One Hundred and Seventy Four

As narrated by Amz:

“We can do this the easy way, or the hard way,” says Fuaad, his eyes gleaming.

“I’m not doing it,” I say firmly. “Easy way, hard way, I’m not doing it.”

“So it’s going to be the hard way, then,” muses Fuaad, cocking his head to the side, waiting for me to reconsider.

He stands up and immediately I stand too, my senses on high alert.

I can see him coming towards me, his long legs allowing him to advance quickly.

My heart starts racing instantly activating my flight mode.

I back away, praying that I don’t fall over.

I can see him..

and then,

I can’t.

Involuntarily I scream, the sudden complete darkness pushing my senses to their limits.

Unable to see him – unable to see anything – I turn around and run.

The sound of my heart beating pounds against my eardrums, adrenaline coursing through my veins.

I scream again, the sound somewhat comforting as sheer terror overtakes me.

I shouldn’t have.

My scream tips off Fuaad, giving away my direction and then he’s right at my heels again.

I feel his fingertips on my back, reaching to grab onto my clothes.

No, no, no!

Slowing for a second, I jab my elbow backwards.

Wincing at the combined sound of it connecting with what feels like Fuaad’s jaw and his yell of pain, I begin sprinting again, my small victory spurring me on.

My lungs are screaming and a sharp pain from my stomach to hip almost cripples me, but the fear of Fuaad getting me makes me run even faster.

Then, suddenly, he’s in front of me.

I skid to a stop and spin on my heel simultaneously.

But he’s in front of me again.

I turn to my right and he’s there.

My hair stands and goosebumps decorate my skin as realization sinks in.

There’s no where for me to run.

He’s everywhere, surrounding me from every side.

No, no, no! Oh my god.

“We can do this the easy way, or the hard way.”

They’re all talking, each figure of Fuaad’s lips move.

Their voices sound thick and bland – almost automated.

What the hell?!

They step forward, each figure closing the distance between us.

My eyes widen, and I can feel my body shaking.

Then I hear my own voice, but I’m not speaking.

“I’m not doing it. Easy way, hard way, I’m not doing it.”

My hand flies to my mouth, but even as it does, I know that I didn’t speak.

“So it’s going to be the hard way, then,” they say, stepping forward in an eerie synchronization again.

“No!” I yell, and this time it’s me.

This time I speak.

But they don’t seem to hear.

“NO!!” I yell again. “I’ll do it! Leave me alone, I’ll sign the papers!”

The distance between the horrible robotic creatures and I recedes.

I spin around, trying to find a way out, but they’re advancing from all sides.

I scream again, the fear in my voice terrifying me even more.

Then, at the far end of the seemingly endless army of robots, a door opens.

Bright light shines through, illuminating the room.

“What are you’ll doing?!” an angry voice shouts.

In unison they all come to a dead stop.

“Who told you’ll to come here?! Get away from her!” the voice commands.

A bright red light blinks on each robot’s forehead, and just like that, they disappear.

An overwhelming sense of relief cascades and I crumble to the floor, hot tears streaming down my face.

The man at the door advances.

“Did they hurt you?” he asks gently.

Choking on my sobs, all I manage to do is shake my head.

“Good,” he says.

He bends down, picks me up.

“Who are you?” I ask, my blurry vision clearing as he wipes my tears.

Somehow, impossibly, I can’t see his face.

He has a face, but I can’t see his face.

It’s a hazy image of features that seem familiar but I can’t quite place them.

“I can save you,” he says.

I stare at him in disbelief.

“You can?” I ask, my voice trembling.

He nods before speaking again.

“On one condition…”

My breath catches as I wait for him to continue.

“You have to sign those papers,” he says quietly.

“That’s all you have to do, and I’ll take care of the rest. I’ll make sure no one hurts you and I’ll make sure you’re always happy.”

No one hurts you…

You’re always happy…

I nod my head hastily, my lips lifting in a smile.

“You’ll sign them, then?” he asks.

“Yes!” I say in a rush. “Yes, I will. Now tell me who your are?”

“I’m yours, my love,” he says. “And you, are mine.”

And suddenly the hazy image clears and I can see his face.

It’s Fuaad.

My eyes fly open and I groan.

It’s so hot, oh god.

I fling back my duvet and sit up slowly, taking a deep breath to calm down, and stop my body from shaking.

Just a nightmare, just a nightmare, it’s alright. 

But it’s not “just a nightmare”.

For three consecutive nights now, my dreams involved Fuaad.

Fuaad and his “contract”.

We will agree to Salma having full guardianship over Amaani and becoming the trustee of her trust fund, if Amaani agrees to marrying Fuaad once he qualifies. 

The day I had to give my answer was drawing closer much too quickly.

Sleep pulls at me, and I lay down again, trying to push the thought away.

With a restless mind, an aching heart, and troubled illusions, I once again fall into a unsettled slumber.


As narrated by Dee:

“2 years is a long time,” I say to Amz, pouring boiling water onto the coffee powder in my mug. “A lot can happen.”

Dropping a dash of milk into my mug next, I pull open the cutlery draw for a spoon.

Getting onto the kitchen countertop I cross my legs and focus my attention on Amz.

It’s Saturday – which means Amz has to give her answer in roughly 24 hours.

Adjusting my almost ever-present beanie I sip my coffee.

“I’m thinking more along the lines of booking myself a flight to Antarctica,” says Amz.

I don’t know if she’s being serious or not.

As of now, I wouldn’t put it past her.

“You want to become a doctor,” I remind her.

“Australia then,” she says, pouring milk over her cereal.

“I don’t like their accent,” I say, sipping my coffee again.

