Tuesday, 30 June 2020

OS : A Journey of Unspoken Words

Goodbye Zahra

Staring at the envelop he could do nothing but stare at the ink... the letters mere symbols, but the depth of the words hit home like the thousands wounds he would have to nurse in the empty foreseeable future, the last of her memories now sat in his hands and he could do nothing to push the emptiness away.

Inhaling deeply he closed his eyes to try and hold onto the memories of those sparkling eyes, ones he desperately  wanted to capture for the rest of his life but as always nothing stays forever... not even memories.

Knock knock

"You called for me sir"

"Come in Zahra... I have something for you... (Sighing loudly) It seems Minnie has.... was somehow more attached to you than... she left this for you"

Leaving the envelope on the table he got up from his seat located in front of fireplace, making his way out of the study; the emotions too many to hide and not some a man of his stature should share... he did what any weak person would... he fled.

Hearing the door shut gently behind her Zahra felt the sting of tears as they welled at the sight of the envelope; unwillingly moving closer she stared at the letter... "My sweet child what have you done" whispering as she focused her hands to pick up the letter; the physical strain those two simple acts caused drained her of any resolve she may have had left, unthinkingly she sank into the chair, the crevices did nothing to hide her from the pain and turmoil's she was going through.

As the aroma of her master surrounded her; a sense of loss and warmth all crept in at once... they had something in common now. The irony, who would have thought? The rich and famous Armaan Malik Jnr and Zahra Hussain were at least in this matter at the same level. Same level or was she... could it possibly be she had one over him? The new found sense of achievement willed her to go further; opening the letter she read on...

"A child without an imagination is what a butterfly is without wings... lost. You were right when you spoke those words and I am truly sorry for all that I have done. I leave you my life Zahra... Goodbye."

* Story *

Clutching the letter closely to her chest under the heavy veil that concealed more than one secret today, Zahra made her way quickly to the servants' compartment; Armaan watched quietly as Zahra disappeared into the narrow side hall way, the forbidden entrance to the servants' quarters. He had half a mind to follow her, find out what was hidden within that secret envelope Minnie had addressed to Zahra and Zahra alone; "What does it matter… she's not coming back" broken hearted Armaan turned to go back to his chambers, it was all he could do now… let the pain take hold and heal itself in time.

Zahra rushed into her room to escape the constant peering eyes of the other house staff. Once safely inside her room, oak door firmly and securely shut behind her Zahra sank down onto the ground no longer able to hold back the tears. Lightly tracing the letters on the front of the envelope she felt the flood of emotions escape through the silent wailing and hot tears now scorching her cheeks.

Closing her eyes momentarily to get a hold of herself, Zahra almost immediately found herself transported back to the very first day she had set foot into this mansion. 6 years ago...


"Kaala are you sure about this? I mean I don't know anything about the ways of royalty and these children… what if they like really naughty and that sahib… I've heard you and Ammi talk a lot about how he makes everyone work now and how cruel he has become since the memsahib left… Kaala are you listening to me? I don't want to be here… why couldn't Zareen do this, why me?!

"Would you be quiet child? If you keep talking how am I supposed to answer any of your questions?" noticing the younger of the two ladies now quiet the elder continued, "Firstly these people are not royalty" noticing the youngster now ready to interrupt again the elder woman raised her hand to silence any unwanted disruptions "Secondly these children have been through a lot recently what with the missus, yes we call them missus and sir, not sahib and memsahib samjhi?... since these children have been through so much and the missus leaving them at such a young and tender age… you know it's all very tragic the whole business… but what's to happen happens… we can only pray for the her soul to rest in peace. The missus was truly a wonderful person, she loved everything and everyone… you see all of these flower beds…"

The young Zahra now took a moment to look around the huge half acre of land which was apparently a drive that they had been walking up all this time….everywhere you looked there were symbols of undiluted love and care, from the flower beds to the trees and vine covered swings, the small ponds which harboured two beautiful swans, the neatly lined grass that carefully constructed the walkway… everything just looked so tranquil, so perfect…

"…All of the plants here were planted by the missus, no gardeners no-one… she used to say she wanted her home to be a heaven for her family… it's no wonder Sir turned so bitter after her demise"

Suddenly saddened by the thought of someone so seemingly wonderful leaving, the young Zahra couldn't help but wonder what had gone wrong "How did she die Kaala?"

