As narrated by Amaani:
The day drags by and when the bell signalling dismissal eventually rings, a sigh of happiness escapes my lips. Gathering my things, I toss my bag onto my back and walk to the gates.
Zee joins me shortly thereafter, followed by Sumayya and Meez.
“Holding up?” he asks softly, side hugging me.
“Yeah,” I reply.
We wait in silence for Aunty Aadila, and when her white GTI pulls up, a feeling of relief washes through me. Dropping our bags in the boot, we pile in.
Zee insisted on coming home with me after school. He isn’t saying so, but I know that he is really worried about Dee.
Kissing his mum on the cheek, Meez tells her that Zee will be getting off with me.
She catches my eye in the review mirror and I give her a smile.
On arriving home, I push open the door and immediately head upstairs to Dee’s room.
Her bed is unmade but at least she’s not still in it.
Putting my bag aside, I quickly hang up my blazer and splash cold water on my face.
Just as I’m leaving my room, I hear her voice.
“DON’T TOUCH ME!”
Racing down the stairs, I scream, “Zee, what are you doing?!”
Entering the kitchen, I see Dee on the counter, her eyes wide with fright.
Getting his footing, having seemingly stumbled, Zee says, “Hey, calm down, it’s just me.”
She shifts her gaze, noticing me, and then looks back at Zee.
Recognition fills her eyes.
“Oh my God,” she whispers. “I thought.. I thought, it was him.”
Her voice breaks and Zee looks at me uncertainly.
“Oh my God,” she whispers again, leaning against the wall and covering her face with her hands.
What just happened?
“Hey it’s okay,” I say, pulling her into a hug.
She collapses into my arms and I feel her racing heartbeat against my chest.
Whoa, why is she so afraid?
“Dee, what happened?” I ask.
“I..I don’t kn..know,” she says barely audibly.
When her heartbeat eventually returns to normal, I step back and she lifts her head.
She’s a mess. Dark circles surround her red, puffy eyes. Her hair is tangled and unbrushed. Her lips are cracked and dry, her body begging to be hydrated. I sigh inaudibly.
Looking at Zee, she moves to jump off the counter but I stop her.
“What time did you get out off bed?” I ask.
“I don’t know,” she replies. “Like, half an hour ago?”
“And what have you eaten from then?” I ask.
“Nothing,” she replies, looking at her half full mug next to her.
“Zee, get a glass of water please,” I say.
I hear the tap open and then close. Zee places a glass of water next to Dee before exiting the kitchen, leaving Dee and I alone.
She downs the water slowly, long pauses between each tiny sip.
When she eventually finishes, she places the glass on the counter and looks at me wearily.
I can tell from her eyes that her body is beyond exhausted.
“You didn’t sleep last night, did you?” I ask, taking the glass and mug to the sink.
“Not really..” she replies, distractedly.
“Why don’t you run a bath and then try and catch some sleep?” I suggest.
She sighs, leaning against the wall again.
I watch silently as she slips deep into thought once again, into another world, far away.
Life is so harsh, so horrible.
She’s 14 for crying out loud! Why and how can life be so cruel to a 14 year old??
But then the thought that Allah tests those whom he loves, crosses my mind, comforting me.
She jumps, vividly startled. Then, seeing me, she shakes her head.
“Sorry, what?” she asks.
That’s what must have happened earlier. Zee simply startled her.
“Why don’t you run a bath and then try and catch some sleep?” I suggest again.
“Yeah..” she says, inattentively.
Getting off the counter top, she fills another glass of water. This time she drinks it quickly.
Then, mumbling a word of thanks, she walks out of the kitchen.
Filling two glasses of juice, I place them on a tray and go to the lounge where I assume Zee is.
Sure enough, he’s chilling on the sofa, staring intently at the ceiling.
“Wow, never thought you’d be the kinda guy who finds ceilings interesting,” I tease, offering him a glass of juice.
“Life is full of surprises, what can I say?” he replies.
“It’s quite a nice shade of white, though,” he adds, smirking.
“White only comes in one shade,” I laugh.
I take off my shoes and flop down on the sofa.
“So, you’re going to tell me what happened between you and Dee in the kitchen just now?” I ask, looking at him seriously.
“I don’t even know what happened myself,” he says. “I just went to get a drink of water and she was there, sitting on the counter with her mug of coffee in her hand, deep in thought. So I greeted her, but I don’t think she heard, because then I went and stood like, right next to her, to give her a hug, and she just flipped. Flung her coffee at me and, tired as she is, pushed me so forcefully that I nearly fell over!”
“Yeah, well, she used to train for like, proper fighting, remember?” I butt in.
“Yeah, I guess I just startled her. She was like… hallucinating? And I didn’t expect her reaction either,” he says.
“I swear it wasn’t what it seemed like,” he adds. “You know I’d never hurt her.”
“I know, Zee, I know. We’ve come so far together, the three of us especially..” I trail off.
“I trust you, Zee,” I say, looking him straight in the eye. “And I hope I don’t ever have to regret it.”
“You won’t,” he says, softly. “I promise.”