“Bottom of the bloody ocean then,” she mutters miserably.

“School won’t even be a problem there,” she adds a moment later.

I frown.

Has she reached the stage of insanity this fast?

“There’s thousands of schools,” Amz says neutrally, munching on her cornflakes.

“Amz…” I say worriedly, my frown deepening.

“Schools of fish, you egg!!” exclaims Amz.

“Huh. Oh. Ohhhhh!!” 

It’s quiet for a moment..

Then, we look up at each other, and burst out laughing.

“You’re crazy,” I say once my laughter subsides.

“Rightfully so,” she says, rolling her eyes.

I drain my mug of coffee and get up to put it in the sink.

“We can make him “conveniently” die,” I say, realizing that Amz isn’t in a mood to address the topic seriously.

“Which option shall we take?” asks Amz, joining me at the sink to put her bowl. “Drop him off a cliff or bullet to the brain.”

“Bullet to the brain won’t work because he doesn’t have one, remember?” I say casually.

“Oh yeah,” replies Amz, reaching for a mug from the dish-rack.

She makes herself a mug of coffee before speaking again.

“Organize him two dates at the same place, same time then? I’m sure nails and heels can do the job well enough.”

“Hmm… not a bad idea,” I muse. “I’m thinking more on the lines of putting a scorpion in his pants.”

Amz chokes on her coffee, her eyes widening.

I shoot her an innocent smile, shrugging.

Now we’re talking,” she says, grinning.

My phone vibrates before I get to say what I want to next.

I swipe my finger across the screen, lift it to my ear and greet.

“Oh for once you don’t sound irritated that it’s me,” Zee’s voice comes through.

I roll my eyes.

“What must I do if you phone at the wrong times?” I say. “Besides, that only ever happened once.”

“I don’t know when you’re expecting calls from your dishy boyfriend, you can’t blame me.”

“Oh god, seriously?! Are you still on about that?!” I ask, rolling my eyes again.

“Denial is a dangerous part of addiction,” quotes Zee.

“Did you phone me to discuss my non-existent boyfriend?” I ask.

“Actually, no,” he replies. “What you guys up to?”

“Just planning Fuaad’s death,” I say nonchalantly, glancing at Amz who’s busy on her phone.

“Any good ideas yet?” he asks.

“Yeah, a few,” I reply.

He laughs.

“I’m coming to pick you’ll up in 10 minutes,” he says. “Don’t make me wait.”

“Who said I’m available? I have a date with my dishy boyfriend,” I say.

“You don’t have a dishy boyfriend,” points out Zee and I can hear him smirking.

“Jeez, thanks for the reminder,” I mutter.

“See you in ten,” he says with a laugh.


As narrated by Zee:

“Where are we going?” asks Dee.

“I’m kidnapping you’ll, so I can’t say,” I reply, glancing at her in the rearview mirror.

She rolls her eyes, and Sumayya laughs.

It’s seems like forever since we’ve all been together out of school.

Matric has robbed us of our time, and each of us have been involved in some own personal situation.

Amz and Dee with their whole moving house, adoption plan.

Tybalt hadn’t been well and that kept Sumayya tied to him.

As for Meez, there’s no surety with him.

He’s okay, that much I know. But he is no more him. 

Something seems to have changed it his whole outlook on life, and it has created a glitch in our friendship.

But whatever it is, he seems happier and more at peace with himself than he’s ever been. And for that, I am grateful.

“What’s the plan of action, Amz?” I ask, interrupting her conversation with Dee and Sumayya.

“Seriously?” she asks, looking at me irritably. “You bothering to ask?”

“Obviously I’m not agreeing to their stupid suggestion,” she continues. “I can do whatever I want, I’m an adult. You think I’m going to listen to a bunch of brainless traitors?”

She can do whatever she wants.

But she won’t.

That’s not who Amz is.

A moment of silence passes.

“Fine,” she admits. “Maybe I won’t do what I want, but neither am I going to do what they say.”

“What are you going to do then?” asks Sumayya. “And what about you Dee?”

“I’m moving back in with my mother and Daanyaal,” Dee replies quietly.

“Oh, but like, with your uncle and them?” asks Sumayya.

“Urm.. no,” she replies. “There’s an option available for my uncle to buy a plot a little away from where they currently are. It has two separate houses.”

“But he’ll only go through with getting that place if I decide to stay with Aunty Salma too,” continues Amz. “Otherwise they’ll stay put, right?”

“Maybe not,” Dee replies with a shrug.

“What about, err.. what about Dayyanah?” Sumayya asks carefully.

I glance at Dee in the rearview mirror.

I catch her eyes narrow slightly, a small frown on a her face.

She looks out of the window, away from Sumayya.

“What do you mean what about her?” asks Dee.

I notice that Meez is no longer busy on his phone, but instead, now listening intently.

“Is she gonna stay with you’ll too?” asks Sumayya.

Dee shrugs.

“We don’t know where she is. Probably not.”

I glance at Meez discreetly and raise my eyebrows.

He knows, doesn’t he? 

Meez avoids my gaze.

I try to imagine what Dee is thinking right now, and I conclude that it must be what Meez told her when she first tried calling Dayyanah and failed.

I hadn’t been there, but she’d told me later what he said.

She’s not who you remember, Dee. She’s not Dayyanah with the same hair length and bracelet on her wrist as you. She’s no longer the sister you ran from. I know you want to make up for your mistakes and rebuild your bond with her, but you must understand, she’s changed. In every single way, Dee. You’re not going to get the Dayyanah you know back. It might sound like unfeeling advice, but mine is, stay away. Stay away from her rather, Dee. Because the more you get to know the new her, the more your heart will break.

