N O T E
Life is the reason we are here and love is the reason we stay.
Honest feelings and bad timings make the most painful combination. For twenty plus years (give or take) I’ve lived in a journey of heartaches and healing. Surely, I can’t be the only one who feels like my life, up until now, has been nothing but a montage of fucked up moments. Like snapshots in time that, when looked back at, could tell what led to my inevitable transformation into a seriously deranged super villain.
“The version of you, someone else has created in their mind is not your responsibility,” Connor had said to me after my life turned upside down all those years ago. Connor Hunter, Logan’s bandmate from Southern Contagion has been my A1 since day 1. Growing up just a lawn apart from one another, we knew each other. We trusted one another. We stuck with each other and the women in the streets would give examples of our friendship to their kids. And at times, I used to feel that he knew me better than Zaahid ever could. “You’ve been brave and resilient Penelope. Even if you don’t believe that yourself.”
“I had this hope…” tears had choked me, “despite being together we were so alone, but I believed we’d make it. Didn’t we for so long?” Christmas was close and the whole city was dressed up like a bride. The café’s lights had flickered with the inconsistent power.
“I know it hurts but time will heal all wounds. You’re here and it counts for something.” Connor had tried to hold in the tears in the café we sought refuge in. With his flat white coffee and my pumpkin spice latte between us, he was an expert panel of one.
“I don’t even know anymore. My faith, my friendship all have been so brutally shattered.” Zaahid and I had come a long way together from sharing music classes to participating in the same show to lovers. We enjoyed each other’s company. We could talk for hours. We were special as all loves in the world are. What we had wasn’t perfect but it was enough. We were simply like any other ordinary couple—we would go out for coffee dates, for dinners, we would make birthdays of each other an extravagant affair and he would surprise me from lavish gifts time to time and our Instagram’s soon became our relationship blog.
In time, we met each other’s parents and got involved—too involved—in the other’s family. I could sense that our bond would become stronger with each passing month and soon—almost a year in courting—we named it ‘love.’ But it wasn’t love. We purely mastered the skill of make-believe. The problem was, as it is so hard to pin down the definition of ‘love’, even if we write ceaselessly about it, over time I started assuming what it meant. But with each passing year, as I grew older, I grew wiser too and finally identified that people don’t like ‘love,’ they like that flitter flirty feeling.
“Right now, is not the time to be preachy but,” Connor had pulled in his coat tighter as the café door opened and a gush of cold air greeted us, “I warned you so many times. Zaahid and you? You both weren’t a match; you were a convenience.”
Snow fell outside and I thought about how that night was going to change everything—change me. “I knew we wouldn’t last. We didn’t even have any substance together.” A dry laugh had slipped from me, “sometimes we’d go too silent to be comforting that he’d call in Maira to keep things in control.”
Connor held my hand in his, allowing me to speak, to be. “I didn’t expect it to end like this. Or so soon. Or maybe its too late already. I don’t know.” I set my cup down on the table and lean back in my chair. Yes. That’s what hurt me. I didn’t see that coming. It was impossible to think that I would one day face the tremors of heartache, and no one—not even I, myself—could have sensed the tragedy that was waiting for me
“Penny—Penelope, listen to me! You’re okay.” He had shifted uncomfortably in his seat and cleared his throat. He naturally reached for a glass of water and put it before me. He sighed and smiled at me, but there was a hint of sadness in his smile and it instantly made me wish that I didn’t put him through this. “You went through something terrible and came out the other side alive. Maybe shaken. Or even shattered. But you’re here.”
“Uh...uh,” He put his pointer finger on my lips and did not let me intrude. “You deserve better.” With both elbows on the table and a hand cradling his chin, his stance had reminded me of every single time he could talk me out of it.
Today with Matthew, I’ve come to know of a kind of love that even Shakespeare couldn’t touch. All his tragedies and romances seemed to be just about the physical attraction. For example, we never knew if Romeo and Juliet knew if they liked the same books or music. It was just physical. Matthew taught me that love is sacrificial, love is ferocious, it is not emotive. I don’t know why our generation thinks it is cool to not care. It’s not. Effort is cool. Caring is cool. Loyalty is cool. Please, don’t just love the idea of ‘love,’ actually pay for that emotion.
