As an angry tear made its way down her cheek, Zoya's gaze kept fixated on Aashu whose eyes were as wide as saucers while Asad struggled to find the right words. However Zoya didn't look at him at all; afraid to find a scowl mocking her feelings only to intensify her hurt. Hadn't she had enough already?
Ever since she was back at Khan Mansion, the once affable home was leaving no chance to close in on her. She felt claustrophobic in his company and it didn't help that she found his gaze lingering on her every time she was in his vicinity. She even felt guilty for feeling the way she did as she knew if Dilshad and Najma found out about her discomfiture it would hurt them. So for the sake of their delight, she decided to put a facade as best as she could. But the fact remained that she was not as emotionally challenged as he was. Her damaged heart still leapt at his sight stabbing her insides. She was angry at herself for allowing him to affect her so much when she knew what this brief reunion would taste like once she was back. She could not let him puzzle her anymore lest she wanted this unquenchable desire to consume her in its intensity. No! Not this time! She won't allow him the privilege to shun her and she won't allow herself the liberty to hope, she resolved.
Determined, she strode towards Aashu and wiped the sole tear with the back of her hand. "Didn't know you would put my feelings for a third party display" Zoya accused Aashu and her choice of words punched Asad in the gut. Aashu sighed, "Zoe..." she began but Zoya shook her head and turned away not wanting to hear anything more. "Ms. Farooqui..." Asad began but Zoya's sharp look shut him instantly, "Please Mr. Khan, I don't want to hear anything from you. Is baat ko yahin khatam kijiye. Main jaanti hoon aap mere baare main kya sochte hain, you don't have to reiterate your misfit validation. So just let it go" said that she almost ran away to her room. Aashu gave an accusatory glance at Asad, "you actually thought she's a misfit!", she hissed. "Ms. Aashu, We never complemented each other... and opinions do change!" Asad justified. "Impossible!" Aashu muttered under her breath, rolled her eyes and stomped off to pacify Zoya.
In the sanctity of her room, Zoya let her tears fall without any reservations. Why? Why things were going off the course now? Why did he have to know? Why did she come here? Why did she let Aashu trick her into this? She hugged herself as her bottled up feelings begin to overflow. "Zoe" Aashu called in a soothing voice, keeping a hand over her shoulder. But Zoya shrugged it off. "Zoe, you gotta face it!" came in Aashu's stern call. Zoya whipped around to face her, "Allah Miyan! What's wrong with you Aashu? Why are you making it so hard for me?" she rowed. "Did you leave me an option? I had to Zoe. I couldn't allow you to do that to yourself. Either talk to him or move on!" Aashu said in a firm voice. "Talk to him? Are you kidding me? An insensitive man like him can never understand someone's love... How could you bare my heart to him?" Zoya questioned. "Zoe, don't forget he called you twice. You refused to speak to him. May be he feels the same for you and trust me, I have seen it, whenever you are around, he has his eyes only for you" Aashu tried to knock some sense in Zoya's head. Zoya let out a mock chuckle, "All the while when I was here, he had nothing to tell me. I thought he was writing a book by the name of Flaws in Zoya Farooqui coz all he did was pick on me and blame me. Yet, foolishly, somewhere in the way, amidst his insensitive charade, I fell for him and even thought that I wasn't the only one to harbor such feelings for him, that it was mutual... but he proved me downright wrong, Aashu. I was a misfit according to him. A musibat! Trouble magnet! Theek hai, main unki tarah perfect na sahi lekin main itni buri bhi nahi hoon ki mauka milte hi unhone mujhe khudse itna door kar diya." Zoya cried voicing out her anguish.
Aashu pursed her lips not knowing what she could do or say to placate her friend. Taking Zoya to bed, she made her sit and got her to drink some water. Once she was little composed, Aashu suggested, "Then its best that you move on". Zoya gave her a helpless look and in a broken voice admitted, "I don't know how to do that".
Asad paced around back and forth in his room. The pain in Zoya's eyes and Aashu's words burned his ears, evading the remnants of sleep. He had never seen Zoya so angry at anything before. It was like he was seeing a reflection of himself in her. How he wished now to turn back the clock and set things right! He had been a fool to think that she had moved on and didn't want anything to do with him. As the realization dawned so did the epiphany that the only way to pull himself and Zoya out of this pool of despair was to bare it all to embrace it all. The morning sun, gave rise to a determined Asad, the one who pledged to make up to his lady love. "I won't let you go this time Zoya" he vowed to himself.
