01.03.2018 – Ghouta

Last night I sat down to write a piece on Ghouta – Syria – and the current… the current situation there.

I wrote one sentence, then I scratched it.

Then, I wrote another. And then I scratched it.

I placed my pencil atop my page, trying to approach it differently.

Maybe third person narrative.

Lifting my pencil again, I scribbled a line.

A rhyming word jumped into my mind.

A poem! That’s what I’ll write. A poem. 

Bear in mind that I am a writer. Not a poet.

I can count the number of poems I’ve ever written, on my hands. Perhaps even one hand.

I came as far as three lines this time.

But then, I hit the brick wall again.

It wasn’t working.

I switched my style again, tried a different tactic.

It didn’t work. Again.

My pencil had lead, but it wouldn’t write.

I wasn’t feeling it, I realized.

And that’s when it clicked.

I wasn’t feeling it.

I wasn’t feeling it. 

The writer in me made its appearance in 2015.

Since then, in the two years that have passed, I’ve learnt a lot.

I’ve learnt a lot about writing and the way it works.

And from all the things that I’ve learnt, one that always stands out starkly, is how easy it is to write when I feel strongly about something.

If I’ve experienced it, the words flow, the emotions peak, and I barely even have to make an effort.

And when I get stuck, I put myself in my character’s shoes.

I imagine how I would feel in that situation, how I would think, what I would do, how I would react. I make my character me. I make me my character.

But let’s come back to the point.

I digress. I’m sorry.

What I’m trying to say, is that I realized the reason for being unable to produce a piece on Ghouta, and it was simple.

It is simple.

I can’t feel what they are feeling.

And unlike what I do when I get stuck with my characters, I can’t comprehend, I can’t possibly even imagine what it would be like to be in the situation the people of Ghouta currently are.

What would I say? What would I do? How would I react?

Would I even survive?

Probably not.

My Imaan compared to theirs is like the strength of a baby lamb in front of an adult male lion.

It’s like a house without a foundation in a tsunami.

Like a child being commanded at gunpoint.

Can you imagine how unshakably strong their faith must be, to see their house disappear in a cloud of dust in front of them, to see their children bleed to death in front of them, to see their siblings being pulled out from beneath rubble in front of them, yet they still believe. 

Can you imagine how unshakably strong their faith must be, to constantly hear their children wail out of starvation and thirst, to constantly hear gunfire and bombs explode all around them, to constantly hear people screaming in fear, running for their lives, yet they still believe. 

And us?

Cold? We complain.

Hot? We complain.

Food we don’t like? We complain.

Not even no food. We get food. But still, we complain.

How pathetic have we become as humans. As ummatis of Nabi صَلي الله عَليهِ وسَلم.

As I’m writing this, I’m questioning myself.

Who am I to point out other people’s faults when I have countless myself? Does this make me a hypocrite?

Why I am writing this article?

Because everyone is writing about the gore in Ghouta, and I have to, too?

Should I use the excuse of “creating awareness”?

But, are the people not aware enough already? Surely, they are. We’re up to date with the celeb news, we’re aware of what’s happening in the western world. Surely then we must know what is happening to our fellow Muslims. To our brothers and sisters.

So let me tell you why I am writing this.

I am writing this to remind you.

To remind you, that next time you want to complain about the food your mother puts on the table, the people of Ghouta are starving to death.

To remind you, that next time you forget your jacket at home and the weather takes a turn, the people of Ghouta are shivering in fear.

To remind you, that next time your child is throwing a tantrum and all you want to do is yell at him, the mother’s of Ghouta are watching their children bleed to death.

To remind you, that next time your husband doesn’t do as you request, the wives of Ghouta don’t even have someone to listen to their requests.

To remind you, that next time your father doesn’t buy you what you want, the children of Ghouta have absolutely nothing.

To remind you, that next time you lift your hands in duaa, wanting to pray for something that will only give you worldly benefit, make a better duaa. Make a more needed duaa, a more crucial duaa. Make a duaa for the people of the ummah.

Make dua for the people of Ghouta.

Pray for them like you’ve never prayed before.

It’s the least we can do.


