N O T E
I’m not the one to beg for praise, but I deserve a trophy for surviving so many fucked up days.
I have to cross the hall between Zaahid and my room to reach him. I trudge past at a sedate pace like a nutcracker clockwork soldier with short strutting steps. My mind is too focused on the gentle souvenirs that seem to echo throughout the long, plain white and black themed room. It feels like time has come to a stand still. About a hundred different versions of him and I coexist in this hall here with me but all is a hazy blur mostly like our relationship—is it there, is it not, are we happy, can we breathe, am I free?
When Gia first handled my career statistics she had chronologically laid out my timeline in accordance to Thomas’ birth. According to her ‘stats’ he was four, the day I moved in with Zaahid in London, not that its relevant, but boy can you tell a mother that? I remember that day—seven days after Ultimate Sing Off and three after the Birthday Bash Noori’s Threw—with crystal clarity because that day Zaahid taught me, I could be left easy and fast—without reason and without warning. My subconscious smiles a dry laugh, the kind where you realize you didn’t read the signs when they were all around you.
It was two in the morning on a wet, stormy day when Zaahid had drove us from Birmingham. He had been pissed off for days at Delnaz and me for awkwardly meeting Harry at the City Hall—insensible rationale, yes. He was furious, what for exactly, I’m still not sure. His anger had poured out in his voice the day we had to leave when he had called out his sister (and indirectly me) for chatting (a bit too friendly) with his bandmate, then. After his sister left, he had slammed me back against the car door and cornered me. It’s a crazy brown family backward logic but a woman never wins in an argument against a man. I have since mulled over where I was wrong in that situation, but came up with no possible explanations, because they weren’t any. He didn’t tell me why/if he was angry with me. He just decided I wasn’t good enough for him to talk to anymore and left, and that’s how it ended.
From the outside, on first glance, Zaahid’s abode had looked like someone had traced a house from Architects Today magazine with a Shaka Laka Boom Boom Pencil. Everything was geometric; the built was old worldly exactly how I’d imagined it. The door was as wide as it was tall; the windows were sleek taking up entire walls. The driveway was bordered with white bloom plant beds and the well kept gardens was lined with white lights—swoon worthy to at least have a chance to be in Big Boss house.
The Moroccan chandelier with mirror arrangements and a single yellow diffuse light bulb which illuminates the entire hall in a faint, calm light was the first thing I’d noticed when we went inside. I eye it today and one of its mirrors project a younger version of Zaahid and me. They—the younger us—are awkwardly greeting a sleepy Mrs. Khan. I am gawking at the minimalist yet chic interiors of his house—the floor polished wood, the black and white theme and the zilch amount of clutter of shoes or jackets or clutter of any kind that was common with boys his age. Zaahid is talking in a heavy Birmingham accent I’m not yet used to. He takes off his wet shoes by the door and moves to adjust the temperature of the house. Mrs. Khan is in the kitchen boiling tea despite Zaahid telling her not to.
I am moving my bag to the room Zaahid has showed me. He takes off his sheepskin and holds it casually in his hand and walks to the kitchen. I hear them casually arguing in Urdu—the kind that’s too common in brown families, the kind where we keep on insisting in doing things for others. “Deejiye main kar deta hoon” “Mujhe karne do Zaahid” “Matt banayie chai, please” “Thand lag jaayegi aap dono ko” “Aap please jaake sojayen” “Garam adrak ki chai fayda karegi” “Kaafi raat ho gayi hai, mere dhyaan se hi utar gaya ki aap jaag rahi hongi, warna main apni chaabi se khol leta darwaza.” “Array acha hua, iss bahane chai peelenge sab.” I giggle at the familiarity of it all. While I unpack, I am too afraid to sit in case I wrinkle the fabric or stain it—everything is so spotless.
The tea tastes like my mothers’ and I make a solid belief of Mrs. Khan and I getting along very well. In our respective rooms, everybody is resting. The icy grey sky is restlessly grumbling. The rain is lashing down with a roar. The tick tocks of the clock I could hear in ultimate silence is disrupted by a raucous boom of thunder. I switch on the bedside lamp. A frisson of fear is growing on me and I close my eyes tightly. Glass breaks somewhere in the house and I open my eyes with such force, I’m sure they could’ve popped out, to complete darkness. The stray lights from the road are out too.
