'This needs to be completed today itself, okay? Send them to my house when they're done', Ayaan told one of his subordinates and picking up his coat, started making his way outside the office.
He had seen Zoya and his boss leave, and he knew that this was when he was needed the most in the office, but today he had some other things to take care of. His boss couldn't blame him for this either since he was the one responsible for all of it afterall. Once out of the office, he pulled his coat closer to his body, sheilding himself partly from the cold, and partly from the unwanted feeling called 'remorse' . He made his way towards the telephone booth down the road, keeping his mind elsewhere so he got no second thoughts for what he was going to do.
As he entered the four walls of the booth, he let out a deep sigh before he picked up the phone, dropping in a few coins and dialed the number he had dreaded to dial since years.
'Hello?', Ayaan carefully spoke, a lump in his throat as he heard a voice from the other end, more like a whisper of a hello. 'Nikhat?'
'Bh-bhaijaan?', he heard her say. He could tell from her voice how excited she was, maybe even breathless. He wanted to kick himself where it would hurt the most.
'Nikhat, I'm coming to the village tommorrow', Ayaan told her, his eyes shut, anticipating a shriek of excitement that never came. Instead came just silence. 'Nikhat?'.
'Jee Bhaijaan, I'm listening', came the reply. Ayaan could feel his breathing turning shallow as he realised his sister was not at all happy at the news. Infact, she seemed to be saddened.
'You're not happy that I'm coming, Nikhat?', Ayaan asked in a low voice, his question sounding like a mere statement.
'Why are you coming and for how long?', Nikhat asked ignoring his question.
'I'm coming with a...', Ayaan searched for the right word. '..a friend. She wanted to see the village. We're planning on staying for a month. Would that be okay?', Ayaan asked not understanding her silence.
'Is your friend Asad Ahmed Khan, Bhaijaan?', Nikhat asked, and Ayaan sensed a bit of excitement there or was he imagining it?
'N-no', Ayaan replied, wondering why would Nikhat think that his boss who lived a posh life would ever think of visiting their village if he tried staying out of it. And was this what she thought? That he and Asad Ahmed Khan were friends? 'A female friend'.
'Oh', Ayaan could tell the dissapointment in her voice. He let himself lean on the door of the booth. 'I will ask the nurse to get the guest room cleaned for the two of you'.
'NO!', Ayaan replied quickly, shocking himself at his sudden outburst.
'Is something wrong, Bhaijaan?', Nikhat asked from the other end, sounding confused.
'Its not like that, Nikhat. She's just a friend. We would stay in different rooms', Ayaan replied, watching himself turn crimson red in the faint reflection formed by the glass wall of the booth.
He heard Nikhat chuckle from the other end, making him smile a little, but embarassing him more. But he felt better hearing her laugh for his ears had been dreaming for the day since years when they would get to hear this.
'Acha, now I have to go', Ayaan said into the phone. 'See you soon'.
'Bye', came Nikhat's curt but sad reply.
On his way back to his office, all Ayaan could think of was why his sister did not seem too happy about his visit or why she sounded rather too excited when he said he was bringing a guest with him. But he knew he was getting none of the answers before he reached the village. He had to finish off some work in the office and retire home to have a good sleep in order to face the whole drama that would play out tomorrow regarding convincing Zoya to go with him and meeting his sister.
He could see her shifting uneasily every now and then from the corner of his eyes. The awkard silence in the car was driving him crazy, shocking him to no ends as he had always been a man who preferred solitude. He saw how she would clutch her dress in her fist, and then release it after a while, busying her hand in removing the wrinkles from the cloth. Then, she would simply clutch the seatbelt in front of her chest, making it hard for him to keep his eyes on the road. He knew what she was so nervous about. The whole incident in his cabin had surely made her feel uncomfortable and vulnerable and she may be worrying about what he thought. Frankly, even he wondered what she thought of him after he revealed the whole gag incident from years ago and about the sudden hug. So silly of him, he thought to himself remembering how she cringed with his touch everytime.
'How are you?', Asad asked after five minutes of the deadly silence.
He felt Zoya looking at him for sometime before she answered, her hot gaze burning the skin below his ear.
'I'm fine', she replied quickly, turning her head towards the other side, looking outdide the window,
'I'm uhh...sorry for what happened in my office', Asad spoke in a low tone, surprising himself with how gentle he could be if he pleased.
Zoya turned towards him sharply as he asked the question. He turned his face to meet her eyes for a second to see an unreadable expression. Was she embarassed? Or angry?
