If you missed Episode 23 Click HERE
He almost choked on his tea. The implication of her words rocked him. His breath caught in his throat.
He groaned, wanting to shake her.
“I want you to go inside, within five minutes!” She issued coldly.
He stared at her, shocked and dazed by what his mother had just said.
“This is rapidly turning into one of the worst days of my life.” He said aloud. “What are you talking about?”
“Didn’t you hear?” His mother asked roughly.
“You’re kidding right?” He gasped. “Mother, you can’t be serious. Are you?” He chewed his bottom lip.
“I’ve never been this serious about you Aariz.” His mother answered before Aariz could ask more.
“Damn it, Mother, you know I’m not used to such jokes.” He growled.
She didn’t reply.
“What’s my fault?” He asked quietly but refusing to whisper.
“You have no fault.” She said rigidly. “That’s why I think you’re perfect for marriage.”
“Mother, this is injustice.” He cried, trying to reason with her.
But she ignored his comment.
“Please mother……” He cried silently one last time. He begged with his eyes, pleaded with all his might.
“Come on. People are waiting for you to recite your Nikaah.” With the final command given, she turned and left him.
He wanted to run. He wished he could shout, scream and yell. But he found no power to move or even talk. He felt like a child who is unable to speak because of a piece of bone in his throat.
Stunned and humiliated, Aariz watched, eyes blazing.
He stopped at the silhouette, not letting himself go inside. He knew that, once he crosses this, there would be no turning back.
His mother’s figure appeares again. Her hand gripped his wrist, pulling him inside. He felt suddenly imprisoned. Panic rose in his throat and he struggled to keep it down.
His head felt painful and heavy; perhaps he was losing his mind and senses. Weird thoughts begin to form horrible images in his imagination.
This was not his mother, but a cruel, harsh butcher.
He was not a man, but a poor, helpless lamb.
He was not getting married, he was getting slaughtered.
Feeling like a lamb being led to the slaughter, he let her pull him.
Now he knew what this was all about…..why he had been brought up here….why he had been treated this way.
His fate was joking with him, playing with him, making him feel dumb and stupid and he knew that he could fight with anything but not with his fate.
He had no choice. He couldn’t disobey his own Mother.
His jaw was hard, all expression held tightly in cheek. His face had turned pale, when he entered the room where his uncle lay, surrounded by three or four men now.
His eyes moved to his uncle. For the first time, he was seeing a man dying.
Aariz’s mouth became compressed in a taut line as his gaze slashed from his uncle to his mother.
“Do you accept……..
Someome was taking someone’s name. He couldn’t hear anything; he had become blind, deaf and dumb.
“……Daughter of Abbas Hasan as your bride?”
Someone was reciting the Nikaah, his marriage contract, and was asking for his permission.
Someone was asking about his ‘will’, which he’d already gifted to someone else.
An icy chill settled over him, helped along by the frost in his mother’s eyes. His throat felt dry and when he opened his mouth to speak, it seemed to grow drier still.
Komal’s face came in front of his eyes. No, not smiling but crying this time, asking him, not believing if he could betray her like this, leave her, run in the middle of all this, leaving her alone.
“I……am….I’m sorry Komal.” He couldn’t stop his tears.
What?” Someone asked. “We can’t hear you clearly, son.”
For several spine-tingling seconds, his eyes held his mother’s.
“YES, I accept her as my wife.”
He then rose tremblingly to his feet and left the room.
Not after long, a volley of piercing screams shattered the still evening air. Almost automatically, he went back to the room where his uncle was.
He stared in horrified alarm as he saw Abbas Hasan doubled over in pain and collapsed in agony to the floor.
Naturally, he reached with his hands, to hold his weak, weightless body. Slowly, he carried him back to his bed.
“He needs to be in the city hospital as soon as possible.” His doctor murmured, as he prepared few injections quickly.
“There’s no need for that now.” Abbas Hasan moaned weakly.
“Where’s my daughter?” He murmured helplessly, his eyes opening and closing rapidly.
He first glanced at Aariz, amd then over his shoulder to see someone.
He was coughing so intensely that for a minute Aariz thought his lungs would burst at any second.
“Aariz, son…..” He said when the cough siezed. His voice lower than ever, he was fainting. “Come here.”
“My son, do love her, always.” As he spoke, Aariz saw blood coming out of his mouth.
