© Huma M. Hussain (Zaarah)

The last discernible shreds of daylight were torn from my vision as the intense downpour lashed against the bodies of men unconscious to its presence. The sky was a purple-black and the night was a fierce blue. I hugged myself against the chill. Everything before me was wet – the foliage, the streets, the shops, the vehicles and every person traversing the sidewalks.

The only sounds that could be heard were the continual patter of the raindrops on the leaves and the rooftops; the murmur of the people stepping into puddles, trying to find their way back home.

I firmly ensconced myself on my armchair with a cup of coffee and observed the raindrops sluicing against my window, the smell of wet earth mingled with coffee engulfed me. The light from the candle in the brass holder flickered in the corner of the room threatening to die out.

A soft breeze blew in through the open doors, ruffling the curtains. The sky looked dark and tempting; all was calm and dark within my house. I had always enjoyed solitude, and I somehow always came back home when I had to clear my head. It was my retreat from the outside world. Looking at the landscape outside, my mind wandered and I began traveling into my childhood...I had always enjoyed the rain, the way it felt against my face, always dampening my hair and wetting my clothes.

I remembered jumping in puddles as a child, while returning from school; the water seeping into my shoes. I was mostly reticent at school but during the monsoons when the rest of the children hung about at home or took refuge under tin roofs or shelters, I was often the only one splashing about in the rain, enjoying its perfection.

I took a sip of my coffee and looked out of my window, the forms before me stood smudged; the scene before me looked like it was nothing less than a work of fine art. I noticed at that time, a figure standing in the distance. I tried to get a closer look, but the window was fogged up.

I opened the window, and looked out into the rain. She had on a red dress, and a black scarf was tightly wrapped around her face; she held a black umbrella which was tightly hooked on to her glove. The dim light from the lantern above her added a certain allure to her face. The girl standing before me was mesmerizing.

The rain was then reduced to a silent drizzle, and her features were apparent to me. Her eyes were rimmed with kohl and there was an expression of uneasiness on her face, her teeth began to chatter with cold. I longed to offer her a wrap or a hot cup of coffee, but I was rooted to my spot, staggered by her loveliness. She strode along the road for a while, as if solitary.

She stopped abruptly to look around for a familiar face or the sign of a cab but to no avail. She let out a deep sigh and a single tear ran down her cheek, her only source of warmth in the unsympathetic, cold weather. The girl sat down on a bench and gazed at the frigid, overcast sky. It was getting darker, and the cacophony of sounds around her evolved into a painful din.

I got up, placing my coffee mug on a coaster on the table and stepped out of the double doors of my residence. If there is anyway that I can render help, I will, I thought to myself as I walked out onto the street. I could feel a chill run down my spine as I walked up to her, and it wasn't because of the weather. I had the feeling that something was going to happen.

As she saw me approaching her, she looked a little alarmed, but then her expression suddenly altered and she knitted her eyebrows, and a frown was plastered on her face. I was apprehensive of talking to her; she looked like she didn't approve of conversations with strangers. While I was contemplating this, the words came pouring out of me.

"What's your name?"

My voice came out weaker than I wanted it to. She looked taken aback. She was probably wondering how, quite suddenly out of nowhere, a disheveled stranger had appeared at her side and whether she could evade talking to him.

"Zahra", she replied matching my tone, keeping her voice firm; still looking nervous.

I was intrigued by the fact that she had replied so quickly, not thinking as much as I had pictured her to. I put my hand on her shoulder; not reflecting on the repercussions this might have had and gazed into her big, amber, kohl-rimmed eyes.

She retracted, taken aback by the sudden closeness. She opened her mouth to say something, but her mind drifted.

"What is it? Can I offer you something?" I inquired, making myself at ease next to her.

She stared at me, an intensity and longing in her eyes. Maybe she decided to give this unfamiliar person a chance, maybe the possibilities of him being dangerous seemed quite austere to her. She wanted me to lend a hand. She wanted to say something. I knew it.

I took a gulp of air; I was going to suggest to her the prospect of coming in and having a cup of coffee with me because frankly, I wanted to get to know her. Then maybe, someday, we would fall in love and I'd live life in a different way; we could enjoy the rainfall together from the confines of my dwelling whilst talking about the monotony of life.

While I was thinking about my life with the beautiful stranger I had just met, the drone of the engine of a car suddenly brought me out of my beautiful reverie. It pulled up right in front of us, and a man in an ill-fitting tweed suit stepped out.

"I'm sorry I'm late, get into the car." he said to the girl without throwing a second look at me.

It was then that I noticed the sparkling diamond ring on the girl's finger. The atmosphere suddenly felt deleterious and the darkened sky added to the effect. The girl looked one last time at me, she was stunning.

"Shukriya" she softly whispered in my ear before taking off.

I rose from the bench, and walked towards my abode again, the rain water was cold against my face, dampening my hair, wetting my overcoat, and the water from the puddles was seeping through my shoes; I was wishing she would've said something else other than a thank-you.

I kept replaying the scene in my head over and over again, altering our final words.

A light thunder crashed above me, as I began humming to myself. I unexpectedly felt warmth smother me. It was like coming back home on a rainy day only to find mother bake a batch of home made cookies.

I felt a rush of different emotions surging through me: anguish, desire, uncertainty, anticipation; and it felt alien. It had been so long since I had felt any kind of emotion, happiness or sorrow and when the reason finally struck me a smile swept across my face:


I was in love, she had captivated my soul.

"I am not distraught by your absence in my life,
For it is in my imagination that you will always be close to me."

A/N: Shukriya is Urdu for thank you. The last two lines are an Urdu poem by Saahir and I do not own them. Story has been updated!