As narrated by Ali:
“I was 14 when my parents disowned me. Fourteen, Amaani. That’s one year younger than you are currently,” I say slowly, beginning my story.
“They had found out about my drug involvement. I knew they would find out eventually, but I didn’t expect things to go the way they did. It was one of the worst days of my life. I still remember my dad yelling at me in disappointment while my mother sobbed into her hands.
It hurt me that time, but that pain quickly turned into anger, into a hatred so strong that not a morning passed where I wasn’t hungover and nor an evening passed where I didn’t wander the streets, unsteady on my feet, trying to drown the hatred I felt towards my parents, the hatred I felt towards myself, with some illegal substance.
I lost track of the how many days, perhaps even months, passed; they all began the same, they all ended the same. Food came through stealing, though I barely ate. I was thin, weak, and at the doorstep of death.
But then everything changed very suddenly.”
I pause to take a breath.
Far off in a time that has passed, I barely register Amaani in front of me, listening to my every word intently.
I force myself to snap out of it and concentrate.
Amaani must not get away. She has to leave with me.
“I woke up one morning, just when I thought I would never awaken again.. in a bed. A bed! Soft mattress, pillows, a sheet covering me. For a moment I thought I was still asleep. ‘You’re dreaming’, I had repeated to myself, over and over again. But then the door opened and a man walked in.”
“My father,” murmurs Amaani, a sudden sadness in her eyes.
“Your father, indeed,” I say.
“Things happened quickly after that. I started Rehabilitation a week later. Recovery was a long, difficult process. Withdrawal almost drove me insane, and I relapsed a couple times. I switched Rehab centers after a month. All the while your father payed the bills, he motivated me, gave me hope.. and eventually, after 2 long, hard years, I was allowed to go out into the world I had once hated so venomously before. Aged 16 now, I started on a clean slate, promising myself that I’d keep it that way. I set new goals and I dreamed bigger than ever before.
But there were a few things that stopped me from setting out to pursue my dreams and achieve my goals.”
I stop, taking a deep breath before continuing again.
“I couldn’t now just walk out and live my life as I pleased, because firstly, I had no where to go. I had no contact with my parents or any of my family at all. For all I know, my parents wouldn’t have accepted me back anyway. Secondly, I had no money. I was living off the food and kindness of your parents. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, I could not leave without having repaid your father in the least.
We discussed all of this, your father and I, and together we came to a unanimous agreement that I would work for him. In many ways, that was the best decision of my life. 2 years of hard work, and I became your father’s most trusted worker. My position was raised several times until eventually I was even allowed to handle things only your father handled. And all this time, your father didn’t pay me. That was our agreement, and I was happy with it.
You were growing up, more beautiful by the day. Your mother noticed my attraction, and couple days later your father summoned me. He said that I would have to move out of the room in the yard, and find my own place. He never mentioned you, though I’m sure he knew. He would start paying me so that I could afford rent, food, and other necessities.
The year started well and I settled in, but I missed seeing you everyday. You came less often to the shop, which was probably the instruction of your parents, right?”
Amaani ignores my question, waiting for me to continue.
“Life carried on, day by day, and I was quite a happy person. I was 19 with a steady job, a just employer, and a good monthly wage. But then destiny played an ugly card.”
I sigh, remembering the day all too well. The familiar hatred I often feel towards the unfairness of life surges through me.
“Your parents died.”
I clench my jaw before relaxing it again.
“Your parents, who were, in many ways, my parents too. I could explain to you what I felt that day, but I’m sure you already know that feeling. Let’s not waste time.
Only a week passed, and I was suddenly all the way back at square one. I had resorted back to drugs.”
A flicker of emotion passes through Amaani’s eyes.
“I know what you’re thinking,” I say immediately, my eyes narrowing. “How selfish and ungrateful of me. After all your father did for me, after all the money he spent on my recovery, how could I do such a thing? Well you know what, Amaani? I don’t understand it myself. In the first month, I often felt guilty, but without your father, I had come to realize that there wasn’t much hope left for me. I’d still like to know why your father wanted his business to be shut down once he passed on? I wonder about it often. Did he not trust me enough to run it for him?”
Again she ignores my questions, leaving my unanswered questions just like that -unanswered.
“It wasn’t a long time before all the anger and hatred returned. The stoned boy I promised myself I would never become again, was once more who I was, perhaps even worse than before. Things were going downhill – the share of money your father left for me was quickly diminishing. Getting my dosage was becoming more and more difficult. My weight dropped drastically, and so did my way of life.”
I pause, pushing down my emotions that threaten to rise. Then, my gaze still fixed on Amaani’s beautiful face, I speak again, my voice even quieter than before.
“And then I remembered you.”
“It’s strange, because I never really did forgot you. I guess I just realized that you could maybe help me. So I sobered up, made sure I was in the right frame of mind before I hit that green button to call you. And boy was I pissed when it repeatedly said the number I dialed did not exist! I’m guessing after your tragedy you made some changes, and one of them included your number. But that didn’t stop me, not when there was a glimmer of hope shining ahead. I don’t recall why or how, but I had two of your friends’ numbers on my phone. The one you were always with, Deeyanah. And the boy with the messy hair. What do you call him again? Ah yes, Zee.
I was slightly afraid that you might not agree to help me, and the thought of betrayal made me approach your friends rather than you. I texted them anonymously, but after a few times, they blocked me, and I had to go through a lot of trouble changing numbers and pursuing you again. I’m guessing my message was either misinterpreted or, your friends don’t care much about you, because nothing changed. Yes, I was physically keeping an eye on you from about a month ago.”
