Two Hundred and Fifty Seven

*This post links up to part 250.


As narrated by Dayyanah:

I touch my hand to my chest.. to my heart.

I often spend long lapses of time wondering over this phenomenal fist sized organ inside every one of us.

How are our hearts so small, yet they can hold so much?

So much love. So much pain. So much happiness. So much anger.

So much of whatever we fill them with. 

Do we have a ribcage surrounding our hearts because they’re so delicate, so fragile?

Literally, yeah.. but what about figuratively?

Is it just mine, or are hearts meant to be this fragile?

Are hearts meant to bleed with such ease? Are its chords meant to tangle so quickly?

Sometimes, all it takes is a single word. A mere indication.

Or what if…

Maybe they’re not really fragile.

Maybe we have a rib cage surrounding our hearts, because they’re so fierce in nature. So strong.

Strong because even the tangled chords can string together a song of hope.

Strong because even with all the little pieces, we can love so hard.

Strong because even though our hearts are continuously bleeding, they keep us alive.

24 bones can’t fend off an arrow of hurt, but neither can it entrap hope and courage.

Perhaps fragile, but also strong.

So, so strong.

Complex.

Simply beautiful.

*****

A peek into the past – Dayyanah:

My body shakes with anxiety as I wait, praying fervently.

Please let it be negative. Please, please, please. I can’t be pregnant. I can’t. 

I don’t manage to wait a full three minutes, as the box says you should.

My throat closes as I take in the word “Pregnant” on the stick.

“No.. No.

I only realize I’m crying when my vision blurs.

I hear the test fall to the bathroom floor, my body following shortly after.

“No,” I choke out, fear gripping my entire being.

The word of denial repeatedly slips off my tongue, my brain stupidly believing that perhaps if I say it enough times, the reality will change.

Waves of panic hit me as I lay curled on the cold tiles, crying harder than I had in a long, long time.

At some point, my lungs stop cooperating.

I scramble for my phone and call the only person I can.

*****

Leandro had first seen Dayyanah at the restaurant she worked at.

He found himself visiting that restaurant more frequently in the month that followed.

But it was only after the passing of 3 months that things really began to progress between Leandro and Dayyanah.

Once he managed to break past Dayyanah’s first wall however, she began to fall in love very quickly.

She was, after all, just a girl deprived of all the things Leandro had to offer.

And whilst Dayyanah was not naive, being given something you’ve craved for as long as you can remember, knocks down your guard before you can even remember you’re supposed to be holding it up.

For Dayyanah, Leandro was a dream come true.

Not that she ever dreamt of life taking this turn. 

But now that it had, she really didn’t mind.

Together, they had it all.

Leandro was exactly what she needed – a dashingly handsome, too-rich-to-be-only-27 man who simply loved her as she was.

Who loved her unconditionally.

Or so she thought.

So she thought.

*****

I hear Leandro coming through the front door within 10 minutes of calling him.

“Where are you, baby?” I hear him call.

“Leandro,” I call back weakly.

I hear his feet hurry towards the bathroom, then stop abruptly as he takes in the scene.

“Dayyanah,” he inhales sharply.

I lift my head slowly.

“I’m pregnant..” I choke out. “I can’t.. breathe.”

He doesn’t move.

Seconds tick by.

“Lee.”

He steps forward slowly, picks up the test that I’d forgotten was still on the floor, and studies it for an eternity.

“Leandro. I’m.. struggling to.. breathe.”

He speaks then, his voice low.

Too low.

“This better be a joke, Dayyanah.”

It’s the last thing I expect him to say.

The total opposite reaction of what I thought he’d have.

And it’s like a punch to the gut.

I was scared.

Now, I’m suddenly terrified.

“This better be a joke,” repeats Leandro.

Thanks to my past, I know better than to show my fear.

“It’s not,” I say, struggling against the mixture of emotions threatening to overwhelm me. “I’m pregnant.”

“You can’t be pregnant,” says Leandro. “You’re on the pill.”

A pause.

“Unless…”

His eyes narrow.

He steps forward.

I scramble to my feet, a burst of adrenaline coursing through my veins.

Don’t hit me. Please don’t hit me.

I back away as Leandro tries to close the gap between us. He succeeds when my back hits the wall, preventing me from moving further.

Don’t hit me. Please don’t hit me.

