Taskiya Mansoor had a tiny bit of a problem. If someone were to ask her, of course, she would fiercely deny this and insist that everything was fine.
But the truth was, Taskiya did have a problem. And it was getting out of hand.
It had all started years ago, when Taskiya was still in university. She’d met a young man and, instantly, she’d known she had to have him. She’d gotten him too, with so little effort that it had been laughable.
But keeping her captivating young man had been easier said than done. He’d had morals, you see. And eventually, those morals had overpowered Taskiya’s hold on him. She’d seen the signs and it had enraged her to the point that she’d flung him as far away from her as she could – before he could leave of his own power. Controlling their parting had soothed her but from there, her little problem had begun.
She’d been unable to get him out of her mind and, in the end, she’d resorted to using technology to keep up with him. It had been tough – Taahir was intensely private and the few glimpses she’d caught of him had been few and far between despite how thoroughly she’d searched.
In the past year, it had become easier though. First, she’d seen photographs of him from his walimah, something that had thrown her into a towering rage even as she appreciated the way his face had matured in the time since she’d last seen it.
It had been child’s play to find his wife’s name and then, Taskiya had a new subject – Faiza Amir.
She’d soon been thwarted there though – Faiza followed that outdated tradition of covering her face. Taskiya still couldn’t understand why Taahir had decided to marry such a woman. She was short, round and she had to be plain – no beauty would hide herself in shame that way.
But, Taskiya had finally found her chance. Faiza Amir had just released her first cookbook and the young woman would be hosting an intimate get-together in a week.
Taskiya couldn’t wait.
Taahir had always been one of her few regrets and now, she could fix things!
She’d have him back!
Taskiya was unsettled the entire week. She’d found her thoughts drifting towards Taahir and Faiza countless times. Her curiosity overwhelmed her and she’d even begun to daydream about the day when it would finally be satisfied.
She’d get to see what kind of woman had finally captured Taahir – she knew that there must be some shining quality that she was missing. Taahir wasn’t stupid, he wouldn’t have been easily tricked. Even she, Taskiya, had had a hard time keeping Taahir. Faiza must have some formidable trump card hidden in her sleeve.
A thought occurred to Taskiya and she froze, eyes wide. What if Faiza had blackmailed Taahir? What if she’d forced him into their marriage? How disgusting!
But how plausible! Poor Taahir. She simply had to save him.
She began to plot – she would no longer be satisfied with an acquaintance with Faiza. She needed to become this woman’s confidante, to gain her trust. If she could find Taahir something to hold over Faiza’s head, he would be free! And then, well then there would be no reason for him to not fall at her feet!
It was perfect.
Taskiya smiled triumphantly and lost herself in pleasant daydreams.
Faiza was a wreck. Her nerves had been building since the day she’d received the first copies of her book and now, they’d reached a fever pitch. In just a few hours, she would be hosting a launch!
It was small – she’d insisted on keeping the guest list under twenty people – but the thought of having twenty strangers looking at her and listening to her speak was still daunting. She refused to even think of the proper launch that would be happening in a few days – there she wouldn’t be able to limit the number of people.
Taahir had been trying to calm her all morning, but nothing worked. Eventually, he’d grabbed his keys and set off somewhere, promising to be back soon. Faiza had no idea where he’d gone – she’d barely been listening when he told her.
She looked at the kitchen clock. It was almost nine. She’d need to leave to oversee the set up of everything in a half hour.
The thought made her nauseous and she had a wild urge to just cancel everything and go hide under the bed.
Faiza pulled in a deep breath. She knew what Taahir would say – it was what he’d said whenever she’d had thoughts of scrapping her book or throwing in the towel with her studies.
‘I’ll support whatever you decide to do. But you’re almost at the finish line – isn’t it worth a little more work to get to the end when you’re so close?’
Faiza took in a deliberate deep breath, prayed for a moment and then went to go look at her book. It always reminded her why she was putting herself through all the stress and worry.
Taahir returned a few minutes later and found her sitting, turning the pages.
He stood in the doorway, watching her for a moment, enjoying the contentment on her face. It had been scarce of late. She’d been rushed and miserable, trying to finish a degree and publish a book at the same time and he’d missed his bright wife.
Faiza finally noticed him in the doorway, grinning helplessly. “What?” she asked him enquiringly. “What’s got you smiling so wide?”
“You,” he told her simply. “You’re back.”
Faiza winced. She knew that the past few months had been hard on Taahir. He’d missed her just as much as she’d missed him.
“Sorry,” she apologized, getting up to greet him properly. “I am back. And I don’t plan to go anywhere again.”
“You’d better not!” Taahir laughed. “Come eat.”
“I didn’t make breakfast yet,” Faiza said apologetically. “What do you want?”
Taahir thought for a moment. “Doughnuts, pancakes, fruit…”
He broke off at the panicked look on Faiza’s face. “And it’s already waiting on the table. Come on, it’s getting cold.”
Faiza put her hands on her hips and shook her head at him. “You – you – ugh! You gave me such a shock!”
Taahir tried to look innocent but failed miserably. “It was an accident?” he tried.
Faiza started giggling.