The winds are screaming and I jump out off bed. “Zaahid?” I call out, wrapping the blanket around me and holding a flower vase as my choice of weapon. I tread the the hallway—shit scared and anxious. He taps my shoulder from behind and the gasp that escapes me drops the vase. “Zaahid, what are you doing here?” I reconfirm. A brilliant flash of lighting strikes the streets and lights up the hallway for a brief second then dies.
“I’m sleep-walking,” he chuckles with an undefined enthusiasm. He looks over to his right to see how damaged the hall window is and how long the storm will last. He rubs a hand on his nape. “Are you okay?” he asks when I don’t reply.
“Yeah, I’m completely fine! I love the storms. Totally—” I begin to say with mock incredulity when thunder rumbles again and rain crashes against the roof more harshly than before. I am shook, dropping the blanket I run into Zaahid’s arms, wrapping mine around his neck and crashing his body with mine. My heart just will not settle down. He pulls me close. His shoulders are so broad and solid. I rest my head on one. He puts one of his arms around my waist like he’s anchoring us. “Calming,” I whisper, shivering and draped against him, standing on tippy toes. I fit there. I knew it that night, and I know it now.
We chortle into each others neck. Zaahid strokes my hair with his other hand. “Shhh, shhh…I got you.” His voice is even, like he’s trying to calm me down. We sleep the night off spooning and rocking back and forth together.
Those three little words bounce off into the wind till today—still holding their meaning and always being genuine. Today, six years after, the storm designed tea cups we used that night sits in a showpiece cabinet of the hall.
Winter air laps on my goose bumped arm and snaps me out of my vulnerable state and I realize I’ve barely crossed the hall. Unable to stand the stench of despair that permeated the house I pull out the first stool I see in my place and sit. My palms have crescent scars from clenching the sweatshirt too tightly. I press my head into my lap and let my hands hang. After USO Finale, for six months that I lived in London and Birmingham it had been hell for everyone. I had been so volatile, I was infuriated all the time and there had been not one person who was spared my temper. Zaahid and Taybah were the two targets I hit the hardest.
I briefly close my eyes, insisting that today I’m not angry, just tired and annoyed. I need my space, time, to get away, to recover my sense of self and have a chance to be alone. My hands run along the leg of the stool on their own accord, searching for something. They trace my name in the engraved leg and electricity strikes through me. I lean over to check. Sitting cross-legged on the floor, I feel my carving, “Maira—the lone wolf,” on the stool and turn it to the right to see, “Zenelope Forever <3” carved on the edge. The irony is not lost on me that I have failed in both love and loss. The brown hand painted stool is a DIY project as a part of Let’s Be Friends Again campaign Zaahid had launched when Penelope found out I had been living with him. I see my mark painted in gold. WHAT? What’s on his mind! My subconscious is yelling, standing on tippy toes, and bending a little to press her words.
“It’s beautiful, just like you.” Zaahid had said to Penelope, after I had nudged him, as we completed painting the stool. Penelope was over the moon, to the say the very least, hugging him as his mouth had pressed in a hard line. I had stood behind Penelope, bowing my head, stifling a grin as I gave Zaahid thumbs up. Zaahid had gazed at me, his expressions guarded and unreadable. ‘What else,’ he had mouthed to me as I stood there witnessing his uneasiness with romance. The poor guy had been learning cheesy lines from www.pickuplinesgalore.com to keep up with making Penelope happy until I caught him once red-handed, and since then I was the Hand of the King-Of-Hearts.
I had pouted my lips, hard, motioning him to kiss her. “I am not doing that!” he had yelled, pulling away from Penelope. He had instantly blown up his own act and poured water over my dream of being The-Love-Guru. It took a lot to cover up. It took a lot of promised trips to the mall from my side and a lot of promised dates from Zaahid’s.
Penelope and I had finally made peace with each other after Ultimate Sing Off, we had to, I was living in Zaahid’s London abode and the two were dating—engaged actually, so it left us with little choice. It was a roller coaster of a ride. The tension between Penelope and I had drained long ago. It was some of the best moments of my life—the memory when we built the table together, shared the perfumes of my lineage (my paternal great grandmothers have been very keen on ittars then Chanels) or when we painted Zaahid’s nails the other day when he slept, or when we mixed his shampoo with hair removal cream (which he didn’t use unfortunately) or when we would sip the apple cider she would make and curl up in front of the T.V. watching Gossip Girls, Two Broke Girls and sometimes landing on House M.D. or Grey’s Anatomy. Keyword here is “sometimes.”
