Faiza flitted around the kitchen happily, relishing the rare experience of cooking for something that was neither a photo shoot nor so that she and Taahir had something to eat.
She’d missed this. She’d missed cooking being something that made her happy, not frustrated and exhausted. ‘Thank goodness for Taskiya,’ she thought to herself. Ever since Faiza had gotten the first message from Taskiya, she’d jumped at the chance to get to know the other woman better. Taskiya was so sweet!
It had only taken a quick suggestion from Taskiya that they meet for coffee and Faiza had jumped to invite Taskiya over for lunch. She’d begun imagining the lunch she’d put together before even receiving Taskiya’s acceptance of her invitation and she loved it.
Faiza hadn’t realized just how much she’d missed her passion. Not until she’d begun to feel it again. But she could already feel the change in herself. She was in the best mood she’d been in in months.
Not for the first time, Faiza wondered if she’d made the right decision when she’d decided to write a cook book. Not because she was nervous or because she was worried no one would like it but because of the strain it put on her.
For once, she didn’t immediately insist to herself that she had. For once, she thought about it properly. And she realized that she didn’t know. She’d achieved something wonderful but was the cost something she was willing to live with?
She was pulled out of her musings by the demands of the pots she had bubbling on the stove and she gratefully seized the chance to stop thinking so hard.
For an hour, she stirred and sliced and, when she’d finished, she switched on her oven and grabbed the flour. By the time she finally stood back, wiping the sweat from her brow, every vaguely flat surface in her kitchen was covered with food.
Faiza smiled lightly and thought nostalgically of the last time her kitchen had been so filled – in the early days of her marriage, when she’d been terrified because Taahir had disappeared.
She’d been so young then. And she would never have dreamed that her life would be so different a year later.
Faiza shook her head, trying to get rid of the serious thoughts plaguing her. Now was not the time. She had a guest coming in less than an hour – it was not the time to be questioning the direction her life was going in.
Taskiya fought to keep her face free of the glee she was feeling, feigning a sympathetic expression. Silly little Faiza had completely let her guard down and even confided in her about her worries over the book she’d published. Taskiya had been thrilled to hear how confused Faiza was. It seemed that the younger woman really wasn’t a threat – she’d been so gullible as to show her soft spots to an almost complete stranger!
Taskiya continued making soothing noises and feeding Faiza meaningless platitudes for a while before taking her chance.
“What about your husband?” she asked in an innocent tone. “I hope he’s supporting you during this tough time?”
Faiza hurried to insist that Taahir was incredibly supportive. “I feel guilty sometimes,” she confided. “I know I’ve been neglecting him lately but he’s still so understanding. I really need to do something nice for him to thank him.”
Taskiya frowned hard. “He’s supposed to be understanding though,” she told Faiza. “If he weren’t, he’d be a horrible person.”
Faiza blinked. “I suppose,” she said slowly.
“In fact,” Taskiya added, seeing a chance to make mischief, “he’d probably be insulted if you thanked him for something so basic.”
Now Faiza was frowning. “Do you think so?” she asked.
“Of course! I know I’d be insulted if I was thanked for something so small.”
Faiza smiled uncertainly and said nothing. She didn’t agree with Taskiya but the other woman seemed so sure of herself… She resolved to do something small for Taahir anyway – she didn’t have to thank him specifically but she did want to pamper him a bit, even if his support was something she should count on.
Soon, it was time for Taskiya to leave. She lingered as long as she could but it wasn’t long enough for her to bump into Taahir. ‘Next time,’ she comforted herself, knowing that it would take a while for her plans to come to fruition.
Taahir walked into the apartment that evening to a sight that he’d sorely missed – a kitchen filled with food but no cameras in sight. Faiza was cooking again!
Walking into the kitchen, his eyes widened. It looked like Faiza had tried to make up for all the times she hadn’t cooked all at once. Their kitchen was full of enough food to feed a dozen people – for a week!
He went in search of his wife and found her busily drying her hair. She spun around at the sight of him in her mirror and started to talk before shaking her head and turning back to switch off her hair dryer.
“Sorry,” Faiza apologized, “I didn’t hear you over that noise.”
Taahir leaned down to greet her. “Are we having some guests over?”
Faiza frowned in confusion. “Not that I know of, why?”
“Just wondering. The kitchen’s pretty full.”
Faiza winced. “I got into a groove,” she explained. “It was nice to cook for fun again.”
Taahir smiled. “I’m happy to hear it,” he told her.
“Your stomach is happy to hear it,” Faiza corrected.
“That too,” Taahir didn’t see any point in denying it. “But I am happy to hear that you’re having fun again, Faiza. Really,” he said earnestly.
Faiza sighed. “I’m beginning to doubt that this cookbook was really a good idea after all,” she confessed.
Taahir hugged her, opening his mouth to reassure her automatically. “You’re doing great.”
Faiza pulled away. “I know,” she whispered. “But at what cost?” She turned around and looked searchingly at Taahir. “Can you really tell me that you aren’t unhappy with how much of my time is being eaten up?”
Taahir hesitated and Faiza put her head in her hands. “I knew it,” she said miserably.