Joined: 15 July 2010
Joined: 03 October 2007
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Joined: 15 July 2010
Joined: 26 July 2007
The following 1 member(s) liked the above post:
Joined: 15 July 2010
Chapter 7: Loving Him, Loving Her
Rrriiinnnggg. Rrriiinnnggg. Rrriiinnnggg.
"What are you doing?" he said huskily into the phone, gazing out of the window from his position on the bed. He was looking in the direction of her home, wondering idly if he could even see a hint of her from this distance.
"Sitting by my bedroom window," she replied softly, leaning her forehead against the cold pane. She looked outside and towards the windows of his home. It did her heart good to realize that he was so close. One day . . . he would be even closer. Was she being too confident? She shook her head. No. One day it would happen.
"You're not sleepy?" he asked, settling back in bed, placing one arm behind his head for support.
"No," she replied. "Why would I be tired? After all . . ."
"After all, you had a nice little nap at the lecture that I took you to just three hours ago?" he finished for her dryly.
"Hey!" she protested, standing up in affront at that remark.
"What? That wasn't you who fell asleep on my shoulder and drooled all over my favorite jacket?" he asked teasingly.
"What the heck, Rehan?" she sniped at him. "Do you know what kind of day I've had? I've been up since five! And who takes a girl to a boring lecture on their first date? "
"What? Date?" he asked, a lazy smile growing on his face.
"What?" she asked, seeming to choke on air.
"You said date," he pointed out alertly.
"I didn't say anything!" she lied, twining her fingers in the lace curtains in distraction. "And anyways, you invited me out. We were together. Just the two of us. If that isn't a date, then what is?" Her voice trailed off uncertainly, a flush growing over her cheeks.
"Was this your first date? Ever?" he asked in an astonished tone, sitting upright in bed. There was shock . . . and a guilty sort of pleasure that she had experienced this first with him.
"We live in Bhopal, Mr. Rehan Imran Qureshi, not America," she pointed out, incredibly hurt by the levity in his tone. "You may have had a lot of opportunities to date, but I haven't." There was complete silence on the other end of the line. She bit her lip, wondering if she had been too harsh. "Rehan?" she asked in a softly apologetic tone, hoping that he hadn't hung up on her.
"It was my first date, too," he confessed softly.
Her eyes widened at those words. She cleared her throat, unsure of what to say. Her first thought was to ask why, but not yet. She would hold onto this question until she had the absolute right to ask about his past. "Then, I can plan our second date?" Sanam finally eked out.
"I'm going on a business trip tomorrow," he revealed regretfully.
"For how long?" she asked, her fingers gripping the phone.
"Two weeks," he said.
"Two weeks?!" Sanam burst out in disbelief. "And you didn't even tell me?!"
"I'll try to come back earlier," he said with a laugh, touched by her disappointment. No one had cared for the longest time about his absences.
"Fine, I'll plan our next date. We'll go somewhere that won't put either one of us to sleep!" Sanam promised, a big smile growing across her face. She would be seeing him again. He was agreeing to a second date despite the impression she had made on their first time out together.
"I'll look forward to it," he said with a smile. "It makes me happy to realize that someone will be eagerly awaiting my return," he said after a moment of silence.
"But you have Aahil," she pointed out blankly. "I'm sure Aahil misses you, too, when you're gone."
He paused for a moment, unsure of what to say. "But this is you," he spelled out for her. "I'm happy that you will be waiting for me."
"Oh," she said in soft understanding. "Always," she affirmed helplessly, biting her lip. Clearing her throat, she then asked, "You'll call me as soon as you get back?"
"Absolutely," he asserted.
"Good night, Sanam."
D - 38 . . . .
Sanam sat down next to Seher, joining her in the garden to catch the last rays of the setting sun. It was Saturday, and the two of them were finally getting a chance to relax after a week of working hard. A slight breeze ruffled their hair. It was a tranquil evening, with the birds singing in the trees and the bees buzzing around their flowers.
Sanam leaned her head against Seher's shoulder, closing her eyes for a moment. This week had been doubly hard for her, since she hadn't had any contact with Rehan the entire time. Apparently, he was in some remote location setting up new contacts and didn't have the time or ability to speak with anyone outside of the immediate area.
