The plot thickens…
Nabeela’s entrance into Ahmed’s life was like a cool breeze on a warm summers day, inviting and welcoming. After months of heartbreak Ahmed felt a few soft rays of the warm sun on his wilting spirit and he enjoyed the unexpected arrival.
He was very attracted to Nabeela with her tall frame, large almond shaped eyes and creamy flawless complexion. Who wouldn’t be attracted to Nabeela, she was as beautiful as they come but Ahmed knew that he would never love any woman like he loved Saara. His heart told him that it would only beat for Saara but his mind waged a war against his soul which resulted in him feeling completely lost, terribly lonely with a mind that was utterly confused. Should he wait for Saara or should he let her be? Could he really force her to be married to him against her will and what if she never remembers him? He asked himself these questions every day. He was caught in the grip of a painful dilemma as he could not imagine forcing Saara to be his wife when she clearly wanted nothing at all to do with him. But how could he live without her, without their baby, how could he even breathe without them?
Ahmed was forced into this web of chaos as abruptly as Saara was and even though Saara faced unbelievable physical trauma, Ahmed too suffered unimaginable trauma of his own, unseen emotional trauma. He suffered it silently while everyone doted over Saara oblivious to his seething pain. Perhaps he could teach himself to love Nabeela, he thought that he should at least try to. But can we teach ourselves how to love and isn’t love something that flows naturally, freely, without being forced or summoned? Was Ahmed simply on the rebound?
Ahmed knew that he was trying to replace an emptiness that had filled him, it was like an ache that never stopped moaning, but he should have known that no woman could replace his Saara.
Nabeela was soft and gentle in nature and she offered Ahmed everything that his life was seemingly lacking. She was his comfort in the middle of a storm. She was everything that any man would seek out. She offered him meaningful conversation, attentiveness and understanding. She was compassionate towards his situation with Saara. She was sympathetic to his part in this sick and twisted tale of fate. She soothed him with her words and her attention. She stroked his ego and she made him feel valued again but just as he got used to having her as a friend, as a confidant, she pulled back abruptly. She did not wish to continue a relationship or a friendship with him because Ahmed was married to Saara and it was wrong on every level as it would only lead to further and deeper wrongs she said. Not even friendship was an option for her. Before he knew it, Ahmed was forced to consider marrying Nabeela for that was the ultimatum that she presented him with.
” I’m sorry Ahmed but I cannot be part of an illicit relationship with you, keeping you company while you wait for your wife to remember you. I have other marriage proposals that I am currently considering. I need to have a clear mind and its not like you’re considering marrying me right? I’m sure that your Saara will soon remember you, and if she doesn’t then I wish you everything of the best. But if you’re serious about me then you have to make it official”.
She wanted all or nothing at all. She was willing to be a second wife to Ahmed if thats what he wanted. Ahmed did not know that secretly Nabeela thought, hoped and prayed that Saara would ask to be released from the marriage, in fact she felt that it was inevitable and then she could have Ahmed all to herself. Ahmed was any women’s dream come true, he was handsome, wealthy and on the path of deen. Nabeela knew that she needed to act quickly because if Saara did gain her memory back, by some unlikely chance, Ahmed would walk out of her life as quickly as he strolled into it. She was no contest for Saara and she knew it. The connection that attached Ahmed to Saara was other worldly and Nabeela knew that she stood no chance.
He told her that he loved Saara, that he hoped she would regain her memory soon and that they could live as husband and wife again. But Nabeela was headstrong, she was adamant that if he wanted any form of relationship with her, he would have to marry her.
“I’m not asking you to talaak her Ahmed”. Nabeela rolled her eyes in frustration as she settled behind her work desk cradling the telephone between her shoulder and her cheek. “All that I’m saying is that I am sympathetic to your situation, I understand that you did not ask for this. I will consider being a co-wife to Saara if that makes you happy. Which other woman would be so selfless”? Nabeela knew which strings to pull and how hard to pull them. She was a woman on a mission, a mission to get Ahmed to marry her.
Ahmed felt more bewildered than ever before. As if his life was not already tumbling through a volatile spin cycle, he was now submerged in an unexpected, unwanted love triangle. He was certain that he did not love Nabeela at all, he merely found her attractive and he enjoyed her attention. But she was right, which women would be so selfless as to accept this situation, knowing that he was married to Saara and still willing to be his second wife.
Nabeela was persistent, insistent even and Ahmed was still lost, lonely and confused.
