With a heart heavier than the dress she wore that day, she walked up to the beautifully adorned stage that awaited to glow as she took the seat that was meant for her.
‘Smile. It’s your big day!’, her closest cousin reminded her as she placed the heavy dupatta to cover the stage halfway.
Women started their routine of walking up to the bride to kiss her and take sly notice of the jewels for later gossips while children surrounded the stage with cameras and smartphones.
‘One for Instagram’, a girl with blonde hair said as she clicked a quick selfie with the bride, making it candid.
Everything seemed colourful; the decorations, the bridal, people who were present, children and balloons and even drinks served there but Kaira could not maintain her colours. Her mind wandered from one memory to another as she thought of him.
All had been fine that Sunday evening before she had received a call from her mother.
‘I don’t want this mom… I want him’, she had cried but the conversation had been long ended before she could even think of convincing her mother. Nobody was ready to listen to what she had to say. Kaira did not know how to break it to Hafeez but she had to. Calling his friend because she was too anxious to call Hafeez, she informed him to somehow bring him to the restaurant that they first met at.
‘He’ll understand’, she kept falsely consoling herself.
She had reached Stanford’s fifteen minutes earlier and did not know what she had to do with the little time she had to prepare herself to open up to Hafeez about what was going on.
Soon, she watched Hafeez walk through the door. Kaira felt the chills up her spine and for a moment she felt like it was the first time they were going to meet. He did not look happy is all she could assume from the little expressions he held on his stiff brown face. Taking a seat in front of her, he settled without looking at her or talking to her. This had been followed by moments of silence until he broke out.
‘So, you are leaving me?’
Kaira’s body froze on hearing his words. This had not been the first time he had asked this from her. Their relationship hasn’t been the easy, romantic one. They’ve had fights, argued over little things and stayed away from each other whenever their ego took over the love, they had for each other. His eyes were fixed on Kaira’s fiddling hands.
‘Kaira?’, he looked at her and she was already looking at him. ‘I know we’ve had rough times but you know that I am trying, don’t you? Tell me you are not leaving. Please.’ Now his hands held hers tight in his, pleading for her to stay and say something that would soothe him off his anxiety and bring him down from his stress levels.
Kaira felt the whole world freeze around her. Her mind paced between his words and her mother’s.
‘Count us dead if you are to choose him over us’, she recalled her mother’s words over Hafeez’s pleadings. She tried to mute the words, cease the growing sound of loud repetitions of the words that pierced through her heart causing it to ache.
‘So, it’s a yes? You are leaving?’, his voice grew louder. She did not resist or hush him because she knew she wasn’t strong enough like the other days and at that point it was all fair for him to react in such a way.
‘I’m trying, Haf’, she said. Tears welled up and her whole body started to tremble. ‘I am not blaming you. I am not saying what we had was not true, no I am not but I am at a point where I can’t move a thing. Don’t you feel me?’, she cried but Hafeez had let her hand go by then.
‘I made an effort, Kaira. I am still doing all I could to make things happen between us. All you had to do was make time and convince your mother until then’, he said. ‘We both know the things we’ve done to come past all these years and now you tell me that you are giving up?’
Kaira cried. She knew she had nothing more to tell him but sorry.
‘You can go on and hate me for this, you have all the right to but remember you can’t hate me as much as I hate myself at this point’, she said with tears still soaking her kameez.
‘You remember that night we watched the stars together and promised a forever? I am holding on to it. The stars shall tell you when I fail, how much I’ve loved you, love you and will always love you. We’ll be out of this relationship, Haf but never out of love. I am not giving up on us. I am not giving up on you. I am giving up on myself and what I want the most in life. I am giving up on my own happiness, but I love you’.
Standing up to leave, she took his hand in hers and placed a piece of folded note on his palm.
He was broken, she knew it. He was dying and she could see it in his eyes. He was pleading her to stay, she could hear it from his silence. Yet, she walked away.
Hafeez unfolded the note in silence. He read;
‘I am not there to win the good morning texts at 12 am anymore but I’ve won today the ‘I love you the most’ fights. I may have walked away with another man by the time you realize this but you’ll know no other girl can love you as much as I do.’
On the throne that Kaira was, she sat weeping. Her heart growing heavier with the thoughts of Hafeez. She did not want another man’s scent, she did not want the life she was about to start. She knew she would never be able to love another man as much as she had loved Hafeez and that another man could never love her as much as he did. Kaira was not certain of the life she was about to step in to but one thing she was certain of is that she may have become ‘the one who walked away’ but she had at least not failed one person – her mom.
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Nuha Faiz is from Kandy, Sri Lanka, a teacher by profession and an ardent writer. She is on the process of completing a collection of poetry and short stories and also, working on her first novel.