Zeenath Jahan

The garden was in full bloom. Lazily draped on a chair under the Magnolia tree, Zohra chuckled softly. The thought of Marium's face when she would win the first prize at the flower show delighted her. Kamal interrupted this pleasant reverie, sullenly repeated his question,

"....Well? ...Shall I do it today..?"

Zohra wished he would not creep up on her like that. It startled her to find him suddenly standing at her side, glowering down at her. Needing time to think of an appropriate answer, she languidly raised her hand and studied her exquisitely manicured nails. She had to balance her answer very carefully, if she wanted to get her way without annoying him.

"Well?" he growled.

Stealing a sidelong glance at his clenched fists, Zohra sensed trouble.

"Can't it wait?" she pouted, trying to put him off.

"No. You keep making excuses, and it has to be done now.

"Come on Kamal, what's the hurry?" she playfully tried out her best tinkling laugh.

"You've been avoiding the issue for a whole month. You must decide now, I've just about had enough. If it is not resolved soon I will have to leave.

"Don't say that. Don't ever say that again!" she gasped, eyes wide with terror. "I've my reputation to think of. Everyone will think I was behind it. That it was my idea." he said.

"Don't worry, if that's all that's bothering you, I'll take the blame," she said lightly; but darting a look at his set jaw, she saw it hadn't worked. Zohra panicked, it seemed she would have to give in. Then, hearing the telephone ring she went in to answer answer it, with an uncharacteristically brisk step.

"I can't take much more of this..." She heard him mutter angrily, as she escaped into the house.

"Hi, would you please ask Kamal to drop by my house sometime?"

Leave him alone you old biddy, he's mine! Zohra wanted to scream, but instead she answered sweetly

"Ofcourse, Marium dear, but he's so busy right now. The rains ruined everything"

"Yes, I know," Marium interrupted. "You are so lucky to have Kamal, you don't have to worry about a thing! Be a dear and ask him to come round when he's free, will you? Ah and before i forget, Rehana wanted to know whether you're coming over for Bridge."

"Ofcourse I am, it's been my only pleasure since Baber died," Zohra said mournfully.

"For heavens sake, Zohra! Don't pull that `poor widow' stunt on me. `Merry widow' would be more like it!" she giggled.

"Really Marium, the things you say! " Zohra huffed, Marium really knew how to get under her skin.

Kamal had left by the time she returned to the garden. Why was he always bent on having his own way? After all, it was her house! Just then the maid hurried up to her,

"Kamal has gone!" she said wringing her hands.

"What do you mean ... `gone'?"

"He just packed up and left, saying he was moving to Marium's house."

Zohra shrieked, collapsing on the deck chair. Her best friend had deceived her! She would never ever speak to Marium again, not for as long as she lived! A sobering thought suddenly made her sit up, who would partner her at Bridge? It was so difficult to make up a good foursome. Then, pulling herself together, Zohra decided she would forgive Marium. A smile began to flicker around her full lips, she realized she could now keep the Hibiscus Kamal had wanted to uproot! Squaring her shoulders, her spirits rose. I will employ another gardener, she thought. He may be good, but Kamal isn't the only gardener in town!


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