“Amz… two years is a long time, you know,” I hear Sumayya say, breaking me out of my thoughts.

“I know. Dee said the same thing. But he’s lived 22 years perfectly fine. I doubt he’ll conveniently die now when he needs to,” Amz replies bitterly.

“Why don’t you just agree now, then when 2 years pass and if nothing’s changed or happened by then, you can deal with it then,” says Sumayya.

“It’s not as simple as that,” says Amz, and something in her tone indicates that she doesn’t want to discuss it further.

“Where we’re going?” asks Meez.

“Yeah, I asked too,” says Dee.

“For ice-cream,” I say.

“I have ice-cream in the freezer at home,” says Amz.

“Don’t be such an aunty, Amz,” I tease.

She rolls her eyes and Sumayya laughs.

“Besides,” I add a moment later. “We’re already here.”


As narrated by Amz:

“We’ll meet tomorrow, yeah?” asks Zee, stopping in our driveway.

“Yeah, but it won’t be for ice-cream unfortunately,” I reply.

“Don’t think about it too much,” says Zee.

I lean down on the open window frame of the passenger seat which Meez still occupies.

“Any ideas what I should think about then?” I ask sarcastically, rolling my eyes.

“If you guys need anything, you have my number,” says Zee.

“We’re good, don’t stress,” I say, standing up straight again.

I hear Dee unlocking the house gate, then pushing the door open.

You don’t stress,” says Zee.

“I still have no idea what I’m going to do tomorrow,” I admit, sighing heavily.

“Just make dua,” says Meez, speaking for the first time.

He hadn’t been looking at me the whole time, but now he glances up.

Our gazes lock and there’s something about the way he just spoke, about the way he’s looking at me now – something about him that has visibly changed.

It surprises me that I hadn’t noticed before.

And beside the fact that it’s the last thing I’d have expected to hear from Meez, he says it with such surety, and that surprises me too.

Like it’s the most obvious solution and I’d been silly to have not thought of it.

I blink, and Meez’s gaze focuses down again.

Snapping out of my momentarily spell of surprise, I open my mouth to speak.

But a bloodcurdling scream cuts me off.

Dee.

 

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One Hundred and Seventy Three

As narrated by Amz:

The hardest thing in life is knowing which bridge to cross and which to burn.

Sometimes you cross the wrong bridge.

You find yourself in the entirely wrong place at the completely wrong time. You weren’t ready to cross it, but you’re already on the other side and there’s no going back. And so you’re left to deal with scenarios you have no idea what to do about and problems that seemingly have no solutions.

Sometimes you burn the wrong bridge.

The fiery flames pull you into their dangerous dance and suddenly you’re dying because the smoke is too thick, the flames are too hot and and you realize that you never were suppose to burn this bridge. You’d need to feel its wooden planks under your feet and gaze out at the stream following under for longer but it’s already almost in ashes.

Sometimes you don’t know whether, by doing or saying something, you’re crossing or burning the wrong bridge.

I sigh heavily, standing up from my bed, wondering if the pain of losing my parents will ever go away.

It won’t.

It never does.

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*****

The entryway is already full when we enter.

There’s Uncle Rashid and Aunty Raeesah – Dee’s uncle and aunt, Aunty Salma – Dee’s mother – and Daanyaal – Dee’s brother.

Then there’s Uncle Ismaeel, Aunty Aadila – Meez’s parents, Rameez and Zee.

The boys had insisted that they had to be here, and Uncle Rashid eventually gave in. Technically, they are adults too, now.

And, of course, there’s Uncle Abdullah, Aunty Haleemah – my aunty and uncle – and unfortunately, Fuaad – my cousin.

We greet quietly and I notice Dee step aside with her mother.

I catch there conversation from where I’m standing.

“Since when has all this been going on?” asks Dee.

Aunty Salma sighs.

“How come you didn’t tell me anything, Maama?” she questions further.

“Okay, we can all head to the dining room, please,” Uncle Rashid’s voice commands loudly.

I notice Aunty Salma squeeze Dee’s shoulder before turning around and walking away.

Hurt and anger flashes in her eyes before she masks her expression again.

I move towards her, but Zee beats me.

He pulls her into a hug and even though I’m closer now, I don’t hear what he says to her.

She pulls back after a short moment and rolls her eyes. She’s trying to hide her smile.

Zee grins at her then catches me watching them.

I raise my eyebrows at him, closing the small gap between us.

But I don’t get a chance to ask Zee anything or check with Dee if she’s alright because Uncle Rashid pokes his head out of the dining room.

“You guys coming?” he asks.

We head to the dining room and sit down.

I briefly glance at everyone.

To my right is Aunty Aadila, Uncle Ismaeel, Uncle Abdullah and Aunty Haleemah. Next to her is Fuaad, then Uncle Rashid, Aunty Raeesah, Aunty Salma, Danyaal, Meez, Zee and finally next to me on the left is Dee.

Uncle Rashid starts talking but I’m wondering where Ramla (Aunty Raeesah’s daughter) is.

Someone sneezes, pulling me back to reality.

Okay, you need to focus now, Amz.

“There are multiple things that need to be discussed. The reason we’re here is to sort them out reasonably and fairly, to avoid any court cases.”

Well, this feels like a court case. Why does Uncle Abdullah have a whole damn file of papers? Who’s he, the lawyer? 

I almost laugh out aloud at the thought of that.

Then I realize I’ve once again missed what Uncle Rashid had said.

Concentrate, concentrate!