Seher sighed heavily, her eyes focused intensely on the bees and the brightly colored flowers.
"What is it?" Sanam asked, seeing the morose expression on her sister's face when she raised her head.
"Nothing," Seher replied shortly. "I'm okay."
"Seher, this is me," Sanam said. "I am your twin. Half the time I know exactly what you're thinking and the other half I know what you're feeling. I know you're not feeling okay right now."
Seher turned her head away, blinking rapidly to stop her tears from overflowing.
"Seher? What's wrong, behna?" Sanam asked softly, putting her arm around her twin's shoulders.
Seher remained silent, her eyes trained on their house now. Just when Sanam had given up hope on her ever answering, Seher spoke up. "You know, when we were growing up, I always thought we were so lucky to have the parents that we did . . . our grandmother, Haya. Aunts and uncles. We were so lucky to be surrounded by family who loved us and took care of us." She stopped and sighed. "But I always felt left out. Do you get what I'm saying?"
Sanam shook her head, confused by her sister's words.
"I was surrounded by love, but I wasn't a part of it. I wasn't part of a unit . . . of a partnership made out of love. When I saw mom and dad together, I always wondered whether I would be lucky enough to have that kind of love. And the pessimistic part of my always concluded that it would not happen to me. I never thought that I would have the kind of love both mom and dad have because I know myself."
"But . . .," Sanam began, surprised by the words. She'd thought things were going well with Aahil, but Seher's expression said otherwise.
"I've always felt jealous of their relationship," Seher admitted. "I've always felt jealous of the relationship Haya has with Rahat. I feel bad about it, because each couple has been through so much, but that envy is still there. When I met Aahil, I thought . . . here he is. My soulmate. My partner. My love. I thought everything would be great now."
"And it's not?" Sanam asked, her heart aching for her sister, who seemed to be in despair over the state of affairs.
"There's something missing," she admitted, the tears beginning to fall. She clenched her fingers into fists, her nails biting into the soft skin of her palms. "He's keeping this distance between us, and I don't know why!" She stopped speaking for a moment, the lump in her throat making it difficult to go on. "I'm ready to love. I'm ready to put my heart out there, but he's . . . not. I don't see why he has issues of trust. He's a Nawab of Bhopal. What reason does he have to keep himself closed off from me? Am I not enough?" her voice broke on those words, and she shot up, attempting to get away from Sanam.
Sanam grabbed Seher's wrist, forcing her to stop. She stood up, taking a deep breath and marshaling her thoughts. She knew that her next words could make or break her sister's relationship. They could possibly break Seher herself.
"I don't know why he felt comfortable telling me about Rehan's past, but not his own," Seher continued in a choked voice. "Why would he tell me about a person who is a stranger to me, but won't tell me anything about himself?"
"Seher," Sanam said softly. "Don't take it personally, please."
Seher whirled around to look at Sanam. "You know something." She grabbed Sanam's shoulders, shaking her. "What do you know?"
Sanam blinked at her, uncertain whether she should even be disclosing Aahil's past. She was an attorney and the one duty that was of the highest imperative to those in her profession was the duty of confidentiality. But, she reminded herself, he wasn't her client. The truth would come out some day.
"Tell me, Sanam!" Seher ordered her sister. "I can't take one more evening out with him stopping at some point during our conversation and then consciously changing the subject. I can't stand him hiding something from me. It makes me feel this small," she said, holding her thumb and index finger an inch apart. The tears continued to fall, her heartbreak clear.
"When we were little," Sanam began, pulling Seher back to the bench, "Around seven years old, I met a teenage boy."
"What does that . . .?" Seher began petulantly.
"His family had a summer house next to Uncle Imran's home," Sanam continued, talking over Seher.
Seher's eyes widened when she realized this was the home that they had discussed the last and only time they had been at Ibrahim Mansion to have tea.
"It was dark, and we barely spoke," she continued, "But even I, with my self-involved 7-year-old mind, could see that he was in pain. He was hurt, and the one who had hurt him was his own father."
Seher gasped at those words, her heart clenching in sympathy.