As though expecting this question the elder continued conveying the years of wisdom in her voice "The Sir and Missus were involved in an accident… they said she died of head injuries I've heard but we all know someone must have cast an evil eye on the happiness of this family. The children haven't been the same ever since; the youngest especially, Minnie… she neither talks nor responds… just stays on her room all day and night… every day and night. Sometimes wondering out aimlessly around the mansion... but you can feel something missing in the air that she leaves behind.

Your mother tells me you have a way with children, I've heard about Abhi, the local kid whom you taught to read and write, that's quite a talent you have you know"

"It was nothing really, he just needed some time, everyone was always so hard on him, and he used to just get confused"

"Well that is exactly the kind of magic I need you to cast on Minnie; Rahul and Atul only come home for the holidays now so the child is all alone all day; finally we're here, right no more talking Zahra it's time to work now"'

Looking up Zahra found herself confronted by the most magnificent building ever. The stone walls adorned the most spectacular rose bush spiralling up it, encircling the large oak door, the large French windows encased in black frames bought an all new character, the very being of the building screamed splendour and power, but the attention to detail in each vine of the tree showed the warmth and love that was used to create this aura.

Following her aunt through a side entrance to the house, Zahra could see the stark difference between the main entrance and what now seemed to be the house helps entrance. The house was still the same, but the grandeur had definitely been toned down; the walls still stone held no flowers, the windows still in black frame weren't as large, the door still oak wasn't as grand… everything toned down to accommodate the guests it would welcome.

Stepping into the cluster of people rushing to and fro, each busy with something or other, too busy to notice the new addition to their hurried everyday lives. Zahra was ushered through the many doors that led her out of the busiest part of the house helps' quarters to a long darkly lit hallway. No windows here to shed any light on their paths, it was only the few dying candles that seemed to burn endlessly providing enough light to cast the faintest of shadows possible; enough for the purpose they were placed there for.

Zahra entered a small room off to the end of the hallway, far away from all the 'quarters'; dressed in bare minimums the room held no spectacular characteristic which stood out at first glance, the blank walls, the plain heavy brown curtains, the small four poster bed with a simple wooden headboard… the only thing that did seem strange to Zahra was almost all the furnishing was in wood, dark oak to be precise. "Must be a country thing… see green outside and you just want to bring it inside" she thought.

"This will be your room Zahra, I have spoken to your mother and you will now stay here under my supervision of course, I am not giving you the option to say no so don't even think about it. Your mother needs all the income she can get right now and you know how expensive weddings can be…" the rest of the 'welcome' speech fell on deaf ears as Zahra's eyes fell on the most awe inspiring and perhaps the most upsetting scene she ever saw. From the view of her window Zahra was able to see the garden quiet clearly, it wasn't a view you'd expect someone to be saddened by; the small pond, the blossoming flowers, the bird tables, the blossom tree… they all seemed to look like they had come out of a fairy tale. But the perfect view somewhat diminished in its importance when she laid eyes on that small figure cradling itself in the shadows of the tree. Gently rocking back and forth the figure looked petite and fragile, it wasn't a comforting rocking motion either… it was rather lost instead.


Picking up the envelope Zahra stared at the name adorned in the front, her tears had made the ink run making the letter look as saddened as she felt right now. Carefully opening the envelope again, first she took out the note she had read a short while ago in the study

"A child without an imagination is what a butterfly is without wings... lost. You were right when you spoke those words and I am truly sorry for all that I have done. I leave my life to you Zahra... Goodbye."

