Dua watched her reflection while adjusting the ring on her finger. Her father’s ring. It was the only thing left of them which those loyal servants gave to her before they helped her escape. Her eyes traveled to the black clothes she was wearing and she remembered the question Amber asked on the death anniversary of her family.
She wanted to know why she never came. She wanted to know why she always wear this ominous color. But what was Dua to answer when the answers didn’t even exist in the world.
She didn’t exist in the world anymore.
She died the day her family died. It was only a body, breathing and moving. Her heart was dead. Her soul was dead. And there was no life that could be breathed in her again.
Giving herself one last look, Dua grabbed her phone and bag and headed out of her room. There was no time for self-pity in her life. Not anymore.
“Good morning” Ida pulled the chair out for her at table and placed the newspaper to her left. “What would you like to have today? Tea or coffee?”
“Coff-” Dua looked up when Xian came. She was not in the mood to hear another bad news before starting her day. “What happened now?”
“Someone is here to meet you.” Dua raised a questioning brow at him. “He demands five minutes of your time.” Curious to know who came to meet her so early in morning, Dua got up and walked after Xian towards her living. But her steps came to an abrupt halt.
“I know but please listen to what I have to say” Sarim raised his hands in surrender when he saw her expressions. “I promise I just need five minutes. That’s all.” Dua nodded after much reluctance. “Can we talk outside? It will be much easier for me.” Giving him another nod, she walked him to her back garden.
“I’m sorry” Dua looked at him, surprised. “I’m sorry for making you feel awkward about everything but I held no such intention. I didn’t know and I jumped the gun. I completely understand if you hate me. But I really didn’t mean to hurt you.” Dua could feel the genuineness of his apology. It was crystal clear in his eyes.
“I don’t bother females. I’m sorry if I gave you that impression but the moment I bumped in you that day, I fell for you. Not your beauty-” Her brow shot up skeptically. “Okay, yes. Your beauty too but above all, I got attracted by your personality. I have seen strong women but I have never seen one with a soul like yours. And that’s what compelled me to behave like a stalker-ish, stupid lovesick Romeo around you.”
“I know” he intervened politely. “Dar-jee told me and I just want to say, I am so sorry. For making you go through something that held nothing but pain.” She watched him step close but not enough to invade her personal space. “Dua! Whatever happened, it was not your fault. So stop living the pain alone and share it with someone. Don’t just live your life like it is an obligation. Live it because you are alive.”
“I knew your father. I met him once or twice when he came back. He was great man. I may not get it completely but I understand to some extent. Not everyone is blessed and what do you know, how much your parents and sister might have prayed for your survival. Don’t let their prayers go to waste. Don’t let yourself go to waste. And I am not saying this because I want you to give me a chance. I am saying this because I want to see you give life a chance.” He reached for her hand to place a black velvet box in her palm.
“Dua Feroze Rahija or D. Almas Sahi, it doesn’t matter what your name is” Sarim closed her fingers around it with a smile. “What matters is what you want to become by the end of it. I fell for you at first sight and I really wanted to spend my life with you. It doesn’t matter to me if you were married to someone before.”
So, he doesn’t know who that man is.
“Your past is irrelevant because I want to be in your present and future.” Dua watched him step away with an everlasting smile. “I don’t care what your answer is but I want to see you give yourself a chance.”
Asfand was going through some important papers when Safan barged in his office. Last few days were strict business. They have constantly been on a run, in and out of the country. All thanks to Ismael’s stupidity and greed. The explosion of his warehouses proved itself to be a big blow for them.
Their clients were interlinked through various deals. Asfand knew of the double game Ismael was playing under their noses. He thought he was fooling everyone but he forgot Asfandyar was not one of them. His ineptitude was going to prove very vital for Asfand. After all, Ismael provided him with the opportunity and no way, Asfand was going to pass it.
He already dealt with Russians but those old geezers bore no knowledge of it. Let them think all they want and sever their already breaking ties. Once they will close in on the end, he will land his strike. And the first target will be Ismael Malik. He will climb the ladder through him. He just had to bid for the right time.