"He was the reason that I cried all the way home that night. He was the reason you began asking me, 'What's wrong with you Sanam Ahmed Khan?'" Sanam said, half-jokingly, remembering Seher's refrain when she would get frustrated with her twin's tendency to go into lioness mode at the drop of a hat. "He is the reason why I can't stand to see a child or anyone, really, in pain. He is the reason for who I am today," she trailed off.
"Sanam," Seher uttered, seeing a look in her sister's eyes that she wasn't quite able to define. "What . . .?" She stopped, unable to find the words
"His past is something that he has survived, Seher," Sanam said passionately, turning to look at her sister. "He is a brilliant man, but the most beautiful thing is that he has come out of that toxic environment with the ability to still love."
Seher opened her mouth to protest.
Sanam held up her hand. "He does love you. You can't question his love just because he finds it difficult to speak with you about the abuse he suffered as a child. He trusts you . . . maybe not with his deepest darkest secrets, but he does trust you with the most vulnerable part of him. You hold his heart in your hands, sister dear. We can all see that. Don't punish him for this one small hesitance."
Seher stared at her sister, shocked by the revelations about Aahil's past. She had never thought that this could be what he was hiding from her. But to learn it in this way . . . to realize that her sister had known a truth about the man she loved, had known this truth for years, but never shared it with her . . .it didn't make her feel good. It was petty of her, but she minded that Aahil and Sanam shared a secret that she hadn't known.
"Don't," Sanam said shortly, correctly reading her. "It wasn't . . . it still isn't my secret to tell. I only told you now to ensure that you wouldn't hurt that man. For the longest time, I used to dream that I would find him . . . and I would save him," Sanam admitted with difficulty. "I wanted to take him from his life and free him from the abuse. When I met him again, I realized that in my mind that little boy never grew up. And to see him now . .. it's amazing. He saved himself. He became a fully functioning adult with none of the repercussions I see in the children that I encounter on a daily basis."
Seher stared at her sister, realizing what she had heard earlier in Sanam's voice had been disappointment because she hadn't had the chance to rescue that little boy. But there had also been pride in who that little boy had become.
"Don't hurt him, Seher," Sanam pleaded, grasping her sister's hand. "Give him time."
"Now that I know that he has a reason to hide his past," Seher said hoarsely, "I'm never going to leave him alone. In fact, you'd have to kill me to keep us apart."
Her cell phone began to ring, and Seher pulled it out to glance at the screen. "It's him," she said softly, quickly wiping away her tears and clearing her throat. "He said it would be difficult for him to call today since he's been at the office putting out all the fires while Rehan is gone."
"Are we okay?" Sanam asked insistently.
"We're definitely okay," Seher stated with a smile before answering the phone.
D - 25 . . . .
"Your coffee," Sanam murmured, handing him the cup.
He could feel her watching him as he took an appreciative sip. Nodding at her in thanks, he took another sip from the cup. Despite all efforts to the contrary, he knew he was trapped. He had tried his best to stay away from this woman, but all efforts had failed. And with him, he could see, Rehan had been trapped as well. They were here again . . . for yet another family dinner.
These women had the ability to beguile all of them, Mr. Asad Ahmed Khan included. He gazed around the table, his eyes moving over all of the individuals sitting there.
Dilshad Begum, sitting at the head of the table. She was the matriarch of this clan. A calm and graceful woman, who wanted nothing but the best for her family. And it seemed that she had taken them into her heart, as well. Just yesterday, she had sent over biryani for him to eat because she'd found out that he liked it.
Sitting to her right was Mrs. Zoya Asad Ahmed Khan. A woman full of joy and life. She was still young at heart. Despite the tragedy in her past, she still had the ability to look to the future. She had the courage to dream. And she wasn't subtle about what dreams she had for her daughters. In fact, she hadn't been subtle at all when she had badgered him and Rehan to come back for dinner through a series of phone calls which had finally forced them to give in.
