He said that automatically, without realizing what he was saying because he was too busy exonerating himself. She was the one who’d shown up at his door, he told himself. And anyway, he was slightly drunk already. He couldn’t be held responsible for what might happen, what was, most likely to happen. And in any case, even if he didn’t, the next man would. So what difference did it make?
His mobile rang and he answered automatically.
“Hello? Seerat? Yes, sorry I forgot.”
He pinched the inner corners of his eyes with his thumb and forefinger and sighed.
“Yes, of course I am. Tell Ami I’m fine, and not to worry. The plane was for Lahore, so where else would it…fine, fine. I have a dinner to go to. I will…yes I’ll remember. “Bye.”
Sasha gave him a knowing smile. He had a sudden inexplicable urge to defend his homely wife.
“Seerat is a good wife…”
She laughed, irritating him further.
“She’s a good wife because she nags?”
“Luqman used to complain to me that I never called, like other wives did. He thought it was a sign of my detachment. But it wasn’t, not then. Men think nagging’s a sign of love. They’ve been conditioned to think that by their mothers. I mean, why would I call? I always knew where he was.”
“Women who love their husbands and sons want to know about their safety.”
“From what? It’s not like you’re in Waziristan.”
Faheen snapped, “Seerat isn’t the one sitting alone with a man in a hotel room and getting paid for it.”
Not that any man would pay for that doubtful honour, he thought to himself and he almost laughed out loud picturing Seerat in Sasha’s place.
“Tsk, tsk, Jani. Don’t pull a maulvi on me, or if you must, at least have the grace to grow a beard so that sinners like me can avoid you.”
“This isn’t your first time is it?”
“God, you men and your obsession with a woman’s first times. No it isn’t sweetie, but I can pretend it is, if it makes you feel better.”
“What’ll make me feel better is knowing you were still a respectable woman.”
Wouldn’t it? Of course, it would. The thought depressed him a little.
“Sure I am. As respectable as I was when I married Luqman.”
“That doesn’t make me feel better. It makes me feel worse for Luqman.”
Sasha let out a heartfelt laugh.
“Yeah, you’re right. I feel sorry for him too.”
“I’m sure he appreciates it.”
Something was niggling at him and he didn’t want to examine it just yet. She sighed, drained her glass and concentrated on the smoke she exhaled. When she spoke again, her voice was barely audible.
“I feel stagnant at home. Luqman says I have very expensive taste, so I found a way to cater to it. He’s never asked me where I get the money from. Why do you think that is?”
“I don’t know.”
“I know what you’re thinking.”
He doubted that. He was thinking of was how to get her out of those barely-there clothes.
“Do you want to go to that dinner first?”
So she did know. She’d done this before. Again he felt the urge to justify himself.
“Sasha, I’m only a man…”
Sasha looked back at him smiling, “My commiserations, Faheem. Let’s get you to that dinner first.”
She uncurled herself out of the chair with that delicious red mouth curled in a smile.
Sasha was the embodiment of all forbidden thrills.
Faheem’s heart pounded just thinking of her. She made him feel more of a man simply because she’d chosen to sleep with him. There was also a dark pleasure in knowing that poor Luqman had no idea what was going on. In that one week they’d spent together, he’d learnt more from her than he had in the last five years. His dress sense had improved, he knew what to order at Thai and Chinese restaurants and he’d tasted the pleasures of coffeehouse breakfasts at noon. Sasha was decadent. He was experiencing a way of life that was completely new to him. He’d seen other people do it but he’d always thought that life wasn’t for him. He couldn’t possibly buy Hugo Boss, let alone Armani. Now he did, and felt like a new man. He knew he had to give her up soon enough. Her tastes were too expensive. He’d spent more on her in one week than he would on his wife in a year.
Seerat was a simple woman, with simple tastes. The most adventurous she was in bed was to wear some new piece of lingerie that happened to be marked down in sale, and which only accentuated her protruding, flabby stomach. He felt embarrassed for her when she tried. There were times when he almost told her to not bother. Her duties lay now with the children, the house, and his mother. She didn’t have to continue to try to please him in bed. He had no idea how to tell her that though. He really loved Seerat. She’d taken up all of his boring duties upon herself and she worshipped him. She really did believe in that old adage of husband as the god on earth.
Sasha would laugh at such a sentiment, he was sure. Even as he felt irritated at this thought, he felt the stirring in his blood. Being with Sasha was like taming fire– not that he’d ever had the opportunity to tame anything, let alone experiment with pyromancy, he sensed that was what it would feel like. He was sure of himself with her.
He called Sasha.