Frowning deeply Zahra stared at the words, what could Minnie have possibly meant... It was obvious she wanted to disclose something but what... you were right when you spoke... the words played over and over again in her mind Something I said... when did I say anything about butterflies and lost wings...  she scratched her head almost instantly trying to gouge out some lost thought... and then like lightning it struck. Immediately jumping to her feet Zahra almost ran to her bed. Ripping the pillow from its place on the bed Zahra located what she wanted her diary and quickly skimmed through it. Stopping abruptly she sighed in relief... there it was

06 April 2003...

Silence, the drop of a pin

The screams and cries trapped within

Like a secret trapped inside a trove

Bubbling and boiling like a hot stove

Her shy natures clear as day

Nothing to show, nothing to say

A child that sees but does not speak

Even she doesn't know what she seeks

She hides behind her golden locks

Her silken voice lost inside Pandora's Box


"Your hair is very silky and shiny you know did you often oil your hair?" Silence yet again filled the room; the daily routine of waking, bathing, helping get ready, schooling, feeding and then getting Minnie back into bed only to face yet another long and silent day in this painful routine that had become her life and frankly it was beginning to get Zahra down. All her attempts at getting the child to respond in any manner other than the military behaviour Minnie had adopted was painstakingly unbearable now as they all failed miserably.

Minnie sat staring at nothing in particular letting Zahra do as she pleased. Zahra sighed feeling herself slip into the midst of the same depression Minnie was happily welcoming into her life. Such a shame she thought, her gaze drifted across the room to land on the portrait of a woman hugging a bright jovial young child... what had happened to that child Zahra wondered. The pair shared the same dimples and twinkle yet it seemed since one of those pairs of eyes had disappeared the other too had disappeared.

The love and warmth in the elder woman's eyes were unmistakeable; is that what was missing from this little girl's life? Love? But that couldn't be... Zahra had seen how her father's pined to see the slightest of light in his youngest' eyes yet there had been a sadness that shimmered with every hidden tear he locked away.

This family was still in mourning with no way of moving forward and this little child were suffering the most. Zahra's thoughts drifted back her Khaala's words... Zahra was expected to perform some kind of miracle and bring life back to this family... how? And what if she failed?

The thought brought chills down her spine... there was no way she was going to give up before trying.  All the evils in world had joined forces to take away this child's childhood, but childhood was not something to be confined with time, childhood was a kingdom of its own, he who stayed in it remained forever innocent and Zahra was not going to let Minnie remain closed like Pandora's box harbouring all these ill thoughts which rid her of her innocence.

"Do you know how butterflies are born Minnie?"


Smiling at her own diary entry Zahra's mind wondered back Minnie's letter... I leave you my life... how ironic those words were. Minnie had just left life as we know and for what? Why? She wanted to tell me something... but now I'll never know.

The sun filtered through the window, illuminating the room with its warmth and glow... the world was smiling outside while inside everyone mourned. The garden had now matured very much to what it had been on that first day but no longer was there a figure crouched next to the tree.

Zahra walked over to the window, letter forgotten for a moment but still clutched securely in her hand. The blossom tree was in full bloom now, the birds were chirping away happily and in the midst a lone figure walked. "Sir" the words slipped out in a whisper; in her younger days Zahra had the absurd notion of thinking of her Sir as handsome, he was very masculine in his looks, groomed to the utmost perfection, walking with the air of a royalty around his little palace... but there was always something so wrong in his features. The certainly once handsome face always looked so bitter, angry with the world and silently fighting a losing battle with himself; in the years she had been there, not once had she seen him smile... which was a shame because she was certain he had wondrous dimples like Minnie... A butterfly landed on the outside of her closed window before her thoughts could drift off to anywhere.

It was a wonder a butterfly should land in her window today of all... lifting her hand up she traced the outline of the butterflies wings. Her gaze drifted to the letter which was also in the same hand and came across something Zahra had to close her eyes and reopen to be certain it was there.

Opening her eyes she found they were in fact still there and not in her imagination. There was more written on the letter. Moving away from the window instantly Zahra scanned the letter... there was nothing else on it but "I was so sure..." moving back to the window Zahra held the letter up to the light and there it was again. There was writing!

"Invisible ink... of course!" running over to her desk Zahra searched the drawers frantically for her pen. One of the first attempts Zahra had made to get Minnie to communicate was to present her with an invisible ink pen. One side would write in invisible ink while the other end had a formula which would make the ink appear. It had worked wonders with Abhi years back and Zahra had hoped it would show some of the same success with Minnie... alas what had then seemed as a failed attempt then now proved to be more successful than she had hoped.

