One Hundred and Sixty Five

As narrated by Meez:

As I sit on the hard hospital chair, I can’t help but wonder about us humans.

Strange, is it not, how we only realize how attached we are to something, to someone, when they’re being taken away.

Strange, are we not, how we only appreciate something, someone, when they’re gone.

And we know. We know that life is short. We know that death will come at a time unknown. We know that moments should be valued. We know that people should be treasured.

But still. Still we slip up. We get caught up in our lives. We let moments slip by, forgetting to appreciate them. We take people for granted, forgetting that soon they will no longer be.

Dad walks into the waiting lounge, pulling me out of my thoughts.

I look up at him, my hope for Faizy’s well-being so desperate, it rips my insides.

He shakes his head, avoiding my gaze.

And even though I knew.

I knew before the paramedics had even come, that he wouldn’t make it.

That he had taken too much.

That we were too late; I was too late.

And still, as dad squeezed my shoulder, muttering to me that it was his time, that this was meant to happen, that it had been predestined, something inside me shifted.

It was subtle, for I felt numb, but later I would feel the entire force of that little shift.

It was as if the right key had been finally put into the lock.

And something clicked.

*****

I turn the white envelope over and over in my hand, staring at it as if it will answer my questions.

Do I open this or not? Do I have the guts to open this or not? Do I have the strength, the heart to open this or not?

I had found it in Faizy’s room, laying neatly on his desk.

It wasn’t clearly evident, but neither was it hidden.

On impulse I had picked it up and slipped it into my pocket, not really thinking at that time.

But now I regretted.

I shouldn’t have taken it.

I should have left it for someone else to take.

I should have left his dark secrets for someone else to read, to carry the laborious burden.

Sighing heavily, I slip it under my pillow and go to shower.

*****

13 missed calls from Zee.

I unlock my phone and call him back.

He answers in the first ring, breathless.

“Meez? Where are you? Are you alright? Why weren’t you answering your phone?!” he interrogates in a rush.

“I was in the shower,” I say, sliding open the doors to my balcony.

“Are you alright?” he asks again, worry clear in his voice.

“Yeah,” I reply, laying down on my hammock.

Zee is on edge.

Since yesterday, when I had told him about Faizal, he’d called me every hour, texted me continuously, and visited three times already.

He thinks Faizy’s suicide death pushed me over the edge… that I might follow the same path as he did.

“Where are you?” he asks, my previous answer still not easing his mind.

“At home,” I reply. “And I won’t open for you if you come, so don’t.”

“I’ll see you in 7,” he says, ignoring me.

*****

“Who let you in?” I ask, feigning annoyance.

“Aunty Stacey,” he says, smirking at me. “She loveme.”

I roll my eyes in annoyance.

Aunty Stacey, our domestic, will let Zee in at any time of the day or night.

“I told you I’m fine,” I say, gesturing to myself. “And now that you can see so for yourself, you can go.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” he replies firmly. “Get used to it.”

I raise an eyebrow.

Then I say it.

“I’m not gonna kill myself too, you know.”

He meets my gaze, his eyes piercing into mine, trying to read my soul.

Then, after an eternity, he speaks.

“I trust your mind, but not your heart.”

*****

Unable to sleep I reach into my pedestal drawer.

Taking a deep breath, I tear the seal off the envelope.

For a long time I debate again, whether I should read it or not.

Eventually, knowing that I will not be able to sleep until I do, I unfold the page, and begin to read..

Lubna, my love, my light, my life.

I remember the moment you locked your pinky with mine and promised to be by my side. I remember the moment you jumped on me from behind, kissed my cheek and promised to always have my back. I remember the moment you held my hand, looked me in the eye and whispered, “We’ve got each other. It’ll be okay.”

And now those words haven’t stopped ringing in my ears, because you’re gone. And nothing is okay. Nothing. These words are ringing in my ears like an incessant alarm, a piercing sound stabbing my broken heart over and over, causing the tiny shards to shatter further.

Lubna. My love, my light, my life.

Do you know how much I miss you? My love, I miss you more than the moon misses the stars when the sun comes up.

Do you know how much I crave your touch? My love, I crave your touch more than a drought stricken land craves the touch of rain.

Do you want to know how I’m doing? My love, I am as fine as a person who does not know how to swim is in the sea – at high tide. Your departure hit me like a huge wave hits a child. It knocked me off my feet, stole my breath and pulled me under. And now it’s dark and my head can’t find the surface and my feet can’t find the floor and it’s dark – so dark oh god – and my lungs are screaming for air but how will they be comforted? For you were my air, Lubna, and now you’ve left.

