Chapter 1 – A Love Letter, A Quarrel, A Suicide
2nd December 2015
Hiba Sayyed rushed to her best friend Naina’s house.
“Naina, I have received a letter from a guy that lives in the next lane,” she announced excitedly.
“Throw it away,” Naina replied without even bothering to look up.
“No!” Hiba squealed. “Why would I throw it away? This is the first time I have gotten a love letter.”
“Fine, don’t throw it. But don’t tell me when you’re in trouble,” Naina was unperturbed.
“I won’t!” Hiba said and stuck out her tongue. She hid the letter well in her bag and returned home. She went straight to her room and shut the door, lest her mother comes strolling to remind her to study. With a thumping heart and shivering hands, she tore open the hand-made envelope.
I like you, and I want you to be my lover. Please send me your number.
“Is this how love letters are written or is it the most poorly written love letter? Shit!” she cursed aloud. Tayyab was one of the most average-looking boys in their locality, and he belonged to the most average household. For seventeen-year-old Hiba, romance meant a handsome boy with unmatched riches.
After fuming about it for hours, she sat down to pen a reply.
Have you looked at yourself? We are no match. I’m Sayyed Muslim; you’re a Shaikh. I’m beautiful like a princess, and you’re not even good enough to be my bodyguard. My father runs a business, and your father is a peddler.
How could you even think about befriending me or even proposing to me? Get real!
Tayyab received the letter with a heavy heart. It should have stopped there but it didn’t. Hiba did not stop there. She made fun of him every opportunity she got and ensured to spread a rumour about his undying love for her. People need a reason to laugh at someone and Tayyab proved to be the perfect target.
As time passed, people forgot about it. But Tayyab did not forget the humiliation he suffered.
Three years later, Tayyab tried to commit suicide, leaving a note that blamed Hiba. Roshan and Shireen Sayyed were as devastated as could be. One letter was enough to turn the tables around, and people started blaming Hiba.
She’s only nineteen but look at the ruckus she has caused.
Guilt-ridden Hiba visited Tayyab in the hospital with her best friend Naina. Little did she know that the suicide attempt was fake, and this was a ploy to get her attention.
And, thus began a tale of sympathy mistaken for love.
Tayyab had wooed Hiba in a few weeks. As she neared graduation, her parents began talking about her wedding.
“Hiba, your father was talking about a proposal, Nader Khopoliwala’s son,” Shireen said
Hiba interrupted her. “Oh, him… He has a girlfriend,” she said boldly not realizing that she was talking to her mother, not her friend.
Shireen glared at Hiba for her poor choice of words. “Shush, don’t talk rubbish. How do you know about his girlfriend?”
Hiba rolled her eyes, glad that she was let off easily. “We are a small community in this locality, mom,” she said. “Everybody knows everybody. Everyone knows everything about everyone. Rumours spread like a wildfire.”
“Maybe… only people who spread rumours and gossip know about everything and everyone. Not me. Once I hear something, it remains with me, forever.”
Something in Shireen’s tone was strange and evoke curiosity in Hiba. She sat close to her mother and asked. “Are you hiding any secrets?”
Shireen smiled mysteriously and said. “So many!”
They are already thinking about my marriage. I should tell them about Tayyab. He hasn’t proposed yet, nor has he ever talked about marriage. But I shouldn’t miss the boat. Hiba considered her words for a while before she spoke again. “If you hear something about me having an affair, what would you do?”
Shireen paused for a second, worrying Hiba. Will she ask me about him? Shireen disappointed her. She simply nodded and said, “I will keep quiet and let people talk about the rubbish they want to.”
Shireen’s subdued reaction gave Hiba courage to talk further. “If they ask you directly, will you still keep quiet?”
“I will give them my version of the truth,” Shireen said with the same mysterious smile.
“Mom, you scare me with your thoughts,” Hiba confessed.
“Hiba, you scare me with your questions,” Shireen repeated in the same tone.
Hiba laughed nervously and excused herself. It’s so difficult to talk to mom.
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