He tips my chin upward, forcing me to look at him.

“Did you lie to me?” he asks.

His eyes are devoid of their usual warmth.

A shiver runs down my spine.

“No,” I say quietly. “I didn’t. I am on the pill.”

My heart pounds against my chest.

“Then explain this to me, because I can’t seem to understand,” he says.

I close my eyes as he lifts the test in front of my face.

I don’t want to look at it.

I can’t look at it.

“I don’t know either,” I whisper, tears rolling down my cheeks.

When he doesn’t say anything, I open my eyes and lift my hand to move the test.

“Get rid of it,” he says.

For a moment, I’m not sure I hear him correctly.

The bluntness of his words jab into my heart.

The harshness squeeze my airway shut.

“You either get rid of it, or you leave,” he says.

“Leandro,” I gasp, my eyes wide. “What.. what are you.. saying?!”

“You heard me,” he says, his voice utterly cold now.

I had never seen this side of him.

It shocks me to the core, my brain unable to reconcile the change in his usual demeanor.

“Are you -”

My mind is spinning.

The whole world is spinning.

An inferno of anger explodes inside me.

I wipe at my tears fiercely.

“Are you kidding me?!” I demand, shoving at his chest. “There’s no way I’m -”

“Then leave,” he cuts me off, his voice rising with mine.

“What’s the damn problem, Leandro?! I don’t see -”

“You being pregnant is the damn problem! Do you not understand what this means?!”

I didn’t.

I really didn’t understand.

“I don’t have place for a kid in my life! It’s too risky!” he shouts in frustration.

My forehead creases into a frown.

“What’s risky?! You’re a financial advisor! All financial advisors have kids!”

He doesn’t say anything.

“Unless..” I add a moment later, something striking me.

My voice adopts the same tone he’d used earlier.

I step forward, forcing him to step backward.

“Unless, you lied to me,” I say softly.

Leandro’s expression doesn’t change. 

“You did, didn’t you, Leandro?” I push further.  

I don’t recognize my own voice in that moment.

It’s cold. But calm. Sweet.

Heck, I’m smiling – but I know that a cold glint gleams within my eyes.

“That’s why you asked me whether I’m lying, didn’t you? Throw the spotlight off yourself, yeah? Maybe if I had said yes, your nonexistent guilt would have been easier to handle, hmm?”

At the back of my mind, I hear Paapa’s voice.

“Don’t play with fire, Dayyanah.”

I ignore it.

“I’m not going anywhere, and -” I say.

“Dayyanah.”

His tone holds a warning.

“- neither is this… baby,” I finish, my hand moving to my stomach involuntarily.

I’m not sure what to call it.

Technically, it’s not yet a.. baby – despite me considering it none less.

I don’t bother to correct myself.

For a few seconds we simply assess each other.

“You need to leave,” says Leandro.

“I just told you, I won’t be leaving.”

It almost sounds as if I’m enjoying this.

“Don’t you think, if you knew that you didn’t want a kid -“

“I love you. Don’t make me hurt you.”

My laugh is devoid of mirth.

Bitter.

You just did.

“You can’t hurt me, Leandro,” I say, my senses spiking.

I duck away from his hand that grabs for me.

I’m too used to this.

I try to shut the voice inside my head up.

I’m too fast for him. Yes. Not used to, too fast. That’s it. 

“I’m not scared of you,” I say.

“You should be.”

“Why? Who are you? The FBI?” I laugh.

Paapa’s voice rings in my head.

“Don’t play with fire, Dayyanah.”

The worst a flame can do is burn.

“No?” I raise an eyebrow at his silence. “Then? The mafia?”

Leandro inhales sharply, his nostrils flaring in surprise.

In the split second of my own surprise, he has me pinned to the wall.

“What did you say?” he growls.

The heat of the flame kisses my skin, feather-light.

Oh boy.

“Shit. No. You can’t actually be in the mafia. That’s…”

My voice doesn’t come out as humoured this time.

“Jeez. You’re not, are you?”

He doesn’t say anything.

His silence is a clear enough answer.

The fear I had pushed down resurfaces.

No.

What.. How..??

“You can’t be. That’s.. insane.”

Leandro takes a small step back, his voice suddenly turning soft.

“You have to go, baby. This was a mistake right from the start.”