How must I breathe? How must I live? I won’t manage much longer, my love. I just want to be okay again. I want to be safe again. I want to be able to breathe again.

I want to see you again. Nay, I want to feel you – I see you all the time. In front of the mirror, wearing my hoodie, doing your makeup. I tell you that you don’t need it and you ask me if I do. I nod, trying to hide my smile, and you cover my face with kisses, leaving your lipstick everywhere. “There,” you say, smiling before kissing me again.

I see you on the kitchen counter, messy hair and sleepy eyes, but a smile brighter than the rising sun itself.

I see you in the car, happily singing along to your favourite songs.

You’re not here yet I see you all the time – eyes closed, eyes open – you’re here, then you’re there, fleeting glimpses that my hands can’t grasp.

Lubna, my love, won’t you come back just one more time?

That is all I ask. One more time with you.

So that I may hold you close, one more time. So that I may feel your lips on mine, one more time. So that I may hear you say my name, one more time. So that you may tell me the secret that made your eyes shine like the moon. Won’t you come back, my love?

No? You won’t? You can’t?

Well then, I will come to you.

For my heart cannot bear this pain.

This pain, my love, it feels like a sword dipped in boiling oil is stabbing my heart continuously. It feels like.. god, I cannot explain it to you. And I will not waste my time doing that. For I long for nothing more than to be with you. Soon, my love.

Soon I will be.

Faizal.

*****

I don’t realize I’m crying until I see the wetness of my tears on the page.

Is this what love does to you?

Is this what I craved as I watched the two of them at Faizy’s birthday?

It didn’t make sense anymore.

They looked so happy. So perfect.

But now??

My thoughts ran havoc in my mind, questioning love and all it’s meanings.

Then, somewhere in the depth of it all, I hear my mother’s voice – loud and clear, shushing all other thoughts.

“You know, Rameez, when a baby is born… when a baby enters this huge, bright world, after spending nine months in a dark, enclosed womb… it needs comfort. It needs to feel the sense of security it felt in the womb. The baby needs to be held, to be fed. But it can’t just be fed anything, no. The baby needs milk – preferably the mother’s milk. And yes, you can give it something other than the milk, which it might, or might not accept. But even if the baby accepts whatever you give it, it will not have the same effect as if you give the baby its mother’s milk. Rameez, our hearts are the same, son. Our hearts are that newborn baby. And what our hearts need, is Allah (s.w.t) -the love of Allah (s.w.t). And in the same way that a newborn baby can be given something other than the mother’s milk, so too can our hearts be given love other than the love of Allah (s.w.t). We can fill our hearts with love for this Dunya (World), love for materialistic things, love for a human, love for a pet -whatever it is, but the heart will be restless. And this restlessness will not cease, until the heart is filled with the love it yearns for -the love it needs. Until the heart is not beating with the love of Allah (s.w.t), it will not be content.”

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One Hundred and Sixty Four

As narrated by Meez:

“NO!!” I scream, sheer terror seizing me. “NOOOO!! FAIZAL!!”

Then, it is as if the cold that rushes through my blood, freezes me.

It makes me immobile.

I can see the bottle of pills on his pedestal, the cap unscrewed, lying beside the container. I can see the only half full bottle of water a little away from the container’s lid. I can see Faizy’s pale – deathly pale – face. And I can see that his chest is not moving, not rising and falling as he breathes – as it should be – but my mind and body refuse to cooperate.

I can see, so very clearly, how everything about this situation is wrong, yet I don’t move an inch.

I can’t move an inch.

My stomach abruptly churns, taking me by surprise and causing me to lose my balance.

I grab the door handle instinctively, my heart pounding against my rib cage.

The world is suddenly spinning much too fast and my vision blurs.

Oh god, what is happening to me??

My stomach somersaults again, making me gag as a new wave of nausea hits.

And then, I can’t breathe.

Panic surges through me, occupying every crevice of my being.

What the hell is happening?? Oh god, I need to breathe. 

But it is as if my throat has closed off, it has been sealed shut, disallowing me to exhale, making it impossible for me to inhale.

Why can’t I breathe?!?!

My lungs are screaming, an agonizing pain in my chest forbidding me to stand straight.

I try to yell, to call someone for help but no sound comes out – my breath is stuck in my chest.

