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Chapter 11: Where There's a Will
"Are you kidding me?" Seher yelled, her eyes furiously gazing up at the man who had kept so much from her. Her mind was whirling; as she struggled to deal with this latest revelation.
"Seher," Rehan began, his voice trailing off when he realized he had no idea what he could say. His heart had begun to pound rapidly, seeing her there in front of him. Allah miyah, how long will this test last? How long will it be before she gives up and goes away forever?' he asked silently, looking up to the sky.
But another conflicted part of him, the desperate lover, immediately protested the thought of her leaving. She couldn't go away. She wouldn't just turn her back on him, would she? He clenched his fists, fighting the emotional storm brewing inside of him. But it was her next action that gratified that desperate part of him.
Seher bounded up the stairs, running towards him instead of away. She stopped only when she was in front of him. Reaching out, she grabbed his wrist in her slender hand, as if afraid that he would escape before she had the chance to demand answers.
Rehan closed his eyes, her intoxicating scent hitting him like a blow. She was here right now, and he would make this moment into another memory. With that one touch, everything else had disappeared. Aahil bhai . . . the reasons for why he should stay away . . . none of that mattered now. But, no. He ruthlessly shook his head, breaking free of the spell that she had cast. She wouldn't get him that easily. "What do you want, Seher? Where did you even come from?" He looked behind himself at the closed door leading out from the house and then to the backyard.
"Does that really matter?" Seher threw at him incredulously. "Come with me." Tugging on his wrist, she pulled him one way and then stopped. Moving once more, she began to pull him toward another direction, and then stopped once more with an annoyed huff.
"What are you doing?" Rehan asked her in confusion. He flexed his arm unconsciously on feeling her fingers clench around his wrist, his body warming at her touch. Maybe just a little bit longer?' that desperate lover begged. In rejection of that plea, he pulled his arm away.
"I'm trying to get us some privacy," Seher barked at him, grabbing onto his arm once more and tugging at it.
"And you didn't think that maybe the house might be a good place for that?" he asked sarcastically.
"Well, I couldn't trust you not to go and hide in some random room with Lateef acting as your bodyguard, now could I?" Seher threw back at him.
Rehan shook his head at her, unable to defend himself. "This way," he said brusquely, pulling free and then grasping her hand in his. Unconsciously linking their fingers together, he led her into the house and down the hallway. Soon they were in the privacy of his sitting room, his eyes trained on her while she paced in front of him.
She stopped and glared at him, her arms crossed over her chest. "So?"
"So what?" he repeated, staring back at her.
"Begin talking, Aa-," she closed her eyes, biting her lip. Her voice was thick when she spoke the next words. "If you ever had any feelings for me, begin talking, Mr. Rehan Imran Qureshi."
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Sanam stared at the man left behind, wondering if she could get him to talk now that they were face to face. Her eyes moved over his clothes, still impeccable, despite the fact that his life was going through such upheaval. The same style. Open-necked navy blue dress shirt, with a couple of buttons undone. Pants closely molded to his legs. The same arrogance projecting from him.
He still seemed like that man that she had come to know, but looks could be deceiving. If you looked closely, you could see the affects of the past few days. There was the full five o'clock shadow covering his jaw, rather than the shaped goatee she had come to expect. The hair falling across his forehead, instead of being fully styled. She blinked rapidly, her eyes fascinated by that unkempt look. Some secret part of her just wanted to run her lips across that roughness covering his jaw. She wondered, suddenly distracted, how it would feel to kiss him there.
No,' she shook her head. She couldn't be distracted by such thoughts. She looked into his eyes, and saw the evidence of sleepless nights. She saw the bags under his eyes. She saw the sadness . . . had it always been there, and she just hadn't noticed? Had she been too mesmerized by who she thought he was to worry about the man behind the faade?
"What are you doing here?" he asked grimly, a muscle clenching in his jaw.
She firmed her jaw and moved over to him. "This time, there's no gate between us," she remarked dryly. "You don't get to walk away."
"If I recall correctly," he said, moving back, "You were the one who walked away this morning."
She smirked at him, stepping closer. "Did that annoy you?"
He moved back some more, creating more distance between them.
"Why do you do that?" she asked, staring at him quizzically.
"What?" he asked, crossing his arms over his chest, causing his muscles to bulge.
