The purple blanket sprinkled with glitter and its immense splendor, spread out over the horizon and concealed under its cover, hundreds of thousands of unsaid stories and mysteries.
While many eyes looked at its beauty with bewilderment, and many lips moved to praise the magnificence of the sky, behind one windowsill stood Aria, like every other night, gazing at the brightest star she could find, which would fill her with the aspiration to fly higher every day.
That night, everything was very different. The sky seemed much darker and too far away to reach, unlike the other nights, when Aria would search for her favorite star in the sky, as if she was finding her favorite earring in the drawer. But now, the world felt sullen and ominous, and something about the air leeched all her hopes and inspirations. Her heart faltered and dreams seemed to be slipping away.
Adding some important things to her bag one after another, while setting her hairstyle for the eighth time since she had woken up, Aria tried her best to look perfect on her interview this morning. Recalling again and again if she was forgetting anything, and mumbling prayers under her breath, she was pretty nervous as she could not lose this once-in-a-lifetime chance to acquire her dream career.
She finally picked her bag up, and paced towards the corridor that lead to her parents’ room, because on a day as important as this, she could not leave without taking their blessings. “Your father is still asleep Aria!”, she heard her mother calling from the kitchen, as she reached for the door knob.
Taking it as a joke, Aria turned the knob as she knew her father would always wake up with the sun, have his bed tea and come back from a morning walk, even before anybody else at home could open their eyes. At this time, she would always find him lost in a book or reading a newspaper. Surprisingly, Aria found him lying on his bed, sleeping like a baby, and her lips curved into a smile impulsively, as she remembered her father once claiming, “..hey Aria, you already know this young man that you call your father, would give away anything, but never ever break the rules he has set for his life!”, and she had firmly believed in this statement until the moment she had opened the door.
She advanced swiftly towards him, calling at him in a teasing manner, “Hey Mr. Hassam, you’ve been caught breaking rules...”, but she had to stop amid when her gaze fell to his face. Never had she ever seen this face so content and peaceful. Under the beam of sunlight, sifting through the immaculately drawn curtains, her father’s face shone like a friendly twinkling star. Not a twitch, not a tic, even the slightest wrinkle he used to have, had smoothed away, such was the depth of his oblivion.
She had decided not to disturb him, when she very carefully tried to push back the hair on his forehead, and realized that he was ice-cold. An unsettling feeling began welling inside her. Her heart started pounding at an increasingly rapid pace, as she held her father from his shoulder and shook him vigorously. “Dad! Wake up dad!!”, she yelled repeatedly at him, but he paid no heed to her, and laid stock-still.
Her mother came rushing into the room as she heard Aria’s cries. With one hand at her heart, and her eyes wide-open, she came to a halt all of a sudden, when she saw Hassam lying motionlessly over the bed. The sight of her husband – who had always been strong like the spirit of the storm, who would always stand firm like a mountain, even if his insides were shattered to pieces, who would always give them the strength to move forward – lying feebly before her with blue lips, sent chills all over her body, raising the hair behind her neck.
“Why is he doing like that, mom? Why isn’t he moving?”, Aria’s trembling voice shook Lina and she knelt down to try and call out to him, to tell him to get up at once, but he wouldn’t reply. With a quivering hand, she quickly checked his pulse and felt nothing at all. A shiver ran down her spine and her head spun as pain lanced through her brain. No. It isn’t possible. He can’t… Her mind couldn’t process what was happening. She felt numb. Her lips couldn’t move. She didn’t know when did Aria call the ambulance, and the paramedics burst into the room to take him away.
Only did she feel a hand on her shoulder, pulling her away from Hassam, loosening her grip on his hand, and the next moment she knew, was when a water droplet fell over her cheek and she opened her eyes to find herself lying in Aria’s lap, whose grief was pouring out in a flood of uncontrollable tears, while she stared blankly at the wall. Lina quickly got up to look for her younger daughter, Amber, who sat behind Aria, moans escaping her lips through the suppressed sound of hiccups.
Lina hugged them both together tightly, and felt the wet hot tears fill up her eyes, but wouldn’t let them leak, as she had to stay strong and lift her daughters. Hassam had left without warning, leaving a hollow space in their lives that could never be refilled. She had to bite this bullet and carry this weight on her heart forever, for the sake of her children. She had never imagined how it would feel like to bid farewell to the one she had promised to hold hands with, forever.
A sudden havoc in the house sent needles dancing across her head. She knew what was happening. Thousands of thoughts flitted through her brain. “They will take him away forever”, “I won’t see him again”, “He’s no more with us”. She felt like someone was squeezing her heart. She was at the end of her tether, and could not muster up an ounce of strength. Lina wanted to burst out crying, and tears started streaming through her eyes. She was not as strong as she was trying to be. But she had to build her daughters, as strong as their father.
Hassam was gone. Lina had lost her backbone. Amber had lost her hero. And Aria had lost her strength. Standing behind the windowsill, she looked up again towards her favorite star, which was there no more, leaving behind only a few dimly lit scattered dots on the huge canvas over their heads, that told her what she was now, like many others, in this gigantic world.