My ribs squeeze my lungs, holding onto my air tightly, refusing to let me exhale.

And then, a horrible, horrible thought crosses my mind, increasing my panic tenfold.

I’m dying.

This is it.

I can’t see clearly and it’s hot but it’s also freezing cold and my body is sweating and I can’t think straight and I can’t breathe and I don’t know what to do and the world is caving in on me and black spots are dancing in front of my eyes andohgodI’mdyingI’m dyingI’mdying.

I’m slipping.. slipping into an abyss of an unknown world, where it is peaceful despite the yelling around me.

I can feel my body going limp as my hand slowly, lifelessly, drops to the ground.

Further and further I go, the abyss sucking me in eagerly.

Then, my memory shuts down and I cease to exist.

*****

“Rameez! Rameez!! RAMEEZ!!!” 

Dad.

Something has happened to me.

They’re trying to wake me up.

I can distinctly hear people around me, yet I can’t see anyone.

Then, a forceful, sharp, burning sting on my cheek causes my eyes to fly open.

And I can suddenly see, feel, and talk again.

I can breathe again, remember again.

I panicked, and then I passed out – that’s what happened.

My whole body is still sweating terribly and when I try to sit up, my body disobeys.

“Fai,” I try to say, gasping for air. “zal.”

“It’s okay,” coaxes a voice. “Breathe, Rameez, breathe.”

“Dad!” I say desperately, my voice hoarse.

I try to tell him the urgency of the situation, but he simply pushes my hair away from my clammy forehead.

“Ssshhhh… breathe with me,” he says, a little more firmly this time.

This time I obey.

I inhale. Deeply. Then I hold my breath for three seconds – as dad does – before exhaling slowly.

After repeating it a couple of times, I start feeling better.

Sitting up cautiously, I look around the bustling room.

“Dad. Faizal,” I say, looking towards his surrounded bed.

Dad doesn’t say anything. He simply squeezes my shoulder gently, avoiding my gaze.

A sinking feeling of dread causes my eyes to sting.

No, no, no!

And in the distance, sirens begin to wail.

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.

One Hundred and Sixty Two

Hey. Hi. Hello. Salaam. Bonjour. Salut. Ciao. Ahoj. Bog. Marhaba. Ola. 😀

Hope all my wonderful readers are well!

This is the longest post I have ever written (2753 words in total). To be honest, it wasn’t suppose to be this long. I stopped at the usual word count of 1000 something words, but it was still Wednesday so I continued writing and somewhere along the line I digressed. And it might all seemed muddled up towards the end, but I like it just the way it is – digressed, muddled up, but honest.

I hope you guys enjoy the post and have a superb Saturday! 

Much love,

Troubled Illusioner. ❤


As narrated by Zee:

“Do you want me to open the sliding door or leave it closed?” I ask, dropping the blinds.

When Meez doesn’t reply, I turn around, only to find him fast asleep.

My eyebrows raise involuntarily.

I knew he was tired – he looked completely knackered – but I really didn’t expect him to fall asleep that fast.

Running a hand through my untidy hair, I sit down onto Meez’s bed with a sigh.

I watch him sleep for a long time, my mind wide awake, running at hundred miles an hour.

I wonder about him; my since-childhood friend.

I wonder about the boy he was, the boy he has become, and all the things that caused the change.

I wonder how much more he’ll change and I wonder what the reasons behind future changes will be.

I wonder how everything he’s experienced will affect him later on in life – whether it will even affect him. Perhaps it won’t.

I wonder long and hard – about the past and how there are many things I wish I could change about it, about the present and how it will all too soon become the past, about the future and how it is terrifying yet equally exciting not knowing what it holds in store. I wonder about myself, Meez, Dee, Amz and Sumayya, allowing my mind to stray into dangerous zones, impossible situations and hopeful scenarios. My imagination has full control over the reigns and it pushes my mind to its limits, not stopping at the edge of the cliff, but jumping right off instead. And it creates a strange feeling within me.

It’s wariness, distress, agitation, and fear. But it is also anticipation, exhilaration and eagerness. And together it creates an unsettling contentment, a peaceful distress, an offbeat harmony.

Sighing, I flip my pillow over – seeking the cold side – then, turn over and close my eyes, falling into a perturbed slumber as soft, steady rain hits the roof.

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*****

It feels like I’ve slept for a mere couple of minutes before I’m awakened by a banging clap of thunder.

