• 03 Mar - 09 Mar, 2018
  • Kiran Ashraf
  • Fiction

For the very first time, Rania was planning a romantic date with her husband after they got married and she wanted it to be the most exquisite one.

She held on to the thought for weeks but wasn’t able to come up with a suitable gift. Anything that could sweep Haziq off his feet. The first consideration was of traditional offerings including a gold rose bouquet that echo his suave and a bronze Rolex. Being the sort of person he is, Haziq would be content with the smallest of the offering but this time she wanted him to know the intensity of her lasting love for him. She wasn’t big on display of affection but this time, he needed to know. Music! Rania thought.

She can compose him a song or even a melody for him to sing. Haziq could easily switch his profession and be a singer but somehow Audiology is where he feels at home. Browsing through for ideas, she found a link to his new playlist titled ‘The bright and blues’ because that’s what all the songs in it felt like. They are slow, ambient and spectacular. He has always been a very affirmative person but when it comes to singling ballads for his wife, there was none better than him. She was not only his life-partner but also serves as his lyrical muse.

But it feels erroneous now to Rania, at times even superficial, somehow. It felt wrong for days and she could not have said why. Maybe because she doesn’t feel pretty. A sudden glance at the mirror and the word ‘ugly’ immediately pops up in her mind. To be fair, she never considered herself a work of art either but never has she felt this grotesque and horrid. You Are So Beautiful by Joe Cocker was next on the playlist. Rania smiled at its irony and got back to work.

Haziq had a weird habit of showering his wife with gifts after breakfast with the thought of brightening up her day ahead. Today it was a card, made with scraps of colored paper, in which he penned the lyrics to a lovely song: one of his favourites. It still surprises her that how much she occupies his thoughts to inspire such marvellous things. Rania thanked her ever-loving husband. “I am sorry, but you must wait until evening for your gift,” she added. As expected, he expressed his wishes for nothing but her company. As he ushered off to his workplace.

It was few hours before his arrival and his home was submerged into a picturesque delight. Ornate glided mirrors surrounded the dining room walls along with gauzy linen curtains and an antique crystal chandelier. Bundles of roses in red and white sat on tall vases with a narrow opening creating a fabulous floral arrangement. From time to time, Rania gushed over them, inhaling their fragrances, cradling their soft petals within her gentle hands.

Food was served upon his arrival containing scrumptious cuisines. It was nice along with mellow beats playing in the background. But Rania’s thoughts were scattered all over the place. Seldom were the moments when she looked interested in eating the supper she so expertly cooked. She hated herself for putting up those mirrors on the walls. All they reflect back is a disguised person, a worthless being disturbed by her appalling existence.

“Should I open my eyes now Rania? Why are you teasing me this much… it’s my gift after all,” Haziq pleaded, as she loosened the blindfold and placed a small hatbox with a silky ribbon in his lap. Curious, he traced his hands around it, trying to figure out the mystery inside but no luck so far.

With a hammered heart, his fingers untied the bow and lifted the lid. His eyes were shocked in disbelief. “Oh! It’s empty! Nothing at all,” he cried and looked up at her, questioning. With trembling fingers, she reached to remove her mask and sat it inside the vacant hatbox. Haziq looked at her bare face and then towards the mask. The flickering glow of the candelabras illuminated his astonishment quite well, as he imagined her plight all over again. Few months into their marriage, Rania suffered chemical burns caused by an essential oil diffuser. In the process of turning the appliance off, some of the vapours were sprayed on her face. She suffered from a permanently swollen face and inflamed scars along with peeled skin. She refused to leave the house and ordered herself a near to realistic looking silicon face mask from a foreign company. Her scars healed but she never did. After all, it was nothing but a sheer disguise and will Haziq accept her like this till death do them part? Well, today was the day of the big reveal.

“I still cannot understand why you should ever desire to look upon this face of mine,” she said quietly.

“This mask,” he swallowed the biting anxiety boiling in his chest. “I want it to remain in the box and never see daylight.” He paused, looking straight into her eyes. “You listen to me good and clear now, I could be in front of the most beautiful view in this world but I would still choose to look at you. Come back Rania, I miss you,” the tremble in his voice held any further words. He could only wait with his breath hitched as the cool air brushed on his beloved’s unmasked appearance.

Her lips slowly parted in a smile as though the glistering sun’s rays are forming a halo around her. She stood up, taking his desolate face into her hands. “Thank you,” she whispered, and he let himself drown in her touch.