"That's the thing about this city!", I pull the colorful bangles off my red henna-painted hands. Standing in the alley, at 2 at night in my wedding dress and bearing him fussing over the crowd is the last straw.
The heavily embroidered dupatta falls to the dusty littered damp alley. I let my hair loose, "Ugh! this hairstyle. I have been bearing this just because of you. You get it! Could we have stopped earlier?!"
He nods, ignoring my rants, busy keeping an eye on the surrounding. I let the lehenga fall. The motorbike vrooms by us. My body crashes into the wall, with my heart racing. I rub my cold hands against my jeans. A woman poked her head out of her house.
"Why are people staring at us? Why are they not in bed?", he hisses igniting the engine, "We are done here!"
"But the blouse!", I whine, "No, Ali!", he throws his leather jacket in my direction. I climb onto the bike, clutching Ali's torso and wiping the expensive makeup with the other.
"Thanks for the makeup wipes."
"Thank me later! Tell me the directions.", we zoom out of the alley onto the streets where the street lights and well-lit shops illuminate my raccoon eyes which are enough to grab the world's attention.
"I hate this city! How can you even live here?", he mumbles underneath his helmet.
I pull a fresh piece of makeup wipes letting go of the old dry one. In short, I let my dearest aunt's 40,000 rupees fly away and vanish in this air.
My hair flutter as we zigzagged our way from the streets onto the road.
"Wo-ho!", I let out a happy scream throwing my hands in the air. The palm trees whisper in the background. The people in the cars roll down the windows gawking at me. But for once I don't care. The bike halts in a traffic jam.
"What a world!", a man tsks, "Two young hearts all alone.", he scans me from top to bottom, "What a disgrace to your parents."
"For heaven's sake!", Ali grunts, "It's 2.30 am. And you know that I am driving without any directions?!"
"Yes, I am fully aware. Therefore, let me do the honors?! Hmm?!", I get off the bike put on my helmet, zip my jacket, slip the gloves. The traffic light is taking forever to turn green.
"Now watch and learn.", I whisper as Ali sat behind me. Zigzagging between the cars and rickshaws, the motorcycle jumps over the curb. The policeman keeps waving and whistling as we zoom past him.
"Yes.", he nods, "Woah! Never knew MY sister would grow up into such a person."
"Bro! You missed a lot of things!"
I want to say more. I want to fight and pour my heart out but I let silence bring peace between us. The honks of the vehicles in the background feel soothing, as the wind slaps into my face shielded by the helmet.
Life is an unexpected rollercoaster. Around 7 pm yesterday-which still feels as if the day has not ended- I was sitting in the beauty parlor, seemingly happy for starting a new life. The life I had never wanted to start. But there was hope, hope that Ali would walk in and would call this forced marriage off.
Ali came. He came to the wedding met the relatives, talked to my future husband. However, for me, it was as if he never came. Maybe aunt was right, "Over years, the eyes which could read your mind will forget to read your simple expression". And as she said, "I would marry you off. The burden your dad left behind."
I sat in my lavender lehenga in the center of the stage on the flower-ornated sofa. The scent of flower bangles making me dizzy. With a stifled smile, I greeted everyone who came to sit by me.
"Gia...", aunt's voice reverberated in my head. The light-headedness was making me hard to sit straight.
"GIA!", I jump out of the train of my thoughts chugging its way to neverland. "Gia, are you sleepy."
"NO! I AM FINE.", I shout over the noisy air rushing past us, ticking my neck.
"I wanna go to the restroom and get refreshed.", I whispered.
"I am bringing the water bottle.", my aunt made her way down the stage.
"I want to rest, NOW!", I stood up. But the black curtains blinded my vision. Isa, my so-called fiance, rushed to catch me.
"DON'T YOU DARE!", I hissed, "I'm fine. I need rest."
"Okay, darling...", aunt hesitated as people gawked in our direction.
I pulled the heels off and threw them down the stage, "And I want my snickers back. I can't walk in this."
I was taken back to my bedroom. I chugged the entire jug of water down my food pipe, locked the door, made the bed, dimmed the light, opened the balcony to estimate the fall. It was just the first floor. Climbing down was a child's play.
As I jumped down the pipe, I came face to face with Ali.
"Ali-", my hands went numb.
"It's 12 already! We need to hurry before Qazi comes in.", half expecting him to drag me back to the house I turned my back to him and strode across the street with lehenga in one hand.
But instead, he motioned me to hop on the motorbike.
And today it's 3 am, most of the world is tugged in their beds. But not this city. Not me. Not Ali. I am driving my way to the airport in the hope to start a new life. A life that has not been served to me like a gift wrapped in the ribbon but as an opportunity, an adventurous road with a degree of fog and chill. I am ready to set my foot on this ready, with all my heart and eyes wide open. I don't know where I shall be sleeping the nights, where I shall be spending the days even though the adventure with Ali is coming to an end.
He will fly back to London and forget about my existence; the heart who longs to see him, the eyes who cry every day wishing for him to return, the body that bears the torture of aunt just because she is educating him, the hands who work at her place for him to be the man I cannot be.
I park the bike in the lot. We make our way to the departure terminal. I sigh as I glance at the flight information.
"Couldn't you stay a little longer?", aunt's taunts echoed in my ears. I have been under the notion that her cutting words have carved me into a tough person. But here I am standing vulnerable begging my brother to stop. To hold me and tell me he is here. To stop and spend a day with me, see the night turns to the day, and back to the night again.
"I have an apartment.", he throws the keys in my direction, "I'll inform the housekeeper to let to live there. Don't worry about the money. Get admission in college and resume your education."
Speechless, I stand there searching for my brother in those monotonous eyes. He turns around to walk away.
"Ali...", I wipe my tears off my face, "Do you miss mama and papa."
He stops dead in his tracks.
"Do you miss me?", I walk up to him.
He cries, cupping my face. A fat tear rolls down his face, "Everyday!"
"Can we have our last dinner together?"
He squeezes me into a hug and glances at the McDonald's across the street. He nods.
"It's freaking 4.", he laughs, "And I am sitting with my little sister who fled away from her wedding, eating a big mac."
"I am having dinner at four!", he nudges me.
"No shit, Sherlock!", I wipe my mayonnaise-drenched lips, "That's the thing about this city! It never sleeps!"
He smiles; the smile through which I can see into him and reach his soul. His smile puts the heart at ease, assures me the new life; the new adventure will lead me close to him again as we were a long time back.