For an unknown amount of time, I drift in and out of drowsiness, the storm singing me to sleep.

But then the thunder booms again, in close series, and I’m wide awake.

It’s pouring now, fat drops of water pounding against the roof in a noisy chaos.

Lightning flashes, illuminating the room for split seconds at a time.

I lift my head off the pillow and turn to Meez.

My heart leaps straight into my throat.

He’s lying flat on his back, eyes wide open, staring at the ceiling.

Something about his expression, about his eyes, causes my breath to catch.

He looks dead.

“Meez,” I say quietly, my heart suddenly drumming.

He doesn’t acknowledge me; he doesn’t even blink.

Oh god. Is he fine? Is he… alive?

“Meez,” I say again.

The thunder sounds soft now, compared to the fear in my voice.

Panic overtaking me, I reach out and shake him roughly.

“Meez!!” I yell this time.

His eyes turn to look at me, slowly, unwillingly.

Then, his forehead creases slightly.

And then..

“What?” he asks.

The relief that floods through me in that moment is like a volcano exploding.

My body slumps back down onto my pillow, my heart still racing.

I breathe deeply, muttering gratitude repeatedly.

Once my heart is beating a little more calmly, I meet Meez’s gaze.

“What the hell was that?” I ask him.

He doesn’t reply, merely looks at me – unblinkingly.

“Stop that!” I command, hating the way it causes fear to rush through me. “It makes you seem dead. Talk to me!”

The Meez I know would have smirked, done it for longer, then laughed and told me I’m a drama queen.

The Meez in front of me mumbles, “wish I was dead”. Then, he turns around, his back facing me now, and drops his head back onto his pillow.

It’s silent for a long moment as his words sink in.

“Meez,” I say gently, shaking him slightly, praying that he doesn’t shut me out.

He does.

“Shut up, Zee,” he says, shrugging me off. “I’m tired.”

And then he is sleeping again.

And my mind is wandering again.

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*****

The next time I wake up, the sound of rain is replaced with that of the shower running. The place Meez occupied is empty, answering my question.

Sunlight forces itself in through the slits of the almost-closed blinds.

I peek at the time.

7:25.

Yawning, I stretch indolently before burying my face into the pillow again and dozing off.

But not for long!

The tranquil peace is disturbed by the ringing of Meez’s phone.

Groaning, I reach across his pillows for it, groping around on the pedestal.

Glancing at the name on the screen, a small smile makes its way onto my face.

I swipe my finger across the screen and place the phone at my ear.

“Deeyanah Mahomed. To what do I owe the pleasure of such an early call?”

“Zee?” comes her confused reply.

My smile broadens a little.

“Why are you answering Meez’s phone?” she asks, a moment later.

“What, you’re not happy to hear my voice?” I ask, feigning hurt.

“Did you just wake up?” she answers with a question of her own.

“No, of course not!” I say indignantly. “Been up since the crack of dawn!”

“Please!” she laughs. “I can hear that you’ve just woken up.”

“Yeah, yeah,” I admit, grinning. “Meez and I had an impromptu sleepover and I did just wake up. In fact, you woke me up. And you better have a good reason!”

“Firstly, I called Meez – no one told you to answer! Secondly, I do have a good reason! He has to be ready in 7 minutes for a run. Is he up yet?”

“A run?” I ask confused.

“Yes,” she replies. “A run.”

I wait for her to elaborate but she doesn’t.

“What do you mean a run?” I ask.

“Meez and I run on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday mornings,” she explains. “Now can you tell Meez that I’ll be there in 5.”

Meez and I run on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday mornings…

“Oh,” I hear myself saying.

How come I don’t know about that??

A moment of silence passes.

“Well, Meez won’t be coming today,” I say eventually.

“Why not?” she asks, sounding somewhat irritated now.

“Uhhh… it’s a long story,” I sigh.

An idea strikes me then.

“How about… I come with you for a run.. and I’ll fill you in then?” I ask, before I can stop myself.

“Yeah, okay, sure,” she replies nonchalantly. “You at Meez’s?”

“Yepp,” I reply, flinging away the duvet, all indolence suddenly gone.

“Okay, see you in a bit.”

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*****

Just as I cut the call, Meez steps out of the bathroom.

His face looks terrible – worse than last night.

“Assalaamualaykum,” I greet him, trying to keep my expression neutral. “How you’re feeling?”