"Why are you backing up as if I'm going to do something to you?" she asked in frustration. "Why can't you trust me? Why couldn't you tell me the truth before revealing it to the world?" she demanded, striding forward. When she finally stopped, he realized that she had left him no room for further retreat.
He silently gasped as his back landed against the wall, flinching at the unexpected contact. The feeling of being cornered was an unpleasant reminder of the past that he was still trying to forget.
Aahil carefully lay down, his body flinching when his back came into contact with the bed. Turning over, he lay on his stomach, hoping that the pain would lessen. His wounds were still tender. The blood still thrummed in his body, his heart beating furiously, as he struggled with the aftereffects of that last beating.
He heard soft footsteps, and then a presence by the bed.
"Go away," he ordered quietly.
"You're still bleeding," a voice noted solemnly.
"I know," he muttered. "It'll eventually stop."
"I can bandage it up," the figure offered after a pause. "Let me clean the wounds."
"Leave me alone." He buried his head in the pillow to hide the tears that had begun to fall. "I just need to sleep. When I wake up, it'll be fine."
The figure silently left the room, but Aahil didn't hear. He'd already fallen into the darkness.
Sanam crowded him into the wall. When he turned to the right, she slammed an arm up to block him. He glared at her, and then moved to the left. She slammed her other arm up.
She raised an eyebrow at him. When he said nothing, she urged softly, "Don't shut me out, Aahil."
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
"Please don't shut me out." Tears slid down her cheeks, as her eyes silently begged him to open up.
His heart fell at the tears. He had been a stone . . . he had been resolute behind closed doors and with Lateef between the two of them last night. But the wall he'd built around his heart was melting in the light of day. Nothing he told himself, no warnings, worked to stop his mouth from opening and the words pouring out.
"When I was 4-years-old, I was abandoned at an orphanage by my mother," he began, making an effort to keep his voice steady. "I didn't have a father to begin with. Well, I do have one, but just purely in a biological sense. And then my mother decided to leave me behind." He turned away from the sympathy in her eyes, abhorring the fact that she was pitying him.
If he was completely honest with himself, he had felt a rush every time people had looked at him with awe when they believed him the Nawab of Bhopal. But he was the little orphan boy once again, and while he was ashamed of those feelings, he missed being the person that people automatically respected and revered. He flexed his jaw, trying to suppress the regret flooding through him when he glimpsed the pity in Seher's eyes.
Seher walked towards him, placing a hand on his shoulder. "Go on," she softly urged him.
Nodding his head, he began once more. "You know my mom passed away a long time ago. She left behind a note signed with only her name when she abandoned me at that orphanage. She only left behind her name because it was required. Otherwise, I may not have even had that. One day I decided to do some research and find out everything I could about her." He shook his head at his own naivete and at the optimistic youth that he had once been.
Seher waited for him to continue, but he remained quiet for too long. Looking at his down bent head, she turned him around and cupped his cheek. Caressing it lightly, she repeated once more, "Go on. Please."
"To my horror and disbelief," he said through clenched teeth, pulling away from her touch, "I found out that she was a psychopathic killer who not only killed a whole slew of people, but she also killed my sister's mother."
"What do you mean?" Seher asked. "You have a sister? Isn't that good news? Isn't that something good coming out of all of this tragedy?" she demanded in confusion.
"My father . . . the man who impregnated my mother was your Imran Uncle," Rehan explained heavily.
Seher's eyes widened at that revelation.
"He is Haya's father, but he's also my father," he explained with difficulty. "I'm sure your parents never told you about what else my mother was guilty of before she went on her killing spree."
Seher gradually connected the dots in her mind. Was that why . . . "Was that why you were so fascinated with Haya?" she demanded.
He shook his head at her. Grabbing her by the shoulders, he shook her gently. "Seher, you have a family. You have a mother and a father. A grandmother. Sisters. Aunts. Uncles. Cousins. You're surrounded by love. I have no one. The day I found out about my mother's past . . . was also the day that I found out I had a father and a sister. For a brief shining moment, it was the happiest day of my life. For that moment I had family. I wasn't alone in the world, but that happiness was too short lived. Because immediately thereafter I found out just who my mother had killed. Thanks to Tanveer, I had a sister that I couldn't call my own."
"Rehan," Seher said achingly, staring up into his eyes. She stepped closer to him, so that he was almost embracing her instead.