'It was spontaneous', Asad told her truthfully. 'You were talking to yourself, and I could see you were crying. So thats why I...uhh..hugged you, so you could calm down a little, and ease your mind'.
Zoya turned her face on the road, and stayed quiet. How could a person be such an enigma? Why was he like this? Which side is his real side? Here she was fretting about how she opened up to him so much and there he was worrying about how he hugged her. It worried her how the hug didn't make her uncomfortable, rather soothed her. But what was she to tell him?
'That's okay. It wasn't your fault', she heard herself say.
She thought she saw from the corner of her eyes how his lips curved upwards a little in a smile. Or was it her imagining it all?
'Can I ask you something, Mr. Khan?', Zoya spoke, her eyes on the road, clearly avoiding to look at him.
Asad was surprised as she so calmly asked him that, and even more surprised when he felt his insides relax, his stiffed up body going back to its original relaxed form a bit. Probably just the heater in the car, calming his nerves, he decided.
'Sure', he politely said, curious about what she would ask him.
'Why did you hold my hand in the conference room? How did you know that would work?', Zoya boldly asked, feeling her original self in her body for that minute. She felt herself feeling powerful again, the real Zoya Farooqui hiding behind the rust of dark emotions.
Asad didn't know how to answer that. He really didn't. Keeping his eyes on the road, he found himself speeding up a bit, trying to figure out an answer to tell her. He didn't know why at that moment his instincts had guided him to do that. The electric feeling of that touch sent a shiver down his spine as he remembered it.
'I don't know', he answered sighing, turning his face to meet her eyes for a second. 'I guess I knew that there was another Zoya shying behind the stage curtains, waiting to be pushed. And so I just pushed'.
Zoya smiled at his answer. She felt warm listening to him say he knew there was another Zoya behind it all. Could people really see the real Zoya behind her? Or was it just him? If everyone could see it, why didn't the man judging her see it? Why just Asad Ahmed Khan?
Her thought process was brutally interrupted as she felt the car stopping, and her side of the door opening. She looked at her side to find Asad Ahmed Khan holding the car door open for her. Looking around she saw they were home. Err...not her home, but his and Ayaan's. She got off the car and waited as he closed the door and then simply followed him.
'Here you go', Asad said as he handed him keys for Ayaan's house. 'Ayaan won't be back till late at night, so if you need anything just call me'.
Zoya just awkwardly smiled at Asad and nodded her head, turning to go towards Ayaan's apartment. As soon as she rotated the keys inside the key hole, she felt her stomach growling and realised at that point how she had eaten nothing since she the morning.
'Might as well busy myself in making me a sandwitch', Zoya said to herself as she walked towards the room to freshen up before she started in the kitchen.
Asad went towards his kitchen and after pouring himself his black coffee, he walked towards his old recorder and stared at it, one hand inside his pocket. Should he? Or should he not? He couldn't decide. Closing his eyes, he quickly slipped his hand out of the pocket and placed the sharp end on the recorder to find every nerve of his body instantly relaxing at the sound of his mother singing. He walked back towards his couch and dropped himself on it.
Sipping his coffee, he threw his head back at the couch, closing his eyes and lip synching the lyrics his mother sang. He felt his mother's voice working its magic on the back of his senses, calming him. It was almost like his mother was massaging his head and releaving him of the pain. But what still managed to surprise him was how he could see Zoya's image in his mind as he closed his eyes. But he made no effort to remove it, for right now it worked in removing his pain and thats what he cared about.
He had no idea how long he stayed like that, looking at the image that formed in his mind of Zoya running around in a lush green filed, her long black hair jumping behind her, caressing her face every now and then. Her slender white arms going to and frow as she ran happily, the radiant smile warming his inner soul.
'There's a land that I've heard of, once in a lullaby', he heard his mother sing at the exact time he found himself imagining Zoya in the green fields.
The door bell threw him out of his day dreaming and he sat up straight with a jerk, rubbing his eyes, trying to shake away every last hint of his day dream out of his mind. Keeping his coffee on the table, and tracing his hands along his legs to smoothen out the wrinkles on his pant, he walked towards the recorder, turning it off.
He heard the door bell ring once again and he walked towards the door to open. It probably was the girl sent by Junaid Sahab, he thought as he opened the door to find a young girl, dressed modestly from head to toe standing outside, flashing a smile at him. Avoiding the urge to roll back his eyes, he moved aside to let the girl walk in, without even bothering to confirm whether she was the one.