“Do something, Aariz.” His mother shouted from the back, praying for him. But perhaps, the time for acceptance of prayers had already passed.
“No….” Abbas Hasan gripped Aariz tightly, not willing to let him go. “Listen to me…. Princess is always very silent, calm and patient. She has not seen much love and happiness in her life. If you give her these things, she’ll not need anything else.”
Aariz raised his brows in question, not quite understanding what he meant.
“My daughter.” He tried to smile helplessly. “I call her princess.”
He coughed even more vigorously then. Aariz tried to shift him into a more confortable position but it was too late. Suddenly his body jerked upwards, amd with one last short gasp, it went completely silent, swaying in Aariz’s hands. With half open eyes and partially opened mouth, he truly presented the picture of a dead man.
Gently, Aariz disengaged his body from his own and put him back to the bed.
“We’ve lost him.” The doctor announced as he examined his eyes and pulse.
From behind, he could hear someone screaming and crying intensely. With slow, tired steps he moved away from the bed.
Once at the doorway, he stopped and turned back to look at his mother. From her red eyes, he could see she was trying her best not to cry but at last, she couldn’t stop. Her body shook with sobs, until it hurt.
Her skin bristled at the touches of relatives and strangers who asked if she was alright, if she would be okay. Touches meant to be kind and consoling instead became cruel daggers, digging into her skin.
Later, she saw a blurred image of movements and voices. She felt a bright light shining in each eye.
“Abboo!” Remembering her father, she cried as she stood like a stone statue in the room.
Everywhere was pain. As she tried again to move, the pain rolled over her…..carrying her with it…..somewhere.
Someone limped over to put an arm around her shoulders in silent comfort, and heavy sobs began to shake her shoulders.
“It’s alright.” It was her aunt’s voice, caring and comforting.
Burying her face in her hands, she started crying. She leaned on her aunt, unable to stop the flood of tears. Sobs racked her shoulders, tearing her apart. There was no relief from the pain inside.
“You are coming with us. There’s no point in staying here now.” Her aunt urged.
She let herself be turned towards the outside, leaning heavily on support of her arm.
Too blinded by tears to see where she was going, she simply let her aunt lead her.
“Crying isn’t going to help. If you keep this up, you’re going to make yourself sick.” Her aunt was saying.
“Weldone mother!” Aariz said in his heart, tossing a sarcastic look at his mother.
“Need a trophy for your forced, self-made victory?”
“But it would be my turn now.”
As she moved towars her aunt’s car, she saw many children with angel-like faces had surrounded her.
“Sister, are you leaving?” A little girl asked.
“Sister, don’t leave us.” Some of them were crying.
“What about our daily night stories?” Another young boy had asked, not wanting to leave her hand.
“Sister…..my alphabets are not finished yet. Won’t you take your classes now?” A little girl also asked.
Nodding silently, she wiped away tears from their cute, innocent faces, without caring about her own.
Aariz was sitting at the driving seat when his mother called hin, his head resting on the steering wheel. His mind and body was devoid of any sensations and feelings now. He felt like he was an automatic robot or some hypnotized man whose mind had been controlled very cruelly.
“Aariz.” Mrs. Ali called. “Open the side door for Zeest.”
“Zeest?” Unfamiliar with the word, he looked at his mother again. “Who’s that?”
“Yes, Zeest Zehra.” His mother told him plainly and pointed out toward the dark, shadowy figure standing behind her.
Aariz’s eyes narrowed, as his body became intensely warm with the flash of anger and hatred for the woman who had destroyed all of his plans, and hopes. Yes, she stood behind his mother, all wrapped in a big black veil, her face and body hidden from his eyes.
Events swept everyone forward at an alarming speed.
With a dominance that left them all breathless, Mrs. Ali ordered her servants the day after they had returned back to their home. Money spoke loudly, afterall, and as the house had been empty for a while the work was mostly small adjustments and decorating. The interior designers complained endlessly but work went on all the same.
Within no time at all, Zeest was carried to her bridal room. It all happened so fast that she didn’t know whether to cry over her father’s death or to laugh at her wedding.
The room was brightly illimunated with powerful luminaries but the reflection of her angelic beauty clearly overshadowed the artificial brightness of the room. A gentle fragrance of lavender hovered all around the room. The room had silver gray walls and carpet was a backdrop to sapphire curtains and matching coverlet on the king-size bed.
