Laila was making sense so far. The thought of her father almost brought tears to Fatima’s eyes. She pinned the tears down and looked up.
“I am never marrying Umar. He never loved me as I thought. Maybe his sole intent had been to take me to his bed.”
Laila scoffed, “Why do you speak like this? Umar is a man of honour. He would never treat woman like the picture you have just painted. Did something happen? Where did you go?” Laila moved closer to Fatima. From the look on Fatima’s face and her tone, Laila knew that someone had made her sister upset.
“Is this about Umar’s new love interest?” Laila bit her lip, she didn’t want Fatima to hate her more, so he shad to pin down the urge to laugh. She found it difficult to believe that the fire in her sister’s eyes was that of jealousy.
As if Fatima knew where Laila’s thoughts were headed, she decided to clear the air.
“I do not feel bad that he has found someone else. I just do not like her. I know she is extremely beautiful and angelic but I do not trust her.”
“Why do you not trust her?” Laila returned in a calm voice.
Fatima swallowed, “I do not have a concrete reason yet. But I feel it deep inside of me, she is not right for Umar. I must warn him to stay away from her.”
“It is not too late to accept Umar’s marriage proposal. You can beg for his forgiveness. I am sure that he will be more than willing to take you back. You have hurt that man beyond repairs. It will be very selfish of you to reject him and still have a say about whom he should love.
Umar is a man and not a child. Aisha has made her choice. For your information, her brother, Tanko, came to the ranch with a peace offering. He begged for my forgiveness for the way he treated me at his bar. I bear no grudge against that family and you shouldn’t. We do not know what the future holds.”
Fatima was irked that her sister would take Aisha’s side. From the look of things, she was alone in this battle. What surprised her most was the speedy way that Laila accepted Tanko’s apology. She knew her sister quite well. Except for her bad mouth and opinionated nature, Laila was a very nice person. But she found it difficult to forgive others.
“What are you not telling me? Why did you forgive Tanko so easily? Did his sister pay you?!”
Laila laughed, “I don’t want to have this conversation with you. I must take some rest now. I will go over to the bar later tonight, you should come along. We need to clear our head about this dying ranch.”
The only thing that could push Fatima out of the ranch was the thought of her best friend, Umar. Now that Umar had indicated interest in Aisha, they would both spend a lot of time together at the bar.
“Who is this angel with you?” Umar stared at the young girl beside Aisha. From his observation, she was a very shy teenager. And she also reminded him of his little cousin, Iman. From his gaze, the girls would be the same age.
Ralia was shy. She didn’t know if it was right to answer the question or to ignore the man. She cast her eyes upon the rocky earth and fiddled with her fingers. She felt within her that Umar was a good man. Raila wished he knew that his love interest was a beast finely wrapped in beauty. Aisha had taken her as a slave, and she knew all of her older cousin’s secret. Ralia knew that Aisha was dangerous and determined. If she wanted something, it could drive her to desperation and when she was fixated to that thing, she could take out anyone standing against it.
“She is my slave. I bought her at the market of Aradean.” Aisha smiled and held tightly to Umar’s hand. She couldn’t wait for them to get home. She would give Ralia the beating of her life. When Umar heard this, he decided to stay away from the girl. This was not a form of discrimination, he just wanted to respect Aisha and clear any suspicion that she would have of him.
Ralia felt uneasy as she listened to the introduction. How could her own relative call her a slave? She had always preferred Tanko to Aisha. Although her brother was a greedy fellow, he was never mean to her and her siblings. Tears spilled down her cheeks as Umar and Aisha strolled towards the castle. She bit her lip and stared after them.
All what Ralia yearned for was a little money. She would flee the land of Israr and start a new life someplace else. Ralia had always feared that Aisha would do to her what she did to her enemies. If the secret of her past life ever got out, people in this new land that they had found themselves would lose respect for her, and she could be banished.
“God help me. Please preserve me by your mercy Allah.” Ralia wept silently as she stared after the lovers.
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Umar was greatly pleased to have Aisha in his home. He held her arms gently as he led her in. Just yesterday, he had been rejected by his best friend. Now he was starting to forget her because of this beautiful woman by his side.
“Thank you for what you did for me.” He couldn’t help but thank her for putting some sense into him the other night.
Aisha smiled, “For what?” She feigned ignorance.
“You helped me work through my feelings last night. I was in a very bad place but your kind words and beautiful spirit lifted me up. You are blessed with beauty and blessed with words.”
Aisha couldn’t believe that her charm had worked so easily on Umar.
“I do things like that for people that I care about…” she trailed off once her feet were in the house. The first thing that she noticed was the glistering walls of Umar’s house. There was a huge table in the middle of the first chamber; it had artistic writings and designs upon it. The floors were decorated in a very intricate manner, one that she had never seen before.
Umar stayed silent. He loved that she appreciated his home. He loved the way her small eyes lit up at the sight of the shiny walls. He couldn’t wait for their friendship to progress. He had so much to show her. For the first time in his life, Umar realized that he was happy and this happiness wasn’t tied to Fatima. Thinking about Fatima, Umar recalled the sad look he had spotted in her eyes. Something had troubled his friend but Aisha’s arrival had cut their conversation short. He decided to ride for the ranch once his meeting with Aisha was over.
“You are a man of fine taste,” she winked. Aisha moved towards the portion of the wall with paintings. First was a drawing of a milkmaid and her starving children. She ran a finger over the painting. It was covered with dust.
“Do you not have servants?” She swirled round.
“No I do not. I have no need for them.” Umar shrugged.

To be continued…

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