When I met Her
The overwhelming aroma of the delicious portions yet to come, teased my nostrils and enveloped my senses. The music did nothing to stop my mouth from watering or soothe my belly that was yearning to be filled. I wanted to distract myself from thinking about all the delectable seafood that had enchanted me from the time I walked into the lower deck of the sailing restaurant.
“Garton’s Ark,” I asked him. “Seriously? It’s going to cost us your arm.”
His boyish grin always had the ability to accelerate my heartbeat. “Not really. Well, maybe a finger.”
I shook my head as I observed the dimly lit deck’s luxurious rustic interior that created an impact of something pleasantly mysterious, lurking in the corners of it. A factor which purely added flavor to it’s coziness.
Today was our wedding anniversary. Seven blissful years with this perfect man who sat before me. He leaned forward to cup my cheek with his calloused palm, gently tracing my bottom lip with his thumb. “Try and let the man here play the part of a romantic.”
My mouth curved into an answering smile as I playfully asked him, “What do I get in return?”
He leaned back to stretch his muscular arms. “Our menu contains lobsters.” He continued with a wicked grin, “which fortunately again for me, has an age old belief of being aphrodisiac.”
I threw my napkin at him, “Pervert!”
His color suddenly drained under his tan and the chuckle froze midway, as his gaze focused on something behind me. I turned my head curiously to find what had captivated my husband’s attention.
Man, oh man! The creature that stood in the doorway, could freeze a monk mid-stride let alone my husband. Almost five feet and nine inches, with the face of an angel, her perfect slender figure was clad in a peacock blue sari that blended well with it’s golden brocade sleeveless blouse.
Though, what surprised me was the way she looked back at him. I watched her walk towards us in a trance. Movements slightly jerky, I watched him stand up to greet her. A wobbly smile lit her perfectly carved features as she uttered his name in a prayer like quality. My gaze switched from one to the other. For them, I had disappeared into a foggy background.
I sat like an idiot, while my husband’s eyes caressed her moonlike face as if he was trying to memorize the contours of it. His voice thickened and I detected a husky note in it. “Norah… It’s been a long time.”
Suddenly I knew. It was her. He never once mentioned her name but, somehow the realization that this woman, was the ghost of my husband’s past, hit me like a bucket of ice water. Though, this ghost was all too real.
She nodded, her eyes welling up with unshed tears, never disconnecting their contact with his. She finally looked down at me with a genuinely warm smile.
I stood up with feet that seemed to have turned into jelly as the awkward introduction was made. An old friend, he said. But I knew that she had been more than that. Neither me nor my husband noticed her clasping the hand of a little girl until she said, “Meet my daughter Ayna.”
Pain slashed across his face as he looked down at the little girl. I could read his mind that was dying to say, “If we were married, she would have been mine.”
My attention was drawn towards her mother again. I compared my dusky complexion with her ivory one. My hourglass figure with her gazelle like grace. I watched my husband’s tall frame towering over hers and even to my eyes they looked picturesque together. Never in my life had I known insecurity such as that I was experiencing at the moment. I felt bile rising within me. A mixture of humiliation, anger, envy and confusion made me want to wish that the floor should somehow open up to swallow me whole.
Finally, it was over. The storm had calmed. My husband’s passion in life was gone, leaving behind a gloomy silence between us. Like the perfect wife I always was, I forced composure into my voice as I said, “The dinner is getting cold.”
He hesitantly picked his fork and knife to start eating, never once meeting my eyes. Finally when he looked at me, I discovered a rare light in his eye. His voice took a weary quality as he started to talk. “When something becomes unattainable, your yearning to have it grows to a point of obsession.”
I pursed my lips tightly, not wanting to hear what came next. He continued speaking, “I admit it. A part of me will always yearn for her. And I also know this for sure.” He hesitated and looked into my eyes. That gentle expression almost undid me and tears began to roll down my cheeks.
He picked my hand to kiss my fingers and said huskily, “I know that I would easily give up a thousand Norahs to have you in my life.”
~ Reema Iqbal | Edited by Afreen Zeb