As narrated by Dee:
I trudge into the kitchen, greet Amz sleepily, and drop my mug into the sink with a clatter.
Yes, I’ve woken up on the wrong side of the bed… with a headache; the size of Everest!
Popping two Panadoes into my mouth, I swallow. The bitter taste scratches my throat, drying it.
Should have taken that with water.
Reaching for a glass, I open the tap.
“So when did you plan on telling me that you went through my things… without my permission?”
I freeze, then spin around.
I look at Amz for the first time since entering the kitchen. Her usually piercing green eyes are a dark; different, the shade it turns when she’s angry.
“Close the tap, you’re wasting water,” she says bluntly.
Turning around slowly, my mind racing, I push the tap close.
“Now answer my question!”
Jeez, and I thought I woke up on the wrong side of the bed.
She has every right to be angry at you, Deeyanah.
Then, before I can stop them, the words are out of my mouth.
“Well when did you plan on telling me about your adoption?!”
“Today actually,” she replies, her voice calm.
“Oh, you mean after everything is confirmed and I don’t have any say in changing your mind?” I ask.
“Yes actually,” she replies in that same calm voice, which is starting to irritate me.
“Well I saved you the trouble of having to tell me. And since you don’t want me to change your mind, I won’t. You want to leave, go ahead, be my guest! I just hope this stupor which is disallowing you to think straight wears off before you do such a stupid thing!” I say harshly.
Throwing the water I had filled to drink down the drain, I drop my tumbler in the sink and walk out of the kitchen.
I hear Amz follow me as I head to my room, my head pounding, making me feel dizzy.
Should have drank that water.
I sit down and unlock my phone, ignoring Amz who has seated herself at the foot of my bed.
“You’re coming with, by the way.”
My fingers stop, hovering above my keypad.
I look up at Amz. Her face looks calm, her expression unreadable, but her eyes tell me that she’s now angrier than she was a few minutes ago.
“Excuse me?” I ask, not quite sure I heard her correctly.
“I said, you are coming with me,” Amz repeats slowly.
What the actual hell?!
“Sorry, what ?!?!” I ask incredulously.
“I said, you. are. coming. with. me.” Amz repeats for a third time, emphasizing each word.
Her tone has hardened and her eyes are now the slightest bit narrowed.
There it is again. That controlled, calm voice. As if she’s talking to a 3-year-old!
I ignore her, scrolling down my Twitter timeline.
“Wow, I actually thought this was going to be more difficult….”
I glare at her, totally not in a mood to discuss this topic.
“Like I told you, you want to leave, you are more than welcome to. I, however, will not be coming with you,” I say in the same tone she is using on me, even though it takes a lot of effort. “This discussion is over.”
She doesn’t say anything for a long time, simply watching me; like a lion watches its prey.
“I’ll be leaving on Wednesday.”
Saying that, she gets up and walks out of my room.
“WHAT?!” I yell, louder than intended.
I hurriedly get up and follow her downstairs.
She stops mid-staircase, looks over her shoulder at me, and says, “I usually don’t mind repeating myself Deeyanah, but now you’re pushing it.”
Her words are almost cold, and somehow tears prick my eyes, threatening to spill out.
Blinking furiously, I walk behind her to the lounge.
“What do you mean you’re leaving on Wednesday?!?” I ask, shock flooding through my body. “Wednesday is four days away!”
“I know that,” she replies neutrally.
We’re sitting across each other, the small glass table in the center.
I open my mouth to say something, to ask her what the hell she is thinking, to tell her that she can’t just leave, but I’m at a loss for words.
“Three days to pack is good enough. I have a lot of things, especially clothes, but I’m not taking everything. You can-”
“How are you acting so calm about this?! Do you know what you’re saying?!” I cry out, cutting her off.
Her jaw clenches then relaxes again before she speaks.
“Is there a problem Deeyanah?” she asks. “Not too long ago you told me to do as I please.”
“Stop it, oh my God, Amz! Why are you calling me by my name? What are you… oh God.”
I get up and rush to the kitchen.
Water, I need water. Cold water.
My hands are shaking as I open the fridge and pull out a bottle of water.
The mixture of panic and shock I feel causes the adrenaline to pump furiously, instantly making my heart rate increase.
But I don’t try to stop it. I don’t try to steady my breathing. I don’t try to stop my hands from shaking. I don’t try to calm down. I don’t try to rub away the pounding in my head.
The truth has set in.
Amaani is leaving.
Amaani is leaving.
Amaani. is. leaving.
“YOU CAN’T!” I scream, horrified. “AMZ YOU CAN’T LEAVE!”
The back door opens and Aunty Tembi, our domestic helper, walks in, looking slightly startled. At the same time, Amz enters the kitchen, that same placid expression still on her face.
“What’s going on?” asks Aunty Tembi.
“Amz you can’t go!” I say, looking directly at her, ignoring Aunty Tembi.
“Why are you going? What am I going to do? How am I going to live all alone? Why are you doing this?”
