This is my entry for the IF Novelette contest, based on Prompt number 1.
As (urban) legend would have it, Arzoo Nawsheen Khan always had all the answers. People from far and near flocked to her doorstep (or social media accounts, if you will) to seek her advice. If you were the sort to judge a book by its cover, you might be prompt to think of her as a naive small-town simpleton, too soft for the ways of the big, bad world. But she was a toughie of the most resilient kind, and a hardened pragmatist to boot. So much so, that when she found herself most unceremoniously dumped at the altar by Sahir Azim Chaudhary, the proverbial millionaire businessman, she single-handedly shook herself up and bounced right back. It also helped that she was able to find comfort (not that she needed much) in the friendship of her kind, fun-loving colleague, Zaki. She had been wrong about Sahir; they had been a bad match to begin with. Opposites may attract, but it takes a lot more to sustain a relationship in the long run. Zaki, on the other hand, ticked off all the boxes in her checklist, and so, when he proposed marriage to her, she was able to quell all her fears and apprehensions, and say yes.
... That, is the official version, for the world to see and believe. And believe they did, for Arzoo was a fantastic actress, and never allowed anyone to see the heartache and simmering fury behind her twinkling eyes and her dazzling smiles.
Then, one day, Sahir came back, and the facade of her invincibility began to crack.
Arzoo Nawsheen Khan: Arzoo is a headstrong, yet warm and gentle, young girl from Lucknow, who is in Mumbai to fulfil her dreams and prove her worth. She bears a deep resentment for her estranged father, Sarfaraz, who left her mother because she had not borne him any sons, and married another woman. She manages to remain upbeat and optimistic despite the difficulties she has faced, and steers miles away from any sign of emotional weakness. She prides herself instead on being practical and rational, because of how she has seen her mother, Nawsheen, suffer in love. When Sahir unexpectedly leaves her on the day of their wedding, without any explanation, she refuses to mourn her broken heart, and hardens even more, berating herself for having put herself at the mercy of another man's whims and fancies. All in all, she is an extremely kind person who is, ironically, unforgivably unkind to herself.
Sahir Azim Chaudhary: Known in the business circle as "Shark," Sahir as a businessman is as ruthless as they come. But beneath his tough exterior, is a sensitive poet, and a dutiful son and brother who loves deeply and self-effacingly. He comes from a long line of illustrious and wealthy businessmen, and the good name and honour of his family means the world to him. A man of very few words, he is often perceived to be a proud and arrogant man, a perception he does little to dispel. After a year-long relationship with Arzoo, he calls off their wedding on the very same day, without any explanation, which is hardly surprising to those who had raised eyebrows at the unlikely match between one of the most eligible bachelors in the country and an ordinary small town girl.
Zaki Akhtar: Quite simply the best friend anyone could ask for. And quite aptly, there are more than a handful people who consider this wisecracking, fun-spirited, generous and ever so affable young man, with an infectious zest for life, as their best friend forever. He, on the other hand, only has eyes for his jahanara, the queen of his world, his Arzoo. He admires and respects her greatly, and although he knows that she does not love him, and in fact, considers herself as incapable of romantic love, he does not give up hope.