*****

“Our proposition is that Amaani and Deeyanah move in with myself and Raeesah. Salma is to get legal guardianship of Amaani. Their flat, which Abdullah and I split the cost of, will be given to Abdullah without charge on the basis that he agrees to Salma getting full guarianship of Amaani. That obviously means we will sort out all welfare and the expenses that come with it.”

“I’d like to clarify the reason we’re here again,” says Aunty Haleemah.

“The reason we’re here,” I say, speaking for the first time, my voice hard as steel.

The time for good manners and friendliness is over.

I’m no longer a naive 15-year-old shocked at the brutality of the world. I’ve seen it, perhaps not in its entire severity, but I’ve seen enough.

I’ve seen its unfairness and mercilessness, and now, 3 years later, I’m ready to face it.

I’m ready to cross bridges and burn the rest, and I’ll do whatever it takes.

“The reason we’re here, as you already know, is because I want someone who will behave as my guardian, to be my guardian, so that the person who has to look after me, will look after me.

Aunty Haleemah’s eyes narrow.

“What are you implying?” she asks through clenched teeth. “That we don’t look after you?!”

I hadn’t expected her to get angry this fast, for things to turn ugly in the first 10 minutes.

But then again, I should have expected it.

Leave aside the fact that I had not spoken in my most polite tone, this was Uncle Abdullah and Aunty Haleemah – the parents of Fuaad – I should be surprised it didn’t turn ugly in the first five minutes!

“That’s not what I’m implying,” I say, looking her straight in the eye. “That’s what I’m saying. I want someone to pay my school fees – and soon university fees – from their money, not use mines and then still have the audacity to claim that they look after me. I know about that. Honestly, how stupid do you’ll think I am??”

“You ungrateful -”

Uncle Rashid interrupts, silencing her string of would-be foul words.

Dee grabs my hand under the table, squeezing slightly.

When I don’t respond, she squeezes my hand again, harder this time.

I turn to look at her and she grabs my gaze.

“Breathe,” she mouths.

I breathe, only then realizing how worked up I am.

“Do you’ll have any other proposals?” asks Uncle Abdullah.

“Yes,” replies Uncle Rashid. “If you’ll disagree in giving Salma full guardianship over Amaani, due to doubt of Salma being unable to suffice as a single guardian, the other option is we split the guardianship between Salma and I, so that there will be a “man”, so to say.”

“You’re not her mahram,” says Uncle Abdullah.

“Neither is your son, Fuaad’s girlfriend his mahram,” quips Zee.

Savaaaage!

I take in a slightly startled Uncle Ismaeel, a furious Fuaad, and Aunty Raeesah trying to suppress a smirk. Dee does a fake coughing fit to muffle her laughter and I shoot Zee a grateful look.

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Zee the savage cabbage

“What you have to keep in mind too, is that Amaani is now legally an adult, which, technically means that she doesn’t need a guardian,” says Uncle Ismaeel, breaking the silence. “If she’s not happy with your propositions she has every right to go her own way and do her own thing.”

“The other option is,” continues Uncle Ismaeel. “If you’ll are not willing to hand her over to Salma – like how you’ll have guardianship over her now, but she is not staying with you’ll – she will stay with Rashid, Salma and Raeesah, whilst still being in your care.”

When I had spoken to Uncle Rashid previously, he had indicated to this most probably being the final decision.

It was a sort of compromise.

I could cross one bridge but wouldn’t be allowed to burn the other.

It wasn’t what I wanted, but I had decided that if it came to that, I’d agree.

The sad reality of it is that, if you don’t have your parents, it doesn’t matter how many people you have on your side.

Everyone can only say and do so much, but no one is going to put blood, sweat and tears into making sure you’re happy.

No one is going to give their life for you.

Only parents can do that.

And I don’t have mine.

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*****

“As I had thought it would be, our suggestion seems to be the best,” Uncle Abdullah says a while later.

I thought I was ready. 

“As Ismaeel said, Amaani is legally an adult and has free reign to decide what she wants, but she will only get access to her trust fund when she turns 20, as was decided by her parents. She’s currently 18,” continues Uncle Abdullah.

I thought I was ready to take whatever they’d give, to face the world without armour.

“Fuaad is currently 22. He has 2 more years to complete his studies.”

I thought I was ready to cross bridges and burn the rest.

“We will agree to Salma having full guardianship over Amaani and becoming the trustee of her trust fund, if Amaani agrees to marrying Fuaad once he qualifies.”

I wasn’t. 

One Hundred and Seventy Two

Hey. Hi. Hello. Salaam. Bonjour. Salut. Ciao. Ahoj. Bog. Marhaba. Ola. 😀

Hope you guys are all well. 

I know you’ll expecting a post following up the last post, but you know what they say, “Good things take time”! (Look at me putting more pressure on myself as if writers block isn’t doing it well enough. 😭🙈😂) So just wait patiently, it’s coming soon IA! 

Much Love,

Troubled Illusioner. ❤


As narrated by Meez:

“First, to stay safe from sins. Moulana Yunus Patel (RahmatuAllah Alayh) used to say, that if you want to be a Wali (friend of Allah), all you have to do is stay away from sins. Don’t worry about extra Ibaadat.

Do your Fardh (compulsory acts), yes, of course, but there’s no need for long, long rakaats of Nafl Salaah (optional prayer) and big amounts of Sadaqah (charity). As long as you are doing what is Fardh – your Salaah, Zakaat, Fasting, etc – and you are staying away from sins, you can become a Wali.

The reason for this is, to do extra Ibaadat is easy, but to stay away from sins is very difficult.

