Pulling up outside Hasana’s school in a car that barely fit his tall frame, Waseem drove around in circles struggling to find a decent parking space close to the entrance. After realising that he had indeed lost the parking battle to the mothers who had arrived hours before he had, Waseem settled on an empty space far away from the front of the school.
Swinging his long legs out of the car whilst taking off his Ray Bans, he tried to make his way towards Hasana’s classroom, but he didn’t get far. His memory failed him and soon, he was standing in the middle of the school courtyard, unable to remember which way his daughter’s classroom was.
Was it on the left or the right? Or was Hasana’s classroom upstairs? No, that was where it was last year.
Hearing the shrill of a bell, signalling the end of the day, Waseem was soon standing in the midst of children as they rapidly ran around him, rushing away from school. Dazed and confused, he waited for the rush to settle before he tried his luck with the left wing and a little while later, he was standing outside Hasana’s classroom, waving to her from the doorway.
As soon as her eyes latched onto her father, she smiled her million dollar smile and grabbed her schoolbag. Bidding her teacher a hasty farewell, she hurriedly walked towards Waseem and circled her arms around his torso, hugging him closely.
“Hey, sweetheart. Did you have a good day at school?” He asked as he reached for her bag and swung it over his shoulder.
“I did! But I missed you.” She stepped away from Waseem only to grab a hold of his hand and lace her fingers through his.
“I missed you too, but you must have done something cool at school?” He raised his eyebrow suggestively and before he could stop his daughter, she was excitedly describing every detail of her day.
Saying that Hasana loved school would be the understatement of the century. She had a passion for learning new things and whenever she would share her knowledge, a spark would appear in her eye.
Waseem could see that very spark as he listened to his daughter’s endless chatter as they drove home. He never was the brainy child his parents had hoped for. He had been laid back throughout his entire schooling career, and when university rolled around he opted for an arts degree, specifically a visual arts degree. Hasana on the other hand, though only eight years of age, was the Einstein of the family.
“And in English, Miss Fields told us a story.”
“What kind of story? Was it a scary story?” Waseem teased, for he knew his daughter was spooked easily.
“Daddy! No. It was a story about how she’s getting married.”
Curious and alarmed, Waseem wondered why his daughter’s teacher would share personal details with her students, but he didn’t interrupt as Hasana continued to speak.
“She showed us her ring. Then she said she’s getting married and she’s leaving. But we don’t want her to leave. She’s our favourite teacher Daddy, but she told us she loves her husband and she has to go. And she said that the new teacher is much nicer. But I don’t think she’s as nice as Miss Fields.”
“Well, have you met the new teacher yet?”
“No…” Hasana guiltily admitted as her father smiled at her.
“Then maybe you should wait and see. Give the new teacher a chance. Who knows? Maybe you’ll like her just as much as you like Miss Fields.”
“Maybe…” Hasana admitted and after a while, she added, “Miss Fields told us her love story.”
Caught off guard, a bubble of laughter escaped Waseem’s lips as he looked at his daughter in shock. “Love story?” He questioned.
“Yeah. She told us the story about how she met her husband.”
Shaking his head, he tried to hide his smile as he wondered why on earth he sent his daughter to the school she was going to. The main reason was that it was right around the corner, making it easier for his mother to take Hasana to and fro. But in that moment, Waseem truly considered alternate schools, schools that didn’t have the likes of Miss Fields.
Interrupting his chain of thought, his daughter called out to him.
“Daddy?” She asked almost timidly.
“Can you- can you tell me about Mummy?”
Waseem’s head swung to the side. His eyes latched onto his daughter’s: big, brown and innocent. His heart raced as her question rang through his mind.
“What- what about Mummy?” He asked tentatively.
“Can you tell me your love story?” Her question was honest. Her question was pure. And it took everything inside Waseem to stop the tears that were forming from spilling down his cheeks. He swallowed and released a slow shaky breath before giving his daughter his most reassuring smile.
“Sure sweetheart. How about I tell you tonight, as a bedtime story?”
Nodding her head eagerly, Hasana agreed. Unable to contain her excitement, she wore a smile on her face for the rest of the day. All throughout dinner, her ridiculous grin made her Dadee, her paternal grandmother, laugh.
“What’s got you smiling so much?” Layla Ahmed asked her granddaughter as they stood side by side at the kitchen sink washing dishes.