Noor had finally found her way to his apartment and with the help of the buttler, had finally made her way in front of his door. With shaky, sweaty hands she had pressed the door bell. She could still run away, she had thought after every second. She could still turn back and not face one of the most shrewd businessmen in the country. But then just as she would think of that, Najma's crestfallen face, her urgency in the restaurant that day, her scrapbook would flash before her eyes and she would stay put. She rang the bell once again hoping he would open the door before she ran away.
She heard the lock of the door opening, and quickly held her breath and gathered herself together, up straight and put on her best smiles. Her breathing turned sharp as she took in his full form, the broad shoulders, the perfect stubble, the dreamy eyes and the oh-so-delicious jawline. He was even handsome in person, she found herself thinking.
'He's your best friend's brother, you idiot. He's like your brother!', she scolded herself.
She saw him move aside and walked in, taking in the perfect apartment just like the owner. The neatly aligned sofas, the breath-taking chandelier hanging on top, the whole layout of the apartment in front of her eyes just as she walked in, on the the marble flooring.
'You have a beautiful house, sir', Noor complimented, unable to stop herself.
She saw him nod in approval and guide him towards the sofa and silently motioned herself to sit. And so she did. She herself came from a very wealthy family, but nothing could beat the luxurious lifestyle of Asad Ahmed Khan, she decided.
'Would you like anything to drink?', she heard him say for the first time since she arrived.
Such a manly voice, she found herself swooning just before she reminded herself he was Najma's brother.
'No thankyou', Noor politely replied. 'I've just come here to talk to you about something extremely important to my best friend and...maybe you'.
Way to go blurt it all out at once, Noor, she scolded herself as she saw Asad Ahmed Khan's eyebrows scrunching in confusion for a second.
She saw him sit down in front of her, a feew feets away, on the other leather black sofa just like the one she was seated on.
'And what may that be?', Asad asked. 'Listen, to be very honest to you, I've only let you come in because Junaid Sahab settled this meeting. So please make it worth it'.
So like Najma, Noor thought smiling to herself. He was just as impatient as her. She remembered how once Najma left the concert of her favourite band she had wallpapers of in her room, just because they took too long to come up on the stage.
'I'm here to talk to you about Najma Ahmed Khan', Noor carefuly let out, keeping her eyes on his face to note down any reaction from her.
But no reaction ever came. It was still his poker face she was looking at. So he didn't even know her name? Was this a really bad idea?, Najma thought.
'And who may that be?', Asad asked unimpressed.
Noor opened and closed her mouth, unable to decide how to break it up to him. How woud he react? What would she do if he didn't care about Najma at all?
'Najma is my best friend who fishes out any newspaper or any article which has you on it, and cuts up your photograph and pastes it on her diary. She is someone who thinks about you day and night and would really want to meet you, sir', Noor said.
Asad didn't bother to avoid this time and clearly rolled his eyes as he got up from his sofa to pour himself coffee once again. He had no time for little fan girls, he was a busy man. What had this world become?
He was annoyed to bits when he saw the girl in his living room follow him to his kitchen like a lost lamb and standing against the counter and looking up at him expectedly. Had she not been sent by Junaid Sahab, he would've thrown her out, he thought annoyed.
'Listen Miss?', he inquired her name.
'Noor. Syeda Noor', she offered, hoping he would listen to her.
'Listen Miss Noor, I really can not help you with this. I respect your friend's hobby but please understand I have no time for meeting girls your age who admire me. With due respect, I'm a business man, not an actor', Asad replied annoyed as he walked back to his seat, the lost lamb still following him.
He sat down on the couch, waiting for her to sit on hers but she never sat. He looked at her to see her face red with fury, her lips pursed.
'She is not your fan, sir!', he heard her coldly reply in a tone barely above a whisper.
He looked at her asking her to take a seat, but she wouldn't. Rather, he noticed how a tear made its way across her cheek.
'Oh for heaven's sake!', Asad let out, standing up. 'Please. Do not make this meet any more unfortunate with the crying. Please let Junaid Sahab know I strictly told him I can meet no fan girls!'
'SHE IS NOT YOUR FAN!', Asad heard her scream. To say he was shocked would be an understatement. His fists balled up, his jaw clenched.
'Miss, please keep your voice low!', Asad warned.
'She loves you', Noor told him, only to see him scratching his temple, clearly annoyed. 'She loves you because she's your sister! Najma Ahmed Khan!'
I know, I know. I promised to update on Saturday, but I had a family emergency and I couldn't. I'm sorry for that. Anyways, the next update should be on Wednesday now Insha'Allah! Please leave your feedback and tell me how you liked this update. Also, I repeat, if you want pm's, please kindly buddy me.