Khirad stood uneasily at the door. She shouldn't be here. Every instinct prompted her to leave but hurt, the hurt which had been gathering up for the past many years made her stay. Asher’s best friend Sara had committed suicide. She remembered the girl very well. She remembered the insults as if it had been yesterday. Her outrage that a ‘nothing & nobody’ like Khirad was marrying her Asher, her mocking Khirad at her birthday party. She remembered it all. She remembered the intense humiliation she had felt. The old Khirad would have felt shame for thinking bad about a dead person. Her mother would have chastised her for having such thoughts. But then, her mother hadn't experienced what she had, had she? She clenched the edges of her dupatta in her palm & ventured in.
There sat her four tormentors. Farida, Asher’s mother, the woman she had thought of as her own mother; Sara’s mother Zareena; Khizer, the man she had foolishly called her friend & her biggest betrayer, Hareem’s father, Asher. She refused to call him her husband. She had not done so since she had delivered the little Hareem in that dingy hospital room frightened & all alone. They all stood crying for the loss of their beloved Sara. She felt sorry for the girl. If only she had known how close she was to getting her dream, her beloved Asher, she might not have taken this hasty step. With Hareem’s operation over, Khirad was planning out her departure. There were a few things she needed to take care of before she left. And then she would leave. Asher hurried over to her side when he saw her standing there. But before he could speak Khirad moved towards Sara’s body. Her weeping mother looked up at her in horror before bowing her head in shame. Farida looked at her angrily. But Khirad never even bothered looking her way. Years of hatred & resentment was welling up inside her. She stroked Sara’s cold forehead.
"I have come here to offer my condolences."
Zareena looked up at her with tear filled eyes. Before she could say anything Farida lashed out at her.
“Do you think offering your empty condolences can ever make us forgive you for what you did? Get out of here right now.”
Khirad chose to ignore this woman whom she had once called mother. Her words no longer had the power to hurt her.
"Do you remember what day it is?"
Farida & Zareena looked up at Khirad.
Khirad gave a sad little smile. “It seems you have forgotten. Let me remind you all. Four years back, this was the day when you three had shamelessly plotted & had accused me of a sin I did not commit. Do you remember it now? I was already a mother then. I had my little baby growing inside me. Do you know how many times since then I have feared losing her? Do you know how many nights I have spent worrying for my baby’s future? Allah was merciful towards me & I never had to weep for my daughter as you sit weeping here today aunty. But Allah is also just. My curses had to reach you. They had to destroy your home aunty. You have no idea how often my heart screamed out for mercy, for a chance to prove my innocence. For justice. How my mind tormented me with images that I was dirtied by false accusations, accusations which made me feel dirty & left stains which wouldn't leave no matter how hard I tried to wash them off. This empty feeling you have in your home & heart now is for destroying a woman’s home. It is for keeping a father & daughter away. It is for conspiring with your wicked sister & following her blindly abandoning all thoughts of right & wrong. It is for encouraging your daughter in all her wrong doings.”
She felt a hand on her shoulder. She knew this hand. It was the same which had caressed her so many times. But she remembered the eyes of this man too. Eyes filled with loathing for her, mistrustful eyes which had chosen to see what they wanted. The one man who could have overturned all of his mother’s plans by simply putting his trust in her, trusting if not her then at least their love. He could have been her knight in shining armor, he should have been one. But he wasn’t. Instead he had chosen to believe every lie about her. Did he think he could stop her today?
"Asher, are you afraid I might blurt out some more truths? But then you are a weak man, a coward who could neither protect the wife he claimed to love nor the friend who loved him. You do know that she loved you right? Oh, don’t look so shocked. I have known this for a long time. It is easy for a woman to understand what another woman is feeling. And Sara was never secretive about her affections. She just wasn’t the sort who would spare a wife’s feelings! But you were blind there as well. You were as unjust towards her as you were with me. You continued stoking her feelings by being her ‘friend’ in spite of knowing that she loves you so deeply. But then who can blame you? It runs in your blood, doesn’t it? For it was your mother who led her on. Don’t worry Asher. Sara & you weren’t the only ones whom your mother fooled."
Khirad walked up to Khizer. “There is another victim of this game of manipulations & deceit which your mother has been playing. A victim not because he is innocent of all blame but because he has lost his coveted prize. He sold his very soul when he betrayed my friendship. He accepted money from your mother to become a successful man & destroyed me. Both of the things seem same to him. But the one woman for whom he stooped down to such levels never even glanced his way. And today he sits here crying himself hoarse."
Khirad got up as anger filled inside her.
“Look at me Khizer. This is how I cried when I lost my love, my husband, my Asher! This is the same pain I felt which you are feeling now. Death is so final. But I did not lose my husband to death. I lost him to your deception. Nothing can ever rebuild my broken home. Nothing will ever get you your Sara back Khizer. Now you will understand what true loneliness is. Look at me Zareena aunty. Let me see what I was spared. Your sister had ensured that I would lose my baby by turning me out in the night. But Allah is ever so great. My daughter was spared. Look at me Farida Hussain! Let me see all your plans fail. Every single piece on your chess board has betrayed you. The pawn has risen against you & stands here abusing you in front of your own son. Your queen is dead. Let me look at the woman whom Allah has struck down. Never ever forget that he is the master planner. You may toy around with other people’s lives but do not ever forget he can jerk your strings too. Because at the end of the day you are just as much a puppet in his hands as me."
She turned to leave & came face to face with Asher.
She turned back to Farida & said, “Your son asked me to come back home. Did he tell you that? I don’t think so!”
She looked Asher in the eye. “You should have married Sara a long time ago. At least you wouldn’t be weeping over her dead body today. You died for me a long time back in that delivery room when I brought my daughter into this world all alone. Your not marrying is of little consequence to me for I no longer consider you my husband. You are my daughter’s biological father & that is all you will ever be!”
Back straight, head held high Khirad walked out on the four people who had haunted her for four years with their unjust accusations, hate filled eyes & disbelief. Allah might not forgive her for her behavior today but she felt light after many years. She was done being an angel, now she was just a woman!