All’s Fair…. part 21

CHAPTER 191:

“Noah!”, she called her nine month old baby and presently, as predicted, they both crawled out of their room.

She was tired to her bones after a grueling day at work but they took it all away. As always she expertly took them in her arms and kissed them.

The twins giggled as she baby talked with them. Shehla, her live-in nanny stood at a distance, smiling.

“Tanya!” She said, “I made biryani. Your mom told me that you love it. I told her that was strange because you never ate it when I made it”.

The world around her had changed so much. She had changed as time had. She had locked all her jewelry from him away in a box. She just wore a ring on her ring finger that she had gotten from a roadside vendor so people knew she was married otherwise she got asked out a lot. She didn’t eat biryani anymore. She couldn’t eat it without him. It was his favorite food. No one called her Taanu anymore. She smiled a lot but didn’t laugh except with her kids. He took it all with him.

This is so weird, she would think to herself, his brother took everything and he brought it all back and more. My distance from Bilal was painful. It came in bouts and would hurt my heart. My distance from Azhar is like an ache. It’s always there and so the soul can’t ever heal.

The twins took some of the loneliness away. She didn’t need anything else. Her and her kids! She really didn’t need more heartache in this lifetime. She didn’t want to love again. When Bilal left she was afraid to love again but Azhar became irresistible. Now nothing measured up to Azhar.

Sarah had gotten married the month before. She looked at happy pictures of her sister and wondered if arranged marriages were better. Then why didn’t I opt for an arranged marriage? She’d curse herself. Did I want more misery so badly?

“I don’t like biryani”, she said, smiling, “I had a friend. He liked it a lot and so I’d eat with him. He’d eat samosas for me. We had a system”.

Shehla smiled too. She didn’t get into the nitty gritty of her employer’s life but knew that there was a failed relationship.

She played with the kids until it was dark. Then they fed them and soon they were both nodding with sleepiness in their high chairs.

She went to sleep too. Shehla was sleep training the twins and Shanzay was particularly difficult. She would start crying and Tanya couldn’t hear her crying so almost every night her daughter ended up in bed with her.

She started crying about an hour after going to bed. Tanya ran and got her before Shehla woke up and told her off for ruining the schedule.

She hugged her close and brought her to bed with her. Shanzay was now wide awake and ready to play some more. She looked at Tanya and moved her hand all over her face.

Tanya laughed. A rare laugh in quiet moments with her kids.

“Do you love me?” She asked her baby, so beautiful with big gray eyes, just like her brother. Just like her father who had never seen her.

She nuzzled Shanzay’s face. Babies have a peculiar smell and Tanya loved it. She could smell them all day long.

Shanzay cocked her head to the side and stared at Tanya.

“I love you, Shanzu”, she said, feeling emotional at so much love for her kids. “I love you so much. Don’t leave me ever. People leave me without giving me a chance to call them back. Don’t leave me ever”.

She cried for many minutes. When she looked at her baby, she was sleeping peacefully in her arms.

CHAPTER 192:

He walked into his home. There was a silence but there wasn’t the familiar dread that haunted it before. There was a stillness but it didn’t speak of ill feelings that people harbored against each other. It was quiet like a mosque. Peaceful and like a sanctuary.

Someone ran so fast at him that he couldn’t see him. But he could feel him. In a world where his baby brother hadn’t hugged many, Azhar had been continually hugged by Bilal.

“Azhar”, Bilal sobbed. He put his arms around him and hugged him tighter.

“Why’re you crying?” Azhar asked him. “Did you think I was never going to speak with you? I was angry. Just angry.”

Bilal kept crying. He never cried with so much abandon as he did with Azhar. It was easier to cry with his soulmate. Some people find their soulmates in their romantic partners. But they had always been each other’s.

Azhar was crying too. Hashir and Aman came. The brothers all hugged.

“I heard”, Aman said, so much like Azhar in how he could delve into awkward conversations without much idea about the embarrassment they brought to others around them, “That Tanya is Bilal’s ex. The girl Ami said no to. Is that true?”

In spite of themselves they all laughed.

“Man! Polite openings aren’t your thing”, Hashir shook his head. “You’re really crass. You put Azhar to shame”.

“I’m not crass”, Azhar said, “But yes that’s true”.

“I’m sorry, Azhar”, Bilal hiccuped, “You deserved the truth”.

“Yes you did”, Aman said seriously, jumping in again, “That was really messed up of Bilal and Tanya to hide it from you. But she had moved on from Bilal. I mean, the way she looked at Azhar……”, he stopped abruptly.

He didn’t want to talk about Tanya. Or think about her. She had hurt him more than anyone. But he couldn’t keep himself from asking,

“What about the way she looked at me?”

Aman looked embarrassed but ventured anyway,

“I mean, come on, man! She looked like she worshipped you. Always fixing you snacks. Even when you were in the hospital she’d sit by your side for days. I knew she was in love with you even then. I mean, who does that for a stranger?”

There was a thick silence as Aman finished.

Nighat came out of her room.

She looked like she had aged a hundred years. But she was smiling. She smiled frequently always. But today her smile reached Azhar. It didn’t look fake or forced. It was warm and like it was meant for him.

He looked like he had lost a ton of weight, she appraised him standing there, Tanya always took health and happiness from him when they parted. Time had proved it yet again.

For some reason she was afraid to go near him. She had learned to stand up to the brute force that men showed. Even Azhar’s wild rages didn’t faze her. But his disappointment had made her wary of him. He looked defeated. He hadn’t looked defeated even when he had lost it all in a very bad car accident. He had fought for himself and for his love. This time around he gave everything up. Did he really think he was no match for his own mother’s vindictiveness?

May be Azhar didn’t trust her because he could see himself in her so much. How he harbored a grudge and nourished it with supposed evidence! How he couldn’t forgive. How his anger smoldered until it broke all bounds.

“Ami!” She was still standing there, wondering how to bridge the distance when she heard him.

“Ami! I’m sorry”, he said as he took her in his arms. “I am not angry with you for anything. I’m angry with myself. You went through so much. The last thing you needed was your own son misunderstanding you”.

“You didn’t misunderstand me, Azhar”, she said, looking at his gorgeous face with premature lines, “you didn’t misunderstand me. I should’ve listened to you. I shouldn’t have become a worse version of Sabir. I should’ve listened. I could’ve stopped it all. I could’ve made it better. Don’t say sorry. I’m sorry. I took Tanya from Bilal. Then I took her from you. I’m sorry! She went through a lot because of me”.

Tanya’s name hurt him. Deeply. In a place where only her name could reach.

