Prologue: Dark Night
“This Seher, where did she go to?” Sanam muttered to herself, searching for her errant sister and cousin. “Mommy said that we were leaving soon, and she told her to stay in the living room. Not only did she not listen, but she took Haya with her! Daddy is going to be mad.”
Sanam wandered to the back door and peeked into the backyard, hoping to see the two without leaving the safety of the house, but there was no sign of the two young girls. Reluctantly, she exited the house and whispered into the dark night, “Seher! Haya! Come back. Mom and dad are busy talking with Imran Uncle. But they’ll be mad if they find out you’re gone,” she stopped, realizing there was no one there to hear her. Where were they? “Allah miya, why am I even calling out to Haya?” she muttered to herself. “She just had her operation. Her ears are all covered. She can’t hear me yet.”
Going out into the backyard, she began to look for her cousin and sister. It was a big backyard. Her eyes roamed across the verandah, looking behind the furniture. The two girls weren’t there. As Sanam moved down the steps and onto the grass, she could immediately see that the two weren’t anywhere near the house.
“Seher! Get your butt back here. We have to leave for home soon!” Her eyes moved towards the ivy covered walls and bushes at the darker end of the yard. She trembled slightly when she realized that she might have to go there to look for the missing duo. “You know how mommy always talks about you wandering off when we were two,” she called out in a shaky voice. “It took a whole day to find you! If you do that again, they’re going to be really mad.” There was no answer. The need to protect her younger twin overriding her fear, she forced herself towards that darker corner.
Reaching the end of the yard, she stumbled across a hidden pipe, left unrolled in the tall grass. Falling, she reached out to catch herself, her hand glancing off the ivy-covered wall instead. “Ouch,” she murmured, getting up gingerly. She cradled her injured hand close to her side, gazing at it carefully. There was a deep scratch on it; another thing to blame on the missing Seher. Moving over on her knees, she settled against the wall and took a moment to catch her breath.
Staring around the dark backyard, she realized that it wasn’t as scary as she had thought it would be. There was the chirp of crickets. She wasn’t like Seher, freaking out about such small things. She almost found the sounds soothing. Tilting her head back, she stared up at the night sky, awed by the many stars. It was only when her family came up here to spend time with Imran Uncle and Haya that she got a chance to see these stars. You could only see these stars away from the city lights.
There was a rustling, and Sanam froze, wondering what that noise was. Whatever it was, it sounded much bigger than a cricket. She relaxed, realizing that the noise was coming from the other side of the wall. While there was an opening, there was also a gate; nothing big would be able to get through and hurt her.
Looking up, she gazed at the stars once more, wanting to enjoy them as she never had before. She had never had the chance to see them in such darkness. In her seven years on this earth, her overprotective parents had never allowed her to be out alone at night. But now . . . she felt as if she had been given a gift. And she meant to enjoy it fully until her mother called for her.
She heard a soft sound from the other side of the wall. Sanam froze, her ears straining to hear that sound once more. It had sounded like . . . she heard another sound. And she was sure this time. Moving over towards the gate, she pressed her ear against the cold metal. Her body flinched as she heard the sound again . . . it was a sob. Someone was crying.
“Are you okay?” she called out softly, her heart hurting at the pain in those breaths. So much pain, and she just wanted to make it better.
There was a frozen silence, as the person on the other end realized that they weren’t alone. And then a quick rustling . . .
“Please don’t go!” Sanam blurted out, wanting to halt the rushed retreat. “Please.”
There was a cessation of movement on the other side of the wall.
“I can’t see anything,” she confided. “I can’t see you. Don’t go, just because I’m here. I’m leaving soon.” There was no answer, and Sanam’s heart fell at that silence. She didn’t want the person to go. They were crying. They were hurt! And they had come out here to hide in the dark, and she had ruined it.
There was a quiet rustling, and she realized with relief that the person on the other side was settling back into place. Maybe they were leaning against the wall, the way she had been. Maybe they were looking up at the sky and realizing . . . that it was only out here, in the dark, that you could see all of those lights up in the sky. Sighing quietly, she moved back, deciding to leave them to their moment of peace.
“What’s your name, kid?” the voice asked from the other side of the wall, male and stronger than she had expected it to be. Hadn’t he been crying a moment ago?
Sanam froze and then realized he was talking to her. “I’m not a kid!” she hotly protested, running back to the gate. Her fingers gripped the cold metal, and she pressed her forehead against it, hoping to catch a glimpse of the figure on the other side. All she could see were jean clad legs, tapering off into boots.
“Really?” he asked, his tone softly teasing. “How old are you?”
“I’m seven years old,” she shot back. “My name is Sanam,” she revealed, after a moment of quiet thought. “I’m not supposed to talk to strangers. Mommy said so. But I think it’s okay, because you can’t really hurt me from the other side of the gate, can you?”
“Probably not,” he replied.
“And?” Sanam prompted impatiently.
“And what?” he replied.
“What’s your name?” she demanded. “I told you my name. You have to be fair!”
“My name . . . what are you going to do with my name?” he asked in a musing tone.
“You have to be polite,” Sanam insisted. “I told you my name because you asked. You can’t just be rude and not tell me your name. Daddy says the . . . thezeeb is very important. Don’t you know that?”
“Do you even know what tehzeeb means, Sanam?” he asked softly.
“It means . . . it means you have to tell me your name!” Sanam retorted, her face bright red in frustration.
“It’s ARI,” he finally said.
“Air?” Sanam asked in confusion.
. . . . “You must not be very good at spelling,” he finally muttered. He took a deep breath, gasping slightly.
“How did you know that?” Sanam asked in a shocked tone. “Mommy says it’s a phase, but daddy says I just have to work hard at it. Is your name really Air?” she asked, focusing on the more important thing now.