“No,” I whisper, my heart pounding. “I.. you can’t just.. Lee.. no.”

I push at his chest, needing space to.. think. To breathe.

“You can’t just…”

I’m at a loss for words.

“Maybe if you hadn’t fallen pregnant, we could have still -”

I smack him.

“Say. that. one. more. time..” I hiss through gritted teeth.

He’d triggered my anger again. Only this time, it was powered with hurt, betrayal and sadness.

The bigger problem, however, was that I’d triggered his anger again, too. And this time, I knew that it was too far gone.

I spin on my heel and dash for the door, but he’s just as quick.

My blood drums in my ears as I fall, adrenaline rushing alongside it.

A sharp sting of pain on the side of my face and shoulder follows, as my skin splits against the corner of the sink counter.

Immediately there’s blood.

I can feel there’s blood.

“Dont play with fire, Dayyanah.”

Damn you, Paapa.

*****

Leandro doesn’t tell me not to come back.

He knows that I won’t.

It’s all a little further away from the front of my mind right then, though.

Later it would hit.

Harder than anything had in a long while.

Harder than anything had while I had a hold on my heart.

Stupid, stupid heart.

But right now, I need to stop my bleeding.

Defeat closing in on me, I text my twin.

You home?

She replies in the affirmative, asking if I need something.

Can I come over?

You’re always welcome, she replies.

*****

A torn heart and tattered hope,

Where to now?

My fingers have slipped off Your rope.

 

A bruised face and broken fight,

Where to now?

I’m lost without Your light.

 

A crumbled life and cruel love,

Where to now?

Please send Your help from above.

 

I welcome this fall,

Down to rock bottom.

The greatest treasures lie beneath the deepest oceans.

 

How beautiful..

When a person

At their lowest, finds the Highest.

 

Allah. ❤

Advertisements

Two Hundred and Fifty Six

As narrated by Dee:

“The thing is.. we knew,” Zee is saying. “We knew that Ma would leave us one day. We know… that death is inevitable..”

“But nothing quite prepares you,” I finish in a whisper.

It’s like a powerful wave. Even if you see it coming, you’re unable to brace yourself against it.

It pushes you down under, steals your strength, and leaves you where air is little and light is even less.

“And nothing quite feels the same thereafter,” says Zee.

Your family suddenly feels different. Your friends feel different.

The world feels different. 

But maybe it’s not the world.

Maybe it’s not everything and everyone.

Maybe it’s just.. us.

See, we only ever learn when we lose.

We learn to live better, our purpose once again renewed in our minds. We learn to strive harder, a fresh surge of motivation urging us to work for our ultimate goal – Jannah.

We learn to be kinder, to talk softer, to smile wider. We learn to appreciate more, and question less, to overlook faster and live slower. We learn to hold closer, to love harder. 

I look at Zee.

Or maybe we don’t.

Maybe we push away the ones we love most because we’re terrified of losing them, too.

Zee turns his face, catches my gaze.

Maybe we’re terrified of even thinking of having to deal with a new wave of all this pain again.

“Okay?” I mouth.

He nods, ever so slightly.

I squeeze his hand gently and he squeezes back.

Maybe we’re just terrified…

*****

“I don’t think it’s meant to be easy.”

Meez is talking now.

“When Allah wants to raise a person in rank, in closeness to Him, Allah sends upon him a difficulty. If it were easy, how would we achieve all the promises that Allah has set for the patience a person exercises at the loss of a loved one?

At this point, that’s all we’re thinking though – that it’s so difficult, and everyone prays that it be made easy for us.. we ourselves make that dua too.

But I just think, that it’s not meant to be easy. The point is for it to be difficult. For us to feel crushed and helpless. For us to feel like we have no one, and that we can’t go on, because how else.. what else will make us turn to Allah as we do now, in this state?

And it’s really so beautiful, how Allah puts us in such situations, but He doesn’t leave us hanging. He doesn’t leave us without hope, without the promise of Him being near, without a double guarantee that even with this difficulty, still there is ease.

We will struggle, we have to fall. But only because, right now, we have to find Allah. That is the whole.. point. The object. It’s what is required of us during this time – and even after. Ma has left, she’s passed and glad tidings await her now, In Sha Allah. As for us, we need to open our eyes, before they close, too. We need to turn back to Allah.