And I paid for it big time. When the wind swept in Maira into Zaahid and my life, she wrecked hers and ours as well. Allow me to expand on it. Every relationship has a cycle…in the beginnings, when he and I were starting to like each other, we would anticipate the calls, and want the other’s touch and liked all of our idiosyncrasies. Somehow ‘falling’ in love wasn’t even hard. Have you seen his gorgeous face? In fact, it was a completely natural and spontaneous experience much like my rapport with Connor. I didn’t have to DO anything. Maybe that’s why they call it ‘falling’ in love. People in love sometimes also say, ‘I was swept of my feet.’ Picture the expression. It implies that one was just standing there, doing nothing and then something happened TO THEM. Falling for Zaahid had been such a passive, spur-in-the-moment event that I cannot it begin to describe how it happened. It was vastly a gradual experience.
But after a few months or years of being together, the euphoria of love fades. It’s a natural cycle of every relationship. I started noticing it when Zaahid started losing his patience with me. My blabbers became annoying to him. My phone calls became a bother for him, my touch was not welcome anymore and my quirks, instead of being cute, drove him nuts. Simultaneously, I started growing tired of pleasing him and I didn’t want to train him how to be with me. Either he understood it or he didn’t but I couldn’t force it. So, I started losing interest and removing myself from his life because he wasn’t able to reciprocate the love, honor, adoration and respect that I supplied him.
The symptons of this stage differs with every relationship; I started seeing a dramatic difference between the initial stages of our love and a much duller and even angry subsequent stage. Slowly, but surely, there came the time where he couldn’t sit with me without calling in Maira. He would have that lingering look in his eyes that early smitten lovers have, for Maira. The first person to share his happiness shifted from me to her and slowly what was left of Zaahid and I was simply a skeleton. At that point, I started asking myself and him, ‘what are we?’ ‘am I with the right person?’ and with each euphoric reflection of the love we once shared, I/ both of us began to desire that experience with someone else. This was exactly where our relationship brokedown.
For me, it was Connor. He has been my biggest support system and strength. He held me throughout the length of Zaahid and my relationship, however long it coursed. When Zaahid and I would use, ‘I love you’ like an apology for all the hurt we were inflicting on each other, Connor would remind me to be the master of my own ship and let a dead link be just that. But Zaahid and my “I love you’s” had started to look a lot like a final attempt at keeping the fire from burning out, like two beggars just gripping at each other’s limbs. I love you—despite painting with Maira. I love you—despite eating out with Connor even if I promised you dinner. I love you—despite being incapable of loving myself.
Years passed in this stage of our relationship cycle and what Connor and I had so naturally was painful to recreate with Zaahid. In middle of work, or band practices or even on the way to Connor’s studio, the one thing on the forefront of my mind more than anything (and I know this is really pathetic) was the fact that I never got a fair and square chance with Zaahid. Or maybe I did but our timing wasn’t right. I wanted to be with him so incredibly bad that knowing—the minute he started to call me by her name—that I won’t get to experience it had left me feeling like there was this huge gaping hole in my chest. The ease at which we interacted, the way he would touch me like it was what he was supposed to do, the kisses he would plant in my hair—they were all small pieces of something so much bigger.
Something big enough that deserved some sort of recognition from him. Some sort of respect. But Zaahid started treating whatever we had between us like it was wrong, taxing and sub-standard compared to whatsoever Maira had to offer. It hurt. This is where Connor would waltz into my dull and woeful life and make me elegantly bloom time and again. He would never get tired of meeting me daily or hearing me rant again and again and again. When I would be cautious of the paparazzi seeing us in cozy café’s together, for he was married to Jane, my Cherry Foxes’ co-member, he would sling his arm around my shoulder and cheerfully say, “I’m your best friend, boo!”.
It was that time that I felt that the world was moving too fast and I could get lost in the chaos of it all but Connor introduced me to the magnificence of the sunset; he would take me to long strolls in the park or on hilly treks and make me feel the earth between my feet; he would personally head my Bucket List items and once made me cliff dive, to feel the air as it rushed into my lungs. He made me appreciate life, without Zaahid.
Still Zaahid and I didn’t let each other go. After Maira started living with him in London, I almost made peace with the fact that the girl who had snatched my crown at Ultimate Sing Off was now best friends with my fiancée, a daughter to my would-be mother in law, and the apple of my would-be father in laws eyes. But I knew I could become her worst nightmare. In the two years I spent with her, I closely listened to her worst fears, figured out what made her tick and then waited for the stars to perfectly align to play my ace card.