“What?” Asfand raised a brow when Safan placed a file in front of him. “What did you bring now?” he picked it and began going through its contents.
“Your princess is coming to Pakistan next week.” Asfand’s head snapped up instantly.
Did he hear it right? Dua was coming to Pakistan? His Dua?
He got up instantly and made his way out of his office without another word. There was a lot he needed to do before she set foot on this land. And most important of all was the stamp he needed to confirm on her of his right.
“Hear me fully before you start jumping with joy.” Asfand stopped and turned to glare at Safan. “You might want to hold your heart for this part Asfand.”
“Fucking out with it already Sa-”
“She is getting married.”
Dua knocked on door briefly before walking inside his study. Jahangir didn’t look up when she sat in front of him. She didn’t need to hear it. She could very clearly see the pain he was in. And this brought her nothing but contrition upon remembering how she talked to him that day.
“I knew” Jahangir whispered with closed eyes. “Yet, I didn’t stop those boys.” He watched her in remorse. “Feroze and Ibtesam had this unique way of looking at things. They always wanted to make a difference. Wanted to do something great.” He chuckled lowly while reminiscing the past. “They would have” He sat up straight and held his cane with both hands to support himself. “If only, they weren’t born in feudal families.”
“It’s not your fault” Dua knelt before him and held his hands. “We couldn’t have known-”
“I knew.” Jahangir nodded. “I always knew and that’s why I brought your parents here after Feroze refused to marry in Sherzai family. I knew what was done and that’s why I never let them take or tell you children about your real home.” He leaned back with a tired sigh.
“Rahija and Sherzai were two strong feudal tribes of Balochistan. Since both held power, both wanted to rule. The relation was more of arch-enemies but over the span of few years, it restored peace when Sherzai married their daughter in Rahija. You father’s mother, Sabeen begum. She was the only sister of baba-saeen, Sardar Altamash Sherzai.”
“Is he alive?” Dua inquired with a frown. She never heard of him when she was in their captivity nor saw him even once. And if her grandmother was his sister, how can he stand and watch all that happen?
“He is very much alive but he has isolated himself. He knew old rivalry rose and this time, there will be no turning it around through any peaceful means.” Jahangir watched Dua in silence for minute. “I never expected Sherzai clan to become this hungry for power over time that they will completely disregard the value of human life. I saw it before I even lost my own children and your family Dua. My niece, Qudsia got married in that family.” Dua frowned in confusion at his words.
“Our family was linked to both Rahija and Sherzai. When I left Pakistan and took Feroze years later, they raised question on the neutral ties. To settle their doubts, my brother Alamgir gave his only daughter to their elder son, Arbaaz. I never knew of this until it was too late.” Jahangir chuckled sadly at her shocked expressions.
“My brother’s decision proved itself to be the biggest mistake of his life. Arbaaz was a nice boy, completely opposite of his blood and cultivation. He loved Qudsia and that became the biggest curse of their lives. His own family turned on him when he refused to play by their rules. His own brother, Afroz Sherzai, killed him for the seat. His first born was a boy and Afroz knew whether Arbaaz wanted it or not, baba-saeen will pass the seat of Sardar to him.”
“Who was that child?” His face contorted painfully like the question hurt him physically. “Who was that child Dar-jee?”
“Asfandyar Sherzai.” Dua dug her nails deeper in her palms. “I’m sorry bacha. If only, we knew.” Dua grabbed hold of his hands firmly.
“If we knew those investors were actually pawns of Afroz Sherzai, none of this would have happened. It was not just revenge Dua. Afroz wanted a guise for his illegal business and for that, he wanted your father back in Pakistan. I should have known when Feroze and Ibtesam told me about the projects those bastards suggested on Gwadar and Panjgur. They wanted to establish a route connection for their trade without being detected by government and federation. And what’s better than using an old nemesis for it. Where Sherzai bore the most criminal record, Rahija were the complete opposite of it. People respected your family the most but fear of tyranny at the hands of Sherzai never let them raise their heads in favor of Rahija.”
“Does Asfandyar know?” Dua gulped inaudibly. “That he is related to you?”
