One Hundred and Sixty Three

As narrated by Meez:

Pulling on a T-shirt, I slip my phone into the pocket of my sweatpants and head downstairs.

It has been two days since I’d been roughly thrown around in an uncontrolled car and then hurt further, yet my still body complains in pain as I slowly descend the stairs, sticking close to the banister.

Once I’ve conquered the stairs, I move towards the kitchen, making it just in time to a stool before my body gives up.

I drop my head onto the counter with a groan.

“Rameez! I told you to stay in your room, I’d bring your breakfast up!” scolds mummy, coming towards me.

“I’m fine,” I mumble, as she rubs my back soothingly.

I hear mummy sigh. She doesn’t bother to argue, knowing better.

“I need to see Faizal,” I say after a while, sitting up slowly.

“No Rameez! You need to recover properly first,” replies mummy, her voice stern.

That’s what I’d been told yesterday.

And the day before.

“Mum, I have to!” I say, graciously accepting the glass of water she offers. “I’m much better, really. I need to make sure he is okay.”

“I’m sure there are many other people to make sure of that!” replies mummy, peeling open a banana for me.

“No, mummy, you don’t understand! There isn’t! His parents are away on business and his girlfriend, who would have made sure he’s okay, is dead!” I say bitterly.

“Family? Friends?” asks mummy, taking the glass from me and handing me the banana.

“I doubt any of his friends will go knowing that someone got murdered there,” I reply, biting into the banana.

“Someone will, Rameez. It doesn’t have to be you every time!” says mummy. “What will you have for breakfast?”

“I’ll make something, don’t worry,” I say, getting up.

“No, no -”

“Mum, I’m fine. Honestly,” I say, cutting her off. “I have to get about doing things on my own again.”

“Yes, but not yet,” she replies firmly, forcing me to sit back down.

A small smile makes it’s way onto my face as I watch my mother prepare me a bowl of cereal – something I could have easily managed on my own.

“JazakAllah,” I say when she places it in front of me.

Then, impulsively, I lean up and kiss her cheek.

As I munch on my cereal, I think about what it must be like being a mother – what being unable to sleep until you know your son is home is like, what being unable to eat until your son is fed is like, what being in pain on seeing your son in pain is like.

But of course, my mind can not understand, it can not comprehend how it is possible to love the way a mother loves, to sacrifice the way a mother sacrifices, to persevere the way a mother perseveres.

It seems unfathomable, to do what a mother does.

And even though that realization made me grateful, it would never be enough.

No amount of appreciation is adequate to appreciate a mother.

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*****

“How you’re feeling?” asks Zee, sitting down on my bed.

Zee had stayed until yesterday evening, but then, afraid to leave his grandparents alone for a third night, he’d went back home, promising to come today.

“I need to see Faizy,” I say for what seems like the hundredth time since I last saw him.

“Bro, I’m sure someone’s got his back. You need to look after yourself,” replies Zee, concentrating on connecting the ps controllers.

“Nobody understands!!” I say, throwing my arms in the air, exasperated. “Lubna was his whole life.

Zee frowns as he inserts a game disc whilst listening to me.

“And now she’s gone! He’s home alone except for the servants and what the hell are they going to do?! Someone needs to check on him, make sure he’s eaten, showered, make sure he’s alright, damn it!”

“You know what’s your problem, Meez,” says Zee, watching me carefully now. “You worry too much. You care too much.”

“You know what’s your problem, Zee,” I fire back. “You accuse me of the same things you do.”

“Tell me, would his other ‘friends’ have checked on him?” asks Zee, ignoring me.

“Tell me, why are you bothered if I go to check on him?” I answer with a question of my own, my voice rising.

“Damn it, Rameez! Stop being immature. I’m worried about you, okay! You’re not well yourself but you want to play doctor for someone else!”

“Well how you’re worried about me, I’m worried about Faizal! You don’t understand the extent to which this could harm him. You have no idea what this could do to him!”

Zee takes a deep breath and I know he’s trying not to lose his head with me, to think rationally, to be the mature one because I struggle to do that, despite being elder.

“Listen. Just get one more night of sleep, you can go tomorrow. Alright?” reasons Zee, handing me a controller.

Something inside me urges me to argue, to insist we go today, to stress the importance of making sure Faizy is holding up fine.

But, weary and tired, my shoulders slumping in defeat as I lean against the pillows, I simply nod.

*****

If only Meez had known of Faizy’s condition, he would have ran – pain, bruises, weakness and all – to help him; to save him.

If only.

Oh if only…

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Faizal had just woken up from a nightmare plagued, restless slumber.

He had forgotten what it meant to sleep. For sleep is a condition of body and mind, which typically recurs for several hours every night – in which the nervous system is inactive, the eyes closed, the postural muscles relaxed, and consciousness practically suspended.