He mumbles a reply to my greeting before stepping into his walk in closet, ignoring my question.

“Do you need me to pick you an outfit?” I ask lightheartedly.

Up until very recently, Aunty Aadila would set aside clothes for Meez to wear each day as he had a pathetic sense of fashion.

However, now, Meez seems to be doing it pretty fine on his own.

‘Another change,’ I think to myself. ‘That’s one good one at least.’

Meez once again ignores my question.

Sighing, I head to the bathroom to freshen up.

I hear the doorbell ring and hurry up with brushing my teeth.

After thoroughly washing my face, I exit the bathroom, just as Dee walks into the room.

“Hey you!” I greet her, grinning.

“Howzit?” she asks, grinning back.

“Good, good,” I reply.

“Where’s Meez?” she asks. “Is he alright?”

My grin falls.

I sigh, indicating to the balcony.

She walks up to me, squeezes my shoulder and then disappears past the sliding doors.

A moment later, I hear her gasp.

“Meez?!” she breathes in shock. “Oh my god. What… what happened?!”

‘You should have given her some warning,’ I muse, as I make up the bed.

After throwing Meez’s clothes of last night into the washing basket, I put the pillows in place and join the two of them on the balcony.

Meez is laying in his hammock, Dee standing to his side, a pained expression on her face.

“I’m fine, serious,” Meez is saying to her, a small smile on his lips.

He looks everything but fine.

“Are you going for a run?” asks Meez.

“Not anymore,” she replies, sliding open the widows that enclose the balcony.

She jumps up and sits in the open window frame.

“You shouldn’t sit there, Dee. You can fall,” I say worriedly.

“You’ll just have to catch me,” she replies, glancing at me briefly before turning her attention back to Meez.

“What happened?” she asks, again. “Did they get you?”

He shakes his head no, pushing his hair that falls onto his forehead away.

“I.. well, it’s a long story,” he says, looking up at the sky through the transparent rooftop.

“We’ve got time,” I say, glancing at my watch.

I open the window next to where Dee sits, then jump up and sit in the frame as she’d done.

She raises her eyebrows at me.

“You’ll just have to catch me if I fall,” I say with a smirk, using her words.

She shakes her head at me before looking at Meez again.

“For you, we always have time,” adds Dee, smiling sincerely.

Meez doesn’t say anything for a while.

Then he sits up and starts talking.

He starts at the beginning – from the first time he hung out with Faizal – and doesn’t stop until he reaches the end.

Just like me, Dee is a good listener.

Despite all the questions we have, we listen silently until he is finished.

For a long moment after Meez stops speaking we simply stare at him in stunned silence.

Was he actually being serious?!

And then, unable to hold it any longer, Dee and I fire our questions all in one shot, talking on top of each other.

We stop at the same time and then speak again; at the same time!

“You first,” we say in unison.

Grinning I indicate to Dee to ask her questions first.

“So this is the same guy you were hanging out with when you saw Dayyanah all that time ago?” she asks.

“Yeah, same guy,” he replies. “Same guy who first got me involved in a whole lot of crap, and same guy who continues making it impossible for me to change those same crap habits which he inculcated in me.”

“So his girlfriend was shot and killed and you were there?” asks Dee, her eyes widening a little.

Meez nods, then lays back down in his hammock.

“Oh my god,” she breathes, shaking her head. “How are you not… my goodness, are you.. are you okay? Like, did that not mess with your mind?”

Meez looks away, not answering her question.

Dee doesn’t know that it’s not the first time he’s seen someone being murdered and I hope it stays that way.

For herself, her heart is a rock. But for us – her friends – it’s the complete opposite.

“I can’t believe Zishaan killed her,” I blurt out, breaking the silence. “I mean, we see him every day in school. And everyone knows he is a bit sketchy – being the only 20 year old in matric and all – but this is mad. He killed someone.”

Dee frowns.

“I can’t quite place him,” she says, looking deep in thought. “And why is he 20 and in matric?”

“Like I was saying, he and Faizy were in the same class all along from grade 8 until grade 10. They were really good friends and then Lubna came in between and Zishaan dropped out halfway through grade 11. Then he came back this year to do matric.”

“How come?” asks Dee.

Meez and I shrug.

“I’m still not sure who he is, but anyway, what’s going to happen now?” she questions further.

“Is he going to be sentenced?” she adds hesitantly.

“I don’t know,” replies Meez, shrugging again. “I don’t remember much of what happened last night at the police station after he confessed; I was too tired.”