We took baby steps with small tasks that she found distasteful, like pulling up pranks on the neighbours or attacking an empty house with coloured water balloons, and worked her up to things she never dreamed she were capable of—like stealing sweets from the shop or nit-picking a dress from our stylist. Why would she do all this? For me! Because I dangled the illusion of ‘friendship’ before her and let her get close enough to almost attain it. I wouldn’t lie, she was fun to be with but then my inner devil voice would remind me of USO Finale and Zaahid’s infidelity and I would immediately begin checking down things on my Breaking-Maira-Without-Touching-Her list.
During these years, with Connor by me, I realised two things. One: that love was not meant to justify hurt; that love alone was never meant to be used as a means of vindicating the problems Zaahid and I didn’t fight to change. In the end, we thought that love would save us from ourselves, but after ages of misuse, the only thing that needed saving was love itself. And two: the key to successful relationships is not finding the perfect or the right person, it’s learning to love the person you found. This is where Zaahid and I should’ve known, we wouldn’t last because we kept searching for reasons to change one another. We became too materialistic in our relationship—the money, power and influence had started to take forefront. Along the way I forgot to check on if true happiness was following behind me.
When relationships fail people often blame their partners for their unhappiness and look outside for fulfillment. Adultery comes in all shapes and sizes; and infidelity is the most common answer. But sometimes people turn to work, a hobby, friendship, excessive T.V., or abusive substances. But the answer to this dilemma does not lie outside the relationship. It lies within it. I didn’t know it then. Thus, each time I needed to talk to someone, Connor became my answer. I started spending more time with him than Zaahid.
And hence when Zaahid and I finally ended, I wasn’t heartbroken about it. I still haven’t shed a single tear over the entire situation. I couldn’t be heartbroken because luckily, I recognised that I had yet to give him that part of me. But I’m not too proud to admit that I was a little sad about it all, and I knew it’ll take time because I really, really liked him. So, I’d be fine. I was a little sad, and a whole lot confused, but I’d be fine. It somehow was destined to happen. On Taybah’s insistence to tie on Zaahid’s wrist a ‘amulet’ she’d procured from the Dargah, on the eve of our wedding, for his longetivity, I had agreed to meet him on the roof that December Night.
Except the night didn’t follow as I had thought it would. When Taybah and I reached the rooftop, we witnessed a side of Zaahid that was utterly and obsessively and hopelessly in love with another woman—with Maira. Without more ado it dawned on me that she had done it again. She played her tricks and there Zaahid was wrapped around her finger. Not fair! Whilst I called Maira a ‘home-wrecker’ Taybah had watched me and there was that particular look in her eyes that made a reel of events—meeting Connor, laughing with Connor, hugging Connor, kissing Connor, dating Connor—tick before me but Taybah didn’t say a word. Never asked me anything, but she knew. She absolutely knew.
I ran to my safe place the same night. To Connor. “I know letting him go will be hard,” he had said as he drove me from the café to his hotel where he stayed at during tour dates. “But I promise you being free will be more beautiful.” I did not think that was possible because that night, I had felt the world turning on its head and I was still standing upright, face forwards, when everything seemed to have reversed and slowed down. My mind insisted that Zaahid’s hadn’t changed, the world had. My heart insisted that the world didn’t exist; only I did. Both were trying to convince me, that I had not become forlorn, the world was simply broken; but they were merely liars.
For four days, I couldn’t leave Connor’s side. My mother had already visited twice and said, “Listen, things will get better. You just have to let them,” and “We can help you,” and “Please.” But words had lost their value for me exactly like, all that glitters isn’t gold. For Zaahid had once said he ‘loved’ me and I ‘mattered’ to him and he ‘adored’ me and as soon as he became part of the bedrock of my personality, he, on one cold December night, under the cloudless sky, announced he was in love with someone else. It would have been kinder to kill me. Along those lines, words seemed hollow, but I felt hollower, hearing the way they echoed and disappeared inside me.
A week after I had forgotten to sleep, forgotten to dream, forgotten how to communicate in the way those around me still could. The moment I had finally picked up the phone to let my well-wishers know I’m alive, I saw Zaahid and Miara’s wedding pictures and then of their star-studded reception event. I had wondered what breathing without my heart breaking looked like. I wondered what words without the taste of death felt like. I wondered what the universe was trying to tell me through all this. But I never ever wondered if things got better. Because I was sure they never would have.