Faizal no longer slept.

He merely closed his eyes.

Closed his eyes and remembered.

He remembered the squeal of tires.

He remembered Lubna falling.

He remembered crimson blood seeping through her white dress.

He remembered screaming until his throat felt like acid had been poured down it.

He remembered Lubna touching his cheek.

And then, he remembered Lubna being taken away – forever.

Every time he shut his eyes, it replayed, each time more gruesome, more painful than before.

He didn’t know how much longer he could go on like this but he didn’t care.

Nothing mattered.

Except for Lubna.

But now she was gone.

And the place where his heart had once beaten, alive and bursting with love, was now a gaping hole.

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Rolling over onto his side, Faizal reaches for his pen.

Then, he adds another poem to his journal.

Blood on the bed sheet,

tears on my pillow,

I’ve accepted defeat,

my heart’s a widow.

 

Blood on the bed sheet,

tears on my pillow,

Tried to keep it discreet,

tried to keep it low.

 

Blood on the bed sheet,

tears on my pillow, 

my heart’s missed many beats,

I’ve succumbed to sorrow.

 

Blood on the bed sheet,

tears on my pillow,

Left feeling incomplete,

I’ve lost my glow.

 

Blood on the bed sheet,

tears on my pillow,

don’t mistaken my conceit,

it’s just a show.

 

Blood on the bed sheet,

tears on my pillow, 

I’ve accepted defeat,

my heart’s a widow.


As narrated by Meez:

I wake up the next morning with a strange feeling.

Something just doesn’t feel right.

After showering and downing a glass of milo for breakfast, I tell dad that I’m ready to go.

He grabs mum’s car keys and we head to the garage.

“We’re going to have to go car searching this weekend,” says Dad, looking over his shoulder slightly as he reverses.

“Car searching?” I ask, confused.

“Ohhh,” I say a moment later. “Yeah.”

The BMW was a ruin after that night, I remember. Instantly I feel guilty, knowing well that it was mostly my fault – if not entirely.

“Don’t feel bad,” dad assures me immediately. “I’m pretty excited.”

“What have you got in mind?” I ask, clipping my seat belt into place.

“Uhhh… an X6?” he says sheepishly.

“You’re excited to get the same car you had?! Seriously dad?!” I laugh.

“Well if you have any suggestions, now’s the time to put them forward. Couple months and you’ll be driving too, so consider that as well,” grins dad.

“I’ll let you know,” I say.

But my mind doesn’t even stray off in thought of cars.

It’s riddled with anxiety, apprehension and nervousness.

And as we pull into the driveway of the mansion Faizy resides in, it increases tenfold.

“What time must I fetch you?” asks dad.

“I don’t know,” I say uncertainly. “Do you need to be anywhere now?”

Dad glances at his watch.

“Not for another 4 hours,” he replies. “Do you want me to wait here for you?”

“Please,” I say. “I won’t be long. I just need to see if he’s alright.”

“No problem. Take your time,” replies dad, reaching for the Qur’aan in mummy’s cubby.

Closing the car door, I wipe my clammy hands on my jeans and walk up to the door.

A servant ushers me in, telling me that Faizal is in his room.

“He won’t allow anyone in and the door is locked,” the servant says before leaving me on my own.

Taking a deep breath, I ascend the stairs.

My heart drums against my rib cage as I walk down the broad passage, past exorbitantly priced frames and paintings.

Reaching his room, I lift my hand and knock on the door…

A long moment of silence passes…

I knock again, a little harder this time.

But, once again, their is no response…

“Faizy, bro,” I call, knocking again.

I lean my ear against the door, trying to gauge whether he is perhaps in the bathroom.

A hair rising silence is all I hear.

Trying to push down the uprising panic inside me, I turn the door handle, praying desperately that it’s unlocked as I hear the servant’s words ring in my ears.

Somehow, impossibly, it is.

“Faizy,” I loudly call again, stepping inside the room.

Immediately I feel guilty.

He’s on the bed, fast asleep.

Quietly, doing my best not to disturb him, I walk up to his bed.

Only his face – starkly white against the black linen – is visible, the duvet pulled all the way up to his chin.

I let out a breath I didn’t know I’d been holding, a sigh of relief escaping through my lips.

My heart solaced on seeing him, I make a silent prayer that he stays well, then turn around to leave.

I stop at the door, glancing over my shoulder one more time…

And that’s when I see it.

My heart stills as I slowly turn around, hoping that I’m hallucinating, that I’m just tired and overanxious.

For an infinitely long moment, I simply stare, my eyes seeing, but my mind not registering.

But, eventually, it does.

My mind registers, processes, realizes.

And my blood…

My blood turns to slush.

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