As narrated by Amz:
Instantly I panic.
Not now not now please not now.
A knot forming in my stomach, I step forward, moving towards Dee and her mother.
But Zee is faster, calmer.
I watch as he casually steps between them and smiles his million dollar smile, saying a few words to Aunty Salma.
Joining them I hear Zee politely greet and then step back.
I’m there now, ready to rescue Dee from the situation, but she’s already stepping forward to embrace her mother.
I turn to Zee, looking at him with immense gratitude.
That’s all Dee needed. A few seconds to compose herself. To once again “shut down”.
Sighing, I suddenly realize that I can’t wait to get home..
After greeting everyone, we all get into the car.
Just before Dee gets in, she turns, looks at her mother and says, “No, Maama. We’re not.”
Then, without a second glance she slips into the car.
“I am so, so, SO proud of you!” Meez exclaims, turning in his seat to face Dee once we’re on the road again.
“I’m even more proud of you!” Zee yells, side hugging her.
“I’m the most proud of you!” I say, squeezing her from the other side.
Dee smiles, saying nothing.
“Well this clearly calls for a celebration,” Uncle Ismaeel says from the front. “Rameez, phone mummy and tell her to get ready, we’re coming to pick her up.”
“What was Sumayya’s story?” Uncle Ismaeel asks us as Meez reaches for his phone.
“She needed to do some last minute shopping for her cousin’s wedding I think,” I say.
“I’m sure she’ll be done by now though,” says Zee, looking at the time on his phone.
“Check with her,” says Uncle Ismaeel. “Then she and Hamza can join us.”
I dial Sumayya’s number and press the call button.
“Hey, Assalaamualaikum!” greets Sumayya.
“Wa’alaykum Saalam,” I reply. “Howzit?”
“Good, good,” replies Sumayya. “How did everything go?”
“Urm, fine, I think,” I reply. “Alhamdullilah.”
“You’re done shopping?” I ask.
“Yeah, got back, like, 20 minutes ago.”
“Got any plans now?”
“Okay, meet us at Uncle Ismaeel’s place in 10 minutes.”
“10 minutes?!” screeches Sumayya. “You know how I hate when you give me such short notice. It bloody takes me ten minutes to tie my hijaab!”
“Bring Hamza with,” I add, grinning.
“Obviously!” she grumbles. “How else will I get there?!”
Laughing, I cut the call.
“I’m kind of tired..” says Dee. “But we can if you guys want to.”
We’re all gathered in the lounge at Uncle Ismaeel and Aunty Aadila’s place.
Uncle Ismaeel initially wanted to take us all out to eat, but Dee wasn’t up for it. Neither was Sumayya; something about what happens to her hijaab when she eats!
Aunty Aadila then suggested we pack a tea basket and go to the gardens as it will be more peaceful, but that idea was “too boring” for Meez.
“We could just chill out here at home,” suggests Meez.
“Yeah, that’s a good idea,” Zee says to Meez. “What you’ll reckon?”
“Good with me,” Sumayya and Hamza say in unison.
Aunty Aadila and Uncle Ismaeel nod in agreement.
“Amz? Dee?” asks Zee.
I look at Dee.
“Look, I think let’s call it a day. I mean, it has been a pretty hectic day emotionally. Especially for Dee. Let her rest it out, then tomorrow we can plan something.”
Unanimously agreeing to that, we all part ways.
Hamza offers to drop Dee and I. Gratefully accepting we greet Uncle Ismaeel and Aunty Aadila and head out.
In the car, Sumayya gives us a rundown of her shopping extravaganza.
“It took me so long to find a dress I thought I would never find one!” says Sumayya.
“Yeah, you should have just listened to mummy and decided on something from your cupboard!” says Hamza, rolling his eyes at her.
“Are you perhaps mad?!?!” asks Sumayya, looking at him in horror. “How can I wear something from my cupboard for Shakoo’s wedding?!”
“I don’t see what’s wrong with that,” mumbles Hamza.
“That’s probably because you’re a boy!” I say, laughing.
“Well, maybe partially,” grins Hamza.
“I still can’t believe she’s getting married!” Sumayya says for the umpteenth time. “Like, she’s the last person I expected to get married!”
“How come though? She’s not so young, is she?” I ask curiously.
