Hamza Ali is ready to get married, fall in love and live happily ever after. The only problem is, he's about to marry one woman but falls in love with another... So how will he find his happily ever after?
After watching his brother's disastrous love marriage fall to pieces, Hamza decides that the only marriage for him is an arranged one. In Mahrukh, his family finds him the perfect bride. But while Mahrukh may be the perfect bride, it's her divorced aunt Noorain who is the perfect woman for him.
Noorain Alam has never loved or been loved. Until the day her niece gets engaged to a man who is completely out of her reach and yet, he's everything she never knew she wanted.
Blindsided by the strength of emotion they feel for each other, Noorain and Hamza find themselves in a battle for their happiness. But will love win? Or will family and duty stand in its way?
Read an Excerpt from Loving You
Noorain Alam was annoyed. She was in fact hopping mad. But she kept a smile on her face as she said goodbye to her employees Kamala and Mona who would be locking up the boutique after she left. She glanced at herself in the full-length mirror in the foyer once and shrugged. She didn’t really care what she looked like but she knew that she had to be at least presentable or she wouldn’t hear the end of it.
For Haniya Apa, being presentable meant wearing at least half a kilo of gold. Noorain shuddered as she thought of her gold jewellery lying in her locker in the bank. It would stay there forever if she had anything to do with it. She left the boutique and got into her car and took a deep breath as she glanced down at herself once more.
The long peacock blue kaftan type kurta that she had paired with white leggings was stylish but if Haniya Apa’s in-laws were at home, that meant they would certainly look down at her and make faces. She was just going to have to deal with it, she thought as she started the car.
What’s the big hurry in getting Mahrukh married anyway, she thought. They could easily wait for another two years at least. The girl just finished her studies last year. Who gets married at 22 for god’s sakes?
Dumb chicks like herself who got steamrolled into doing what parents wanted, she thought. They got married so early. She rolled her eyes when she remembered her own ill-fated and short marriage that took place right after her 21st birthday.
She switched on some music and tried to keep all the negative thoughts at bay. Tonight, she was going to talk to Mahrukh and ask her if this was what she really wanted.
Let them do what they want. It’s none of your business.
She shushed the thought away. No. It was her duty to ensure that her niece was happy. That she wasn’t being forced into something she didn’t want. There had been no one looking out for her when she got married 8 years ago. And when she had got divorced, everyone was ready to blame her for it.
Mahrukh and she had been like siblings, rather than aunt and niece, but in the past few years, there had been a distance between them. Noorain wondered if it was because of her father’s family who didn’t like her at all. Had they influenced her to stay away from her? Still, she was going to try her best and reconnect with her, she decided.
She reached home soon enough and drove the car inside the basement parking. Maybe if she lingered a little, she would catch the tail end of the visit. But then, even if the boys’ side who had come to see Mahrukh left, she would still have to contend with Haniya Apa’s in-laws who would have turned up in full strength.
Oh, what the hell, she thought irritably as she got down from the car and made her way to the lift. She wondered if she would have time to hop into her own apartment and quickly shower but decided against it. Better to just face the firing squad right away.
Minutes later, she entered the apartment and looked around quickly. There were no men here, which meant that Arshad Bhaijan must have taken them to his office. So that left the ladies who had come to see Mahrukh. Warily, she walked into one of the inner living rooms and stopped at the threshold.
She could almost feel her skin break out into hives when she saw the number of women there, all dressed in iridescent colours. Smiling, she stepped inside and several women stiffened. To her credit, Haniya Apa welcomed her inside. If she had so much as flinched, she knew that Noorain would never step inside her home again.
‘This is my younger sister, Noorain,’ she said, leading her to two women who were seated on the sofa. Noorain tried to hide her surprise when she saw them. They were not dressed in flashy colours and neither were they dripping with jewellery. The older woman looked at her, eyes wide and she smiled. The younger woman was very pretty and she too smiled at her.
