I leaned back into the cosy garden chair and let the cool, refreshing breeze lift me into an aura of mesmerizing bliss. The whistling air danced on my cheeks and eyelids, as my eight-year-old sister Zunairah read “The Beauty and the Beast” out loud. New to the beautiful circle of books, she plunged into the story and sighed, when she read the last words: “And they lived happily ever after.”
For the first time, those very words, which I had read and listened to happily my entire seventeen years, irked me. I wanted to strangle Beauty, as she smiled into her Prince’s eyes and calmly entered the fantasies of every girl, who wanted to live happily ever after like her.
Smiling, I kissed Zunairah and headed inside, so much for enjoying sunsets; it was now time to go to college. I slipped into my boring blue uniform and joked with my neighbour, as her driver dropped us off – we went to the same college. At the gate, we parted and headed off to our different classes. I concentrated on my path and my safe cocoon inside my headscarf, as I walked through the hoards of students crowding the hallways, carefully ignoring the baseless staring boys everywhere.
“Hey, Yasmin!” my best friend blithely skipped towards me from the door of our classroom.
“Hey, Sehr, you’re early today?” I slyly smiled and half hugged her, she was known to never be early.
“Yeah, daddy had work to do at the hotel.” She explained, smiling, “Hey, there’s Mehak!”
So it was; my other best friend waved at us, as she walked forward – our trio was complete.
“You cannot imagine how many suitors are coming to ask for my sister’s hand in matrimony with their kid!” she burst with the news.
We laughed gleefully, as we pictured what she had just told us. It seemed such a jolly idea – her sister getting married.
“So when should we wish her joy?” I teased her, as we dropped our bags on the graffiti stricken chairs in the back of the classroom.
“Shut up, Yasmin, not yet obviously!” she rolled her eyes at my lame joking skills.
“My sister can’t wait to get married,” Sehr chirped, “honestly, you sit with her for one night, Yasmin, and you won’t be able to either.”
“Yasmin, you’re ridiculous. You know you will get married one day.” Mehak turned the subject to me.
“I won’t, and I don’t want to talk about it!” I snapped. I hated to talk about marriage, especially since I found people generally not comprehending my train of thought; besides, I found boys irritating and immature.
“Boys aren’t as stupid and narrow-minded as you say they are!” sehr persisted. I ignored her, and thanked Allah (swt), when the teacher came in.
The first three periods flew by, and as our fourth one was free, we formed a circle with our chairs with the rest of the girls in class. We decided to play Dare and Extreme Dare, and played for half the period until Kinza, a girl, had to make an announcement.
“He finally asked me out!” she proudly said.
My friends and I weren’t too thrilled.
“And…?” I said in disgust.
“And we’re going to get married after university and live happily ever after!” she sighed. I rolled my eyes at her absurdity.
“You really believe that? Fine, live your pathetic dream. We don’t need guys now; think of marriage when the time comes. Don’t be a fool!” I groaned and got up. My friends followed me.
“Stop overreacting!” Sehr said, “you know it’s of no use.”
“Right.” I thought.
* * *
It was one of our family trips to the mountains during our winter holidays. My father wound the car through the over-powering conifers dwelling in the mountains. Pine cones decorated the forests and the roads, increasing the magnificent splendour of nature. On the very top, I perceived the sparkling white of snow, and eagerly anticipated our stay in the rest house at the top.
Rolling my window down as far as it would go, I breathed in the beautiful chill of winter up high. I pulled up the collar of my coat and hugged myself, as we reached our destination.
I stepped out into the soft cushion of snow and smiled, as I felt snowflakes still showering upon us with hypnotizing happiness. While my parents and Zunairah walked to the rest house, I took the opportunity to wander about in that exquisite place; enchanted by the heavenly atmosphere, my mind romanced away in an epic imagination. I felt the smallness of my troubles and bothers; and experienced wholeness, as I grasped the bigger picture. The world seemed puny, its worries still tinier. We weren’t sent to worry about securing the perfect partner, so we could fulfil our dreams. Life is so much greater – a book, whose epilogue I had found. I didn’t need any of the worlds, for I had discovered my love and striving to reach my final epitome of closeness with Him, so that I could live happily here and in the hereafter with my true love – Allah (swt).
This is what I call ‘happily ever after’ indeed.