The car ride to the Malik’s farmhouse was spent in silence. Both of them were seated on the back seat of one of the latest models of Mercedes Benz; where Shahzeb was constantly typing some mails on his phone while Zoya was fidgeting with the hem of her drape. She was thinking about the next move of her plan to get rid of her so-called husband; the man who had never spared a second glance into her existence after she became his wife.
Zoya was, however, perturbed and scared by his unnaturally explicit actions since the past two days. She had never experienced the pleasure of him being naughty or flirty with her before. In fact, Shahzeb had never seen her as his wife, or as a girl he could ever be attracted to sexually. She was too plain and young for his liking.
She breathed out a heavy sigh of self rejection. Zoya still remembered the horrendous words which had once spilled out from Shahzeb’s sensuous mouth. Although it had been almost two years since the incident, the impact of that event was still fresh in her memory like an open wound.
He was the only man she had laid her eyes on at such a tender age when she wasn’t even aware of the meaning of love. Shahzeb had been sweet and caring towards her throughout her life. He was the epitome of love for her after her baba.
Her baba was the trustworthy servant of Najafgarh Haveli; Shahzeb’s and his father’s loyal driver. When Zoya was a small child, 6 years old, her mother expired after a lengthy battle with tuberculosis. Till then, she had been living in her baba’s ancestral home in a small town with her mother. But after her demise, Zoya had been shifted into the haveli with her baba, where they occupied a small one-bedroom servant quarter, built in the backyard of the haveli.
When Zoya shifted from her small town to Najafgarh Haveli, she was very disturbed by her mother’s death. Her crying for hours, after her father left for his duty of taking baba to his political rallies and other business affairs, was still fresh in her memory. In that difficult juncture of her life, amma had never left Zoya on her own. Amma had been very caring and protective towards her throughout. But whenever she got busy with her chores, Zoya used to lock herself up in her cocoon.
At that time, Shahzeb was the one who had brought Zoya back to life by his caring attitude towards her. She again started feeling lively and wanted. Shahzeb was her friend, her companion, her big brother which she never had. He used to give her gifts on her birthdays and helped her in her studies. He was the one who took care of her smallest needs. He had given her so many lovely names; Zoya was his angel, his princess, his doll. For Shahzeb, she was the most beautiful girl on the planet.
She still remembered how easily Shahzeb carried her in his strong arms and swirled her in the rain; she giggled like a small child.
When she was in the 8th grade, Zoya got infected with typhoid fever before her final exams and her results got seriously affected. She just about passed the exams with second division marks. On that evening, when her results were declared, she was brooding alone in her small servant quarter and hadn’t eaten a morsel of food since the morning. At that time, Shahzeb had just arrived from Delhi after the completion of his exams for spending his two week vacation in the haveli before leaving for the States for further studies. He had proceeded straight towards her apartment, with his hands full of gift bags. He met his baba’s old driver, Zoya’s father, at the foyer, from whom he learnt of her plight and immediately strove towards her room.
“Hey angel,” Shahzeb’s youthful thick voice boomed in the silence of her small room. Zoya pulled her head up and glanced in the direction of the voice. Her brown beautiful eyes had turned crimson on account of crying continuously. She dumped her head back in her pillow, and started crying again. Shahzeb made his way to her bed and sat on the edge beside her.
“Hey, get up doll face,” he cooed her while touching her brown silky hair lightly. After some minutes, when Zoya didn’t bulge, Shahzeb pulled her upper arm and made her sit on the bed. She was still looking at her thin fingers, her shoulder slumped downwards and her hair curtaining her beautiful delicate wet face.
“Look, I have brought your favorite chocolates.” He handed her a box of imported chocolates. “Not just your favorite chocolates, but, but, …. your favorite ‘Pinky and the Brain’ CDs too.” Shahzeb took another plastic case and handed it to Zoya. Her dull wet eyes sparkled for a nano-second; before she blinked her damp lashes and gazed down on her fingers again.
Shahzeb took her petite hands in his firm strong ones. “You know I don’t like seeing you crying, that too without any reason,” he stated, while squeezing her hands in his warm grip. “It’s just the 8th standard princess, and besides, you were seriously ill. I was genuinely amazed after hearing your result, you know. If it had been me in your place, I would have failed this year. You’re a real champ. You made it possible when you were in your weakest state of health.” He tugged the strands of silky brown locks behind her left ear. Zoya looked innocently into his eyes and asked “You are not upset with me? I didn’t fail you?”
“You would never fail me Zoya. You are my princess. And I will never let anyone make you upset.” And she smiled brightly. “Come, I didn’t even go inside, amma will be very angry.” Shahzeb stood up and pulled Zoya with him towards the main entrance of the haveli. His one arm was wrapped securely around her petite shoulders in a warm protective embrace.