Ease will come. Allah promised, and He doesn’t go against His promise. Perhaps it will not be a sudden all encompassing relief, but it will become less difficult.

As for now.. now while it is so extremely difficult, know that all this difficulty – the tears, the pain, what people know about and what they don’t, it is not in vain. Through this we are being forgiven, we are being raised. For now while it is difficult, find Allah, find Him again, and then find Him again. He knows you’re struggling, and He’s waiting for you to just turn to Him.. to place your matter in His hands.

Allah already loves you, He’s just waiting for you to love Him too.”

*****

Meez gets up to leave first.

“Jazakallah for coming,” I say. “I’m sorry for your loss, too.”

“We’re here whenever you’ll need for whatever you’ll need,” he says, addressing both Zee and I but keeping his gaze averted from mine.

It just… amazed me – who he’d become.

His words still ringing loud inside my head, I nod and murmur a word of thanks.

Zee walks off with him and we watch their retreating backs in silence.

And as Meez casually slings his arm over Zee’s shoulders, my heart warms.

A lot had changed, but time, distance, life.. life hadn’t pushed them apart.

They didn’t let it.

I smile to myself, saying a silent prayer that they never be tested with each other..

*****

Later that evening, when the house has emptied, the silence once again fills the gaps which mourners had occupied.

It’s just Zee’s family, mine, the neighbours..

But eventually, they leave, too. Zee’s parents retreat to their room after seeing Humairah and Hanzalah off, the neighbours in tow, telling us they’d be here tomorrow and if we needed anything during the night, to call.

And when Maama embraces me, the last of my strength withers away. I cling to her, my heart aching.

I want to stay there, wrapped in her arms, her scent surrounding me, her comforting voice murming in my ear.

It feels okay here. Safe here.

“Maama..”

She says what I knew she’d say. What she always says. What sometimes feels like the furthest from the truth, yet isn’t really.

“It’s going to be okay,” she says. “Allah is with you. It’s going to be okay.”

It takes everything in me to pick up my pieces, to pull myself together for what I hope is the last time for today.

Stepping back, I feel a hand reach for mine, squeezing gently.

Zee..

We greet the last of those who won’t be staying.

Zee closes the door, locking up for the night one time.

And then it’s just us.

Us and all this silence.

Us and all this pain.

We’re in a desert.

It feels like we’re in a desert.

Like we’ve walked together but somehow still lost our way.

And now we’re just.. here, in this vast… space of emptiness.

In this desolate barren land, where the sun shines down mercilessly, yet no sunflowers grow.

It feels like a desert.

Empty like a desert.

Difficult like a desert.

But we keep moving.

We soldier on.

The scorching sand burns our feet.

Our throats beg for water.

We soldier on.

It feels like a desert.

Endless.

When will help come?

How much longer will we have to go?

We’re weary now.

Tired. Exhausted. 

We soldier on.

Soon night will come.

And darkness will spread.

And the stars will shine brighter than ever before.

We soldier on.

Through the fierce wind, over the mountains, pass the wolves.

We soldier on.

Awaiting an oasis we are not sure will even come.

Awaiting a companion who will perhaps know the way.

It feels like a desert.

But we soldier on.

Together yet alone.

Awaiting the promise of our Lord.

Indeed, with every difficulty there is ease.

Amz’s words ring in my head.

“He’s hurting, Dee.”

I reel in my grief, again. Steel my heart, again.

One more time. Just one more time. For Zee. 

“Hot chocolate or cappuccino?” I ask, taking his hand.

Two Hundred and Fifty Five

As narrated by Dee:

Ma passes away within a week of falling ill.

Nothing prepares us.

She’s there and then she’s not, and it’s like I can breathe and then suddenly I can’t.

Like I knew Zee and suddenly I don’t.

Crushed to the core, our marriage goes through the worst patch it has ever known.

Lost in the anguish of a pain that hit so suddenly, so forcefully, we break all the rules of love.

“I don’t know,” I hear myself say to Amz, two days after the funeral. “I don’t know why it’s like this.”

We’re outside on the wooden swing, Amz’s head on my shoulder.

We’re alone, but we talk quietly, as if fearing to be overheard.

“Did you speak to him?” she asks, referring to Zee.

“There’s nothing to say,” I say, staring out into the moonless night.