May Allah guide us, this sinful servant first. May Allah grant us taufeeq to change our lives, to become better muslims. May Allah grant the innocent Ummah of Nabi صَلي الله عَليهِ وسَلم relief and ease, verily He is the All-hearing, All-seeing, All-knowing.



*A little something written by a very talented friend of mine.

Gripping the rails of the staircase, I rush forward, feeling the early evening breeze hit my face. I pay no attention to it, focusing on easing my breaths instead. All I can hear is your voice, but I can’t trace the sound. I close my eyes and sigh inwardly. It’s been too much. It was always too much. This race, this constant fear, the anxiety that has embraced me completely, the sadness that remains with me continuously – it’s all too much. I sit down on the stairs and stare into nothingness, my mind mocking me. I’m chasing a dead human. I’m chasing a human who lies six feet under the ground. My demons have created an imaginary you. I can hear your melodious voice ringing in my ears – it’s louder than my heartbeat. I can feel you, but when I look, you’re not there. When I stare at my reflection in the mirror, I see sullen eyes – I see your eyes, powerful grey, stormy like the sea. I can smell your fragrance – a mixture of perfume and washing powder. I hear the sound of your car, reversing out of the driveway. My heart leaps but when I run to the window, there’s nothing there, no one there. They say I’m insane, that I’ve lost my mind.  But I know, I know that if you were here, they wouldn’t have reason to call me that. I would embrace you, and listen to every story of yours. I would smile and laugh at seeing you smile and laugh. I would have asked you every question that I want to ask you now. I would have served you in every way possible. I would have made your tea for you just as you liked. I would have inhaled your scent again and again, I would have bought your favourite chocolates, cooked your favourite meals, appreciated our conversations more. I would have loved you like how I love you now. I would have appreciated your existence like how I appreciate my very own breathing. I would have loved you, I would have loved you just like how I love you now, if not, even more….

One Hundred and Seventy Five

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

In case you’re having a blue Monday, here’s a post. Enjoy!

Much Love,

Troubled Illusioner. ❤

As narrated by Amz:

I freeze for a moment before all my senses peak.

Spinning on my heel, I dash into the house, the boys right behind me.

“Dee!” I call to her loudly, the fear in my voice audible.

She screams again.

The kitchen.

She’s in the kitchen.

Already at the staircase – heading for her bedroom – I turn around and hurry to the kitchen, now behind the boys.

Zee is right up front, and moving too quickly, is unable to stop as Dee rushes out of the kitchen.

They bump into each other with full force and Dee yelps.

“Whoa!” exclaims Zee, grabbing her arm before she hits the floor.

“Are you okay?” asks Zee, steadying her.

She’s not.

Her face is ashen, making her blue eyes, which are bright with terror, stand out starkly.

“Dee?” I say worriedly, stepping in front of Meez to get to her.

“Kitchen,” she whispers, her eyes wide. “There’s… box…”

Then her eyes roll back and her body goes limp, falling against Zee.

“Dee!” I yell, panic seizing me.

“Check the kitchen, bro!” Zee shouts to Meez, picking Dee up and heading to the lounge.

“Amz, get water! And salt!” he orders me.

Meez and I hastily go into the kitchen.

There’s a white box on the table, the lid partially off.

And, escaping in what seems like the thousands, are spiders.

Momentarily I freeze, my gaze fixated on the white box and the black creatures scurrying out of it.

Meez recovers first.

“Amz!” he yells.

Snapping out of my shock, I scream, and dash back out.

Oh my god. 

“Amz!” Meez calls. “Where’s the Doom?!”

My body is shaking, and I find it impossible to answer him.

“Amz!” he shouts again, now in front of me.

He shakes me slightly.

“Do you have Doom? Raid repellent? Focus!” he commands.

I nod.

“Where?! Amz, focus!

I picture the white box on the table again, the countless spiders escaping.


“The sink,” I say.


“Under the sink!” I say. “The cupboard under the sink!”

Meez disappears.

“Amz, are you coming with the water?!” I hear Zee yell from the lounge.


My mind is a hazy jumble of thoughts rushing around much too fast.


Oh my god, Dee!

I hear the sound of something being furiously sprayed.

I picture Dee entering the kitchen, seeing the box on the table and moving towards it.

“Amaani!” I hear Zee yell again, but it sounds faint this time.