Everything between me and Penelope was ‘rainbows and unicorns’—to the point that it was unbelievable. We had forgotten and forgiven each other for mistakes made at Ultimate Sing Off, or so I thought, until we again blew up on that December night. I was accused of being a “whore” and a “home-wrecker” because apparently according to her Zaahid proposing to me was my fault and Penelope’s, “you had an eye for him all along you didn’t you? You guy magnet dressing like the slut you are!” was the end to time spent together both at dinners, sleepovers or lunch dates and of all our whimsical sense of humour.
It all evaporated with an itinerary of an hour, and an appallingly absent sense of judgement. We had fought over a nugatory and pointless facet that I can’t even recollect today. Blazing tempers that were pricklier than the thorns of the roses and taller than the roof and sharper than our heels, we had let our ‘amour propre’ and her fiancé impede Great Sagacity. A dispute that lasted an hour, give or take, with prismatic insults hand-picked and freshly baked and stocked for the nastiest of squalls, and snot filled faces hardly veiled our blind rage—that was it. We had officially ended, yet again.
We unfalteringly refused to acknowledge each other for a whole three years. Growing up I had learnt to be the Pretentious Queen so it was easy to close off and pretend that it didn’t hurt, that my cup of care was empty, that she didn’t deserve me and that we were toxic to one another and an undeniable blind faith that we’ll move past it. What I hadn’t calculated was the extent the either of us would go to maintain the guise of regality and frostiness so pungent it would leave us aching and raw.
It was a double edged sword. I was hurting—so much that I’d lie on my cold floors and replay the last conversation over and over again until tears paved path to weariness and sleep took over. It hurt when I swallowed my screams and loss and washed it down with false attempts at bravado. It hurt when I bumped into her walking back from the stage towards the green room of the award shows we would attend together, and it hurt when she pretended not to notice as she walked straight past me, as though I was invisible.
But time was our healer; it passed as it always does and in the middle of it we grew up. It started last year with small smiles and casual talks and the occasional hellos. We had taken a step forward. This was progress. More importantly, it wasn’t gauche. How could that ever be when we had known each other for so long and so intimately? (Yes, I had participated in debates for her mothers’ brothers’ wifes’ sisters’ dog name. Thank you very much.) Nothing had changed but in way everything had. We had grown up and grown apart and no wonder why they say that breaking up with friends is perhaps, more painful than breaking up with lovers.
Over the years that I came to know Penelope—six in total—I admired her brutal honesty; how she never lied to her true self, how she never sweetened herself, her feelings or thoughts for the sake of others. Today my heart gives an almighty thud as I imagine the image of Zaahid and Penelope together. I shake my head, thinking I must have over imagined it. But it’s even more disturbing that before, because this time, there can be no mistake. Zaahid’s jacket reeked of the same Chanel I introduced Penelope to, the same I smashed on the December Night #1 and the same I don’t use anymore.
After losing Penelope, a week after losing Venus, I had made a soon-to-end-year and approaching-new-year resolution to not measure my life by the amount of people I had dear but by the moments that took my breath away like USO Finale, debut single: Love Let Me Behind, first music video, debut album release: Alis Propiis Volat, Arena tour, subsequent albums, releases, tours—stadium tours, the night sky viewing, the hot chocolate behind tan couches, Peaches ‘n’ Cream and Zaahid.
“Zaahid?” I whisper shout after knocking twice at his door. Testing the cold waters, I twist the door knob and peek inside the room from a three centimeter gap. The mid morning brightness seeping through the blinds in the room messes with my cornea more pathetically than Zaahid’s exit from my life. I might be exaggerating, just a little.
He messed me up not by leaving me to realize that no one could replace him, to understand how my trust and selfless giving and unboundable love was taken advantage of, to fear how I toxic I could be or just be too much and too ugly but by ceasing me to wholly belong to myself. Being weathered from him has stalled me to make new friends and relationships; in middle of laughter and between drinks I’d remember that they are not him and I would retreat, close myself off and become distinct. I know it looked rude but I couldn’t imagine myself enjoying and being in new relations and share the same intimacy I once shared with him.