“My initials are A . . . R . . . I,” he said, “My name isn’t Air.”
“Then . . . what’s your name?” Sanam asked in disgruntlement. “What’s the mystery? Who gives their initials when someone asks for the name?”
“It’s Aahil,” he muttered reluctantly. “Happy?”
“Hmph,” she muttered. “Wait . . .”
“What?” he asked, a curious tension in his tone.
Not that Sanam took any notice of that tension. Her young mind was focused on more important things. “I have initials too, you know. As many as you!” she said in a ‘so there’ tone.
“I don’t think so,” he replied. The voice was much livelier now, as if having forgotten what had brought him out to this corner of his garden.
“My name is Sanam Ahmed Khan,” she said. “S.A.K. Ha!”
He snorted softly, highly entertained by the sprite that had allowed him to forget for now.
“I’m going to have to tell my daddy I beat someone today,” he could hear her murmuring to herself. “He’s going to be so proud.”
“You tell your daddy everything?” he asked curiously, his mood turning dark as he thought about his own father. There was a soft rustling, as he tried to get more comfortable against the wall.
“Of course,” Sanam said, surprise in her tone.
“You must love him very much, since you want to share all of your wins with him,” he observed.
She nodded her head, forgetting that he couldn’t see her. “Of course,” she repeated. “Who doesn’t love their daddy? And he loves me, too. Like all daddies loves their kids. Even if they’re not too good at spelling.”
There was silence from the other side of the wall.
“Are you still there?” she asked in a high voice, even though she could see the legs and boots. “What happened?”
“Not all parents . . . ,” he finally said quietly. “Not all parents love their children. Not all children can love those parents.” He took a breath, a sound almost like another sob. Sitting here in the dark, away from any prying eyes, even those of the sprite he was talking to, allowed him to be free with his pain.
“How is that possible?” she asked, the confusion clear in her tone. “All parents love their kids.”
“How can there be love . . . if parents hurt their children?” he burst, almost as if unable to keep that truth in. There was clear anger in his voice now. “How can a kid trust his parents, or even love them, if they beat him up . . . lock him up . . . starve him?” His voice trailed off, the bleakness evident once more.
Sanam rested her forehead against the gate, unsure of what to say next. ‘How was that possible?’ she silently wondered to herself. ‘How?’ Her mind could come up with no answer. “How?” she asked out loud.
“Don’t worry your little head about it, kid,” he stated. “I was just joking.”
“What?” Sanam yelped in a raised tone. “That was mean! How can you say lies like that? Like any parent would hurt their kids! Hmph!”
“I have to go now,” he said abruptly, knowing that if he said anything more it would only taint this innocent girl’s mind. He didn’t want his words affecting her.
“Do you have to go?” Sanam asked plaintively. “Can’t you just sit there and talk to me?” she asked, wanting to keep him out of that house some more. For some reason she wanted to so much.
Saying nothing, he got up and staggered slightly, leaning a hand against the gate for support. His hand came to rest over hers. He was standing right in front of her, close enough to touch, but she couldn’t see him. There was no light, only darkness between them.
Sanam gasped. “You’re hurt.” She paused for a moment, her mind ponderously connecting the dots. “You weren’t lying?” she asked in a small voice. “You weren’t lying,” she repeated. She watched him move away, walking with a limp and that same hand now held to his side.
She gazed at her hand, not that she could see anything in the dark. Taking a deep breath, she forced the words out. “You’re hurt. Someone hurt you . . . Aahil!” she called out. “I’m sorry!”
The figure stopped for a moment, now 10 yards away. Standing frozen for a moment, the boy seemed to shake himself free and began to move away.
“I’m sorry!” she called out again. “I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” She continued to yell until he was gone from sight. Slumping against the gate, her body so cold that she couldn’t feel anything anymore, she thought about the world as she knew it. The world she knew now had parents that would hurt their children.
“Sanam Ahmed Khan! Get your butt back here!”
Sanam perked up when she heard her mother’s voice calling from the backdoor.
“Where were you, young lady?” Zoya asked her errant daughter, as the young girl ran up the steps. “I expected you to be where I sat you down. Imagine my surprise when I saw your sister sitting in the living room, while you were nowhere to be seen.”
Sanam hurtled into her mother’s arms, almost toppling her with the force of that hug. She clutched at her mother, unable to speak.
“What’s wrong?” Zoya asked in surprise.
Her heart was aching for that boy. ‘Allah miya, why does it hurt so much?’ Shaking her head, Sanam buried her face in her mother’s stomach, trying to close out the things she had learned today.
“Honey?” Zoya asked in a concerned tone. “Why do you have blood on your hand? Are you hurt somewhere?”
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
Sanam began to sob.
A/N: Whenever I watch something, I have the tendency to wonder what if . . . What if “x” hadn’t happened, and how would that have changed our characters lives?
For example . . . what if a marriage hadn’t happened, and the villain of the story was no longer the villain (Geet Hui Sabse Parayi)? What if those children hadn’t been abandoned, would the heroine have lived (I’m Sorry, I Love You – Kdrama)? And so on and so forth.
In Qubool Hai . . . I always wonder what if Tanveer hadn’t succeeded in killing Asad and Zoya? What if . . . when Asad pushed her and her head hit the table, that injury was sufficient to push her into the afterlife?
What if she didn’t live long enough to marry the Nawab of Bhopal . . . to supposedly kill him and mentally torture Aahil?
What if . . . she never came into Aahil’s life?
What if she never came back into Rehan’s life?
What if . . .? This story will explore that question and how the lives of these characters would have changed if Tanveer had actually died that fateful day. And what these characters would have become without Tanveer, the uber-vamp, in their lives. Have any of you ever wondered about that what if?