There were a lot of things he could say to pin the blame on her. Things that would help him sleep better at night. Actually, no. He already slept quite wonderfully.
But in his defense, he could always say:
Number One: She was looking for trouble.
Number Two: She needed him.
Number Three: She was too beautiful for her own damn good.
Well, the first two were lies. She was always an obedient girl, never looking for any trouble and she also didn’t need him. It was him who needed her. But the last reason was true. She was too damn beautiful.
That was how he had initially fallen in love with her. Her hazel brown eyes that reminded him of a beautiful lost doe, her milky skin tempted him to mark her, her little button nose that she scrunched up whenever she saw his face and her beautiful pink lips that she chewed on habitually. Ultimately, it had been her waist length brown hair that he had a growing fascination with.
He could still remember the time when they had gotten engaged. It had been a big day, not only for their families but for their whole city. Pashtun customs were such where all of them were family and Arman Khan was everyone’s lala.
But it wasn’t love for either the bride or groom. Once Jabbar Khan, Arman’s grandfather, had given the order of the engagement between his oldest grandson and Nufail Rahim’s eldest daughter, no one had dared to object because if there was one person in this world that Arman respected more than life, it was his grandfather. He shared more secrets with his beloved dada than anyone in this world. To the outside world, Jabbar Khan was a rigid man with strict morals and principles. But to Arman, he was a kind man with strong values of family and loyalty.
Nufail Rahim, on the other hand, was, his father, Asfandyar Khan’s best friend who was a dear family friend too. Over the years, Nufail Chacha had stood by them through everything. He was an honest man who loved his family more than anything. Arman didn’t understand why Nufail Chacha was okay with marrying his beloved daughter to Arman because if knew about the Khan’s illegal business, he would’ve run for the hills. Regardless, due to his respect for Nufail Chacha and his grandfather, he had agreed. Besides, he was getting older and sooner or later, he had to get married. It didn’t really matter who it was.
There was a small ceremony in the Khan Haveli where both families had gathered, and Arman’s mother had placed a diamond ring in his future wife’s finger and Nufail Chacha had placed a platinum band in Arman’s finger and told him to take care of his daughter.
Due to their customs, there hadn’t been any interaction between him and his future wife since technically they weren’t husband wife yet. In complete honesty, he hadn’t really made the effort to see her either. He was indifferent to her presence. At that point.
It was on the insistence of his cousins and the kids that he had gotten dragged in the living room where all the ladies were sitting and laughing and that was where he had lost his heart.
Clad in a beautiful ivory lehenga choli with a matching heavy dupatta draped over her head with a few of her brown hair peeking out, she looked nothing short of magnificent. Upon this arrival the older ladies started snickering which made her look up and make eye contact with him. The moment she did, he felt his heart stop. She looked like an angel. His shameless eyes raked over her from head to toe, scanning and liking every detail before he registered that his appreciation hadn’t gone unnoticed.
“Arman lala, taar liya Bhabhi ko tassallee say?” Came the annoying voice of his cousin Aahil who had snuck in the ladies gathering. (Have you ogled our sister-in-law enough?)
He barely had the time or motivation to reply because his mind had stopped working after gazing at his wife to be who seemed uncomfortable at his undivided attention on her.
Mahnoor. His fiancé.
He was a selfish bastard and unashamed to admit that his attention had, initially, been caught by her looks but eventually, it had been her personality that he had fallen in love with.
She was like an addicting drug. The more he tried to quit, the more he found himself chasing her.
After their engagement, he had found out exactly why his grandfather wanted them both engaged. If Arman thought he was his dada’s favorite, he was sorely mistaken because Mahnoor, despite not even being family, was his favorite. He hadn’t realized that during the years he had been living in Islamabad for business, Mahnoor had quickly become his grandfather’s favorite with her almost daily visits to the haveli and how she always snuck him his favorite desserts, against doctor’s orders.
Moreover, not just his grandfather but the whole family adored her as their own because of her alleged loving nature which he had yet to witness.
The thought of the bond between Mahnoor and his family had made him fall in love with her even more.
After their engagement, Arman had to return to Islamabad for some business. When he was gone, he had made sure to go visit his in laws hoping to catch a glimpse of his wife alas she did not make an appearance.
Surprisingly, he found himself thinking about her more than he would care to admit which made him wrap up work faster than normal and he was back at his Haveli in a week. He had barely entered when he heard bubbling laughter and voices coming from the garden. His feet took him in the direction of the garden where he saw all the elders having afternoon tea while all the kids and youngsters played around.
He had made it halfway to them before he heard a loud shriek behind him, and a body crashed into him. He turned around in surprise to find his younger sister Zarina clutching him, her eyes going wide in surprise, before she hid behind him and used his body as her shield.
“Lala, please save me. She’s going to kill me” Zarina said, as she peaked around his body.
Before Arman had the chance to ask anything, he heard an angry feminine growl coming from the inside of the house.
“Zari ki bachi. Only Allah can save you today. You idiot. I could’ve died. Y-you-
On cue, his angry little Mahnoor came into view with her brown hair flying with the wind, her face red and annoyance etched on her face. After seeing him, though, her expressions morphed from annoyance to shock to embarrassment. She turned redder than before looking down shyly. As if struck by lightning, she immediately grabbed the pallu of her dupatta and placed it on her head.
Zarina, on the change of her friend’s tone, came out of hiding with a smug smile. “What were you saying Bhabhi? Want to repeat that now?” She teased smugly, enjoying her friend’s obvious discomfort.
“Zarina” Arman said, lightly, in warning.
“Haye Allah!” Zarina replied in mocking disbelief before turning around to walk to the family mumbling “Lala is so whipped”
He turned to look back at his wife to be who was trying to make a quick exit but before she could, he stepped in front of her.
Due to his towering height, he leaned down towards her ear and asked, “Salam nahi karo ge?” (Aren’t you going to say hello?)
Mahnoor blushed before stuttering out a greeting, keeping her gaze on the ground, hoping it would swallow her right now.
She tried side stepping him, but he blocked her again. “Look at me” he demanded. When she hesitated, he took a step closer to her, leaving hardly an inappropriate distance between them.
Worriedly, she chewed her lip, looking back to see if someone was looking. “Please. Someone will see” she pleaded, worriedly, chewing her lip.
“Yes, they will” Not that I care, he wanted to add. “Which is why you should listen quickly and look at me” He added.
Nervously, she looked up at him with her doe like eyes.
“Good girl. Next time you see me, I want you to greet me and make eye contact when you talk to me. Got it?” He instructed softly, resisting the urge to touch her skin.
She scrunched her eyebrows but nodded, regardless, wanting to get rid of him in the moment.
“Use your words” he whispered huskily, wanting to hear her voice.
“Jee” she replied, hurriedly. (Yes)
“Jee kya Mahnoor” he probed, enjoying her squirming. (What, yes, Mahnoor)
Before she could say anything, he heard his mother’s voice calling him. “Arman beta when did you get back?”
He watched as his little fiancé took the opportunity to try to run but luck was not her side as Meena Chachi called her name.
“Noor beta, idhar aao” (Noor, dear, come here)
He watched Mahnoor nod lightly as she started heading in the same direction as him – towards the elders.
“Ainda jab mein kuch kahon tou foran sun liya karo. I don’t like to repeat myself.” He told her, strictly, as he kept walking forward. (Moving forward, if I say something, comply right away. I don’t like to repeat myself)
She barely had time to process his words before they had reached, and Arman left her and went to say his Salam to all the elders.