"Rehaan, come down quick we're going to be late for the plane!" Fahmida Malik, Rehaan's mother looked intently at the clock in their living room. It was just past eight in the morning, and they had just under an hour before their plane leaves for Paris. It was mid-November and everyone had taken a week off work to have a family holiday. Normally, they would travel to Southampton, a city south of England where Fahmida's brother and his family lived. However, this time they had opted for something different: the heart of France.
"Rehaan, jaldi!" She shouted from below the stairs, sighing as her son told her to wait a minute. She groaned, fixing her cotton white saree and tightening her headscarf. Behind her, her daughter Faiza stood with one hand on her hip as she awaited for her elder brother. She flicked her wavy, brown shoulder length hair and adjusted the buttons on her black coat. She was the youngest child after her two brothers, and the apple of her mother and brother's eyes. She had never known her father, who died a month before she was born. She didn't mind, not really. With a loving mother like Fahmida and protective brothers like Rehaan and Ibrahim, she never felt the absence of her father.
A minute later, Rehaan skidded down the stairs. Wearing his long military jacket; his dark, tousled hair was brushed back whilst in his hand he held his suitcase. He walked towards his mother with a solemn expression. "Sorry Amma," He apologised to her and picked up his mother's side bag, twisting it around his shoulders. He looked at his sister. "Blame this Faiza. Look how long she takes in the bathroom." Faiza gasped whilst she applied her rouge tinted lipstick. He smirked at her expression, his dimples highlighted within his slight stubble. He loved teasing her.
"Bhai, it's not my fault! After all, girls take longer in the bathroom." He rolled his eyes at her comment, he never really liked girls who spent too much time getting ready. "Right, Amma?"
Fahmida sighed, tired of her children's bickering. "Hai Allah! I don't know who is right." She placed her hands up before opening the door of the taxi. Rehaan opened the front door of the taxi and sat in whilst his mother and sister sat behind.
"What happened?" Ibrahim asked. He was always the sociable brother out of the two. Loud and playful as opposed to Rehaan's quiet personality. Besides him sat his wife, Naila and their twin toddlers, Humera and Hamza. They were sleeping in their parent's lap, still tired from being up till late last night.
"What must have happened? Rehaan bhai and Faiza must have had an argument, again." Naila replied, smiling. Between her and Ibrahim, they were the ones who had to patch up the other sibling's arguments. It was something that Naila had gotten used to since she had married into the household four years back. She had become like a second mother to Faiza and a good friend to Rehaan.
"Bhaiya! Look, Rehaan bhai is saying that it was my fault that he gets late." Faiza complained to Ibrahim. She was twenty four years old but being the youngest, she hadn't gotten rid of her childish personality. Rehaan rolled his eyes as he watched the interaction from the taxi's rear view mirror. He looked on as the car slowed down waiting behind the red traffic light.
"But you do take quite a long time getting ready, Faiza." Ibrahim stated. Faiza opened her mouth to reply but shook her head, not thinking of a suitable comment. Rehaan quietly chuckled at his sister's defeat.
"What will happen to you when you get married?" Fahmida asked Faiza, shaking her head in disapproval. Faiza crossed her arms and sunk into her seat.
"I won't get married until Rehaan Bhai gets married." She smiled as she watched Rehaan jerk up in his seat, surprised at her reply.
"Then you'll have to wait a hundred years because I'm not getting married any time soon." He replied keeping his attention on the moving road. It wasn't that he had anything against getting married, he wanted to wait until he felt like he was ready. And to wait until he found someone who was his soul mate. Unfortunately, that time wasn't now.
Ibrahim chuckled at his sibling's stubborn behaviour. "You both will have to get married some day, after all who else is going to put up with you?"
"Whoever Rehaan Bhai get's married to, I feel sorry for her. She'll have to put up with his so not funny attitude, his long lectures about education." She tapped her chin, thinking hard. "Oh my god, I wonder if the girl he gets married to will be a doctor just like him." Naila couldn't help but laugh at Faiza's words.
"And whoever this fool gets married to will have to put up with her clothes all over the place." Rehaan replied. "And Oh my God!" He faked a high pitched voice, mocking his sister. "I wonder if the boy she gets married to will be a fool just like her." Rehaan gave a pretentious smile as Ibrahim and Naila laughed. Besides them, Hamza stirred in his sleep whilst Naila quickly hushed him.