So first, is to, stay safe from sins. Right. Second, is to abstain from the things that lead to sin. What are the things that lead to sin? That cellphone which you’ll “can’t live without”, hmm. Wrong company. Going to wrong places. Et cetera, et cetera.

Then, number 3. Third thing? To rejuvenate the Rooh (soul). Why?

So that we will have the spiritual strength to carry out A’maal-e-Sawliha (good actions). And how are we going to rejuvenate the rooh?

With Zikrullah (remembrance of Allah), Laailaha Illallah. This is a very, very important thing, extremely crucial. If we constantly remember Allah, it will create taqwa – Allah consciousness – in a person. And through this taqwa, all else will be brought alive in our lives – our Salaah, Tilaawat, etc – and one will be saved from sins.

Why? Because you are constantly aware, that my Allah is watching me, how can I do such a thing?

So, first is to? Stay safe from sins. Second, to abstain from the things that will lead one to sin. Third, to rejuvenate the Rooh through Zikrullah. And fourth?

Fourth is to keep good company. Ta’alluq (connection) with AhlulAllah (people of Allah), the WaliAllah (friends of Allah).

This is such a thing, that if done, on this alone everything will change. Sitting in the company of the pious has so many, so many benefits. That WaliAllah’s gaze has to just fall on you once and your whole life can change.

So many incidents there are, a person in total ghaflat (negligence) – no Salaah, no Qur’aan Shareef, nothing – goes and sits in the company of a WaliAllah, and he becomes the total opposite. Time is short, perhaps on my next visit I will tell you’ll a waaqiah (story).

For now, let us bring these four things into our lives and see what a big difference it will make, Insha Allah.

Staying safe from sins, abstaining from the things that will lead to sins, keeping the Rooh alive with the remembrance of Allah, and? Spending time with the pious.

Insha Allah. Allah grant us taufeeq.”

(Extracted from a bayaan (lecture) by Ml Ilyas Patel (Daamat Barakatuhu) – 2017)

I uncross my legs and stand up, as does majority of the rest of the crowd.

Stifling a yawn, I head for the door of the masjid, Zee right behind me.

We make our way outside where we wait for dad by the car.

Zee’s on his phone, and I watch the people leave the masjid one by one.

As we waiting, a young guy dressed in sweatpants and a T-shirt walks pass.

His car keys slip from his hand and falls to the ground.

Involuntarily, I bend to pick it up for him at the same time he does.

“Whoops, sorry,” I say as his head bumps my shoulder.

“No stress,” he says with an easy grin.

I pass him his keys.

“Thanks,” he says, taking it. “Good lecture there, huh?”

“Yeah,” I reply.

“Just what I needed,” I add a moment later, feeling totally comfortable with this complete stranger.

“Wallah, same bruh,” he says, a faraway look in his eyes.

It’s silent for a moment before he catches my gaze again.

“Guess I’ll check you around,” he says, though it sounds more like a question. “I’m Umair, by the way.”

“Yeah, Insha Allah” I reply, with a grin. “Rameez.”

He grins back, then walks off.

“You know that guy?” asks Zee, glancing up from his screen.

He’s texting Dee, I notice.

I don’t. I’ve never seen him before, let alone met him.

He’s a complete stranger, yet I answer Zee’s question in the affirmative, because something inside me knows him, even though I don’t really know him. I realize how crazy it sounds as I think about it. I know him but I don’t really know him. I’ve seen him, met him somewhere, but I can’t seem to pinpoint when or where.

“Didn’t seem like,” says Zee, pocketing his phone. “You’ll introduced yourselves.”

He catches my eye.

“Well now I know him,” I say, not offering an explanation.

Dad unlocks the car as he advances and we jump in.

“How’d you’ll enjoy the talk, boys?” asks dad, as he starts the engine.

“‘Twas good,” I say.

“Yeah,” echoes Zee.

I glance at him over my shoulder.

He’s on his phone again and I realize that Zee was never this addicted to his phone until recently.

“Listening is the easy part,” says dad. “Now we have to practice.”

But the ability to practice only comes from Allah.

And the ability to practice only goes to some of His servants.

This time, from the two of them, it would be given to Meez.

Because Meez wanted it. He was praying for it.

He was striving for it – harder than he’d done in a long while.

The toil is treacherous, but the fruits are sweet.

*****

I groan as we pull into the garage, my eyes spotting the figure sitting on the porch.

“Who let her in?” I grumble under my breath.

Dad considers me with a hint of amusement.

“You dug your own grave, now it’s time to face the music,” says dad.

He gets off the car and I follow suit.

Sighing I head out to the front.

She speaks first, standing up as I walk over.

“Rameez.”

“Nabeelah,” I say, making sure to keep a good distance between us.

“I.. Can we talk?” she asks uncertainly.

“There’s something to talk about?” I answer with a question of my own.

She pauses.

Don’t look at her.

“I don’t know if you have anything to say,” she replies, her voice still uncertain. “But, I do.”

It’s quiet for a long moment.

“Yeah?” I say, indicating for her to go on.

“I.. Meez.. I miss you.”

Don’t look at her, don’t look at her.

“Can’t we give.. us.. another chance?”

I’m only momentarily surprised by her question.

Then my heart makes a silent prayer for strength, to say the right thing.

“I never let you go,” I say, briefly glancing up before focusing on the porcelain tiles again.

I can hear the disbelief in her silence.

“You left. And now I’m not interested,” I say.

But I am.

Don’t look at her.

“Rameez,” she gasps.

I could hear it in her silence and now I can hear it in her voice too.

Disbelief, pain, anger.

“Are you serious?!” she asks, all uncertainty gone from her tone. “You hit me! And now you’re saying I left like you didn’t give me a reason to.”