“She did, Ami! Someday may be she’ll forgive us. But I can’t face her just yet. It’s too much. My company wants me back and I haven’t been able to find any work here so I’m going back. Bilal is coming with me for a few days. Do you want to come with us too?”

She looked at his honest face. She wondered if he would ever be whole again. She nodded,

“I’d love to come with you”, she said softly.

CHAPTER 193:

“Congratulations!”

“Thanks”.

“I’d like to get you a wedding gift but Hamid would probably not like it”.

“Probably won’t”, she said easily.

“I saw your wedding pictures, Maha “, he said wistfully, “You looked gorgeous”.

She giggled. The same giggle that annoyed him once had somehow become sexy now. Ah, the allure of what we can’t have!

“Thanks. Do you know that’s probably one of the very few compliments you’ve ever given me?”

“Well, now you’re married to Mr. Compliment so you’ll get them all the time”, he said, unable to keep the resentment out of his voice.

“Don’t be jealous”, she scolded him lovingly, “You gave me up willingly”.

He sighed.

“Forget about me”, she said, “How’s your love life? Met any pretty girls?”

“No”, he said, sighing like a tragic hero, “Girls hear about my two kids and that’s it. Game over!”

She giggled again.

“It’s not easy for middle aged men”, she teased.

“Don’t be so cocky”, he warned her, “Hamid could have a girl on the side”.

“I don’t care”, she said dismissively, “He is a free agent”.

“You won’t care?” He asked, a little surprised at his conservative ex-wife’s comment.

“I don’t know, Bilal! You know I feel like I rushed into this one too”.

“Don’t say that”, he said gently, “Love doesn’t come to everyone”.

“Yes”, she said, trying to find the right words to say what she was feeling and thinking, “Dating someone and marrying them are sometimes two different things.”

“That’s for sure”. He agreed. “So what is it? You just got married a month ago. Bored already?”

“Really I’m bored. And not so much bored as annoyed. He has kids from his past marriages and that’s a huge adjustment for me. Some of those kids are adults now. I mean, he had already been married when I met him so he had kids even then”.

“Oh wow!”

“Yes! And then with Hamza and Haifa he’s great but sometimes he’s just not the fun husband I thought he’d be”.

“Maha, that’s your problem!” Bilal said wisely, “You say you want fun but really fun comes to you and you send it away”.

“Maybe”, she said, thinking how to say she missed him, “May be I should’ve just been happy with a fallen lover who was still in love with his sister-in-law and thanked my stars that at least he was so good looking and when he occasionally made love, it was so hot”.

He felt this wasn’t the direction they should ever take.

“Okay! I gotta go. This weekend the kids are with me. Azhar is here so can we have them next weekend too. You two newly weds should have the house to yourself”.

“Okay! Thanks. Bye”.

“Bye!”

He went out and saw Azhar playing with the kids.

“How’s she?” Azhar asked.

“Azhar! Can I share something with you?”

“Sure”.

“May be I’m imagining it but the past few times that we’ve spoken I feel like Maha comes on to me”.

“What are you saying, man?”

“I wouldn’t lie about it”.

Azhar tried to control himself but collapsed into a fit of laughter. Bilal stared at him.

“Why’re you laughing, ass hole? Do you know who her husband is? Like a top notch attorney. He’s going to lock me up for seducing his wife”.

Azhar kept laughing. Bilal and Maha were a cute couple even though they were always grumpy around each other.

Bilal went to work the next day. He was shortly leaving for the USA for two weeks and had some stuff to do before Hashir could take over solo.

He was in his office. They had advertised for a new marketing head and Hashir had interviewed a bunch of people the day before. They had more interviews scheduled today and Bilal had to see three of them.

As he was rapidly going through their resumés and trying to get it all in order, someone knocked on the door.

He looked up and his heart stopped. A tall, very good looking girl was standing in the doorway.

“Is this where we interview for the marketing position?” She asked politely but there was a sultry undertone to her question. She had big, dark eyes and they flashed at him with a lot of sex appeal.

He straightened up slowly. Azhar might say he was a playboy or whatnot but he had never played any woman. They gravitated towards him and he was attracted to intelligent women almost exclusively.

This one looked intelligent and familiar.

“Yes”, he said slowly, “you’re interviewing with me. I’m Bilal.”

“It says Hashir Hussain”, she said consulting a piece of paper, obviously aware of the effect she had on people.

“Forget about him”, he said, flashing his dangerously sexy smile, “He can interview someone else for all I care”.

“Okay then”, she matched his smile, “I’m ready if you are”.

She settled in a chair across from him and crossed her long legs. He realized she was very familiar.

“Nina Jaffar?” He said looking at her resumé. “Have we met before?”

“Yes”, she said, smiling slightly, “At your grandfather’s place. Your brother and I were getting set up”.

“Oh yeah!” He smiled, a slow smile that showed interest, “Now I remember. Azhar didn’t like you much, by the way”.

She laughed.

“Well”, she leaned forward seductively and picked a candy from the table, unwrapped it and popped it in her mouth, “I wanted to get to know you and found out you were married. Lost heart immediately! Are you still married?”

His grinned his devilish grin that had gotten many women in his arms,

“What do you think?”

Her laugh tinkled around him for hours.

CHAPTER 194:

“Ask Nina to take you to your appointment.” She said, irritated that she’d have to spend so much time around the husband she had spent so many nights with. “I’m officially off duty. You have a girlfriend now”.

“She’s not my girlfriend”, he pretended to be dreamily thinking about her, “More like the reason I breathe”.

“Go to hell”, Maha said, obviously still possessive over her ex-husband who had become a good friend.

He laughed loudly. She seethed then said casually.

“Gotta hang up! Hamid wants to have sex”.

This stopped Bilal’s raucous laughter immediately.

“That’s too much information for me”, he said heatedly, “He is an ass hole for having sex with you”.

“He’s my husband”, she said, enjoying the sudden change in his mood. “And sex is so good with him. All new moves”.

“I would’ve brought new moves if you had asked”, he said, suddenly wanting her. “We never had much sex. Why, Maha?”

“Because you were still hung up on Tanya”, she said seriously.

Tanya has to answer for so much, he thought furiously, she still makes me lose my mind with her random thoughts.

“Maha?”

“Hmm.”

“I feel like I’m still hung up on her”.

She was quiet.

“Maha?”

“Hmm”.

“Say something”.

She drew a long breath.

“You have to find a way to get over her. Is there a way?”

“Now you look like a good way”, he joked.

“I’m married to someone else”, she reminded him.

“Whatever. We can have an affair on the side”.

“Hmm. I’ve heard so much of the “boyfriend Bilal” that I’d have an affair with you just to test all the rumors”.

“I’m a great boyfriend”, he said earnestly, “Ask anyone”.

