She couldn’t stand any more but she just couldn’t sit. Her body refused to bend down, her back was stiff and so were her knees. Trying to find anything to hold on to, she groped in the dark for a wall, piece of furniture, anything. Anything she could lean on but there was nothing. Or maybe there was but she couldn’t reach it. Either way, she had no support. The darkness was making her feel claustrophobic, she could feel sweat beads colliding together, forming a stream and flowing down her back, on her face, her neck. Outside, someone was shouting. She felt like her head would burst, she wanted the silence and the shouting to stop or else she would die, she was sure of it. Maybe it was the fear of death that woke her up.
Panting, she sat up in her bed. Mom was screaming downstairs. She was angry, Fariha knew. At least she wasn’t pulling her room apart today. After taking a good look at her room and a few deep breaths she untangled her torso from the sheets and got off her bed.
It was a fiasco downstairs. She couldn’t think of any other word. The living room was strewn with Nauhil’s clothes, cutlery he had thrown around for God-knows what reason. Glass crunched under her feet as she advanced towards him. ‘What the hell happened here?’ she stared at her brother in astonishment. He didn’t answer her but she thought she knew why today was worse than other days. Mom was the only one who was ignorant or chose to be.
‘That’s none of your business. Go in your den and leave us alone.’
‘Sure. Clean this mess up yourself then!’
Fariha was deciding which of her rags were most socially acceptable when Mom walked in. Her expression was subdued.
‘You can still change your mind you know.’
‘I don’t want to.’ She picked on a gray t-shirt and walked around Mom to go to the bathroom but was restrained.
‘Fariha, he was your father. Why can’t you forgive him?’
‘Because I can’t! Mom for once in your life, can’t you try to respect my feelings? I can’t do it, why do you have to force me every time? Nauhil is going with you, his soul will rejoice.’ Sarcasm entered her voice uninvited. Mom let go of her arm viciously.
‘He’s going with me now. A few years down the lane, you’ll turn him into a hateful jerk like yourself!’ Fariha sneered.
‘Oh so you realised he might not turn out to be the idiot you’d like him to be? In any case, you should have more confidence in yourself, Mother dear. He might end believing your propaganda.’ She was going too far and too low, she knew but she couldn’t help it. Mom went pale and then red with fury. For a moment Fariha thought she’d slap her but she just walked away, slamming the door behind her. Fariha wanted to stop her, tell her she didn’t mean it but it was getting late. Minahil would be here any minute.
The weather was surprisingly pleasant. The usual broiling Karachi sun was clearly not in the mood to roast the city today and kept hiding behind clouds. So the class went out to the beach that day to draw the landscape. Setting canvases on uneven sand and photographing the rugged ocean excited students but Fariha was only reminded of the family trips to the seaside every weekend. Most of the framed family portraits at home were taken at the beach. She loved coming here. Building sand castles with Dad, pushing a scared Mom in the water…all those times that were no more. She laughed loudly at a crude joke a class fellow told her.
‘You only have one hour left people.’ Mr Ahmed’s voice was barely audible over the wind and the waves. Everyone ran to their half-finished paintings.
‘Clean slate. Still can’t think of an angle?’ this was an annoying classmate whose name she never bothered to remember. To her he was Clingy. Without sparing him a look, she bent over her canvas. Ignoring people like they don’t exist was one of her biggest assets though no one could detect it. She had such a sweet, friendly persona after all. Clingy, assuming she was too observed in work left her alone.
She got home an hour before Mom and even if she weren’t so tired, it wouldn’t have been possible for her to clean up the house and cook at the same time. Disregarding her inner clean freak voice, she threw her bag on the floor and flung herself on the sofa. There was a post it on the coffee table.
A sigh of relief escaped her. Letting the note fall on the carpet, she kept lying on the couch, almost asleep when the shrill phone ring shook her awake. Cursing, she picked up the receiver.
‘It must be easy, sleeping all day in someone else’s house right?’ there was venom in this voice.
‘Who is this?’ her voice was shaky. She knew who he was, how could she forget the beast who haunted her dreams frequently.
‘I am a stranger to you now eh? Tell your mother unless she wants to be out on streets again, she better appear in court.’ And with that, the line went dead. Letting the receiver drop to the ground, she looked around. Everything was a mess. She tried to clean everything up but it couldn’t all be done in an hour. Every day, the house looked like a hurricane had hit it and every day, Fariha would clean it up. Today, though, by the time she heard Mom pull up her car in the driveway, she wasn’t even done halfway. Leaving the receiver hanging, she ran to her room.
Read previous chapters here: Grudge and Pain
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