I’ve triggered her anger, popped the balloon, opened the soda water bottle after shaking it.

Shit’s gonna hit the fan.

Easy does it, Meez.

“I didn’t hit you. It was a mistake. I got angry – how you are getting now,” I say calmly.

Don’t look at her.

“Nobody hits someone they love by mistake,” she says.

Her words have the intended effect.

A stab of pain and guilt hits me as the sharpness in her tone echoes inside my head.

“You haven’t told me why you’re here,” I say, my tone indifferent, my gaze still down.

She doesn’t answer immediately.

Then, a deep breath later, she speaks again.

“I’m here for you. I want you back. Us back,” she says, her voice calm again.

“And then what? Remind me everyday of one mistake I made when I wasn’t myself?” I ask, my tone neutral.

Don’t look at her.

I look up, meet her gaze, wait for an answer.

She doesn’t have one.

“Why are you here, Nabeelah?” I ask irritation seeping in.

Her face is reminding of everything I don’t want to remember right now.

I shouldn’t have looked up –

because now I can’t look down.

“Is this what it all meant to you?” she asks, her voice just above a whisper. “Nothing?”

Her midnight black orbs are a magnet.

“What happened to ’till eagles can’t fly’?” she asks, referring to the way I’d tell her when I’d love her till.

Love is blind. Eagles can’t fly.

Eagles don’t fly. They soar.

“Don’t do this, Nabeelah,” I say, clenching my jaw, willingly myself to keep it together. “Go home.”

“Please, Rameez,” she begs quietly. “One more try.”

Don’t break, don’t break. You don’t love her. She doesn’t sound heartbroken. It’s fine if you say no. Don’t break.

She takes a step forward, snapping me out of my thoughts.

“Nabeelah,” I warn, my body tensing.

She takes another step forward.

“The eagles are still flying,” she says. “I love you, Rameez. Please.”

“No,” I say. “No. Stop it!”

My heart is pounding, my breath coming quick and short.

Our gazes are still locked.

You dug your own grave, now it’s time to face the music.

“No. I’m.. I’m not doing this. I loved you.. I love you.. but.. we can’t. It’s wrong and life is too short.”

She looks at me searchingly.

“What gives, Meez?”

I shake my head.

“Go, Nabeelah,” I say, finally managing to look away.

Go find yourself someone who’ll take away the pain I’ve caused.

“Rameez,” she says, her voice breaking.

I turn around and walk away.

The toil is treacherous,

oh how treacherous…

letting go.png

One Hundred and Seventy One

As narrated by Dee:

For a long moment I simply stare at Amz in disbelief.

Then, all the emotions crash down at once.

“What?! But you said.. How?? Oh my god! You.. What if.. You said you wouldn’t!” I say in a rush, my words tumbling over each other.

“Oh my god, I can’t believe you’re doing this!” I continue, not giving her a chance to speak.

She promised. 

Zee knew. He knew and he still made a joke about it!

Anger and betrayal settles in.

“Dee, listen,” starts Amz, but I cut her off.

“No! I don’t want to listen! I can’t believe you broke your promise!” I say, my voice rising.

“I didn’t promise I wouldn’t try this again,” she says softly, calmly.

“You did! And even if you didn’t, I thought we agreed on this topic and closed the discussion long ago!”

Zee knew. He knew and he still made a joke about it.

“Dee,” Amz says again, in that same gentle tone.

I turn around and walk out.

Anger coursing through my veins I make my way to my room and lock the door behind me.

Sitting down on my bed, I pull out my phone.

My hands are trembling, oh god.

I take a deep breath, trying to calm down, but it doesn’t help.

Knowing that I shouldn’t call him now, in this state, I hesitate a moment.

Then, I hit the call button.


As narrated by Zee:

Sliding my thumb across the screen of my ringing phone, I lift it to my ear.

“Hey you,” I greet.

“That was a horrible thing to do, Ziyaad,” Dee’s voice comes through.

Immediately I know that something is wrong.

Pausing my game, I sit up straight.

“What was?” I ask confused. “Are you alright? What happened?”

“Don’t play innocent. I can’t believe you did that. You knew and you still had the audacity to make a joke about it.”

Her voice is harsh, hurt.

She’s angry and sad.

“Dee,” I say, my forehead creasing. “What’s going on?”

“You know exactly what I’m talking about!” she replies, her voice rising.

“No I don’t,” I say instantly.

At the back of my mind I’m replaying this afternoon’s events.

What had I made a joke about??

My frown deepens.

“Dee, I honestly have no idea what you’re talking about,” I say truthfully.

“Amaani!” she replies angrily. “I’m talking about Amaani, dammit!”

“What about her?” I ask, my heartbeat picking up.

“She’s talking about adoption again. You knew. And you thought it was funny to make a joke about it,” she explains, her tone stabbing at my heart.

“What?!” I gasp.

But Dee has cut the call.

It takes a couple of seconds for what Dee has said to completely settle in, as I stare at my phone in my hand.

Disbelief stabbing at me like a thousand tiny pins, I call Dee back.

She doesn’t pick up.

She’s talking about adoption again. You knew. And you thought it was funny to make a joke about it.

The truth is, I didn’t know. I had no idea until Dee told me.

But she doesn’t know that.

Oh god, she probably hates me!

Standing up hastily, I grab the car keys from the hook, and head to the garage.

Then, just as I’m about to shut the door, I jump off, run back to the kitchen and open the fridge.

Reaching for the bowl of chocolate mousse, I take it out carefully before going to the car again.

Placing the bowl on the passenger seat and clipping the seat belt into place across it, I start the car and drive off, occasionally glancing at the mousse to make sure it’s in one piece.

