As narrated by Zee:
Pain shoots through my body as I hit the ground, knees and knuckles first.
Tires screech, cold air hitting me as a car skids to a halt just a few feet away.
I can hear Amz screaming in the background.
But all of it seems far away.
I glance down, shifting my weight off Dee.
Her eyes are closed.
No, no, no!
Placing my hand on her chest, I feel the faint but steady thump of her heartbeat.
Relief floods through me and a breath I didn’t know I’d been holding releases.
“Dee?” I call, touching her cheek.
The anxiety creeps in again.
Calm down, calm down. She’s alive, just knocked out.
“Dee?” I say again, shaking her slightly.
Amz appears from behind me, terror written all over her face.
“Deeyanah?” she calls out to her.
“Is she okay? Oh my god, Zee, are you okay?” Amz asks, her voice shaking.
“I’m fine,” I reply, unable to answer her first question.
“What the hell bro?!” Meez yells, sitting down on the tar next to me.
He places his hand by her mouth, probably to feel for her breath.
When he realizes she’s breathing, he turns to me.
“You can’t just jump out of a moving car onto the road in front of another freaking moving vehicle!! What the hell were you thinking?!” he yells.
His parents’ unanimous stern tone stops him.
Uncle Ismaeel sits down next to Dee and reaches for her wrist.
We all watch him with bated breath.
He says her name loudly, close to her ear, and after what feels like eternity, she stirs.
“All of you, be quiet,” Uncle Ismaeel commands softly in a firm tone.
Dee’s eyes flutter open, and then close again, the sunlight too harsh.
She mumbles incoherently and Uncle Ismaeel repeats her name.
Her eyes open in slits, and she tries sitting up.
I move a little backward, and Amz lets go of her hand.
“Oh my goodness!!” A young female voice screeches behind us.
I realize that it is probably the driver of the car that almost bumped Dee.
“I’m so sorry! Is -”
Uncle Ismaeel lifts his gaze, putting his finger to his lips, indicating for her to be quiet.
She lowers her voice to just above a whisper, turning to Aunty Aadila.
Their conversation fades away into the background as I turn my attention to Dee again.
Her eyes are fully open now, having adjusted to the bright daylight, as she sits up slowly.
I want to ask her if she’s okay; if she’s in pain; what happened; why was she in the middle of the road, but I remain silent, obeying Uncle Ismaeel’s orders.
Dee looks around at all of us, her eyes widening slightly as everything registers.
She looks at Uncle Ismaeel.
“Can you hear me clearly?”
“Okay, listen to me carefully, alright?”
She nods again.
“We need to first make sure you haven’t broken anything. Can you bend your legs?”
She obliges, drawing her knees up slowly.
“Now bend your arms.”
She does as she’s told.
Her arms rise.
“Straighten your knees and move your forehead as close to the ground as you can.”
She bends her back a little before straightening up again.
“That hurts a lot,” she says quietly.
“Probably because you landed on your back. Where else does it hurt?”
“Just my back. And my head hurts a little,” she replies uncertainly.
“Okay. What happened, why were you just standing in the middle of the road?”
She’s silent for a while, trying to remember.
“I was going to the pay phone, because mine is dead. My head was hurting and I felt dizzy, so I closed my eyes,” she says, her voice soft and tired.
“And then a car was hooting and I realized I was in the middle of the road. I don’t know what happened after that,” she finishes, looking at us questioningly.
“Well superman over here spread his cape, took a flying leap of faith, almost got himself killed, but managed to save you,” Meez says to her with a hint of sarcasm, indicating to me.
I frown. What the hell is his problem? Why is he going on like I did something stupid? Well.. maybe I did, but all I thought of in that moment was making sure Dee doesn’t get hurt. And I didn’t die, so what was the reason for his sudden change of mood?
Dee gasps, looking at me.
“What?!” she demands.
“I just pushed you off the road, that’s all,” I say, feeling slightly uncomfortable.
“Are you okay?” she asks, her gaze sweeping me, searching for injuries.
“Zee, your knuckles! You’re bleeding!” she exclaims, cutting me off, as she reaches for my hand.
I look down at my hands, and sure enough, the skin at my knuckles is scraped off, a hint of blood trickling down my fingers. Crap, I didn’t even realize!
“It’s nothing. I’m fine, really,” I say quickly, pulling my hand away and rubbing my fingers against my jeans as they all watch me.
“I’ve got a First Aid kit in the car, come on,” says Uncle Ismaeel, getting up. “Deeyanah, will you manage to walk?”
“Yes,” she replies, getting up slowly.
Amz grabs her hand, helping her up.
She accepts it gratefully, but the two don’t share a word.
I watch them closely, noting now only, that Amz hadn’t said a word since Dee woke up. Her eyes are moist and when she catches me observing them, she quickly looks away.
Uncle Ismaeel stops beside his wife to have a word with the driver, whose name I’ve picked up, is Samantha.
Meez walks slightly ahead of Amz and Dee and I walk behind them.
We all get to the car and Meez takes out the First Aid kit.
The girls get in and I join Meez at the boot.
He takes out a few things, ignoring me the entire time.
When Uncle Ismaeel joins us, he takes my hands, inspecting the damage.
“Can you bend your hand like this?” he asks.
I look at the way his hand is bent and imitate his action.
“Jee, it’s just grazed, I think,” I say.
I wince at the sting the wet cotton wool creates, watching as Uncle Ismaeel first cleans the wound and then wraps it with a bandage.
He repeats the process with my second hand, before packing the things away, and giving Meez a packet to dispose of into the bin on the sidewalk.
Meez walks away and Uncle Ismaeel catches my gaze.
I look down, knowing what’s coming.
“Ziyaad, that was very brave of you, but you must remember that two accidents are worse than one. Alhamdulillah, you two were both lucky this time, that neither of you got hurt seriously, but I don’t want to see you pulling anymore superman stunts, as Rameez put it, alright?” he says, seriously yet kindly.
“I.. I’m sorry,” I apologize quietly. “I guess.. I didn’t think, I just did what my heart told me to do, forgetting to listen to my brain.”
“You acted on instinct. And that’s not always a good thing.”
I nod, remaining silent.
Meez joins us again, and the conversation ends.
Uncle Ismaeel walks away, getting into the car.
“You okay?” Meez asks, putting away the First Aid.
“Yeah,” I reply, slightly surprised at his change of mood… again, but appreciative of his concern.
Meez needs to learn how to express his emotions properly!
We get into the car, but as we’re about to drive off, Aunty Aadila speaks.
“Are we not going to see Daanyaal?”
“Not now, we’ll come another day,” Uncle Ismaeel says to her.
“He’s sleeping,” says Dee.
We turn to look at her and she drops her gaze, avoiding eye contact.
I notice a half eaten chocolate in her hand. Amz catches me eyeing it, and hands me one too.
“Thanks,” I say, grinning at her.
“You’re welcome,” she replies, smiling.
“And mine? How rude!” complains Meez.
He graciously accepts a chocolate from Amz and then it’s quiet as we eat silently, each of us lost in our own thoughts.