Refika smiled. It was the same mischievous smile that her brother had – lopsided on one side, with a twinkle in the eyes telling that more was hidden behind that smile than visible, and genuine, from the heart. Jenna’s heart swelled with wistfulness. She was missing Kabir. Her face couldn’t hide her longing.
“What happened?” Refika whispered, holding Jenna’s hands. Janne shook her head and wiped the tears from her eyes. No! This wasn’t a moment to reminiscence about the past. This was about looking at the future. She swallowed and returned a smile back at Refika.
“You’re thinking about Kabir?” Refika asked, her voice a little higher than a whisper, audible to everyone around. Jenna nodded. She had never learned to lie to Refika, or Kabir for that matter.
Refika’s father, who was standing beside her put his hand on Jenna’s shoulder.
“We all miss him, Jenna. You don’t have to be ashamed of that.”
“Yes, dear. He’s not here but he’s still with us, all of us.” Kabir and Refika’s mother chimed in as well. She held Jenna’s arm and squeezed it gently.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t want the moment to go in this direction. It’s our special moment,” Jenna said looking at Refika.
Refika giggled nervously. “Our special moment can wait.”
“Everyone! We are taking a five-minute break. One of the brides is having a panic attack.”
The jovialness of her voice made everyone in the audience laugh. Even Jenna couldn’t help herself and smile. Refika helped Jenna on a chair and someone got her water. Jenna couldn’t believe that at this moment, she was being comforted by Kabir’s family when they might be in as much pain as her.
Jenna and Kabir met three years ago at a party. Kabir was the guest of honor, primarily because he had the knack to hijack any party within minutes of entering it. Jenna was immediately drawn to him, probably like all the other girls at that party. At that party, that was all Jenna knew about Kabir. It was the second time she met him that she found out the kind and free-spirited soul called Kabir in full flow. She had needed some legal help and Kabir was a lawyer. By the end of that meeting, she asked him out.
Kabir had looked at her with a lopsided grin.
“Okay! Let’s go,” Kabir said.
“What? Right now?”
“What are you waiting for?”
Kabir said and started walking. Jenna looked at him dumbfounded and then ran after him. Within 3 months, Jenna had moved in with Kabir and soon after, met his family. In Kabir’s world, everything happened instantaneously.
In their one year long relationship, Jenna experienced everything – the highs and the lows, the love and the pain, the beginning and the end. Her perfect relationship was ended by a freak accident two years ago.
For the next six months, Jenna had nightmares almost every night. She would call for Kabir and wake up in sweat and tears, alone in their house.
Kabir’s parents urged her to move in with them, even if for a brief period. She complied. Living with Kabir’s parents calmed her down considerably. They lived only a few blocks away from Kabir’s apartment but the difference was light-years in Jenna’s recovery. She even started calling them mom and dad. Refika’s presence helped too.
A lawyer as well, Refika was a much calmer version for Kabir. Where Kabir was a river at its origin – blazing, cutting through the mountains, eager to reach the ocean, Refika was the same river at the plains, meandering sometimes, caring, nurturing. Jenna and Refika came closer than ever. One day, without any hesitation, Refika asked Jenna.
“Hey! Do you want to have dinner tonight?”
Considering it a daily question, Jenna answered.
“Of course. I was planning on making some pasta.”
“I meant, do you want to go out and have dinner.”
“Even better. I’ll ask mom and dad as well.”
Refika rolled her eyes.
“When was the last time someone asked you out?”
Jenna looked at Refika confused.
“I don’t know. I haven’t really dated anyone since Kabir.”
“I can see that. You clearly don’t recognize when someone asks you out.”
Jenna and Refika looked at each other, the tension and the awkwardness in the room increasing by the second. Jenna hoped Refika would say something and change the situation but Refika had clearly been prepping herself for this moment. She was waiting patiently for Jenna to respond. ‘Damn Refika’s lawyer patience,’ thought Jenna.
The two kept sitting in front of each other without saying anything for a century.
Jenna’s mind went from confusion to revolt to even more confusion to acceptance to horror at the acceptance to even further confusion. In front of her, Refika was sitting still, a somber look at her face, ready to accept any decision.
“I don’t want to say no but I don’t know how to say yes,” Jenna finally said.
“Okay. Then let this one be a friendly dinner. Nothing more,” Refika said, accepting the reply.
“But no parents.”
Jenna laughed, tension releasing from her body.
That dinner was just dinner. But the next one turned into a date. And today, less than a year later, she was about to marry Refika. Her parents, Kabir’s parents have been so accepting of her that she couldn’t believe she could get so lucky. She was amazed at the stride in which they took Refika and Jenna’s relationship.
“Love is love,” dad had said. Mom had been even happier.
“Now, you stay in the family forever,” she had said joyously.
And now, in the midst of all this happiness, she was crying, remembering Kabir. Kabir, who made all this happen. Meeting whom changed her life forever. Jenna looked at Refika who was holding her hand.
“You good now,” she asked.
“I love Kabir.”
“And I love you.”
“I love Kabir too. And I love you too.”
“Let’s get married,” Jenna said with a smile on her face.
Refika smiled. The same smile Kabir had given Jenna when she had asked him out.