Silence settles between us.

Even Amz is at a loss for words.

“It’s like I lost him along with Ma.”

“He’s hurting, Dee.”

“I know,” I say, allowing Amz to hold my shaking hands. “So am I.”

“So are you,” I add a moment later.

In the distance, we see Sumayya heading towards us. 

“Dee,” she says, lifting her niqaab when she reaches us. “Maama is looking for the paper plates.”

I reach for my phone in my pants pocket beneath my abaya.

“Stay,” I say. “I’ll call Maama.”

“I’m going to help her serve supper and I’ll be back,” says Sumayya.

“Let me come too,” says Amz, moving to get up.

Involuntarily my grip on her hand tightens.

Sumayya shakes her head slightly, glancing at me before looking back at Amz by way of conveying a silent message: Stay here with her. 

“It won’t take us long, there’s many hands inside. I will be right back,” she says quickly, turning on her heel and heading off.

“Sumayya!” I call, sitting up. “The paper plates.”

“Oh, yaah!” she exclaims, smacking her hand against her forehead.

“In the cupboard above the oven,” I say.

I can’t help but smile as she shouts a word of thanks over her shoulder and dashes inside.

Some things never change.

“Dee,” says Amz, as I lean back again.

“Hmm..”

“Rameez is here, too.”

“He is?”

“Yeah,” replies Amz.

“Zee didn’t mention,” I say, my chest tightening as I think about him again.

“I’m glad,” I murmur, silently praying that Rameez is able to get through to Zee.

*****

Sumayya joins us outside a little while later.

“Do you’ll want anything to eat or drink?” she asks.

Something triggers me then.

Perhaps the sincerity in Sumayya’s voice, or the kindness shining through the tiredness in her eyes.

“I’m okay, Jazakillah,” says Amz, turning to me. “Dee?”

I try to reel in my emotions but my throat is already closing up.

I cover my face with my hands.

Wordlessly, Amz pulls me to her, holding me close.

I feel Sumayya sit down next to me, too, placing her hand on my thigh by way of comfort.

“I.. Sumayya..”

“Jee, tell me what you need, Dee?” she asks gently.

“No.. you.. thank you,” I finally manage to get out between my tears. “You’re.. doing so much.. and..”

“Sshh, you don’t have to -”

I shake my head, cutting her off.

“I do,” I say. “You guys.. are hurting, too.. but still.. doing so much, and I just.. Jazakallah Khair..”

I don’t fight the tears – I can’t.

And beside me, Amz lets go too.

*****

The boys stumble upon us from the back.

Amz and Sumayya turn their faces, hurriedly donning their niqaabs.

“Deeyanah,” says Zee, coming forward while Meez lingers further behind.

I look up and our eyes meet.

My breath catches.

He’s.. there’s.. so much of sadness in his eyes.

So much of pain. 

I look away, my heart aching.

Sumayya gets up and goes to sit beside Amz, allowing for Zee to sit next to me.

“Meez,” calls Zee, patting the space beside him.

He steps out of the shadows, greeting in a low voice as he sits down, looking more than a little uncomfortable.

We murmur a reply.

Gone is the young casanova who was lost in trying to survive the madness of youth, leaving in his place a remarkably modest gentleman.

He’s realized his worth, his purpose.

He’s found his direction, and it reflects off his actions in the most admirable way.

It’s impossible not to notice how much Meez has changed.

But as we sit in a comfortable silence and Zee takes my hand in his, as I hear Amz sigh softly beside me and see Sumayya lean her head back and close her eyes, it strikes me that we’ve all actually changed.

Some forced, inevitable changes, others voluntary, but many changes nonetheless.

Zee’s quiet voice breaks the silence.

“Remember how often we nagged Nana and Ma to buy this swing when we were younger..”

Nostalgia settles heavily around us.

And as we sit and reminisce in the dark night, taking a short trip down memory lane, for a brief amount of time the sadness becomes a little lighter, a little easier to bear, a little less suffocating.

A small smile curves my lips.

True friendship can overcome all hardships.

Two Hundred and Fifty Four

As narrated by Zee:

Sometimes.. life knocks the breath out of you.

Strangely ironic, really – you’d think that’s death’s job.. but here I am, very much alive, yet unable to breathe.

