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As he heard his mother’s call, he just raised his head a little but didn’t reply.
“Zeest needs to go to her village today. There’re certain important matters to be decided regarding her father’s property.”
“So?” He asked harshly.
“So you are going with her.” His mother announced her decision as usual without even asking for her suggestion.
“We’ve so many drivers. She can go with any one.” He replied, taking short sips of his remaining tea.
“Are you crazy or something? You want me to send her out of the city alone with our driver, another man?”
“Then you can go with her.” He said with clear disinterest.
“No, I can’t. I have my check up today with my doctor. I know you are free today. You don’t have to stay there. She just needs to sign something and it won’t take more than an hour. So, you may return before night.” His mother told him his entire program in one long breath.
For some moments, he just sat there, thinking. At first, he wanted to refuse, but that was going to make things more complicated. If he had to get his mother to agree for his second marriage, he was definitely going to need Zeest’s support and help. That’s why, at this stage, he didn’t want to do anything which could disturb her even more.
“Okay, tell her to get ready as soon as possible. We have to return before night.”
But Zeest was already prepared. When he reached the garage, she was there, waiting for him.
“Here.” He opened the car’s back door. “Climb in.”
His eyes flashed over her swiftly, taking in every aspect of her appearance in a second. She was wearing plain long coat of fawn color, her hair completely covered by a dark brown scarf as usual. He opened the car door and settled her inside, taking her case and dropping it onto the seat, and she felt crushed by the swift, all encompassing glance.
He tried not to notice her but she had striking features. She was not very beautiful according to his personal criteria, but she was very attractive for sure. Gracefully covered hair, porcelain white skin, and big, black luminous eyes suited perfectly.
Although hidden, she looked so exotic, so mysterious, but so distant too. Her complexion glowed without make-up; her black eyes were alive as lightening on a hot, summer night. He’d just never realized how naturally feminine and lovely she was. The dimple that creased her cheek enchanted him. She was even lovelier than he’d thought last time.
She bit her lips together as he got in and started the smooth, powerful engine.
For a while, he said nothing, but as they sped on in smooth silence he glanced across her.
“Why are we going there?” His quiet inquiry startled her and her eyes met his, black and anxious.
“I have sold my property, including my house and farm.” She gave him a short answer.
She didn’t feel like talking. Inside, she felt sick. The car, for all its size, seemed to be enclosing her, pulling her close to him, to the male power of him.
She closed her eyes and leaned back against the headrest. She felt like crying. She couldn’t believe she was going to her dreamland for the first time since her father’s death. Perhaps, this would be the last time she’d see her house, the same house where she had spent her childhood.
“What would you do with the money?”
She looked up at his unexpected question and he glanced across her, a sidelong glance that made her sit up straight. He often used to look like that, shooting a glance at her with shimmering black eyes that seemed to strike at her nerve-endings.
“I’m planning to establish a religious school.” Again, her answer was short, giving him a clear indication that she didn’t want to talk more on the topic.
For the rest of the journey, they drove in silence.
It was about 4 p.m in the evening when they finally approached the hills surrounding her village. Aariz noticed that the clouds were beginning to pile up on the horizon.
“It’ll be a wet night.” He thought.
About four kilometers into the hills, he turned off onto a side road cutting through a forest, and after a further ten minutes they came to the dirt track that led to the farm. They bumped along this for a while, then, crossing a ford over a stream and climbing up a low hill, they finally arrived.
Several children, who were happy to see their teacher and friend back, greeted them.
Zeest’s aunt, Mrs. Shah had bought her niece’s house. Zeest signed the property papers within minutes. All of the villagers insisted alot that they should stay longer, but of-course, she had to leave soon. There was a danger of two storms. First, weather storm, and the second, her husband’s anger that was even more dangerous.
That’s why, she excused herself gently, and with tears in her eyes she followed Aariz to their car. He glanced at his watch, and without saying a word, started the engine. With a speedy jerk, their car moved forward.
“I……if you don’t mind.” She suddenly said. “I want to visit my father’s grave.”
He looked at her for a few seconds but said nothing. Shrugging his shoulders, he just turned the car toward the village’s graveyard.