The scene in my mind is still playing out.

Dee pulling the box closer to her and lifting the lid to see what’s inside.

I imagine the absolute terror that must have seized her as the spiders scrambled out.

A shiver runs down my spine, and a choked sob escapes my lips.

My hand flies to my mouth.

Who and why would someone do such a horrible thing?!

Zee dashes past me and I snap out of my stupor.

Taking a deep breath, I head to the lounge.

Everything seems wobbly, and I walk quickly, hoping to get to the couch in the time.

But it only makes my surroundings spin faster.

Oh god. 

“Zee!” I yell, panic closing in much too quickly.

He’s right next to me.

“It’s okay,” he says, his voice loud yet controlled – calm. “You need to calm down.”

“Take a deep breath,” he says.

I obey, closing my eyes and breathing deeply.

“I’ve got her. Check on Dee,” I hear Meez murmur.

The strong smell of insect repellent hits me at Mee’z presence.

“Amaani,” he says. “You’re with me?”

I nod.

“Sit down,” he says.

Opening my eyes, I obey, moving slowly.

“Here,” he says, crouching in front of me and handing me a glass of water.

I reach for the glass, holding it with two hands to keep it steady.

It takes me a couple of minutes to calm down and gain control over myself again.

My vision clears and my hands stop shaking.

I take a deep breath, and hand the glass back to Meez.

“Better?” he asks.

I nod.

“You’re still crying,” he says gently.

“I am?” I ask, my hands moving to my face.

I am.

Oh god. 

“I’m fine,” I say truthfully, wiping my eyes and giving him a weak smile.

He doesn’t look convinced.

“Is Dee okay?” I ask, standing up carefully.

Meez stands close enough to grab me if I fall but he doesn’t offer me a hand.

“I don’t know,” he says.

We head to the lounge.

As narrated by Zee:

“I’ve got her. Check on Dee,” murmurs Meez.

I let go of Amz’s shoulder and hurry to the lounge where I had left Dee.

She’s still out.

My heart racing, I shake her slightly.

“Dee,” I call to her repeatedly.

She doesn’t respond.

Panic threatens to overtake me.

Calm down. 

I take a deep breath.

Now think. 

Glancing at the glass of water in my hand, I hesitate, then pour its contents on her face.

Her eyes fly open and she gasps for air.

Relief floods through me.


I touch her face.

She sits up slowly.

“Dee, are you okay?” I ask worriedly.

She hasn’t heard me.

I can see from the way she’s looking at me – she’s looking through me.

Her mind is processing.

I take her hand, waiting patiently.

And then it registers.

She gasps, her hand flying to her mouth, and she scrambles to her feet, her eyes going wide.

“Dee, relax,” I say, my heart picking up speed again.

“The spiders,” she sobs, ignoring me.

She fights against my hold, trying to get up and away.

I pull her off the sofa and onto the floor with me.

“Dee!” I say. “Listen to me. It’s okay.”

At the back of my mind I register Meez and Amz entering the lounge.

“No, no, no,” Dee fights, struggling in my arms.

I tighten my grip.

“They’re gone. Listen to me! There aren’t any spiders. Calm down!”

She stops struggling and looks at me.

I catch her gaze.

“They’re gone,” I say slowly, so that she hears every word. “The spiders are gone. Meez got rid of them.”

The panic in her eyes doesn’t disappear and her breath is still coming short and fast.

“We’re in the lounge,” I continue. “There’s no spiders. It’s okay, you’re safe.”

She looks around, then at her hands and arms.

“See,” I say gently. “No spiders.”

She looks up at me again, and then bursts into tears.

I pull her against my chest, allowing her to cry.

Amz crouches down beside me and strokes her hair, speaking to her softly.

“I.. I hate… hi… him,” Dee chokes out between sobs.

I frown.

“Who?” I ask, rubbing her back.

“Fu.. aad,” she replies, sobbing harder.

I hold her tighter.

Meez speaks up.

“There was a note…” he says quietly.

Amz gasps.

“With the box?” I ask, my frown deepening.

“Ye.. yes,” says Dee, lifting her head off my shoulder and wiping her eyes.

But the tears continue to flow.

“Don’t cryyy,” I say, unable to bear it anymore.