“He doesn’t even know his own mother and father. You know Haider and Asfandyar were born in same year, one month apart. But he knows nothing. They never let him know any other relations than themselves. All he know is them and what they taught him.” Dua looked at Jahangir in silence. “Arbaaz was murdered three months after Asfandyar was born. He was looking for a way out for his family because he wanted to keep his son away from their dark and bloody lineage. But the poor soul couldn’t get the chance to. They killed him when they learnt of his intentions.”
“Alamgir died two years after Qudsia’s wedding. My brother wanted to get his daughter and grandson out of their lives. He knew what threat Asfandyar posed to Afroz and his son and the pain his daughter was suffering after her husband’s death. He knew to what extent Afroz Sherzai could go for power. But he couldn’t get to them in time as well. He was met with a horrible accident on his way to Karachi.” How many more?
“And my grandmother?” Dua looked at Jahangir. “She never missed his only son?”
“She couldn’t even get to say a proper good-bye to Feroze. And Feroze couldn’t get to pay his last respects to her. Sherzai cut his every route back home Dua. If he dared, it would have resulted in nothing but a bloodbath.” It did resulted in a bloodbath.
“Ibtesam always had his doubts on Thompson but he was just a pawn. The real players were the one he thought came as friends. Feroze and Ibtesam together held sixty-five percent shares and ownership of Globaviations. I asked Dilawar to collaborate when my suspicion rose. But it was too late. They got to us first.” Those sixty-five percent.
“They thought it will be immediate and that’s where they made that biggest mistake-” Jahangir looked away from Dua. It reminded him of that horrible night when they found her unconscious on the outskirts of city. If they knew those bastards were keeping them in their own ancestral haveli, Feroze, Safiya and Ammara would have been alive today.
“It’s not going to bring you peace of mind Dua.” She looked up when he spoke suddenly. “Revenge is not going to solve anything. You think I don’t know what path you are walking bacha? But believe me, if seeking revenge could have brought all of them back, I would have done it that night.” Jahangir pulled her chin up. “You were planning to go to Pakistan, weren’t you? You think so low of these old bones bacha.”
“Are you going to stop me?” Jahangir chuckled at her blank face.
“Will you stop if I did so?” Dua chose not to answer. “Then why ask when you have already made decisions for your life. After all, I am just Mir Jahangir Shah to you and you, D. Almas Sahi.”
“I am not going to let you get hurt Dua. You-”
“I am ready to marry Sarim.”
Amber’s face bore million dollar smile when their jet landed in Pakistan. The moment she stepped out of the plane, a feel of hominess engulfed her and she breathed deeply. She was originally from Karachi but she was contented with being in Islamabad. She just wanted to soak as much as she could before she leave again after Dua’s wedding.
“Are you that happy?” Haider mused upon her happy expressions when their cars left for Chaudhary’s residence. “Your happiness is all over the place.”
“I am coming after two years Haider. Its home. It’s where I grew up and who won’t feel jovial upon returning home? Why? Aren’t you happy?” Amber asked innocently. “It’s your homeland as well. Don’t you want to know the place where your roots lie?” What should I tell you how much blood is buried along with those roots? Haider just tipped her chin with a chuckle and looked out.
He still couldn’t believe Dua’s decision. She was involving Sarim in her life after knowing everything. He couldn’t bring himself to believe that Dua was ready to use Sarim to execute her plan.
What is going through your head Dua? Haider fisted his mouth while thinking carefully.
“Haider?” He broke out of his thoughts when Amber shook his arm gently. “We have reached.” He looked out momentarily and smiled at her frowning face before stepping out after Jahangir.
“Jahangir!” Dilawar gave him a manly hug. “I cannot tell you how happy I am today.” Haider smiled and lowered his head in respect when Dilawar placed his hand on it. A female came with Sarim. “Meet my daughter-in-law and Sarim’s mother, Umaira.”
“Aslam-o-alaikum!” She greeted Jahangir politely. “It’s so good to see you after so long Dar-jee.” Jahangir just nodded while giving her blessings. “Is this Haider? MashaAllah! Look how much you have grown and so handsome. You look a lot like your father.” Haider just smiled. “Is this your wife?”
