If you missed Episode 34 Click HERE
People think so much, talk too much, make plans, discuss their future, decide things, but sometimes things go exactly in the opposite way. Only in the end, a person realizes that there’s nothing in his hand, and all he could do is try, hope and pray for the best. Most often, he does hope for the best but forgets to keep himself prepared for the future.
Aariz and Komal were not prepared for what happened the very next week after their last important conversation.
“Where are the parents?” Asked Aariz, staring at Zeest who was working in the kitchen, busy preparing dinner.
“They haven’t returned yet.” Foreboding crept up Zeest spine as she replied.
“They were supposed to be back by now.” She threw a glance at the wall clock, which showed the time was a few minutes before nine p.m.
“Did they tell you anything else?” He asked quickly. “I mean did they have to go somewhere else too?”
“No. They had to attend a function but that was at four p.m.” She said, keeping her eyes low as usual.
Aariz shook his head, his stringy hair flipping in his eyes. “I’ve told them many times that law and order situation is really bad these days. Still they don’t care anything I say.”
Ten minutes later, Aariz had tried everyone he could think to call—-all of his relatives and father’s friends. But none had any news for him. There had been no answer on his parent’s cell phones. Now inside him was a hard knot of fear.
He bit his lower lip in frustration. Then forced himself to take a deep breath. There was no reason to panic. He had to sit and wait.
By the eleven p.m, Aariz didn’t know whether he was more scared or more exhausted.
Suddenly, the phone rang with full intensity, breaking the pregnant silence in a horrifying way.
Zeest’s heart plunged. Renewed alarm clamored through her veins.
He jumped and almost ran to receive the call. His face was drawn with worry. Zeest looked at him in silence as he talked through the phone, praying for her in-laws’ safety.
Suddenly, he slammed both his fists on the table top and vaulted to his feet.
Zeest heard his sharp intake of breath, and her heart stopped beating.
“What….what happened?” Are they alright?” Zeest asked in a trembling voice, her heart beating with full force.
He gave her one quick glance and said, “They are in the hospital.”
The tires squealed as Aariz’s car rounded the corner and sped toward the hospital. He raced, driving so recklessly that it was a miracle he didn’t have an accident and end in the intensive care unit with his parents. All the while, he prayed that those horrible images he’d conjured up would prove false. His parents with wounded bodies, facial lacerations, he shuddered violently at the thought.
He switched off the ignition while braking, lepta from the car and broke into a run. He met some doctors at the hallway of casualty.
Please God! He begged silently. Please don’t take them away from me. He burst through the front door with all the grace of a charging bull.
“How are they?” Breathing hard, he asked the doctors in a shrill voice, after explaining who he was.
“I’m afraid…….” One of the doctors tried to say.
Terror settled over Aariz like a shroud.
“Afraid of what?” Grasping the doctor by the shoulders, he asked. “What happened to them?”
A dazed look of helplessness spread over his face as he tried to tell him the news.
“What happened?” Aariz repeated, really frightened now.
“I won’t say we tried our best, we didn’t have enough time even for that!” He finished his sentence, and turned his face, avoiding Aariz’s painful glare.
“Your father didn’t give us much chance.” Another doctor told him. “But your mother is still surviving. We’re trying our best.”
“I don’t have much good news for you!” This time, it was some policeman. “While returning from some function this evening, they were attacked by a group of Shiyah sectarian terrorists.”
“It’s a miracle that your mother is still surviving.” Someone had added, shaking his shoulder, trying to bring him back to his senses. “She had five bullets in her body. One punctured her lung. I’m not sure if…..”He left his sentence unfinished.
“The bastards sprayed the bullets on their car like rain.” Another man was telling him. “Your father was shot dead on the spot.”
He couldn’t hear more. Holding his head in his hands, he knelt down on the floor. There were voices in the background, someone was crying, someone was trying to hold him, someone was telling him that everything would be alright.
Was it possible now? Were all the things going to be alright like they were before?
Suddenly, he stood up from the floor, and ran toward ICU.
Two ward boys grabbed him by his shoulders.
“Mr. Aariz you can’t go inside…..”
“Like hell, I can!” He shouted, tears running down his cheeks. “I’ve got to see them, they are my parents.”