A month slowly trickled away; the way water does when it is collecting in a bucket from a dripping ceiling and I was still there. Connor still stood besides me even when Jane started noticing his absence and the papers started to post more pictures and be more creative with the rumours. We grew closer with each passing day. We essentially began to be in a live-in relationship. For weeks, people surrounding me sounded like a stuck record every time Zaahid was mentioned. Everything switched to autopilot. Get up, shower, get to work, forget to eat, work some more, come home, sometimes remember to eat, go to bed. The routine was numb, but then again, that is why it was comfortable.
In time, self-care started to look not like a luxury but a means of survival. I started to sometimes sleep at 8 p.m. or read good literature or spend time with real friends. It wasn’t just about the overpriced facemasks and Instagram story updates. I cured from him by deciding to wake up every morning, even if, for a while, I didn’t even make it out of bed. By still waking up, and having the bravery to face what could be ahead of me, I was choosing myself instead of him. I healed from him in moments, in little firsts. Like, the first time I went out for coffee and his name didn’t pass my lips. The first time I smiled at someone new and didn’t feel regret or guilt. The first time I slept soundly and without nightmares. The first time I went most of a day without missing the habit of having him around.
I thought about all the moments where Zaahid made me feel small, or unheard, or cracked, or unloved. I dissected them, broke them open, examined each little bit and fibre and molecule of what things were and not what they seemed. I restored myself by giving myself time and by accepting that it isn’t a race, and that there’s not a set course to follow, by allowing myself to grieve and to have ups and downs and good days and bad days and by remembering that there’s no one size fits all guide to healing, and my roadmap is mine and mine alone.
Connor made remember of how much love I was capable of and how Zaahid could never take away that power from me. I healed by pushing myself to take all of that hope I had inside my bones and nurturing it and by believing in my ability to care and dream and be open to trying again. I recovered by trusting that I deserved love again, that I deserve to be happy.
Almost three months after the Awful December Night, I’d felt the urge to talk to Taybah. I wanted to ask her why she did what she did. I needed to know why I wasn’t given any chance at repentance. I fancied the idea that she would give me a chance to explain my side of the story—how it was both of our faults. Didn’t she always say I was her loveliest daughter? Didn’t she love me anymore? Wasn’t I worth it? What was my worth? Taybah agreed to meet me in Chester in the grocery shop she bought her cheese and dairy from. It had puzzled me that she wanted me to travel for two hours—one way—barely to put my point across. Still I went because I wanted the last piece of Zaahid on my chest, off me.
The entire time I spoke, Taybah had a disgusted look on her face. Before I could begin argumenting against it, I found myself unable to speak because I was just so blown away by how utterly wrong and ignorant Taybah was being and I couldn’t understand how anyone could actually believe the things she was saying. In the middle of explaining her my relationship with Connor, she assumed I was acting desperate. So, she advised me of the new generations’ internet hacks—of using Snapchat’s blind dating facility and of paym’s anon user paying feature to date anyone. Impulsively, right then, I thought, yes, letting Zaahid go hurt but what was harder was to trying to hold on to something or someone that wanted to get away. It made me feel like some kind of criminal for having felt, for having wanted. For having wanted to be wanted. I wanted to feel appreciated too. I needed to be wanted.
Here is when Connor and I couldn’t make it. Also, with two pregnancy scares and then a positive test result, we didn’t know what was right anymore. He was still married and I was still looking. Again, in the relationships’ cycle, we started to look for happiness outside our relationship. I’m not saying that you couldn’t fall in love with someone else. You could. And temporarily you’d feel better. But you’d be in the same situation a few years later. It happened to me exactly three weeks after Connor and I parted ways. I didn’t drop the baby. Following Taybah’s advice I went on a blind date orchestrated on Snapchat never knowing the man I would meet would be my boss.
Matthew Cohen. He used to be a share holder of Zaahid’s management and then when the band disbanded, he had taken over Cherry Foxes. With a multitude of interests, he built his empire. Both of us were so surprised to see each other that for a second we thought we are mistaken. But then we clicked exactly like it was already written in our stars. Consciously, I would remind myself each time I met him again and during our courtship of two and a half months, that [ listen carefully to this ] the key to succeeding in a relationship is not finding the right person; its learning to love the person you found.
