Fahmida laughed. "You know, it's never a quiet moment with children. Especially children like these two." She said to Raina.
Raina nodded, admiring the way Naila caressed Humera's hair as she too began to inspect the menu. "I'll bet."
"So, what are you doing tomorrow?"
"Tomorrow?" Raina said. "Well, as soon as my colleagues that were meant to come yesterday arrive, we have a meeting with the people from Vogue. They were considering on using our clothes for their upcoming magazine issue so I have to sort that out." She replied.
"Wait, Vogue?" Naila asked, getting interested. Raina nodded. "Wow, that's pretty amazing. They're like one of the biggest Magazine companies out there. Just a word of advice..." She laughed lightly. "...just don't mention this to Faiza. That girl is seriously mad about these things."
Ibrahim and Fahmida laughed whilst the twins looked at each other confused. They, not wanting to be out of the action, started to laugh too. Raina smiled, nodding.
"Bhai!" Faiza knocked on Rehaan's door loudly before groaning. "Bhai! Come on!"
Rehaan who was leaning his phone on his shoulder as he used his hands to open the door allowed Faiza in, who stood in front, her hands on her hips. "Are you seriously still on there?"
"Yeah. No that's fine. Okay, thanks for that. Yeah, our flight is on Thursday." He laughed, as he spoke into the call completely ignoring his sister. "I'll be at the Hospital on Friday. Sure, okay bye." He ended the call before looking at Faiza who was glaring at him. "What?" He asked.
"We're on holiday! That means NO work calls." She frowned.
He pushed her out of the room and locked his door, slipping the key into his pocket. "I know, I know. But it was an important call, you know there's a Arts convention next week at the hospital. I have to attend a meeting on Friday to prepare for it." He smiled, proudly.
It was the sort of things he liked. A way to make children smile. So many times he had seen weak children get upset, not about their illness but about having to spend dreary days at the hospital. He had tried his hardest to make them laugh but even that was becoming difficult. A few weeks back he had called a local Arts society, who were talented in a range of different activities: dancing, singing, acting and painting. It was decided that they would attend the Hospital to give these children a day of happiness.
"Uff oh, Bhai! I swear you are just like Raina some times!" He turned his head at the mention of her name.
"Meaning?" He asked subtly.
Faiza rolled her eyes as they walked down the stairs. "You know, Raina is like a total work-a-holic! Whenever she does something, it's always about work." She laughed lightly. "But you know, she's sort of..." She struggled to think of the right word. "...strange."
He frowned wondering what Faiza was talking about. "Strange?"
She nodded. "I mean she's cool and all but I don't know. You know before, we were talking and it seemed like everything was alright and then I asked about her sister. I don't know what happened but she just ignored it and told me to get ready for dinner." He creased his forehead in thought. "I'm probably just thinking about it too much though. I mean, she did seem tired and probably didn't want to talk."
Rehaan nodded, not wanting Faiza to dwell too much into this. "You probably annoyed her, just like you always do." He laughed as they entered the Restaurant hall.
"Oh whatever!" She hurried off to the table leaving Rehaan trailing behind. He thought about her words, knowing full well that there was something troubling Raina. Was there something wrong with her sister? He wondered. After all, how much did he really know about Raina, anyway? He knew from their conversation in the plane, that she was part owner of Meera Fashion House, and that she moved to London five years back. But apart from that, he knew nothing. He thought back to the time she ignored him when he asked her about her past, and especially University. It was like she didn't want him to know; what exactly did happen five years back?
"There you both are!" Fahmida said, breaking Rehaan out of his thought track. Faiza took a seat besides Naila, leaving Rehaan to sit besides Raina and Ibrahim. He and Faiza glanced at the menu before the waiter arrived to get their orders.
Within a few minutes, the loud twins had began to quieten down as they took their individual seats besides Ibrahim and Naila. A waiter brought over a metallic food carrier before placing the plates onto the table.
"Fish Parmienter." He served the dish to Fahmida, Ibrahim and Naila. "Pomme Frites, for the little 'uns." He placed the dish in front of Humera and Hamza who eyed it intensively. "Grilled Chicken." To Faiza. "And finalement, Pates Aux Legumes, or in order words, Vegetable Pasta to Sir and Madame." He gave to Rehaan and Raina before smiling and walking off.
"Yuck, how can you eat pasta?" Faiza said, wriggling her nose. She absolutely despised pasta, especially vegetable pasta. "I swear you both are the same." She bite into her chicken and started to chew, relishing into the slightly spicy after taste.
Raina and Rehaan looked at each other at the same time before looking away in awkwardness. They slowly ate their food whilst the others were busy trying to make sure Humera and Hamza ate properly. Around them, many other families and people on holiday were enjoying the luxury of the Hotel. Though it was cold, there was a loud buzz as people indulged into their food, music being played softly in the background.
"So, you're leaving on Thursday right? I mean, with us?" Ibrahim asked Raina in between bites.
She nodded. "Yeah, same flight." She gave them a smile as Ibrahim nodded understanding.
"We seriously have to keep in contact though!" Faiza chirped. "I mean, bhai shouldn't be the only one to keep you." Rehaan coughed, quickly drinking a glass of water. He huffed quietly as the others started to make conversation.
"Absolutely, you have to come around to see us whenever you can." Fahmida agreed. Raina struggled to say anything before halting.
"Sure." She replied, trying not to look at anyone in particular.
When everyone had finished eating, they all made their way to their respected rooms as it was getting late. Faiza yawned as she waved goodnight to her family and entered the room. She changed into her night clothes and leapt into the bed. Raina came in to see Faiza already sleeping. She smiled, knowing that she was probably tired. She got changed and cleansed herself before dimming the lights and getting into bed. She turned onto her right side, and tried to close her eyes.
