One Hundred and Eighty Four

As narrated by Amz:

“Talk,” I say, pulling the duvet over Dee before settling down next to her and focusing my attention on Zee.

He’s looking at Dee but when I speak, his gaze shifts.

He sighs, rubs his eyes and then takes a deep breath.

“I was at the beach – ”

I cut him off.

“Start at the beginning,” I say.

“I came the same night everything went upside down,” he says. “It was all just too much, I think.”

He goes on to explain to me how he’s been in Durban for a week now, and how every night he’d go for a walk on the beach.

He doesn’t have to tell me why that beach specifically. That I know.

It’s our squad’s favourite beach.

When we’d been roadtripping a few years ago, milkylane and a walk was a must, every night. On that beach.

I focus my attention back on Zee.

“I followed her as she walked down the pier. I don’t know what she was thinking – they haven’t done the lighting for that pier yet, it was dark and windy.

I was only a few feet behind her as she reached the end and sat down on the railing. I almost yelled at her right then, but it would have startled her.”

Dee always sits on dangerous places – railings, walls, window frames, fencing. And every time I tell her to be careful.

“She sat for a long time, and it began raining in the interim. I was growing more and more worried with each passing second but just when I decided to get her attention the wind snatched her beanie.”

My mind plays out the scene.

“She lifted her hands to catch it and lost her balance.

Amz I was literally behind her, all my senses alert, for the entire time that she sat there, but the moment she fell I just couldn’t move.”

My heartbeat picks up as he explains to me what went down in the minutes that followed.

Tongue-tied and shell-shocked I can only stare at him wide-eyed.

“And she just wouldn’t stop crying. I didn’t know what to do, that’s when I called you.”

I have no words.

“Why didn’t you tell me you’ll here?” he asks.

“We only got here this afternoon,” I say quietly.

“You didn’t tell us you’re here either,” I add a moment later, catching his gaze.

“I know,” he says. “I’m sorry. It’s been a rough week.”

A long moment of silence passes.

Zee is watching Dee.

I’m watching him.

He looks like he hasn’t slept in a while, like he hasn’t laughed in a while.

Different. He looks different. Not like the Zee I know.

And just like that, it hits me.

“Zee,” I say.

He turns to look at me again.

“You love her, don’t you?”

His hand going to push his hair off his forehead freezes.

His eyes slowly widen.

And then he blinks.

“What?!” he gasps, his voice a shocked whisper.

His hand drops to his side as he stares at me.

“Dee,” I say, tilting my head slightly to where she lays sleeping, but never looking away from his face. “You love her, don’t you?”

“I… what?! No! I mean.. yes, yes, obviously I do,” he says all in one breath.

I almost smile.

“No. You love her,” I say, not asking this time.

“Is that it?” he asks quietly after a long moment of staring at me in confused surprise. “Is that what this feeling is? I love her?”

“You tell me,” I say.

“I.. I don’t know,” he says. “I don’t know if I love her but I do know that I want her to be happy.

I want to see her smiling for as long as she lives, and I want to be the reason behind her smile.

I want to hear her laugh for as long as I live and I want to be the reason behind that too.

I want to see her accomplish her goals, to achieve her dreams. I want to tick off things from her bucket list with her.

I want to heal her wounds and be her hope. I want to wipe her tears and never be the reason behind them. I want to teach her to be happy with herself, to let go of the guilt of the past. I want to hold her till the day birds can’t fly.

I don’t know if I love her but had she hit the ocean tonight I’d have been right behind her.

I don’t know if I love her but I do know that I never want to see her sad. She’s sad now, and it’s because of me and the thought alone makes it difficult to breathe. Amz I’ll do anthing, anything, whatever it takes to make her happy. If only she’ll give me a second chance. I know that right now she hates me, and it’s slowly killing me.

I don’t know if I love her but I do know that I’m willing to do whatever it takes to change that, to see her smile again, to hear her laugh again, to allow me to hold her again.

I don’t know if I love her. All I know is that I want her to be happy – to be the happiest person alive.”

This time I smile.

Through my tears, I smile, until my cheeks hurt.

And it’s the best pain I’ve felt all week.