Vibrancy and sincerity spilt over our time together but the end came abruptly and spinelessly, without a ceremonial see off and shrouded us in its blank darkness and just like that an ordinary moment on the rooftop, like any other, just happened to be our last. A week after the wedding, when the news reports had died down and the media had moved onto newer hot topics like Noah Centineo or Penn Badgley and Zaahid’s family—extended and immediate—had returned home, he had woken me up really early in the morning (so as to be enveloped by the darkness of the dawn and before the paparazzi woke up) and had placed my haphazardly packed four suitcases, in a matter of an hour, from the bedroom into my car on a bitter-cold wintry day at the end of that December for just like that I wasn’t welcome anymore in his house.
He had looked for the farthest hotel on Google while the pulchritudinous memories of the then bare room had clogged my lungs and made breathing hazardous. He had acted like he couldn’t spare me another second with him, under the same roof. The man that once would catch my tears in the palms of his hands—claiming they were too precious to be wasted—every time he caught family and the future fogging my vision and would tell me that he loved me either way and would hold me close didn’t care then about the tears streaming down my face. His anger was palpable.
We drove out of his driveway with the last two years of my life overflowing the car. His baseball “cool kids don’t dance” cap had sat on the dashboard and my plum coloured bandana hung from the rear view mirror. He had looked at me with cold eyes and told me we could drive to any hotel I wanted to. In absolute silence I had tried to memorize his face at every red light. Staring at the road ahead, somehow we both were watching the miles and the minutes tip the void between us.
In front of the hotel, my body had glowed in the lights from the headlights while Zaahid busied himself in parking the car properly and avoiding eye contact. Clenching the ends of my blouse I had held my tongue that wanted to scream and shout and tell him everything I hated about him—especially his silence—and how one day I might not blame him entirely for how we both ended up. It felt like a contest of Who Can Forget Quicker and he was clearly winning at that. I wanted to tell him that yes, only his heartbeat could calm me and yes, only his Hot Chocolate and Badass Bollywood Movie collection could lift my mood but my throat ached so badly. I couldn’t bring myself to say a goodbye either so instead we had just said a ‘goodnight’ and I choked on my tears and on our past the whole way to the hotel room.
When he had unloaded my luggage and was about to leave, he had lifted my chin up and reminded me, “baby steps,” which was something we traditioned whenever the other felt lost and confused and unable to navigate life and I had tried to smile because I knew what he wanted me to do but my heart was breaking because now we were using those baby steps to move further and further apart and not closer together. Thus and thus, Zaahid had again slapped on my face that I was easier left than loved.
So here’s a piece of advice that took me six years to create and can save you yours: let go when you’re hurting, give up when love alone isn’t enough, move on when everything changes and hold onto the belief that someone out there will love you more.
“Zaahid listen na?” I say from almost the edge of his bed. Listen: I love you. I just want you to know that that in my lifetime of twenty six years of rushed decisions, spontaneous commitments and spectacular messes, you’re the only thing that’s felt right. Voice it! My inner goddess raises sleepily, stretches and smiles. She had been asleep for a while.
“Zaahid, utho!” I whine and poke his shoulder. I wait for a good three seconds before I repeat it. And again. And again.
“Zaahid!” I am angry now and annoying, just a little bit. I know he can hear me so I play off my biggest pet peeve—I pull off the blankets from him and his hand reaches out midway.
“Do you annoy people as a hobby? Or is it just your personality?” he mutters. His arm still rests on his eyes and he doesn’t budge.
“Everyone’s entitled to be a jerk once in a while but you really abuse the privilege.” He smiles as if I’ve paid him a compliment; but the smile doesn’t last long.
“Please, save your breath,” he removes his arm from his eyes. They are laughing and mean, “You’ll probably need it to blow up your next date.” Ouch. I’m really trying to remain stoic and unaffected.
My eyes droop and my self esteem takes another hard blow. He makes a slight move to get up from the bed when the words make sense to him; feeling bad and trying to push the words back in. Sincerity is sexy and my cynical heart notices. “Some days you go far,” I begin, masking hurt with humour. “And I really hope you stay there.” Absolutely not. Without losing a breath I carry on, “On that note, do I get to be served food or is your hospitality leading me to food deliveries?” My voice comes out sharper than I intended it to be but I act like I have things in control.
“How about you have a nice big cup of “shut the hell up”?” he says sitting up. His eyes are merry. He’s enjoying this.
“Remember when I asked for your opinion? Me neither.” I comment, rolling my eyes at him. My inner goddess is having fun. The more she listens, the brighter she becomes. She kisses my cheeks and walks off.
“Keep rolling your eyes maybe you’ll find a brain back there,” he chuckles.