It’s quiet between us for a while again, the sound of dogs barking and birds chirping the only thing that can be heard.

“You know what,” I say, once again breaking the silence. “It’s actually so… so.. well, sad.

Meez and Dee look at me questioningly.

“It’s so sad that this guy is barely an adult, and this is what he’s chosen to do with his life. I mean, imagine all the things he could have done. He’s young, he’s got good health, a fairly okay reputation, and of all the possible amazing things he could have done with those assets, he chooses to kill a girl – not even any girl, the girl he loves – and spend the best years of his life in a prison cell. And it’s horrible to think of because it really hits you, doesn’t it? Like, how are we using our youth? We may not be falling in love and killing people, but if we’re not doing anything… well, beneficial, we may as well consider ourselves as good as someone in a prison cell. Our generation is so messed up it’s actually terrifying,” I say, shaking my head in despair.

“Here’s the thing, right,” says Meez, sitting up again. “What you’ve said, I agree, but I just feel that he can’t be blamed. Like, it’s unfair. If you think of it logically, no person in their right mind would do such a thing. Why would he intentionally throw away his whole future? I just feel that it’s unfair to blame him. He did it, but it wasn’t him who did it. Do you guys get what I’m trying to say? Does it make sense?”

“No,” I say, frowning.

I look at Dee, whose eyes hold a sad, faraway look.

“I don’t know how to explain -”

“It does,” says Dee, cutting Meez off.

“It does make sense,” she continues. “I know what you’re trying to say.”

Something in Meez’s expression changes

“I.. I’m sorry,” he hurriedly apologizes to Dee. “I didn’t mean to…”

“It’s okay,” says Dee.

“Guys, I’m lost,” I say, my frown deepening, looking back and forth between the two of them.

“Dee knows what I’m talking about, because…”

Meez trails off, unsure of himself.

“Because I used to feel the same way with my father,” says Dee, her voice quiet. “You can’t understand how it’s possible, you feel like you’re not allowed to blame them, because it can’t possibly be their fault. It’s not them doing what they’re doing.”

Not knowing what to say, I remain silent.

“You know what find sad?” continues Dee, looking off into the distance. “What people have done to the meaning of love – that’s what I find sad. How we’ve given love just a selfish, messed up definition. We’ve torn its meaning to shreds, honestly. We expect so much but we’re willing to give so little in return. Maybe it’s just me or maybe I don’t believe that love exists because I’ve never seen love flourish. But now, I don’t even want someone to prove me wrong anymore, because to me, it just looks like love makes you a horrible person.”

“No,” I say immediately, jumping out of the window frame, off the half wall of the balcony.

“No, what?” asks Meez, looking at me curiously.

“I don’t think love makes you a horrible person. If you truly love someone, it won’t make you a horrible person. How the hell would – that doesn’t even make sense!” I say, the words tumbling out of my mouth at their own accord.

“It doesn’t make sense because you’ve never been in love,” says Meez.

“No,” I repeat, something deep inside me disagreeing so strongly that it makes my voice shake.

“You’ve got it all wrong Dee,” I say, looking her straight in the eye. “And you have to change that thinking because love does exist, and when it comes your way, you’re not going to be able to accept it. And that is selfish. Selfish and unfair to yourself.”

“It won’t come my way,” says Dee, holding my gaze, her blue eyes piercing into my soul. “I won’t let it.”

*****

But of course it would.

Love goes everyone’s way.

And love, is unstoppable. 

One Hundred and Sixty One

*fzahra7860 this one is for you! 🌸💕


As narrated by Meez:

“The bullet wasn’t meant to kill her. It wasn’t even meant for her.”

I look at the boy I see countless times in the school hallways always dressed in branded clothes, hands stuffed in his pockets.

Zishaan – that’s his name.

He looks unrecognizable.

Disheveled hair, sandy clothes, an arm covered in scratches and a bruised face – I can’t seem to pull my gaze away.

His usual mirth-filled eyes are dead. Completely and utterly dead, terrified, lost.

“It was for Faizal,” he says, bitterness lacing every inch of every letter he speaks. “But it wasn’t meant to kill him either – it was just meant to hurt him. No matter how much I hate him, I would never kill him.”

“But you loved Lubna and you killed her,” I blurt out before I can stop myself.

He looks up, meets my eye.

Oh shit.

“Shut your mouth, you don’t know what you’re talking about,” he says.

