(This is not entirely a work of fiction. It is a very vivid dream that I saw two years back. Although I tried to give the story a suitable ending but I didn’t want to manipulate the dream at all)
Sixteen year old Zahira was walking endlessly through the streets of this unknown road…almost running…trying to escape from that man who was following her constantly. She could see him from a distance though. He looked strange…he was bald, bruised below his left eye…and his eyes were the most brutal in this whole world. From the way he looked at her, Zahira could guess his intentions were not good…which is why she was running even though she didn’t know where she was heading…
She was tired, still she was running from him…to escape from this devil personified. She suddenly tripped over a stone…… and woke up from her dream.
Zahira was glad that it was just a dream, even though she was terrified like hell. She got out of the bed, almost rushed. She was getting late for the Kids’ Fashion Show for which she was chosen. She didn’t want to look terrible on the ramp so she tried to cheer up as best as she could.
After getting ready, she went to the dining hall for breakfast. Her mom and dad, as charming as ever, hugged her and brought her to the dining area. She was their only daughter after all, and a really pampered one.
Zahira’s parents (Siddiquis) were expecting their distant relatives today. They (the Alams ) were flying over from Paris and were due at 11 in the morning. As if by family tradition, even the Alams had only one daughter Zeba, who was 6 months younger to Zahira.
Siddiquis left for the airport to receive the Alams. There they met their other set of relatives- the Mullicks. The Mullicks, as reputation proceeds, had only one child- Zaid. Zaid and Zahira were close friends, and Zahira had a soft corner for Zaid.
The Alams arrived with their daughter Zeba, who was a little over plump and totally clumsy. She tripped twice through her way to the outside. Zahira winced when she saw this; after all they were supposed to walk the ramp together. It took her a little over 10 seconds to start hating Zeba.
From the airport they left directly for the Fashion show. Zeba and Zahira were participating whereas Zaid was only interested in clicking pictures of the main event. He found ‘walking the ramp’ way too girly for a 17 year old grown up guy like him.
Zahira and Zeba were all decked up by now and were waiting for their turns at the ramp. Zahira walked in first- elegant, charming and full of confidence. Immediately after her was Zeba. As if terrified by the crowd watching her, Zeba tripped yet again. Zeba after all, thought Zahira. She helped her get up and walk through the entire length of the ramp and back.
In the greenroom, Zahira ridiculed Zeba for being so clumsy on the ramp. Elder that she was, she had all the rights to thrash Zeba nicely. She then left the room leaving Zeba sobbing lightly.
On her way out, Zahira met Zaid walking towards her. She smiled heartily at him and hugged him. He hugged her back but seemed a little preoccupied. Zahira assumed he missed her all through and she held his arm close and asked him why he never confessed that he loved her so much.
Zaid smiled- “let’s talk about it outside.”
Zahira-“ No. right now. Or I am not letting you go nowhere… and you know I am stubborn don’t you? ”
Zaid- “ Okay Ziya (that’s what Zaid called her)… I Love You, you know that! Now lemme go… I got to fix up something urgently”.
Zahira smiled and let him go reluctantly. She sang happily her way out to the parking area where her parents and the others were waiting.
As soon as she reached the parking area, she was flooded with compliments from all the six of the elder. Routine, thought Zahira. She was used to compliments more than anything else, and she believed that she deserves each one of it. True.
The Alams settled in Mumbai. The three of the kids went schooling together, even colleges together…parties…picnins… hang outs…. Everything together.
21 year old Zahira was more beautiful than any other living creature on this earth….or atleast she thought so every time she saw the mirror. And tomorrow was her big day. She was due to depart for Paris tomorrow in the evening. She was selected for the ultimate- Paris Fashion Week.
Her mother called upon her to come down where a family get together was organized for, a kind of a farewell party for Zahira.
Zaid walked up to her room and entered without knocking, and he was more than allowed to do this. He hugged his ‘Ziya’ from behind and told her how beautiful she looked. And she confessed how much she loved him, to which he only smiled and kissed her head lightly. It used to baffle Zahira as to why he never confessed his love to her ever since that day 7 years ago. That was the 1st and the last and the only time when Zaid said he loved her. But then, he was so fond of her and took care of her, it hardly mattered that he never said anything. At least not to Zahira, she loved him anyway.