Not all plans are executed as thought, and when it was Mr. Asad Ahmed Khan's plan, one could trust Ms. Farooqui to wreck havoc around it. Frustrated, Asad sat for breakfast fiddling with his bowl of cornflakes. "Aaj ka din hi ajeeb hai. Sabhi ko jaldi hai. Pehle Zoya aur Aashu subah jaldi chale gaye, then Najma ki extra class thi aur ab tumhe bhi jaldi jaana hai" Dilshaad said, settling down to have her meal when she noticed Asad was lost and was not paying heed to anything she said. "Kya hua Asad?" Dilshaad asked. "Kuch nahi Ammi" Asad replied meticulously, his eyes bored into a piece of paper that laid in his line of sight. Dilshad followed his glare and placed a hand on his, "Asad, now don't be hard on the poor girl, she was just being thoughtful. She didn't want to trouble us isliye toh note chod kar gayi" she said with a smile. Asad gave a nod, knowing very well what drove her away so early in the morning.
Asad was up the whole night and had decided to speak to her the first thing in the morning. He had rushed to catch up with her on the breakfast table but was in was for a rude shock when Dilshad showed him the note Zoya had left behind before leaving home earlier than usual, apparently to capture some early morning shots. She had written that she didn't want to disturb Dilshad and so she was leaving behind a note. But Asad was no fool and understood it all too well. How he wished right now to track her down, haul her in his car and take her to a place where she wouldn't be able to run away from him. But he knew acting on impulses will not be wise now when the situation demanded damage control!
The rest of his day was spent thinking about Zoya. He needed to get through her. Time was running fast and if he wished to spend the rest of his life with her, he needed to act smartly and pronto. A beautiful picture of the life ahead too tempting to let go started to take shape in his head. Desperate to hold on to this, his mind raced to find a way to her. As the night fell, he was at the wits end of his patience yet he could find no break to end this misery.
On the other hand Zoya was having a hard time maintaining this indifferent charade. It didn't help that she could feel his eyes, seeking her every time they shared a space. She tossed in her bed understanding but not acknowledging what could be possibly running through his head. She wished to confront him about his intentions but unlike the days gone by it seemed impossible now. Too restless to lie down anymore, she pushed the covers aside and tiptoed outside her room to get some fresh air. She stepped on the porch and inhaled deeply, gently wrapping her arms around herself. The open space helped. Nature had its way, she thought with a small smile. Pacing around casually, she consciously looked around a couple of times when she felt herself being watched. "Hold yourself Zoya. Koi nahi hai yahan" she chided herself and continued to stroll around lazily, gazing at the starry sky. Moments later, she sat on the bench and the nostalgia took over as the memories of times when he would bring her coffee and they would share their insecurities came flooding back. "Allah Miyan! What's wrong with me? Zoya, Mr. Khan ko yaad karna band kar warna jaldi tujhe mental asylum main admit hona padega. Tu pehle bhi bohut zyada sochti thi aur ab bhi" Tears stung her eyes as she chastised herself at her stupidity of reading more into his act of humility. As the night air worked on her frenzied nerves and her eyelids became heavier. She laid down on the bench uncomfortably and when exhaustion took over, she let sleep overcome her.
Asad, who himself couldn't sleep, was surprised when he saw her in the garden at this unearthly hour. His first instance was to go upto her just like the old times and clear the mist that clouded the probabilities of togetherness. But then, he realized that she needed this space... and for now he chose to give her the liberty of this distance between them. Peering through his window his gaze refused to leave her frame and he indulged in this game of silent admiration. She was beautiful and he wished to run his finger through her soft locks envying the breeze that gently swayed them. It pained him to see her engulfing herself when his arms itched to hold her in. He saw her drifting off to sleep on the bench and couldn't help but sigh, few things would perhaps never change. She would remain as reckless as always when it came to herself. And, who in their right mind would leave the comfort of a mattress for a hard bench! He gently shook his head before heading out guardedly not wanting to startle her. He walked towards her and kneeled near the bench to have a close look at her face. The soft smile, the glow of her skin all drew him to her. She looked so pure, so innocent almost surreal. He gently caressed her cheek to ensure he wasn't dreaming and smiled when he saw her smile grew just a notch. It was at this instant that he realized that contrary to his plans, their lives had entangled a long time back. Pushing her away then he hadn't simplified but complicated his life and hers. He needed her and couldn't let her slip away this time. And just then n idea struck, the worry lines on his face were swiftly replaced by the charming dimpled smile as he prepared himself for the kill! He suddenly knew what was needed to be done. Leaning in, he gave her a feather light peck on her forehead before gently scooping her and heading in.