“But don’t you think it’s unfair to women that you’re still so hung up on her?”

“I can’t help it, Maha! But sometimes I feel I can’t allow Tanya to run my life for me like she has so far”.

“That’s wrong”, she said wisely, “Tanya hasn’t run your life. Your mom and you drove your life to the ground and then wondered what happened. Many people break up. Many people break up with fabulously amazing people. They still are able to move on……”

“Yes but they don’t have their ex marry their brother”, he cut her off.

She realized his situation had been unique. But self-pity had been so unattractive to her always that she didn’t like it even when justified.

“You will have to grow up. Wanna hear a friendly suggestion?”

“Only if it’s about sex”, he joked.

“It’s not about sex. Wanna hear it?”

He realized she was going to recommend moving on.

“Yes. Wanna!”

“Invest time and attention into Nina. She likes you apparently. Don’t mess it up”.

Something in her voice caught him.

“Do you think I messed us up, Maha?”

“No”, she said truthfully, “we weren’t meant to be together so we had to separate”.

They talked for another hour. Hamza and Haifa both talked a lot and there were always many funny anecdotes about their kids.

After hanging up he went to see Azhar.

“Azhar! Would it be okay if I don’t come to the USA with you? May be in a few months?”

“Why?” He narrowed his eyes. “I knew it. It’s Nina, right? You’re not coming because of Nina.”

He wanted to say the truth but couldn’t bring himself to. Maha had become attractive and it was hard to not feel like she was still his wife. She was also a very cool girl to talk to, he realized. Gosh! I’m messed up. Is that why I love Tanya still? Because I can’t get her?

“Yes”, Bilal smiled, “Nina wants to spend some more time with me”.

“You’re a dog when it comes to girls”, Azhar said, angry but sounding jealous all the same, “really a dog! Girls are your whole belief system”.

Bilal smiled. Inside he died a little. He wanted Maha and felt like their daily talks were making them both fall in love with each other.

He left for his date with Nina shortly after.

She was a striking girl and they made a fantastic couple. She had straight black hair, very white teeth and a smile that promised many pleasures. But she wasn’t Hamza or Haifa’s mother and that fact kept nagging him.

She was wearing a tight bustier top and cotton flared pants. Even from a distance be could see a smile playing at the corners of her lips. She walked towards him, never breaking eye contact.

He remembered Maha, always so occupied with kids and tripping over things. Her hair was always piled on top of her head and she could never ever look effortlessly glamorous like Nina.

She came closer.

“Been waiting for long?” She always looked like her mission was to turn him on and this had become a turn-off.

“Yeah!” He said, slowly coming to his senses. “Been waiting for about twenty minutes but that’s fine. I like waiting for you”.

Stop it, someone said, stop leading her.

And then what? He asked his inner guy. I can’t get Maha.

What’s your problem? The guy slapped his forehead. You always want the last girl you had.

No! He corrected him. I like having soul mates and Maha had become something like that.

Maha had become a soul mate? The guy said, exasperated at this perpetually delayed decision-making.

“Bilal!” Nina was calling him.

“Yeah, yeah! Hey what’s up?”

She looked at him with humor-filled eyes and said,

“You’re so distracted today. What happened?”

Tell her the truth! The guy urged him.

And lose her? No way! Who else do I have?

Don’t do the same thing twice. Start this one honestly.

“Nina!”

“Yes!” She breathed, waiting for him to say something romantic and indicative of a future.

“You know my ex-wife?”

“Maha? Is she being a bitch?” She asked sympathetically.

He stared at her. Why are there so many stereotypes about ex relationships?

“Actually”, he took a deep breath, having a conversation that he should’ve had many years ago with Maha, “I still have feelings for her”.

It was her turn to stare.

“But didn’t you divorce her?” She almost stammered.

“Yes, kinda”, he said, smiling sheepishly.

“What does kinda mean?” She demanded.

“I divorced her but now I want her back”.

“How can you?”

“I don’t know. I have to ask someone about it”.

“Didn’t she marry her former boyfriend?”

“Yes! She’s married to him”.

“So she’ll divorce him?”

“Nope”.

“So how are you guys going to get together?”

So many questions.

“Listen!” He said pragmatically. “We will likely never get together. She’s happily married. I’m dating other people. But I just wanted to let you know that if she came back, I’ll seriously consider being with her again”.

“Hmm”, she drew a long breath and settled back in her chair.

Evening had set at the poolside where they were sitting. Every few minutes someone jumped in the pool and they got a few sprays on them, disgusting but also cooling.

“So”, she said after staying quiet for many minutes, “are you saying that you and I are kinda not right now?”

“I didn’t say that”.

“You’ll have to tell me exactly what you said”.

He finished his drink, leaned forward and took her hand,

“I don’t plan the future anymore. If you do then we are not anymore. But if you don’t and like to live in the moment then we can hang out together for a little bit and see where this goes. Maha is the mother of my kids and really the only woman I have ever been physically all the way close with so she is different to me. This is exactly what I said”.

She smiled.

“You don’t plan the future? You live in the moment? And you wanna hang with me? I can live with that”.

He gave her one of his best smiles. She had never met anyone as dangerously irresistible as Bilal Hussain.

CHAPTER 195:

“Ami!” He called from his room. “Are you packed?”

“Almost!” She called back.

“Wish I could come”, Bilal said wistfully.

“You’re a dog”, Azhar didn’t forgive easily.

“Listen! I don’t like to leave my women behind. It’s a jungle out there. They’ll get courted by someone half my age and twice my looks”.

It was nice to see Bilal being his old carefree self. But it also hurt to not have Tanya, the only woman he had ever really wanted.

Bilal sank in Azhar’s bed. Since Azhar had been back they had been rooming together again.

“Are you going to see Tanya?” Bilal asked.

“No!” Azhar said shortly.

“Never?”

“Don’t talk to me about her. Probably already seeing someone. Never calls or texts. Knew she was too good for me”.

“Azhar!”

“Bilal, please!” He said, Tanya’s name choking him like always, “Don’t mention her ever. I’m over her. She was really too good for me. I’m an idiot to think that she was my partner and the woman who could be all mine”.

“But she is all yours”, Bilal said, amazed at how short-sighted Azhar’s anger made him.

“Then why isn’t she calling me? Is she going to act like I did something wrong?”

“May be she is embarrassed?” Bilal suggested.

“May be”, Azhar said, continuing to pack.

She never left his mind. He thought of her when he saw all the dried up flowers that she had sown. He thought of her when there was lightning. He thought of her when Dow Medical College became a university. Everything around him reminded him of Tanya.

He had gone to the place so many times where he had proposed to her. She had appeared out of nowhere and chatted with him, her big eyes boring into his, until he couldn’t breathe anymore and had to leave.