Our relationship was a natural progression. Matthew appreciated that I was not easy to be with because I am a chronic over-thinker and impetuous but he saw the potential in ‘us.’ He understood I was insecure but also noticed my giving nature. Soon, I started to love him with so much passion and intensity that he started saying that he forgot what life felt like before I came along. When inadvertently I would miss Zaahid in the details—having his favourite dish, or revisiting the out of city restaurant he surprised me to, or seeing the clothes that would twin with his, in the quiet empty moments, the still space that filled my day when I couldn’t convince myself to stop diving into my brain, Matthew would remind me of my importance, he’d preach my worthiness back to me for the sake of wanting to lift me up.
“I’ll choose you. I choose you. Every time. Again and again.” Matthew would keep chanting when the memories of the Summer of Zaahid and my love cloud me. I’d consciously fail to remember the frost that often came between us, followed by the short-lived Spring and the extensive Monsoon where we rained flaws at each other. I’d shiver at the cold chill of our Autumn, and once more the bleak and tormenting distance of our Winter. When he’d ‘choose’ me, it felt like his commitment to love me—to love us. He let his priorities known. He’d hold me silently but I would hear, “I am here. I am not going anywhere. You are safe. There is nothing we cannot beat so long as we keep choosing each other.” It’ll always be our silent promise to hold hands even when life seems uncertain and excruciating.
When Matthew made me the face of his luxury fashion company, I felt valued. I felt loved and safe and committed to. Each time my bleeding heart would remind me of Zaahid, I started to paint them in warm yellows. I started to squeeze knowledge out of my experiences and made my soul grow wiser until I didn’t miss him anymore. Matthew would often encourage me to try a solo career—write my own songs, let my story known. He would tell me to ‘aim higher’ and be ‘greater’ and I would always hear, ‘I love you.’ Each time a huge smile would plaster on my face because it meant I held a piece of his heart, I had significance and he loved me for all my silly quirks, for my looks and for my heart or for who I am (the good, the bad, and the imperfection.)
Then one day, he came back home with his hair dyed black and a fake tan. The world slipped off my feet. I could not make myself admit to his striking similarity to Zaahid so I surprised him with my pregnancy instead. I lied and told him its his. For a week I throve off being his world. I loved to be loved. However, the truth was eating me up from the inside and I knew Matthew would never forgive me for it but I could not bear to lose what I had with him. Here, love became complicated for me. I started questioning it. Why do lovers move apart? Why do marriages break? Why are some love songs blue? Where do broken hearts go? How can someone who was once your everything, become a stranger…or even an enemy? Is it because love is ultimately bad? Or even a momentary feeling, that only some people are blessed enough to experience forever?
I ran to Connor again. “Connor, I can’t. I can’t lie to Matthew anymore. This will break him.”
“You have to Penelope. Jane knows about us. She’s at her mother’s place. She won’t even come home with me, Penelope.”
“Connor, being together was OUR decision—”
“And keeping the child is yours Penelope.” Connor had run his hand through his air, “I want to be with Jane. I can’t let her go.”
“But Connor I cannot drop a CHILD! That’s so—”
“I’ll let you decide. I can provide all the help you’ll need for their upbringing but I can’t be their father. Whatever we had, meant something to me—”
“Not anymore?” I felt rejection slapping me again.
He shook his head, “means something to me—but Jane matters more. I want to be present for her. She’d made far too many sacrifices in our marriage and I can’t repay her like this.”
In some way, I believed in his love. I believe in its strength and importance in relationships. But I also learnt that love isn’t always enough. You need more than love to make a relationship work. Love starts many great romances, but love alone won’t make a relationship last forever. I started to chalk down phrases more important than ‘I love you,’ one would like to hear from their partner.
I believe you. I believe in you. I believe in your hopes and desires and in your truth. I will always have your back. You can rely on me. I will always stand by you. All your hopes and dreams and desires will matter to me the way they matter to you.
I respect you. I respect you for who you are and not for what I feel you deserve. I respect you because you deserve my respect, not because you earned it. I’ll respect your opinions, and consider your feelings. I’ll treat you like your own person.