His voice – low, deadly, tinged with lunacy – sends a shiver down my spine.

Dad shoots me a warning look and I quickly look away, a prick of fear settling in.

He’s in denial.

And if we don’t watch what we say, we could trigger him.

“Why don’t you tell us the story from the beginning,” says Uncle Sulaimaan.

Zishaan looks at Uncle Sulaimaan, considers for a moment of eternity, then starts talking again.

“Faizal and I had been friends since the first year of high school. Lubna and I dated for 5 months before she decided that it wasn’t what she wanted,” he says, talking briefly. “Only a couple of weeks thereafter, rumors of Faizal and her being together started going around. I asked Faizal whether it was true, but, he knew I loved her, so he lied about it. I obviously didn’t know at that time. And when I seen him with another girl the next day, I was at ease. But he was just unsure in the beginning, that’s why he was still messing around with other girls. But then I saw Lubna and him together more and more often, so I cornered Lubna this time. She confirmed that they were dating and she was certain that Faizal was the one for her. And that obviously was the turning point in Faizal and I’s friendship. Today was his 21st birthday and I knew it was gonna be big. It was my best chance. I just had to do what I needed to, and then get away unnoticed.”

Too bad I noticed you.

“But seems like that didn’t go as planned,” he mutters, glancing around at the white walls of the empty room we’re in.

“What happens now?” he asks quietly after a long moment of silence.

He’s scared.

No, terrified.

I can hear it in the way his voice trembles.

I can see it in his eyes, alight with stark terror.

I can sense it from the way he sits; tense yet defeated.

His fear is so evident, so overwhelming, that I can even smell it.

It smells like the cold metal of a gun; like a blade covered in blood.

It smells like the sweat of a convulsing animal fighting the jaws of death.

It smells like flashes of hot electricity and burnt flesh.

It smells like a deserted dungeon.

And even though I don’t want to feel sorry for him, even though I want to hate him with every fiber of my being, somehow – impossibly – I don’t.

I can’t.

Because it’s painfully heart-wrenching.

The whole situation, it’s unfair and horrible.

He’s to be blamed, yet how can he be blamed?

God, he’s barely even an adult.

All he did was fall in love – his only crime was falling in love.

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*****

Sitting down in the corridor of the police station, I lean against the wall and close my eyes.

Breathe.

Inhale. Exhale.

Inhale. Exhale.

Slipping my hand into my jeans pocket, I pull out my phone, grateful that I had taken of my HP robe; the party seems like a long, long time ago..

A sleepy voice answers.

“Zee. Bro. What’s up?”

A long moment of silence follows.

Then…

“What’s up?!” he groans incredulously. “Da heck you mean ‘what’s up’?!”

I wince.

“It’s bloody… what… 1 in the darn morning!” he says, more like a question.

I check my watch.

“12:26,” I say.

“Exactly,” comes Zee’s muffled reply. “And what do we do at 12:26 pm? We sleep!”

I don’t say anything.

“Well, I do at least,” he says, starting to sound a little more awake. “What’s up?”

“Nothing much,” I say nonchalantly. “Just chilling at the police station. You know, usual Saturday night routine.”

Silence.

Then…

“Don’t mess with me, Rameez,” he says humourlessly.

I sigh.

“What the freaking frikkadels is going on?” he asks, sounding very much awake now.

“Can I pick you up in 10?” I reply with a question of my own.

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*****

Almost a whole hour later, after answering a dozen of questions at the police station, then going back to Faizy’s place to see if everything had been taken care of, Uncle Sulaimaan stopped at Zee’s place, picked him up and then dropped the three of us home. But it was only after we filled mummy and Zee in and drank a cup of steaming chamomile tea which she insisted on that we got to go to bed.

Rubbing my eyes, barely able to walk straight, I climb the stairs slowly and head to my room; Zee following close behind.

I pull off my dusty, bloodstained T-shirt, kick off my shoes and collapse onto my bed.

Exhaustion kicks in full force and I bury my head into my pillow, my limbs and muscles aching.

“Why don’t you take a shower?” Zee asks quietly. “You’ll sleep better.”

I grunt in response, unable to give him more of a decent reply.

“Do you want me to open the sliding door or leave it closed?” he asks.

But I’m already fast asleep, my body succumbing to the massive waves of tiredness, allowing itself to be pulled under into darkness.

My body sleeps, but for my mind, there is no rest – only troubled illusions.

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