As narrated by Amz:
“We can do this the easy way, or the hard way,” says Fuaad, his eyes gleaming.
“I’m not doing it,” I say firmly. “Easy way, hard way, I’m not doing it.”
“So it’s going to be the hard way, then,” muses Fuaad, cocking his head to the side, waiting for me to reconsider.
He stands up and immediately I stand too, my senses on high alert.
I can see him coming towards me, his long legs allowing him to advance quickly.
My heart starts racing instantly activating my flight mode.
I back away, praying that I don’t fall over.
I can see him..
Involuntarily I scream, the sudden complete darkness pushing my senses to their limits.
Unable to see him – unable to see anything – I turn around and run.
The sound of my heart beating pounds against my eardrums, adrenaline coursing through my veins.
I scream again, the sound somewhat comforting as sheer terror overtakes me.
I shouldn’t have.
My scream tips off Fuaad, giving away my direction and then he’s right at my heels again.
I feel his fingertips on my back, reaching to grab onto my clothes.
No, no, no!
Slowing for a second, I jab my elbow backwards.
Wincing at the combined sound of it connecting with what feels like Fuaad’s jaw and his yell of pain, I begin sprinting again, my small victory spurring me on.
My lungs are screaming and a sharp pain from my stomach to hip almost cripples me, but the fear of Fuaad getting me makes me run even faster.
Then, suddenly, he’s in front of me.
I skid to a stop and spin on my heel simultaneously.
But he’s in front of me again.
I turn to my right and he’s there.
My hair stands and goosebumps decorate my skin as realization sinks in.
There’s no where for me to run.
He’s everywhere, surrounding me from every side.
No, no, no! Oh my god.
“We can do this the easy way, or the hard way.”
They’re all talking, each figure of Fuaad’s lips move.
Their voices sound thick and bland – almost automated.
What the hell?!
They step forward, each figure closing the distance between us.
My eyes widen, and I can feel my body shaking.
Then I hear my own voice, but I’m not speaking.
“I’m not doing it. Easy way, hard way, I’m not doing it.”
My hand flies to my mouth, but even as it does, I know that I didn’t speak.
“So it’s going to be the hard way, then,” they say, stepping forward in an eerie synchronization again.
“No!” I yell, and this time it’s me.
This time I speak.
But they don’t seem to hear.
“NO!!” I yell again. “I’ll do it! Leave me alone, I’ll sign the papers!”
The distance between the horrible robotic creatures and I recedes.
I spin around, trying to find a way out, but they’re advancing from all sides.
I scream again, the fear in my voice terrifying me even more.
Then, at the far end of the seemingly endless army of robots, a door opens.
Bright light shines through, illuminating the room.
“What are you’ll doing?!” an angry voice shouts.
In unison they all come to a dead stop.
“Who told you’ll to come here?! Get away from her!” the voice commands.
A bright red light blinks on each robot’s forehead, and just like that, they disappear.
An overwhelming sense of relief cascades and I crumble to the floor, hot tears streaming down my face.
The man at the door advances.
“Did they hurt you?” he asks gently.
Choking on my sobs, all I manage to do is shake my head.
“Good,” he says.
He bends down, picks me up.
“Who are you?” I ask, my blurry vision clearing as he wipes my tears.
Somehow, impossibly, I can’t see his face.
He has a face, but I can’t see his face.
It’s a hazy image of features that seem familiar but I can’t quite place them.
“I can save you,” he says.
I stare at him in disbelief.
“You can?” I ask, my voice trembling.
He nods before speaking again.
“On one condition…”
My breath catches as I wait for him to continue.
“You have to sign those papers,” he says quietly.
“That’s all you have to do, and I’ll take care of the rest. I’ll make sure no one hurts you and I’ll make sure you’re always happy.”
No one hurts you…
You’re always happy…
I nod my head hastily, my lips lifting in a smile.
“You’ll sign them, then?” he asks.
“Yes!” I say in a rush. “Yes, I will. Now tell me who your are?”
“I’m yours, my love,” he says. “And you, are mine.”
And suddenly the hazy image clears and I can see his face.
My eyes fly open and I groan.
It’s so hot, oh god.
I fling back my duvet and sit up slowly, taking a deep breath to calm down, and stop my body from shaking.
Just a nightmare, just a nightmare, it’s alright.
But it’s not “just a nightmare”.
For three consecutive nights now, my dreams involved Fuaad.
Fuaad and his “contract”.