"Zoya aapki aankhen kyun itni laal hain?" Dilshad asked running a loving hand over Zoya's cheek. "Kuch nahi phoophi, thoda assignment ka kaam tha so slept in late" Zoya replied as she settled for breakfast. "That's not done Zoya. You shouldn't overdo yourself. What if you fall sick?" Dilshad reprimanded her. "Good Morning Everyone. Ms. Farooqui, ab kaisi tabiyat hai aapki?" Asad spoke as he walked in and sat in his customary chair. "Morning Asad. Zoya ko kya hua hai?" Dilshad frowned and so did Zoya. Before Zoya could respond, Asad gave her and Ashu a disapproving look, "Ms. Farooqui you didn't tell Ammi?" Zoya eyed him dubiously and then turned to Aashu who seemed to be too fascinated with her breakfast. Confounded, Zoya asked "What was I suppose to tell Phoophi?" Asad rolled his eyes, feigning irritation and turned to Aashu, "Ms. Aashu I thought you looked worried when you ran into me the other night looking for some pain relief tablets to ease Ms. Farooqui's headache?" he lied taking the sip of his coffee. "When?" Zoya squinted her eyes. "The other night when you looked quiet distressed after your midnight stroll in the garden" Asad raised his brow challenging her. Zoya gasped at the reference and Aashu who knew where it was heading tried to grasp what how he was planning to reach there.
"Is it Aashu? Why didn't you wake me?" Dilshad asked and Aashu fumbled for words, "Phoophi, aap thak gayi thi na". Dilshad frowned. "Is it Ms. Aashu, I thought there was more" Asad kept his eyes on Zoya. But being cornered was not something that Aashu appreciated; she looked at the duo irritably; if she was trying to be an intermediary didn't mean he will throw her under the wheels, so she straightened up, "Sure Phoophi! There was more... After all who could help Zoya other than Mr. Khan?" she replied crossly. The look in her eyes clearly meant if she wasn't pulled out of it in an instant, she was going to spill the beans! "What do you mean Aashu?" Dilshad asked in confusion. "Phoophi, Mr. Khan and Ms. Farooqui..." Aashu began but was instantly cut of when Zoya elbowed her and with a cough Asad filled in, "Ammi, Maine hi inhe aapki neend main khalal daalne se mana kiya tha" he replied. "Did you two fight again?" Dilshad asked sensing something amiss. "Ammi main inse kyun ladunga? Mujhe aur bhi kaam hai" Asad replied in his defense. "Mujhe bhi... Phoophi, main bhi inse ladkar apna waqt zaya karne nahi aayi hoon." Zoya countered. "Finally, lagta hai aapme thodi akal aa rahi hai Ms. Farooqui" Asad rubbed her in amusement. "I know Mr. Khan, sab aapki tarah intelligent toh hote nahi ki ek hi baar main samajh jaaye. Magar woh kehte hain na, Der Aaye Durust aaye" Zoya huffed. And before Asad could counter Dilshad shut them up with a fierce look. "Tum dono kabhi sudhroge ya nahi?" she commented. However, Aashu didn't miss the fact that this was the first time Asad had gotten Zoya to react to his presence. She smiled in admiration and gave him thumbs up that Asad acknowledged with a nod.
"I think I should make my move" Zoya announced rising up from her chair but Dilshad's voice cut her stride, "And I think you need a day off" Making a declaration clear with her intent Dilshad walked out leaving a petulant Zoya and an elated Asad behind. "Mr. Khan don't you have office today?" Zoya snapped when she saw Asad giving her a triumphant look to which he replied, "I'm needed here Zoya... Something here is long overdue. Isn't it?" And there were three things there that made her swoon - One, him addressing her as Zoya with no reservations; two the glint in his eyes and three, the implication behind his words. To get a hold over her emotions, Zoya turned to go to her room but much to her surprise, he held her hand and pulled her close, "Don't you think so?" his lips brushed her ears sending shivers down her spine and she tried to get his hands off her waist, "what?" she whispered back. He stepped back just an inch to look deep in her eyes, "You and I..." but before he could continue, they heard a thud. Asad quickly left Zoya and the duo turned to a befuddled Aashu trying to lift herself up from the floor. Asad rolled his eyes while Zoya rushed to help her friend. "You ok?" she asked her. "Yea yea... fine!" Aashu replied. Taking her chance, Zoya escaped from there while Aashu walked upto Asad, "Wow Mr. Khan! I'm telling you aapki har ada par main fida hoti ja rahi hoon... Agar Zoe nahi maani na toh koi baat nahi, main hoon" she winked and placed her elbow on his shoulder. Embarrassed, Asad stepped aside and fumbled, "Aap apni tehzeeb bhool rahi hain Ms. Aashu" and shot her an indignant glare before walking away from her leaving Aashu in splits.