“Fuck you!” I throw a pillow at him and he catches it easily.
“You wish…” Zaahid whisper-shouts. His wide hazel eyes are filled with curiosity and a kind of mischievous glee.
“You suck!” I clench my fists. He smiles a little, cocking his head to the side.
“And you swallow.” My mouth dries. I can hear my inner goddess knocking. Her attention is peaked. She is wearing her red hot dress, pouting at the flashy cameras, flipping her hair after descending the red carpet.
“Where’s Mrs. Khan?” I say instead.
“It’s been three years since she left and you won’t ever stop asking that, will you?” he dismisses me and I realize this is the first question I always ask him at our anniversaries.
“The good news is you’ve stopped talking” he holds out a pillow when the silence becomes suffocating “and the bad news is you’re still here.” He keeps the pillow behind him and begins to lie down. “If I threw a stick, you’d leave, right?”
“I’m hungry Zaahid! I haven’t had anything since yesterday night.” My voice is loud and incredulous. Whatever restraint I had before is slipping away quickly.
“What?!” his eyes snap open, frowning. “Come again?” he shakes his head, sitting up straight. I shrug and stare down at my fingers. I swallow, trying to work out what I wanted to say.
“I haven’t had anything since yesterday…” my voice trails off.
“How come you didn’t eat? I left an entire dish of lasagne for you before leaving for the studio since I got to know about the news of mum’s arrival yesterday afternoon.” He reaches for me and I step back instinctively. He drops his hand, blinking at me. He looks as though he’s seized with panic.
“You told me to make my own dinner despite knowing the fact that I don’t cook!” I almost yell at him.
“Did I? Oh I’m sorry,” he closes his eyes and runs his index finger along his forehead. “I was just out of my mind,” he is muttering almost as if trying to cook up a story. “You could have rechecked with me?” he shrugs, questioningly like it’s no big deal at all.
In that moment I need reasons, so that I can believe that he isn’t a hamper full of really, really loud excuses. I want to be able to divert myself into doing better things, more important things than over thinking what I did and what he and Penelope did yesterday. He runs his hand through his hair as he stares at me. Seconds, minutes tick away as we glare at each other.
“Recheck? Seriously?” I am honestly disappointed in him. I thought four years of living a lie would have made him a better liar. “Where the hell was that dish?” I growl. We both stand, scowling at each other.
“Did you check the microwave?”
“What did you have then?” his voice is laced with worry. Zaahid narrows his eyes and takes a menacing step towards me, on the bed. I immediately step back. He stops and takes a deep breath, closes his eyes, and runs both his hands through his hair. Oh no.
“A banana,” I say and a growl from within me embarrasses me.
“What you do want to eat?” I don’t know how he manages to sound so genuinely concerned and bossy at the same time. He’s giving me choices and for once I’m happy that they are mine to make.
“Ice Cream,” I utter as a wide smile appears on my face.
“No—” he begins.
“Hey! I never said ‘ice cream?’ I said, ‘ice cream.’ There’s a difference.” I beam.
“Shut up. Now use that brain of yours and tell me what you want to eat.”
“Cake.” I comment after letting out a huff.
“Seriously? Ten thirty in the morning you want to eat cake?” He questions me with a shocked expression while I mirror his. He sits down on the bed again.
“Wait what? There’s isn’t a time and place to eat cake.” I defend my argument.
“I know. That was my way of saying ‘I-am-not-baking-a-cake-for-you’,” he grumbles. “We’ll have,” he gets out of bed and begins to fold the sheets, “chow wow chow mein!” He does a bad imitation of ninja. “Special of Noori Kitchenette,” his eyes glint with excitement. My heart beats madly. I wonder if Zaahid remembers that Chinese is my favourite cuisine after Indian of course, but, love changes all things, all the time.
“Can you put some noodles on the stove while I change and come?” he asks, making the bed and then drawing the curtains.
“But—” I pout for lack of cake.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” he moves past and to the cupboard.
I sit in the living room with a dish of poorly reheated lasagne. I hear Zaahid closing and opening drawers, cupboards and finally the smacking of flip flops against the wooden floors. Then the screeching cutlery noise informs that Noori Kitchenette has started work. Zaahid’s independence has been the only constant for the last six years—oh and his mum—be it after marriage, after his father’s hospitalization, leaving the band or even now as a solo artist. It’s like he’s wired to handle burden and he now does it so effortlessly, with a tea towel on one shoulder no less.
