‘It can’t be her,’ he insisted to himself. ‘There’s no way. Mansoor is a common name, there must be other women with the same name as her. And Faiza would have told me if she’d made contact. It’s just a coincidence. A shocking, awful coincidence.’
Faiza looked at him expectantly. “Who is it, Taahir?”
“Taskiya Mansoor,” Taahir replied evenly. “Who’s that?” he asked, trying to sound casual.
“Oh!” Faiza put down her trays and hurried over. “She’s the friend I made at the launch, the one who came to visit yesterday. She’s so sweet.”
Faiza continued gushing for a few moments and Taahir felt his blood pressure drop. The Taskiya Mansoor he knew barely understood how to turn on a stove. There was no way she would have attended Faiza’s launch.
“You should meet her,” Faiza said suddenly.
“Taskiya, you should meet her. The two of you would probably get along great. She studied in the same field you did, I think.”
Taahir nodded, suddenly feeling panicky again. ‘Don’t overreact,’ he admonished himself. ‘That means nothing. It’s still just a coincidence.’
“Taahir? Is something wrong?”
Taahir shook his head immediately. “No, nothing. Just a bit sleepy is all.”
Faiza looked unconvinced but she didn’t push the issue.
“When did you want me to meet this Taskiya?”
“I’ll invite her over for supper on Friday?” Faiza suggested.
“Sure,” Taahir said, smiling tightly. ‘It’s not her. It’s going to be just fine.’
Taskiya prepared for supper on Friday with a giddy smile on her face. She booked in for a haircut, manicure and facial and went on a shopping spree. Finally, she made a trip to a make up artist to make sure she looked her absolute best.
Butterflies churned in her stomach. She would be seeing her Taahir for the first time in so many years. She couldn’t wait for him to fall at her feet again.
Taskiya’s one concession towards modesty was that her dress was full-length. She made up for that by ensuring it was skin-tight, however.
She looked at herself in the mirror and smiled at a job well done. She looked stunning and Taahir would fall to his knees when he saw her.
She thought of Faiza with pity. The stupid woman was killing her own marriage and she didn’t even know it. Again, Taskiya pondered the question of what Faiza had on Taahir and again, she couldn’t understand. The woman she’d been playing with was nowhere near conniving and skilled enough to trap him. So how on Earth had that marriage happened.
Taskiya thought of pitiful Faiza again and an explanation presented itself to her. Taahir must have felt sorry for her! He had always been a bit of a bleeding heart and it was all too possible that he’d felt so bad for little Faiza that he hadn’t been able to say no to her.
Taskiya felt comforted. Pitiful though Faiza may be, Taahir’s martyr complex wouldn’t be enough to make him resist Taskiya. She’d soon have him for herself and Faiza would be forgotten like so much unnecessary baggage.
Taskiya applied a final coat of blood-red lipstick before she was ready to leave.
‘Tonight, we finally get our ending,’ she thought happily.
Taahir spent Friday trying to delay going home. He cleared out his emails, organized his desk, fiddled with his calendar and got a head start on his work for the week ahead. Finally, there was no more putting it off.
He had to go home.
In a last ditch effort, he texted Faiza to ask her if she needed anything from the grocery store, praying she said yes.
She didn’t need anything and so he was forced to arrive far sooner than he wished.
As he walked toward his front door, he reminded himself that he had no reason to worry. There was a minuscule chance that Faiza had met that Taskiya, so remote that it should be nothing to worry about. He was being silly.
The door swung open before he had a chance to even grab his keys. Faiza had a habit of hurrying to it and opening it for him if she heard him coming.
He smiled and hugged her close for a moment. “I missed you,” he told her, kissing the top of her head.
Faiza laughed. “You always say that.”
“It’s always true,” Taahir insisted.
Faiza pulled away lightly but Taahir kept his arms around her. “Taahir, we have a guest,” she reminded him lightly.
“Right,” Taahir agreed, making no move to let go.
Faiza pulled back a little more and Taahir finally relented, stepping away.
“I love you,” Faiza told him, kissing his cheek. “Now come meet Taskiya,” she added, taking hold of his arm and tugging him into the lounge.
Taahir stopped dead at the threshold and Faiza looked up at him in concern. “Taahir?” she asked lightly. “What’s wrong?”
“I just remembered something I forgot in the car,” Taahir told her, barely aware of what he was saying.
Faiza frowned. “What?”
“Oh. Okay, do you need to go get it now?” Faiza looked slightly annoyed.
“I don’t want to forget about it.” Taahir smiled down at his wife apologetically. “I’ll just be a minute.”
With that, he left the apartment, almost running in his haste to get away.
Faiza smiled uneasily as she watched her husband depart. She turned to Taskiya apologetically. “Sorry about that,” she said. “I think he’s just worried about his mother or work calling tomorrow and not having his phone with him.”
“He seems very attached to it,” Taskiya said, frowning.
“I – suppose,” Faiza said hesitantly.
“Faiza, are you sure everything’s alright? I’ve never seen a man so eager to get to his cellphone. Not for any decent reason anyway.”
Faiza stared at Taskiya in shock. “What?!” she cried shrilly.
Taskiya lifted her hands consolingly. “I’m just saying, are you sure everything’s alright? I’ve seen it happen so often, I just – I needed to mention it.”
“Taahir isn’t like that,” Faiza said stiffly. “He’s never been like that. He wouldn’t do such things.”
Taskiya looked relieved. “Good,” she said. “I’m sorry if you feel like I overstepped Faiza but I’m not the kind of person who keeps quiet out of fear.”
“You meant well, I understand,” was all Faiza said.