Seher was sitting across the table from her mother. From what he knew of her, she was a smart and witty woman. She could become sarcastic at the drop of a hat. But all he needed to know was that she was the woman who had wrought changes in Rehan. She clearly loved him, and she had made Rehan blossom due to her love. He shifted in his seat, the flowery description making him uncomfortable. But it was true. Seher had changed Rehan. While before, Rehan had always been a steady light, he now had a fire burning inside of him. He felt comfortable enough . . . loved enough . . . that he allowed his emotions out. He allowed himself to be angry . . . and petulant. He allowed himself to make demands. It was the kind of behavior people confident in their love felt free to exhibit.
He had even begun doing making demands of Aahil. Where before Rehan used to call him bhai, it was his behavior now that made Aahil feel that they truly were brothers. Aahil finally had a younger brother who would let Aahil spoil him.
And Sanam . . . his Sanam now. He was sitting at the end of the table, and Sanam was sitting to his right. So close. Close enough that he could smell her scent, and he breathed deeply to take that scent deep inside of him. He wanted to take that memory of her wherever he went.
She laughed softly next to him, and he was mesmerized by the musical notes of that laughter, wanting to remember that sound forever.
Deepest down inside of him, in the most secret corner of his heart, he had made his decision from the moment he had met her again. The woman he had been intrigued by at the gala even before knowing that she was that little girl . . . without knowing the impact that she had had on his life without her even realizing . . . . her ability to care and be courageous in her pursuit, she had captured him.
He wasn't going to let her go. He would dream, too. She made him believe that he had the right. He'd believe that his wish would come true . .. even without a falling star.
He would have a home. And she would make that home with him. He closed his eyes for a moment. He hadn't had a place called home for such a long time . . . not since his mother had passed away. He craved that more than anything else. When he looked at Sanam, it felt as if he had come home.
But . . . they'd only had a few precious moments all alone. Why was his heart so intent on staking a claim now, rather than waiting to know her better? But he already knew the answer. His heart didn't need to know anymore. She was his.
"I've read the book," Rehan said to Mr. Khan, "Thank you for the recommendation."
"And what books do you read, Rehan?" Sanam asked him teasingly, with a smile on her face.
He raised an eyebrow at her, a faint smile playing about his lips. "We've already discussed the topic, Ms. Khan," he reminded her, "I read non-fiction. Mostly biographies and historical non-fiction."
"What?!" he heard Zoya cry out from the other end of the table. "How can you only read non-fiction?" she demanded.
Aahil took a deep breath, glaring at Sanam for a moment, before turning to his hostess.
"I enjoy reading about reality," he answered simply.
"But!" Zoya protested. "There's already enough unhappiness in the world, why would you want to read about such unhappiness when you're doing something for fun? There are so many genres to read."
"I like knowing the world I live in. And I though reading someone's fantasies and dreams were a total waste of time," he answered. "But it seems," he continued after a pause, "I think I'm changing my mind about that. There's nothing wrong with dreaming a little bit." His eyes were trained on Sanam as he said those words, and she blushed at the look in his eyes.
His eyes flickered when he felt her foot softly kick his under the table.
Raising an eyebrow at her, he turned back to Zoya as she began to recommend certain fiction titles for him to read.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
"Time for dessert!" Lateef called out, bringing out the dish. She'd come along this time, too, and had offered to help the other servants serve the food. Placing the dessert on the table, she began to happily assist Kuljeet in serving the guests. "And here's apple pie for you," she said grandly, placing the dish in front of Aahil.
Aahil smiled softly at the appearance of his favorite dessert and tasted the first bite. His eyes flickered, as memory of an identical dish eaten many weeks ago coming to his mind.
Sanam was staring at him, her expression slightly worried.
His mind quickly made the connection. "You cooked breakfast for us?" he asked softly, leaning his head towards her.
Sanam quietly nodded, her eyes shyly lowering to her plate.
"Why?" he asked, waiting with bated breath for her answer.
"You weren't eating," she said softly. "I wanted to take care of you." She gasped softly as those words left her lips, and he could see the embarrassment coloring her cheeks.
He stared at her once more, amazed by her giving nature. They hadn't known each other for long enough . . . but why did she feel like she was already his in every way that counted?
"It was amazing," he whispered finally, his eyes staring at her lovingly. "Thank you." Thank you for accepting me. Thanking you for caring. Thank you for making me partly yours. Thank you.
She nodded her head, pursing her lips for a moment before sending him a sunny smile.
