Life moved at a faster pace for Aasia, the budding journalist. Her internship required more and more of her time which meant that she had fewer hours to spend with her friends and family. Not that she minded. Her work environment gave her a thrill and when an idea of hers was finally good enough to publish, seeing her name in print gave her a rush and feeling of satisfaction she had never felt before.
“Whats this?” Waseem asked catching the magazine that Aasia threw his way.
With a confused look, he did as he was told. “Don’t make me read another one of those corny articles on how Paris is the city of love.”
Rolling her eyes, she said “Paris IS the city of love. That is not up for debate. And no, no corny articles. Just flip to page twenty-eight.”
And sure enough, there it was. Aasia’s first article. It was no life-changing piece, but it was a start. Waseem could not stop the proud feeling that spread through him as he read his best friend’s first published article.
It didn’t stop there. Within months, Aasia added three more magazines to her growing portfolio. She began to dabble with the campus newspaper too, thinking that diversifying her writing would help her become a better writer. When the mid-year break rolled around, Aasia couldn’t believe how time had flown by. She also couldn’t believe how little of her friends she had seen in the past six months.
Aasia snapped her head in the direction of the voice. “You scared me!”
“I’m surprised you haven’t forgotten what I sound or look like.”
She grinned. “I’ve been busy. Juggling campus and work has not been easy.”
“Yeah, tell me about it! I’ve got a gig at the mechanics and I come home exhausted and greasy every day.”
Aasia hadn’t even known that Amaan had a job. “Good for you! I hope they’re not overworking you.”
“Oh, they are! But it’s not so bad… You busy right now?”
She responded with a negative. Truth be told, she had nothing better to do than to go home and sit with her mother, who wanted nothing more than for her to quit her internship.
“We’re all heading to the driving range if you want to come.”
Aasia looked down. “I don’t think I’m any good at golf”
Amaan explained that they would just be practising shots as he guided her towards the parking lot where twenty other campus-goers stood.
“Oh wow, there’s a lot of people here,” Aasia whispered more to herself than anyone else. She timidly walked over to a group of familiar faces. She hadn’t really hung out with the crew and her self-consciousness took over completely as she fidgeted and remained quiet. She looked around hoping to catch a glimpse of Waseem, but he was nowhere to be found.
“Do you guys know where Waseem is?” She said to no one in particular.
“I think he already left,” was the simple reply of a girl she didn’t even know.
Shoving aside her self-conscious feelings, she hopped into the car of the only person she felt comfortable driving with, Taliya.
“Well well, Aasia Sami lives!” Taliya teased as they drove towards their destination.
“Oh, not you too,” Aasia said with a grin on her face. “I haven’t been that awol, have I?”
“Girl, if only you knew…” Taliya whispered to herself, but Aasia caught on.
“If only I knew what?”
“You’ll see.” And with that, she gave her a suspicious wink which only made Aasia laugh. Taliya had always been someone who was laid back and relaxed about life. She could go weeks without seeing her friends but when she eventually did, she would pick up right where she left off. She had enjoyed having Aasia around and truth be told, she was glad her friend had taken a break from her work to spend some much-needed downtime with her friends.
A short while later, a trio of cars arrived at their destination. Eager to destress and let off some steam at the range, they rushed towards the rest of their friends who had already started hitting and putting away.
Aasia had never been to a driving range before and she didn’t quite understand the purpose but she tried her best to fit in. When Taliya wandered off, she found a seat and made her self comfortable, trying not to attract any attention to herself, only she couldn’t help but feel that someone was hovering over her.
Looking up and seeing who the culprit was, she found her heart in her throat.
She was about to greet him, but as soon as she opened her mouth, he rushed off, joining his friends as they hit their golf balls, competing to see who could hit it the farthest.
Well, that was odd, Aasia thought to herself. He can’t possibly be mad at me. I haven’t done anything wrong.
Brushing the matter aside, she went in search of Taliya and eventually found her and a group of girls sitting together. Joining them, she tried to keep up with their conversation but her mind assessed any and every reason Waseem could have for not wanting to speak to her. Coming up with nothing, she tried to seek answers in an alternative source. Scanning the crowd, she found who she was looking for and ushered him over.
“You summoned me?” Amaan asked, plopping himself into the chair next to hers.
“Whats up with him?” She asked, nodding her head in the direction of Waseem.
“What do you mean?”
“Is he okay?”
Amaan arched a brow. “I mean- he’s as okay as he can be. Why do you ask?”
“He seemed- not like himself.”
Amaan offered her a small smile. “Well, what do you expect, he’s going through a tough time. It’s not easy when your father gets laid off.”