Saara was eight months pregnant when he stood nervously outside her front door. He shifted from one foot to the other, he coughed into his fist, he even turned to head back to his car only to change his mind and then turn back around and walk to her front door again. He lifted his hand to press the buzzer but then halted in mid-air as he thought to himself how much he truly and deeply did love the woman behind the door. He still loved Saara more than he ever could, he loved her as much as the day he did when he left her for 6 weeks or even the day that he returned home hoping to begin life with his new bride. No woman could or would replace her but he could not foresee himself spending years in pursuit of a woman who might never remember him, a woman who wanted nothing to do with him. He had three choices, to set Saara free through talaak, to keep her in their nikaah forcibly while he continued to hope and to pray that by some miracle she regains her memory one day or he could take a second wife which he didn’t think he wanted yet out of confusion and loneliness he considered anyway. He breathed a heavy sigh as he pressed the doorbell with an uneasiness heaving in his chest.
I remember that afternoon most vividly, the day that I approached Saara and her parents for their opinion and approval to wed Nabeela. Silence filled the large living room, thick and heavy like a blanket of boulders. No one said anything after I made my thoughts known. I think that everyone felt stung. All that I could see were unreadable eyes scanning each other, back and forth. The silence was too long and too loud, it was deafening. My ears were ringing, my mind was racing. My throat was dry and I began to feel flustered as my insides burned with anxiety. At moments I found it difficult to breathe. But my eyes never left her eyes, my eyes were fixed on Saara’s beautifully speckled hazel eyes and as I stared at her, waiting for a response, waiting for a reaction, it pained me that there was still a stranger staring back at what looked to Saara like a stranger was staring at her too. I sat there wondering is that what we had become? Two strangers lost and stranded in two completely different worlds?
And then suddenly, for a flickering moment, I thought that I saw her, I thought that I caught a glimpse of my Saara! I thought that I saw that innocent playful gleam in her eyes as she recollected something from her memory bank. I could almost hear her distant laughter, like a little girl playing hide and seek. Her eyes glazed over and suddenly she was somewhere else, somewhere other than the room that we sat in. She creased her brows as she thought of something and I could swear that a smile was at play behind her lips. Perhaps I imagined the whole thing, perhaps not.
Maybe she was finally remembering her time with me! Maybe she would finally remember me, Ahmed, her husband! My heart was slowly filling and eventually brimming with hope. Could it be? Suddenly all that I could fixate on was Saara’s facial expressions. Thoughts of Nabeela had faded into the backdrop of gray silence. My hopes were pinned on Saara remembering ‘us’…
“Saara”? And as I said her name and brought her back to reality, so too did I bring back the stranger who just seconds before stared at me. She didn’t need to say anything, I just knew that my Saara was no longer in the room.
” You have my permission to get married” she said. The air suddenly felt dense again. The imaginary laughter evaporated like a ghost into thin air. Her parents looked at each other uncomfortably, they looked at Saara then they looked at me. We all felt uncertainty as we gaged her expressions. ” Only”, she continued to speak, ” only, if you hand me my talaak”.
I choked on her words, silently I choked like the air was filled with soot and smoke, making it impossible for anyone to breathe! Was this finally the end, the end of us?
She stood to leave the room but soon collapsed into her seat again, frail and pale. I jumped to my feet leaping to her knees but her parents stopped me as they asked me to leave. “You seem to have upset Saara, please leave Ahmed” pleaded Saara’s mother.
Her father could not look at me in the eye. And I knew that it was because of what I had said, the proposal that I had forwarded to marry Nabeela had crumbled their shattered home even further.
I realized the severity of my words and my actions but it was too late. I shouldn’t have considered marriage so soon, of course Saara needed time. What was I thinking! But time is the loneliest companion, with its incessant whispering filled with fear at the uncertain future. I regretted what I had done, but it was too late, the words had escaped my mouth as they hung in the air and Saara had in all probability escaped from my hands for good.
I left Saara’s home torn into a thousand shreds. The wind sifted through me, flapping regret, remorse and anger around my head. I was angry, angry at myself, angry at everyone, at everything. I sat behind the steering wheel staring at my knuckles gripping the wheel trying to make sense of the new course that my life threatened to take.
I turned the ignition on as I let the car roar. I set out on the empty road ahead of me without a destination in mind. I drove feeling the tar roll beneath me losing myself in its hum and running away with my thoughts I fixated on the uncertain horizon. It felt like I was being swallowed in by the sky. I had no intention of looking back, I wanted to fade into the canvass of blue ahead of me…