As narrated by Meez:
“Rashid said Salma is by him.”
I stop in my tracks; just as I am about to enter the kitchen, at the sound of my father’s words.
“Apparently Riaz hasn’t been home for almost a week now, and after they murdered the lady few doors from Salma’s place, Rashid says that it’s not safe for her to live alone.”
“Not like she is safe when Riaz is with her,” mum says sadly.
A short moment of silence passes.
“The situation is getting worse and worse. Salma is finished, Aadi. That day when I saw her… No one deserves that kind of a life, no one.”
“I still don’t understand why Rashid isn’t doing something though; something.. more than just,” starts mum.
He is, mummy, he’s doing the most he can..
“His family, Aadi,” Dad says, cutting her off. “His family’s lives will be at stake.”
“But I mean surely there’s something that can be done. It can’t go on like this forever,” argues mum. “Look at the kids, Ismaeel. That’s not how any child should have to live!”
“Yet that is how they are living,” Dad replies with a sigh.
“The only solution to end this completely is to take it to court. But Salma refuses, she’s adamant. I think because of what happened last time, she is terrified….”
When the whole problem started, Uncle Rashid and Aunty Salma’s father, who was alive at that time, took the case to court. It ended up disastrous. Aunty Salma, Dayyanah and Danyaal denied the abuse happening in their home. Dad was there, as a witness. He said it was pretty clear that Riaz threatened Aunty Salma as to what she should say in court, and if she doesn’t, the circumstances she will face.
When Dee came back to school, after missing a whole week, she confirmed Dad’s assumption. She was a mess, crying in Amz’s shoulder, as we sat together in a far corner of the playground, listening to Dee relive the trauma of the nights after the court case.
Although it messes up my mind seeing her like that, I frequently find myself wishing that she’d deal with things in that way more often… because after letting it out, speaking about it to us, she always told us how good it made her feel. But then things started getting worse, and so did her way of handling them. Now she keeps it to herself.. she relives her memories in her nightmares.. she kills herself on the inside, never making it look that way on the outside. And how the hell she does it baffles my mind.
I’m snapped out of my thoughts as dad speaks again.
“If we don’t have her testimony, it’s no use.”
“What about the kids?” asks mum. “Does their testimony count?”
“Yes, it does. But.. no one knows about Dayyanah’s whereabouts, Deeyanah is just as terrified as Salma, and Daanyaal, well….” Dad trails off, leaving the reality of situation hanging heavily in the air.
Maybe I should tell them that I saw Dayyanah…
‘And what?’ mocks a voice in my head. ‘Get your life taken away too, huh? Your phone, laptop and luxuries weren’t enough?!’
I sigh heavily… then quickly cover my mouth with my hand, realizing that they don’t know I’m here.
“Rameez?” calls mum.
I walk into the kitchen, greet, and make myself comfortable at the kitchen nook where my parents are already seated, eating breakfast.
“Slept well?” asks mum, ruffling my hair.
Ducking out of reach, I peel open a banana, nodding in response.
I don’t care if they find out I overheard their entire conversation… I need to voice my fears.
So I do.
“Dad,” I start, hesitantly. “If Dee’s father.. hasn’t been home.. for however long..”
“1 week. Yes?” says dad, watching me.
“He could be.. He could be anywhere.. including.. on his way to.. to find Dee and Danyaal.” I say slowly, pausing often, trying to say the correct thing.
“Uncle Rashid is worried about the same thing!” says dad, not commenting on me having eavesdropped.
“Is Deeyanah okay?” asks mum. “Has she said anything?”
“Well… urm no,” I reply with trepidation.
A moment of silence passes.
“Rameez?” prods Dad.
They know I’m not telling them something.
“Children should not be the ones handling situations like these. If you know anything, you need to tell us… before it’s too late.” he says, seriously.
“I know,” I reply. “It’s just..”
“Look, don’t make a big deal about it, it’s nothing, really, everything is fine,” I start, talking quickly. “It’s just that, well… I haven’t spoken to Dee in quite… in the past few days.”
I shove a spoonful of cereal into my mouth, knowing it will disallow me from answering any questions immediately.
“How come?” asks mum, frowning.
I don’t know mummy. I just haven’t and I honestly don’t know why.
“Just,” I reply neutrally, having swallowed my cereal. “She’s been busy and..”
I trail off, not knowing what to say.
Time and again I find myself trying to be angry at her, telling myself that everything went downhill after I told her about what was going on.. where I had seen Dayyanah, what she had said, etc.
But I just can’t be angry at her. I was responsible for my own actions. I had the choice to deal with things how I wanted to, and I had made the wrong choice. She was not to blame. I was to be blamed. I was the one at fault. And often this would make me think about mummy’s words, and Zee’s too. Often I’d hear them in my head.
“Until the heart is not beating with the love of Allah (s.w.t), it will not be content.”
“Serious though, you need to get yourself sorted bro.”
“Habits that start now are going to stay forever. Just stop all this crap you’re doing and everything else will fall into place mahn.”
And often, quite often, I’d find myself thinking that maybe this is it.
Maybe now is the time to change.