“Aslam-o-alaikum!” Amber greeted her politely.
“Walaikum-Aslam beta. You are very pretty. MashaAllah! Your son is very beautiful. May Allah bless him with good health.” Amber smiled in gratitude. “But I don’t see my daughter-in-law. Where is Dua?” Haider looked towards Jahangir in silence. How to tell this woman what kind of daughter-in-law she is going to have? Sarim’s mother looked too conservative.
“She will be here shortly.” Jahangir replied. “She needed to get some work done.” Umaira looked towards his son in silent disapproval which affirmed Haider’s doubts.
God bless you Dee or God bless this woman.
Every head turned towards Dua when she entered the building with Xian and Aya. She gave the interior a once over and proceeded towards the elevators. “Ms. Sahi!” A man rushed towards her in hurry and hushed murmurs broke around when employees heard the name of their boss. “What a pleasant surprise.” Dua watched the man gushing over her more than necessary. “I have heard a lot about you and I cannot even tell you-”
“Who are you?” She asked calmly. What lameness? She didn’t even set foot in her building properly and people were already measuring her up on the scale of whether to be pleased or bitched.
“I’m sorry.” The man looked too embarrassed with her sudden interruption. “I forgot to introduce myself. I am-”
“You are fired.” She walked past him and proceeded towards the elevators. “I told you to hire the best. What is this gibberish?” Xian pressed the button to her floor. “Who did you hire to hire such lame excuses?”
“It will be dealt with.” Dua just stepped out once she was on her floor. She was satisfied with everything but everything was not yet discovered. Until she has seen it with her own eyes, she won’t rest in peace.
“Are connections established?” She pushed past the doors to her office and went straight to her table. Sitting in her chair, she twisted it around and watched the mountains in distance that presented a lush green scenery from her grand window.
“It will be done.”
“By?” She twisted her chair back and watched them carefully. “My engagement with Sarim is in two days.”
“It will be done.” Aya looked between them in silence. She still couldn’t decipher the relation between these two.
She still couldn’t construe D. Almas Sahi.
Such was the mystery of her very existence. But if Aya had to be bluntly honest, she didn’t regret working for D. Sahi. When she saw Dua that night, she knew this woman was something else. Aya didn’t need to confirm it. The way Dua looked in the eye of death with a mocking smile was every answer Aya ever needed.
And she was not disappointed.
Dua watched her buzzing phone silently. She really wasn’t aiming to make such preposterous decision but she couldn’t back out now. There were multiple reasons but to put it simply, she didn’t want to see her Dar-jee hurt. If there was anyone whom she cared about deeply, they were Haider and Dar-jee. She could do anything for them.
Even if it meant marrying Sarim.
“What?” Dua leaned in her chair after picking her phone and looked towards Xian and Aya. A brief nod and Xian took Aya out of her office.
“What was that?” Aya inquired Xian on their way to underground parking. It was definitely going to take some time for her to fully understand the whole situation.
“You need to go somewhere.” Xian replied in monotone when they stepped out of the elevator and walked towards two black identical Mercedes, parked side-by-side. “How good are your camouflaging skills?”
“Depends on what needs to be done.” Xian nodded slowly. “Am I still deemed duplicitous?” They didn’t blink even once as they stared each other down. “What will I have to do?”
“Nothing.” Aya was a little astounded by his reply. “The more you insist on proving yourself, the more reasons you give us to watch our backs. If you want to be trusted, don’t even ask to be trusted.” Aya couldn’t fully get what Xian meant but she was slowly grabbing the straws. She just nodded and unlocked her car. “Our cars have synced systems to keep us interlinked. A location will pop up once you start the engine. Go there. You will know what you need to do next. There is a small chip and a watch inside a black box in your dash. Wear it. Always.” Aya nodded and opened her door.
“Keep one thing in mind Aya.” She stopped and looked at Xian. “You are already a dead-woman walking the land.”
“You don’t have to worry for that.” With that, both got in their cars that rebooted to their finger-prints once the engine started and synced their data to main server. Aya felt sudden adrenaline rush as they moved out in two different directions. She could tell it was the beginning of something.
A beginning towards a fateful end.