Before Salma could act, Nasra and a group of her friends came to join her. She lost the guy in the crowd. Next time she saw him he was with a group of boys. Her curiosity aroused, Salma kept him in her radar. A few times she caught him staring at her. Once he caught her and gave her a smile. About an hour later, Salma was coming out of the kitchen with a tray of glasses when she ran into him. Literally. “I’m so sorry,” she said. “I wasn’t looking where I was going.” ”It’s OK, I wasn’t looking either.” She looked up and saw it was the boy.
“Beautiful eyes,” she thought. “Deep pools of liquid honey. If I’m not careful, I could drown in there.”
“Even more stunning up close,” he thought. Her skin looks like satin. Wonder what she’ll do if I touch her.
A moment of awkward silence ensued as they stared at each other. “You,” he said. “You’ve been avoiding me”. Salma realized that he was holding her arm. Lightning shooting from his fingers. She also noticed that the group around them was looking with interest. “Erm, I, I, have to go. They need the glasses,” she stammered looking at her arm. “Sorry,” he reluctantly let go. “Let me help you with that.” “Thanks, I need to arrange them at the food table,” she smiled at him. Rays of sunshine.
“My name is Zahir,” he finally introduced himself as they worked. “Salma,” she answered. “Do you live here, Salma?” He asked. She nodded. “Oh, I live abroad. I’m visiting. I came to the party with my friend Steve,” he continued pointing at another boy at the dance floor. “I think you went to school with him; we were friends before I left the country. Do you know him?” “Yes,” she said. He frowned at her one word answers. He had hoped he could draw her into conversation. Maybe she’s not interested, he glumly thought. For the first time in his life, Zahir was unsure of himself.
For the first time in Salma’s life, words escaped her. She felt flustered and excited at the same time. This made her uncomfortable and she didn’t like it. She never lost control of herself. She needed to get away to compose herself. While she was thinking of a polite way to get away, Nasra joined them. “This is the best party ever! We throw a good party my Best Friend.” She enthused. She noticed Zahir and she gave her a curious look. Salma knew her friend well and inwardly sighed. She quickly said “This is Zahir, he was helping me arrange the glasses.” before Nasra said something that would embarrass her. It didn’t help. “I can see that” Nasra said looking pointedly at his hand on her arm. “How did that get there?” she wondered. In true Nasra fashion, she continued to interrogate him. In a way, Salma was glad; because she could get to know him without showing him she was interested. Zahir was slick though. In a few minutes she had them laughing. “Oh, this is Salma’s favourite song. Zahir, why don’t you dance with her?” Nasra said with a mischievous look. He didn’t need to be told twice. “I’m gonna kill you, Nasra!” Salma whispered as they moved to the dance floor. Nasra laughed and moved on to another group.
At first she was nervous, but Nasra was right, she did like this song so she soon loosened up. Plus Zahir was a very good dancer. And she didn’t mind his arms around her at all! This was a new feeling for Salma and she was enjoying it. After the dance, Salma and Zahir spent the rest of the evening with a group of their friends, so they didn’t get much time to be alone. But Salma liked him. And from the number of times she caught him looking at her, and finding excuses to be close to her, she knew he felt the same. All too soon the party winded down and it was time for Salma to go home. They exchanged phone numbers and tentative plans to meet again. When she got home, he sent her a text saying that it had been a pleasure meeting her and he was looking forward to see her again. After a recap of the night with Nasra, Salma slept with a smile on her face.
Salma’s mother noticed that there was something amiss with her daughter. But Salma reassured her she was fine so she put it down to anxiety at the prospect of meeting the boy. Salma was in a bad mood. She hadn’t met anyone who had affected her like Zahir had and it was all so unfair. For the first time, Salma questioned her culture and her parents’ wisdom.
While the guests and her parents ate, Salma stayed in her room on the pretext of baby sitting and kept herself busy by entertaining her nephews. The kids always managed to put her in a good mood and by the time her mother called her to serve dessert, she was feeling slightly better. She had also decided she was just going to tell her parents that she wasn’t interested in the boy. It was rare for a girl to reject her parents’ preferred choice, but it wasn’t completely unheard of. She knew her mother would be upset, but she hoped that they would understand. She would enlist her father’s help.
Salma carried the bowl of faluda and went to the sitting room where they had moved to after lunch. “Asalam Aleikum,” she greeted. “Waaleikum Salam,” they answered. She saw her eldest brother and his wife and smiled at them. She hadn’t looked around the room and she concentrated on serving the dessert in small bowls. “Salma, meet your Aunt Hamida and Uncle Swaleh,” her mother introduced as she served the dessert. “And that’s their son,” Salma could hear the barely disguised excitement in her mother’s voice. She looked up and her gaze was met by a familiar pair of eyes. I’d know those eyes anywhere. The look of surprise in them mirrored hers. Her heart skipped a beat as she realized what happened. She started to smile. It’s Zahir! She thought happily. The gloom she had felt the whole day lifted. Zahir started to smile with pleasure before comprehension hit him suddenly it him. No, it can’t be her, he thought.
Salma’s was puzzling at Zahir’s sudden changed expression when she heard her mother say, “No, that’s Zahir, Aunt Hamida’s nephew. Her son, Ali is the one seated next to your brother.” Salma felt her world spinning out of control from the roller coaster of emotion. She heard a crash as the bowl she was holding slipped from her hands. The tears she had been determined not to shed since morning felt dangerously close to falling. “Salma!” her mum gasped. “I’m sorry” she mumbled. “Let me get something to clean that.” She looked up and found Zahir looking at her miserably. She quickly left the room before she embarrassed herself and broke down.