Hasana handed her grandmother a plate and shrugged her shoulders. “Oh, nothing Dadee. Just- I really missed Daddy. I’m happy he’s back.”
“Me too sweetie, me too.”
The duo carried on washing, drying and stacking the dishes until the job was done. Now came the hard part. Layla would have to convince Hasana to get ready for bed, only today the little one was already sprinting up the stairs as the clock struck eight.
Half an hour later, and with no one nagging her to do so, Hasana had hopped into bed and was under the covers, as she waited for her father to tell her the story she had been so anxious to hear.
Waseem walked into his daughter’s room and dimmed the lights. Striding over to her bedside, he bent forward and planted a kiss on her forehead. “Good night sweetheart.” But before he could pull away, Hasana grabbed a hold of his wrist.
“But you promised me a bedtime story.”
Realising what she was referring to, Waseem gulped and offered Hasana a wary smile. He cleared his throat and slowly lowered himself onto her bed, making himself comfortable.
“You’re right, I did say I would give you a bedtime story-”
“About Mummy. About your love story. Please Daddy, please.”
Waseem sighed and nodded his head before he gently took his daughter’s hand in his. And then he was transported back to 2003.
Closing his eyes, he could recall the exact moment he first laid eyes on Aasia Sami.
It was an ordinary day during his first year at university. As always, Waseem was with his group of friends, hanging out at the campus coffee shop, a shop that felt more like home considering the amount of time he spent there. To Waseem, his university was a place to relax, a time to chill and he by no means took any of it seriously. That all changed when he met Aasia.
The first time he saw her was when she walked into the coffee shop. She was impossible to ignore with her retro backpack and peculiar taste in fashion. But Waseem didn’t care. Watching this abnormally tall girl, dressed in clothes that looked like they were from a different era, walk across the cafe, he couldn’t look away. He didn’t look away. Not when she ordered a muffin and a coffee. Not when she left the cafe and went outside.
Excusing himself from his group of friends, Waseem followed Aasia till he found her sitting on a bench all by herself. For a moment, he merely observed her. She was deep in thought, a sad expression etched on her face. He didn’t want to disturb her but he had the overwhelming urge to speak to her, to find out who she was. Slowly, with his hands tucked firmly into his jean pockets, he approached her.
“Hi.” He said awkwardly.
Waseem would never forget the look of shock that was plastered on Aasia’s face as she registered that a complete stranger was talking to her.
“You talking to me?” She asked with a raised eyebrow.
He nodded his head with a smile on his face. “Yes, I am. I ‘m Waseem.”
Pausing, Aasia replied after a moment. “I’m Aasia.”
“First year?” He asked.
She nodded her head in agreement.
“You’re in your first year and you already look so sad. Imagine how depressed you’ll be in your fourth year.” His joke was meant to lighten the mood and bring a possible smile to her face, but instead, the only reaction he got was a shrug of her shoulders.
“How come I’ve never seen you around?” Waseem asked, trying a different tactic to get Aasia to open up, but at the same time, he was also genuinely curious. He was a social butterfly with a circle of friends that extended throughout the entire campus, yet Aasia had been a total mystery to him.
She bit into her muffin before replying, “I don’t socialise much.”
“Well, you should. Socialising is good for your health you know.”
And that’s when he heard it, the sound of her laughter. It was unrestrained and bubbly, something he hadn’t expected from a girl who came across as timid. Taken aback by how affected he was by something as simple as the sound of laughter, Waseem pressed on. Question after question he flung at Aasia and with every answer he became more interested in the young women, who he learnt was passionate about journalism, sitting across from him on the wooden bench.
“That bench is still there you know.” He told Hasana, who clung to his every word, completely engrossed in his story. “I’ll take you to see it one day.”
“Really?” She asked, her voice filled with hope.
“Of course! But right now, you need to sleep.”
“But you’re not done with your story Daddy…”
“Its past your bedtime Hasana. I’ll finish the story tomorrow, okay?”
She pouted. He smiled and then he planted a kiss on her cheek.
“I love you, sweetheart. Sleep tight.”
And with that, Hasana drifted off to sleep, a wide contagious smile plastered on her face
Shoutout to my Dadee who I miss and love so much!
I know that the uncovering of the plot is quite slow and the fact that I’m only posting once a week doesn’t help much….
BUT slow and steady wins the race, so please bear with me!
Until the next chapter…