Amaani’s eyes have narrowed and a look of anger has overridden the sadness in them.
“And then a couple days ago, a spark of confidence surged through me, and without hesitating I called your friend Deeyanah. Told her that I want to meet you here. Well, not exactly like that, but you’re here now, and that’s all that matters.”
Because now that I have you, you’re not getting away.
I wait for Amaani to say something but her attention is suddenly turned to the door. I turn slightly to see two muscular men walk in. One has a whole arm of tattoos, and the other, a sophisticated hairstyle I’ve never seen before. They look a little out of place, and immediately make their way to the back of the Cafè, sitting down at the table next to us.
My eyes narrow. Are they here as backup for Amaani?
I turn to her, but her whole body is rigid, her eyes alert as ever. She seems more afraid of them than I do.
Ignoring the two men next to us, I raise my eyebrows at Amaani, still waiting for to say something.
“For the fourth and final time Ali, what. do. you. want?” she asks coldly, her teeth clenched.
“I want to start a business with you, Amaani,” I say, watching her reaction carefully.
She frowns, moving back a little.
She clearly did not expect that!
“A.. business?” she repeats, questioningly.
“Yes, a business.”
She doesn’t say anything so I continue.
“It’s simple, really. You have the money, I have the knowledge. Together we’d make a great team.”
Her expression becomes annoyed, and I realize she’s getting impatient.
“Let me explain..
Have you ever thought about drugs, love? Not stereotypical thinking, no, no. Open minded thinking. Have you ever just sat and really thought about drugs, about dealers, about the money they make, about how easy a job they have? Have you ever thought about the feeling it gives you, the thrill you experience, the depths of oblivion it takes you to? Nothing, nothing, in this world can you make you feel the way drugs do. Except love of course. But love is temporary. Emotions are temporary. Not drugs though- not if you have what it takes to live the drug life..
And we have it, Amaani. Together, you and I, we have it.”
As narrated by Amz:
“Do you see where I’m going with this, love?” asks Ali, seeing the horror in my face.
Yes. Yes, I do. And I don’t like it one bit.
“You’ll provide the money, and I’ll provide the drugs. We’ll start as two people, love, but it will grow. Drug dealers, that’s what we’ll be! It’s easy, almost too easy, don’t you see? As for the cops, to hell with them! Half of them are part of it, anyway. We’ll be living the life, Amaani.”
He’s crazy. Mad. My God, he’s insane!
Where the hell is Dee? And who the hell are these guys next to us? Are they with Ali??
I need to get out of here.
I need to get out of here, and I need to get out fast. Think, think, think!
“All you have to do is agree. Say yes, you’ll join me, and together we’ll take over the world.”
SAY YES, AMAANI!
“Yes,” I say.
“Yes??” gasps Ali.
He’s momentarily surprised, and that’s all I need.
Grabbing my phone, I’m already on my feet.
I fling the cold contents of the glass in front of me onto Ali’s face to buy myself more time.
Pushing my chair back, I make a run for it.
“Stop her!” I hear him yell a couple seconds later.
Not wanting to get too many people involved, I make it seem like what anyone would believe.
“Lying bastard! Don’t ever come near me again! Cheat!!” I yell back without turning around.
A man in a well fitted suit who was just getting up, sits back down, shaking his head.
“Love struck teenagers,” I hear him mutter before he sits back down.
I would have grinned, maybe even pumped my fist in the air at the fact that it had worked, but fear was pumping through every vein in my body.
Ali has a gun! Get as far away as you can! Don’t look back!
I hear a crash of glass behind me just as I dash out of the door.
Oh my God, he’s firing! He’s firing! I’m going to die!
Unable to stop myself, I glance back.
Ali had just knocked over a waitress carrying a laden tray. She crashed into a table, sending more dishes flying.
For a moment, I’m frozen on the spot, taking in the scene…
And then my gaze locks with Ali’s through the glass.
A shiver runs through me as I see the cold fire in his eyes.
‘He’s insane,’ I think again, as I stare in shock.
The door of the Cafè opens, tearing me out of my immobilizing terror.
I turn on my heels, my feet pounding on the ground as I take off again.
My breath is getting shorter, faster, and my legs are aching, burning, but I don’t stop.
And then, just as I feel like collapsing out of sheer exhaustion, miraculously, I spot Uncle Ismaeel’s car swerving around the corner.
Relief floods through me as he speeds straight towards where I am and the back door opens.
I stumble in and collapse onto the soft leather seat.
My entire body is shaking, and Dee’s voice sounds distant as the sound of shattering glass rings loudly in my ears.
I open my eyes and see Dee’s concerned face above mine.
And then, finally comes the tears.
Hey. Hi. Hello. Salaam. Bonjour. Salut. Ciao. Ahoj. Bog. Marhaba. Ola.
Dearest readers, I hope you are all well. I’m terribly sorry this post took so long, easing out of holidays and settling into the new year is proving to be quite time consuming. I can’t promise the next post will be soon, because I myself am unsure about how hectic the next couple weeks are going to be. Posts however will be up more frequently once I’ve gotten into a routine. Until then, I hope you all understand and can please bear with me.
Much love always,
Troubled Illusioner. ❤
(P.S. Anjali, if you’re reading this, please let me know you’re alive and well. I miss your comments!)