Panting and puffing, Umemah finally reached the top of the building. Stopping at the entrance she looked around to find the one who had made her a day restless after the sudden phone call.
“Umemah, could we please meet today? It’s a bit urgent.”
“Ofcourse! But what is it love?” Umemah was puzzled.
“Just meet me. You know where, right?” He never talked so formally and this further bemused Umemah.
“Alright.” The place which Zohaib was talking about was their favourite rooftop restaurant. It was their usual meeting spot and the place where they spent hours talking. The atmosphere was very quiet and the soft breeze gave a very pleasant feeling.
Zohaib was sitting at the most cornered table, facing away from the entrance. Taking a deep breath, she walked over and settled herself at the table. Zohaib was startled as soon as she sat on the chair. He seemed to be engaged in some serious thoughts.
“Finally after a week!” Umemah’s eyes were sparkling with happiness. “I have got some really good news to tell.”
“But will you listen to me first?” There was something mischievous about Zohaib’s attitude today.
“Obviously! That’s why I’m here.”
Just then the waiter interrupted to take down their order. On Umemah’s request he was asked to approach them at a later time. After Zohaib’s weird behaviour she didn’t wanted anything but to find out the reason behind this sudden change in his manner.
“End this suspense please!” Umemah pleaded.
“Umm…please don’t jump to any conclusions before hearing everything, he paused for a while before speaking again, ‘One of our neighbour’s just approached my mom with a proposal. Mom saw her picture and found out a few things about her from the neighbour and she is interested in meeting her.” This was followed by a long awkward silence.
Umemah chortled, “Well, I know you will be least interested in knowing who that girl is and by now you must have also refused,” she seemed confident.
“Actually I’m sorry. Mom is so keen and happy to meet her I didn’t want to turn her down.”
She laughed again at his words, ‘Zohi stop with that joke! You know I don’t enjoy jokes like these.”
“Zohi please! You can tease me some other way but not this way,” tears started rolling down her eyes.
“Umemah I am awfully sorry but I couldn’t deny. I love you. But her choice also matters.”
“Did you see that girl’s picture?”
“Umm…ya! Mom showed me.”
She was fuming, “And then you just fell for her beauty! You know what? Yesterday even my mom talked to me about a proposal she has just received from an old friend of hers. I straightaway refused. I wasn’t even bothered to look at that guy’s picture. In fact I told mom everything about you fearlessly and here you are telling me that you couldn’t help saying yes to your mom just because she wanted you to. You forgot our relationship? Wow! What a lie!”
“It’s not what you are thinking,” his expression was so calm like all these years of being together left no mark over him.
Umemah could not take it anymore. She got up from her seat and silently walked towards the stairs, running down the steps without even stopping for a second, got into the car and drove towards home. On reaching home she headed right towards her room. She stayed there for the rest of the evening and skipped the dinner. When her mother enquired she excused by saying that she had eaten plenty with her friends in the evening.
The night was long and a different one. No phone calls from Zohaib nor did Umemah had any strength to dial his number. It was a sorrowful night with her head on the pillow, widely opened eyes, not a little bit of weariness. Looking at the plain roof above her she thought,
‘Romoe and Juliet were still better. At least they died and didn’t have to face any further pain. But we will have to go through this sorrow for the rest of our life.’
She started scrolling down Zohaib’s messages on her cell phone when she came across a text from Zohaib which he had sent her a few days ago.
‘Hey baby, just want u to know that no matter what, I’ll always keep u happy and I guarantee a prosperous future to u with me. My soul aim in life is to keep u happy and with me. I love u. Please be with me and be my support. I believe and trust u to be always with me.’
What meaning did it have now? It was a lie told with so much confidence. A guarantee, that was over now. He will be saying the same words or even better to another girl from now. His dreams had changed regarding her. Now she was being replaced by another unknown character. Someone, who never existed in their three years of relation, and now she was playing the most important role in their lives. That unknown character will now be valued more and will get the place where she not once but always dreamed herself to be in.