His voice faltered, and he flinched as though someone had punched him in the gut. Staggering slightly, his shoulders sagged; he was near breaking point. On the doctor’s nod, they released him. He opened the door and got inside.
His mother looked small and incredibly wounded, lying there beneath an oxygen tent, and there were so many tubes and monitoring devices that it was difficult to get close to her.
He wept silently as he looked at her.
“So mother, would you mind listening to me now?” He whispered, his cheeks wet, his eyes red.
“Don’t go.” He sobbed. “Don’t leave me alone like this.”
“Oh yes.” He laughed weirdly, tears never stopping for a second. “But I know, you are very stubborn. Again, you’d pay no attention to what I’m saying.”
“You never care about my feelings, do you?”
“But I won’t ask you for anything, now.”
He cried with so much intensity that made him cough and, toward morning, when Mrs. Ali passed away, there were no more tears to cry.
The next day, they were both buried according to Islamic rights in the presence of the family and loved ones. It was a tragic moment for everyone.
“I’m sorry mother. I couldn’t give you much happiness.” He cried, as they finally hid the two graves beneath the thick soil and sand.
“But how could I give you something I never had?”
His faithful, sincere mother had truly accompanied his father, till the last of her breaths. Staring at the two adjacent graves covered with wet brown soil and fresh red roses, he thought. People were saying things to him, trying to decrease his grief.
Such typical and ordinary remarks, perhaps at such instances, people don’t have much words to say, just formalities, nothing else.
Suddenly, he felt someone’s hand clasping his shoulders.
“Open your eyes and look at me!”
He found himself staring at Zeest, her own cheeks wet, her lids heavy as her eyes asked if she could get some right from him to share his pain and hurt.
“I don’t want my share in your happiness.” She had whispered. “But I can share your sorrows, if you trust me.”
He shook her hand roughly from his shoulder, keeping his face averted. “Don’t touch me.”
Zeest couldn’t meet his eyes then, they were so full of agony.
“Leave me alone.” He said and again burst into tears, filling Zeest with dread.
It was a brilliantly sunlit afternoon in early December, but its beauty was deceptive. The air had a chilling edge that hadn’t been there earlier.
Komal got a taxi and went straight up to Aariz’s home.
As she walked down the main lobby toward the hall, her footsteps echoed loudly on the marble floor. While moving, her full-skirted tawny skirts rustled, brushing her slim legs. She loved the dress she had chosen to wear; it came from her favorite English designer. Made of taffeta, it was the color of good sherry, the style a modern version of an Edwardian dress, with high neck, a smooth fitting bodice which emphasized her bosom, a tight little waist and long, full skirt beneath which were hidden layers of crisp lacy petticoats. It made her feel very feminine.
When she entered the hall, she found Aariz already waiting for her.
“Oh Aariz.” She retorted painfully, obviously hurt by his weak and dejected appearance. “You look so thin and weak. What have you done to yourself?”
“Life is meaningless to me now.” He said weakly. “Everyone has left me. I feel all alone.”
Although he had lost weight in the past few days, still he looked too good, dressed in a pair of worn jeans and black wool shirt that complemented his eyes. It was open at the collar, revealing the hair on his chest. Komal felt her palms sweat.
“Cheer up, dear.” Komal sat down near him, glancing around the elegant dinning-hall. “Things change. We’ve to move with time, life must go on.”
“But,” He asked loudly, his tone sharp. “Why did all these bad things happen to me?”
“No….” Komal shook her head slowly, looking into his eyes, which now had dark circles around them. “You are not the only one who had suffered. Don’t you see what I’ve faced?”
Aariz stared at her absently but said nothing.
“Your parents had to go that way. You can’t fight with your fate, and its your fate that you have to live without them now.” Komal explained in a gentle voice.
“Assalaam alaikum.” A sweet, feminine voice turned their faces away from each other.
It was Zeest, carrying tea and sandwiches for them.
Komal’s head swung; she stared at the newcomer, brown eyes wide, mouth parted in shock and disbelief.
“How dare you invade my privacy?” Aariz shouted, giving her a look that burned her right away. “Can’t you see I have a guest?”
Zeest almost dropped the drinks as she heard his loud voice. She had noted that he had become even more irritable and frustrated after his parents’ death, losing his temper far more easily. Before her parents-in-law passed away, she had thought her relationship with her husband had improved a lot, but their untimely death had affected him in the worst way possible.