Memories of her sister came to mind. "Raina, Afaa!" Aafiya laughed. She was two years younger than Raina, and was completely naive. She rolled her eyes as she tried to push Raina, who was pretending to be asleep. "I know you're not really sleeping." They were ten and twelve, and loved to play around. "Afaa!" Aafiya's voice started to echo as the older Raina started to spurn in her sleep. She awoke, and rubbed her eyes.
She couldn't sleep.
She sighed, getting out of bed slowly as to not wake Faiza up. Wearing a black hoodie over her sleeveless top, she opened the door and walked out. She would always find herself doing this. Always going out to walk or read a book, anything to fall asleep even if it was for a while. She hadn't slept properly in years.
She walked down the corridor to where there was a small midnight coffee bar open for the night. Ordering a strong cup of coffee, she sat down near a corner and started to sip, trying to stop herself from thinking about things that don't need to be remembered. She watched others laughing: couples drinking together as they talked. She closed her eyes, remembering about how she too was like this. Her and him. She would laugh at his lame jokes, even if she didn't feel like laughing. She only did it because he expected her to laugh. She was foolish to get into any sort of relationship with him, he was only ever abusing her trust. If only, he never came into her life. If only.
"Raina, Afa!" Aafiya's voice screamed into Raina's ear as she swirled the older sister around the room until she began to feel dizzy. "I'm so happy!" Aafiya shrieked as she hugged Raina tight.
"Wait, wait, wait!" Aafiya stopped, the smile still playing on her lips. Raina looked at her, wondering why she was so happy. "What happened? Why are you so happy?" Aafiya gave her a smirk. "Aafiya? What happened?"
"Afa! Amma and Abba told me not to tell you yet but I'm so excited that I can't contain myself!"
"Amma and Abba told you not to tell me what? Will you please just tell me!" Aafiya grinned, placing her arms around her sister.
"Well, my dear Afa! I came home from college and found out that..." She paused. "...A proposal came for you!"
Raina let out a gasp. A rishta...a proposal came for her? She shook her head. "No, no no! Are you serious?!" She couldn't believe what she was hearing. She never thought about marriage, not seriously. She was only twenty, and the first thing in her mind was to finish University so that she could teach Literacy to school children. Marriage was definitely not on her mind, not now!
"Yup! Apparently, the guy is the son of one of Abba's friends. I can't remember his name but apparently he's tall, rich and looks good! Seems like the perfect husband for you!" Aafiya shrieked. "I can't believe that my sister will be getting married!"
Raina shook her head. "Aafiya, come on! The proposal has only come, it doesn't seem I'll be getting married and plus, I don't even want to get married now. I want to live my life to the full first, I want to visit places I've never been to and do things I've never done before! Marriage is not on the list, at least not for now. And besides, I don't even want to meet this guy." She shook her arms across her chest, shaking her head.
"You'll have to meet him." Raina and Aafiya turned around to see their mother, Nadia standing outside the room. Draped in a light blue saree, she walked in and held Raina's hand in hers. "Raina, the proposal came from your father's friend. It won't look good if you don't at least meet them, once. And who knows, you might even like them?"
"But Amma. I don't want to get married now, and what would I do by getting married? You know about my dreams, I want to accomplish them first. Marriage can happen later on."
"Raina please. You don't have to get married first, but at least meet the family. Okay?" Nadia looked into her elder daughter's eyes with subdue, as Raina sighed.
"Okay, Amma. I'll meet them, but only for you okay?"
Nadia smiled as she kissed Raina on the cheeks. "Thank you. Now get ready, I've put out a saree for you, they'll be here in two hours."
"They're coming today?" Raina gasped, shaking her head. "I have a lot of work today! I have an assignment that's due in two days, I can't waste time!"
"Raina, trust me. Just meet them for an hour, please?"
Raina sighed, nodding. "Fine, I'll get ready." Nadia smiled as she took Aafiya out of the room, leaving Raina all alone. She sighed, not knowing what to do. Should she scream out of frustration or cry out of sorrow? She did neither, instead she took a deep breath and tried to smile. There had to be a bright side to this situation, and there was, she could possibly meet her life partner. A slight tingle was felt in her stomach, though she didn't want to get married right now, just the thought of marriage made her feel shy. After all, for a girl, one of the most important event in her life was her wedding, and Raina was no exception.
When she was younger, she would dream of the perfect wedding. She would be dressed in a deep red saree, embroidered in gold and silver patterns. On her hands, her mehendi would be deep red, much like the colour of her saree. She had heard many elders saying the dark it is, the more it meant your husband will love you. She didn't believe in it, after all it was an old wives' tale but the thought of it began to make her smile.
She held the dark blue saree in her hand, and touched the soft silk material. She loved this colour; the colour of the sea and sky. "I don't want to get married, but it can't hurt by meeting the guy, would it?"
She was wrong. It hurt so bad.
It's strange to think of how much life had changed in the past five years. She was no longer happy-go-lucky girl, life had been harsh. A tear fell from her brown eyes, but she didn't wipe it off. More began to fall as her face began to become wet and sticky. Yet, she still didn't wipe them off.
Even then, she didn't wipe them off, when she ran away from home, dressed in a simple salwar kameez, with her mother placing a few bundles of money in her hand and telling her to go. "Leave. Live your life. And forget us." Those were her last words, and all Raina wanted was to hear her mother's voice once more. But she couldn't. She had promised herself that she'll never go back there, no matter what. After everything that had happened, she can't bear to see him in the hands of another.