Once they reached there, he slowly followed her to the spot where her beloved father was buried.
Reciting some prayers within five minutes, he looked at her and said, “I am waiting for you in the car.” He then turned and left, leaving her alone with her father.
Slowly making her way to her father’s simple grave, she hugged herself against the chill in the wind and stared down at the dates carved into the headstone that told so little about her father, the beginning and end, nothing more. Nothing of the type of man he’d been, nothing of the type of father he’d been to his only daughter.
“Why did you leave me alone?” She knelt down.
“Why?” She cried silently. “Why did you have to be so caring and loving? You made me addicted to love.”
But her only answer was the moan of the wind as it swirled around the tombstones.
Shivering at the haunted sound, she hunched her shoulders inside her coat, her hands as cold as stone.
She then recited different Quranic verses for him, as now; those were the only things that could give him eternal benefit.
After offering her prayers, she finally said ‘good bye’ to him with tears in her eyes. Memories were burning her body, making it impossible for her to stand there. Before it could become something unbearable, she turned and left. Taking short, tired steps, she opened the back door of his car and got in.
Without saying a word, he started the engine and their car moved out of the graveyard area. Leaning back in the seat, Zeest let her head rest on the curved top and turned her gaze out of the window. The mountains were shrouded in the dark clouds, a gray mist hanging over the valley floor.
Suddenly, a raindrop pelted Zeest in the eye, and she flinched. In the next few seconds, the clouds were spitting fat drops all about them. The tapping of the rain on the roof of the car was a soothing sound.
“I love to ride in the rain.” Aariz wanted to speak but couldn’t.
He slowed the car and reached the intersection with the highway. There was no traffic in sight and he pulled onto the road.
Only then Zeest saw a rapidly spreading dark line on the sky far beyond them.
“It’s storm.” She said aloud.
“What?” He was shock and surprised. “How could you say that?”
“Look there.” She pointed out toward the front. “It’s approaching, we should better turn back.”
The threatened rain had arrived, together with strong gusts of wind that shook their car, flinging rain like pebbles against the windscreen.
“Are you crazy?” He clenched his teeth. “We’ve left your farm house long ago, and there’s no time for getting back now.”
“This bloody thing had to come at this moment!” He cursed the storm.
“I….. I didn’t mean to say that we should go back to my village.” Gathering her courage, she spoke. “We could go back to Mrs. Zaidi’s farm. That’s not very far from here, and we can go there for temporary shelter.”
“Mrs. Zaidi?” His brows curved upwards, frowns clearly visible on his forehead. “Who’s she?”
“She owns this neighboring farm, and she is a good family friend. She knows us very well. She lives here alone and her house does have a lot of room and space.”
He cast her a brief glance, but said nothing.
“Where is her house?” He stopped the car and asked. It was definitely dangerous to drive in the presence of this rapidly approaching storm. He didn’t want to take that risk especially when he was in a completely strange place. He was even unfamiliar with the roads and the ways.
“There.” Zeest waved her hand to her right. He could see a large hut-like palatial house situated beautifully in between the lush green mountains.
It was a breath taking view.
Green meadows splashed with colorful flowers, unspoiled by human hands. This place truly had the feel of a rain-washed paradise. This house situated in the lush, green hills bordering the western edge of Zeest’s village looked absolutely wonderful. Built marvelously in ancient Victorian style, it looked very attractive, thanks to the willow trees surrounding the pillared three-story home.
As he looked at the beautiful architectural masterpiece, his features grew less harsh.
“It could be an ideal place for honeymooners.” He thought and then smiled at himself.
“Honey moon, how cheap does that sound without my love, without my Komal.” He thought painfully as he re-ignited the engine of his Honda Accord and pulled it toward Zaidi’s farms.
Within two minutes, they were standing in front of the house. The nameplate on one of its main pillars showed the name ‘Zaidi’s Villa.”
Leaning casually against his car, he crossed his arms over his chest and observed her dispassionately.
Zeest took a few short steps toward the house then stopped.
He was not following her.
Slowly, she turned back to face him.
“We really should go inside.” She murmured.