Laid off. That was a polite way of saying fired.
Waseem’s father had been fired? Aasia knew that things had been tight at home, financially, for quite some time, but having no job would definitely put a strain on the family.
“When did it happen?” She asked tentatively.
“Oh, about a month ago. Waseem’s been busting his butt trying to help out. He considered dropping out of campus. I had to talk some sense into him but he came around.”
A dreadful, horrible feeling seeped into Aasia as she thought back to a month ago. One month ago: had Waseem told her about his father’s predicament? Had she forgotten? She searched her memory and nothing popped up.
Why would he not tell her? And then realisation set in. She recalled on a few occasions, Waseem saying that he had something important to tell her in private, but she could never pull herself away from her work or studies long enough to sit down and give Waseem the undivided attention he had asked for.
The dreadful horrible feeling intensified as she realised what a truly bad friend she had been. Crap, she thought to herself. She needed to apologise. Signalling the end of the conversation with Amaan, she tried to pay attention to what Taliya was saying but every so often she looked up to see where Waseem was, trying to find an appropriate moment for her to swoop in and say sorry.
Her moment arrived when he was taking a break. Gathering all the courage she had within her she walked towards him. He looked up, looked at her, then looked away.
“So you’re not even talking to me?” She said, trying to get a reaction. When silence met her, she playfully tapped him on the shoulder. “Hey, you can’t stay mad at me.”
“I’m not mad.” Was his solemn reply.
“Really? Because it seems like you are.”
“If silence meant that I was mad at you, does that mean you were mad at me?”
She released a breath. “I’m sorry Waseem. Really, I am. I’m so sorry for not knowing about your father and for being a terrible, horrible friend.”
“Waseem.” She said it in a way that reverberated throughout him.
“I need you to accept my apology. I didn’t know what was going on.”
“You would have if you had taken five minutes to just sit down and hear me out.” Letting out a frustrated breath, Waseem tried to keep his voice as calm as possible. “I am thrilled that you are excelling at your internship, you know I am. Every success you have makes me so proud of you. But when you turn your back on everything else, I can’t help but feel a little hurt. These past few weeks have been tough Aasia. You have no idea. I couldn’t even talk to you about it because you were always running between campus and work, and again, I’m happy for you. But five minutes, would it really have hurt you?”
Saying what he needed to say in what he thought was the most composed way possible, he stalked off and joined Amaan who had witnessed the interaction between the duo. He watched as a solemn Aasia returned to her previous spot. She didn’t speak to anyone, except when Taliya asked her a question. She kept to herself, her thoughts chewing her up and spitting her back out.
Aasia was not used to ups and downs of friendships. In high school, she had a handful of acquaintances who she was never close enough to, to have a fallout. Yet here was her best friend, reeling from family issues as well as a neglectful Aasia. She didn’t know how to make things right and Amaan could see that, noticing her withdrawn behaviour. He knew what needed to be done. Waseem needed a push in the right direction and he took it upon himself to make it happen.
When the first batch of people began to hand in their clubs and head home, Aasia jumped at the opportunity to get back to campus, get into her car and go home. She wanted to forget this day had ever happened. She hugged Taliya goodbye and promised to meet up over the break.
Just as she was about to get into someone’s car to leave, a voice startled her.
It was Waseem. She looked between the car and her best friend before choosing the latter who fidgeted with his car keys. Following him in silence, hope flourished through her. Maybe he would forgive her.
“I know you hate going home with strangers.” He said as he unlocked his car and opened the passenger door for her. “And I have an early morning so I thought I might as well leave now.”
“Did you take on more shifts at work?” She asked once he had gotten into the driver’s seat.
He nodded his head affirmatively and started the car. Not saying anything, the only sound filling the air was the humming of the engine.
“Waseem, I’m sorry about before. I-“
“It’s okay. It’s done. You’ve been busy. I -I just missed you. I missed my best friend.”
She smiled. “Your best friend missed you too. And she promises that it’s the last time she will abandon you in your time of need.”
Waseem rolled his eyes but he was smiling. The past few weeks had been hard for him and his family but something told him that things would change, if not for his father then for him.
Only time would tell…
Here’s a little bit of a longer post…
I know not everyone likes this back and forth set up between the present and past and it won’t carry on like this forever, maybe till Chapter 30, and then I’ll just focus on the present.
By then I feel like you all will have a good grasp on who Aasia was and the relationship she and Waseem had.
Plus I just like writing about what the university experience was like back in 2004. A lot of the time I get first-hand accounts of what people used to do for fun 14 years ago and I try to incorporate it into the blog. It makes it a little more unique.
Hope you guys enjoyed!