Chapter 2: Noor
“Alaya, it’s time for lunch”
I hadn’t realized that it was already 2pm. Zeba left at around noon and I had been sitting on the sofa, staring at the envelope and just replaying the events of the day in my head. It was not easy to make myself believe that even after all these years, we were sisters. I had watched many movies about the love between sister but in the last few years, I convinced myself that it was a lie and that every blood relation could be severed if one truly intended to end it. This visit by Zeba made it crystal clear that it was impossible. The moment that she entered my house, I had wanted to hug her. I had wanted to hug her as tightly as I could and ask her to never leave but life doesn’t work this say. Not everything one wants is best for oneself.
“Mommy, how do I look?”, Alaya appeared out of her room in her fanciest white dress which I thought I had hidden from her.
“Alaya, Mommy told you not to wear that at home. Where did you find it?”, I kneeled down and held her hands. There was no denying that she looked absolutely beautiful in that dress though.
“But I like it”, she protested.
“How about we keep this for your birthday? You can wear the blue dress today”, I took her to her room and handed her the blue dress.
“But mommy..’, she was clearly not convinced and all I needed to do was offer her chocolate.
It worked. Ten minutes later, she was dressed in her old blue dress, which may not be as fancy as the white one but any piece of clothing in the world seemed to look pretty when Alaya wore it, and she was with me on the dining table.
“How was school?”, I asked her this question every day as a ritual. Lunch time was the time when we caught up. She would tell me about her day and I would tell her about mine even though there was only so much about my day that she could understand, it was always consoling to know that my daughter was there to listen to me.
“We played a lot today! I also won the sack race and my teacher gave me a candy for that!”, she exclaimed, ”Do you want to see it mommy? I can share it with you! It’s the orange candy that you bought me on Sunday”’
“No no, I remember, you can have it yourself, just finish the rice first”
She seemed quite relieved to hear that I did not want a share in her candy.
“Oh! And mommy, we added numbers also. I had a test for that. I did two wrong. It was hard”, she sighed as she took another bite from her plate.
“We need to practice addition at home, then”, I remarked, “Let’s do it in the evening”
“But what about park, Mommy?”, she cried.
“We can go there a bit later, just finish your lunch fast and right after your nap, we will wind up the homework and the practice before we go to the park”
It was all that needed saying and the lunch ended soon enough. Alaya is not fond of eating healthy and it can sometimes be a difficult task to make her eat lunch or dinner because all she wants is Pizza. The one thing that she cannot miss, however, is her play time at the park and she would even finish her entire bowl of rice just to secure that.
After Alaya was asleep, I started to check exam papers. There were only two days left in the deadline for teachers to submit the graded papers to the principal and I was still left with more than half of them. While I intended to work peacefully and make the time productive, fate had other plans. My phone rang.
“Hello Noor, have you checked the papers yet?”, It was Sarah. She seemed to always call at the wrong time.
“I was literally just about to do that”
“What? You still haven’t started? What’s wrong with you? We need to submit it in a day”, she shouted.
“Wait! I am done with forty of them so there’s not much to worry about and the deadline is not tomorrow, it’s on Wednesday”, I shook my head in disappointment. Sarah always panicked about the tiniest of things and made sure that her worry was transferred to others as well.
“If you don’t mind, maybe check the day and see if it’s also Tuesday at your place today because where I live, Wednesday is tomorrow”, she sarcastically responded.
“What?”, I panicked as I looked at my phone screen and realized that Sarah was right. I had sixty papers to grade and only a day, half of which was already gone.
“Didn’t you take an off today to grade the papers? Why didn’t you do it then?”, she asked, more as a taunt than as a display of concern.
“I did. I started checking after fajr but after I sent Alaya to school, I had some household chores to finish and then, my sister visited me..”,
“Your sister? Noor?”, she uttered in utmost disbelief. Her shock was justified since I had not told her much about my family and whatever little she knew was about the fact that I had no connections with them anymore. To her and to my-self as well, the only family I had was Alaya. She was the only family I needed after all.
I said goodbye to her hurriedly and got back to work. I needed to finish at least half of the work before Alaya woke up because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to take her to the park and there was nothing I could do that would make her day worse than to deprive her from the joy of playing with her friends in the park.
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