The luxurious water bed she sat on…..was something she’d never experienced. Warm, watery and mattresses adjustable with shape and contours of one’s body, it was covered with the midnight blue and silver gray silk sheets. The comforter was also of midnight blue, with several pillows encased in blue and silver gray alternated. The whole couch was beautifully decorated with evenly arranged strings of fresh red roses and jasmine, hanging from the roof to the corners of the bed, surrounding it completely.
Wearing golden brown, modern bridal Sharaara studded with heavy embroidery work, she was lost in her thoughts when she heard the bedroom door opening and then closing again with a slight ‘click’.
It was her groom, her husband, her fate and her future.
She could smell his intoxicating male scent and a faint whiff of his after-shave. His jet black eyes were on her face but there was no warmth in their glittering depths. His eyes, his scent, the closed door were all disturbing enough, but there was something else, a feeling, which disturbed her far more.
He leaned against the door. Moments passed, but he said nothing. She felt her whole body tense.
His handsome mouth thinned, and when he spoke his words were low and razor sharp.
“Comgratulations ‘Miss. Wife’.” He said with a rigid jaw, glaring at her in acute dislike.
She then heard him laughing in a weird, dangerous tone.
“Raise your head.” His voice felt as cold as ice.
She didn’t know what to do.
“I said, raise your head.” He shouted this time.
With an involuntary jerk, her lowered head raised upward, the veil of her bridal dress falling behind. Still, she had not enough courage to open her eyes and look at the man who was supposed to be her husband.
“Stop this drama, and open your eyes.” His hammering tone almost kicked her senses off.
His voice made her eyes open, straining to make out his features in the dim light.
Through his flaming eyes, he could see the dilemma in her eyes…..the fear and anxiety that was ripping her heart to shreds.
“First of all, let me assure that this room is sound proof. You’re allowed to scream or shout or whatever but no one would be able to hear your cries.” He sais mercilessly, his voice trembling with the intensity of his anger.
Her heart pounded, her senses alerted to a hidden danger that she instinctively knew she was facing.
“It’s just legal Sh*t. Nothing else.” He continued his toxic speech. “I will never accept you as my wife, ever!”
“Though religion asks me to take care of your rights, but I never ever do anything against my heart and my heart doesn’t accept you.’ He said in a cold-as-ice and hard-as-steel voice and then added.
“I won’t give you any rights. I hate every inch of your body, your soul and your whole personality. Don’t think I’m doing any kind of injustice. I think your were the main character in this drama and you fooled my mother by acting innocently in front of her.”
“I….. I don’t know……” Gathering all of her courage, she opened her mouth to say something in her weak, trembling voice but it unlocked his animalistic anger and storm, which had been gathering in his eyes exploded with a terrfying fury.
“Shut your sick mouth up.” He yelled with force. “How nicely you put it, huh?” He said caustically.
“Luckily, I don’t need you to boost my self-esteem. I am capable of controlling my basic instincts and this would be a marriage of just tongue and paper, nothing more. I am not hungry for your body. Infact, your whole being makes me sick.” He made a disgusted face.
“I want to let you know that I don’t trust you. I want to let you know that, though legally and religiously, you are my wife but I would never be your husband in anything other than name.”
The full implication of his words struck her like a sledgehammer. The stunned young bride sat speechless before her husband, her eyes wide open in disbelief.
“Only now I’ve realized the selfish plan of you and your father to occupy my property and wealth.”
Her lips began to tremble violently as she heard her father’s name. Her patience was touching its final limits.
She wanted to scream, shout back at him and say, “You can call me whatever you want, but just don’t say anything about my father. He is not in this world now.” But perhaps even her tongue and lips were not helping her tonight. She couldn’t open her mouth.
Her breathing became labored, coming in harsh little pants, and her pulses faced like that of a frightened doe.
“May I ask why you are unhappy………”
She didn’t finish, for the sight of his mouth—thin with anger—warned her to watch her tongue. She was trying his patience and he was waiting for a chance to lose it.
Suprisingly he didn’t shout this time. “Oh yeah…..want to tell you something.” He said as he walked to the refrigerator.
“I love some other girl.” He lifted a glass and filled it with cold water.
Zeest braced herself; afraid she might just go to pieces. It couldn’t possibly be true. Her heart was pounding, body trembling, brain too numbed to feel anything.
