Where it all began...
A bright new day at work, a bigger project to handle. What was it this time? Oh great! It’s aiding “save the children” fund. Zeyna had truly loved her new job. It had been about nine months and three major projects had already been completed and successfully too.
This Borkan Group of Industries that she worked for had funded many projects that helped the society and the world at large. She was indeed honored to have worked here and this was a great help on her family’s financial status.
The cabins were spread out on the ground floor and the boss’s office was decked on and overhanging balcony. It was believed that he was able to see everyone and everything from there. The lifts were heavily guarded and Zeyna had never, in the nine months seen the owner of Borkan Ind. The only time she saw him was when he had already walked past. All that she knew was that he was a tall and broad shouldered man. He rarely talked to anyone and had a secretary who relayed his messages to everyone. His emails on deadline and on the effort and good work that was acknowledged came in as well. But that was all. Apart from that he never spoke to his staff and never intermingled.
From the adjacent workstation, Blake rolled over to hers. Blake was a foreigner- from the UK. He had started work on the same day as Zeyna. They both enjoyed their jobs and were glad to be part of a prestigious organization as this. They were associates in the latest project and Blake had always found ways to interest Zeyna with talks of his country back in UK.
The salary that Zeyna was getting was enough to help her father with the needs of her small family as her brother was yet to finish his tertiary education and times were getting hard. She treasured her job and stayed back late often to finish off whatever she could. Blake would often help out too and they were known as the eager beavers who finished off any task given.
At the age of twenty-eight, Zeyna had finally reached her dream job and couldn’t ask for more in her life. Blake had new ideas and concepts and Zeyna would then fit it into the norms and customs of society to make it a success. She had been through other jobs, terrible ones that made her work and only paid her enough to roll over. Well for love life? She hadn’t had any decent affairs or boyfriends. And no time for that too.
Her mother had one arranged marriage lined up for her but she managed to persuade her out of it saying that now she had a job to support herself she didn’t need to get married yet.
Zeyna was busy in discussions with Blake at their workstation, when Afsana, Mr. Borkan’s secretary walked up to them. She was a middle aged woman who wasn’t too tall and had a very strict straight face at all times. She would be dressed in a traditional hijab and always wore a niqab and high heels. It amazed Zeyna that Afsana looked the same every day. She never smiled and seldom showed concern for anyone or anything. She always had her i-pad in her hand and kept her conversations work related at all times. Much like her boss, she never joined any staff gathering or discussions. She was greatly respected in the organization. There was even a rumor that the boss and she had a thing between them since they were spotted together and the boss would take her on every important event. Zeyna figured that she was a secretary and that was part of her job.
“Zeyna Hassan,” Afsana said in an even tone. Zeyna turned around her chair to face the voice that called her. It startled her to see Afsana so closely for the first time. There were fine lines around her eyes and the rim of her eyes had given away her age. She was probably a little over 60. Before Zeyna could respond to her, she spoke again. “Please follow me.””
Without another word or even a moment of hesitation, she turned around expecting Zeyna to follow her. Zeyna, shocked, quickly stood up and followed her throwing a glance at Blake. She was led towards the lift lobby where tall huge armed guards stood. They made way when Afsana and Zeyna walked towards them. Inside the lift, Zeyna wanted to talk to Afsana but didn’t know what to say. It was a very short ride and again she followed the older lady into the boss’s office.
The office was as white as white could be. It had a neat clear setting with walls of thick glass from where the whole office was truly visible. It was round and the center had a neat huge desk with a huge computer screen, complete with full stereo speakers and all the latest technology imaginable. In the middle of the table sat a broad shouldered man with his back towards them.
“Mr. Borkan” Afsana said.
“Hmm,” was the throaty reply, not even bothering to look at the person he spoke with?
“Zeyna Hassan,” Afsana spoke no more than needed.
Instantly the chair spun around revealing his face. His eyes were an indescribable shade of grey with dark eyebrows and a straight nose and thin lips that opened up to even white teeth. He was probably in his mid- thirties. His jaw was square lined and his chin had a tinge of pride to it. He had a light beard surrounding his lips and chin. His hair was cut short and was styled neatly. He looked directly at Zeyna who was dumbstruck by his aura. Mr. Borkan nodded slightly at Afsana who nodded back and turned around and left the room.
“Miss Zeyna Hassan,” his voice was sensuously deep as he rose and extended his hand to her. He was a good six feet plus and towered over her. Zeyna shook his hand. It was warm and had a muscular feeling. Her intestines were churning now.