Locating what she needed Zahra immediately began scribbling over the note and sure enough there was more writing. As every word revealed itself Zahra read out...

If I could say one last thing to you then it would be this. I'm sorry. For what? There are too many reasons to list, why? Because I realise I should have done this a long time ago. I loved my mother and now I realise as I write this I felt much the same about you. Every girl dreams of a knight in shining armour... for me you came as my guardian angel.

I don't have enough time to answer all the questions I'm sure you have for me no doubt, but I will leave you my life... I hope this will answer some of your questions and I hope you will forgive me for all I had done shamefully intentionally and unintentionally.

With love, Minnie



Staring blankly at the paper as she read over it again and again Zahra couldn't believe what was painfully plain to see. Minnie hadn't just... the thought to painful to sum up into words... but she knew she was leaving.

The need for urgency raced through her veins as the revelation hit her wave after wave, a cold sweat gathered on her brow as she felt the need to do something, to scream, to cry, to shout in joy at finally being given a way to find her answers... but then the numbness started setting in paralysing her to the spot... "A diary". An almost inaudible breeze passed through her lips as she whispered the words... more to assure her that this was reality instead of the fantasy she had been living in.

Staring blankly around the room Zahra didn't know what to do... was she to call Sir and reveal all this to him? But then hadn't Minnie specifically addressed this letter to her and she alone... did that not mean that this revelation was to start and end at her? As her eyes slowly wondered aimlessly around the room taking in nothing yet everything, it came to rest on her laptop. As though a sign from Minnie herself had been given as the single ray of light filtered through the distorted glass and directly onto the laptop.

The numbness faded away as Zahra slowly approached the laptop in a trance.


Dear Zahra,

If you are reading this then my letter has found home and I the way to my way to my Mama. I'm staring out at the sky and even though it's dark out all I see are the twinkling stars and the warm moon smiling at me. They know what no-one else does right now... that I will be with them soon.

I'm not even sure why I'm doing this, why I want you to know why I'm doing this... all I know is it feels right. It's my way of saying goodbye to you. The thoughts that I've never spoken to you before for the fear of... I don't know, for the fear of fear itself?

I know. I know why you came here; it wasn't because you wanted to... it was because you had no other choice. And I'm sorry you were forced to spend so long with me in this state. I was horrible I know so don't try to pacify my thoughts because where I'm going you can't. There's something else I know.

I know about you and father. More precisely how you feel about him and he you. Maybe this is why I have to tell you everything now because it matters that you know now.


I hate you God! I hate you and I hate Mama for being so selfish! And I hate Daddy for sending Rahul and Atul away and I hate.... EVERYTHING!

 Throwing the book to a side followed by the pencil which was now shorter than imaginable Minnie hugged her knee's and rocked back and forth. Back and forth as the venom against the world poisoned her mind and view; the rich surrounding, the comforting Blossom tree which had seen her grow all these years now seemed like a thorn, a laughing, mocking thorn that ridiculed her existence.

Taking up the book once more she started to write again. The tears had long ago dried up but the anguish and hatred that life had filled her with grew stronger and stronger with each passing night.

Mama don't you love me no more? Was I a bad girl that's why you left me? I promise I won't be bad anymore, I'll do everything you say... just come back please. Mama I'm cold and tired and Daddy won't even feed me with his hands like you did... he won't even sit in the same room as me. You know I didn't have breakfast this morning and no-one said anything. I promise I won't be a naughty girl if you come back. Please Mama? Come back please. Why are you being so mean? COME BACK!

The lack of tears mixed with the screaming voices in her head and raging emotions in her heart brought on the 1st of many to come, migraines Minnie was to suffer. No-one seemed to care about the child now that her mother had gone. No-one had told her where had gone; at the age of 9 everyone felt that the little girl was too young to be able to cope; a whole year later.... she was still too young apparently.

I know you can hear me Mama, but you're still too angry to talk to me. I've been good all day Mama; I even left Daddy alone today. I stopped going in front of him because he said that looking at me reminded him of you and then he would start crying and getting angry with me. Do I look like you Mama? Is that why you left because we look alike and Daddy would get angry? I'll change the way I look Mama I promise. Will you come back then?