That just makes her cry harder.

“Th…there.. were.. s.. sso.. ma.. many.”

Her lips are trembling and her eyes still hold traces of fear.

“I know,” I say, hugging her to my chest again. “But it’s okay. They’re gone now. I promise. Don’t cry.”

“What did the note say?” I hear Amz ask Meez.

“It was addressed to you,” he replies quietly.

“I know,” says Amz. “Was it a threat?”

Meez nods.

“About the consequences I’d face if I don’t agree to their proposition?” asks Amz.

Meez looks away.


He sighs.

Then, he nods in the affirmative.

One Hundred and Seventy Four

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..

and then,

I can’t.

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.

It’s Fuaad.

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.

I frown.

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.

He laughs.

“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.

Dee shrugs.

“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.



One Hundred and Seventy Three

As narrated by Amz:

The hardest thing in life is knowing which bridge to cross and which to burn.

Sometimes you cross the wrong bridge.

You find yourself in the entirely wrong place at the completely wrong time. You weren’t ready to cross it, but you’re already on the other side and there’s no going back. And so you’re left to deal with scenarios you have no idea what to do about and problems that seemingly have no solutions.

Sometimes you burn the wrong bridge.

The fiery flames pull you into their dangerous dance and suddenly you’re dying because the smoke is too thick, the flames are too hot and and you realize that you never were suppose to burn this bridge. You’d need to feel its wooden planks under your feet and gaze out at the stream following under for longer but it’s already almost in ashes.

Sometimes you don’t know whether, by doing or saying something, you’re crossing or burning the wrong bridge.

I sigh heavily, standing up from my bed, wondering if the pain of losing my parents will ever go away.

It won’t.

It never does.



The entryway is already full when we enter.

There’s Uncle Rashid and Aunty Raeesah – Dee’s uncle and aunt, Aunty Salma – Dee’s mother – and Daanyaal – Dee’s brother.

Then there’s Uncle Ismaeel, Aunty Aadila – Meez’s parents, Rameez and Zee.

The boys had insisted that they had to be here, and Uncle Rashid eventually gave in. Technically, they are adults too, now.

And, of course, there’s Uncle Abdullah, Aunty Haleemah – my aunty and uncle – and unfortunately, Fuaad – my cousin.

We greet quietly and I notice Dee step aside with her mother.

I catch there conversation from where I’m standing.

“Since when has all this been going on?” asks Dee.

Aunty Salma sighs.

“How come you didn’t tell me anything, Maama?” she questions further.

“Okay, we can all head to the dining room, please,” Uncle Rashid’s voice commands loudly.

I notice Aunty Salma squeeze Dee’s shoulder before turning around and walking away.

Hurt and anger flashes in her eyes before she masks her expression again.

I move towards her, but Zee beats me.

He pulls her into a hug and even though I’m closer now, I don’t hear what he says to her.

She pulls back after a short moment and rolls her eyes. She’s trying to hide her smile.

Zee grins at her then catches me watching them.

I raise my eyebrows at him, closing the small gap between us.

But I don’t get a chance to ask Zee anything or check with Dee if she’s alright because Uncle Rashid pokes his head out of the dining room.

“You guys coming?” he asks.

We head to the dining room and sit down.

I briefly glance at everyone.

To my right is Aunty Aadila, Uncle Ismaeel, Uncle Abdullah and Aunty Haleemah. Next to her is Fuaad, then Uncle Rashid, Aunty Raeesah, Aunty Salma, Danyaal, Meez, Zee and finally next to me on the left is Dee.

Uncle Rashid starts talking but I’m wondering where Ramla (Aunty Raeesah’s daughter) is.

Someone sneezes, pulling me back to reality.

Okay, you need to focus now, Amz.

“There are multiple things that need to be discussed. The reason we’re here is to sort them out reasonably and fairly, to avoid any court cases.”

Well, this feels like a court case. Why does Uncle Abdullah have a whole damn file of papers? Who’s he, the lawyer? 

I almost laugh out aloud at the thought of that.

Then I realize I’ve once again missed what Uncle Rashid had said.

Concentrate, concentrate!