Zeba entered the room with a warm smile which faded as soon as Zahira gave her a stern look. Zeba never understood why Zahira hated her so much even though she was very fond of her ‘Ziya Aapi’.
Zahira however rebuked zeba every time she called her ‘Ziya Aapi’. She wanted only Zaid to call her with that name, exclusively. Had it not been for Zaid, zahira wouldn’t stand Zeba for a minute. Zeba, Zahira thought was rather ugly with her dusky skin tone, plump built and rather weirdly curly golden hair. Zahira on the other hand was fair, perfect stats, and thick mahogany hair that straightened up to her knees. She was breathtakingly beautiful, even Zeba thought so and so did Zaid and everyone else.
Zaid sensed that zeba was tensed and to ease it up he held both of them by their arms and took them to the dining area. Zaid was, as if, a link between the two girls.
They celebrated ziya’s departure and wished her luck for the upcoming year. It was a tiring party, Ziya thought while going to bed. She smiled as she recalled faces and winced when she was reminded of Zeba and her heart ached when she recalled Zaid. She was going to miss him a lot, way more than she imagined. But this event was important for her career. And she knew that full well.
She recognized this parachute, she has seen it before. She was hung to it. Not really, she tied the ropes around her wrist voluntarily and went upside down. She was somewhere in the sky, high above. The earth below her was a blend of blue and green, layered with mist. She knew she wouldn’t fall, no matter how lightly she tied herself to the ropes. It hurt a little to stay like this , but it was routine now…… she opened her eyes and woke up from the dream……
Today was her big day. Amidst tears and wishes she left for Paris, to live her dream of becoming a supermodel.
1 year later……..
She had an overwhelming home coming feeling when she saw similar faces of her parents, uncles, aunts, Zeba and Zaid. After a quick welcome, she went home to grab some sleep. Zaid promised her a little celebration in the evening- she insisted to keep Zeba out of it. Zaid agreed reluctantly.
They met. Zahira noticed however that Zaid was a little preoccupied and he left every 10 minutes to make a call. This is so not like him, thought Zahira. She must check who he is calling all the time. She made an excuse to go to the washroom. But instead of going she stood at the back of him while he was fiddling with his phone. And she saw whom he had been calling all through- ZEBA.
Ziya confronted him right away.
“you have calling Zeba all through? What is going on Zaid”- ziya furious.
“you are over reacting !”- Zaid.
“so why the hell are you so bothered about her, huh?”, ziya.
“we are getting married Ziya. Zeba and I are engaged. I was going to tell you about this today but you, out of your reluctance to be with Zeba, created an unnecessary fuss about it.”- Zaid.
Zahira was shocked. She couldn’t believe what she just heard. Zaid put an arm around her and began to explain how it all happened.
“I loved Zeba from the very day I saw her at the airport. She tripped. She was nervous. She spoilt your fashion show that day. But there was certain innocence in her that touched my heart. That day when you left her sobbing in the greenroom, I went to see her and she cried like a baby in my arms and told me she was scared of crowd. I don’t know why you never liked her Ziya. Maybe you never saw her heart. I so wanted to tell you about her but you had your prejudices so strong that mere talking about Zeba was a challenge for me and I didn’t want to annoy you. I loved her Ziya, since ever. I wanted to tell you but you…hear me……have to be…Ziya…….whats wrong…”.
Zahira could no longer hear what he was saying. She could only see his lips moving…….and everything was foggy. She turned away from him and began running. He called from the back but she didn’t stop. She kept running…continuously…..through the streets of this unknown road….trying to escape from that man….he was bruised below his left eye and he was bald….. she could sense his devil like eyes after her…she was running to escape from him….. 16 year old Zahira was running……she was tired and still she was running……she stopped behind a wall to hide herself…….but that man……. That devil with a bruise beneath his left eye, he saw her…. He found her. He took her. And that moment, she stopped breathing.