F I C T I O N
“Come on, Rehan. Leave that phone for a while.”
“Excuse me?” Rehan snapped.
“I never wanted to come here. So screw that,” Nabiha glowered.
“Maybe don’t ask me to come next time,” Rehan remained indifferent.
He could feel the heat rising underneath his skin. She had some nerves. Why on earth did she have to make him come to the damn Boi Mela when he had zero interest in it? It was her fault. He had every right to be angry with his mother.
“There’s a fuchka stall over there, you want that at least, right?”
His eyes lit up. The watering in his tongue seemed to wash away all the rage.
“Yeah sure,” he muttered aloud.
The two of them navigated through the streams of people crisscrossed in every direction, before finally managing to reach the stall. Rehan slouched on the stall’s wall as his mother placed their orders.
“Young man,” came a voice from the back.
Rehan waltzed around to find a person standing right next to him. He didn’t like this. Sure he hated how much Nabiha lectured him about avoiding strangers like he was some helpless child, but he was a helpless child.
“Do you love young adult fantasy?”
“Oh no, it’s…it’s my book, Nil Akasher Jodhara, would you want to buy one?”
“Here, read the blurb, maybe you’ll like it,” he stuffed a book inside his hands before waiting for a reply.
“I know the cover and the design are very plain, but trust me when the page turns, it opens up a whole new world.”
Rehan glanced back at his mother who was still busy with their spicy snack. Resigned, he decided to give it a look.
“Rehan!” Nabiha had finally taken notice.
She hurried up to him and grabbed his arm. But…by then, it was done.
“I wanna buy it!”
“What?” asked Nabiha, furrowing her brow.
“This book, I wanna buy it.”
“Thank you so much my boy. I told you the blurb will hook you in.”
“Who exactly are you?” Nabiha still sounded bemused.
“Oh um, I’m a writer. I self-published this book and was just trying to sell it.”
Nabiha rummaged inside her purse for the cash.
“Well, I’ve only got myself so yeah. Maybe one day people will take me seriously enough to sell my books. But for now, I’m happy to do it myself.”
“Here,” she handed over the money.
“Thank you, thank you so much. And I’m really sorry for starling your son like that. I’m sorry, young man.”
Rehan barely heard him. He was well and truly immersed in the pages, almost finishing a chapter right there and then.
10 YEARS LATER
“Damn it, couldn’t she have waited half an hour?” Rehan cursed under his breath.
He bolted over objects strewn around the ground, swayed to avoid crashing into bystanders, and did everything else in his power to not miss the big event. Of all the Boi Melas he had visited, this was by far the most important. It was a nightmare just getting the tickets. He had no time to be excited now though. Because thanks to a stupid English 105 class, he was late; late to the chance of a lifetime.
Thankfully, the venue wasn’t too far. It took only another five minutes worth of sprinting before he was there.
“Okay…um, the part hosting the session’s supposed to be this way.”
To get there faster, he decided to take a shortcut through the book stalls. His rib cage felt those bumps, but it was a very small price to pay. Very soon, he could see the place where he needed to be, just across a stretch of junk and unused stall spaces.
Rehan froze. He frantically looked around for the source of anguish before spotting a girl behind a tree to his far left. A second later, he noticed a man bearing down on her. Rehan could almost physically feel the malice in that man’s steps.
“HEY!” he hollered, breaking into a run.
The man took notice. Just as Rehan was nearing him, the man pulled out a knife. Rehan almost fell off his feet. His insides had all but turned to liquid. This was bad.
“The guards are right behind me, there’s no way you can get away,” Rehan burst, his eyes stretching all the way into his forehead.
The scumbag looked around like a dazed before gorilla. He spent a few more seconds in intense ponder before finally, thankfully, deciding to take off. Rehan sank to his knees. Once the man was out of sight, the girl ran up to him.
“Oh my God, thank you so much. I ah, I don’t know what I would…”
“Hey, hey, it’s, it’s fine. Let’s get to a safe place.”
His heart is still beating somewhere near his Adam’s Apple. Rehan and the girl found the nearest authority figure and reported the whole incident.
“Would you mind waiting in the office before someone from the police comes in to record your statements?” the man asked kindly.
“Yeah,” they both chorused.
“Rehan,” said the girl as they sat down, “I…I don’t know how I can ever thank you. You saved my life.”
“Come on, it’s what I had to do. What kind of person would I be if I left you there.”
“The type most commonly found.”
They laughed. A paper slip fell out of Rehan’s pocket.
“Oh, well, I suppose it’s nothing now.”
“Ticket for Alexander Hosseini’s session, you a fan?”
“Are you kidding, I can’t get enough of his writing. He was even going to take book pitches from the audience members at the end of the session.”
“Woah, you a writer too?”
“Well, I want to be one. If that ever comes to pass.”
“It will! And if you’d let me, I’d love to read your writing.”
Suddenly, an entirely entourage had appeared at the entrance. One of the men burst inside. Refya ran over to him.
“Oh God, are you alright?” the man wrapped her in a tight hug.
“I almost had a heart attack.”
“It’s fine dad, really, I’m completely okay now. Thanks to Rehan,” she pointed at her saviour.
Rehan turned to the man. He gasped. It was him, the man who sold him that book ten years ago.
“Umm, I don’t believe it, you’re Refya’s dad?” Rehan stood up.
“Do you…remember me?”
The man eyed him carefully.
“I suppose not, it’s been over ten years and I was only ten years old back then and…”
“Of course! You were the first person to ever buy a copy of my book.”
“I don’t believe it, it really is you,” he embraced Rehan.
“I take it your session’s over huh, dad?”
“Session? You were taking one here too?”
“Why yes, I was in fact. I would have loved to have you there.”
“Rehan, here is a writer, and he wanted to pitch his book to Alexander Hosseini.”
“Does he now?”
“Yeah, I did. But well so much for that. Session’s long over. And I doubt I’ll find him anywhere here in time. Don’t even know what he looks like. This was gonna be the first time he revealed his face in public.”
“Nonsense. Of course, you can. Especially considering he’s standing right in front of you.”
Rehan felt those words like a slap across his face. His mouth refused to close, his eyes could not get any bigger.
“Ten years ago, it was you who technically gave me my first break. Let’s do the same for you, eh?”
Whether it’s pop culture, fiction or politics, writing is Saam’s ultimate passion and reprieve.