The day came when Ammi picked up the phone in the living room, had an in-depth conversation and then retreated to the drawing room with Abbu. Hina picked up on the signs but held back from going to Ray. She was surprised when Ray ended up coming to her room himself.
“Go away, you don’t exist for me anymore,” Hina said, opening the door and letting him in.
“Just hold on to the idea of being my sister a little bit longer,” Ray said, sitting down at Hina’s desk. “We’re going to find out what Gohar’s parents have to say about me.”
“Why come to me then?” Hina tapped her foot. “You know how I feel about this.”
“You’re still my little sister,” Ray said. “I know deep down inside, you still care.”
“Keep on telling yourself that,” Hina said. “How long will it take Ammi to tell us the results?”
“You’re saying results like it’s a cricket match,” Ray said.
“You know what,” Hina said. “If it’s taking them this long to talk about it, then it’s a yes. It doesn’t take this long to process a no.”
Ray went pale. “You really think so?” he asked.
“I know so,” Hina said. “See, your sister comes through for you even when she’s disappointed in you.”
“That’s why I’m here,” Ray said. “I can’t wait this out by myself.”
“Of course you can,” Hina said. “You just don’t want to. You’re so eager to find out you can’t sit still.”
Ray was far from being a picture of eagerness. He looked like he was going to pass out.
“Oh, well, you can sit there and I’ll bring you some tea,” Hina said. “The things I do for you even though you’ve broken my heart.” She left the room.
“That’s my Hina,” Ray said to himself.
“What did you say?” Hina called out from the hall.
“Nothing,” Ray called out.
“It had better be,” Hina said to herself.
It took another two days before Ammi was ready to share anything with the children. Hina kept joking that they should hook up Ray to an IV line of tea so there would be any colour in his face. When Ammi finally gathered Ray and Hina together, she said, “I called Gohar’s mother back today. She had called me to say that she likes Rayyan for her daughter. I confirmed with her that we are happy with her daughter for Rayyan as well. Now it is official, and we have decided the wedding will be in three months.” Hina noticed colour return to Ray’s face for the first time in days. “Hina, you will come with me to the market to do all the errands we must run for the wedding. Ray, I will need you to take the car and run wedding errands for me also. There is no time to waste. Follow me in everything I tell you to do. Now I must talk to your Abbu about this in more detail.” She left.
Hina looked around for Ray but he had disappeared. Then she noticed him rise from the carpet where he had been prostrating in gratitude. “This is becoming even more like a cricket match the longer it goes on,” she said.
“Aren’t you going to congratulate me?” Ray asked softly. He was glowing with happiness. Hina thought he might just start floating instead of walking.
“I don’t know how to feel about this,” Hina said. “Ammi actually told you about your wedding when she set it. I feel like I’m the only one who gets left out of plans by Ammi, when she didn’t tell me about my own engagement. You get special treatment.”
It seemed that Ray was too happy to pay attention to where Hina’s thoughts were going. “You owe me a congratulations,” he said. He started walking away from Hina. “I need to be by myself for a while. I’ll talk to you later.” He left with a spring in his step.
Hina was left in doom and gloom. She shuffled her feet all the way to her own bedroom, where she slid onto the bed and opened her phone to call Gohar. Surely, now Gohar will pick up my call, she thought.
Gohar picked up on the third ring. “Hina!“ her voice overflowed with joy.
“Congratulations,” Hina said in a dull tone.
“Thank you!” Gohar spoke fast. “I can’t tell you how much I’ve been waiting to get to talk to you again. I’m so excited now that it’s finally official. Hina, we’re going to be sisters!”
“Sisters-in-law,” Hina said in the same lifeless voice.
“Yes, yes,” Gohar said, continuing to talk in a cheerful mood as if she did not pick up on Hina’s attitude. “We need to get Amani in on this call so we can share the happiness!” She dialed a call through to Amani, who joined the call. Hina just stared at her phone in disbelief.
“What’s the rush, hey?” Amani said. “Looks like you’ve got news!”
“I sure do!” Gohar said. “Hina, why don’t you tell her?”
“I, uh...” Hina thought desperately for an excuse.
“Looks like she’s getting shy,” Amani said. “Is it about her wedding?”
“You’re very close,” Gohar said. “Amani, it’s about my wedding!”
“Your wedding!” Amani said. “So soon! You sound happy about it, though! That’s good. Congratulations! Who’s the guy?”
“You’ll never guess,” Gohar said.
“Don’t make me guess, then!” Amani said.
“I’m going to be a part of Hina’s family,” Gohar said. “Ray sent a proposal for me, and my mother accepted!”
“Ray—Hina’s brother Ray? You sure?” Amani asked. “No wonder Hina’s all quiet. Hina, don’t you know it’s the bride’s job to be all shy? It’s not the sister’s job to get shy on the couple’s behalf.”
“I’m just so happy,” Gohar said. She broke out into a sob.
“What are you crying about now?“ Amani asked.
“It’s just...it was so confusing when my parents started looking for someone for me so soon after my engagement fell apart,” Gohar said with a sniff. “I never thought I’d get a proposal that makes so much sense. I know and trust Hina so much, of course I’d be happy with her brother. It’s like the most personal and appropriate proposal I could have gotten, and there I was thinking my parents would pair me up with goodness knows who. It all worked out in the end, though!”
“Good for you,” Amani said. “Now, if we are to maintain this call as a group call in any sense of the word, we’re going to have to unlock Hina’s silence. The poor thing is overcome with emotion, apparently.”
“I’m just fine, thank you.” Hina spoke up. “Can we talk about something else now?”
“Oh, of course,” Gohar said. “Now is the perfect time to talk about wedding preparations!”
“You said it,” Amani said. “You’re going to be busy.”
“Yes, the wedding is in three months!” Gohar said.
“You have no time at all,” Amani said. “Let us get together and make plans.”
“I’m, uh, already on market duty with my mother,” Hina said. “I’ll be busy.”
“Oh, so you won’t be participating in wedding preparations from Gohar‘s side? Too busy with your brother’s stuff?” Amani said.
“You got it,” Hina said.
“Well, we can show you the shopping anyway when we’re done,” Amani said. “Don’t worry about it.”
“Worrying is the last thing on my mind,” Hina said firmly.
To be continued...