“Hi, it’s me. Are you at home?”
“He can’t hear you, so you’re safe.”
Faheem felt angry.
“You think I’m afraid of him? Sasha, if I wanted to, I could flatten him with a single punch…you know that.”
“Yes, sweetie I do.” She didn’t sound serious.
“I could. You want me to prove it?”
He wanted to do no such thing. He’d just called to tell her he’d be in town tonight. Why was he trying to establish what he’d already established all week, two weeks ago?
“I’ll be in Lahore for the next two nights. Seerat and the kids will join me on Wednesday. I’ll be at the hotel by nine, I think. I’ll have someone call you with the room number.”
“Won’t you call me yourself?”
Faheem didn’t bother to answer and said goodbye.
Sasha put the phone away. She knew why he wouldn’t call himself. He didn’t want to hide their affair. Was he brave and swashbuckling or just egotistical? Faheem was bold, unlike Luqman. Faheem wasn’t at all what she’d thought he’d be. He was quite intellectual. He didn’t constantly question her tastes and the price of every single thing she touched or wanted. He appreciated her, and what she had to teach him. He was in awe of her, and what a change that was from the suffocating perpetual diminishing by Luqman, whose paranoia, and fear that she was some wild gust of wind he couldn’t control, had driven her insane.
Sasha went to get ready. Just as she was going to leave, Luqman came in, wearing his cheap polyester mixed suit, his ugly shirt with short sleeves. What kind of man wore a short sleeved shirt anywhere, let alone to work? He smiled at her, and said good-naturedly, “Where are you going all dressed up?”
Sasha’s anger was swift and hot. Why was he so harmless? What the hell was wrong with him? Any other man would have asked where his wife was going at night alone, but not Luqman.
“I’m going out with friends. I’ll be late.” She said and picked up her purse.
Luqman came forward with a smile on his face. Oh no, Sasha groaned to herself. This was Luqman’s seductive face. And she really couldn’t take all that huffing and puffing tonight and his flabby stomach squishing her, and his long hair around his nipples. In the beginning, Sasha had believed that Luqman was ambitious and promising. He’d been slim and pleasant looking. He was so obviously in love with her. She’d allowed herself to think that she was too. For about six months. Because in those six months Luqman proved his inadequacy in every way he could. His love was meager. It was the leftover scraps from the love he had for his mother. Sasha was horrified to find out that he’d been a virgin till their wedding night. And he’d told her that like it was some honour he’d bestowed on her.
The little respect she had left for him, he lost the day he told her about how he’d been overlooked twice for promotion at work.
Now she stopped him with her hand on his chest.
“I’ll be waiting for you.”
Sasha said over her shoulder, “Please don’t. I’ll be late and probably tired. Bye.”
She knew he’d have been asleep anyway but this way, at least she could tell herself that he’d wanted to make the effort at least, even if it was after months.
Faiqa Mansab is currently doing her MFA in Creative Writing from Kingston University London. Her short story The Walled City was published by The Missing Slate in June 2013. The Qalander is an excerpt from the novel she’s working on. Faiqa also writes as Zeenat Mahal and two of her novellas have been published with Indireads, an e-publishing venture. She has also published a short story, The Accidental Fiancee, as Zeenat Mahal, with Running out of Ink, in their August issue.