Monday, 10 November 2014
Undying Affinity - Prologue
Washington, D.C., U.S.A.
It was 6 a.m. when his phone started to buzz. He was snoring on the couch next to the single bed in his daughter’s room.
Having retired quite late, it was impossible for Ahmar to wake up and receive the call. Still groggy from his late night, he almost decided to ignore it, but the buzzing was insistent, demanding.
He checked his cell phone through squinting eyes, unsurprised to see the name of the caller. It was his father, Muraad Hussain calling long-distance from Pakistan.
There was a ten-hour time difference between Washington D.C and Lahore, so it was 4 p.m. back in Lahore, he surmised.
“Hello?” His voice was hoarse, his eyes half-shut.
“Ahmar,” Muraad whispered over the phone.
“Dad…hey, how are you?” He pushed the duvet off as he sat up and rubbed his eyes. “You’re calling at this time? Is everything okay?”
“No son. I’m afraid not,” Muraad answered.
Ahmar creased his brows in worry.
“Zia Munawwar is no longer among us.” Muraad declared.
A long and disturbing silence ensued. Hearing Zia Munawwar’s name, a chill swept over his entire body. A blurred vision of her face came across his eyes.
“How…how did this…what happened?” Ahmar tried to gather his wits.
“Heart attack. I want you to fly to Pakistan immediately. The funeral is taking place tomorrow evening so you have enough time. There was something Mr. Zia wanted to confess to you,” Muraad told him.
Ahmar was traumatized for a minute; literally shocked. He had no doubt about what his father was talking about.
“But Dad--” Ahmar went on.
“Ahmar.” Muraad interrupted him. “Mrs. Zia is very worried because she hasn’t turned up yet.”
“What? Where is she?” Ahmar asked, surprised.
“Nobody knows. You have to come here. Zia wanted to talk to you but God did not grant him sufficient time. He has left a message for you. Son, come back and resolve everything. I think it’s time.”
Ahmar hung up without any answer. He was not sure what he was going to do. In Lahore, Muraad put down the receiver with satisfaction, unfazed by the abrupt end to the call. He knew his son would do the right thing.
Ahmar got up from the couch and then crumpled the duvet placed on the bed with restless fingers. The sound woke the young girl lying on the same bed.
“What happened, Papa? Why were you sleeping on the couch?” she whispered.
Ahmar turned his head to glance at his 9-year-old daughter. He stroked her hair gently.
“Nothing, my love. I was tired. Just go back to sleep, okay? There’s still time before school. I’ll wake you up at 8.” He stroked her hair once more. She took a long peaceful sigh and drifted off to sleep again.
He headed to the washroom to take a hot shower.
By the time he woke up his daughter, he was fully dressed. She threw him some tantrums first and in response, he easily scooped her up into his arms and carried her to the washroom. He got her to brush her teeth and helped her in getting dressed. Though she was 9 years old, Ahmar treated her like a toddler. He made breakfast for both of them and then drove her to the school.
On his way to the University, where he worked, Ahmar called his agent to book an immediate flight and arrange a round trip ticket for him. Then he called her sister, Samira who had been living in U.S for quite a long time. She moved right after her marriage. Ahmar had decided to drop his daughter at Samira’s place because he was not going to take her with him to Pakistan.
“You don’t have to go, Ahmar. You’ve already suffered a lot in the past,” Samira told him over the phone.
“I have to. I want to know what is still left for me. Zia Munawwar wanted to confess something to me,” he said.
“But he’s no more,” Samira recalled.
“Yes, but he has left a message for me.”
Samira shook her head in dissatisfaction.
“Please take care of my daughter. I’ll be back soon,” he said.