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The Eid Engagement, and Other Weddings # 27

US
By Iqra Asad
Fri, 12, 21

“I never thought about this happening,” Hina said emphatically. “Ever.” She stared at Ray....

The Eid Engagement, and Other Weddings # 27

COVER STORY

Ammi called Hina over later that week to tell her something. “Hina, we are going to go look at a girl for Rayyan,” she said. “Rayyan, your Abbu and myself will be going. You are to accompany us as a member of the family. Don’t speak up, just sit there and smile. Got it?”

Hina nodded. She chased down Ray in the living room and clapped a hand to his shoulder. “Who’s the girl?” she asked, bouncing on her feet.

“You’ll find out,” Ray said, pushing her hand off his shoulder.

“You can’t push me off like that!” Hina said, raising her hand to slam into him again. “You, of all people, going to get a girl of his own! I never thought it would happen.”

“It was going to happen someday, right?” Ray said, half smiling.

“I never thought about this happening,” Hina said emphatically. “Ever.” She stared at Ray.

“Well, you can start thinking about it now,” Ray said.

“I don’t know,” Hina said. “Why won’t you tell me who the mystery girl is? Ammi never tells me anything, but now you’re acting just like Ammi and not telling me anything.”

“Has it ever occurred to you that Ammi might have her reasons for not telling you things?” Ray asked, stretching his arms.

The Eid Engagement, and Other Weddings # 27

“Like I could ever ask Ammi what her reasons are,” Hina said. “I can ask you, though. Why won’t you tell me?”

Ray stared back at Hina for a while without speaking. Then he said, “You know, Hina, and don’t react badly to this, but-”

“Who said I would react badly?” Hina said, shooting up from her seat.

“Let me finish talking,” Ray said. “Sit down.”

“Now that you know I want to know something only you can tell me, you think you can tell me what to do,” Hina said, falling into her seat with a huff.

The Eid Engagement, and Other Weddings # 27

“All I’m saying is that you react very explosively to things,” Ray said. “If Ammi doesn’t tell you something, and certainly why I’m not telling you right now, the reason is the same. We’re avoiding your explosion.”

“That’s not fair to say!” Hina said. “I can’t even get upset in this family?”

“Get upset,” Ray said. “I always listen to you when you’re upset. You know that, right?”

Hina let out a long, hard breath. “Yes,” she said.

“Now if I have one very exceptional situation in which I want to avoid your reaction for the time being, you’ll have to forgive me for it,” Ray said.

“Yeah, but did it have to be this particular thing?” Hina asked. “I’m so curious.”

The Eid Engagement, and Other Weddings # 27

“I’m sorry, Hina, but that’s just the way it is,” Ray said.

“Can’t you trust me with this?” Hina asked, tears welling up in her eyelids.

“I’m sorry,” Ray said again. “I’m sorry.”

Hina burst out crying and ran from the room.

***

The day of the meeting came. The family went out all ready with their best version of themselves. In the car, Hina wondered how long it would take to get there. She was surprised when she saw they kept driving along the roads of their own colony with no signs of heading beyond it. “That’s funny,” Hina said to herself. “This is the road to Gohar’s house.” In no time at all, the car had stopped.

“This is Gohar’s house,” Hina said to herself as everyone else started getting out of the car. She got out of the car and looked upward. There was no Gohar excitedly awaiting her arrival at the balcony. Was this girl a relative of Gohar’s, Hina thought.

Inside, Gohar’s family welcomed them warmly. Hina could not hide her confusion. It was the same house and the same family she had known for so long, but it was all wrong. She looked around for Ray and found him a bundle of nerves, sweating under the bright lights. What is he so anxious about all of a sudden, she thought.

The Eid Engagement, and Other Weddings # 27

The two families exchanged pleasantries until Gohar’s mother indicated that she would go get Gohar. Hina wondered to herself why Gohar couldn’t walk in to meet them herself and why Gohar’s mother had to go fetch her. Gohar should be here at my side while we’ve come to look at this mystery girl, Hina thought.

Gohar walked in, matching Ray’s display of nerves. She sat shyly with her family, not particularly looking at anyone, certainly not acknowledging Hina.

It took some time for Hina to realise that something had hit her hard. The experience was almost dreamlike. The blow came first but she didn’t feel the impact. What she felt was the whooshing in her ears and the sensation of not being connected to anything in the room. Then the impact connected, snatching the floor out from under her and pulling her under the tide. She sank. The whooshing got louder until it was all there was. She floated in the aftershock of the blow. It took some time to reconnect to solid ground, for her ears to register actual sounds. Then she was back in her body. The shockwave had passed, leaving her feeling wrecked, all alone on a spotless beach with the waves rushing back from the shore.

The Eid Engagement, and Other Weddings # 27

This is how Hina felt when it hit her that the girl they had come to look at was Gohar. Gohar! Her own, her friend, the sister she’d never had. Gohar, giggling along with Amani during phone calls. Gohar, sending late night text messages before exams. Gohar, who always had to have the cherry on top of the ice cream. Hina had saved the chocolate-filled end of so many ice cream cones for Gohar. Hina had sent and received reassurances during many late-night texting sessions with Gohar. Hina had saved the good spot during so many movie marathons for Gohar. Then Gohar had to go and snatch her brother behind Hina’s back! How did Gohar and Ray think they could go ahead with this without involving her? How had they even come up with this plan in the first place? Hina had some well-chosen words for both of them, but especially for Gohar. Gohar was supposed to be her friend. She was not supposed to make plans behind Hina’s back. Especially plans involving her brother!

“I am going to show you,” Hina muttered, “exactly who you’ve been messing with.”

To be continued...