“Maira?” he shouts from the kitchen, “you did what I told you?” I imagine him rubbing his nape.
“I did!” I take a quick bite and put down the two-bite-less dish on the side table and walk to the kitchen. “You know…smoking is injurious to health?” I say it like the advertisements on T.V. seeing the cigarette pressed between his lips.
“I’ll have you know my grandfather lived to be 93,” he comments, taking in a long drag and subsequently filling the kitchen with smoke.
“Was he a smoker?” I raise an eyebrow, questioningly.
“No, he minded his fucking business,” he spits out the words harshly. Then after doing a one-over of the noodles, he exhales loudly. “Is that how you put noodles on stove?” he gives me disgusted looks.
I shrug exaggeratedly with arms wide and bent and a really annoyed but comic expression. Zaahid does bring out the best in me, or perhaps I like the version of myself I am around him. “You have actually just ripped open the packet of raw noodles and put that on stove?” he says it like he can’t process it, like I just asked him to be a Java Developer. “Where’s the boiling water or oil or hell, the pan?”
He is truly emphasizing this very honest mistake like it’s a necessity—more than equality, or a girl’s right to education. I don’t want to earn his validation anymore. He had one chance on a cold rooftop and he really blew it up. “Oh right, you don’t cook,” he smirks. I am honestly thinking if he even needs me for this conversation.
“Took you six years,” I mumble when all the Learning How to Cook From a Noori episodes bombarded me simultaneously. Zaahid is working better than Gordon Ramsay minus the slurs. I see him measuring flour and the eggs on the table. I can smell the vanilla from that time. Oh, it’s just Zaahid using some. My inner goddess flips her hair over her shoulder and starts jumping up and down, clapping her hands like a five year old.
The baking powder and the eggs are on the table. Zaahid is tying my apron as I pour the flour. At twenty one and at five feet four I am tall enough to reach the highest cupboard with the sieve but not quite so I grab a chair from the dining table and climbed. I have run for errands today—yes, no online grocery deliveries but an actual Walmart trip after returning from studio. Its dark outside and the day’s about to end but we’ve decided to prepare home-cooked pasta from scratch to go along with the Elite screening on Netflix.
Zaahid is a boyband star and his phone is blowing up because of his birthday tomorrow. Penelope and I’ve decided to throw him a superhero themed surprise birthday party and that is exactly why she’s not here on his birthday eve. My task: tire him and annoy him enough so that he goes to sleep early and we have the entire night to decorate. He is distracted by the recent notification of Instagram.
I call out to him, “How much of each?”
“Uh?...three and two.”
I dip the measuring cups in flour and add three to the bowl. Then I crack two eggs, whisk them and tip them into a well in the middle just like Annie had shown me last summer. After a time I notice that it is too dry. My face falls. Zaahid decides to join me now and notices the mess. “Oh, you did two flour and three eggs, Peaches?” He asks, picking up the spatula. You could have said that at the start! My subconscious is glaring at him from over her winged tortoise rimmed spectacles.
“No problem,” he begins, “two more eggs, a little flour, a tablespoon of oil and a little water,” he talks like he’s on a cooking show. “We can fix this, Maira.” He ruffles my hair and I roll my eyes at him. I increase the volume of the soft jazz coming from the kitchen radio.
“Right on, Peaches, never give up, that’s the spirit. We’ve got this.” He instructs as the farfalles are mixed with the pasta sauce. He garnishes it with fresh coriander leaves better than Jamie Oliver. The smile on his face? Indescribable.
“So, the chow mein will be ready in about ten minutes and the cakes’ in the oven.” Zaahid informs today and pulls me out of the past.
“Right,” I nod. I stumble through the next few moments in a state of insentient numbness.
“Will you take out the cake from the oven when it’s baked while I’m preparing the icing?” He looks back at me from over his shoulder, whisking something in a bowl constantly.
“I got this,” I say, my eyes are stuck at the cake in the oven. The words are pregnant with an unspoken promise. Everything deep in my body uncurls and clenches in a delicious anticipation. The feeling is exquisite quite comparable to that at the last round at Ultimate Sing Off.
