Her heart is an ocean of love which holds secrets deep enough not to surface anytime soon. In her dreams, she holds on to the only man she ever loved. In reality, she longs to reunite with her daughter. This is a woman who won't be forgotten.
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He Died Twice
By SHOLEH SHABANGIZ
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Sholeh Shabangiz
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMy grandmother Fariba seemed like an ordinary woman who lived a very simple life. The truth of the matter is, her life was anything but simple. Beneath her seemingly calm appearance, she lived a tormented life; a tale obscured silently and perfectly deep inside her, in the burial chamber of her heart.
Grandma was a role model to me in so many ways. I wanted to be like her. I always felt more connected to her than to my own mom, her daughter Sepideh. My mother gave me all the things I needed, but grandma was everything I wanted. I cherished everything about her; the way she laughed, the elegance in the way she dressed or did her hair, the way she walked, the soft melody in her voice, I treasured it all and I wanted to know more. The desire to know her better had pushed me to wait patiently for the day to come when she would open the pages of her life's book, to share its contents, to let me write her story. It was a journey to her past. A voyage to the most concealed part of her life—the part she kept hidden from most people. I pursued her so many times on that matter and every time she answered, "No". I remember one particular conversation I had with her on that subject.
"My dear Azale, why do you ask me to talk about my past?"
"I believe your story needs to be heard grandma."
"Why? There is nothing about it that needs to be told. It's just another life, lived and forgotten."
"Is it really forgotten?"
"It better be. Nothing good can come out by telling useless stories."
"That's where you're wrong grandma. Time has changed so many things in this country. However, there are things that may happen the same way as it did generations ago. I believe by telling your story you can help lots of women."
"How much do you know about my life anyway?"
"I have heard pieces of it from mom, but not all. It's a puzzle and I want to put all the pieces together."
"I have been asking you for a long time grandma, remember? I have been waiting for your approval."
I recall grandma being quiet so I continued, "Think about it again, grandma. You don't have to answer me now; think it through. I believe your story deserves to be heard."
I left her without having much hope for any answer other than a "no" as she had always given me. I couldn't believe my ears when two days later she called, ready to tell it, and to tell it all.
* * *
The night before my meeting with grandma I couldn't sleep. Next morning I arrived early; the magical day with grandma had finally come. The early morning sun made everything to glitter. The road shimmered and her house looked more beautiful than ever. Animated, energetic and eager to start, I rang the bell.
She opened the door and welcomed me with a warm embrace. I followed her into the living room. She lit her scented candles as she always did and sat on her old antique chair across from the sofa where I chose to sit. The white curtain behind her danced in silence as it floated in the air with each breeze. Her white chadoor* hung from her shoulders down to her toes. A white shawl covered her head and a few strands of gray hair had escaped to frame her lovely, beautiful face. Although time had left its footprints on her features, her beauty could not easily be hidden nor forgotten behind the mask of age. She seemed comfortable and calm. Her moment of truth had arrived:
"It was September; I finished high school three months earlier in June. Back then at eighteen, I was pretty, full of life and energy, a daydreamer, a girl with unlimited imaginations and yet, living a very limited life." Grandma paused, reliving those memories for a few seconds.
"I remember the day so clearly, a day with sapphire sky, pleasant breeze and the smell of lilacs that filled the air. It was a beautiful summer evening when I first saw him. I was walking back home from Mino's house; a friend of mine from high school who had invited me for an afternoon tea party. She lived four blocks away from me. That day, I met the man whose existence changed my life forever and gave a new meaning to the world I knew.
I can still remember the day as if it happened yesterday. There I was, on my way home, but I had to stop by the shoe store to look at a pair of beautiful shoes behind the store's window. It wasn't the first time I had stopped to look at those shiny blue shoes; I had done it every time I passed the store. Just as any other day, I pulled my chadoor up to my ankles, so that I could imagine and visualize those shoes on my feet.
When I finally turned my head away from the window, I saw him. He stood a few steps away, looking at me the same way I looked at those shoes, as if I was the prettiest thing he' d ever seen. For a moment our eyes met. His sharp stare pierced through me like needles and I felt a rush of heat through my body.
Immediately I tried to cover my feet. I felt nervous and my hands were shaking. The chadoor slipped from my head, exposing my long black hair. Quickly, he stepped forward and helped adjust the chadoor. I felt so embarrassed that I started to walk away without even thanking him. As I walked he didn't say anything, but I could still feel the heavy weight of his eyes on me. 'Why did he look at me like that?' I wondered.
But somehow deep down in my heart, I liked it, just like any other girl of my age would have. I didn't turn around to look at him, even though I wanted very badly to do so. When I reached home, I could still feel my cheeks burning as if they were on fire. Nervously, I went inside the house and shut the door behind me.
"Fariba is that you?" I heard Mama. I entered the living room and saw Mama sitting on her floral sofa, knitting; one of her favorite activities.
"Yes, Mama, it's me." My voice was shaking and I wondered why.