"Seher, please, let me finish," he ordered, stepping back. But he did not let go of her slender shoulders, his hands now resting on the sides of her neck and a thumb absentmindedly playing with her collar bone. "And stop pitying me. I was all alone in the world. But that hasn't weakened me." His gaze was steady and confident. "Thanks to what I have lived through and what I have discovered about my blood, I have loved myself earnestly. I grew up making da*n sure to give myself plenty of love," he admitted. "I never once forgot to get myself a birthday gift nor to praise myself when I succeeded in my goals. Fortunately, I had the nature and the intelligence to be worthy of all that love." He smiled at her crookedly, backing away until the distance of the room was between them.
"Rehan," Seher protested, missing his touch.
"And when I finally found someone else that I felt a connection with. Someone that my heart called its own within moments of meeting her, imagine how I felt when I realized who that person was."
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Despite her entreaty, Aahil remained silent. That muscle was twitching in his jaw once more, as he struggled with . . . something.
Was he tempted even a little bit to share with her, she wondered. When he said nothing, she leaned in, inhaling his unique scent mixed with that cologne that she had come to crave. And leaning further in, she did what her heart most desired. She placed her lips against his jaw, feeling the roughness of that stubble against her soft lips. Her skin prickled at the contact.
Aahil turned his face away, closing his eyes at the sensation Sanam's touch evoked deep inside of him. The desire to grab hold of her and never let go was rising inside of him. He inhaled sharply, steeling himself against the temptation, but it was no good. With that breath, he took in her exotic scent. He relished her touch. He moved slightly, and brushed up against her delectable body, and he was ensorcelled by her softness. She was a seductive temptation, and he wanted nothing more than to give in.
She reached up and traced the shadow on his jaw with her fingers. "How do you think I felt that day I saw you at the gala?" she mused softly. "I felt a connection with you from the first moment we met."
"You felt sorry for that little boy," he said, almost sullenly.
"That makes no sense at all," she growled, giving him a punishing bite on his jaw. "I thought you were someone else, you idiot! I didn't know you. And I wanted to know you. I wanted to touch you. To taste you," she finished in a whisper. She moved even closer, plastering her body against his. Her fingers came up to clutch at his collar.
Aahil's body stiffened even further, the desire inside of him growing into a furious storm. He clenched his fists, seeking the power to control that storm before it destroyed everything.
She kissed his jaw once more, and then licked him, tasting him. She exulted in that exotic taste, almost drunk on it. She was losing control, and she felt no shame. This was the man she loved. So how fair was it that she hadn't even kissed him?
He shuddered, his arms coming up to pull her even closer so that there wasn't even air between their bodies. Reaching up, he grabbed her by the nape of her neck, his hold gentle yet unbreakable.
She let her head fall back, her eyes meeting his. She was pliant in his hold.
Aahil closed his eyes against the surrender he saw in hers, and then shook his head. Seeming to come to some sort of decision, he leaned down, stopping only when he was millimeters away from her lips. He stopped because Sanam was speaking once more.
"And then to find out you were Aahil Raza Ibrahim?" she whispered, her lips so close to his that they touched him for mere fractions of seconds as she let the words out. "My mind was blown. You were that first meaningful meeting I had. You were also the second most meaningful meeting I had."
She swallowed with difficulty. "And to be told along with everyone else that you were a convicted murderer? To see you taunting the world with that truth and to walk by me as if I didn't matter?" Her eyes were awash with tears, the passion of moments ago disappearing under the bitterness of last night. She paused and then spoke again. "To realize that you didn't care enough to tell me first. To prepare me. To have me at your side. To realize that you didn't care at all."
He stared down into her eyes, and then leaned in to place a kiss against her lips, as if he was unable to stop himself. He saw the passion glazing over her eyes, as she allowed him a glimpse of how much his proximity affected her. He saw her lips part once more, as she took in a tremulous breath.
And it was enough. Leaning down, he touched her lips with his once more. Biting softly at her plump bottom lip, he pulled them apart, seeking entrance. He began the plunder, his tongue surging into her mouth, tasting her for the first time. It was her taste. It was her. Pulling back, he breathed deeply, his arms now tightly holding her in his embrace. Leaning back down once more, he began to place kisses along her jaw, to her ear and the soft spot behind her ear.
