“Abba ki death ke baad ziada sukoon hae, nae?”
(This place looks calmer now that dad is gone, no?)
“You think so?”
“Yes.” she nodded.
They were older now. Older and distanced by a time so long and tough that it had practically torn apart every and any chances of reconciling. Standing by the giant glass window, she looked out at the world outside which had now accepted peace. The world which had decided to move on, as it always does. Where ever she looked there was peace, except in her home: her heart.
“Look here at me. You think life is better now? Show me if your eyes say that too.”
“No,” she silently whispered. She clutched the silver pane with both her hands so he won’t see they were trembling. Stupid fingers! Stupid eyes! How they reveal your weaknesses to wrong people at all the wrong times…
He stepped forward. “Aena! This is not good. You have to talk to me. I have come to take you. I am going to make things right like we want!”
“This is not what I want. Hessam, this isn’t it.” She shook her head. “I have come out of it and you should too. It’s high time we start respecting each other’s independence and just let things be.”
“What do you mean by that? I am not stealing away your freedom or anything. All I want is you come and stay with me and Rebya now. I want you to be happy!”
“Why? Why live with you when I can live with myself on my own? First I had ma, then dad, and now you want to boss me? Please, NO! I am happy the way I am and I am glad our ways are already parted. We can be free and drive our lives the way we want!” she said.
The color of his eyes changed. Was he hurt? Perhaps. But he shouldn’t have been… After all this time, he deserved nothing to be hurt about. All pains were hers.
“See, I understand your want for freedom.” He said after a while. “And I am not going to be an obstacle between that. You can come with me and do what you want, live it your way. It’s just that I feel you should be with me, and not alone over here. How will you deal with everything? We have both lost something precious Aena. It’s a hard time for both of us.” Looking at her, he said with a voice laced with sincere emotion: “I want you to know I am with you!”
“Precious, Hessam. How precious it was for you!” she laughed in her heart while resisting her urge to laugh out loud too, crazily. She wanted to laugh until her insides hurt. But she would do that once he was gone, her mind decided.
“They are both gone but we need each other, Aena. We need to gather back the moments we have lost. Sometimes I miss you so much, God, Aena, you remember when I taught you how to ride a bicycle?”
Aena looked at him surprised. Why must he bring back the memories now? Now?
“Remember when you had finally learned it you would keep nagging me to let you ride us both to school on that big grey one I owned? We both sat together and I was so proud, and a little embarrassed, but mostly proud (he laughed) and then I bought you a pink one on our birthday so we would both ride on our own bikes.”
“Our birthday,” she breathed.
They had birthdays on the same day. Because God-the-good had decided to hand them out their fates on the exact day and instructed their souls to go down then into their mother’s womb… But Hessam will go half an hour before you, Aena. Okay? Just thirty minutes.
Hessam had gone half an hour before Aena. Aena had waited thirty minutes after Hessam. He had left her earlier because it was so destined. There was joy everywhere.
He was saying something. Probably about the bicycles or the school or their birthday. She wasn’t listening until he called out her name.
“Yes, yes. I remember. You don’t need to use this against me now, it won’t change my plans, alright? Don’t try! You shouldn’t try!” her voice raised despite her trying to stay calm.
“I am not changing your plans, Aena. I am just surprised how much YOU have changed! You are so cold, so different, Aena. Don’t you hold any compassion for relations as close as blood’s anymore?”
“No.” She shook her head vehemently. “I carry no compassion whatsoever. I have a heart of stone, if asking for a right to be free makes you think of me as that. I have cared enough for everyone and now I want to be my own responsibility. Go, and let me live!” her voice was strong and came from somewhere she didn’t belong to. It was indeed different, he thought, how his sister had grown up so much and become so… brave.
“I am my own responsibility now,” she repeated– softly this time– as if trying to coax him… Hoping deep inside her heart he won’t agree. Hoping he would somehow ask her to drop the facade and end this drama so they would both cry and tell how they’ve missed each other and how it was impossible to “let go” now that they had already let go of so much. She thought of the pens and chocolates he bought for her, when they were young, and how ma would make them both parathas before school. How dad would hand them out sikkas (coins) for their daily expenditures from which they’d both buy cones.
“Yes. You are right.” he said slowly. And moving towards her he put his hand on her head. “Time has changed, my lovely twin, and it’s not your fault. You have every right now to change time as per your command.” “I am proud of you, Aena. You are one brave woman. I shouldn’t be selfish to ask you what is against your will. And I am sure you will handle your life pretty well, inshaAllah. Just know that I am always there, always a call or email away. I will come to you whenever you want, and so would Rebya. We all love you and you can come to us, too, whenever you feel like it.”
He smiled. She managed one too.
“I know that bhaiyya. Thanks.”
He kissed on her forehead, erasing for a minute whatever these years had collected between them, and whatever hardships she had bore alone.
After that he was gone. Gone forever to his land where he lived with his wife a happy life. Aena had apparently given him permission to be the man he was; the satisfaction seeking which he had come back. Now he was free of the burden he was carrying before, and gone because Aena was free and happy, and very settled in her ancestral home! She had peace, he thought, and now he would too.