“Our proposition is that Amaani and Deeyanah move in with myself and Raeesah. Salma is to get legal guardianship of Amaani. Their flat, which Abdullah and I split the cost of, will be given to Abdullah without charge on the basis that he agrees to Salma getting full guarianship of Amaani. That obviously means we will sort out all welfare and the expenses that come with it.”

“I’d like to clarify the reason we’re here again,” says Aunty Haleemah.

“The reason we’re here,” I say, speaking for the first time, my voice hard as steel.

The time for good manners and friendliness is over.

I’m no longer a naive 15-year-old shocked at the brutality of the world. I’ve seen it, perhaps not in its entire severity, but I’ve seen enough.

I’ve seen its unfairness and mercilessness, and now, 3 years later, I’m ready to face it.

I’m ready to cross bridges and burn the rest, and I’ll do whatever it takes.

“The reason we’re here, as you already know, is because I want someone who will behave as my guardian, to be my guardian, so that the person who has to look after me, will look after me.

Aunty Haleemah’s eyes narrow.

“What are you implying?” she asks through clenched teeth. “That we don’t look after you?!”

I hadn’t expected her to get angry this fast, for things to turn ugly in the first 10 minutes.

But then again, I should have expected it.

Leave aside the fact that I had not spoken in my most polite tone, this was Uncle Abdullah and Aunty Haleemah – the parents of Fuaad – I should be surprised it didn’t turn ugly in the first five minutes!

“That’s not what I’m implying,” I say, looking her straight in the eye. “That’s what I’m saying. I want someone to pay my school fees – and soon university fees – from their money, not use mines and then still have the audacity to claim that they look after me. I know about that. Honestly, how stupid do you’ll think I am??”

“You ungrateful -”

Uncle Rashid interrupts, silencing her string of would-be foul words.

Dee grabs my hand under the table, squeezing slightly.

When I don’t respond, she squeezes my hand again, harder this time.

I turn to look at her and she grabs my gaze.

“Breathe,” she mouths.

I breathe, only then realizing how worked up I am.

“Do you’ll have any other proposals?” asks Uncle Abdullah.

“Yes,” replies Uncle Rashid. “If you’ll disagree in giving Salma full guardianship over Amaani, due to doubt of Salma being unable to suffice as a single guardian, the other option is we split the guardianship between Salma and I, so that there will be a “man”, so to say.”

“You’re not her mahram,” says Uncle Abdullah.

“Neither is your son, Fuaad’s girlfriend his mahram,” quips Zee.


I take in a slightly startled Uncle Ismaeel, a furious Fuaad, and Aunty Raeesah trying to suppress a smirk. Dee does a fake coughing fit to muffle her laughter and I shoot Zee a grateful look.

Zee the savage cabbage

“What you have to keep in mind too, is that Amaani is now legally an adult, which, technically means that she doesn’t need a guardian,” says Uncle Ismaeel, breaking the silence. “If she’s not happy with your propositions she has every right to go her own way and do her own thing.”

“The other option is,” continues Uncle Ismaeel. “If you’ll are not willing to hand her over to Salma – like how you’ll have guardianship over her now, but she is not staying with you’ll – she will stay with Rashid, Salma and Raeesah, whilst still being in your care.”

When I had spoken to Uncle Rashid previously, he had indicated to this most probably being the final decision.

It was a sort of compromise.

I could cross one bridge but wouldn’t be allowed to burn the other.

It wasn’t what I wanted, but I had decided that if it came to that, I’d agree.

The sad reality of it is that, if you don’t have your parents, it doesn’t matter how many people you have on your side.

Everyone can only say and do so much, but no one is going to put blood, sweat and tears into making sure you’re happy.

No one is going to give their life for you.

Only parents can do that.

And I don’t have mine.



“As I had thought it would be, our suggestion seems to be the best,” Uncle Abdullah says a while later.

I thought I was ready. 

“As Ismaeel said, Amaani is legally an adult and has free reign to decide what she wants, but she will only get access to her trust fund when she turns 20, as was decided by her parents. She’s currently 18,” continues Uncle Abdullah.

I thought I was ready to take whatever they’d give, to face the world without armour.

“Fuaad is currently 22. He has 2 more years to complete his studies.”

I thought I was ready to cross bridges and burn the rest.

“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.”

I wasn’t.