“Everything was so perfect. We were sure about our marriage.” Bringing the glass to his mouth, he emptied it at once.
“But then your father called my mother…..it all seems like a pre-planned thing.”
The words were shot at her like bullets and she stiffened at once.
She wanted to ask what he was talking about.
He then fumbled with something in his pocket and took a cigarette case out. She just sat there, paralyzed and stunned, helpless expressions crossing all over her face.
He pressed the cigarette between his lips and bent his head to show the flame to the fore end of his cigarette.
“You’re the killer of my happiness and comforts.” He blurted out, his voice thick and heavy with hatred.
“An obstacle between me and her.” He added senselessly.
“Until now, I followed whatever my mother ordered me.” He dragged deeply on his cigarett, without looking at her for a second.
“But now I am free to do whatever I want.” He inhaled deeply and then exhaled the smoke slowly through his nostrils.
“And I want my happiness back.”
“I will not touch you ever.” He turned to face her once again.
“Won’t you ask, why?” He first questioned and then answered without waiting for any response from her.
He laughed mercilessly. “Simply because I don’t think of myself as your husband and never will.” He smiled cruelly at her.
“Oh yes! One more thing.”
He brought something out from his jacket’s pocket and threw it on her lap, without moving from his place.
“This is your ‘Moonh Dikhaai’,” He said aloud.
(Moonh Dikhaai: A kind of red powder that married women wear on their forehead, normally it is the husband’s right to put it on for her).
“Now, it’s another thing that I don’t have any intention to see your bitchy face.” He laughed sarcastically.
On this intense remark, her gaze lifted slowly to her husband.
His eyes were cold, lifeless, and ashamed. His lips curled as he said his final heartless words. She curled up even more, each word a blow to her heart.
“Now finish this wedding night drama amd get some sleep and let me get some as well.” He moved toward the bed where she was sitting.
Scared as hell, her body moved back involuntarily.
A short, malignant chuckle rumbled deep in his chest. “Don’t panic, I won’t attack you, Miss. Wife. I told you I don’t want a relationship, and you won’t want to feel used. So there’s no point in starting something we’d both be sorry for.”
“Besides, I hate every inch of yours and ofcourse that includes your goddamn body too.”
She felt soiled and humilaited as if a thousand tiny insects were invading the very pores of her skin. She tried to answer, but all that emerged from her trembling lips was a painful sob.
“When I give myself to a woman, it will be willingly or not at all. Remember that, Miss. Wife!”
The fierce bitterness in his voice startled her.
She just sat there, transfixed.
“Move….move, leave my bed now.” He yelled again.
She bit her lips and swallowed, and just sat there, not knowing what to do and where to go. In her own room she felt like a caged animal, tears of frustration pouring down her cheeks.
“You don’t have to shed tears.” He jerked the cigarette in the ash tray and sat on the bed. “It’s me who has suffered, not you!”
“I hate colicky women.” He commented and then grinned. “But hey, don’t I hate you already?”
“But…..what’s my fault?” She asked in a weak, shaky voice,.tears flowing freely from her eyes.
Her sentence did it all.
“You….you poor, cheap, third class girl from a typical lower middle class Pakistani family.” He burst with an uncontrollable anger. “You made my mother stupid by these tears but…..but don’t ever think I can get into your cruel wicked trap.”
“Get the hell out of my bed NOW.” He yelled again, gritting his teeth with force. “I need to get some sleep now.”
With trembling feet, she left his bed so quickly like some thousand volt current was passing through it.
“Now, why don’t you stop shedding these crocodile tears and go wash this damn ugly make-up of yours?”
His sentences made her think something. She must have looked awful with swollen, puffy eyes, tear-streaked face and dry chapped lips.
“You can sleep on the sofa….” His next order came straight as he sank down on the bed carelessly, without even taking his shoes off. “I’ll be comfortable here on the bed.” He finished his last word and then closed his eyes, turning his back on her, like sleep was the most wanted thing for him right now.
Slowly, she reached in front of the big dressing table, taking her earrings off, one by one and then the rest of her make-up. Her shoulders shaking as the tears finally spilled out like a heavy rain. She wept uncontrallably but silently.
“Welcome to the real world, Zeest.” After the words were out of her mouth, she found her lips twisting in a rueful smile.
To Be Continued…