She moaned softly, passion burning inside of her. It was too much. The tears that had been ready to fall had burned away under the fiery passion. And now, she could only feel him, taste him, breathe him. She moved her hands up to tangle in his hair. Tugging gently, she pulled him back so that she could kiss his cheek. Kiss his jaw. Taste his skin. Pulling his head down, she kissed his eyes. First the right one and then the left. She kissed his forehead. A part of her hoped that he would know that this was more than just passion. It was her love.
Aahil abruptly pulled away, pain flashing across his face. He let her go, his fingers falling away.
And it felt like a rejection of her love. She was looking and saw his face stiffen. She thought she was ready, but when he pushed her away it was still unexpected. She fell back, stumbled, fell.
His hands reached out quickly and grabbed her, pulling her back into his arms. He saved her before she fell. His heart was beating rapidly, his hold strong.
She looked up into his eyes and saw the alarm there.
"I didn't mean to hurt you," he explained with furious urgency. "That was never my intent."
She wondered if he was only talking about her almost fall. "It's okay."
"It's not okay. Using force against a woman is never okay," he retorted.
Aahil sat up in bed, his heart pounding furiously in his chest. What had happened? What was it that had awakened him?
He heard it again. Someone had cried out in pain. His brow wrinkled in worry, and then he bolted out of bed when he recognized that shrill cry. Running down the hallway, he reached the living room. His heart froze when he saw the scene in front of him.
"I told you not to touch that!" his father was shouting at five-year-old Shazia sitting on the floor, crying. She was knuckling the tears away, her small shoulders hunched over. Her small body was trembling in fear, but it meant nothing to the man shouting over her.
"Stop crying!" he shouted. The man looked more monster than human, as he stood there and yelled at the small girl. "I said stop crying! What do you have to cry about? Looks like you're not going to learn this way," the monster murmured. "Maybe you need a harsher form of discipline."
Aahil's eyes widened in horror when he saw him pick up the whip. His precious sister would not be hurt by that monster. He had thought that as long as he bore everything, as long as he was the proper son, it would be enough. Everything else would be okay. But not anymore.
"Leave her alone!" he shouted, racing into the room.
The Nawab turned to glare at him, astonished that this boy had dared to challenge him. He raised the hand with the whip, ready to punish him for his temerity.
Aahil reached out and grabbed the monster's hand. "No."
"You didn't hurt me," she said, seeing the panic in his eyes. "You pulled away, it was this," she said, pointing down to the rake someone had unthinkingly left on the porch, "This made me stumble and fall. It wasn't you. You could never hurt me."
She moved forward slowly, hands raised, as if approaching a wild animal. She was afraid to startle him. She was afraid that he would run if spooked and maybe never come back.
He backed away, putting distance between them. "Leave, Sanam."
"Leave the darkness of the past, Aahil," she encouraged him, "And live in the light."
"It may be light for you," Aahil retorted, "But it's always darkness around me. Leave before you become trapped like me in the darkness."
She shook her head, moving closer. Reaching out a hand, she smoothed back the hair that had fallen across his forehead and wiped away the sweat that had appeared with her fingers. She cupped his cheek.
He turned his head, almost against his will, and kissed the center of her palm.
She hoped that her touch would soothe him. She hoped that it would take away the worry and pain in his eyes. She hoped that he could trust her and tell her the truth.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Rehan closed his eyes; he could not bear to see the hope in her eyes.
"Imagine what I felt when I realized that the woman in my arms . . . the one who told me her name was Seher Ahmed Khan. The one who conned me into giving her my number. The one who was an accountant. The one who loved orchids and loved to dance."
She smiled helplessly at the love she could hear in his voice.
"When I found out that the woman who's little habits and quirks I was gathering like little treasures, was the daughter of that Khan family. The family that my mother had tortured and destroyed so many years ago. When I found that out, I prudently backed away." He opened his eyes, looking into hers to emphasize his next words. "But you wouldn't leave it at that, would you? What is wrong with you?"
"She didn't destroy us," Seher burst out, folding her arms across her chest in defiance of his words. "Granted she hurt my family. She hurt them terribly. But she didn't destroy us. We're still here. Living. Flourishing. Making our own lives and planning our own futures." She waved her arms in the air. "And my future was supposed to be with you before you turned coward."
"I am an orphan, Seher Ahmed Khan! I am the son of the woman who killed members of your family. I am the son of the woman who tried to kill your parents. She was the reason that you were in that brot--." He stopped, unable to say another word.