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One Hundred and Eighty Three

As narrated by Zee:

Fear feels like being submerged in ice.

It smells like gunpowder.

It tastes like blood.

Fear is like a knife wedged in your gut being twisted, like a loaded gun being dragged slowly against your skin.

Fear is that heart-halting moment when the knife slips in your hand, when you miss the last step.

For a father, fear is watching a truck come towards him at breakneck speed, knowing that he promised his son a game of FIFA that night.

For a mother, fear is watching her child fly over the edge of a water slide, knowing she can’t do anything as she watches from the ground.

For a child, fear is a loud sound in a dark room.

For an abused woman, fear is smelling alcohol on her husband’s tongue as she meets his bloodshot eyes.

For a sickly person, fear is fighting against the jaws of death threatening to sink its canines into his heart, destroying it once and for all.

For a speed-lover, fear is smelling burnt rubber as he walks toward the car he wrecked, praying fervently that no one is dead.

For a paramedic, fear is hearing the heart monitor suddenly beginning to beep erratically as he wheels the stretcher towards the ambulance.

For a lover, fear is losing his beloved, the mere thought of living life without her.

For me..

For me fear is watching my best friend fall off the railing at the end of a pier.

My senses rocket, sending my heart catapulting from zero to hundred in a split second.

My eyes widen in disbelief, my stomach somersaults, and my breath stops.

My mind goes blank, my brain shuts down, and my body becomes paralyzed.

And then, a burst of adrenaline explodes inside me.

“Deeyanah!!” 

I lunge forward, pain shooting through my hip bone as it hits the metal structure of the railing.

I lean over and reach wildly into the dark air, my hand following the sound of her scream.

Impossibly, I catch her, stopping her fall abruptly.

But my fist is holding material. Thin material.

It’s tearing and I feel her slipping from my grip.

I scream again, the sound abnormal next to that of the waves crashing.

Leaning over further, fighting the wind with all my strength, I grab her with my other hand, hoping that I get her body and not her clothes this time.

The darkness is absolute, I can’t see a thing but I feel her skin this time.

I let go of her clothes and hold tighter onto her body.

The winds howls, an angry howl, strong and fierce.

I grab hold of the railing with my free hand as I try to plant my feet into the concrete beneath it.

My hair flies into my eyes and I hate myself for having not cut it.

Deeyanah’s weight pulls at my arm.

The sound of my heart pounding against my eardrums makes my breath come short and fast.

I drop my head onto my hand gripping the wet railing.

My arm begins to feel like it’s being pulled from its socket.

You need to get her up before it gives in, before the wind snatches her from your grasp. 

I lift my head, willing a speck of light to shine, willing the wind to slow down, willing the rain to cease.

But the wind only seems to pick up as the seconds tick by.

The darkness, impossibly, becomes thicker.

The rain pelts down harder.

My heart is racing, my breathing still short and fast.

I clench my jaw, unclench it.

I take a deep breath in, let it out.

Then, I bend slightly over the railing to withstand the ferocious wind. The cold, wet metal presses hard against my rib-cage.

I reach for Dee with my other hand.

She’s barely fallen but it feels like I’m lifting her from the depths of the ocean.

My arms scream as the wind makes the difficult task torturous, almost impossible.

Slowly I pull her up, my entire being praying desperately that she’s okay.

Then, when she’s almost level with me, the wind shoves me in the face.

I stagger backward, unable to breathe for a moment that feels like eternity.

Involuntarily, my hand lets go of Dee to grab the railing.

The wind changes direction again and my lungs gulp the air greedily.

My arm is begging for mercy and my mind registers that my strength is diminishing very fast.

Biting back a scream, blinking away rain water from my eyes, I reach for Dee with my second hand again.

My pounding heart praying fervently, I pull her up, coming to the realization that I’m holding her arm.

My eyes adjusting ever so slightly to the pitch black darkness I move my hand under her arm, gripping her firmly before moving my other hand too.

She hits against my body as I haul her over the railing, almost sending us both to the floor.

I quickly steady myself, then her and slowly let her go.

Immediately her legs give away underneath her and she falls against me again.