"How was the party?" Mama asked.
"Wasn't bad.... Is Papa home yet?" I answered as I tried to sound normal.
"Yes, darling, he's in the basement, fixing the grass cutting machine."
It seemed she didn't notice the wobble in my voice and I couldn't be more glad, mama wasn't the type to leave things alone, if she had noticed anything out of ordinary she would have used her ways to get the truth out.
"Fariba, can I have your lavender shirt now?" My sister Ferry asked as she rushed a little too quickly into our living room. Ferry was only two years younger than me but she always acted childishly and less mature than her age.
"No, you can't have my shirt," I answered. "How many times are you going to bother me for it?"
"I'll bother you as long as it takes." Ferry said annoyingly.
"Well, you're wasting your time and energy." I told her.
"This morning you said I could have it after you returned back from the party."
"I changed my mind. Now leave me alone."
"But you said, .... Mama, .... she promised me ..."
"Okay girls, that's enough," Mama interrupted. "Ferry, I wish you would stop that for now. You behave like a little child sometimes."
"Stupid, if you ask me," I chided.
"Fariba, stop it. You're not being so nice yourself and I don't want to hear more about this." Mama's tone forced Ferry and I to stay quiet.
"Good, now I'm going to set the dinner table. Who wants to help?" Mama got up from the sofa and walked toward the kitchen. Ferry and I followed her without saying a word.
At the kitchen table, my ten-year-old sister Zina looked annoyed next to my very spoiled, five year old brother Zafa whom I used to call 'The Demolisher'. He kept asking Zina to color a picture of a cat.
"Kids, get up and take your painting papers and pencils to your room. We want to set the table for dinner." I ordered.
To my surprise, they followed my instructions with no resistance. Often they needed a few of my shouts before they could listen to anything I had to say. At that age, I didn't want to deal with my younger siblings. I didn't have patience for them and I couldn't figure out how Mama had that much understanding. She was very tolerant of Zina and Zafa. Mama had always been a very kind woman. She devoted her life to her little family and I never heard her complain about anything. Her belief in God and the power of prayer had always surprised me. "Everything happens for a reason. God knows best," she used to say. She had her own unique ways of doing things. Her medium size bone structure and her big almond shaped eyes were a heritage from her Persian mother. But her strong jaw line and pointed nose were bequest from her father and his Russian ancestors.
Mama loved to embellish the rooms; therefore, our house always looked neat and nicely decorated. She spent most of her time in the kitchen: cooking, baking and cleaning. I remember when my parents started to build the house; she insisted on having a very large kitchen with lots of wooden, spacious cabinets and at the end, she got the kitchen just the way she want it.
Ferry had a lot of Mama's genes in her. She looked so much like Mama, except that Ferry was the tomboy of the family. She wore jeans most of the time and preferred to keep her hair short.
I on the other hand, looked more like papa. I had his nose and his big brown eyes. Physically and emotionally speaking, I had more things in common with him; except for my medium size bone structure which I took from Mama. Papa looked more slender because of his tallness, long legs, and narrow shoulders. He had inherited that from his father along with grandpa's salt and pepper's hair. As long as I remembered, Papa's hair looked that way.
Papa taught literature in high school and did tutoring every day after work. He was the only bread winner of our family. An old-fashioned kind of guy, he never believed in the notion of a wife working outside of the home. But he never degraded what women did at home.
"A woman has a big job, don't ever kid yourself," he always argued with other men who believed they were the only ones with a job in their household. "Her job is at home; we work outside and women work inside and it's all the same," he used to say.
He made all the rules. Of course, we had to obey and we always did. He was very firm and at the same time, very gentle in his own way. My Papa, I remember him being well respected and well loved. Papa always told us: "Don't ever let me show you my mean side, behave properly." Somehow we never saw his mean side ... well, except for one time and I will get to that later. But for now, I'll get back to that first night.
That night at the dinner table I was more quiet than usual, but not in a way to raise any question. Physically, I sat there at that table in our house with my family, but my mind couldn't have been any farther away; wondering about that boy, traveling to where his eyes met mine, thinking about how he looked at me. He looked at me in a way I wanted to be looked at.
Somehow I felt happy about my little encounter with him. There was Something about that face, about his eyes and the way he looked at me that had lit my heart up like a burning candle, keeping me wide awake most of that night. As I thought about him more and more, I realized that all I could picture in my mind was his face and nothing else. I passed him by so fast, scared and nervous, that I didn't even look at him completely. I couldn't remember anything about him, only his undeniable face and those mesmerizing eyes.
The next morning, I decided to get out of the house, hoping that I would see him again. I needed to come up with a good excuse; I thought of something fast: "Mama, may I go to the mall?"
"Why this early? The stores won't open until ten."
"I won't call for a taxi, I'll walk. That way, by the time I reach the mall, it will be ten o'clock."
"What do you need from the mall anyway?"
"I want to buy a poster for my room."