“Allow me to introduce myself,” he continued as he walked over to her and pulled a chair for her to sit. “I am Kabir Al Borkan. Owner of the Borkan Group of Industries.” Zeyna had a feeling that she had goofed up on one of the projects and this was her termination speech. He looked straight at her. “You may have seen me around sometimes.”
Zeyna slightly shook her head in a “no”. Her voice was stuck in her throat.
“Hmmm,” he smiled slightly showing his deep dimple. “I thought you wouldn’t have seen me. I have always seen you so engrossed in your work that you don’t seem to bother about anything else.” He took his place on his seat exactly opposite her.
“Are you comfortable Miss Hassan?” he enquired. Zeyna nodded quickly. He smiled that sideways smile again. “Ok,” he said as he reached for a folder in his drawer. He gently placed the folder in front of her. “Please read this and sign on it,” his face turned serious. “You don’t have much time.”
Zeyna’s heart was thumping. She hadn’t opened the file yet. Oh no! A termination letter? I can’t leave this job. Her breathing was heavy. Her mind was frantic. Without thinking she blurted out, “Mr. Borkan, please don’t do this.”
“Hmm,” Kabir nodded slightly. “So you do talk.”
“I really love my job and I promise whatever mistake I have done, I will pay for it,” she begged. Kabir’s eyes widened as he rested his elbows on the table and smiled a sly smile.
“Even though it takes me the rest of my life, I will honestly pay back every cent of loss I have incurred but please don’t terminate me.” Her eyes were slightly swelling with tears and Kabir felt a rough jerk in his chest.
He stood up, “Read,” he instructed in a solid voice and he walked over to the side of the glass overlooking the office. He stuffed his hands in his pocket and breathed in slow and deep. He couldn’t understand what the sensation in his chest was. He looked down to where Zeyna’s seat was.
“Mr. Borkan,” Zeyna said after a few minutes of reading. Her voice was just a notch above a whisper. “I think there is some kind of mistake.” She got up slowly. “I …I….can’t do this,” Zeyna stammered.
Kabir swiftly turned around and in two steps he was towering over her again. His grey eyes were charcoal now. “I don’t take no for an answer Miss Hassan,” his voice was furious.
Zeyna wasn’t the kind one could dictate over. “This contract,” she said in a firm even voice lifting the folder off the table, “is a marriage contract between you and me.” Zeyna stood firm. “Allow me to inform you Mr. Borkan, that marriage isn’t or shouldn’t be a contract. It is a bond between two people who love each other.” she concluded. “And Mr. Borkan, I am not one those ladies who can spend their life in hijabs and niqabs. I am not like that.”
Kabir took a deep breath and continued confidently. “You will have all the freedom of dressing Miss Hassan. I believe you haven’t read all the clauses in this contract …”
“I have..,” Zeyna cut in. “It says you will pay me a good sum of money and provide my family with a lavish house and guarantee good education for my brother and also a job at Borkan Industries. I will have any vehicle or vehicles that I wish to and will have an unlimited amount of money for daily shopping for personal items. I have the freedom to do whatever I choose…”
“So is there something that may have been missed out in the contract that is causing this reaction?” Kabir asked casually as he walked away confidently fueling Zeyna’s anger.
“Mr. Borkan please,” Zeyna said calmly. “I respect you a great deal but I believe you have taken me the wrong way.” She turned to face him. “I am not one of those girls who will sell themselves for money.” Kabir shot an angry glance at Zeyna unable say anything yet. His hands had formed into fists.
She could see anger in his eyes. “I accept that we are poor and we struggle for a better life with each passing day but marriage still holds a high position in our hearts. We still believe in love.” She said as a tear rolled down her cheek.
Kabir’s chest tightened at this sight. He looked away from Zeyna. “Who needs love when money can buy and satisfy anything and everything,” Kabir said holding his head high still not facing Zeyna. “What is love? Money can buy anything Miss Hassan,” he concluded confidently.
“Then, Mr. Borkan, please buy yourself some other bride,” she said with a cold hard stare before she walked out of his office.
Afsana was at the base of the lift awaiting them to finish. Zeyna walked out wiping her tears ignoring her. She raced straight to the ladies washroom to freshen up before she could continue with her daily work again.
The rest of the afternoon, Zeyna avoided looking up to the round office even though she knew she wouldn’t be able to see anything through the tinted glass. She felt as if Mr. Borkan was still watching her from up there. She kept looking at the time. She picked up her bag and rushed out the door as soon as the clock struck five. Blake was surprised by her behavior.
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