My hands fly out to stop her from dropping to the ground and I hold her tightly to my chest.

For a couple of seconds the wind isn’t howling, the ocean isn’t crashing, the sky isn’t wailing.

It’s just Dee and I on the pier at our favourite beach.

Then, a flash of lighting slices the sky, cutting open the darkness for split second.

My heart jumps.

Once the darkness of the night is complete there is nothing more terrifying than light.

I move back a little, trying to see her face.

“Dee,” I say.

She doesn’t respond.

“We need to get to the hotel before this storm kills us, come on,” I say, stepping away from her completely.

But her body is too weak.

She can’t even stand by herself.

Ignoring the ache in my arms, focusing on the ache in my heart, I pick her up carefully.

Fighting against the wind, silently pleading to the sky for mercy, I walk in the pouring rain to where I’ve parked.

*****

Pulling the car door handle open with my hand before using my leg to open it, I gently put Dee down.

Then, I close the door and hurry around to the other side of the car.

Climbing in I switch on the heater, turning the dial to the highest setting.

A bolt of lightning flashes and shortly thereafter thunder booms.

“Dee,” I say, turning to her.

My heart clenches.

Her blue, shock-filled eyes stand out starkly against her ashen face.

Her soaked dark-brown hair, no more protected by her beanie, sticks to her scalp.

Her lips are quivering, her whole body is trembling.

She’s wet, cold and in shock, and of all the days, today I don’t have on a hoodie.

I reach for her hand slowly, not wanting to scare her with sudden movements.

She lifts her head, gradually, as if it is made of lead.

“Dee,” I say again, my voice an agonized whisper.

Our eyes meet, our gazes lock, and it feels like I’ll never be able to look away but the thought sits fine with me. More than fine actually.

Her eyes are a work of art.

Blue the shade of a calm sea merged with the colour of a cloudless sky, the stories they tell entrap you the moment they meet with yours.

Her breath catches.

My heart drums.

Is she scared? Am I making her scared? Her eyes don’t look scared. 

“I.. are you.. are you okay?” I ask quietly.

A single tear slips from her eye and rolls down her pale cheek.

She drops her head and sobs silently.

*****

C’mon Amz, answer your damn phone!

“Hello, Assalaamualaykum.”

“Amz, she won’t stop crying! What must I do? I can’t -”

“Zee.”

“What?”

“Calm down. Take a deep breath.”

“Amz I don’t know what to -”

“Ziyaad,” she cuts me off again, her tone authoritative.

“Please, listen! It’s Dee!” I blurt out.

“What?!” she asks, the confusion audible in her voice.

“You need to come! She won’t stop crying and I don’t know what to do and she’s wet and cold, she’s going to get sick!”

“You’re in Durban?? When.. what.. what the hell is going on?? What happened to Dee??”

“Amz!” I say exasperated. I can’t give her the details now. Dee needs attention.

“Where are you?!” she asks, her tone matching mine.

I tell her hurriedly trying my best to explain where about in the parking lot we are.

And then, I wait, trying in vain to calm Dee down the whole while.

*****

“What are you doing here?” asks Amz, baffled.

“She fell off the pier,” I say to Amz as she takes in Dee.

What?! Zee, dude, are you alright?” asks Amz, frowning at me in disbelief.

“Did you bring something warm?” I ask, ignoring her.

“Yeah it’s in the car,” says Amz, going to get it. She returns with a jacket.

“You have to take off her wet clothes. And her T-shirt tore when I grabbed her.”

Amz stops, considers me for a long moment.

“I’ll explain to you everything as soon Dee is okay,” I say.

“Let’s go to the hotel,” says Amz. “You’re making my head spin.”

One Hundred and Eighty Two

As narrated by Dee:

“Pack your bags, we’re going for holiday,” says Daanyaal, walking into the room Amz and I have been sharing.

I raise my eyebrows ever so slightly, making no effort to move from where I sit leaning against the headboard.

My phone buzzes in my hand.

It’s Zee. Again. For the 87th time.

I read the message and ignore it. Again. For the 87th time.

It has been a week since we’ve last spoken.

