Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home


The race against time

I was sitting in my apartment, eating brownies and watching television when the fateful call came. My best friend, Zora, went on to tell me all that I didn't know, and all that I needed to do. I hastily put some clothes on and rushed out the door. With each corner I turned, I felt like I was moving away from her instead of coming closer. With each footstep I took, I felt my heartbeat and wondered, was her's coming to a stop? I began to recall all that had happened. All that I could have had. All that I have lost..I was at my friend Zora's birthday party. We were all having fun, until my eyes alighted on the most mesmerizing being I could have ever had the privilege to behold. Her name was Sylvia. Zora introduced us. She was Zora's cousin. The moment our eyes met, both of us knew that we had found in the other the missing halves of our souls.

Leaving my thoughts behind, I found my car's engine to be dead. Without a second try at it, I ran out onto the streets and called a cab. I had to reach her. I needed to se her. My mind once again drifted to her memories.. After Zora's party, we had begun seeing a lot of each other. We would meet at cafés, concerts, football matches, even at work. Zora noticed this and warned me against taking any rash actions. As if I would listen to her! The cab I was on got caught in a traffic jam. I could not let myself be delayed for even a second. I hastily dumped twenty dollars into the driver's hand and made my way on foot..

We were seeing each other for six months now. I felt that it was time to pop in the question. Under a late August starry sky, I proposed to her. I brought out the diamond ring. The atmosphere was soo romantic that I was surprised that she would ran away from the place, crying! It depressed me even more when she refused to return my calls. I broke all connections with her. I was hurt more than ever..
Three months later, I was in my apartment when I got a phone call from Zora. With each word, my heart was sinking beneathe a veil of misery.

Sylvia had had terminal cancer for three years. That is why she had refused my proposal. She was breathing her last breathes in a hospital across town. The doctors said she had at most fifteen minutes left in this plane..
Finally I reached the hospital. With a hasty word with the receptionist, I sprinted as fast as I could to the third floor. It had taken me eighteen minutes to come here. I wondered whether she even wanted to see me before passing away. As I reached the floor, I met Zora. Without a word she rushed me to a window and through it, I saw all that even mattered to me. Sylvia slowly turned to face me. A soft, painful smile could be visible through the oxygen mask she was wearing. Her eyes sparkled and a tear trickled down her cheeks.She lay motionless. A doctor said, "Time of death, 2:15 pm." Zora burst into tears A few other people, whom I had not noticed before, joined Zora. However, I was not crying. Sure, tears came to my eyes, but I was smiling. I felt happy inside, for I had gotten my wish and I truly believed that she had gotten her's - A last look at our desires. It seemed that both of us had won the race against time. Two halves of the same soul to the end.

By Shaarif Azfar Shameem


It was midnight. Hussain got up from bed. He had been trying to go to sleep for the past two hours and had finally got up. He flipped on the light switch but to no avail. He looked out the window and saw that his normally well-lit neighbourhood was washed in darkness.

'Darn' he muttered. The power shortages had started again. He resignedly went to take out the wax candles kept in the cupboard but instead changed his mind and took out the scented candles that Roxanne kept in the back drawer. He glanced towards the bed to check if she was still sleeping while he lit them.

He slowly crossed the room over to her and watched her sleep .She looked so peaceful whilst she slept, even happy. Sometimes he wished she could be asleep all the time so that she could escape the pain that accompanied her when she was awake most of the time. Gazing at her serene, beautiful face he felt anger rise inside him again. Hussain had never been good at subsidizing his anger. He went over to the large bay windows that looked over the sea. It was a majestic view of the beach but it couldn't calm him down. 'It's not fair…it's just not fair' he whispered to himself as hot unbidden tears rolled down his cheeks. He started walking down memory lane and remembering the days that had lead to this. Roxanne's constant coughing a few months back. Then the visit to the doctor who had done a scan and told them that they had found a mass in her left lung. But he had also said that it was a benign growth and that they had nothing to worry about. He said it was probably a fungus. So with their doctor's advice, they even traveled to Paris, the city of love, to commemorate their daughter Sara's 3rd birthday. It had been a fantastic two weeks although Hussain would constantly worry about Roxanne's increased continued coughing and discontentment. After coming back home, the doctors had a biopsy done where they examined the tissue from the mass in her lung. It was lung cancer.

Hussain had never felt so frustrated in his life. How could the doctors not have diagnosed it before? It had already reached stage three and measured 3 cm by 4 cm. And it was deep inside her lung so the only hope the doctors had given them was that the cancer was localized and had not spread to other areas. They would start chemotherapy and would see what would happen. For someone like Hussain, to whom everything had come easy in life - academics, sports, a job, a career, success and a wonderful family, the whole thing was a mystery. He didn't understand how it had happened to his Roxanne, who had never smoked in her life. Hussain was a former smoker but had soon stopped after his marriage. It just didn't make sense that something horrible would happen to such an unselfish, caring, wonderful human being like Roxanne, just when everything was going right. She had gotten a new book deal, a new house and Sara. Sara was such a blessing in their lives especially after Roxanne's miscarriage. And now she might not have a mother?

'Hussain?' He turned around and went to the bed. She was opening her eyes. She held out her hand and he took it and sat beside her. 'How do you feel darling?' he asked softly as he stroked her hair. 'Does it hurt much?' She opened her grey eyes, eyes that stayed cloudy so often nowadays. 'No, it doesn't hurt now. But it'll come back.' Hussain lowered his head. Roxanne started to sit up. 'What are you doing up so late? Is everything alright?' 'Yea, everything's fine. The power's gone again. I couldn't sleep.'