The questions stumble out of my mouth, like trapped water does as soon as it finds an opening.
“Everything is fine, don’t worry,” Amz says, smiling at Aunty Tembi.
Then she walks to where I sit on the floor. Her expression softens slightly as she offers me her hand.
“Can we go and discuss this a little more differently?” she asks softly.
I gulp down half the bottle of water. Then, with a sigh, I accept her hand and stand up. I take another bottle of water from the fridge, before following Amz to the lounge.
“First stop crying.”
“I’m not crying,” I reply, but upon lifting my fingers to my eyes, I realize that there are in fact involuntary tears rolling down my cheeks.
I wipe them away angrily.
I hate crying.
It makes me feel weak, and I am not weak.
I am strong and I will not cry.
“Now I am going to talk and you are going to listen, okay? Wait for me to finish before you express your emotions, because they’re probably going to change as I talk. Understood?”
“Please don’t talk to me like that,” I say.
“Like how you are talking. As if you’re trying to explain to a child that they need to shower or else they’ll smell and no one will be their friend!” I say, annoyed.
A small smile makes its way onto Amz’s face.
“Okay,” she says, but her voice is still neutral.
Then she starts talking.
“Before I explain to you my reasoning behind my recent decisions, I want you to remember that I have no intention whatsoever to change anything between us. Dee, you and I, we’ve known each other as far as my memory goes. You know me better than anyone else does, and even if you choose to deny it, I currently know you better than anyone else does. We’ve grown up together, we’ve lived together. I was there when you started school. I was there when you got your period for the first time. I was there when things started changing for the worse in your home. I was there when you ran from your home.”
She pauses.. then carries on.
“But we haven’t only shared bad times. I was there when you learnt to ride a bike. I was there when you did a zipline for the first time. I was there when you got an A for maths for the first time. I was there when you ate a red velvet cupcake for the first time and then mistakenly said, ‘It’s overrated’ too loudly and the person who made it heard you.”
My lips lift into a small smile at that memory.
Maama shouted me after that, for being such a loud mouth..
“I’m not telling you all of this to remind you of the things I’ve done, because what you have done for me cannot compare to the little I’ve done for you-”
She lifts her hand, signalling me to stop.
Oh yes, I suppose to just listen.
Sighing I keep quiet as she continues.
“Rather, I’m telling you this to remind you about all the things we’ve been through together. This is not the first time you will disagree with a decision I have made, but as we’ve always done in the past, we will get through this together.”
But you don’t understand, Amz. This decision is different. This is going to change everything!
“Let’s push aside me having not told you about this earlier, and you having gone through my things without my permission. I was wrong, and so were you, but let’s forget about the mistakes we’ve made for a moment, and let’s focus on going forward from here, as we’ve always done.”
She pauses and I nod, acknowledging that I am following.
Taking a deep breath, she continues.
“Dee, you have no idea how much of thought I’ve put into this decision. I’ve weighed the pros and cons time and time again, and yes, there are quite a few cons, more than I’d like there to be.. but, I feel this is what I have to do. The way we’re currently living… *sigh* it’s not how girls our age should be living. Life has so much more to offer, and the opportunities we’ll be given, should our situation be different, are things we should want to seize.”
Her forehead creases a little, showing that she is thinking carefully.
“Look at it realistically, Dee. We’re 15 and 14. You’re fourteen, Dee. We have a whole life ahead of us. There’s so much out there to do, so many opportunities to seize, so many things to experience, so many memories to make-”
I cut her off, even though she’s told me not to.
“But Amz, we are doing that! We’re doing things, we’re seizing opportunities, we’re-”
“It’s not enough, Dee,” she butts in. “We’re doing, but we’re not testing our capabilities, we’re not pushing our limits.”
“So are you saying you’re not happy with how your life is going right now?”
“No, I’m not,” she replies bluntly, honestly. “And you aren’t either.”
The words come out of my mouth on their own. It’s almost like an automatic response thing that my body does- denying what I actually need to accept.
“No you’re not!” Amz argues, her voice rising. “Every single day, you wake up wishing your life was different. Every single night you go to bed, hoping to have a peaceful sleep. Every single time you see a couple being affectionate, you wish your parents could be like that. Every single time you see siblings tease each other, you wish you could do the same. Every single time you see normalcy, you wish you had the same. And those rare moments when you do experience normalcy; when you do something normal, it could be the smallest thing, but you hold it in your heart as if it’s a pearl from an oyster in the ocean. You treasure that fleeting moment and feeling as if your life depends on it, because it does.”
My jaw is clenched and my hands are clammy as they lift the water bottle from my lap to my lips. I try to block out her words, let them pass over me as if they’re not about me, as if they’re not true. But every painful word that she has just uttered holds no lie.
The sound of Amz’s heavy breathing is the only thing that can be heard. She’s watching me, but I keep my head down.
“Listen to me Dee,” she says, after a long moment of silence.
Her voice is softer now as she says, “Things don’t have to be like this-”
“Well why the hell are they like this then?” I snap angrily, disallowing her to continue what she was saying.