A week of contradictory nightmares, of a newfound ache that doesn’t seem to dull but rather, increase every time Zee’s name flashes on my screen. And his face flashes, a rage-filled face, in my mind. My heart pounds at the mere thought of the way he handled Fuaad all those days ago.

A week of unsure silence between Amz and I. There is nothing to say – we don’t know what to say to each other. Caught in a hurricane of grief neither of us know how to voice the unspoken words inside our heads. Too lost in our own pain, neither of us know how to comfort the other.

A week of wandering around like a lost soul, unaware of my surroundings, forever lost in thought. In the hollow of my heart echoes memories of my first kiss, stolen by a disgusting animal whose face is tattooed next to the way he made me feel – shocked, terrified, angry, helpless.

A week of catching glimpses of Paapa every time I walk around a corner. My breath catches and my body freezes. And then I blink and realize that my mind is playing with me. I remember that he is dead, and I no longer have to be afraid. But still, I am afraid.

A week of flinching at every sudden movement, my mind convinced that I am about to be harmed, to be shoved the way Paapa use to shove me, to be slapped the way Fuaad had slapped me.

A week of catching my mother watching me every time we are in the same room, knowing that I am the cause of the creases on her forehead, but not knowing how to erase them. I want to tell her that I’m okay, so that she can be okay, but I am not. I am not okay.

A week of standing under the shower for far too much time, a mixture of water and tears washing my lean body every day.

A week of coffee too strong, a week of sleep too long.

A week of hopeless sighs, a week of woeful cries.

My phone buzzes, pulling me back to reality.

It’s Zee. Again.

I read his message, the 88th one, one that he’s sent many times already.

You know me, Dee. You know that wasn’t me.

And I do. I do know him. I do know that that wasn’t him. That wasn’t the Zee I know.

It’s been a long week.

A week of wishful delusions.

A week of troubled illusions.

*****

I hate flying.

The speed is too much when taking-off and landing, my ears pain horribly, and the whole idea of being so high in the air really doesn’t appeal to me!

Popping a chewing gum into my mouth, I connect my headphones to my phone, slip them on and then lean back and close my eyes.

The massive aeroplane begins moving, crawling slowly towards the runaway.

And then, much too quickly comes the part I hate.

The plane picks up speed getting ready to take-off.

A hand takes mine, causing me to open my eyes.

Amz.

She gives me a small smile and I give her one back.

The wheels of the plane lift off the ground and then we’re in the air, Durban-bound.

*****

I walk through the groups of people strolling the beachfront, wishing I had won a cap instead of a beanie. It would have hid more of my face, less obviously. But, on second thought, it’s a very windy night and my beanie covers my ears well and keeps my hair from flying all over.

The pier my destination, I avoid eye contact and hurry along, wondering how much faster I’d be able to walk if I had longer legs.

Litter blows around with the wind and the tall palm trees swish, causing the leaves to rustle.

The loud music playing in the restaurants gets softer as I make my way down the pier, away from the hubbub of the crowds.

The pier is deserted, not a single other person walking alongside its railings, or sitting on its benches.

As I walk further, I realize why.

There’s no lights.

This must be a new pier. It’s much broader compared to what I remember the other piers to be like, and the bins look barely used. The finishing touches are probably still in progress.

The darkness enshrouds me as I step into its eerie arms.

It’s like a dungeon – but with air.

No stars shine and the moon dares not to cast its rays of light through the seemingly impenetrable darkness.

I think of Dayyanah, and how this would be her worst nightmare.

She hates the dark. It terrifies her to the core.

I, on the other hand, find it exciting, exhilarating. 

Not knowing what the darkness hides sends a rush of adrenaline through my veins.

My heart pounds as I make my way closer and closer to the railing at the far-most end of the pier.

I have never seen such complete darkness in such an open place. It makes we wonder whether I still have eyes.

Of course I do, and they strain to see through the black veil covering them.

The sound of the waves crashing moves through my eardrums, calming me as I sit on the railing, looking out at my pitch black surroundings.

I sit for a long time, deep in thought, eventually zoning out from reality.

I don’t notice majority of the crowd leaving.

I don’t notice the wind picking up.