Keep it together, mousse. We’ll be needing you!

*****

Amz lets me in, a tired look on her face.

“Is it true?” I ask, not being able to wait a moment longer.

“If you and Dee would give me a damn chance to explain before you’ll lose your heads, it would make things easier!” she mutters, not answering my question.

She glances at the bowl in my hand before locking the gate.

“That’s not going to help,” says Amz. “She’s pretty upset. For no reason!”

“Chocolate mousse always helps when it comes to Dee,” I say, thinking back to the afternoon with a small smile. “And I reckon she has a pretty good reason.”

“She jumped to a conclusion. And now you’re doing the same thing,” says Amz, sounding slightly irritated.

“Well explain to me what is happening, then!” I say. “I am so confused currently!”

“We first have to discuss with Dee,” says Amz.

I follow her to the kitchen.

“Who’s we? What has to be discussed?” I ask, placing the mousse on the table.

“I can’t say yet!!” Amz says, exasperated.

“Why not?!” I ask, my tone matching hers.

Amz takes out a spoon from the drawer and removes the lid covering the mousse.

“You’ll find out soon,” replies Amz.

Jumping onto the counter, she takes a bites.

“Mmmm this is amazing,” she says, spooning another bite of mousse into her mouth.

“Amz!” I say, reaching to take the bowl from her. “Can you explain to me what’s going on, for goodness sake!”

“Okay, go get Dee,” she says, moving the bowl out of my reach. “I’m not explaining twice.”


As narrated by Amz:

“Long story short,” I begin, in between trying to get chocolate mousse from the bowl that is now cradled in Dee’s lap.

“No, we want the short story long!” says Zee.

“Don’t interrupt!” I glare at him.

“Don’t make me have to interrupt!” he replies, glaring back at me.

“Long story short,” I start again.

“I’m trying to get my Uncle to agree to letting me have your mum as my official guardian,” I say, looking at Dee.

There’s a long moment of silence.

Then,

“What?” both Zee and Dee say in confusion.

“Stopping hogging the dessert, you glutton,” I say to Dee, using the opportunity to grab the bowl from her.

She doesn’t even seem to realize.

A frown is on a her face and she’s looking at me like I’ve asked her how many corners Earth has.

Zee’s expression mirrors hers.

I take a bite of mousse before repeating myself.

“I’m trying to get my Uncle to agree to letting me have your mum as my official guardian,” I repeat.

“But,” I carry on, when neither of them saying anything. “It’s obviously not really working.”

Dee seems to finally notice that I’ve got the dessert by me.

“Zee brought that for me,” she says, taking it into her lap again.

She takes a a bite of mousse, before looking at me again.

“What were you saying?” she asks.

Oh my Goooooddd!!!

I roll my eyes.

“I told you the short story,” I say. “You’ll hear the long story on Saturday.”

“We’re having one big family reunion,” I say sarcastically. “And I’m so looking forward to it.”

One Hundred and Seventy

Hey. Hi. Hello. Salaam. Bonjour. Salut. Ciao. Ahoj. Bog. Marhaba. Ola. 😀

Hope you guys are well. 🌸

Apologies for the delayed post. Been a hectic few days and that’s why I’ve decided to trash the idea of a schedule for a little while. Posts will go up whenever I can manage. There will still be weekly posts, Insha Allah, just not on a specific day. 

Much Love,

Troubled Illusioner. ❤


As narrated by Dee:

“So what you’re saying is, I must just pitch up at the restaurant where she works?” I ask Zee, a small frown on my forehead.

We’re outside, under the big tree in Zee’s backyard.

Somehow we always end up sitting here when we need to talk.

The yard is huge, and the tree is far from the house, its branches overlooking the pool, making it a quiet, peaceful spot.

We’d often climb the branches as kids – Amz, Meez, Zee and I – seek at its trunk when playing hide and seek, and eat our lunch under its shade.

It had silently watched over us as we gradually grew from kids to teenagers and soon, adults.

It knew our hushed secrets, silent tears, and inside jokes.

This tree had our backs.

Sometimes quite literally, I thought, as I looked at Zee who sat leaning against its trunk.

“Yeah,” he replies, pushing his long, messy hair away from his forehead.

“Look, right, you have the fact that you’ll look identical to your advantage. If you make your way in through the back door, no one will look at you twice. Walk up to Dayyanah, say hi and start washing the dishes alongside her,” he says, as if it’s as easy as pie.

I look at him incredulously.

“You do know it’s not going to be as easy as you make it sound, right?” I ask, rolling my eyes.

“There’s no harm in giving it a shot. Who knows, it might even be easier,” he says, shrugging.

“What if she reacts really badly and we make a big scene like last time?” I ask, standing up and stretching.

Zee winces slightly, remembering the last time we’d been at that restaurant, unknowing to the fact that Dayy worked there.

“Just the two of us and Amz will go,” he says, his eyes following me as I pace in front of him. “We’ll outline the plan properly before we leave.”

I stop, looking out at the sparkling blue pool, my back to Zee.

“What do you say?” he asks after a long moment of me being silent.

“I… I don’t know, Zee,” I say, turning around to face him. “What if it all goes wrong?”

“You stress too much,” he says, shaking his head.

I sigh, sitting back down on the grass.

“Isn’t there any other way?” I ask, frustration creeping in.

Zee’s phone rings then, stopping him from saying what he was about to.

“Mr Varachia,” he answers. “How you doing, bro?”

…..

“Naah, Dee’s around. Come over.”

…..

“What time?”

…..

“Yeah, okay, you can pick me up.”

…..