"Hello?" he asked, pulling a tie over his head and down around his neck to work on the knot. His movements were quick and sure, the end goal of meeting up with Sanam for their date the only thing on his mind.
"I'm going to have to miss our date," Sanam said, her voice clearly sounding unhappy.
"Why?" he asked, all movement stopping abruptly at those words. He knew that she had been excited about this date. "Are you okay?" he asked, knowing that something had to be wrong.
"I'm fine," she said, in a voice that clearly belied her words.
"Who isn't fine?" he prompted. She wouldn't miss a commitment, unless it was incredibly important. "Tell me what happened," he commanded.
"One of our clients decided to go back to her abuser," she revealed in a grim voice. "She said that he had promised to change."
"That must happen, right?" Aahil asked, sitting down on the bed when he realized that this would be one of those conversations.
"I get that," Sanam said in frustration. "One thing the more senior attorneys taught me while I was being trained was that abuse has its own cycles, and sometimes you'll get repeat clients. Rationally, I know that!"
"But?" he prompted.
"But she had her child with her," Sanam revealed. "A little girl. And when the honeymoon phase ended, and he was back to being an abuser, that little girl got hurt."
Aahil's fingers tightened around the phone, his mind turning back to the past and his own dark memories. He flinched at the remembered sound of that whip, his breaths coming in short gasps.
"Is something wrong?" she asked immediately, seeming to sense his distress.
"I'm fine," he replied swiftly, controlling his breath. "Go on. You were saying?"
"I'm just so mad! She's an adult, and her decisions are her own." She took a deep breath, trying to step back from the situation. "If I've done my job and presented her with all of her options . . . If I've advised her . . . and she still chooses to return, that's her choice." Sanam began to speak once more in short, explosive bursts, her anger now coloring every word. "And I'd be here, when she decided to leave for good. But to involve a child . . . to put her child at risk . . .," her voice trailed off in disbelief. She clenched her fists at her own impotence. "Protecting a child is the first job a parent has! And she totally failed at that today."
"Sanam," Aahil admonished gently, his owns fingers curled tightly over his knees as he attempted to control the trembling of his body.
"I know!" Sanam said patiently. "I'm not in her place, but all I can see is that her child has a broken arm. She has a black eye. How am I just supposed to forget that?"
"You're not," he said softly. "You won't forget it. You won't let her put that child at risk. You'll call Child Protective Services or its equivalent here in Bhopal and get that child out of that abusive situation. You'll do that because you care."
"I will," she agreed, his calm voice soothing her inner turmoil to a great degree. "But . . . now, I'm not saying this to you in order to get money," she said with emphasis.
"I know," he replied. "You don't talk to me to get money out of me."
"I don't," she said with a nod. "I talk to you because I need for you to listen. I need for you to help me through this."
"I know," he repeated, deeply touched by her words.
"But . . . only if I just had enough money! There's never enough to help everyone. Maybe if she had had more options. Maybe if she had felt like staying at the shelter and then rebuilding her life was achievable. And when I call the agency, will they be able to take care of her daughter? Do they even have the resources? What kind of life would I be turning her over to?" Sanam was clearly frustrated by her limited options.
"What kind of life is that child living now?" Aahil asked bleakly. "To wake up every morning . . . every hour of the day spent . . . just wondering if dad will be in a good mood. Will he be angry? But what kind of question is that? He's always angry." His speech became more rapid. "Will he be a little bit angry and just yell at you? Or a lot and hit you? If you do this, will dad be mad? If you do that, will dad be mad? Is it okay to eat your fill? Is it okay to sleep? Is it okay to . . . " He stopped talking, unable to go any further. Sweat had broken out over his skin. A deep chill was welling up inside of him, causing him to shudder.
"Rehan?" Sanam asked softly, "What's wrong?" Her heart began to beat rapidly. Rehan had hidden this from her, as well. Otherwise, how could he know?
"It's nothing," he said hoarsely, after a long pause.
"Rehan!" she protested.
"It's nothing," he said through gritted teeth. "You were saying something about funding?"
