile in as his mother goes on and on about things he should or shouldn't do. His eyes cloud with humor as she stresses on calling every day and focusing on what he's going there for, but taking care of himself, too. He reminds her that he's one of the most skilled businessmen in his company but she only gives him a pointed look.
"That doesn't mean that you don't eat until late at night, theek hai? Trade shows tou hote rehte hain, lekin your health is most important, okay?"
"Of course, today is his day. Beti ko kaun yaad kare ga?" A dramatic voice calls out from the hallway. Farida only rolls her eyes at the antics of her younger child, who steps out of her room in her trademark tee shirt and shalwaar, stretching her arms over her shoulder as she stifles another yawn. Her brown hair, cut in simple layers and bangs, tied back in a bun as she slowly makes her way to them both.
"Zareen, kabhi tou dhang ke kaprey pehan lo," Farida says irritably.
The older brother snickers before she has a chance to reply.
"Mummy, why are you bothering with her? Abhi ise karne dein ' Haider se shaadi ke baad ye sab azaadi kahaan?"
As expected, Zareen immediately composes her face into one of shock. "Please," she scoffs. "Shaadi kar rahi hoon ' kisi jail nahin jaa rahi."
"That's what they all say," he retorts. "Except, everyone changes their mind - Dekho, I'm still telling you, there's still time. Thora aur soch lo." The taunt is evident in the tone of his voice ' playful and comical ' and Farida immediately senses the beginning of another argument.
"Buri baat hai Ashar," she hits her son on his head lightly. "She's getting married next month. Advice deni thi tou pehle kyun nahin di?"
Zareen looks at her mother and brother incredulously. "You're a team. Where is my dad? It seems like he's the only one in this house who truly appreciates me."
As she turns to walk away in a fit of anger, Ashar reaches out for her hand. "Acha, sorry. You know I love teasing you ' it comes with the job description of being an older brother. Waise bhi, you won't be here after next month."
Her annoyance dissolves in the blink of an eye as she leans in to hug him tight. Ashar kisses the top of her head as she muffles into his shirt that she's not moving to a different city, and only lives an hour away anyway. Still, she tells him, she'll miss him too.
Farida watches her two children fight and make up like so many times before. There had once been a time, before any other, when she'd shared the same relationship with her own sister, Zareena. They'd been best friends in the blink of an eye, and worst enemies in the next. But they never fought for too long ' she doesn't think they could even if they wanted to.
Zareena had always been a strong wall for Farida - who relied on her more than anyone else ' and they'd shared a bond that was unbreakable even due to the distance that had grown between them after their marriages and busy lives. She realizes that that's always how things with siblings are ' distance doesn't exist in the mind of the two people who've spent eternity knowing each other ' and smiles at their old, albeit extremely fond memories.
"Acha Mummy, I'm getting late," Ashar announces as Zareen walks away. "The flight's at two and it's already eleven. Driver's waiting, right?"
Farida breaks out of her train of thought and presses a kiss to her son's forehead. "Haan beta ' he's waiting. Call me immediately after you reach Lahore, okay?"
Ashar laughs as he kisses her hair.
"Of course, Mummy."
Streaming sunlight and chirping birds were a lot of girls' early morning preferences ' especially in the movies when they'd roll out of bed with no sign of an unkempt appearance or even a proper stretch ' but despite that, Khirad Ihsan finds herself walking out of bed with what seems to be a nest on her head and a yawn gracing her plumped lips.
Gathering her hair into a loose bun, she immediately begins reciting to herself all the things that she's supposed to do for the day. It isn't entirely a long list, she supposes, because all she needs to do is go shopping for a few dresses for her best friend's upcoming wedding, but she'd been at the same task for over four days but to no avail. Halfheartedly, she picks up her phone to check the time.
It's a little past eleven. Not bad at all for her late sleeping habits, she thinks, as her phone starts vibrating in her palm. After an element of surprise, she picks up without any hesitation.
"Good Morning Khirad!" The voice chirps over the line. Immediately, and as cheesy as it is, Khirad feels a large smile settling over her face.
"Did you just wake up?" Khirad asks mockingly, but the girl on the opposite end only barely stifles her giggle.