For an infinitely long moment neither Dee, nor I move.

It’s as if Dayy’s words, having finally escaped through her lips, close in to take revenge for being held in far too long.

“No.. my baby.. no..”

They bounce off the walls and punch us in the gut.. the impact so strong, we can’t move we can’t speak we can’t think.

I don’t know how we get to the hospital, but we do.

Dayy continues to slip in out of consciousness, Dee at her side.

I hear myself reminding Dee to breathe every so often, knowing that if she loses strength, I will too.

Once at the hospital, we find ourselves in the trauma unit.

Dee provides the medical personnel with a brief, precise rundown of events, answering their questions in a strong voice to the best of her ability.

I’m occupied in opening a file for Dayy and filling out the necessary information.

That is, until I register Dee’s voice again.

“She’s.. I think she’s..”

For the first time, her voice catches.

She looks over to where Dayy lies, conscious now, one hand still on her tummy.

The nurse follows her gaze, looking between them for a moment.

“She’s pregnant?” she asks finally.

Dee looks away, nodding silently.

“I think so,” she whispers.

The nurse acknowledges this and briefs in the team.

An ultrasound would have to be done first.

*****

My mind is rewinding.

Doctor Yaasir is updating us on Dee’s situation. 

“I’m so sorry, but unfortunately there was no way the ba -” he starts to say. 

“Yas,” his wife cuts him off quickly, reaching up and giving his arm a warning squeeze.

“What??” I had demanded, my heart skipping a beat, but Yaasir continued. 

I had followed them out after that. 

“She was pregnant, wasn’t she?”

Their silence to my question had made my heart drop to my toes. 

A sharp pain cuts through me and I force myself to snap out of it.

“No..” I hear Dayy’s voice again. “Please..”

From the corner of my eye I see Dee silently slipping out.

Hurriedly filling out the rest of the file, and after answering a few more questions, I turn to leave.

It crosses my mind that I should stay, so that Dayy has someone with her, but Dee will always be my first priority.

And right then, I need her as much as I know she needs me.

*****

I ring her phone.

“I’m outside,” she manages. “The balcony.”

I turn around a corner and see that the sliding doors of the waiting lounge on this floor leads out to a balcony.

Pocketing my phone, I make my way over to Dee. She stands resting her forehead against her arms on the railing.

She lifts her head on sensing my presence and I wrap her in an embrace.

I know what’s running through her mind. I feel all the conflicted emotions within me too.

“I can’t be inside,” she says, defeated.

“It’s okay, you can go in when you’re ready.”

“Zee..” she says. “I need to be with her.”

“You will be.. just now,” I say. “Breathe.”

“Zee..”

I feel her body tremble.

“Deeyanah, breathe.”

I hold onto her tighter.

“She’s pregnant. Zee, how is she pregnant? Zee..”

“Sshh..” I say. “It will be okay.”

“I.. I can’t..”

“Look at me,” I say, cupping her face and trapping her gaze. “Breathe.”

We breathe together until I can feel that she’s functioning again.

“Okay?” I ask softly.

She nods.

“Ready to go back in?”

“I can’t..” she says, resting her cheek against my chest. “Not yet.”

We stay outside for a little longer in silent support.

Then, Dee lifts her head and steps back.

I look at her.

She looks at me.

“I love you,” I say, taking her hand.

“I love you too.”

Together, we head back inside.

*****

She’s okay, they inform us some time later.

Dayyanah is okay.

The baby is okay.

She has to stay the night to be monitored, but there’s nothing to worry about.

She’s asleep when we see her again, so Dee and I decide to head home

I can see that Dee is conflicted – she wants to stay, but tiredness is close to overpowering her.

“You need to sleep, gorgeous,” I say to her.

Dee looks over at Dayy again, weary and exhausted.

“I have to be with her,” says Dee.

“You have to rest yourself too,” I say.

“She’ll be asleep more than awake,” I say, when Dee sighs. “We’ll come first thing in the morning.”

Too tired to argue, she kisses Dayy’s cheek, murmurs something I don’t catch and then walks over to me.

Taking her hand, we make our way out to the car.

*****

She breaks the moment we get into the car.

My heart clenches.

“Dee..”

“Zee, how is she pregnant?” she sobs. “She can’t be pregnant.. she can’t. Who.. I.. she can’t.”