They left for USA the next day.

Bilal dropped them off and came back to an empty house. This wasn’t good for him. He immediately called Maha. She didn’t pick up. He called Nina. She didn’t pick up either.

He left immediately and went to the beach.

The beach always brought back memories of Tanya.

But today it reminded him of Maha.

How many times life messes up? How many times do we lose someone we care about? Why is Maha now looking like the woman with all the answers?

She called him just at that moment.

“You called?”

“Yes! Nothing! Just wanted to chat”.

“Okay. Is everything okay? Normally you don’t want to chat”.

“Now I want to chat with you all the time”.

She laughed softly.

“You miss me, right? Now you regret letting me go”.

“All true words”.

“What are you doing?”

“At the beach. Watching people. Ami and Azhar left and so I was alone so I came here”.

She was instantly alarmed. Loneliness had never been good for Bilal’s mental health.

“How long are they gone for?”

“Don’t know. Ami has taken a six month ticket”.

“Mind if we come to stay with you?”

He laughed.

“Don’t play with me, Maha! You don’t know what I might do to get you back. The only reason why I’m not trying is because you’re happily married”.

“I had been meaning to tell you”, she stopped and took a deep breath, “Hamid divorced me three months ago”.

The waves crashed louder with each other. The ground reverberated dangerously under his feet and then became still. The din of the traffic behind him was blocked out of his ears because of all the noise in his head.

Maha got divorced? True that her marriage to Hamid had fallen short of many things but it still seemed better than how miserable she was with him. Wasn’t Hamid the love of her life? Talked all night. Kissed her the way she liked. Loved her how she had always wanted. He was all of that.

What do people say when the person they want suddenly becomes available to them in a way? He felt guilty. He felt like the sheer desperation of his need and want of Maha had made this unlikely divorce possible.

“I’m sorry, Maha”, he said and he meant it. “Our lives are so messed up”.

“It was not my fault, Bilal”, she said softly. “I found his secretary on his desk in a way that left no room for any explanations. I told him that I’ve been cheated on once and I won’t stand for another marriage with infidelity”.

“But”, he stopped her, “I never cheated on you”.

“You did, Bilal! May be men don’t call it cheating but there was a lot of emotional cheating in our marriage. That’s what made leaving you easier.”

He could hear tears in her voice.

“Can I see you?” He asked.

“Yes! You can see me. But I don’t have a car. The kids are at McDonalds with my parents. This constant uprooting affects them too. I didn’t tell you because everyone looks at me as a twice divorcée and it makes me bitter”.

“I’m coming to pick you up”.

He was at her place in thirty minutes.

She opened the door. Maha never looked broken or defeated. She never had the look of emotional fatigue. She was always very perky and almost on the defense 24/7. Today she looked exhausted.

“My iddat is done”, she said, wrapping a dupatta around her head, “but Ami wants me to keep a dupatta around my head so people think I’m a good woman”.

Anger at the world for making her feel like she was a bad woman because she had been with two bad men surged through his veins. He snatched it from his head.

“What’s this stupidity? Someone wants to know what type of woman you are, I will break their bones”.

In spite of herself she giggled and couldn’t stop.

He got a little irritated.

He went around and sat in the driving seat and beckoned for her to sit in the car.

She hesitated but sat.

They drove and finally came to an old park where people usually came to walk and for nightly strolls.

They got down and started walking.

They talked. She had been working at an advertising agency for a few weeks now and her mother was looking for another proposal for her. She didn’t want to marry again.

“I’ve been married enough times,” she said with a sad smile, “Other women should also get a chance at being miserable”.

They walked for about an hour and talked about Azhar and Tanya. Surprisingly Maha wasn’t upset with Tanya. She was upset with Bilal.

“You owed me the truth, not her”, this conversation helped him understand Azhar better.

They walked past an overgrown hedge and he took her hand.

“Maha!” He said, his breath quickening.

She pushed him in the hedge, a laugh slowly emitting from her.

They kissed. Like another couple had once and they had walked on them. Today it seemed natural and like it happened of its own volition.

“Sex with Hamid was so bad”, she said, “He cursed a lot”.

“Yuck”, Bilal agreed and went back to kissing her.

His hands started unbuttoning her shirt.

“No, Bilal!” She tried to stop him.

“Please!” He couldn’t stop. “I really crave this body, Maha! I couldn’t kiss Nina. I tried so many times. I couldn’t. You’ve ruined me for other women”.

She broke off and looked at him with her light blue eyes. He was struck by how unusual they were for a Pakistani girl. She did have some Pathan lineage, he knew. If Tanya hadn’t been on his mind for his entire marriage, Maha was quite sexy.

“Bilal!” She breathed, “You’ve ruined me too. I’m sorry that it took a divorce to know how much I was actually hooked to you”.

“Me too”, he said, his hands exploring her body like they had in rare moments of explicit emotion when they were married, “Honestly, when you told me about sex with Hamid I wanted to break the door down and put the fear of God in him so he would never touch you”.

She laughed throatily and let him take control.

CHAPTER 196:

They landed in New York City on a bright and sunny morning. The air was crisp and even though it wasn’t Nighat’s first time in New York she was again amazed at the diversity that the city offered.

Azhar’s old apartment was occupied by the same people that he had been sharing it with but he needed a new place. So he had changed his residence.

He opened the door to his new apartment that was located in Manhattan.

They used to live in the Bronx and he knew Tanya’s fellowship was still for two more years and she had likely not moved. It had been eleven months since they had separated.

He wondered what she was thinking or planning. She hadn’t contacted him for a divorce. Did she ever love me? He asked himself as he showered.

He knew she did but the more time passed his pride and anger continued to get in the way of any hope for reconciliation.

He got out and ordered food. Nighat was inspecting the apartment.

“It’s so nice”, she exclaimed. “Gosh! Look at the number of people”.

He smiled. She had definitely been lighter and more spontaneous since the divorce.

“How’re you feeling?” She asked as he sat on a couch. His friends had found a furnished apartment for him and even though the rent cost him almost his entire salary, it was worth being away from the Bronx.

“Good”, he said, looking at some messages on his phone.

“Then go see Tanya”, she said gently.

Her name always caused a hollow feeling inside.

“Not now, Ami”, he said dejectedly, “She didn’t call or text and I go running to see her as soon as I land? No”.

She was quiet. Her guilt at their separation didn’t let her be.

Azhar’s work started the next day. He spoke with the adoption agency and booked an appointment. He had decided to adopt.

To hell with Tanya, he thought angrily after he prayed Isha one night, spoiled all my plans. I would’ve had a kid today. One woman was due in a few months.

