With the wedding feast over, the guests started leaving until only close family members and friends were left in the hall. Finally, it was time for rukhsati. Sameer and Hina stood up amidst a crowd of photographers, family and friends.
Sameer looked at Hina and asked, “Are you ready?”
“As ready as I’ll ever be,” Hina said, taking a step towards the steps of the stage.
To Hina, everything seemed to move in slow motion. Walking down the aisle with Sameer, surrounded by flashing lights and the guests, Hina felt the weight of their gazes on her. She did not crack, however. She was expected to cry, but she felt a strange numbness stealing over her.
Before getting into the car, she hugged her parents, one after another. There were dry eyes on both sides. It was a lot more difficult to not cry when it was Ray and Gohar hugging her.
Amani, however, was more concerned about Hina’s looks, and could not resist doing one last check of her bridal makeup. “Don’t you dare cry and ruin your makeup,” she hissed in her ear. “There, now, you’re good to go.” Amani grinned at her.
Hina got into the car. Amani and Gohar helped her dispose her bridal dress properly on the seat. Sameer sat in the front, driving the car. His father sat next to him and his mother sat beside Hina.
“Are you all right, dear?” Sameer’s mother asked Hina. Hina nodded, folding her hands over her dress demurely and looking out the window. The familiar city sights swept past her as they made their way to Sameer’s parents’ house. When they finally arrived there, Hina looked at the house, took a deep breath and went inside. By this time, she was feeling very uncomfortable in her high heels, but she could hardly kick off her shoes in front of Sameer’s family members who were gathered in the living room to welcome the new couple. Hina smiled at their jokes and answered a bunch of questions as the family sat together until late into the night. Finally, Sameer pointedly looked at his watch. “It’s time to go,” he said.
Hina shot him a questioning look.
“To the hotel,” Sameer said. “We cannot survive among all these people any longer.”
One of his cousins playfully punched him in the arm. “Hey, don’t do that to my wedding suit,” Sameer said, but he was smiling.
This time it was just Hina and Sameer in the car. Hina had to tuck in her dress around herself and rearrange her jhumar. Finally, reassured that all of her bridal gear was in proper order, she said, “Sameer?”
“What is it?” Sameer asked.
“Did you get my bag? I made a bag for tonight and it needs to come with me,” Hina said.
“I got it,” Sameer said. “Your sister-in-law told me which one it was.”
“All right,” Hina said. A few minutes passed in silence, then Hina let out a sigh of relief.
“It was a lot, wasn’t it?” Sameer said.
“It sure was,” Hina said. “It’s nice to be away from all the noise.”
“The noise and the lights!” Sameer said.
“That’s right.” Hina twirled one of her rings. “Which hotel are we going to?”
Sameer told her. “Wow, you really want to impress me, huh,” Hina said. Sameer just smiled and kept his eyes on the road.
Hina told herself it was just one short walk to the hotel room before she could remove her heels. As the building came into view, she told herself again she could make the walk. Gathering her dress around her, she followed Sameer as he got them through the front desk and got a bellboy to bring their bags. Their room key in hand, Sameer extended his arm to her. Hina took it. She kept holding onto it in the elevator and as Sameer walked her into the room.
“Brr, it’s so cold,” she said.
“I’ll turn on the heater,” Sameer said. He flipped it on as he walked past.
“Let’s put the bags here,” he said to the bellboy. The bellboy set their bags down and left.
Hina sat down on the bed. She finally kicked her heels off and sat up, pulling her dress around her. “It’s not getting any warmer, is it?” she asked.
Sameer checked the heater. “This thing doesn’t seem to be working,” he said.
“Maybe it takes a little while to start working?” Hina asked.
“It’s been a while, though,” Sameer said. “Let’s give it a little longer.” He sat down next to Hina. “I have something for you.”
“Oh, yes, that!” Hina said.
Sameer pulled a ring box from his pocket and took out a splendid ring. “Let me put it on your finger,” he said.
“Put it on this one,” Hina said, giving him her hand. “It’s really pretty.”
Sameer’s face shone with happiness. Then he sneezed. “Sorry,” he said.
“It’s just so cold,” Hina said.
“I’m going to ring the front desk,” Sameer said.
He picked up the phone and dialed. “They’re going to send someone to take a look at it.” He looked at Hina with an apologetic face. “Don’t worry; everything will be all right soon.”
“In the meantime, will you bring me my bag? I need to take out a sweater,” Hina said.
They spent the time waiting for someone to come and fix the heater, putting on layers to stay warm. Hina, who’d had trouble getting hers on over all the work on her bridal dress, looked up to see Sameer struggling with a sweatshirt. They locked eyes for half a second, then burst out laughing.
“This is not how I expected tonight to go,” Sameer said, after the person who had come to check the heater had confirmed that it needed repair work, and that he would send the nighttime maintenance man shortly.
“I mean, it’s such an expensive suite, at least the heater should work,” Hina said. Sameer looked even more dejected. “Can’t we get another room?”
“They’re all full, except for the presidential suite,” Sameer said. Hina looked at him expectantly. “Hina, it’s empty for a reason. Do you know how much it costs?” He told her the amount.
Hina’s jaw dropped. “No way!” she said. At that point, there was a knock on the door. The repairman walked in to fix the heater, accompanied by a member of staff whose primary job appeared to be to keep apologising to them. He gave them free vouchers for the hotel’s biggest restaurant, which was currently closed due to how late at night it was. Hina and Sameer exchanged another look. The repairman coughed loudly and scratched his armpit.
“I have an idea of how to make this better,” Hina said.
“Really? Tell me, because all my plans have gone down the drain,” Sameer said.
To be continued…