We will agree to Salma having full guardianship over Amaani and becoming the trustee of her trust fund, if Amaani agrees to marrying Fuaad once he qualifies.
The day I had to give my answer was drawing closer much too quickly.
Sleep pulls at me, and I lay down again, trying to push the thought away.
With a restless mind, an aching heart, and troubled illusions, I once again fall into a unsettled slumber.
As narrated by Dee:
“2 years is a long time,” I say to Amz, pouring boiling water onto the coffee powder in my mug. “A lot can happen.”
Dropping a dash of milk into my mug next, I pull open the cutlery draw for a spoon.
Getting onto the kitchen countertop I cross my legs and focus my attention on Amz.
It’s Saturday – which means Amz has to give her answer in roughly 24 hours.
Adjusting my almost ever-present beanie I sip my coffee.
“I’m thinking more along the lines of booking myself a flight to Antarctica,” says Amz.
I don’t know if she’s being serious or not.
As of now, I wouldn’t put it past her.
“You want to become a doctor,” I remind her.
“Australia then,” she says, pouring milk over her cereal.
“I don’t like their accent,” I say, sipping my coffee again.
“Bottom of the bloody ocean then,” she mutters miserably.
“School won’t even be a problem there,” she adds a moment later.
Has she reached the stage of insanity this fast?
“There’s thousands of schools,” Amz says neutrally, munching on her cornflakes.
“Amz…” I say worriedly, my frown deepening.
“Schools of fish, you egg!!” exclaims Amz.
“Huh. Oh. Ohhhhh!!”
It’s quiet for a moment..
Then, we look up at each other, and burst out laughing.
“You’re crazy,” I say once my laughter subsides.
“Rightfully so,” she says, rolling her eyes.
I drain my mug of coffee and get up to put it in the sink.
“We can make him “conveniently” die,” I say, realizing that Amz isn’t in a mood to address the topic seriously.
“Which option shall we take?” asks Amz, joining me at the sink to put her bowl. “Drop him off a cliff or bullet to the brain.”
“Bullet to the brain won’t work because he doesn’t have one, remember?” I say casually.
“Oh yeah,” replies Amz, reaching for a mug from the dish-rack.
She makes herself a mug of coffee before speaking again.
“Organize him two dates at the same place, same time then? I’m sure nails and heels can do the job well enough.”
“Hmm… not a bad idea,” I muse. “I’m thinking more on the lines of putting a scorpion in his pants.”
Amz chokes on her coffee, her eyes widening.
I shoot her an innocent smile, shrugging.
“Now we’re talking,” she says, grinning.
My phone vibrates before I get to say what I want to next.
I swipe my finger across the screen, lift it to my ear and greet.
“Oh for once you don’t sound irritated that it’s me,” Zee’s voice comes through.
I roll my eyes.
“What must I do if you phone at the wrong times?” I say. “Besides, that only ever happened once.”
“I don’t know when you’re expecting calls from your dishy boyfriend, you can’t blame me.”
“Oh god, seriously?! Are you still on about that?!” I ask, rolling my eyes again.
“Denial is a dangerous part of addiction,” quotes Zee.
“Did you phone me to discuss my non-existent boyfriend?” I ask.
“Actually, no,” he replies. “What you guys up to?”
“Just planning Fuaad’s death,” I say nonchalantly, glancing at Amz who’s busy on her phone.
“Any good ideas yet?” he asks.
“Yeah, a few,” I reply.
“I’m coming to pick you’ll up in 10 minutes,” he says. “Don’t make me wait.”
“Who said I’m available? I have a date with my dishy boyfriend,” I say.
“You don’t have a dishy boyfriend,” points out Zee and I can hear him smirking.
“Jeez, thanks for the reminder,” I mutter.
“See you in ten,” he says with a laugh.
As narrated by Zee:
“Where are we going?” asks Dee.
“I’m kidnapping you’ll, so I can’t say,” I reply, glancing at her in the rearview mirror.
She rolls her eyes, and Sumayya laughs.
It’s seems like forever since we’ve all been together out of school.
Matric has robbed us of our time, and each of us have been involved in some own personal situation.
Amz and Dee with their whole moving house, adoption plan.
Tybalt hadn’t been well and that kept Sumayya tied to him.
As for Meez, there’s no surety with him.
He’s okay, that much I know. But he is no more him.
Something seems to have changed it his whole outlook on life, and it has created a glitch in our friendship.