I don’t notice the previous drizzle of rain beginning to fall harder.

It’s just me and the sea and sky merged into an invisible image of blackness; a painting of the inside of a grave.

I’m thinking of Zee – among other things – again.

Then, the direction of the wind changes, sending rain slapping onto my face.

I startle, my grip tightening on the railing to stop myself from falling.

Forced back to reality, my body shivers, suddenly realizing how bitterly cold it has become.

My wet clothes cling to me and I shiver again, clenching my jaw to stop my teeth from chattering .

I should head back to the hotel.

I should really head back to the hotel. Soon.

But my heart whispers a request to stay for just a moment longer.

I shift a little, another realization hitting me.

I’m sitting on the railing.

At the end of the pier.

A dam of adrenaline gushes forth as my eyes widen.

My god. What was I thinking?!

A couple of things happen then, all at once.

The wind tugs at my beanie, lifting it off my head.

Involuntarily, my hands reach up, letting go of the railing; the now wet and slippery railing, the railing at the end of the pier.

The wind howls, exhaling its anger in a huff right at me.

I lose my balance.

My heart skips a beat as I tip forward.

Desperately I reach for the railing, for something, anything, but all I grab is air.

The darkness doesn’t seem exciting anymore as I feel myself free-falling into its open jaws, my scream following close behind.

I wait for myself to wake up, for my eyes to open, so that I can breathe again and comfort myself that it was just a nightmare.

But this time it’s not.

My eyes don’t open, because they already are open.

I don’t wake up, because I already am awake.

In the split second that it takes me to fall, I feel a thousand feelings.

And all the fear I’ve felt throughout my life will never equal to the fear I feel in that second.

Not when my raging father towered over me, senseless, merciless.

Not when I ran from home into the moonlit night, alone, naive.

Not when I told Daanyaal the truth of his life at the hospital, hesitantly, worriedly.

Not when I opened a box on the kitchen table and hundreds of spider scurried out, curiously, stupidly.

Not when Fuaad lifted his hand to hit me, cruelly, angrily.

In that second, the terror I feel is so intense, it almost kills me.

My heart beats so fast that it almost stops altogether.

My life flashes in front if me, like a movie being fast forwarded.

This is it.

I think of Paapa and I think of Maama.

I think of Dayyanah and I think of Daanyaal.

I think of Uncle Rashid, Aunty Raeesah and of Ramla.

I think of Amaani, the time her parents were mine too, and I think of Rameez. I think of Uncle Ismaeel, Aunty Aadila. I think of Sumayya and of Hamza.

I think of Zee.

Oh god. Zee.

One Hundred and Eighty One

As narrated by Dee:

I slip my feet into a pair of sneakers and pull on a hoodie over my T-shirt.

It has a familiar scent, a fresh fusion of the sea and a rain-forest.

Only one person I know smells like that.

I smile, inhaling deeply.

Tugging my beanie lower, I pick up my phone and head out.

The sun is setting, and a slight chill is in the air.

Scanning my surroundings, I cross at a robot and make my way down a busy street, hands tucked into my pockets.

I don’t know where I’m headed, but I walk as if I do, past cyclists, dogs on leashes and crowds of people.

Birds are chirping as the sun sinks lower and the sky slowly loses its light.

A coffee shop catches my attention and I make my way inside, purchase a steaming cup of hot coffee before making my way out again.

As I close the glass door behind me, I catch a fleeting glimpse of someone watching me.

I pause for a moment to look around, but I see no one familiar so I carry on walking.

My legs don’t seem to tire, walking on and on at their own will, turning in any direction, no destination in mind.

It’s getting darker now and the chill in the air has increased. It occurs to me that I should head home.

But first, I want to drink my coffee.

I sit down on the side-walk and lift the cup to my lips.

The hot liquid slides down my throat, warming my insides and making my heart sing.

A gust of wind blows and I notice the birds flying in a V – homebound.

I should get going too. 

I drain the last bit of coffee from the cup before disposing of it.

To my right, I feel someone’s eyes on me again.

Quickly turning, not to miss them this time, I scan the now much lesser crowd of people.