Roxanne smiled a tired smile. She could hardly go to sleep sometimes because of the chemotherapy pain. 'Did you call Sara to wish her goodnight before you went to bed? She made me promise we would.' 'Of course. You two ladies are the only people I think about. She sends you her love' replied Hussain looking up at her. Roxanne closed her eyes. It hurt her to think of her daughter having to live alone with her widowed aunt by herself while Roxanne received her treatment. But there was nothing they could do. 'When will this be over Hussain?' asked Roxanne slowly as she snuggled closer to him. 'I feel like I haven't held Sara in ages.' 'Soon honey soon' comforted Hussain. 'The doctors say your body is responding well. They might not even have to do the surgery now.' As Hussain held her closer he knew they couldn't say for sure the cancer would go away. It was just a matter of time.

After a week, they had another appointment. The results of the full body scan that Roxanne had to do periodically to see if the cancer had spread had come in. They both sat nervously in the doctor's office wondering if the treatment of the last few months had worked. Finally Dr.Gupta came in. 'Well, your report has come in Roxanne,' he started addressing her by her first name. He had known her since she was a little girl. 'And…?' asked Hussain squeezing Roxanne's hand. 'And…I am happy to say that Roxanne has had a full and complete response to treatment. Her prognosis is excellent' he said smiling. 'It's really wonderful how you've managed to battle this disease. You should be proud of yourself.'

Roxanne had started crying. Hussain jumped up and embraced the doctor in a big bear hug. He then knelt by Roxanne and tried to make her stop crying. 'I…I couldn't have done this without Hussain, doctor' she stuttered between big gulps. 'He was always there for me' 'Yes I know' replied Dr.Gupta kindly. 'I've already taken the liberty of letting your friends and families know.'

Roxanne opened the door of the doctor's office and started in surprise as a huge shower of heart shaped balloons and confetti fell upon her. She looked amazedly at the line of smiling nurses, who had treated and taken care of her the past few month, holding balloons. 'What is going on?'

'I knew you forgot' said Hussain smiling broadly as he handed her a big bouquet of red roses. The nurses parted revealing an immaculate table filled with chocolate sweets, cakes and pastries. 'Forgot what?' asked Roxanne in wonder as she realized that some patients had even joined in the throng and were all holding red balloons. 'It's Valentines' Day, sweetheart' said Hussain taking her hands and looking into her eyes. 'And although I didn't know what the test results were, I didn't want to miss this chance of telling you how much I love you and how much you mean to me. I thanked God each and every day that you were with me and I just knew He wouldn't kill me by taking you away.' As Hussain hugged her tight he whispered, 'don't ever leave me Roxanne… ever…I can't go on without you.'

At this all the smiling nurses cheered and started distributing the food that Hussain had specially ordered to everyone they could in the entire hospital. He wanted to make sure no one was left out on Valentine's Day the day of love.

By Nisma Elias

Book review
For the Readers

I'd like to begin this week's review with a big thank you to all my readers. Your letters and e-mails inspire and encourage me all the time. The response I got for the Sid Sheldon tribute was simply overwhelming. It was quite an eye-opener to see how this author had managed to touch so many lives, so I thought I'd share some of their words with you.

Jennifer writes:
“…reading your piece in the Daily Star made me so sad about my favourite old man, who gave me a new way to look at things, look at the world. I first read Tell me Your Dreams. He taught me never to give up through If Tomorrow Comes, to be proud of who I am, about my own roots through Bloodline, the power of determination through Master of the Game, not only to love nature, but to do something about it through Are you afraid of the Dark? I wanted to be a doctor after I read Nothing Lasts Forever, a lawyer when I read Rage of Angels; I wanted to be everything his characters were. He is the author of a very big part of me, my personality, and my life. I wish his soul rests in peace.”

Onic says:
“I didn't know that Sheldon was dead till you wrote that review. I'm going to miss him a lot. I grew up watching his hit TV show "I dream of genie", it used to air on Sony, (Hindi dubbing) but it was still fun.”

On to the book review. I know I've probably gone on ad nauseum about the Dreamers series by David and Leigh Eddings, but please bear with me this one last time. I finally managed to get hold of “The Younger Gods”, the stunning conclusion to this fantastic four-part fantasy series.

In this book, the war between the evil bug queen, the Vlagh and the gods and men of the land of Dhrall, and their outlander friends have one final confrontation while the fate of the world hangs in the balance. This story has a faster pace than the preceding three, having had the stage set for action in the earlier books. Expect some shocking twists, and be prepared for the unlikeliest end you could think of! If I've managed to whet your curiosity enough, go read the book. In fact, let me make it easier for you.

I'd like to thank Dr Ajmal Sobhan and Dr Sheila Webb for both sending me the final book. I am now the proud owner of two copies of The Younger Gods! See why I love my readers? Anyway, since it would be a shame to have one of those glossy beauties sitting and collecting dust because I've already read the story, I'm going to give one of them away for FREE.

All you have to do is answer this one simple question
* Name the gods of Dhrall (hint: refer to my earlier reviews)
One lucky winner (selected by lottery) will win a hardcover copy of David and Leigh Eddings' The Younger Gods, signed by moi and pee'd on by Boo (just kidding…I'll ask the dawg to put in an appearance, though). So hurry up and mail your replies to risingstars@thedailystar.net

By Sabrina F Ahmad


home | Issues | The Daily Star Home

2007 The Daily Star