I’m committed to you. I choose you. Over and over again. I will sustain this relationship. I will make this a priority in my life. I will give you my time. I will selflessly work on us. I’ll be there when no one else is. In sickness and in health, my willingness to be there won’t change. My commitment is not dependent on your state of being, but rather it is there because you exist and you are someone worth committing to.
I forgive you. I forgive you for all the things have done, or will do, that may hurt me. I forgive your big mistakes and the small ones. I forgive you for not knowing what I needed, when I thought you would or even expected you to know. I forgive you the way I hope you’ll forgive me.
Because if it was true that love was all we needed, love wouldn’t be so hard, and relationships wouldn’t fall apart so easy. The truth is sustaining love is not a passive or extemporaneous experience. You have to work on it day in and day out. It takes time, effort, and energy. And most importantly, it demands wisdom. You have to know what to do to make it work. Make no mistake about it. Love is NOT a mystery. It is a ‘decision’ not a feeling. And I thought lying would make mine survive. Until then, it had.
A year later, our marriage and first daughter behind us, we were again pregnant. Matthew started to dye his hair black and tan his skin often, so much so that seeing him blond and paler after months would be revolting. “Not to upset you but I like you better in the tan and brunet hair. Plus, the girls are so used to that you,” I had giggled when the younger one refused to recognize him. Thus, he stuck to his new attire.
In the papers Maira would be sprawling the headlines with Zaahid. They would post on Instagram about their happy married life and of their exotic vacations. ’With my one and only.’ ‘Paradise found.’ ‘You light up my world.’ ‘Moon with the honey.’ The one in Finland with the northern lights, made me twitch not because I liked him anymore but because I couldn’t digest him turning me down like that. I. Wanted. Revenge. Why could he get away by pulling the wool over my eyes for years? If I closed my eyes real tight, I could sometimes hear the remains of his screenplay—she gets me Penelope. She is my best friend. But now, I also can hear the subtext which he wouldn’t speak but still say, I am falling for her Penelope. I love her. I’ve moved onto a new relationship.
It would be like a stage play, where I’d be casted for the protagonist but in essence would never be with the Prince Charming. And it stopped the day I saw the curtains and the stage lights. The day I spotted his repetition in themes and scenes and of his script. He gave away my heart like it was worthless, like I deserved it, but I truly had to lose him to love me.
A year and a half ago, I couldn’t stay unbothered with my dishonorable rejection. I again contacted Taybah. “Please Taybah, I can’t let Maira get away with it all. Wasn’t she your liability?” This time, she was as interested in me as I was in her. “I know how agitated you’ve been since the day Maira stepped in your house? I am sure you don’t like her either. Please, help me.”
“Don’t put words in my mouth Penelope.” Taybah was stern. “Maira is my responsibility.” A beat later and after tapping at the keys of her laptop she said, “tell you what, these days the internet has all the answers.” She took a long sip of her tea, “I’ve heard paym users are creative. I know someone who could help…”
“Yes, please, I’ll do anything.”
“Keep quiet, then.” She shut her laptop abruptly as I enacted to seal my lips and throw away the key. “I’ll arrange something by eight tonight?”
“Sounds good.” I took a bite from my bagel already imagning the dream coming true. Maira would not get away by making me old news and being the new bell of the ball. “I know where she buys her groceries, who she meets, where she works. I don’t know what her charcoal eyes will look like when they’re scared. But I will.” I state with such a low voice that Taybah had to lean in a bit to hear. I thought I had seen her smirk. When I had begun to get up, she spoke again.
“And Penelope? Trust the internet. Don’t question it. Sometimes someone else’s goals can align with yours and the universe works for you.”
That same evening the message from paym came in: if he hits you with betrayal, you parry with vengeance. The next day, I had an anonymous payment of 500 pounds in my bank with the receipt, here’s an early Merry Christmas gift. It’s time to turn the tables. I was chary to consider it legit—did the Lord just listen to my prayers? —but Taybah said, “trust the flow of events. Revenge is sweet.”
Subsequently, I sent Zaahid a birthday cake and chocolates. I knew he’d consider it as me returning the favour of the bouquet and cake he sent on mine. Sticking to the plan, I met him often for coffee(s) and dinner(s) but I could feel my lost friend coming back to me. I couldn’t afford to divert from my goal. Plus, I didn’t want him back in my life. I didn’t wait for his messages or wondered where he was and with whom and seeing him, I didn’t have a heavy feeling in my chest that I’d have to drag around. He simply was a passing thought that sometimes made a cameo in my dreams but didn’t bring back the pain I felt when we ended.