She could see the tears in his eyes, and her heart turned over at the self-recrimination she saw there. "Why do you blame yourself for what happened in the past?" she cried out. "Why do you blame yourself for the blood in your veins?" She strode towards him and grabbed him by his shoulders. She tried to shake some sense into him, but he barely moved. Huffing in frustration, she settled for digging her nails into his skin as punishment. "What happened to the boy you were just talking about moments ago? He was confident. He was almost arrogant. And you're . . . not. What happened, Rehan?"
"That boy had nothing to lose!" Rehan shouted at her, clutching at her wrists, trying to get her to understand. "That boy had no family. No parents. No siblings. No friends. No one to love. And I . . . I now have a brother I care about. I now have a woman that I lo--."
"That you love and are afraid to lose," she finished for him. She smiled softly. "And she loves you so, so much. You're not going to lose her because of this."
"That's easy for you to say," he shot back, letting his hands fall away. "What about your family? Will they think the same?"
"I don't care about my family!" she shouted. She grabbed at his shirt, tugging at it. "If they would turn their back on someone just because of their parents, then they aren't the family I know. They aren't my family."
He leaned towards her, grabbing her face in his hands and forcing her to meet his skeptical gaze. "They will not accept me once they know the truth. They couldn't. I know what it's like to live in a world without family. I won't do that to you."
"You won't be doing anything
to me!" Seher shouted back, frustrated beyond belief. "I get to decide what happens with my
life. You don't get to be the noble idiot in this relationship.
"What relationship? How can I begin something when I know some day you will resent me for all of this?" he asked in frustration.
"I will never resent you," she replied. "I will never resent the man that I love."
He opened his mouth.
"I know you'll say that I just met you. It's only been months, but I know my heart." She slapped a hand over her heart. "It has settled on you, and it won't change its mind. I will convince my family. We will convince my family. We won't take any actions that'll turn them against us, but you have to trust me. You have to trust in us. You have to remember, where there's a will, there is a way." She leaned forward and kissed him. "Please, tell me that the love you confessed was true." Tears began to fall once more.
Rehan stood there, the woman he lived inches away. He stared into her eyes and saw love. It was too much. He took a deep breath, trying to clear his mind of all emotion and think rationally. Sending her away would be the best thing for Seher. If he sent her away, she wouldn't lose her family. She wouldn't resent him one day.
"You worry about my resenting you years later," she said softly, "but imagine this. What if we don't have years together? Anything can happen. Accidents. Tragedy. We could live long miserable lives separately. We could die tomorrow. Isn't it our duty to live our lives to the fullest? Isn't it our duty to love as much as we can without fear of what life may bring?"
If he sent her away, he would have turned his back on the best thing that ever happened to him. He would turn his back on love. He had spent years at the orphanage seeing couples come and take children away to be a part of their family, but no one had ever chosen him to be a part of their family. No one had chosen him. No one had cared enough or loved enough.
He wiped Seher's tears away, unable to bear the pain he saw there. He didn't want to be a cause of that pain. Ever. "I'll . . . trust you with my heart," he finally said, giving in. He had a feeling that he'd be doing that for the rest of their lives together. "I will trust you with our future."
"And you won't regret it," she said with a cheeky smile.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
"Aahil, as long as you will it, we can find a way," Sanam whispered. "Tell me what happened. Please, tell me the truth."
He closed his eyes, her hand still caressing his cheek, his hand now cradling hers. And with his eyes closed, his only link to the world was her touch. But it wasn't enough to help him forget the darkness. It wasn't enough to forget the pain, nor the fear.
Most of all, her touch wasn't enough to erase the self-loathing.
"You dare say no to me, boy?" his father shouted back at him, his hands struggling to keep hold of the whip.
Aahil fought back like he had never done before. And to his surprise, he won. He got the whip and threw it across the room.
"Enough!" Aahil shouted at his father, pushing him back and away from him and his sister. "You will never lay a hand on my sisters, do you understand?"
"You don't dictate to me," the Nawab of Bhopal yelled back. "You are my children. I do what I want with you. I do what I want!" he shouted at Aahil.Aahil grabbed the man by the collar. "Not anymore." For the first time, he realized that he was taller than his father. And when he pushed him back, his father actually stumbled. "You don't beat my sisters. You will never lay a hand on them," he said through gritted teeth. "Shazia, go to your room." He watched his little sister look at him fearfully before running out the door.