"Oh, yeah," she said blankly, trying to gather her thoughts. She had counseled patience for Seher, and it seemed that it was her turn to be patient. He would tell her someday. "I was saying that if we just had more funds and locations we could do so much. If we had more resources to help people get back on their feet after they have to upend everything to escape. If . . . if . . . if," she said almost sarcastically. "I know I'm sounding like a broken record."
"You will have enough funds to do all of that," Aahil promised.
"But we don't!" Sanam protested. "Stop comforting me with empty promises."
"You will," Aahil repeated.
"What do you mean?" she asked irritably.
"Ibrahim Corporation is going to make a substantial donation to LSB. I want you in charge of that money," he revealed, deciding now was a good a time as any to make her aware of his plans.
"What?" she fell down in her chair, the strength going out of her knees. Staring out the windows of the hospital room, she mulled over what he had said.
"You know what this population needs," he said calmly, his calm tone making his words all the more believable. "I want you to use that money to create those resources and those additional shelters and something for the children stuck in all of this."
"You trust me that much?" she breathed out, her lips trembling.
"I'd trust you with my life," he responded.
She was silent, biting her lip. Happiness was growing inside of her, and she didn't know what to say next. "Thank you," she forced out.
"I'm not doing this fo--" he began.
"For gratitude," Sanam finished for him. "I know. But I'm going to say it anyways. I promise to put that money to good use."
"I know you will."
She cleared her throat at the utmost trust in that voice. "But we will have to plan another date soon. You don't get off that easily, Mr. Rehan Imran Qureshi," she teased, switching gears because she knew the two of them needed this moment of levity.
"You're as bad at planning dates as I am," he pointed out. "Whose brilliant idea was it to go on a double date with your parents on our second date?"
"My dad!" she snapped at him. "And there was nothing I could do to persuade him. My mom couldn't do anything either! Not even when she threatened to cook every day of the week. He thought it was our first date and wanted to run interference."
"And the restaurant being closed due to Food and Health violations on our third date or the movie being sold out on our fourth date?" he asked teasingly.
"Hmph. Everyone has a streak of bad luck sometimes. I'll look to my romance books for some inspiration. Believe me. You'll be dazzled."
"I'm kind of worried about that, since you seem to be channeling your mother in this regard." He'd heard some funny tales about Mrs. Zoya and her planning disasters.
Sanam gasped in affront. "Don't let Ammi hear you say that! She's very sensitive about things like this."
"I'm sure it'll be quite fun," he said softly, pulling off the tie and returning to his closet to hang it up. "I look forward to it."
"You don't even know what I have planned," she protested.
"I'll be with you," he said, suddenly serious. "That's all that matters, isn't it?"
D - 10 . . . .
Aahil and Sanam sat on the grass, staring up at the night sky, after yet another dinner at the Khan Mansion. Just as last time, the parents were now inside drinking tea by the pool, and Dilshad Begum had gone up to bed.
Dinners with the family had become a weekly ritual. And neither Aahil nor Rehan really minded. It was as if they were finally part of a family. Even Mr. Asad Ahmed Khan was coming to accept them. Aahil blinked once more in disbelief. He had even asked the two of them to call him Uncle today rather than Mr. Khan.
Sanam sighed softly, staring up at the stars. Her eyes were mesmerized by the twinkling lights above.
Aahil was now staring at her, his eyes mesmerized by the beauty in front of him. He wanted to touch her, and moments later he saw that his hand was inches away from that skin. Her warmth . . . her proximity was having an unintended effect on his body. Moving over to put some distance between them two of them, he lay on the grass. He hoped the grass would help him to cool down. It wouldn't do to make any rash moves at this time.
She glanced at him, and then looked around. Apparently deciding something, she nodded her head. Sidling over, she laid down beside him, settling her head on his shoulder.
He stiffened at that contact. He readied himself to get up, but it was her hold on his arm, and her arm wrapping around his waist that stopped him. He was frozen in place from just a touch. He could've easily broken that hold, but he didn't want to. He wanted to stay here and stare at the stars just for a little while.
"Look! A falling star!" Sanam cried out, pointing up at the sky.
Aahil followed the direction of her finger, and his eyes widened to realize that he was seeing an actual falling star.
"Make a wish!" she urged excitedly, closing her eyes.