Standing beside Jonathan the only thing my inner goddess could think about was my twentieth birthday cake, booze, Ultimate Sing Off win and maybe a lavish party thrown by Venus and Riya. We all had a dress change for the last CMS Oomph factor round—Caitlyn, Megan and Stefan initiated Oomph factor round where the judgement had to be based on the presentation and the potential to be future stars. I was dressed in a fawn coloured sleeveless gown with floral embroidery on it in red, gold and baby pink. My hair was tied up in a loose bun with a red floral tiara on it and nude pumps complimented my dress.
The show had begun after another quick commercial of Symphony Thrills debuting in Toyota Honda’s new collection. It was Cherry Foxes who had once again begun with the round. They were singing, Vanilla Twilight by Owl City, donned in pretty, white lace dresses which ended above their knees and red heels which stood out. “The stars lean down to kiss you and I lie awake and miss you.” They had a perfect melody and had all the chances to win while me—for starters, I had a broken microphone, a couple of off notes and a missed beginning to a song.
I had sat on the edge of the stage with a new microphone (finally!) and was prepared for my performance. While on the other hand, Cherry Foxes had stood there on a raised platform, singing and displaying the original Vevo video for the song. “The silence isn’t so bad, till I look at my hands and feel sad, because the spaces between my fingers are right where yours fit perfectly.” Line after line, they had moved from one part of the stage to another, vocals on point. They didn’t miss a beat or a note. Together, they had been powerful.
I had stood in the centre of stage; the dim green lights had lightened up the stage. I had been shrouded in darkness as the video I had created for my performance was being played back on the three wide LED screens. “Here, where the sky’s falling, I’m covered in blue. I’m running and I’m crawling, fighting for you.”
As I sang Homesick by Dua Lipa my family pictures had come up on the screen. A white spot light had fallen on me and I was glued to my place. “You give me a reason, something to believe in. I know, I know, I know.” It was a collage of rare collection from an old photo album and proof-checked by Riya lest I revealed a bit too much. It had begun with my childhood pictures huddled up with my father. My father never said, ‘I love you,’ it’s not a brown people thing and he wasn’t cool. He wouldn’t dance with me but he would definitely spin me around by my arms until I felt dizzy. “You give me a meaning, something I can breathe in. I know, I know, I know.”
There were pictures from a time when he would read me books and encyclopedias and treat me to two ice-creams in a row. My memories were trapped in shots of a camera. The one in which I had worn his spectacles and had read the newspaper to him, at three years young. The one in which he had pushed me on the swing when I had no friends. The one in which he had built the sand castle with me on our beach holiday. “It’s a bittersweet feeling, longing and I’m leaving. I go, I go, I go.”
“There’s a crack in my window, a bird in my room. Angels all over that watch over you.” Then there had been a slight shift of the time frame, the pictures had become less warm and lively, cleverly though. The empty faces were still smiling but the truth had hid in so well. The compulsory family Diwali photo had been the biggest lie—that day Raahat was leaving and none of us were happy except in the picture that had to be posted on mummy’s facebook. There was a sprinkle of dinner photos which were some of our lasts as a family because my father was leaving. The vacations which lasted a day or the random selfies I could find on my phone, everything had been neatly and disorderly arranged in the video.
“But I wish I was there with you, oh, I wish I was there with you.” For a year I had been homesick and I couldn’t confess for the latter six months because I was hibernating in a reality show. Singing, I had looked up at Stephan and saw him give me a wide smile. I had gazed at my university friends and they were beaming. They had held placards of my pictures. Standing in front of all others was Venus. Ha! My subconscious lets out a dry, sad smile today.
I had bowed down as I ended. The lights had again changed colours and I could see how my joy, love, distance, laughter and cheer had been shared amongst the audience. The room had erupted into a huge round of applause and another one as Jonathan and Cherry Foxes had joined me on stage. He had gone on with his usual ‘hosting banter’ until the room had filled with loud rounds of applause and amidst the applause and appreciation there had stood a woman in the audience desperately trying to say something.
I see the cake slowly rising in the oven today, and understand how the danger in eyes dressed like love could look safe and kill. The fact that anybody could kill. The fact that people don’t die from heartaches.
Just because someone desires you, it does not mean they value you. Read it over. Again.
Let the words resonate in your mind.
“I won’t I won’t I won’t cover my scars, I’ll let them bleed. So my silence won’t be mistaken for peace. Am I wrong for wanting us to make it? Tell me your lies, because I can’t face it. It’s you, it’s you.” Song: it’s you by Zayn.
Please drop me a comment or a vote if you think this deserves it and give me a chance to improve. All the love as always, Mahak xx