He went to the adoption agency before time. Nelly Bishop was there.

“Hello, Mr. Hussain! You guys sure love kids”.

He smiled.

“We do!”

“I’m just waiting for the paperwork. Our printer broke so we are getting them printed on an old one and trust me when I say! It’s old!”

He laughed politely.

“It’ll just take about ten minutes. You’ve seen the stack, right? It’s quite extensive”.

“Yes, yes”.

“How’s your wife?” She asked pleasantly. “She must be busy”.

How’s my wife? Who, Tanya? See, she was never my wife. She was a piece of my heart and a whole chunk of my soul. But to answer your question! I don’t know how she is.

But to her he said,

“She’s good too”.

“Amber loves her”, Nelly gushed, “You guys are her favorite”.

“Who’s Amber?” He asked blankly.

“Amber! The woman whose twins you adopted!”

Whose twins did he adopt?

“She loves your wife”, Nelly continued, “You know very few people want to adopt children with special needs. It’s sad but it’s true. Amber is a single mom so you can imagine how grateful she is. And just the fact that she has remained a part of her kids’ life! She worships you and particularly your wife. She told me she never sees you because you had some business in Pakistan? But Tanya is an angel. She really is. Well, I’m sorry for calling her Tanya. I think she likes to be called Dr. Azhar Hussain. That’s how she always answers her phone”.

“Can I be Mrs. Azhar Hussain?”

He got dizzy. Stars danced in front of his eyes. Nelly didn’t know how his whole world had turned on its end.

“Your twins are adorable. I know your daughter has a lot of therapies and appointments to go to and I believe Noah had some congenital orthopedic problems but your wife is wonderful. How she manages all that with a fellowship in a tough subspecialty is beyond me. I heard Shanzay needs some speech therapy also. But they’re the cutest kids. The cutest!”

“If it’s a boy we will name him Noah. If a girl, Shanzay”.

He tried to stand up but his head was swimming.

“Now that you’re here, it’s going to be easier for Dr. Azhar Hussain”.

He finally stood up.

“Nelly! I’m not feeling well”, he barely managed, “I’ll see you later”.

He almost ran out.

He sat in a train and didn’t know where it went. He noticed parts of Brooklyn and realized that it was the wrong train but it was so quiet in there that he didn’t get off.

He called Nighat and told her he’ll be late.

Nothing made sense. He couldn’t think. There was a rush of images around him.

Tanya on her first day at Civil Hospital.

Tanya making many errors in the electronic medical record.

Tanya coming to his therapies.

Tanya kissing him.

Tanya making love to him.

Tanya fighting with him and then naked in his arms.

Tanya brazenly asking for sex.

Tanya losing their children and dead-appearing then gaining back all the weight in New Orleans.

Tanya asking him for forgiveness and when he denied it to her, never asking for it again.

CHAPTER 197:

It was hard to control himself from reaching out and holding her. She stopped her car in front of their apartment in the Bronx and took the kids out. They were both nearing a year and were the cutest babies ever. A middle-aged woman was helping Tanya unload the car. They were chatting nonstop, Tanya’s loud baby-talk reaching him and causing an ache so much deeper than anything he had experienced in their time away.

“Look at you, Taanu”, he whispered, “Look at you! The best mother to our adorable kids”.

They went in and he wanted to walk after them but didn’t have the energy or the face to. He returned home.

“Ami!” He broke down as soon as he entered.

“Did you see her?”

He nodded.

“Then why didn’t you talk?”

“I can’t do it alone, Ami”, he sobbed, “Can you come with me tomorrow?”

She hugged him tight. Azhar, her favorite son, his pain had become unbearable.

They reached her apartment the next day. They rang the bell many times. No one answered.

A man stopped next to them.

“Hey, Azhar!”

“Hi, Bill”, Azhar said, recognizing their neighbor.

“Who are you ringing the bell for?” Bill asked curiously.

“Tanya!” Azhar said.

“Tanya?”

Azhar felt like the walls were closing in on him.

“She left for Pakistan for three weeks, I think just this morning. She told me to get the mail for her. When did you come back? What’s going on?”

Azhar took a deep breath.

“It’s a long story”, he said, “And very, very, very embarrassing for me”.

They took a flight back to Pakistan the next day.

Bilal opened the door.

“What are you doing here?” He asked, aghast.

“Azhar will explain”, Nighat said. “Let me fix dinner for you guys or order it”.

“Ami!” Bilal said, his voice unusually high.

“What happened?” She kept walking inside the house.

Hamza and Haifa came running out .

“Azhar!” Hamza screamed. Haifa followed suit.

“Ami! Listen to me. I was going to call you but thought may be by the end of this week. Everything happened kinda quickly”.

“What?” She finally gave him her full attention.

Bilal took a deep breath and then said,

“Don’t freak out but Maha and I got married.”

“What?” It was Azhar who broke out of the hugs the kids had been wrestling with him for.

“I love her, Ami”, he said, looking slightly scared at the look on Nighat’s face. “I didn’t realize how much I loved her because you know, I’m always so deep in my own feelings”.

“Maha!” Azhar yelled, walking in, checking for himself the authenticity of this information.

He found her in there and stared at her .

“Maha!” He ran to her and they both hugged like siblings .

“Azhar! I missed you so much. All of you. Even Ami”, she smiled at Nighat.

They all hugged and cried together.

“You giant moron!” Azhar said and picked up Bilal. Then he repeatedly kissed him on his mouth.

Bilal laughed. He looked at Maha. She represented a long journey through time. He had finally found peace in the family they had built together. And he had finally found love in his wife. After many trials and errors, he had found the woman meant for him.

CHAPTER 198:

Is dating your wife a thing? It probably is because it feels like I’m dating her. He thought looking at Maha sleeping peacefully next to him.

He leaned against the headboard. He thought of the first time he took her out. She was honest with him. They had had a reasonably good evening for two people who didn’t particularly like each other. Then what happened?

He had been with so many women that sometimes the newness of a new relationship didn’t overwhelm him.

But this wasn’t another girl I found at a party! She was going to be my wife. Shouldn’t I have been more honest?

May be I should’ve dated her after we got engaged? May be I should’ve talked to her more, tried to see who I was getting married to. My inaction! He thought sadly. It changed everything.

Maha turned in her sleep. They were sent to Turkey for a week by Azhar.

“You have to spend some time away from it all. The kids are fine with me. To be honest, I need a distraction too, Billu!”

So they were here. They had watched the balloons rise the evening before in Cappadocia. It was magical. Somehow Maha’s enthusiasm and excitement at being alone with him was sexy and promising.

She opened her eyes slowly and watched him watching her.