Staring at the picture that adorned her wall Minnie gazed at her mother and the younger her. The both had an infectious smile, a smile that reached their hazel eyes. Silky black hair that screamed to be caressed and olive like skin. Minnie was a mini replica of her mother. The only difference between the two was the deep set dimple Minnie had inherited from her father's genes.

She couldn't change her face, they were features even years of scars, loss of weight and bruises could never remove, what she could change though was her hair.

Rummaging through some of her mother's belongings that she had manage to salvage since her mother's disappearance Minnie found an old blunt pair of arts and crafts scissors and began chopping away the hair her mother had spent years oiling and nurturing. In her fury to be different from her mother on countless occasions Minnie wound up getting her hair caught between the blades. The constant yanking and pulling of the hair didn't put her off her aim, it merely worked as a delaying measure that just prolonged her pain and tears.

Sometime later a puffy eyed and no longer silky haired Minnie stood head bowed in front of a bellowing Armaan in his study.

I did it again Mama, I'm sorry. I tried to be different to you so you would come back, so I cut my hair. And it hurt a lot. It wasn't as easy as when you used to do it and it pulled a lot but I cut it all off and I did look different to you. But then Daddy found out and he shouted at me and he cried a lot and shouted more. And then...the he said why he couldn't die too. That made me want to cry a lot but I didn't because I remembered you telling me you should not cry when you've done something wrong, because crying won't fix it. You have to fix it instead. And I did something wrong because cutting my hair made Daddy really angry and he cried.

Why don't you come back Mama, I know Daddy will love you again and he will stop crying then. I look nothing like you now... Daddy had that old aunty cut my hair like a boy so now you and I can't look the same.

The days and nights continued much to the same for the next six months. Minnie would plead to the stars, the moon, her dairy... anything she could think of asking her mother to return. With each passing day her health deteriorated; her sorry state of not eating, asking loads of questions, irritating staff and doing the little self harming acts like chopping her hair, refusing to eat etc, it all built up to weekly outbursts from Armaan. The pain of seeing his flesh and blood deteriorating was too much to bear.

Dear Mama;

I promise I wasn't bad today, I didn't do anything at all I promise but Daddy still got mad at me. I was only sitting quietly under our tree just watching everything change around me... change without you when the maali came over to me and said Daddy was calling for me in his study.

I thought he was going to tell me where you were finally, or even take me to where you are, but he didn't... Daddy got angry at me again and yelled at me for not taking care of him like you used to and then...

Why won't you come back Mama, please? I can't stop Daddy from being angry and when his angry Daddy becomes scary.

If you can't come back then can you please take me to where you are? I don't love daddy no more, he hurts me. You said if I write down what I wanted, what I thought... you'd always know it and you'd be there... where are you mummy? Why don't you answer me? Why don't you come back? Don't you love me any more like daddy doesn't?

Armaan had started to drink relentlessly; a moment spent being sober would remind him of what he had lost and what he was losing still. But the drunken state did nothing to calm the rage that burned within, every evening when the staff had all gone home or to sleep for those that lived in the mansion he would have Minnie go to his study. The sight of her was enough to unleash the monster within this intoxicated Armaan.

All through the constant beats and hurtful words Minnie would not once cry out in pain. She grew to believe this was her punishment for making her mother go away and this is what she got for being so much like her mother but not her mother.

After the first night of endless beating Minnie not once dared to open her book in the day or night. She was afraid... afraid that now if she did write down her thoughts, her pain, she may end up hating her mother who although never replied or came back but was there in the nights while she bandaged herself, in spirit and in her dreams comforting her, would never come back.

It wasn't till many months later which felt more like years with each passing day for Minnie, appeared her saviour in the form of a young Zahra.

That night Minnie dared to open her book again. But instead of writing anything she just sat there staring at the pages...had her Mama found out what was going on? And sent this fragile looking girl? Or was this going to be another character in her life she would have to hide her feelings about from the world?


I watched him go back to life as though Mama never existed... the woman who filled his life with nothing but love had been forgotten in an instance, and what did he expect? For me to continue as though nothing had happened? I really did love him; I guess a side of me still does but knowing or rather seeing how he left Mama's memories in an instance... I guess it's show me... he will leave me in an instance too.