In time, Matthew became too pleasing. He wanted to bring back the smile on my face that suddenly ‘avenging’ Zaahid had taken away. “Hey babe, did something happen? Did I say or do something that I shouldn’t have? Please talk to me Penny.” Matthew would question until I couldn’t take it anymore and told him about my strategy. “I’m not sure how that’ll satisfy you but if it makes you happy, I’ll do it.”
He hopped into my plan straightaway and sent in a photoshoot project to Maira for his Cohen: The Label and the posters were printed on scented paper, matching her favourite cologne, like a subtle warning of the tragedy that could befall her. He spent the subsequent weeks convincing me to drop it, “I know you Penny, this isn’t you. Let it go.” I didn’t.
Instead, when a month ago Harry and Maira’s photoshoot news got around, I convinced Matthew to use his contacts to leak some photos to the public and let media do their jobs. “Only for you, love. Only. For. You.”
For Zaahid, since a year, our friendship now is re-established. Thus, yesterday I gave him a surprise visit in his studio and convinced him, “I’d love if you can have dinner at my place tonight. I planned a fantastic menu. I think it’ll have your favourites.” I could see Zaahid taking it as another step forward for wining over his lost friend. Ironically, for me, the trap was laid out. My eager daughters were ready to play with Zaahid with my specifically kept out pink lipstick and the Chanel cologne Maira had introduced me too. I knew my monsters. I knew the mess they were capable of creating and transferring. In the evening, Matthew kept Zaahid well entertained. It was a part of his nature to be a good host and as they talked, I smiled. My chest felt light, because, I truly had moved on. I had felt that day would never come, but it was here now.
But we weren’t done yet. Trouble in paradise hadn’t knocked up until now. If I have read Maira correctly over time then she would have definitely caught on the hints. Still I felt obligated to tame the fire to burn her. I had to carefully place the last two pawns on my chessboard to finally declare, “check-mate.” It would have a domino like effect—starting from Maira accidentally bumping into Matthew for the first time and seeing my daughters and their genetic traits, here at Harry’s place, to Maira receiving a call from Ashton Miller [Matthew’s ex employer and friend] and finally to see me kiss her presumed ‘beau’ while in reality it was my own husband—Matthew. When we sought out today’s plan, I couldn’t believe I turned into a person filled with a bitterness I can’t control, consumed by hatred that I never knew could take root. But here it is and here I am.
When the crashing noise of the chinaware vase at the entry of the garden rungs through the room, Matthew and I pull away from each other’s embrace. “Good. Bye. Zaahid.” I whisper. Our smiles highlight the success of our plan. Maira’s gasp is so loud we clearly hear it and I know that her finely-honed eyes have detected a hitch in the situation and her nimble witted self is adding some bizzare dots. The whole charade is planned and executed in such a way that it has to leave a scar on her mind, and if it doesn’t leave a lasting impression it surely will manage to sow a seed of doubt of Zaahid’s ‘loyalty’ in her mind. After all, it is the Kiss of Judas.
“Z’s cheating scandal? Check.” I quickly drop Taybah a text. Within seconds I get a bank transfer of another 500 pounds from TJ the paym user. The caption says, ‘celebrate your success. revenge is sweet.’ I have zero regrets as for so long I allowed Zaahid to use me as a rag doll. So many times, I found him annoying and he had the ability to choose Maira with that refined look of innocence he has. If I close my eyes, sometimes I can replay all the stupid things he used to say, all the catch phrases poorly worded, the cheesy pick up lines and the biggest lie, I love you, what did they all mean anyway? I am not shameful for my act because when everything one loves is stolen from them, sometimes all they have left is revenge.
I am done being sad about you in a big way. But I am still not done being sad about in small ways yet okay?
“Yeah, you’ve been actin’ so conspicuous, you flip it on me, say I think too much. You’re movin’ different when we makin’ love, baby, tell me, tell me, who do you love, do you love now? I wanna know the truth. I know it’s someone new. You ain’t gotta make it easy, where you been sleepin’? This shit is keepin’ me up at night, just admit it.” Song: Who do you love by The Chainsmokers ft. 5SOS
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