"Fariba, we can hardly see the walls of your room. They are all covered by posters already." True, but did I want to admit that? I didn't think so.
"Please Mama, I saw a beautiful poster yesterday. It's a picture of an ocean in the sunset."
"I don't know where you're going to put that poster, but you can go. Remember to come back before your father gets home for lunch."
Oh, it was easier than I thought; she wanted me to be home before Papa and he wasn't going to be home before noon. She had basically given me permission to stay out for a couple of hours. I felt excited. 'Surely I would see the boy again.' I thought as I almost ran out of the house with my slippers instead of my shoes. Two hours later, I returned home with no luck.
'Why was I so sure that he would be there, waiting for me? Why was I certain that he wanted to see me again? Why did I have to see him anyway?'
I asked myself all those questions. Only I couldn't come up with a good answer. All I knew was that somehow I needed to see his face again.
'Maybe he works during the day.' I finally found an explanation for myself.
Yes, he was probably at work, and I would go out in the evening next time. My plan was formed.
Later that day, I found another reason to leave the house. Surprisingly, Mama didn't ask too many questions. I went out that evening and looked at every face, but none was the one I wanted. I wasn't able to find those piercing hazel eyes. After that day, I went out every chance I could get, and every time I hoped to see him once more. A month passed by and after finding no trace of him, I knew I had to give up that girlish dream—and I almost did.
Then, one day in early November, when I had just stepped out the house to take a bus to Zina's school, I saw him again. He was standing at the corner of Mir Avenue and Pasadena Street, one block away from our house. My knees started to tremble like they never had before. I felt happy and yet so tense at the same time.
I wanted to look at him, to let my heart take note of every inch of him. But for some reason, I couldn't look; it felt very awkward. I couldn't clearly understand why I couldn't look at him when every cell in my body yearned and searched for him. I think it must have been the way girls were brought up in a Muslim country. A girl was not to look at a man in such a way; it was a forbidden act, a shameful behavior. Weren't we told: 'Girls shouldn't look at men, at least, not eye to eye?' As a result, I started to walk up the block without looking at him.
'Look at him Fariba.' My heart yelled at me.
'Why can't I look at him now?' I questioned myself.
'Fariba, look; take your eyes off the asphalt and look at him.' My heart ordered.
'But you shouldn't.' My brain advised me. Angry at myself, I listened to the bloody debate between my heart and my brain. I had waited for this moment the whole month and I had promised myself to stare him in the eye and even smile if I ever saw him again. Instead, I felt so shy and nervous as a five-year-old child would have been. As I got steadily closer, my hands started to shake and became sweaty while my fingertips turned cold as ice. 'What if my veil fall off again? Oh wouldn't that be a real disaster? I'd rather die instead.' I thought. I prayed to God that he wouldn't see through me, that he would not be able to read my mind.
'Is he looking at me?' I wondered and hoped not.
When I reached him, my heart couldn't fit inside my chest. I passed him in a trance, as in slow motion and only then I heard his voice for the first time.
"I need to talk to you." He suddenly whispered.
He wanted to talk to me. 'What should I do now, Should I answer him or not?' I asked myself.
'You shouldn't answer him Fariba.' My brain advised as usual.
'But why not?' My heart argued.
The war between my brain and my heart continued and of course, my brain won, it always did, well, not always but for most part it did. My winner brain had told me not to answer, so I didn't answer and continued to walk. 'Oh, God what he possibly wanted to tell me?' I asked myself and came up with at least ten different answers.
'Stop Fariba, turn back and look at him.' My deepest desire yelled. 'He wants to talk, stop.' The inner voice yelled again. But my legs had a mind of their own; they kept walking.
He started to walk a few steps away behind me, all the way to the bus station and there, he stood close as I waited for the bus. I wanted him to say something again, but he didn't. Finally the bus arrived; my heart ached and I wanted to cry. I didn't want to leave; I wanted to scream at him and say, "Why didn't you say another word?" But, despite the storm inside me, I remained quiet. As I was about to put my foot on the first step to get inside the bus, he gently held my arm and whispered against my left ear.
"Please call me," He said as he handed me a piece of paper. I thought I wouldn't take the paper from him, but I guess my hands didn't want to follow my thoughts because my hand took the paper as I went inside the bus. The bus started to move, but I couldn't.
'Why couldn't I move? Why didn't my body parts work with me as a team?' I wondered.
Excerpted from He Died Twice by SHOLEH SHABANGIZ Copyright © 2012 by Sholeh Shabangiz. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Wow i loved this book. i finished it in two days and when i was done reading ,i couldnt stop thinking about the book for days.
This was an amazing book i couldnt get enough of it. i wish the story never ended.
Sholeh Shabangiz is a promising new author and extremely talented. This book is an emotional journey you will not easily forget.For a new author,Sholeh shows a rare talent that even the most experienced authors cannot compete with.Please buy this book as soon as possible.You will not be disappointed.I can guarantee it.
the story touched me so deeply ,