"How da--," his father began, his voice loud enough to bring servants running to the door.
Aahil did not notice them. "You will never beat us again. You will never beat me again. Lay another hand on me, and I'll tell the world. What do you think Bhopal will think about the Nawab being an alcoholic and a child beater?"
"You wouldn't dare. You, the fearful little dog that I've kept chained and beaten? Where would you get the courage?"
"Do you want to try me? I'll spread the word, and you'll lose your reputation. Know this. If you don't stop and your reputation doesn't matter to you . . . if you touch her again, if you touch me again, I'm going to kill you."
The Nawab began to laugh, the incredulity apparent on his face. "You and what army, son?"
"I stopped being your son when you began beating me." When the Nawab only continued to laugh, Aahil lunged at him. "I'll kill you!" And it was the servants that pulled him away. The servants who held on to him, while the Nawab walked past him, still laughing at Aahil's temerity.
". . . kill you!"
He pulled away from her touch, unable to handle her or the past any longer.
"Don't pull away from me!" Sanam shouted in frustration. "Why do I have to beg for the truth from the man I love? You said you loved me," she said in a small voice.
Aahil stared at her, his head tilted to the side. A coldness had appeared in his eyes that made her very afraid. She knew that she didn't want to hear the words that would come out of his mouth next.
"There is so much you don't know about me," Aahil said harshly. "Back then, you said you had faith, but now you want answers? You want me to tell you my secrets. Why would I trust you? How could I trust you? I have been alone all of my life, Sanam Ahmed Khan. Everything I've done, I've done alone. I saved myself. I protected myself. And, suddenly, you expect all of that to change? You want me to depend on you?" He laughed sardonically. "Stop dreaming, Sanam. I have." He walked to the door of his home, leaving her standing on the porch. Gazing back at her, he issued an order, leaving no room for further debate.
She faltered at the blankness she saw in his eyes, falling back and away from him. "You want me to leave? Fine. No more," she said resolutely. "No more begging you to tell me the truth, Aahil Raza Ibrahim. I'm done. I will walk away now since that's what you want," she said. "Just know one thing," she said calmly, pushing all of the pain deep inside of herself, deep enough so that she could function right now. "I'm going to make sure you regret turning me away."
"Ammi," Sanam called out, disturbing her mother, as the older woman sat in front of the computer, doing some work before their father came home.
"What is it?" Zoya asked, turning to smile at her two lovely daughters. The smile fell away when she saw the distraught expressions on their faces. "What is it now?" she asked with trepidation.
"Mom," Seher began hesitantly. "It seems," she tilted her head, her fingers twisting themselves into knots, "That the Nawab was not the only one who was keeping secrets."
Zoya steeled herself, taking a deep breath and then gazing at her daughters. "Okay, tell me. I'm ready."
"Rehan is . . .," Seher began. "Now that we know that he is not the Nawab, I was able to piece together that he was the orphan that he told me about. He grew up in an orphanage right here in Bhopal. He lived there until he was 18, and then won a scholarship to go to the US to study. That's where he met the Nawab."
"Is that what this is about?" Zoya cried out, relieved that this was all it was. Jumping up, she came over to Seher and grasped her hands. "Beta, I don't . . . . we don't care about that! Just because he's an orphan doesn't mean anything. You know this family doesn't care about status."
"Mom!" Seher said, "I know that. You didn't raise us to be snobs, either. The real problem is. . ." She stopped, unable to go on. "The truth is . . . " She stopped once more. She turned to look at Sanam, silently entreating her twin to say the words that she couldn't.
"When we went over there today to demand some answers," Sanam began, "We heard something that I don't think Rehan wanted us to."
"Now what?" Zoya repeated, gazing at Sanam in consternation.
"You know that he was an orphan," Sanam began."We've already established that," Zoya snapped at her. "The longer you take to tell me, the more worried I'm going to get."
"Well, he eventually found out who is mother is. Or was," Sanam explained.
"Well, isn't that good news?" Zoya demanded.
"No," Sanam said, shaking her head.
"His mother was Tanveer," Sanam forced herself to utter the words. "The same Tanveer who turned this family's lives upside down years ago."