Next day when Umemah opened her eyes and looked at the clock, it was one in the afternoon. Despite sleeping for more than ten hours, her eyes felt heavy and tired and were burning. Her body was hot and each and every part was hurting terribly. She was feeling very weak and fragile.
“How are you feeling Umemah?” She could hear her mother’s voice from a distance.
Umemah looked around and said, “Feeling? What happened to me?” She struggled to speak loud enough to be heard.
“Oh baby! I was so worried. I’m glad you finally spoke,” there was a relief on her mother’s face.
“What happened?” Umemah again tried to sound loud and clear.
Her mother explained to her that she was not waking up in the morning due to high fever and they had to call for the doctor urgently. Her mother started to scold her for having a lot of cold and sour stuffs lately which resulted in high fever. Little did she knew that her daughter was facing the worst nightmare of her life.
A week passed by and Umemah was now getting back to her usual routine. Though, the wounds of her sorrow were still fresh and she was reminded of Zohaib more everyday when he texted her to know about her well being. She would respond to him normally and mentioned nothing related to her health. She was sure that by now he must have seen the girl and agreed to get engaged. She couldn’t help being happy for him because probably the other girl proved to be better for him.
She awed to hear his voice which brought peace to her soul and mind, but she refrained from calling him. Her heart wanted her to talk to him once and convince and plead him to come back but her ego opposed this thought. If he was meant for her and if he really loved her then he will come back to her no matter what.
Eventually Umemah started accepting the reality. Though both of them were still in contact but nothing was the same anymore. There was a little bit hope left in her that he still loved her but couldn’t be with her probably because of some family pressures. Then one day, Umemah’s mother informed her that the proposal she had received a few days back, they still had not being given any answer. She expressed her wish of seeing Umemah married soon. Umemah had to agree. She knew it won’t be easy but she cannot punish her parents for what someone else had done to her. Umemah was not interested in seeing the boy’s picture and instructed her parents to do as they like.
The boy and his family were invited the very next day. She was dressed in a simple yet an elegant shalwar kameez. This was the very same dress which Zohaib had gifted her or perhaps it was the last gift from Zohaib.
As she walked towards the sitting lounge, she felt closer to Zohaib like it was him waiting for her. She knew that won’t happen and it was a merely a déjà vu from her past thoughts and dreams. She lowered her gaze and greeted everyone in her soft voice. She was seated next to the boy’s mother and she didn’t dare to look up with the fear that she may start crying.
After a while everyone left the room so that the boy and girl could talk to each other. Umemah wished to ask no questions and nor did she raised her head to look at him. The boy finally spoke,
“I am sorry!” The voice sounded so familiar.
Bewildered, she looked up and saw the most beautiful thing to her eyes. Sitting in front of her was the most handsome person. His striking features had mesmerized her every time she looked at him. It was Zohaib, something unbelievable but yet a reality. Umemah was speechless. For the next few minutes, it was Zohaib who went on speaking,
“I’m sorry my baby! I didn’t mean to hurt or trouble you. My intention was just to surprise you. I know you can’t believe what is happening right now but just listen to me and you will know everything,” he stood up and came to sit next to her. Taking her hand in his, he began, “The night before I asked you to meet. Remember, I came back home late that night. That was when I saw your photo lying on my bed side table. At first I was confused, but when my mom came to talk to me about the proposal I felt so fortunate. I knew that just like how I have got your photo, soon even you will be getting mine and until then I could
just play a little joke with you. But it turned out all wrong. You are so stubborn that you didn’t even saw see the photo once. Every day I waited for your text in which you’d mention my photo but you never did. I’m sorry again because it caused you more pain than I had thought. Please forgive me!”
Umemah who was quietly listening with her tearful eyes finally spoke, “I was never cross with you in the first place. And right now I’m just ecstatic and….and….I love you.”
“I love you too baby! I want us to be the modern Romeo and Juliet who will be brave enough to take up the challenge of living together for the rest of our lives.”