Just before I found out Mama had died I used to get this dream which would always leave me shaken... when I was younger I couldn't understand it. It was just so surreal but as I got older the dream became clearer and the message more precise.

"You're nothing without me! Do you get that!"

Staring back at those fire filled eyes I felt my heart shatter for the second time in less than an hour. I winced as he grabbed my arm and threw me onto the stairs. I don't know what hurt more at that point? The physical pain he caused me or the emotional breakdown he was causing me.

Lifting my head up from the step I turned to see his retreating back just before the door slammed shut, leaving me in the dark hall by myself.

Seeking refuge from my shattered confidence I got up rubbing my arm, going towards the kitchen I knew where I would find the comforting embrace of Mama, instead I was faced with angry tear stained eyes

"You heard what your father said! I swear if you don't stop this..."

The rest remained lost as I jumped from my sleep... Mama hated me... she left me because she hated me.

If only that dream had stayed instead... I wonder if you remember the day you told me my mother was no more... do you remember what happened. Honestly neither do I... all I remember now is the sound of screaming and wailing all crashing together before going dead silent and into a sharp beep tone. Nothing else. Actually now in my final moments of loneliness in this soothing night if I think about it... that noise was me.

The dream that haunted me from that day till now, the one you always asked after and I never spoke out was of my mother.

In the dream you would tell me...

 Mama is in a better place. Where can be better than being here with her family? With me?

I cried for hours clutching onto the sheets of her frost covered white veil over her body, the shimmer of being content emanated from her face, she was free... was she really happy leaving us behind? I stared at her crying and silently praying she would get up and tell me it was all a joke and take me into her arms and comfort me like always... but she didn't.

I cried out to her willing her... willing anyone to make me wake up from this dream... but the dream turned into the nightmare that was my life.

The cruellest act was yet to come... the shrouds I had managed to scratch away from her white cloth, my final memory of my Mama were taken away by Daddy with a simple "It's no use now beta" as the only explanation he offered before emptying my clutches and just leaving me standing by myself as he took her away...

The dreams stayed or perhaps a better word would be nightmare? But then they were the only times I saw Mama's face other than on that scratch portrait so maybe it was a dream? Who knows. All I know is the nightmare my life had turned into for those awful months just after Mama left you came and changed it, made that little more bearable. Thank you.

You know there were moments when I wanted to speak out to you, to hate you, love you, cry to you or even just scream at you... but the words would just never leave my lips. There was all this talking in my head and to me I was having conversations with everyone, adding in my two pence worth but what came out and now I see were just nods, shakes and smiles...

You did not fail me Zahra, I failed you and I must admit now that no matter what my father did to me, I will always love him and I want you to look after him the way you did me. I no longer wish to live with these wounds I have inflicted on others, I now realise that it was my mourning past that drove him to be what he became. We were both lost and weak. We did each other no favours.

Do not hate father for what he did; he loved Mama truly and the pain he inflicted on me were those of a man weakened by time.

It holds no worth now but it is something that must be said. When I saw my father moving on and getting life back together I blamed you immediately. Before you had come into our life, even though he was inflicting pain on me, I know he was in far more pain for being out of control and at least he was still thinking of Mama. But then you came into our life and immediately I was put into your care. I no longer saw him cry for her... he stopped aching for her when I was still dying inside and it was all your doing.

You changed him Zahra. I see it clearly now how your care bewitched him, you cared for me as your own and blind I may have been; he was not. He has punished himself enough Zahra I see it now, my childhood left me when Mama left so I speak words far wiser than my age would suggest. It is this caring daughter and not jealous I once was that asks you now... Forgive him for his sins and help him mourn finally in peace.


Many would ask where I went wrong. What I should ask is why I went wrong. Was losing you really that bad that I had to drive away our angel? I can't say it enough times without making the word 'sorry' sound empty. I can't stop this guilt in me when I remember what I did to Minnie... I can't look myself in the mirror without wanting to put my fist through it.

Why!?! God damn it why did you have to leave!?! You left me and it turned me into a monster. She was only a child's for the love of god... why did you make me do all those things? All I asked from you was a little strength to carry on, so you turned me into a monster so I could vent my rage?