"If you're planning to lecture me, I think I should also point out that judging from your croaky voice, you've just woken up too." Khirad isn't bothered by her accurate assumption. After being roommates for all of university and talking almost every day after graduation, these kinds of things weren't surprising to her.
"Of course, Zareen Hussain." She laughs heartily on the line. "You know me too well."
They talk for a few minutes about little things ' like they always seem to do nowadays, Khirad remarks ' when Zareen pauses for a few minutes. Khirad grows worried after being faced with an empty line, without the cheery giggle and the bubbly voice. "Hello?" She calls out lamely.
"Yeah, I'm here," Zareen says softly. "When are you planning to come for the wedding, Khirad?" She asks, not for the first time. Khirad looks at the floor guiltily.
"Zareen, you know I could come now if you wanted me to," she begins, and this is almost a routine now - her explanations and Zareen's incessant stubbornness. "But I've got no place to stay in Karachi, yaar. Chachu's family isn't in town until two weeks after your wedding, so that's probably when I can come. You know this ' I've told you this for the past month now."
"Exactly," Zareen says. "And you're my best friend. So I may or may not have talked to my mum about it and come up with a solution." She adds quickly.
"Wait, what?" Khirad asks, surprised. "I told you not to talk to your mum about this."
"Yeah," she says sheepishly. "And I intended to listen to you. But Mum asked about you yesterday and I couldn't keep it in. There's a good news ' or, well, suggestion."
Khirad rolls her eyes at Zareen's antics. "Bolo?" She says, trying to sound as patient as she can.
"She suggested that you come live with us, for the two weeks before the wedding."
Khirad all but gasps on the phone. "You know that's not possible right? Convenient nahin hai aur '"
"Kya convenient nahin hai, Khirad?" Zareen interrupts impatiently. "You're not going to stay in a hotel or something, theek hai? And your Chachu isn't here. Plus," she insists, "We've lived together in university, too. Remember?"
"Haan, but that was different," Khirad explains. "That was only me and you. This is your whole family. I've only met your parents a few times, yaar. Plus, tumhare ghar me tou full on preparations ho rahi hai."
"Exactly," Zareen counters. "And you can help me with them. Mil ke kaam karenge. Please, think about it."
"Acha, theek hai. I'll talk to Mummy."
Zareen giggles on the line. "Oh, that won't be necessary," she says.
"Kyun? You want me to run away from home?" She teases, twirling a strand of hair around her index finger.
"No, because my mum's currently talking to her for you." She laughs, and Khirad can't contain her giggle at Zareen's planning. She'd go to all lengths to make sure that Khirad was part of the wedding, and the latter couldn't help but feel special.
"Acha, theek hai. But ye batao, if Mummy says yes, when do I need to come?"
"Oh," Zareen pauses. "Um, by the twenty third, which is a Wednesday, so two weeks from now."
"Twenty third kyun?" She asks curiously. "Of all the dates in the world, I mean."
"Oh, because Mum says that you shouldn't travel alone since you don't know the roads properly. Plus, you've barely ever come here, is liye."
Khirad doesn't understand Zareen's explanations, and only waits for a few extra seconds. "Zareen, how is travelling on the twenty third changing anything? I still won't know the roads like the back of my hand, yaar."
Zareen giggles immediately. "Oh, sorry, I forgot to finish the whole story. Mum says that you should come with Bhai. He's in Lahore for some business trip of his, so you guys can travel together on the way back."
Upon her suggestion, Khirad almost spits out the water she'd just started drinking. "Zareen, you can't be serious."
"No, no. Very honestly; we think it's the best thing to do. That way even you'll have enough time to shop and pack and stuff, and his trade show will be over too. Brilliant idea, if I say so myself."
Khirad braces a counter remark, but Zareen stops her even before she can begin. "I've to go. Think about it and call me back," she says lightly.
Setting the glass on the kitchen counter, Khirad just waits until the line goes still.
So, that was chapter one!
I'd love to read your comments.
chapter one, page 1.
chapter two, page 2.
chapter three, page 4.
chapter four, page 5.
chapter five, page 7.
chapter six, page 10.
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