“Alright, check you later. Salaams.”

Disconnecting the call, Zee opens his WhatsApp.

“Amz is checking up on you,” he says with a grin, glancing up at me before typing.

“What she says?” I ask, pulling out my own phone from my pocket.

“Dee’s by you?” he reads her message aloud.

“She never messaged me,” I say, rolling my eyes. “She’s got that stupid mysterious aura again. Going out for “work” and refusing to tell me what’s up. If she has a damn boyfriend, she just has to tell me.”

Zee is watching me with a grin.

“It’s not funny!” I huff, realizing.

“You already sound jealous and you don’t even know if it’s a boyfriend yet,” he says with a laugh.

“I’m not jealous! It’s just irritating!” I say, rolling my eyes.

“Maybe she’s organizing another adoption plan.”

I freeze, my irritation dropping and immediately being replaced by shock.

Then Zee’s laugh cuts through my panic, shattering it as I realize that he’s just messing with me.

“Damn you, Zee! It’s not funny!” I say, shoving him in the chest before getting up.

He grabs my wrist, preventing me from walking away.

“You’re hilarious, oh my god,” he says with a grin, shaking his head.

I turn my back to him, trying to yank my hand out of his hold.

“You need to relax, Dee,” he says, tightening his grip on my wrist, making it impossible for me to get away.

“You know she scratched that idea and tossed it in the rubbish dump,” he says, and I can still hear a hint of amusement in his voice.

“You’re an idiot,” I say, still not looking at him.

He laughs.

“Come here,” he says, tugging at my hand. “Stop being grumpy.”

“No,” I say. “Let me go.”

To my surprise he does.

“Just remembered,” he says, walking past me. “I have just the right thing to take away your moodiness.”

He disappears into the house, and I lay down on the grass.

Trying to rid my mind of what Amz might be planning, I wonder what Zee’s up to.

He appears a moment later, a bowl in one hand, two spoons in the other.

“Chocolate mousse!” he says with a grin, handing it to me with a spoon.

“Oh my god!” I gasp, reaching for the bowl, all irritation gone.

Digging in immediately, I moan.

“This is amazing, oh my god. I love you,” I say, the velvety, chocolate infused mousse making my taste buds go wild with happiness.

“You’re welcome. I love you too,” Zee says with a laugh.

Having momentarily forgotten about him, I look up.

“I was talking to the chocolate mousse, not you,” I say, deadpanned.

Then I see his spoon heading for the bowl.

“No!” I exclaim, holding my hand high up. “Don’t. you. dare!”

“Excuse me!” he says, looking at me in amusement.

“That’s my dessert which I am sharing with you,” he says, reaching for the bowl again.

“No, no, no!” I say, getting to my feet hurriedly. “It’s mine. And I don’t share chocolate mousse.”

A grin on his face, he watches me eat my way through the whole bowl of chocolate mousse.

“I put two servings in there,” he says. “You’ll get fat if you eat all yourself.”

I consider him for a moment before going back to my dessert.

He laughs.

“Do you not care?!”

“Does it look like I care?” I reply, rolling my eyes, as I savour the last few bites.

He laughs again, and all moodiness from earlier forgotten, I grin.

“Only because I’m such a lovely considerate person,” I say, passing him the bowl. “You can have the last bite.”

“No, it’s alright, you have it. I don’t really want,” he says, rejecting the bowl.

I give him a moment to change his mind, but when he doesn’t, I shrug, withdrawing my hand.

“Your loss,” I say, spooning the last bite into my mouth and closing my eyes in satisfaction.

“What’d Meez say?” I ask, after a moment of silence.

“Stop making nazr on my dessert,” I add a moment later, noticing Zee’s gaze fixated on me. “I offered you.”

He smirks before answering my question.

“There’s some program he’s going for. So he asked if I want to join.”

“Oh. What program?” I ask, placing the bowl on the grass beside me.

Zee shrugs.

“He didn’t say.”

I nod.

“How’s he doing? I haven’t seen him out of school in a while, and we’re always busy in school.”

“Surprisingly good,” replies Zee, placing his hands on the grass behind him and leaning on them. “Something’s changed in him since everything happened but it’s a good change.”

“Yeah?” I say. “That’s good.”

“Let’s hope it sticks. You know Meez and his relationship with change lasts as long as my sour gums do.”

I smile a small smile at the comparison, thinking about Meez.

“I can’t imagine how he’s made it this far in one piece to be honest,” I say, deep in thought. “He’s so strong.”

“So are you,” Zee says quietly, his tone serious. “I can’t imagine how you’ve made it this far in one piece, as well.”

I’m silent, not saying anything.

Sometimes I wonder too, how it’s possible to be fed to the lions and still come out alive.

Thing is, while you may come out alive, you don’t come out unscathed.

You come out bruised and battered, and the scars remain.

And for the rare, lucky person, the wounds may heal, the scars may even fade, but the memories don’t.

They live on inside you, feeding at your happiness, your hopes, your dreams and ambitions.

The memories, they don’t ever fade.

*****

Hearing a key turn in the lock, I drain my mug of coffee and pocket my phone.

I place my mug in the sink before making my way to the front to meet Amz.

“Assalaamu Alaykum,” she greets, smiling tiredly.

“Wa Alaykum Salaam,” I reply, smiling back. “How was your day.”

“Not too great,” she replies with a sigh.

I follow her into the dining room where she places her bag on the table.

I eye it, trying to be discreet.

But Amz notices.

“I’m not even going to hide it this time,” she says.

My heart drops to my toes.

“What do you mean?” I ask, trying to act nonchalant.

“I’m working on an adoption plan again…”

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