“No, thank you. I’d rather not……”
“I’m not happier about this than you.” She said in a low tone. “But, we don’t have any other choice right now. This storm could strike us at any time and I’n partly responsible for you being here.”
She was right and it didn’t seem appropriate to argue on a genuine reason. Without saying a word, he lowered his eyes in silent agreement. Leaving the car within the farm field, he lifted out her case and started toward the house. The path led deeper into a wooden area, still lit by the old by lamp post but gradually growing brighter as if the light were following their steady stride. A faint breeze rustled the branches of the full and green trees, whispering quiet evening sounds along with the birds that were still chirping in the distance.
Upon reaching the rather secluded entrance to the park in front of the house, he gently brushed a lock of his silky hair away from his forehead, then placing his hands back in his pocket. For a house so large, it didn’t appear as if many people were inside. They passed through the gates of the Tranquil Gardens and he took in a deep breath as his feet met the soft, wet grass. The air seemed almost fresh inside the park, as if he had left the boundaries of the city streets and entered into an untouched area of wilderness. He smiled to himself secretly; glad to have already discovered such a comforting environment. It seemed almost like something out of fairy-tale.
“I think I’m going to like it here.” He said to himself, softly, almost against his will but his words didn’t go unnoticed by Zeest.
“I used to spend hours here.” She said and fell silent as her beautiful eyes strayed again to the farm field around them.
Within seconds, they’d reached the cement steps, their footsteps echoing dully. She precedes him up the steps and paused in the hallway of the first floor.
“What a lonely, deserted place. It looks like a ghost house or something.” He observed and laughed.
She ignored his comment and continued her steps towards the main door.
He followed her up the steps, his footsteps and echo of her own.
“Zeest, is that you?” An old feminine voice called impatiently as their footsteps moved closer to the door.
Zeest opened her mouth to make an affirmative answer but the voice spoke again before she had a chance.
“I can recognize you by the way you smell. Yes I can.” This time, the voice was trembling with mixed emotions.
With a loud sound, the door burst open, giving way to an old lady in her mid-fifties.
“Zeest!” The woman cried aloud, thankful to see her. Rushing down the steps, she grapped her by both wrists. “My child!” Tears came flooding in her eyes, as she hugged her passionately.
“Zeest!” The name was a soft cry, full of tears and laughter. “Is it really you?”
“It’s really me, Auntie.” She answered, smiling decently.
As she hugged Zeest, her eyes met with Aariz’s and she nodded with happiness.
“Your husband?” Mrs. Zaidi’s eyes traveled from Zeest’s face to Aariz’s.
She nodded in silence.
“Masha Allah, what a nice, handsome man.” She came forward to put a motherly hand on his head.
“I’d never forgive myself that I missed your wedding.”
“It’s alright, auntie.” She said smoothly. “It all happened in emergency. We hardly invited any guests.”
“I can’t believe am seeing you again.” Mrs. Zaidi said excitingly as she led toward the dinning room.
Once seated, she talked to Mrs. Zaidi about everything she could recall at the moment, one again bringing all those refreshing memories back to life. Their conversation centered on family topics, his father’s memories and the work needed to be done to transfer all the property and money to Zeest.
Finally, totally bored by this conversation, he rose and left the room, thinking to check the storm from the house’s roof.
“Why did you sell your father’s house and property?” Mrs. Zaidi asked.
“I didn’t need any of that now.” She said quietly.
“But that was your own property, your father’s savings.” Mrs. Zaidi’s voice had a worried tone.
“This is the only thing that interests me.” Zeest’s voice became sadder. “That it belonged to my father.”
How could she forget that ever? Those little games with her dolls, those little fights and disputes with her friends, heart-piercing memories. She was familiar with every corner of that house. After all, she was born and raised there.
“Your husband look nice, very cute too ” Mrs. Zaidi smiled, trying to change the painful topic.
She didn’t comment on the remark. Instead, she just tipped her head back to the headrest of her chair and closed her eyes.
“I guess he’s not very talkative.” Her aunt added.
Zeest could see her aunt was impressed by Aariz’s personality.
“I’ll always keep wondering about his apparent ability to impress others so easily and rapidly.” She thought silently.
To Be Continued…