A peek into the past- Amaani:
“We’ll be back after Easha (Muslims’ 5th prayer of the day), Insha Allah (God willingly),” says Umm (mother), tying her scarf in front of her huge dressing table mirror. “There’s chicken fillet in the fridge, you’ll can make sandwiches for supper.”
“Okay,” I reply, laying on her bed and watching her get ready.
Today was Abbi’s (my father) cousin’s wedding. Like most weddings these days, only Ummi (my mother) and Abbi (my father) were invited. The nikaah would be after Asr (Muslims’ 3rd prayer of the day), with the reception following thereafter.
Ummi looks beautiful, as always. The green of her dress bringing out the glow of her light brown eyes. She pins her scarf in place, applying minimal makeup -eyeliner and lipstick. She doesn’t need the makeup, that’s what Abbi always says, and I couldn’t agree more. Now too, entering the room, Abbi pauses, then says, “You don’t need the makeup.” Ummi smiles at his reflection in the mirror.
With Abbi dressed in a black and grey kurta (Islamic clothing of men) and well polished shoes, my parents are once again the couple everyone spoke about, Abbi being a man with a personality every girl dreams of, and Ummi, the woman with a personality every boy dreams of.
Getting up, I leave the room to check what Dee is up to. I enter the once guest room, now Deeyanah’s room, and find her sitting on the floor, leaning against her bed. Her thick hair frames her face, only her eyes moving along the lines of words written by J.K.Rowling. More often than not, this is what she does to escape reality. She reads. Not any book though; Harry Potter specifically.
“Darling, we’re going,” calls Ummi, coming up behind me.
Seeing Dee, a sad smile curves her lips. She puts her hand on my shoulder, squeezing comfortingly.
I sigh and Dee looks up, slightly startled.
“Don’t forget your phone,” I remind Ummi, quickly shrugging off her hand.
“Jee, got it,” she replies, patting her clutch bag.
“Hayaati (my life), let’s go,” Abbi calls from the lounge.
Mum pulls me into a hug then, holding onto me for longer than usual, holding me tighter than usual, whispering in my ear, “I love you.” I frown, surprised, but happy.
At that time, I took it for granted, thinking that on seeing Dee, she needed the comfort more than I did. Little did I know that would be the last time I would hear her utters those three syllables, that I wouldn’t feel the security and comfort, that comes from a mother’s embrace, again.
“I love you too,” I whisper nonchalantly, as she kisses my forehead.
“Ummiiii,” I groan, knowing that surely some of her lipstick was now on my face.
Oh, if only I had known that that was the last time I would feel her lips on my face and giggle on seeing the lipstick mark it left, then wipe it away with my own saliva.
Ummi greets Dee, not moving to give her a hug, knowing the way it makes her feel. Ummi smiles widely, her straight white teeth shining. But she only gets a hint of a smile back, Dee’s lips not even lifting.
Dee and I follow my parents, our parents, to the door, locking up as they leave.
As they leave forever..
“You’re up for a swim?” I ask, turning to Dee, really hoping she’ll say yes.
She shrugs, like she does at almost every question.
“If you want..” she replies.
I text Meez, Zee and Sumayya, asking them if they’d like to come over but none of them are available.
We spend the late afternoon out in the garden. After a long swim, we lay our towels on the grass, stretching out in the descending sun.
“How do people change so quickly?” Dee suddenly asks, breaking the comfortable silence.
I don’t answer, not knowing what to say. She’s obviously referring to the man who doesn’t deserve to be called her father.
I sigh, watching the clouds slowly float by.
Have you ever just sat and thought about Allah’s creation? How huge the mountains are, how numerous the trees are, how beautiful the sky is, how vast the world is.. How perfectly everything has been created. And all He has to do is say, ‘Be’ and it is.
“Verily, His command, when He intends a thing, is only that He says, ‘Be’, and it is.” [Qur’aan 36:82]
“Originator of the heavens and the Earth. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is.” [Qur’aan 2:117]
“I can see a crocodile with a lions head,” I say, pointing to the clouds.
Dee looks up towards the sky and silence settles between us again, each of us deep in thought.
After a while, we go inside, shower and change in pyjamas.
We make sandwiches with the chicken Ummi left, adding a bit of cheese, lettuce and mayonnaise.
It feels like a long time after supper, when my Uncle calls. But, later, when I check, it was only 47 minutes.
“Amaani, are u at home?” he asks above the blare of sirens, people shouting and engines running.
“Jee,” I reply, panic instantly tightening my throat. “What’s going on?”
“Sit down,” he says and I obey, holding my phone tighter. “There’s been a little accident and I need you to come here as soon as you can? Will someone be able to bring you?”
There’s been a little accident..
“Were my parents involved? Are they okay? Can I speak to Abbi?” Questions flow from my mouth, dread knotting my stomach.
Ignoring my questions, he tells me where they are, urging me to hurry up.
I put the phone down, my hands shaking. I call Uncle Ismaeel but it goes to voice mail. I try Zee next and he answers on the third ring.
With an unsteady voice, I tell him what’s going on, and a few minutes later, his grandfather pulls up outside.
Dee and I rush out, our hands together, praying desperately that Ummi and Abbi are okay.
On nearing the accident scene, the traffic is already piling up, so we pull off on the side and run.
My heart is thundering in my chest, my hand sweaty in Dee’s as the sirens get louder and the lights get brighter.
Zee is on the phone with my uncle, telling him that we’re here, asking him where he is.
And as we pass the last few cars, my heart momentarily stops.
There’s been a little accident..
A little accident?? A LITTLE ACCIDENT??!
Frozen in place at the sight before me, my breath catches.
I take it all in, my eyes wide with fear.
No, no, no!
Someone comes running up to us.
“Assalaamualaikum,” my uncle greets quickly.
But I don’t hear him. Everything is suddenly silent, no sirens, no shouting, no hooting, no engines..
Horrified, I watch as two paramedics carry a stretcher towards an ambulance. A stretcher on which lies a woman dressed in a green dress. A stretcher carrying the unmoving body of my mother.
And then the sirens are blaring again, now too loud. The paramedics are shouting again, now too loud. Everything is loud, too loud, but my scream is heard above it all. A few eyes turn to look at me as I push my uncle aside, darting forward. Dee stumbles, our hands still together. And I’ve almost reached her, I’ve almost reached Ummi, when a sight scarier than the first reaches my eyes.
There laying on the ground, is Abbi. His face is bloody, his kurta is torn, and his body..
His body is lifeless.
My uncle is in front of me, trying to block what I’ve already seen.
He’s talking, trying to explain to me what happened, apologizing for what isn’t his fault, reminding me to be patient, but once again, I can’t hear him.
My feet rooted to the ground, I watch a moment my eyes will never forget, a moment my mind will always replay, a moment my heart will always regret. I watch as the paramedics around Abbi get up. I watch as they talk and then shake their heads. I watch as they place Abbi on a stretcher. I watch as they cover his body with a black plastic. I watch as he is carried away.
Screaming the agony of my heart, I crumble to the ground, pulling Dee down with me, our hands still together..