Aahil stared at her for a moment, and then closed his eyes to make his only wish. "Please make Sanam my destiny. Don't take her away from me."
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
"I'm so happy that Seher and the Nawab have worked things out," Sanam said from her position on his shoulder.
"What do you mean?" he asked curiously, his arm now wrapped around her shoulders, holding her body close to his. The two lay entwined on the grass, with nary a care of the world outside of themselves.
"No, it's just that, Seher was unhappy because she felt as if he might be keeping secrets from her," Sanam revealed. Normally, she would kill herself before sharing her sister's secrets, but she wanted to use the topic as a way of discussing his secrets. It was obvious that he was keeping something from her. She was in love with him. She had admitted that to herself days ago, but that didn't mean she had turned her brain off. She wanted to know everything about him.
He stiffened beside her. "Secrets?"
"Whatever they are," he said after a small pause, "I'm sure he has a good reason. Would you forgive someone for keeping secrets from you?"
Sanam thought about it for a moment.
"What if they had a good reason?" he prompted, hoping that he would get the answer he needed to hear.
"Honesty is very important to me," she finally uttered.
Aahil sat up, pulling away from her warmth. His shoulders slumped as he realized that his wishing was for nothing. He wouldn't get what he wanted . . . no needed now. He needed her and the warmth she brought into his life like he needed air.
"But," Sanam continued, getting up and putting a hand on his shoulder. "I'm not unbending. I'd like to hear the reasons." Her thoughts wandered to what she had learned from Seher, and what she had begun to guess after their conversations.
She had realized that it was easier for him to talk to her when they weren't face to face, since he was a lot more open in those conversations. Maybe because it was because couldn't see her eyes and guess at her emotions, despite the words she was saying? "I'm here. And I will wait patiently," she whispered. "Just like any woman would. She'll always hope that her man would one day share all his secrets with her."
He wrapped his arm around her shoulder once more, holding her close.
"Secrets . . . omissions are fine. I can understand those. But lies, I don't know why some people lie," she said, inhaling deeply. "Why would a person lie to someone they loved?"
Aahil bit his lip and trained his eyes on the stars above. "Because the darkness behind the truth is so deep that they become afraid that it will put everything, including the love they feel now, in complete shadows."
"Where there is love . ... there will always be light," she said softly. Turning her head, she glanced up at him. "Is there . .. love?" She asked hesitantly.
He pulled her closer still, causing her to squeal in surprise. Laughing, she snuggled closer. She looked up at him for a moment, and then gave in to her urges and leaned in to place a soft kiss against the base of his throat.
He looked down at her, heavy-lidded, the impression of her lips a brand against his skin. "You've done that to me before," he pointed out.
"When?" Sanam asked, blinking up at him in confusion.
"When we met at the gala," he reminded her. "You even helped me to clean up the brand your lipstick had left on my skin."
She blushed a fiery red, her memory returning of their first meeting.
"The next time you kiss me," he murmured, placing a kiss at her temple, "I'd like you to travel a bit in the northern direction."
Sanam smiled at him, and looked away. While she was happy that he felt free enough to joke with her, she couldn't ignore the fact that he hadn't answered her question.
Would he ever feel confident enough to do so?
"Come to the window."
Sanam got up immediately and moved over to the window. She saw the moon in the sky, a big globe that seemed to be shining a light on everything in the vicinity . .. especially the man in white standing down below.
Rehan Imran Qureshi stood in the garden below, cool as a cucumber. He smiled up at her, from his position beneath one of the lampposts kept alight all night in the garden.
"What are you doing?" Sanam asked, gaping in shock. "It's beginning to rain, Rehan! You'll get sick. Go home."
"As I was lying down in bed, ready to sleep, I realized that I had forgotten something," he said softly, gazing into her eyes across the distance separating them.
"If Abu catches you, he's going to be angry," Sanam said frantically. "Rehan, whatever it is, we'll deal with it later."
"I need to say something," he uttered.
"We'll talk later, Rehan! What could be so important?" Sanam protested.
"I've gotten the courage to talk about this now," he revealed. "Do you really want to take this moment away? I don't think I'll have the courage again for the longest time if you stop me now."