"Allah Miyan whats wrong with Mr. Khan?" Zoya complained throwing her hands up in the air. "Isse ishq ka junoon kehte hain meri jaan. He's so romantic!" Aashu said with an effervescent smile. "Romantic my foot!" Zoya spat placing a hand on her hip, "I bet us raat maine unka lecture kaat diya tha na toh aaj meri tehzeeb aur leehaz par moral education ki class yahin lagne wali wali hai. (Aashu tried to intervene but Zoya didn't let her) After all jab tak woh mujhe yeh nahi batayenge ki main kitni badtameez hoon, immature hoon, and etc, etc, tab tak unhe chain kaise milega? (Aashu raised her brow as Zoya continued) Allah Miyan! I think I should subscribe to Mr. Akdu Ahmad Khan's behavioural tutorials' e-learning course" she was cut off by his calm voice, "Interesting thought Ms. Farooqui" in an instant Zoya turned around to see him leaning against her door frame. She narrowed her eyes as he continued, "But why does it have to be an e-learning thing when I can be your personal tutor" he said walking up to her. "Mr. Khan! Aap theek hai na?" she asked stretching her hand in front of her to ensure he kept an arm's length distance. Holding her outstretched palm, he brought it to his lips and kissed it gently and she could feel the world spinning around her. It had to be the day of apocalypse; how else would anyone justify Mr. Khan being so tender to her, she considered and instantly pulled her hand back. Aashu by now had slipped out of the room; after all she had to ensure the practical execution of his plan.
"Mr. Khan if this is The Judgment day and you are think your sweet talks will change my opinion of you and I won't complain to Allah Miyan about your insensitive ways, then spare yourself. Main aapki baton main aane wali nahi hoon" she affirmed, folding her hands across her chest like a kid and he gave her a confused look, "Judgment Day?" he asked. "Isn't the world coming to an end today? If that's not the case phir toh ek hi baat ho sakti hai... ya aapka deemag kharab ho gaya hai ya mera! I guess it should be yours coz you are the one behaving weirdly not me" Zoya ranted while Asad pressed his fore-finger and thumb against his forehead to keep a semblance of his sanity. It wasn't easy for him to express himself in so clear words and Zoya was making it more difficult for him. "Aap jaante bhi hain aap kya kar rahe hain Mr. Khan?" she shook him by his upper arm when she realized he wasn't paying any heed to her and continued, "Meri samajh main nahi aa raha ki akhir aap chahte kya hai? Kal se dekh rahi hoon..." and she was stopped when his palm pressed against her lips to shut her up. Her eyes shot up to meet his and that's when she read the unsaid request made by his eyes. "Hear me" he breathed and she felt herself captivated by the sheer intensity of his eyes. Momentarily shutting his eyes, he stepped away from her and held her hand to lead her to the edge of her bed. Gently holding on to her shoulders he made her sit and then kneeled on the floor beside her before gently taking her hand in his.
The look in his eyes churned umpteen emotions through her in that moment. The pain of the unrequited love to the prospect of what it could be and then the fear of all it to be an illusion kept her afar. "Please listen to me once, Zoya" sincerity oozed out from his words and she sat there neither withdrawing nor consenting. Her gazed fixed on him and he took it as it cue to continue, "Give me this day" he pleaded and she blinked twice to ascertain what he said. She was expecting him to say something else, something more but what did he mean by this, she had no idea about. "What?" she asked in a voice no more than a whisper. She frowned while he spoke, "I know I've hurt you. I know what you feel for me and you know I'm not immune to you either. I may not be able to heal your wounds entirely in this one day Zoya but please, give me a chance. I need this day with you" he desperately seeked. "You are joking, right?" she pulled her hand and stood up. "Zoya, I mean it!" Asad ascertained but kept his distance. "Mr. Khan, as usual mujhe aapki baat samajh nahi aa rahi. Aap chahte kya ho?" she animatedly waved her hands. "Can you trust me Zoya?" he held her hand and turned her to face him. "No" came her prompt reply and he sighed, "Then I suppose I'll have to take what I want". She raised her brows, "Matlab?" He smiled assertively, "You are spending this day with me". While her jaws dropped to floor, he leaned to gently peck her on her cheek and left from there to let her deal with this situation between them.