But whatever it is, he seems happier and more at peace with himself than he’s ever been. And for that, I am grateful.
“What’s the plan of action, Amz?” I ask, interrupting her conversation with Dee and Sumayya.
“Seriously?” she asks, looking at me irritably. “You bothering to ask?”
“Obviously I’m not agreeing to their stupid suggestion,” she continues. “I can do whatever I want, I’m an adult. You think I’m going to listen to a bunch of brainless traitors?”
She can do whatever she wants.
But she won’t.
That’s not who Amz is.
A moment of silence passes.
“Fine,” she admits. “Maybe I won’t do what I want, but neither am I going to do what they say.”
“What are you going to do then?” asks Sumayya. “And what about you Dee?”
“I’m moving back in with my mother and Daanyaal,” Dee replies quietly.
“Oh, but like, with your uncle and them?” asks Sumayya.
“Urm.. no,” she replies. “There’s an option available for my uncle to buy a plot a little away from where they currently are. It has two separate houses.”
“But he’ll only go through with getting that place if I decide to stay with Aunty Salma too,” continues Amz. “Otherwise they’ll stay put, right?”
“Maybe not,” Dee replies with a shrug.
“What about, err.. what about Dayyanah?” Sumayya asks carefully.
I glance at Dee in the rearview mirror.
I catch her eyes narrow slightly, a small frown on a her face.
She looks out of the window, away from Sumayya.
“What do you mean what about her?” asks Dee.
I notice that Meez is no longer busy on his phone, but instead, now listening intently.
“Is she gonna stay with you’ll too?” asks Sumayya.
“We don’t know where she is. Probably not.”
I glance at Meez discreetly and raise my eyebrows.
He knows, doesn’t he?
Meez avoids my gaze.
I try to imagine what Dee is thinking right now, and I conclude that it must be what Meez told her when she first tried calling Dayyanah and failed.
I hadn’t been there, but she’d told me later what he said.
She’s not who you remember, Dee. She’s not Dayyanah with the same hair length and bracelet on her wrist as you. She’s no longer the sister you ran from. I know you want to make up for your mistakes and rebuild your bond with her, but you must understand, she’s changed. In every single way, Dee. You’re not going to get the Dayyanah you know back. It might sound like unfeeling advice, but mine is, stay away. Stay away from her rather, Dee. Because the more you get to know the new her, the more your heart will break.
“Amz… two years is a long time, you know,” I hear Sumayya say, breaking me out of my thoughts.
“I know. Dee said the same thing. But he’s lived 22 years perfectly fine. I doubt he’ll conveniently die now when he needs to,” Amz replies bitterly.
“Why don’t you just agree now, then when 2 years pass and if nothing’s changed or happened by then, you can deal with it then,” says Sumayya.
“It’s not as simple as that,” says Amz, and something in her tone indicates that she doesn’t want to discuss it further.
“Where we’re going?” asks Meez.
“Yeah, I asked too,” says Dee.
“For ice-cream,” I say.
“I have ice-cream in the freezer at home,” says Amz.
“Don’t be such an aunty, Amz,” I tease.
She rolls her eyes and Sumayya laughs.
“Besides,” I add a moment later. “We’re already here.”
As narrated by Amz:
“We’ll meet tomorrow, yeah?” asks Zee, stopping in our driveway.
“Yeah, but it won’t be for ice-cream unfortunately,” I reply.
“Don’t think about it too much,” says Zee.
I lean down on the open window frame of the passenger seat which Meez still occupies.
“Any ideas what I should think about then?” I ask sarcastically, rolling my eyes.
“If you guys need anything, you have my number,” says Zee.
“We’re good, don’t stress,” I say, standing up straight again.
I hear Dee unlocking the house gate, then pushing the door open.
“You don’t stress,” says Zee.
“I still have no idea what I’m going to do tomorrow,” I admit, sighing heavily.
“Just make dua,” says Meez, speaking for the first time.
He hadn’t been looking at me the whole time, but now he glances up.
Our gazes lock and there’s something about the way he just spoke, about the way he’s looking at me now – something about him that has visibly changed.
It surprises me that I hadn’t noticed before.
And beside the fact that it’s the last thing I’d have expected to hear from Meez, he says it with such surety, and that surprises me too.
Like it’s the most obvious solution and I’d been silly to have not thought of it.
I blink, and Meez’s gaze focuses down again.
Snapping out of my momentarily spell of surprise, I open my mouth to speak.
But a bloodcurdling scream cuts me off.