I loved her and what you made me do to her made her hate me... You planned this... all of this! You took away my life and then you took away the token of our love. It was all your doing!

Clutching his head in his palms Armaan silently roared out the pain from the battle in his head with God and Riddhima. The only secluded area in the garden away from all prying eyes, with its tree's casting an eerie shadow provided him the solace he needed to cry.

The tree's swayed in the gentle breeze, silently laughing at his fate he thought. The man who once had everything is now today alone in a dark place with nothing.

"How did she die?" for once the words weren't inside his head... but whose were they? Lifting his head Armaan saw a tortured soul stare back at him in the form of Zahra. She looked as pathetic as he felt right now but why?

"It was an accident" after all these years of living together something's just didn't need to be specified. Like right now, Minnie had passed away but there was no need to ask about that. Zahra was asking about Riddhima finally

"You didn't ask who I was asking about."

"Do I need to?" her momentary hesitation taken as confirmation, tears long forgotten Armaan beckoned for Zahra to take a seat on the log overlooking the pond next to him. The shadows no longer felt ghostly, they just made it seem intimate and a shelter from the outside world.


"Armaan let me drive your drunk. See you can't even stand"

"No no, I'm not drunk. We were going to have dinner but mummy deary misses her baby too much to spend an evening alone with her husband. I'm taking you home no? And now you want to take my baby away from me?"

"But Armaan your drunk"

"And honey you're not exactly in state to drive... you've hardly lost any of your 'pregnancy weight'"

"Are you calling me fat? That's it I'm walking home. You can drive or stay here I don't care. And don't even think about coming to bed tonight!"

"Damn Baby I'm sorry... please listen.... Riddhima stop!"

"No I'm go..."



"You blamed yourself?" teary eyed once again Zahra turned her head to watch tears unnoticed running down Armaan's cheek. His face remained hard and set as he sat leaning forward, hands clasped under his chin settled by the elbow on his strong knees. If it wasn't for the vulnerability she saw in his eyes one could have mistaken his look as almost calm.

"You don't? Were you listening to me? Or are you just here to mock me Zahra" There was a dangerous tone to his words, almost threatening.

Her finger tips were wiping his tears before she had found her words "I heard you and I ask again, you blamed yourself?" Kneeling down in front of him now she held his gaze, searching for the lost caring man he once was, who even after all he had done was still adored and loved by his daughter. He was in there somewhere.

"You don't know what I've done... if you did, you wouldn't be here"

"I know. I know everything and I'm still here" There was panic in Armaan's eyes as he searched Zahra's face for any tell tale signs of deceit. His hand that had stopped hers from wiping his tears now held her hands a little firmer than acknowledged.

"You're lying" He finally stated as he rose to his feet, his hands pushing Zahra's out of his grip, causing her to fall back. "You don't know anything!"

"Minnie told me everything" Zahra's words stopped time. Silence. The wind stopped blowing. The birds stopped singing. And Armaan stopped breathing.

A quiet voice started to speak into the silence behind him "When I came here I found a man too angry and broken to mourn and I didn't ask why. Then I was shown a child who had gotten lost in her mourning and again I didn't ask why. And then this morning when I woke up someone somewhere looking over us decided it was time my waiting came to an end.

Today I found out why that man hasn't mourned. His been stuck behind fate. Cruel fate that's been disguising itself as your guilt has hardened you. It was that same cruel fate that made you push away the children. When Minnie refused to stay at boarding school it was that guilt that made you try and push her away. What happened that night could not have been foreseen Sir. You didn't kill her. And you didn't kill Minnie.

For what it's worth Minnie never stopped loving you"

Zahra stood up to return to the mansion... she was no longer needed here.


Armaan was down on his knees; stature, decorum all forgotten as he sat there on his knees, head in hand breathing.

The wind picked up again and there was a gentle hand stroking his hair, "I love you Armaan and I always will, but you have to let me go now. You have to live. Live for me, without me baby"

"Riddhima" her name in whisper was all Armaan needed before he allowed himself let loose the reigns of his emotions.

"Sir?" with that Armaan engulfed Zahra into a hug and cried his soul out into her tresses.


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