An old man walking with a stick.

A jogger running with his dog.

A group of friends laughing heartily.

A middle-aged couple walking quickly, deep in conversation.

And then I see him.

Our eyes meet and my heart stops for split second before rocketing to a frenzied pounding.

I spin on my heel and run.

The sun has disappeared and the sky is suddenly completely black.

When had that happened? 

My feet pound against the asphalt as I run, dodging people and once almost falling over a cold drink can.

The wind has picked up and is now howling.

I don’t seem to remember that happening either. It was still pretty fine when I had been drinking my coffee.

Then, suddenly, there’s a cliff. In the middle of no where.

The row of shops, the roads, the people, everything comes to an abrupt end.

I skid to a stop, my breathing fast and shallow.

Sheer terror and paralyzing panic makes it difficult for me to think.

I watch as he closes the last bit of distance between us and I notice that he’s not alone.

Paapa and Fuaad.

My blood runs cold.

I open my mouth to scream but there’s no one around, the many people I’d seen early having seemingly disappeared.

“Deeyanah, Deeyanah,” he sighs in mock pity. “How many times do I have to tell you that you can’t run from me?”

Fuaad smirks at Paapa’s question.

My heart is racing and my whole body shakes in fear.

They take a step forward in unison.

I take a step back.

“Leave me alone,” I say, my voice strong yet low.

“After all this time away from you, why would I want to do that?” asks Paapa.

They step forward again, and involuntarily I step back.

I don’t know how close I am to the edge but I dare not glance back and move my eyes off them.

But a moment later, I do, my brain registering movement behind them.

I see him heading towards us, and my heart leaps with hope.

Zee.

Keep talking, don’t look at him, don’t let them notice. 

But Zee is moving slowly, care-freely, seemingly unaware of the situation.

Paapa and Fuaad have taken four steps forward and I’ve taken four back.

And when I move to take the fifth, my foot meets air.

Floodgates of panic open as my leg hovers, unable to be put down.

“Zee!” I yell, no more worried if they notice him. “Hurry!!”

They turn around and glance at Zee indifferently before turning to me again.

“He is not on your side,” says Paapa.

It’s as if he has shot a heated arrow into my heart.

“Wh.. what.. do you.. me.. mean?” I gasp.

They step to the side, allowing Zee to stand between them.

His scent hits me; a fresh fusion of the sea and a rain-forest.

“Zee,” I say, my voice a trembling whisper.

His face is blank and his hands are clenched into tight fists at his side.

I try to catch his eye but he refuses to allow me. All I manage to see is a glimpse of raging emotions.

Something is wrong.

Drastically wrong.

“Zee,” I say again, my voice a little stronger this time. “Look at me.”

He lifts his gaze, his eyes meeting mine.

But now they’re blank. Dead.

Terror squeezes my heart, wraps a hand around my throat and pricks my eyes.

“What did you’ll do to him?!?!” I yell.

“Answer me!!” I scream, rage giving me a burst of courage.

No one does.

“Zee!” I plead, moving forward towards him.

“Don’t,” he warns, his voice empty.

“What happened?” I ask gently, touching his face, ignoring his warning.

He grabs my hand and takes a step forward, forcing me to step back.

“Zee! No! What are you doing?!

He ignores me, repeatedly stepping forward and forcing me a step back.

“Paapa!” I yell. “Stop him!”

But Paapa merely watches.

Hot tears stream down my face as I yell in agony at my merciless predicament.

My legs are dangling over the edge now, the only thing holding me up being Zee’s hand.

I reach to grab him with my other, but he moves away, preventing me from doing so.

“Zee! Look at me! Why are you doing this?! You’re not thinking! What did they do to you?! Don’t listen to them! You can’t do this! Please! Zee, please!”

He lets go and then I’m free-falling, my scream the only thing that follows me.

I land with a thud.

Groaning, I open my eyes slowly.

For a long moment I simply stare, and then my mind registers.

I’d been sleeping, dreaming.

There was no cliff, I had simply fallen off the bed!

One Hundred and Eighty

As narrated by Meez:

The night is no longer dark, the air no longer still.

