It is Sunday evening and my phone buzzes with the message I’ve been waiting for all day.

Hello Zarine

Hey! Youre back!

I curse myself for being so eager as I type. Sounding so eager. I hardly know this man.

Missed me, did you?

I side-eye my fiancé, Hasan, who stares unblinkingly at the TV, oblivious to everything but the football game going on there. Oblivious to me.

Not even a bit

My heart squeezes in a combination of excitement and fear as I type.

Liar. LOL

TU for the photo. You look lovely in your pink hijab

I flush with pleasure at the lie. I am a horrible person, I think, looking at Hasan, again.

Now who’s a liar?

I’m not lying. You look lovely. And sad.

What made you sad in that photo, Zarine?

I was not sad.

You have a lovely smile. You should smile more

How would you know? You don’t know what my smile looks like

I want to make you smile

I look at Hasan again, engrossed in his NFL world. As usual, I’m left to entertain myself on a Sunday—the only day we have in our schedules to be together. Get to know each other.

Will you smile for me?

I was already. Thank heavens he couldn’t see me.

Through the phone?

I can make you smile, you know

I bite my lip to keep from grinning. Shoot Hasan another look.

Oh, yeah? How will you do that?

A picture of a bushel of puppies appears on the screen. The male pups have bowties on. The females have pink ribbons on. Adorable!

I made you smile, didn’t I?

TU for smiling for me

I stop smiling. What was I doing? Why was my heart racing?

Hasan stirs beside me.

I have to go

Dream of me, sweet Zarine


The next evening.


The message had come an hour ago. Shit.

I’m free now. Was having dinner with my family

I stare at the screen for several covetous minutes. No reply. Not even those thinking dots.

Guess youre busy

I have to stop this madness. It can’t go anywhere.


The next day.

Hey! Was out with work buddies last night

At work now

Will ping you at lunch tomorrow


The next afternoon at lunch.

Im hoping to get lucky today

I snatch my phone up from where it lay on my work desk.


There you are. Finally caught you 🙂

How have you been?

Busy like you

I take a deep breath. My sister has seen Tom’s texts.

I cant do this anymore

Do what?

Exchange messages. Im getting married in six months

You cant chat with a friend because youre getting married?

I close my eyes, briefly. Then, I type and I try to stitch the broken pieces of me together.

Youre not a friend. We met on a fanfic site two weeks ago. Thats not friendship

Maybe not yet. But, we’re trying to build one, right?

I shake my head at the screen, wishing for the impossible.

Am I wrong?

I can’t. Please understand. Im getting married

Six months is a long way away

It doesn’t matter when or how long away. I…

I shouldn’t engage with him anymore. I should end this—whatever it is—now. My peace of mind, my freedom is at stake. If Hasan or my father find out … My sister has warned me of this—of wanting something I am never going to have.

I have to go. I don’t have time for this

No time to make friends? Or

Not enough time to adjust to the idea of marriage?

I gasp, shocked by what he’s written. Implied. Understood.

Dont presume to know my mind

Im not. Im trying to know YOU

Allah. Oh, crap. I take a deep, deep breath.


It made no sense. This connection. His … interest.

Why not? We enjoy chatting, don’t we? About books and life. It’s harmless, Zarine.

Is it? It doesn’t seem harmless. Doesnt feel harmless

I feel like I can write anything to him. Be honest like I never have before.

What does it feel like?

Like cheating, I think to myself.

I dont know

Freeing. I feel free when we chat.

Do you think about our chats? Do you think about me? 

See? Thats inappropriate. And dont change the subject

This has to stop!

I dont want to argue with you. Id rather flirt 😉

You cant write such things. Or wink at me

Why not? Its the truth. And we do it so well. Flirting

A fire ignites in my belly. Races toward my face.

Im going now. Goodbye


Yet, I linger. My fingers hover over the tiny phone keyboard for several minutes.

You can’t leave, can you?

I should not reply. I should not.

How do you know Im still here?

I know

I know YOU

Tears prick my eyes and I have no idea why.

This is stupid

Its actually amazing. You feel it too

How is this happening? We dont even know each other

Im trying to rectify that. I want to know you, Zarine. I want you to know me

Im getting married

I sound like a broken record.

In six months. Im asking you to chat with me now

For what purpose?

Does there have to be a purpose?


Not everything has a purpose. Or even needs one

I’m attracted to Tom, the philosopher.

What is YOUR purpose?

Flirting with you 😉

I laugh, my emotions a roller coaster.

Thats your current occupation. Not your purpose in life


Why are you laughing?

You make me laugh

No ones ever said that to me

I slap a hand over my mouth, regretting that reveal immediately. Plus, it’s a lie. I make my sisters laugh.

Not even your betrothed?

Allah, no. Nothing about Hasan and I is laughable.

And, who says betrothed in 2020?

I really have to go. Goodbye

I switch off my phone to avoid more temptation, but not fast enough to hide his reply.

I’ll chat with you tomorrow. Dream of me, sweet Zarine.

That’s it. We are done, I vow. This flirtation with Tom ends today.


The next afternoon.

Good afternoon

I ignore the text. I sit on my hands so I don’t type a reply.

If you have time, I really need someone to chat with today. I’ve had a rough day

My heart squeezes painfully. And before I know it, I’m typing.

What happened? What’s wrong?

Im overjoyed that you’re still speaking to me

I narrow my eyes.

If this is a ploy to get me to talk, I won’t stand for it.

Everything is a ploy in the game of life. We agreed on that

It’s not a ploy, Zarine

Whats wrong?

Impatiently, I wait for him to tell me about his day. His troubles.

Youre worrying me. What happened, Tom?

I can get used to it. YOU, worrying about ME

Allah! Back to flirting! Youre impossible

You make everything okay

Be serious. Whats the matter?


Distract me from it. Please

I inhale noisily, understanding his words, their meaning. Understanding him.

I forward a joke my aunt sent me. Something about husbands and wives and rolling pins.

LOL. Don’t know why I’m laughing. It was not that funny

Have you any naughty ones?

I roll my eyes.

Grow up, child

Are you sure youre 26 and not 79?

Are you sure youre 26 and not 15?

Touché 🙂

Did you dream of me?


You will

I laugh, despite his ego.

SMH. What is it with you and dreams?

They are the only real thing. The windows of our true selves

Deep. Not sure I believe it, though

Confession. Im an insomniac. I dont dream at all. Thus, I crave other peoples dreams

He doesn’t dream? How awful.

I dont know what to say except sorry

Dont be. It is what it is

Tell me the truth. Did you dream of me?

No. Im a deep sleeper

🙁 Im crushed

I laugh again, despite myself. Despite the forbidden, the dangerous. Despite Hasan.

My family.



I don’t dream of you

Dont rub it in

I daydream about you

Allah, what am I doing? I have to stop this.

Tom doesn’t reply. No smart-alecky emojis or cocky flirting against my confession.

He says nothing.

Have I gone too far?

Tom? Are you still there?

Will you meet me, Zarine?