There was a moment of silence as Zoya processed those words. Her eyes blinked open and shut, and then filled with horror. Her body froze from the shock. "Allah miyah! What is wrong with that boy?" Zoya yelped, her heart beating furiously. "How could he hide that from us? How could they both hide such huge things from us? From the two of you?" She was practically yelling now. "First, they switched identities," she began at full volume, counting their sins on her fingers. "Then the Nawab came out as being a convicted murderer. And not just any murderer, he killed his own father! And the cherry on the cake, Rehab, who I kind of figured as being an orphan when I really thought about it last night, turns out to have a psycho bit*h as his mother. The same psycho bit*h who wreaked havoc on our family decades ago?" She stopped and glared at her daughters, tapping one foot in her agitation. "They should have told you every da*n secret about themselves before you all fell in love with each other!"
"Mom, please," Sanam entreated. "Rehan didn't do anything."
"Except hide the truth from us," Zoya pointed out, grabbing her hair and tugging at it in frustration. "What is your father going to say?"
"Is that the truth?" Asad's voice called out darkly from the doorway.
Three pairs of eyes turned to stare in horror at the man standing there.
"Dad," Seher began uncertainly, unsure of what to say in the face of his shocked fury.
"It seems we heard correctly," a voice murmured from behind him. "Rehan is Tanveer's son," Dilshad repeated, coming to stand next to Asad. The tears glimmering in her eyes were evidence of the pain inside.
Asad placed a consoling arm around his mother's shoulders, directing her towards the couch. "What right did they have to . . . come into our lives when they weren't going to be honest? What right did they have to steal your hearts without telling you what they were getting you two into?"
"Asad beta," Dilshad began, brushing her tears away. "You can't jus--"
"Ammi, no! He's Tanveer's son!" he said, emphasizing the name. "She killed my sister. Her blood runs in his veins. He cannot have a place in our lives. I cannot have him as a guest in our home." He shook his head, struggling with his own surge of dark emotions. The fury seemed to be winning. "I can't have Tanveer's son as part of our family."
"Asad beta," Dilshad said sadly. "She killed my daughter. You think I don't remember what that woman did? She killed my husband. She killed Zoya's father. She tried to take you and Zoya from me," she said, reaching out a loving hand to cup his cheek. Tears were trickling down her cheeks, as she struggled with the horrific memories of discovering the bodies on that tragic day.
"Ammi," Asad said, covering that hand with his own.
"But he's not the one at fault," Dilshad said softly, hoping that her son would understand. "I don't believe in the sins of the father. And when you calm down, you'll remember that neither do you."
"No!" Asad burst out, standing upright and beginning to pace back and forth across the room. "I can't have Seher marry Tanveer's son. That would mean she'd have won!"
"Abu, please!" Sanam said, coming up to grab her father's arm. "Please. She didn't even raise him! How can you blame him for his blood!"
"Because it's her blood!" Asad shouted, pulling free of her hold and glaring at his family. "I almost lost your mother and all of you because of her. I lost my father and my sister because of her. Zoya, you lost your father. Why are you silent?" He turned to glare at his daughters and his mother. "Accept him? You want me to say it's okay for Seher to marry him? One day, you would have kids together," he said, gazing at Seher. "What if I can't love them because of the blood running in their veins? Then what?"
Seher's heart melted when she realized the fear that was behind her father's rejection. "Dad, that won't happen, because those children would also be a part of me. They would be a part of you. You couldn't hate a part of yourself. You have to know, Rehan isn't just Tanveer's son. He has no memories of her. He grew up alone. He took care of himself. And on his own, he came to be the man he is today." She came to stand next to him, grasping his hand entreatingly. "Do you realize, that a woman like Tanveer could never have raised Rehan to be that man? He's already shown you how different he is from her."
"Please give him a chance," Sanam said. "Please."
Asad stared at them silently, and then shook his head. "I can't. Don't ask me to forget. Don't ask that of me."
"Haye Allah, who is it at this hour? Don't these people know how tired I get at the end of the day?" Lateef cried out. "After all, main to hoon chui mui."
Rehan heard Lateef muttering to herself before flouncing toward the door. Shaking his head at her shenanigans, he moved towards his bedroom. Whoever it was, Lateef would turn them away. It hadn't been an easy day for anyone in the house, especially after Seher and Sanam had left. Aahil bhai had been in a black mood since then. He'd finally gone to bed, after giving explicit orders to Lateef about not letting anyone in on pain of death.