"Will you two ever finish your fight?" Fahmida asked as the car halted near the Heathrow Airport. "Look, we're here. Now no more argument or else this trip will be cancelled." Faiza gasped straight away. For her, this was one in a lifetime chance of leaving London even if it was just for a week. Noting that her mother was serious, Faiza bowed her head and quietened down as Ibrahim paid the taxi driver and they made their way inside the airport.
They were instantly hit by the buzz of hundreds of people waiting for their plane arrival. Around them, lines of families stood to get their packaging and suitcases checked in whilst single people waited on their own. A loud tannoy placed over the building called out the destination whilst a crowd of people rushed towards the gate. Ibrahim left to check in their belongings whilst the rest of the family waited in the queue to check in their boarding pass.
"I'm sorry but there's been a problem." A blonde Caucasian woman gave Rehaan a sympathetic smile as she checked her database. Naila and Faiza, each holding a twin in their arms gave each other a confused look. "Somehow the tickets have been mixed up and you have got four boarding passes whilst the other's have been declined."
"What?" Rehaan asked. "Can you please check again?"
"Sure." The woman replied, clicking the keyboards and sighing. "I'm sorry but it's the same problem. I think your information has been mixed up with someone else's." She gave him the four boarding passes. "Here are four out of seven boarding passes." He took them in, nodding.
"Is there anything we can do? I mean is there any way to get boarding passes?" He asked her, getting annoyed.
The woman looked onto her computer screen. She struggled to think of what to say. "I think it would be best if you purchased the other tickets, but..." She glanced over at her screen again. "right now all the seats to Paris have been booked." Rehaan closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "Although, there is another plane leaving in the evening. If you want I can transfer you onto that schedule?"
Rehaan lingered in thought for a second. "Er, hold on. I'll come back." She nodded as they all moved out of the queue. Ibrahim arrived to see Rehaan in deep thought.
"Is everything alright?" He asked as Rehaan told him the problem. "What? How can this happen?"
The younger brother shrugged. "Some mix up, I suppose." He handed the boarding passes to Ibrahim. "Bhai, you take these with the twins and Bhabhi. I'll take Faiza and Amma on the next plane later."
Ibrahim shook his head. "No, we can't go without you guys."
"But bhai, it would be better. Besides there's four passes, and you obviously need Bhabhi to handle the twins." Rehaan insisted. Ibrahim gave a dejected look to his mother and sister.
Faiza smiled. "Bhaiya, don't worry about us. We'll go later, it's fine. And besides we're taking different paths but the destination is the same right?" She passed Humera to Ibrahim.
"Right." Fahmida replied as she looked up at her son. "Go, we'll be fine." Naila nodded her head as her, Ibrahim and the sleeping twins awaited for a few minutes until the plane arrived. Rehaan left to get water and refreshments for them.
Raina groaned into the phone as she gave her details to the cashier. "What do you mean you'll be delayed?" She had just learnt that her three colleagues would not make it to Paris until the following morning which was a huge problem seeing as they all had to prepare for a meeting the next day. "Okay fine. I'll see you tomorrow." She switched the phone off before taking her boarding pass. After being reminded constantly by her aunt, Raina had made it to the airport just in time until the plane left. She sighed, knowing that she'll be alone in the plane. Well, she wouldn't exactly but she'll be surrounded with people she didn't know and especially since she was travelling in the Business class, where they was more space and less people. She didn't mind but sometimes she missed the squashy, homely feel that was in the economy class. She asked the blonde woman, checking in her pass to hold onto the others, not wanting to take them unless they lost them.
She sighed. It was one of those times when she was completely alone. She didn't mind it, as it gave her some time to think but sometimes it got just too lonely. Have you ever been in a crowded room but you felt as lonely as ever? That's exactly how Raina felt at this moment. Her aunt, Aminah didn't accompany her on this trip as she had important work to handle back in their London Office. Raina placed her hand bag over her shoulders as she made her way towards an empty seat. She noticed a family wandered around. She smiled looking at the children who seemed like they had just woken up. She liked children. She liked their innocence, the way they played as if they were in their own world. She noticed a younger woman about her age cooing one of the children.
Raina walked besides a shorter woman who had her back faced towards her. She struggled to move to sit on the seat. "Excuse me?" She asked.
The elderly woman turned around, startled by the new presence. Her worried face was now emerging a huge smile. She gasped as her eyes glistened in delight, seeing the same face that she had seen nearly two months back. "Raina?"