“Come back to sleep”, she said huskily. “We have to see so many places today. Let’s get our sleep in”.

He smiled.

“One thing! Less sleep. You sleep way too much, Maha! That makes us lose out on sex”.

She laughed.

“Less sleep? Got it! And you”, she said, eyeing him knowingly, “More sleep”.

He lowered himself to snuggle with her.

“I sleep better with you. When you were gone, I couldn’t sleep”.

She traced his face.

“Your anxiety is terrible, I know, but can I say something?”

“Always”, he said, noticing her earrings sparkling like stars.

“Keep in touch with your therapist. Sometimes more than medication I felt you needed to speak with someone who really got it. And really, Bilal”, she kissed his lips gently, “Sometimes professionals can get it more. I should’ve come to your therapy appointments with you before. I should’ve”.

“Don’t ever blame yourself for my anxiety or how you should’ve done more. Ever! No! I’m shocked that you haven’t had to see a therapist. It was a lot of crap. Our marriage!”

“It was”, she agreed, thinking Bilal was definitely slightly better at owning his part in the dissolution of their marriage.

“But Maha”, he said, pulling her in, trying to get closer, “It wasn’t your fault. None of it. You told me about Hamid the first time we met. I should’ve told you about Tanya too.”

“Would it have helped?” She asked.

“I don’t know but at least you would’ve known and made an informed decision”.

“Hmm”.

They lay comfortably in each other’s arms and snuggled some more.

“We should’ve done all of this before”, he said after a while, “spent time apart from my family. Spent time together. Learned a thing or two that could be a commonality. Thought of ways to enjoy each other. Do you regret anything?” He asked, his brown eyes looking tired again.

She thought about what he said. She had no regrets. She had really found herself and come to know what dating was and how marriage changed people. Hamid was an amazing boyfriend. Attentive, loving and gave himself to her completely. But marriage wasn’t something that they had enjoyed together. He had many women on the side that she had thought would miraculously disappear just because she was his wife.

“No regrets”, she said kissing his eyes, “except one.”

“Which one?” He asked instantly.

“Why did you”, she unbuttoned his shirt, “not make hot passionate love to me the first night we were together?”

Sometimes he felt like a criminal for suppressing his wife. She had obviously imagined life a certain way and then tailored it according to him but continued to strike out and fall short. Allah won’t forgive me for causing damage to Maha like this, he thought angrily at his messed up ways.

He kissed her. He was the best kisser amongst his friends. Some of his friends had ended up as husbands to his many girlfriends. They had all ruefully reported how their wives spoke so highly of his kissing.

But he had never consciously worked on the perfect kiss. He was just someone who found it fun and bonding. More than sex or even just making out. A kiss made him feel connected. After the divorce he had thought of the times he had kissed Maha and they were a handful in a quite a few years long marriage.

Somehow kissing Maha now had become an aphrodisiac. He kissed her and prolonged their kisses any chance he got. Knowing her like this was a high.

She returned his kiss. She was a good student. She had learned to kiss back with the same drawing in and holding in. She had learned how he liked it after just a few attempts. She had actually improvised on it and so, the newness of it had become dangerously sexy.

He laughed against her mouth as her hands started to touch him everywhere. Maha was definitely an unrestrained partner in bed and he was surprised that sex was so robotic with her before. Where was this girl?

She was there, his inner guy said, she was always there. But you always thought she was a worthless girl with zero charm.

Maha isn’t worthless, he thought as his mind started to register how she had so well understood how he liked to be touched in just a few days and she also had a knack for spontaneously funny conversations , she’s like the girl who could’ve changed it all for me.

“Bilal”, she said huskily, as his hands started stroking her hair while kissing her deeper than he ever had, “Last night was so amazing. Thank you!”

He smiled. He had wanted to say it and now she had. How was she always ahead of him?

But he had to tell her too. He had been so unfair to her always that she deserved a lifetime of him making it up to her.

“Last night”, he said against her mouth, his lips never leaving hers, the scent of her body making him crave her again, the softness of her breasts driving him insane, “Would’ve been a total dud had it not been for this gorgeous body and the woman who knows how to make her man want more and more and more”.

“Like this body so much, huh?” She asked, sultry as he had never known her.

“Like? Don’t use simple words for this body. I worship it. Would you let me engage in a little act of giving up that I’ve been preparing for it?”

He felt her body tensing up in anticipation as she got on top of her.

“Too late”, she teased him, “Next time you wanna worship a body, remember to have a little less conversation and a little more action, please!”

Her mouth hungrily ran down his lean stomach.

CHAPTER 199:

His fingers played on his phone for hours. He knew she was so close that he could reach her in ten minutes, fifteen tops. Then what was he scared of?

Ami had always told him to control his rage and anger. He didn’t think when he was angry. And now he hadn’t thought the biggest puzzle of his life through.

But this had to happen. They had to speak at least and then he’ll do whatever she wanted.

A strange number was calling her.

“Hello!” The calmest voice in the world spoke.

“Tanya?”

“Azhar?”

Suddenly he became intimidated by her enormous presence. They were quiet for many minutes.

“How are you?” She asked.

“Not good!”

Silence.

“Did you need something?” She asked.

“Can I see you and cry a little?”

“Anytime”.

“When?”

“Where?”

“My place”.

Fifteen minutes later she picked him up from his place.

“Where do you want to go?” She asked.

“Do you know of a place where people make promises to be together and most of them make those promises come true too?”

“Yes!”

“Let’s go there”.

They reached Dow Medical College when the sun was starting to set. The air was damp and very few students were seen roaming around. A lone basketball sat in the basketball courts. The cafeteria at the back of the hospital was wrapping up as the hospital cafeteria started lighting up for dinner for the house officers.

She took his hand as they walked up the stairs to walk past the girls’ common room. They passed by the library stairs and Azhar thought of the evening when he had proposed to her. So much time had passed.

They descended the steps and entered the cricket pitch and the volley ball courts. They went around the hospital and Arag Auditorium came into view. The very place where he had proposed to her a few years ago.

She sat down at a small step and looked up at him. They hadn’t spoken at all since she had picked him up and asked where he wanted to go and didn’t know what to say still.

“Say something”, he said weakly, “I can’t take this distance anymore. I’ve died a thousand times since I said goodbye to you”.

A tear rolled down her cheek.

“I’ve died too”, she said, “many times”.

“Then why didn’t you call? You always made up with me. Then why didn’t you? You used to fight with me. Match my temper. Argue with me. But you went silent for almost a year”.

She had more tears falling down her cheeks now.

“There was nothing to say, Azhar”, she said, swallowing her tears, “I was so embarrassed at how you perceived it all. And there was nothing to prove my love for you. So I didn’t call after you didn’t return many calls and texts for two months.”

