“Faiza, listen to me,” Taahir begged. “Don’t overreact.”
But Faiza was in no mood to listen. “How could you lie to me?” she choked out. “I asked you over and over and you just lied! I – how could you lie to me like that?”
“I didn’t lie to you!” Taahir denied vehemently. “I didn’t, Faiza!”
Faiza shook her head, sniffling. “If you didn’t lie to me then why couldn’t you answer me? You hesitated! What was that, your conscience finally kicking in?”
“I didn’t lie to you! I’ve never been anything but supportive to you. I wanted you to do what made you happy and I still do!”
“Then why –”
“Because it’s hard, Faiza! It’s hard sometimes. I miss you and I worry about you and yes, sometimes, I have some doubts!”
Faiza opened her mouth.
“Let me finish!” Taahir cut her off. “I have been worried and I have been unhappy. But that doesn’t mean I wanted you to stop following your dream because of it. I dealt with and I still deal with it.”
“But you shouldn’t have to deal with it. You shouldn’t just be miserable in silence, Taahir! If something is making you unhappy you should tell me! I need to know, it’s important for me to know!”
“It’s not – you’re exaggerating. It’s not as bad as you’re making it out to be,” Taahir protested weakly.
“You should have told me,” was all Faiza said.
Taahir sighed in frustration. “What good would it have done? What good does it do now? I don’t want you to stop doing this, Faiza, I know how much you love it. So what good does it do to make us both miserable when I was handling it just fine on my own?”
Faiza was abruptly furious. “What good does it do?” she repeated. “Nothing. Sharing your feelings with me and confiding in me does no good at all, Taahir! It’s completely useless. Emotional intimacy doesn’t matter at all, right?”
“You know that’s not what I meant!”
“Then what did you mean?” Faiza yelled. “Tell me, because I clearly don’t understand at all!”
“Telling you about this just makes us both unhappy! So why shouldn’t I want to spare you from it?”
“Because it’s important,” Faiza whispered. She sank down onto the vanity stool, abruptly out of energy. “What you feel is important to me.”
‘Why?’ Taahir wanted to ask. ‘Why is it so important for you to know. It hurts you to know, I can see it does, so why shouldn’t I keep it to myself?’
“I’m sorry,” he said instead. “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“I know.” Faiza wiped her cheeks and turned to her table to grab a tissue.
Taahir looked at her regretfully. ‘Now what?’ he thought helplessly.
“I don’t know,” Faiza answered.
Taahir blinked at her. He hadn’t realized he’d spoken out loud. “Neither do I,” he admited.
“Just… it’s late,” Faiza stood and took his hand. “Let’s just talk about it in the morning. Are you still hungry?”
The thought of food made Taahir’s stomach twist and he shook his head quickly. “Let’s just sleep.”
In the back of his mind, he knew that it was a bad idea. But he was drained and confused and it was easy to ignore the little voice in the back of his head whispering that he’d regret letting things fester.
Faiza tossed and turned all night but Taahir was none the wiser. He slept through Faiza’s huffs and groans and it was only after she’d given up on sleeping for the night that he woke and went looking for her.
He found her in the lounge, curled up with a mug of tea and frowning at nothing. She looked up when he came in.
“Couldn’t sleep?” he asked redundantly.
“No. I kept thinking about yesterday.”
Taahir sat down opposite Faiza. “And?” he asked, prompting.
“I don’t know how to explain it to you any differently, Taahir, but I needed you to tell me what you were feeling. I – it’s important. I don’t know how else to explain it.”
Taahir closed his eyes and scrubbed his hands over his face. “Alright,” he said eventually.
“Alright?” Faiza asked.
“I’ll tell you in future,” Taahir promised.
“Why now and not before?”
“I didn’t know how important it was to you before. Now I do, so I’ll tell you.”
Faiza smiled, almost despite herself. ‘Just like that,’ she thought fondly. ‘It’s important to me so he’ll do it.’
“Better now?” Taahir asked, watching Faiza begin to uncurl.
“Much.” Faiza smothered a yawn, suddenly exhausted. “Time for bed,” she said, getting up and stretching.
Taahir’s stomach growled and he looked sheepish. “I’m hungry,” he said unnecessarily.
“I heard,” Faiza giggled. “Come on,” she said, turning towards the kitchen. “I made muffins and the kettle should still be hot.”
Taahir lifted the kettle and paused, holding a hand to the side. “Cold,” he informed Faiza. “How long have you been sitting out here?”
Faiza took a sip of her tea and made a face. “Longer than I thought, clearly. What time is it?” she wondered out loud.
Taahir spied her phone on the counter and looked at the time. “Almost Fajr already.”
Faiza’s eyes widened. “Oh. I didn’t even realize how much time had gone past.”
Taahir smiled knowingly. Faiza often daydreamed and she was unaware of much when she was lost in thought. He’d come home more than once to Faiza frowning down at something on the stove, trying to figure out how to salvage it because she’d been taken away on a stray train of thought.
He sobered when he remembered just why she’d been up so long this time, feeling guilty.
Taahir was about to apologize again when the phone in his hand chimed.
Faiza was busily juggling two trays of muffins and she shook her head when he tried to hand the phone to her. “Just tell me who it is,” she requested.
Taahir looked down at the screen and felt a jolt of horror go through him at the name.