I don’t say anything, putting the car into gear and stepping on the accelerator before taking her hand.

She’s too tired now. It’s been too much, too fast. The quicker we get home, the better.

“How.. how am I going to.. what will I tell Maama? She..”

Her words get swallowed as her breathing becomes short and fast.

She leans her head back, closing her eyes.

I turn on the radio, adjust the volume until it’s just right, and allow the Qur’aan recitation to work its magic.

*****

Exhausted, we get straight into bed on reaching home.

But the night has only started..

I’ve only just closed my eyes when my phone rings.

It’s my grandfather.

“Ziyaad beta, Ma isn’t well.”

I’m not even fully awake and then, suddenly, it’s as if I wasn’t tired at all.

“What happened? What’s wrong? I’m coming, I’m on my way.”

Sometimes..

Sometimes life knocks the breath out of you..

Two Hundred and Fifty Three

As narrated by Dee:

That night, in my dream, I go back in time.

We must be about 8, Dayy and I.

It’s a cold rainy evening and we’re sitting in our room, on Dayy’s bed, playing line-up-4.

Dayy drops her third bead going upwards and I drop mine down the same slot to stop her from winning.

“I hope it rains tomorrow, too. Maybe Maama will let us stay at home,” I say.

“I hope it doesn’t! I want to go to school,” says Dayyanah, a mysterious smile replacing her thoughtful expression.

I am about to make my next play, but I withdraw my hand and look at her.

“What?” she says.

“Why are you smiling like that?” I frown at her.

“Like what?” she asks, trying to hide her smile.

“Like a silly!” I say, rolling my eyes and concentrating back on our game.

I drop my bead so that I now have 3 lined up diagonally before looking at Dayy again.

She giggles.

“Whaaat?!”

“What’s so funny?” I ask, beginning to get annoyed.

“It’s a secret,” she says, lowering her tone as if she’s about to tell me.

I look at her in anticipation but she shakes her head vigorously.

“I can’t tell you,” says Dayyanah.

“But I’m your sister,” I say.

She shakes her head, still smiling her silly smile.

“It’s a secret,” repeats Dayy.

“That’s not fair,” I say plaintively.

A bright flash of lightning strikes, and the boom of thunder that follows cuts Dayy off.

My heart jumps and Dayy screams as the electricity goes and our room is swallowed in darkness.

“Hey,” I say, reaching for her hand, knowing how she hates the dark.

I knock over our game instead and I hear the beads falling.

“It’s okay, Dayy,” I say, groping in the darkness until I feel her hand. “I’m here with you.”

“Dayyanaaah!” I hear Maama call out, worriedly.

“We’re here, Maama!” I call back.

Her footsteps hurry towards our room, and shortly a beam of torchlight splits the darkness.

Maama pacifies Dayy as I pick up the fallen line-up-4 beads.

“She didn’t want to tell me her secret!” I say nastily. “That’s why the lights went.”

“Deeyanah,” reprimands Maama, turning to me seriously. “That’s not nice.”

“And it’s not nice to keep secrets!” I argue, cross that Maama is not taking my part.

“It isn’t, but we don’t have to be unkind to others even if they are unkind to us,” says Maama.

“And if we don’t want to share a secret, we shouldn’t say we have one in the first place,” Maama says to Dayyanah.

“But…”

Dayy defends herself weakly, still shaky from the lack of light.

Maama tries to reconcile between us but I remain unrelenting.

So she ushers us to the kitchen and we have hot chocolate and popcorn instead.

*****

Later that evening, when Maama comes to kiss us goodnight, she sits down on Dayy’s bed again.

And then she says something that sticks in our little minds, which we carry with us as we grow.

Something that we don’t fully understand right then, but we begin to understand a little more every day.

After every argument, every fight, every misunderstanding – it makes a little more sense each time.

In fact, in a huge way, it’s what actually gets us through every tiff.

“Do you know,” says Maama, addressing us both. “A twin is the best thing you can ever have. And a twin sister, that’s the bestest thing you can ever have.”

“Bestest isn’t a word, Maama,” says Dayy.

“That’s right,” says Maama. “But let’s act like we just made it up, because there isn’t yet a word to describe a twin sister.”

Her eyes dance in the light of the lampshade between our beds.