“You didn’t have to prove your love”, he said, wanting to take her in his arms and hesitating because it had been so long.

“Why didn’t you call?” She asked.

“I was angry”, he said simply.

“That darn anger”, she said angrily herself.

“Yes!” He said, kneeling in front of her, “My anger took you from me, Tanya! I got so angry at you. I couldn’t see what even Aman could see. So much younger than me but so perceptive. He could see what my anger blurred for me. You love me for me. And you love me. I totally ignored all that”.

She kept crying silently.

“And you got our kids too”, he continued, “and didn’t tell me”.

“They called me when Noah was born. When I went there Amber was worried about Shanzay. I couldn’t separate the twins. Twins are like real soul mates, right? I couldn’t separate them. I couldn’t. I had just lost my soulmate so I knew how it feels when someone heartlessly strips you of your soul. So I took them both”.

Many tears fell from his eyes and soaked the ground.

“I don’t want to come back into your life if you don’t want me, Azhar”, Tanya said, her heart sinking with each word she said, “But please let me say something otherwise the debt of love will keep getting bigger. I married you for you. Not for a vendetta. Not for pity. Not as part of a plan. Only for you. For the man who was my best friend and like a balm to my wounds. I tried hard to not fall for you because I knew it was going to be complicated. But I couldn’t stop myself. You just sucked me in. I don’t want back into your life if you don’t want me but I have to say my truth. I’ve been misunderstood by many people. I don’t care about them. But when you didn’t listen to my side of it all……it’s like a dagger that life keeps driving deeper”.

“Tanya!” He finally said, “I’m learning to forgive and it’s not easy. The hardest is forgiving myself for what I did to you. But if you forgive me, I can may be forgive myself too someday”.

She looked at him. His gray eyes looked like they had done a lot of crying and not sleeping recently. She wanted to kiss him and have him take her right there. She remembered sex with him. It was always so spiritual. They could never get enough of each other and now they had spent almost a year away from one another for a thing that was so much smaller than their love.

He saw her looking at him. She was the most honest girl in the world. She had loved and married him with honesty. And he had punished her for it. How did everything happen so differently from how it should’ve?

“I can’t forgive you”, she said, smiling slightly at his desperation to be forgiven, “until you kiss me like you’ve never kissed me before”.

“I can do that”, he said, his mouth going dry at the prospect of her in his arms any moment.

She got up and walked to him. She touched his arm lightly.

“Azhar!” She said quietly, “Can you pick me up like you used to?”

He didn’t need asking twice. Before she knew it he had picked her up and she was snuggling up to him. She lowered her mouth on his face and kissed him. He kissed her back. Slowly first and then urgently. Finally, he couldn’t stand, their heady passion was so overwhelming and so they sank next to a flower shrub.

His mouth moved all over her face before it made its way to her neck. He slowly pulled her blouse down.

“Tanya!” He began huskily, “I missed this body so badly”.

“It is a good body”, she said, smiling mischievously.

“Not good, man”, he said, staring at her breasts, “it’s great. It’s perfect”.

Tanya laughed and pulled his head down on her mouth again. They kissed for many minutes and finally felt like they had to move somewhere where they could go a little further.

“Let’s go to the beach”, Tanya suggested.

“You’re a brave one”, he said, “What if the police gets us?”

She pulled out their Nikahnama from her bag.

“I’ve got everything ready”.

He stared at her.

“Wow! You did come prepared. How did you know I’d be willing to take you back?” He teased.

“I knew it, Azhar Hussain!” She said, swinging by his neck and kissing his lips, “Tanya Tariq never plays to lose”.

“Tanya Hussain”.

“Tanya Azhar Hussain”.

“Yes, Tanya Azhar Hussain”, he said, smiling.

CHAPTER 200:

Hashir’s wedding was a grand affair, one that Sabir wasn’t invited to.

Nighat was encouraged by Bilal to date Nina’s father who was a retired army general and very lonely after the death of his first wife. Surprisingly they hit it off miraculously well and got married within two months. He was two years younger than Nighat and her match in personality and wit. She was glad she tasted love before she died. She never regretted that love came later than it should’ve.

Bilal and Maha had two more kids together. They found great camaraderie in kids, sex and a common hobby that they discovered they both enjoyed…… driving. They got sports cars and special edition cars and became quite the connoisseur of cars.

Aman got married to one of his many girlfriends. Even though he had a slippery heart as Hashir called it, he was a committed husband and had many kids himself.

Azhar and Tanya went on to adopt six more kids. They were all ethnicities and races and they moved to Delaware after Tanya’s fellowship completed. Azhar went into special needs advocacy and even though it started as a small mosque project, soon he had started his own social work agency .

Sabir died two years after his divorce from Nighat. His sons organized his funeral and buried him with respect. All of them forgave him except Bilal. He had seen enough to never be able to forgive Sabir. He prayed for him a lot and hoped Allah will forgive him.

Arsalan lived to the age of ninety and was the most supportive of Nighat’s second marriage. He considered Bilal his true prodigy until his death and supported him in setting his mother up with General Nafees.

CHAPTER 201:

“Daddy!” Alicia pouted, “Can I sleep with you?”

“Of course”, Azhar said, pulling her into bed with him. She was the most adorable Guatemalan girl with dark hair and eyes. Her Sudanese brother, Amir, stood next to her with wistful and hopeful eyes.

“And Amir can come too”, Azhar said, pulling his son in next.

Soon the other six were in their room clamoring to get into bed and cuddling with their dad.

“No!” Tanya said, shaking her head, “we can’t have you guys sleep here”.

“Please, Mommy”, Noah said, his gray eyes just as earnest as their father’s.

“Please, Mommy”, Azhar said. “Why are you always so angry? Why do you not kiss daddy? Why do you….”

She punched him and went back to reading a Jackie Collins novel.

They watched Finding Nemo and when Azhar saw them nodding their heads off he deposited them in their rooms.

“Gosh! These kids tire me out”. He announced .

He collapsed in bed next to her.

She peered at his gorgeous face.

“You didn’t look tired a few minutes ago when you were chatting nonstop about Dory”.

He yawned and closed his eyes.

She took her robe off. The thin straps of her negligee slipped a little on her shoulders .

“Azhar!” She whispered in his ears, “Can we spend sometime together?”

“I’m very tired, really”.

“Can you just open your eyes?”

He opened one eye and said,

“What am I supposed to be looking at?”

“Azhar!” She screamed and began pounding on him.

He grabbed her arms and flipped her over. He pinned her to the bed and mounted her.

“Why are we not getting old, Taanu?”

“We won’t get old ever”, she breathed.

“Promise?”