“Get out from here.” He snapped.
Pure insult by her husband in front of another woman brought tears of pain in her beautiful eyes.
“You are a sadist Aariz Ali, who gains satisfaction in giving pain to other people.” She thought.
Once again she was on the outside looking in, the rejected one. The pain of it was intense.
“No, wait.” Komal raised her hand in a gesture.
Slowly, she turned around and looked at Komal.
“Who’s she?” Komal’s lips quickened and though she spoke to Aariz, her gaze never left Zeest.
“She’s Zeest.” He stopped his tongue before he could add, “My wife.”
“Oh, I see.” Komal sighed aloud. Zeest offered her a cup containing hot coffee.
“So, Miss. Zee….Zee, how are you?” She asked, setting an artificial smile on her lips.
“It’s Zeest Zehra, may I correct Miss. Komal.” She corrected gently, a friendly smile coming to her lips at the sight of this sweet, beautiful lady who sat before her with all of her feminine grace.
As Komal saw her for the first time, she felt disappointed. She had made a picture of Aariz’s wife, a typical, backward, poor rural girl, who was ill-mannered and illiterate. But ahead of her, was no such girl, but a graceful, modest and well-mannered lady.
“So, this was the girl who destroyed our dreams.” Komal said, without caring if Zeest could hear her.
Zeest reddened, embarrassed and hurt and yet unable to turn and walk away.
“Forget her.” Aariz commented in a disgusted tone.
“I thought she is a simple, innocent rural girl.” Komal said to Aariz, as she picked up her coffee. As she spoke, she didn’t look at Aariz. Her eyes were on Zeest. “But she is one clever master piece.”
Aariz raised his brows, not getting her point. Komal got his silent question and turned to face Zeest again.
“I heard you had finally convinced his mother for our marriage.”
“Yes, I had.”
“Because I didn’t want to spoil his future and dreams.” Zeest explained with great patience.
“You make me laugh.” Komal tried to laugh but couldn’t. “You prevent yourself from committing a crime you already have?”
“How much sugar?” Zeest sent a questioning look at her, putting the spoon in the sugar pot.
“Leave it. You cannot make it sweet anyway.” Konal replied dryly, irritably tossing back her mane of nut-brown hair.
Casting her gaze to the floor, she hoped Aariz couldn’t see the pain caused by Komal’s cruel insult glistening in her eyes.
“When are you two getting married?” Zeeat asked politely, her tone very soft.
“I don’t think it’s any of your business!” Komal said roughly, giving her a false smile.
“So, you don’t want him to divorce you, huh?” Komal turned to face her again, forcing a calm into her voice she was far from feeling.
“It was just a request.” Zeest muttered in a low voice, her eyes meeting his for a sparkling second.
She bit her lower lip and looked away, carefully avoiding his antagonistic eyes.
“Oh really?” Komal pushed a curl of brown hair back from her amused eyes.
“No.” Komal then charged hoarsely, glaring at her. “It was a very clever trick to get him back into your trap again, so that you won’t miss a single penny of his wealth and property.
For a second, Zeest couldn’t believe that Komal could utter such a cheap thought. Her ego wanted her to give an equal reply in the same tone, but her heart told her that this comment was not worthy of even a small response from her.
“I think I should better go now.” Said Zeest quickly, feeling a bit like a parcel nobody wanted.
As she turned and walked away, Komal looked back over one shoulder, her pretty hair following the turn of her head in a rhythmic flow of fine wave.
“One more thing. Don’t get any ideas about fixing him up with you, because he’s not interested. Is that clear?”
But Zeest had already gone.
“Aariz.” Komal turned to face him once again. “I see no point in her staying here now. Get rid of her as soon as possible.”
“But Komal…..” He argued. “She had already said that she’d leave this house once we get married. All she wants is……”
“No.” Komal didn’t let him finish his sentence. “As a wife, I can’t see another woman’s name attached with yours. If you want to marry me, you must divorce her first.”
Announcing her decision, she picked up her purse and threw one last disdainful look at him.
“The ball is in your court now.” She said and with a toss of her head, she rose and left.
To Be Continued…