“You two are the luckiest little girls to have each other, do you know that? As long as you have your twin, you have a best friend. You have someone to make you laugh, and someone to wipe your tears. You have someone to help you up when you fall, to show you the way when you’re lost. Someone to lend a listening ear, to offer a word of advice. Someone to tell you off when you’ve done wrong and praise you when you’ve done well. You have someone to share clothes and do fun things with. Someone….”

Maama continues talking.

We’re staring at her, wonderstruck. We don’t fully understand, but there’s just something about.. the way she says it, that leaves us breathless.

It sounds.. amazing. Almost magical.

“Twins don’t keep secrets, sweethearts,” says Maama. “Twins are two halves of a whole. That’s why they share everything. Their food, their clothes, their toys. Their happiness, their sadness, their worries, and their secrets. Don’t ever forget that, okay?”

I look across at Dayy from my bed and she looks across at me from hers.

Our gazes meet, and that seals the deal.

We won’t ever forget. Twins don’t keep secrets. Twins are two halves of a whole. 

*****

When my eyes open it’s a little last 5 AM.

Mamaa’s voice is ringing in my head.

Still sleepy, without thinking it through, I pick up my phone and text Dayyanah.

Twins don’t keep secrets. Twins are two halves of a whole.

To my surprise, she comes online immediately, almost as if she was expecting my text.

After a short moment I see that she is typing.

We’re no longer kids.

But we’re still twins, I type back. And I love you now, more than ever before.


In the guest room of her sister’s house, Dayyanah stares at the screen of her phone, wishing that she could somehow make Dee understand without having to explain.

She wanted to tell Deeyanah that it wasn’t about that – about love, or trust, or any of that. 

If it was, Dayy wouldn’t have waited a moment in telling Dee the truth, because even though she didn’t show it, she loved and trusted Dee now more than ever before, too.

She read Dee’s message again.

Twins don’t keep secrets.

We’re no longer kids, she’d said.

But we’re still twins, Dee had replied. And I love you now, more than ever before.

Dayy sighed.

Twins don’t keep secrets.

But some secrets aren’t really secrets.

They’re something more than just.. secrets.

They’re like a heavy load which weighs down on our shoulders.. nay, our souls.

Crushing.. slowly, slowly.

They’re like dark clouds which hover above our heads, looming impossibly closer each day.

They’re barriers to happiness, and fuel to fear, to worry, to grief.

Some secrets are more than just secrets.

They’re peace-eaters, which should never be uttered aloud, never written in ink.

They’re confessions we’ll never make.

They’re burdens we’ll carry to our graves.


As narrated by Dee:

I find out the very next day.

Well, night.

Zee had come home with the hugest bouquet of flowers for me.

I hold them in my hand right now, as Dayy stands on the kitchen stool to take out a vase from one of the top cupboards.

“Careful on this stool,” I say, holding the swiveling stool firm with one hand, the bouquet in my other. “You should have used one from the dining room.”

“This gold-rimmed one?” asks Dayy, bringing the vase slightly forward.

“No, there should be a clear – move your head a little, let me see,” I say, peering up.

She slides the gold rimmed one back and moves slightly.

“Yeah, that -”

I stop abruptly as the kitchen is suddenly plunged in darkness.

And as Dayy screams, an overwhelming sense of deja vu hits me.

Momentarily I don’t move.

I can’t move.

Time drags.

The bouquet of flowers slip from my hand.

From somewhere inside the house I hear Zee call out to Dayy and I.

It pulls me back to reality, slowly at first and then in a sudden snap.

“Dayy!” I say, trying but failing to find her hand in the dark. “It’s okay, I’m here. You’re not alone.”

But her panic consumes her – she doesn’t seem to hear me.

The chair swivels and Dayy’s scream cuts through the darkness again.

My hand grabs the first thing it finds, but it’s not quick enough.

The leather material of her jacket slips through my fingers.

“Ziyaad!” I call desperately, my yell dulling the sound of Dayy’s head hitting the counter.

I don’t realize that he’s already here now, just still and silent in shock.

It’s deja vu for him too..

The beam of the emergency light he holds catches Dayy’s face.

Her eyes are closed and her hands..

Her hands cover her stomach protectively.

My insides flip.

“No..” gasps Dayy. “No.. my baby.. my..”

And then she’s out.