“Yeah, promise!”

Before he could kiss her she reached over and took his mouth. Azhar laughed at her impatience. Then he surrendered to the most beautiful woman in the world who loved him just as much as she did the day they had kissed for the first time.

EPILOGUE:

Nighat laughed loudly at the circus around her of her grandkids. She wore a red fitted outfit with a light embellishment around her neck and sleeves.

Tanya was amused at Nighat’s amusement.

“Ami! Did you ever think we’d have eight kids?”

Before Nighat could say anything, Maha spoke up,

“I always knew you guys would have a huge family. Azhar couldn’t keep his hands off of you”.

Tanya laughed. Maha had the same sense of humor as the Hussains and considering all of Azhar and Tanya’s kids were adopted this was very funny.

Azhar entered.

“Really Karachi is so hot”, he complained. “And the humidity. Kills you”.

He looked at Tanya and said,

“Tea”.

“You just said it’s very hot. How can you drink tea?”

“Tea doesn’t care”, he said, lounging in a chair and flipping channels.

“I’ll get tea”, Hashir got up, “I’ve had Tanya’s tea and I don’t want to hate my favorite beverage”.

“Well you shouldn’t expect every woman to be an expert cook. Men can cook too”. Nighat said.

“Ami!” Hashir said jokingly, “Nafees Uncle isn’t a good influence if you’re speaking like those people who ask for equality”.

Nafees laughed.

“You guys should listen to my wife”, he warned, “Army wives are notorious for getting their way and making better army men than army men”.

They all laughed.

Tanya and Azhar were leaving the next day. They had visited for Aman’s wedding. Nighat, Maha and Tanya were packing.

“Ami!” Tanya asked with love and concern, “MashAllah you look very happy. Does he take care of you?”

Nighat blushed. Maha and Tanya had become like friends.

“More than I could imagine, Tanya”.

“I’m so happy”. Tanya said.

“You deserve happiness”, Maha said. “All of it”.

Her eyes filled at her daughters in-law being so concerned and loving.

Noah came running into the room.

“Dadijan!” It was hilarious to see a Caucasian kid speaking perfect Urdu, “Dadajan wants you”.

“I’m coming”, Nighat said.

Azhar came after him.

“Ami! Nafees Uncle wants you”.

“We are talking”, Maha said.

“Yeah! No rush!”

They sat packing and folding stuff. Finally Azhar said,

“You and Nafees Uncle are coming in the fall, right?”

“Right!”

He hugged her.

“You look so beautiful, Ami! Do you like being in love?”

She stared at him. Sometimes she asked herself if men could sense what women wanted. She wondered why men and women did things so differently or why their needs were assumed to be so different when actually they’re the same. She had always been denied relationship pleasures like sex, romance, late night talks, walks along the beach, holding hands, wearing clothes and jewelry to attract our partner, traveling together, laughing together, watching movies, listening to music.

But her sons had got her all that. In a lot of patriarchy and misogyny she had somehow given birth to four men who had not cared about anything before getting their mother a life partner who loved her and cared for her. She had found a lot of pleasure in everything that the body wants with Nafees. He loved her and complimented her without reserve. And her sons had made it all possible.

So it wasn’t weird that Azhar asked her a question that many mothers and daughters don’t ask each other. He considered his mother a woman also who had needs and wants of a good life. It wasn’t weird that her daughters-in-law asked her if she was happy. They were making new rules and new norms.

“I had never been in love ever, Azhar, so I didn’t know it. Now I know it and I love the feeling. It’s almost like a second life that I’m living”.

“It is a second life”, he said grimly.

Bilal entered.

“Guys! Don’t pack! It depresses me.”

“You’re seeing us in the fall! What are you talking about?” Tanya said.

“Azhar is needed by me all the time”, he countered.

Tanya and Maha looked at each other and exchanged a look.

“I know that look”, Bilal jumped, “Tanya! I know that look. You’re not that smart!”

“What? What look?” She demanded.

He was momentarily distracted by her black eyes with the blue in their background and was caught by the fire in them that never seemed to go out.

“What look, Bilal?” Maha asked now.

“That look that says “they’re so codependent””. He mimicked them.

They all laughed.

“Well”, Azhar said getting up and shamelessly planting a kiss on Bilal’s cheek, “we are codependent”.

“And proud of it”, Bilal agreed.

“Coz really as two virile men we could have chosen to hate each other and would’ve liked to mark our territory”, Azhar said.

“But we became the most gorgeous duo of brothers who turn heads wherever we go and women can’t have enough of us”. Bilal added.

“And even some men”, Azhar quipped.

“And even some men”, Bilal agreed.

“So really, all thanks to Allah that we got married to two extremely ordinary looking women just so our heads remain screwed right”, Azhar continued.

“And we could really stand out in our respective couples”, Bilal ended.

“You guys”, Tanya said, “belong in a circus”.

“Yes”, Maha added, “a bad one”.

Hashir and Aman entered too with their wives and all the kids of the three oldest brothers.

“What’s going on?” Aman asked.

“Azhar and Bilal’s double act”. Maha said.

“It’s a good one”, Hashir said, collapsing in bed and flipping a magazine.

“Whoa! What happened to Jessica Simpson. She got totally unattractive”.

Azhar savagely took the magazine from him and stared at his favorite woman.

“That’s not Jessica Simpson”. He said.

“It is”, Aman said looking at the magazine from over his shoulder.

“Tanya looks better than her now”, Azhar joked then got scared of the look in Tanya’s eyes.

“I think you’re better than her, Maha”, Bilal said grandly.

“Thanks”, Maha said sarcastically.

“Okay children!” Nafees entered. “My wife and I have to be at a dinner. We will take your leave now”.

Nighat left amidst hugs and kisses from over a dozen grandkids.

Once in the car, Nafees took her hand,

“Are you excited about our trip to USA in the fall?”

She squeezed his hand gently before putting her head on his shoulder,

“I’m excited about our life. Our whole life. Everything about it. Our kids. Our love. Everything”.

He bent his head over her beautiful face that he could never get enough of and kissed her mouth. She returned his kiss.

“It’s a long drive to my friend’s place”, he said, stroking her back with his left hand while driving with his right. “Sleep for a bit”.

Slowly she drifted off to sleep, not a care in the world. She had always slept so hyper vigilant that sleeping with complete abandon had become the sweetest thing to her.

8 Comments

  1. OMG!! Loved it sooo very much! I feel like I was watching a movie! Every character is so relatable, every description is so alive!
    Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Loved every bit of it! I could totally say, such a real strory! I’ll thank you because your novel let me break my readers block. I actually read a full fledge novel like after four years(After my first baby)!

    Liked by 1 person

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