‘Sit, talk to them while I get Mahrukh,’ Haniya Apa said to her.
‘You sure about that?’ Noorain asked through the side of her mouth.
Haniya Apa rolled her eyes and walked away briskly, and two of her relatives got up from their sofas and followed her outside. Noorain sat down, not sure what to say or talk to Mahrukh’s potential in-laws. Small talk was the bane of her life.
‘Are you married, beta?’ the older woman asked. Great.
There was a slight embarrassed cough from the other sofa. God. These people behaved like a divorced woman was something to be ashamed about.
‘No, Aunty,’ Noorain replied. ‘I was. But I’m not any longer.’
The younger woman looked at her in surprise even as the older woman’s eyes widened as she understood what that meant. ‘I’m Ghazal,’ she said.
‘What a pretty name,’ Noorain remarked with a smile on her face. She liked this girl for some reason. There was something very pleasant and non-judgmental about her demeanour.
‘Noorain is a pretty name too,’ Ghazal said.
‘In school, I used to get teased a lot,’ Noorain said with a smile. ‘I contemplated changing my name almost every month, back then whenever I heard kids sing Noorain, Noorain, go away, come again another day.’
Ghazal grinned and was about to say something when Haniya Apa had returned, this time with Mahrukh in tow. Noorain looked at her niece, a little exasperated. Mahrukh was pretty and had delicate features but was easily swayed and didn’t have enough determination or grit.
Right now, one of Haniya Apa’s relatives was holding her back in such a way that her head was bent low. Anger surged through Noorain but she controlled herself as the woman led Mahrukh towards the sofa and helped her sit down. Mahrukh was dressed in a royal pink ghagra with a deep green trim. She looked like a bride already, especially with all the jewellery.
Noorain stepped away from there, even as introductions were made, although Mahrukh was expected to act like she was a mannequin. Ghazal bent low and tried to talk to her but Mahrukh just replied with a shake of her head or she nodded.
Ghazal and her mother-in-law exchanged a look with each other and smiled and Noorain knew then, that there was no way they would reject Mahrukh. She probably ticked all their mental checkboxes. But she looked forward to meeting Ghazal again, she realised, when after sometime Mahrukh was led away, back like a sweet little lamb to the slaughter.
Noorain lingered near the door, when Arwa who was Haniya Apa’s sister-in-law turned to her. ‘Don’t get too friendly with them, okay? We don’t want to spoil our family’s reputation unnecessarily.’
Bristling, Noorain straightened up but decided not to retort. Most of the women in Haniya Apa’s family couldn’t bear the sight of her. Not only was she divorced, she was also an independent woman and she didn’t look like she needed any man in her life. What’s more, before their father passed away, he had gifted Noorain an apartment of her own in this building. So she had her own place as well.
She was a far cry from the other women who seemed to enjoy being simpering and helpless, letting their men take care of them.
She was snapped out of her uncharitable thoughts when Ghazal turned to her as they were leaving. ‘It was nice meeting you,’ she said.
‘Same here,’ Noorain replied, beaming at her. ‘I have a boutique on Wheeler Road. Maybe you’d like to come and visit?’
‘Oh I’d love to. But I hope you’re open on the weekends? I have work during the week,’ Ghazal replied.
Noorain was surprised. Ghazal worked? She had an actual job?
‘Yes, we’re open on weekends too,’ she said warmly, as she pulled out a business card from her handbag and handed it to her. She could sense the judgmental looks from women like Arwa and the others, and ignoring them, she smiled at Ghazal. ‘I hope to see you soon!’
Andaleeb Wajid is the author of 27 published novels and she writes across different genres such as romance, YA and horror. Her horror novel It Waits was shortlisted at Mami Word to Screen 2017 and her Young Adult series, The Tamanna Trilogy has been optioned for screen by a reputed production house. Andaleeb's novel When She Went Away was shortlisted for The Hindu Young World Prize in 2017. Andaleeb is a hybrid author who has self-published more than 10 novels in the past two years.