"Hey! You can't ju--"
Rehan wondered why Aahil's sisters had come back to the home. The last he knew, they were staying at a hotel near the airport. The two would be flying out tomorrow morning for the states to stay with an aunt living in New York. The girls had decided to study there until the furor died down in Bhopal.
"Rehan . . . bhai," the female voice called out hesitantly.
Rehan whirled around to stare at the doorway, his eyes widening in shock at seeing Haya standing there.
"Zoya auntie," she began, walking into the room with uncertain steps, "told me the truth."
Rehan stepped back, one step for each one of her steps forward. "Did she tell you who my mother was?" he asked hoarsely. "Did she tell you that my mother was the reason that your mother isn't in this world today?"
Haya shook her head, tears glimmering in her eyes. "She told me that I had a brother. A lonely, young boy who grew up in an orphanage without any family."
Rehan froze, his eyes widening at her words. "Did she tell you that that woman's blood runs in my veins? Didn't she warn you away from me?" he asked hoarsely, trying to suppress the emotions that were welling up inside of him.
"She told me that I wasn't alone in the world anymore," Haya answered. "That I would now have someone . . . a sibling to depend on, unlike my father who has spent the past two decades running from the guilt he felt at my mother's death. My father wasn't mine even when we were in the same home."
Rehan bit his lip, his eyes uncertain. How should he react? What should he say? The uncertainty inside of him was eating away at the happiness a small part of him dared to feel.
Haya came to stand in front of him, and reached out to grab his hand. "It's so nice to meet you, Rehan bhai. I can't tell you," she began with a teary laugh, "how nice it'll be to have a sibling. Someone who'll always be on my side, just like I'll always be on theirs. At least that's the conclusion I've come to after a couple of hours of thinking. Can I tell you a secret?"
Rehan raised a silent eyebrow at her, his fingers grasping hers in return.
"I've been very jealous of the relationship that Sanam and Seher have," she confessed with a chuckle. "And now I have you."
Aahil strode back and forth in his office, his movements angry and abrupt. Glaring silently at the man sitting on the other side of his desk, he began to move once more. Opening his mouth, he stopped again, unable to find the words that could get past the anger that was eating away at him. He began to pace once more. The pacing continued, until he was dizzy. But he couldn't stop. He was afraid that if he stopped, he would explode and rain fire on anyone in the vicinity. Especially the man in front of him who had insisted on this meeting so early in the morning. Now he wished that he had told his secretary to turn him away.
"Are you kidding me?" he finally burst out, unable to suppress his anger any longer. "Are you f***ing kidding me?!" He glared are the man across the desk, crossing his arms across his chest.
"Aahil Bhai," Rehan reprimanded from the side of the room.
"No, Rehan!" Aahil barked at him, turning to glare at the other man. "I'm not going to calm down. Not about this. What the hell was that old man thinking?"
"Aahil bhai, stop yelling," Rehan instructed, coming over to stand next to Aahil and placing a hand on his shoulder. "Let's find out if there is any way out of this predicament."
"I'm afraid it's air tight," the other man said, his expression calm despite the fury he saw in Aahil's face.
Aahil laughed bitterly, pulling away from Rehan to go slump in his chair. "One more F-you from the old man, Rehan. And this lawyer tells me there is nothing I can do." Turning his head, he stared out the window, his eyes focused on the sunny scene outside.
"I'm afraid, Mr. Ibrahim, there is no legal loophole. There is nothing you can do to get out of your obligations," the lawyer said with finality, standing up. "Your father left a will behind when he died. And despite how he met his demise," the lawyer said delicately, "the will states that you must be married before your 30th birthday or all of the properties and everything associated with the Ibrahim name . . . down to your home and the wealth that you have accumulated will be confiscated by the state." Nodding his head in a silent farewell at the two men, he turned and left the room.
There was only silence in the room after he left, as each man grappled with this new and troubling revelation.
"I'm not going to let him get what he wants, Rehan. Not this way," Aahil muttered bleakly, his eyes focused on the scenery outside. "I don't care. Let them take it all. I'm not going to dance to his tune. Never again."
A/N: Chapter 11 for your reading pleasure. Sorry for the long wait, but life often gets in the way of what we want to do. Definitely leave lots of comments to give me motivation for the next update.
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