“She is!!” chorus Sumayya and Hamza.
“She only just turned 20 last week!” exclaims Sumayya.
“Yeah, so that’s not soo young,” I say.
“What?! Amz! It is!” says Sumayya, looking at me, horrified.
I grin at her reaction.
“Well what do you think is the right age, then?” I ask.
“I don’t know. Like, 25, maybe 24. But definitely not twenty!”
“25?!” asks Hamza, looking surprised. “That’s old!”
“I think 20 is a nice age. Like you finish school at 18, have a year to yourself and then you move on in life. Like, to the next chapter,” I say. “That’s what my mother did…”
“But what if you want to study?” asks Sumayya.
“My naani wasn’t in favour of girls studying, because that’s what happens then. You start studying.. three four years go. You’re 23, 24 by then. And according to her that’s too late. Like, that’s the age a guy should get married,” I explain, remembering the time I had this conversation with my mother.
“Naah. I wouldn’t do that. Like, even if you don’t study, why would you want to get married so young. I mean, marriage is such a major thing,” argues Sumayya.
We’ve reached home now, but we continue talking in the car.
“And if you get married so young, you’re so much less mature and experienced. Like, that just calls for a disaster,” adds Sumayya.
“But that’s not everyone, Su. Like Amz can run a house almost entirely on her own and she’s only 16,” points out Hamza.
“Ya but she doesn’t have a husband and kids to look after,” says Sumayya.
“Dee is like 5 children!” I say teasingly, looking at Dee.
“Sorry,” she mumbles sheepishly, trying to hide her smile.
“Just troubling you,” I say with a grin giving her a side hug.
“What’s your opinion, Dee?” asks Sumayya.
We all turn our attention to her, waiting for her response.
“Eyh, this conversation is too hectic for me,” she says casually, avoiding the question.
“Amz, house keys?” she asks, looking at me.
“Yeah,” I reply, reaching into my sling bag.
Greeting Hamza and Sumayya, Dee gets out of the car.
“So how did the whole reunion thing go?” Hamza asks as Dee’s figure disappears into the house.
I don’t reply immediately, unsure as to what would be the correct answer.
“You know, to be honest…” I start. “For us, it went fairly well. But I definitely can’t speak for Dee and her mother. Dee was barely herself but she put on the ‘I’m perfectly okay’ front. Like, they spoke comfortably, there were no awkward silences and uncontrollable tears, but I don’t know if it would have been better had there been.”
I pause, a sigh escaping my lips.
“And Aunty Salma was there, but also not there at all. I don’t know how to explain it. I felt like that when my parents passed away. It’s like, you know when someone chases you, and they’re not fast enough to catch you but they’re also not slow. They’re right behind you all the time, you can feel their fingers on your back. The grief chases you like that. And you have no option but to keep running, no matter how tired you get, you just have to keep running.. because the moment you stop and allow that grief to get hold of you…”
I trail off, a lump forming in my throat as I remember the days I thought I’d never to be able to go on.
“It drains you,” I say, my voice shaking. “That grief… it drains you in every single way possible. And you can see it on Aunty Salma. She doesn’t even look like how I remember her.”
Sighing heavily I look up.
Involuntarily my gaze meets with Hamza’s.
The unexpected warmth and sympathy they hold almost makes me break down there and then.
Silently reminding myself to get a grip, I smile a small, tired smile.
“Anyway. Let me go. Thanks for the lift, Hamza,” I say, opening the car door.
“Anytime,” he replies, smiling kindly.
“C’ya chica,” I say to Sumayya. “We’ll meet tomorrow.”
The sound of the engine starting fills the air. I wave as they drive off.
Then, turning around, I enter the house and go to find Dee.
I still need to ask her what triggered her fleeting genuine show of emotion…
Hey. Hi. Hello. Salaam. Bonjour. Salut. Ciao. Ahoj. Bog. Marhaba. Ola. 😀
Hope you guys are all well and enjoyed the very early, longer than usual post!
I would really like to hear everyone’s thoughts on what you’ll think is the right age for a girl to get married, and why? And for the married readers, would you change the age you got married if you could go back in time? I’m quite eager to know your opinions as I find that I have this discussion with friends/family quite often and it usually is controversial.
Troubled Illusioner. ❤