Bright lights flash in every direction I look – red and blue, red and blue with bits of orange and yellow every now and then.

Paramedics and firefighters are working on getting Umair out of the car.

A squeal of metal grates in our ears as they tear through the door. The shattered glass spread across the highway crunches under their feet as they move around quickly yet carefully.

It occurs to me then, that I am not watching this scene alone. The fully-covered girl is sitting not too far from me, shivering uncontrollably.

We – the girl – and I had been thoroughly checked and our minor cuts and bruises were tended to. Both of us are relatively fine compared to Umair.

We watch as the paramedics lift Umair from the wreckage, quickly placing him onto a stretcher and securing his head and neck in a brace.

They calmly call out their assessments to each other as they work, deciding on a course of action.

“Here, drink some of this,” I say to the girl, passing her the bottle of whatever it was that the nurse had given me to drink.

Fully covered, it makes it difficult for me to gauge how old she is. Her voice and height suggests someone around 17 perhaps, which means she’s mostly likely Umair’s sister.

She reaches for it, then stops.

“Did you drink from there?” she asks.

Her voice is still wobbly and hoarse.

I frown.

“Urrr.. yeah,” I reply, confused.

She shakes her head at me, pulling the insulting silvery blanket the nurse had given her tighter around her body.

“Then I can’t,” she says, tugging a little at her niqaab. “I need to phone my parents.”

“My father said he will,” I say.

We watch silently as Umair is wheeled into the back of an ambulance.

“Come on, you two,” says Dad, rushing over to us.

“I’ve phoned your parents, we’ll meet them at the hospital,” he says to the girl.

I still don’t know her name.

We follow dad to his car and make our way to the hospital.

*****

“Concussion… MRI… CT Scan… Brain damage…”

I catch a few words before Umair is wheeled off into a room.

“Do you want me to call mummy to fetch you?” asks Dad. “I don’t want you driving like this.”

“Do you need to go?” I ask warily.

“I don’t think he needs surgery. I’ll only know for sure once they’ve run some scans though,” says Dad.

I run a hand through my hair tiredly.

I need to sleep but I can’t leave now.

Even if I left, I wouldn’t be able to sleep, despite being so exhausted.

Dad seems to sense my inner battle.

“Okay why don’t you wait for me in the waiting area, and I’ll come update you when I have more surety,” suggests Dad.

I nod wordlessly and turn on my heel.

Then I remember.

“Dad,” I say. “The girl.”

“She’s with her parents. They’re probably in the waiting area too.”

I nod again before walking away slowly.

Stifling a yawn, I head to the waiting area, then change my direction and make my way to the Prayer room.

When life pushes you to your knees, you are in the perfect position to pray.

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Third person narrative: 

Something had happened.

The adults didn’t know what it was, but something had happened.

According to Aunty Raeesah, the girls had went out in the morning with Ziyaad their usual selves, but had returned withdrawn and quiet.

Neither of them offered an explanation and Zee hadn’t come in.

Both woman, Aunty Raeesah and Aunty Salma, tried speaking to them, but their efforts were in vain.

Dee had buried herself under the duvet, claiming she was tired and wanted to sleep, while Amz merely shrugged and said that everything was fine.

Clearly nothing was.

And when Uncle Abdullah came later that night, he came alone.

Uncle Rashid went to call Amz.

“Have you decided? Do you need more time?” he asked her quietly.

She’d been crying.

Her eyes were red and puffy, her eyelashes still wet.

She shook her head no and walked past him to the dining room.

Uncle Rashid waited a moment for Dee but she didn’t make an appearance.

It was just four of them in the dining room – Uncle Abdullah, Uncle Rashid, Aunty Salma, and Amaani.

No small talk was made.

Amaani reached for the pen.

Her hair was down, unlike usual, covering most of her face.

She didn’t hesitate, but her hand shook as she scribbled her signature across the line.

Then, wordlessly, she got up and left the room.

Amaani would marry Fuaad in 2 years time, once he had completed his studies.

For the duration of time in between, they wouldn’t bother her, and she’d stay with Aunty Salma, who was now the trustee of her trust fund.

The deal was sealed.

Now, there was no going back.