“Simply because we’re not making an effort to change them,” she replies calmly, as if it’s the most obvious thing.
I don’t say anything. I’m starting to feel really frustrated, really angry, and I can’t fathom why.
Here Amz is, sitting across me, trying to explain everything to me composedly, trying to explain to me her reasoning, and I’m not even giving her chance. And I know I’m being unfair, but I don’t want Amz to change my perspective, I don’t want her to make me think that maybe there is hope for a better life.. a normal life, because there isn’t; not anymore. For her, yes, maybe there is, but me, no.
“About 2 months ago, I decided that this is what I want…”
My head snaps up.
WHAT?? 2 months?? She’s been planning this for two whole months??!!
“This is what we need, Dee,” she says, noticing my reaction. “Think about it… adoption means we’ll only have to do things children are suppose to do. We won’t have so many responsibilities. We’ll be able to.. live. Adoption means we’ll be loved by a parental figure. There’ll be someone to take care of us. There’ll be someone to worry about us. There’ll be someone who will make us feel like how we should. Like kids, not adults.”
It clicks then.
Amaani is hurting way more than she shows.
Her parents’ passing has affected her way more than she allows herself to accept.
Maybe I don’t understand because I barely remember what it feels like to run into a mother’s embrace after a long day at school. Maybe I don’t understand because I barely remember what it feels like to have a father to discuss politics with. Maybe I don’t understand because even when I was with my parents, they didn’t fulfill the role…
My throat constricts as realization crashes down.
I hardly ever know when Amz is sad.. yet she is always there to make me happy.
And now I’ve realized just how difficult losing her parents must be for her.
But is it too late now??
I understand her choice now. I’ve got the easy part out of the way.
Now, to accept it… that’s where the real test is..
“Amz, look…” I start, exhaling heavily. “I’m not saying it’s going to be easy.. I’m more dependent on you than you are on me, but if you’re sure this is what you want, then I’m not going to stop you. That’ll be unfair of me, and I’ve done you enough wrong. If this will make you happier…”
I reach for my bottle of water.
“If this will make you happier, go ahead. One thing for sure though… I’m not coming with. I can’t come with. I.. I don’t.. Our situations are different, and I don’t think this is the right thing for me, Amz.”
I gulp down the ice-cold water, soothing my dry throat, calming my raging emotions.
“I don’t want this to change your decision. You go, but I’m staying. And that’s final.”
And then I force myself to look up. Amz is crying silently. My head falls again, my eyes unable to meet hers.
This is my redemption, for never being good enough.
I will not waste my last chance at granting her the happiness she deserves.. even if it means sacrificing my own happiness.
I will not stop Amaani from leaving.
The sound of galloping horses is heard over Amz’s soft cries.
Rushing to the kitchen where I left it earlier, I swipe the screen quickly, answering the call.
A buzz of static meets my ear.
“Deeyanah, *static* Assalaamualaykum.”
I frown. Why is he calling me now? Shouldn’t he be at work?
“Wa’alaikum Salaam,” I reply his greeting, heading back to the lounge.
I hear another buzz of static, and then a whoosh of air.
“Hello? Deeyanah? *static* Can you… *crackle* ..me?”
“Not so well,” I reply. “Let me-”
“Yes, I’m *static* here.”
I frown. Maybe I should call back.
“Listen, please *sdgjd* si-t down.”
“I’m seated *static*,” I reply, my frown deepening. “Must I *static* call you b-ack?”
“No, *sedfvc* N-o, ” he replies. “I’m *shsfh*- velling, so maybe *static* that’s why.”
“Listen, there’s something *static* *crackle*.”
“Huh? Hello? Uncle Rashid??”
“Yes, yes, I ‘m here,” I reply quickly.
“There’s something important I need to tell you. Can you hear me?”
“Yes, now I can. Well and clear.”
Urgh! I let out a frustrated sigh. Why the hell is the line so bad?
“Maaf, say again?”
“*crackle* passed a-way *crackle*.”
What? Who passed away???
“Who *static* passed away?” I ask, a knot forming in my stomach as I stand up.
Uncle Rashid is phoning to tell me someone passed away…
Anxiety seeps into every fiber of my body.
“Uncle Rashid?! *static* Hello? Hello?? Who passed *static* away?”
His next sentence comes loud and clear…
And then the call cuts.
“No! WHAT?! Hello? Uncle Rashid?? Hello??!”
Oh my God.
I look at my phone in my shaking hand, staring at the screen, hoping I didn’t hear right.
But I did.
I turn around slowly, but the action feels too fast. My vision blurs.
I need to sit down. Oh my God.. Water.. where is my water?!
But the toll of restless sleep, lack of minerals and proteins, and fights against emotions and trauma, decides to hit Deeyanah at that exact moment.
She doesn’t make it to the sofa in time.
Amaani is standing just a few feet away.. but when she screams her best friend’s name, it sounds faint and far to Deeyanah’s ears.
And that’s the last thing she hears before her eyes roll back, and everything goes black.