Ahmed was discharged the same night after Zainab put him to bed she came down to the study where Uroosa Begum was nervously pacing around the room.
"Bibi sahiba can we talk?" she asked her distressed mistress.
"Yes Zainab I wanted to talk to you as well, come here sit with me," she patted the space in front of her.
"Zainab, Ahmed must hate me, mustn't he?" Her eye lashes still wet, Bibi sahiba has been crying Zainab recognized.
"No Bibi sahiba he loves you, Ahmed loves you more than he loves me or anybody in this house. His life revolves around you. What bothers him more than my leaving is that he thinks that, I am a bridge between you two. Every evening, his eyes are drenched in longing and he wanders impatiently about the house, waiting for you to come home. He thinks that with me not around he won't be able to talk to you, that is the reason of his sorrow. Have you ever called Ahmed alone by himself?" asked Zainab.
"No." said Uroosa Begum, realising the fact for the first time in eight years, whenever she and Ahmed had a conversation, it was with Ahmed clung to Zainab. She started remembering all those instances in a flash.
"You have encased yourself in a shell Bibi sahiba, and Ahmed wants to break that shell. He wants to snuggle into the arms of the mother, whose love and affection he has been longing for, for years."
Uroosa Begum was crying sourly, the room was overpowered with remorse and regret. The tendrils crept and crawled into her profoundly and entwined her entity with their thorns of shame and guilt. The bitter realisation of her supreme guilt crushed her completely, shaking her self-assured existence to its absolute core.
"Nothing is lost Bibi sahiba." she said solacing and clearing away the tears from her mistress's face. Zainab was saddened by her beloved mistress's distress so she frantically thought of ways to lessen her grief in any way. Uroosa Begum hugged her and wept till her hearts content. She wept until she had exhausted all her tears and she could cry no more.
"Things will be better," whispered Zainab.
Ahmed pretended to be asleep so that Zainab baji would leave the room, he wanted some time alone. As soon as she left, he slipped out of bed and looked out the window, there were loads of stars but none of them shone brightly today. He felt as if all the light had been sucked out of those stars, it gave him no pleasure to look at them today so he looked away from the window.
Zainab used to say that if your heart is as bright as the moon, then every star looks as if it is dancing and twinkling intensely. And each time Ahmed used to say that, "Do I have to put one of those white big bulbs inside me?"
And Zainab would laugh at his innocence and say, "When one day you'll be extraordinarily happy, your heart will shine as bright as the moon and the stars will twinkle and glimmer cheerfully."
"Ahmed Baba I thought you were asleep." said Zainab, entering the room and turning the lights on. Ahmed was standing in front of the window with its curtain open.
"I was looking at the stars Baji, they aren't shining bright today, they seem so dull and dim," said Ahmed sorrowfully, his voice and tone reflected his miserable state.
"Ahmed it's good that you're awake I have two good news for you," said Zainab excitedly, "First is that you're going with me to my wedding, and second is that Rahim Akka told me that 'Manno bili' (cat) has given birth to five kittens!" she exclaimed with delight.
Ahmed's eyes widened with glee.
"Yippee! I'm going with you!" chanted Ahmed jubilantly dancing about in rings, "And where are the kittens? I want to see them now!" he said pulling Zainab towards the door impatient to see the new born kittens. "Not now, they are sleeping, we'll see them in the morning," said Zainab, holding him back.
"O yippy!" Ahmed hopped all about the room.
The door opened and Uroosa begum came in smiling, her eyes still red and swollen.
Ahmed stood still, his hand still held into Zainab's, "Mumma, I'm going to Zainab's wedding." telling his mother eagerly.
Uroosa Begum swallowed hard, fighting the emotions threatening to overtake her. Trying to find the right words, she lowered her head and said, "Yes dear we are all going, even Papa is going with us!" said Uroosa Begum beaming and glad to see her son happy. Her heart contorted with joy and she tried her best to control her tears from streaming down her face. She didn't want to spoil this perfect moment for her beloved son.
"Ahmed ask Mumma to dance with us," whispered Zainab into Ahmed's ear.
"Mumma…" he said reluctantly, "Will you dance with me?" he said, holding his hand forward.
Uroosa Begum looked at the little hand and spared no moment to hold on tight to it. The sensation of holding on to that tiny little hand, lovingly wrapped around her own sent relief coursing through her body. She had been so scared that she had lost her son's love forever, that she wasted no time in returning the favour and she hugged Ahmed, and the three of them laughed and danced and jumped merrily in circles all around the room. The room echoed with the beautiful sounds of their laughter
Ahmed stole a glance outside the window, the sky paradisiacal, with the stars glittering and dazzling brighter then ever….
Uroosa Begum breathed deeply; the air hadn't been so fresh and buoyant in eight years, her heart was set free. She had a strong belief that life had many wonderful possibilities in stored for her family. In that brief moment, she knew in her soul and truly believed that everything was going to be alright. Life had started from a new beginning……..