Taahir sat in his car, cursing silently. ‘It was her. It was her all along and Faiza loves her. How did this happen? How did my wife somehow meet the woman who I nearly ruined my life with?’
Taahir thought back to some of the things Faiza had mentioned about Taskiya and felt even more confused. The woman Faiza had described had been nice. Taskiya was the furthest thing from nice Taahir had ever met. And they’d met at Faiza’s launch, Taahir remembered dazedly.
Was it possible? Could it be possible that Taskiya had changed?
‘You’re different in a thousand ways,’ he thought. ‘Is it so hard to believe that she changed too?’
It wasn’t. And that scared him more than anything. He’d thought of Taskiya as a temptress for so long that trying to think of her as reformed was hard. Thinking of her at all felt dangerous, as though he was once again going to fall under her spell. He knew that he’d been weak, too weak to resist her.
If he stopped constantly reminding himself of the danger she posed, would he fall again?
He didn’t know.
But did he have the right to vilify her if she’d changed?
He didn’t know that either.
Taahir groaned, lightly hitting his head against the steering wheel. He didn’t know what to do and he was running out of time. Faiza would be wondering where he’d gotten to and soon, she’d know something was wrong.
Finally, he made a decision and jumped out of the car, praying that he wasn’t making a huge mistake.
Faiza sighed in relief when Taahir returned. The conversation hadn’t recovered from Taskiya’s insinuations and the awkwardness had become close to unbearable.
“It’s wonderful to meet you, Taahir,” Taskiya stood up and hugged him. Faiza saw Taahir’s back stiffen and winced. She rushed to separate the two, making a mental note to discuss it with Taskiya the next time they spoke.
The night was awkward despite her best efforts. Taahir was jumpy and she knew he didn’t feel comfortable. She felt guilty about ruining his Friday and set about trying to make the night end early as subtly as she could.
Finally, Taskiya seemed to pick up on the little hints she’d been throwing out all night and the other woman began to speak of leaving soon.
Faiza retreated to the kitchen for a moment and collapsed against the counters, unable to believe how badly the night had gone.
In front of Taahir, Taskiya suddenly seemed less nice, her behaviour less excusable than it had been before.
‘I’m beginning to think I made a horrible mistake,’ she thought glumly. ‘I was so lonely… But that’s no excuse. Poor Taahir, let me go save him. No wonder he’s been acting strange all night.’
Faiza grabbed the dessert she’d been meant to retrieve and made her way back to the dining room. She walked in with her eyes on the fragile dish she was carrying and so it wasn’t until she was already in the room that she registered something was wrong.
Taahir was leaning so far to the side of his chair that he looked like he was about to fall out of it. Taskiya leaned over him and even Faiza recognized her sultry expression for what it was.
As she stared, frozen in horror, Taahir finally managed to get Taskiya away from him.
“You need to leave,” he told her firmly.
Taskiya laughed. “Oh give it up, Taahir. There’s no need to keep pretending. Just tell her you’re divorcing her and we can be together without any messy little obstacles in the way.”
“Taskiya, get out!” Taahir demanded, shoving her away.
He went to the door and yanked it open, pulling Taskiya along with him. “Leave and don’t come back,” he instructed her coldly.
It took a while, but finally the strange woman was gone and what had happened while Faiza was gone began to sink in.
She dropped the dish in her hands with a rattle before clapping her hand over her mouth and bolting to the bathroom.
Taahir found her there a few minutes later, knelt over the toilet and crying hysterically.
“Faiza? Fae, listen to me, whatever you’re thinking… Nothing happened, I promise.”
Faiza shook her head.
“Really,” Taahir insisted.
“Crazy,” Faiza gasped out, still hugging the toilet.
“What?” Taahir looked down at her in confusion.
“That woman! She’s crazy. And I wanted to be friends with her.” The thought made Faiza’s stomach twist again and she bent over the toilet.
“She’s always been that way,” Taahir said ruefully.
“Always?” Faiza looked up. “You know her?”
Taahir nodded. “I forgot, you didn’t know. That was Taskiya.”
Faiza simply looked her confusion.
“My Taskiya,” Taahir clarified. Then he shuddered. “Well, not mine. But the one I told you about. The one who I met while at university, who… well, you know.”
“What?!” Faiza croaked out. She felt dizzy and confused and she was convinced she was hearing things. Surely her husband hadn’t just told her that her new friend was the woman who’d tormented him when he was younger.
“She’s the one I… dated.” Taahir looked down at the floor in shame. “She hasn’t changed much, it seems.”
Faiza shut her eyes and tried to make sense of everything that she’d just been told. The same question repeated itself in her mind and finally she blurted it out.
“Why didn’t you tell me? Why did you even let her in the house?” she demanded. “What were you thinking?”
“I thought maybe she’d changed,” Taahir admitted. “I have so I thought maybe she could have too. I didn’t think it was fair for me to deny her a second chance when I got one.”
Faiza sighed in exasperation. “That’s very… noble, Taahir. But I wish you’d just told me who she was. It would have saved us all a horrible night.” She got to her feet and grabbed the mouthwash they kept on the sink.
“Are you okay?” Taahir asked, reaching out to help steady her.
“I feel nauseous,” Faiza said bluntly. “And stupid and disgusted.”
Taahir grimaced. ‘I really didn’t make the best decisions tonight,’ he thought to himself ruefully.