"What do you mean?" Sanam asked, her heartbeat thundering in her chest. Her fingers tightened around the phone, the digits turning white from the strain.
"You asked me if there was love," he reminded her, beginning to pace to and fro below her window. "What about you? Is there love in your heart? For . . . me?"
"I asked you first," she said obstinately.
"You might have asked first, but that means you wanted the answer. So, first you speak. And then I'll tell you," he bargained with her.
"No . . . you," Sanam insisted. "If I asked you first, then you have to answer first. That's how things work, Mr. Rehan Imran Qureshi."
He flinched at that name, having forgotten for a moment all the secrets he was still keeping from her. What good was one truth, when you were hiding a wealth of secrets? Would it be fair when those omissions were taking away her choice?
"Answer me," she insisted, a pout growing on her lips. She pressed a hand to the cool glass in front of her, staring down at him through the window that was covered with raindrops. Even then, she could see him so clearly, and the expression on his face made her worry. She spoke quickly. "You know it's the same for both of us. Why are you afraid?"
He took a deep breath, and promised himself that he would never make her unhappy. She might not have all the facts, but she would never be unhappy with the man he had become. "There is love," he softly admitted. "So much love that it scares me. Do I have this right?" he asked her. "Will you still love me if you find out everything about me. Will you forgive me for my secrets?"
"Yes," she uttered, without hesitation. Unequivocally.
"Why?" he burst out. He moved closer to the house, as if wanting to reach out and touch her. "Why do you trust me so much? What reason have I given you? There is so much you don't know about me, " he reminded her almost angrily. Why was she so intent on endangering herself like this? But . . . she wasn't in danger. He would protect her with every bit of his strength.
"I don't need a reason," she firmly asserted. "I have faith. And I have faith because I love you, too. There is love on my end," she whispered. "You're in my heart. You're all I see now. I will accept everything about you. As long as you're in my life, whatever comes my way mujhe qubool hai."
He exhaled heavily, as if he had been holding his breath until she had given him her answer. He smiled up at her, holding up a hand to do a silly wave at her.
She laughed softly and waved back at him.
"Good night, meri Jaan."
D - Day . . . .
Sanam sat at her desk, reading up on some cases. She laughed softly, her mind going back to last night and his precious words. She paused once more, remembering how soft his voice had sounded when he made his confession. "Sanam! Stop it," she scolded herself, pulling her attention back to the files.
She jumped when the door opened, slamming against the wall behind it. A whirlwind came bursting through the door and landed on her bed.
"What the . . . ?" she turned around and stared at her bed. "Seher? What's wrong?" she ran over to the bed and sat down beside her sister.
Seher continued to cry, unwilling or unable to say anything.
"Seher, tell me what's wrong? Has something happened? Is someone hurt?" Sanam burst out with the questions, but there was only silence. "Seher, tell me what's wrong!" Sanam shouted at her twin, incensed beyond belief. It hurt to see her twin like this, and to not even know what was wrong made everything even worse.
Seher sat up, her face red. Sanam saw that while Seher had been crying, they were angry tears. "I am so furious," she shrieked, her fingers curling around Sanam's pillow.
"Tell. Me. What. Happened," Sanam through gritted teeth, spacing out the words so that Seher would actually hear the words.
"Dad said not to go to their house," Seher responded.
"Who's house?" Sanam asked, a sick feeling growing inside of her.
"Who's do you think, Sanam?" Seher asked. "Our neighbors. Dad ordered me to stay away from them," Seher said, her tone incredulous. She was furious about this.
"But why?" Sanam asked. "Why should we stay away?"
"There are rumors flying around."
"Why would Abu listen to rumors?" Sanam asked softly. "I'm sure he was just joking." She hoped that was the truth, because otherwise . . .
"No. He investigated. He got this from a trusted source."
"Got what from a trusted source?" Sanam snapped, a sick feeling growing inside of her.
took a deep breath. "Part of the reason he was gone all of this time from Bhopal
was because he was in jail. Sanam, the Nawab Aahil Raza Ibrahim was convicted
of murdering someone."
A/N: Here's Chapter 7 for your reading pleasure. Leave a comment if you liked it!
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