Aabirah was vaguely aware of being directed to sit, smile and pose as the day wore on. She knew somehow that she shouldn’t be cooperating, that something was wrong.
But she couldn’t remember what. It felt like she was moving through molasses and she kept losing time.
Qasim! She caught sight of her brother and felt a surge of hope. Qasim would help her remember. All she had to do was get over to him.
Aabirah started forward purposefully and tripped almost immediately. She looked down at the floor. What had tripped her up?
It was a dress. Big and white, it was a pretty ball gown fit for a princess. Where had she gotten it? And why was she wearing it today?
Qasim would tell her.
She waded through the crowd, ignoring the way the noise kept surging. She needed to get to Qasim!
Frustrated, she called out for him. And again when he kept walking.
Finally, he stopped and turned around. Aabirah hurried to him, determined to figure out what was going on.
“Qasim, what’s going on?” she heard herself ask.
“Aabirah, don’t… scene. It’s over… Fighting… help now.”
Aabirah blinked. “What?” She frowned up at Qasim, grabbing his hand to steady herself. She felt awful.
“The drugs,” an unknown voice said. “She’s not lucid.”
“She knows something’s wrong though,” Qasim protested.
Aabirah shook her head irritably, trying to clear it.
What the hell was going on?
She repeated the question aloud, wincing at the slur in her voice. She sounded drunk! Was she drunk?
She’d never been drunk before, had never willing to cross that particular line. But she knew people who had been and the way she felt was similar to what they’d described.
A sense of shame enveloped Aabirah as she realized that she’d gotten drunk and come out to an event. No wonder Qasim was avoiding her!
“… need her to stop…” Qasim said from somewhere above her.
Aabirah nodded along in agreement. She did need to stop being drunk. But she didn’t know how!
“… give her something?”
Aabirah felt someone take hold of her arm then and she pulled back automatically.
Squinting, she tried to make out who it was.
“Stop it!” Qasim snapped. Aabirah gave her arm back to the blurry stranger meekly.
Whoever it was twisted her arm and then there was a prick.
A needle? Aabirah frowned in confusion.
Oh! Qasim was fixing her. How sweet of him.
Aabirah stretched lazily, burying her face in the sheets. She had no idea how long she’d slept but it hadn’t been long enough. She was exhausted.
An unfamiliar scent reached her and she wrinkled her nose in confusion. Her sheets didn’t smell like jasmine, they were washed with lavender.
The unfamiliar scent made her sneeze and she reached out blindly to her right for her bedside table and the tissue box that rested there.
Her hand met air.
Had the furniture been moved?
Aabirah groped around a bit more, sneezing twice, before giving in and raising her head.
She wasn’t in her bedroom.
Terror seized her. Where was she? And how had she gotten here?
Suddenly feeling ridiculously vulnerable, Aabirah hurriedly got to her feet, kicking off sheets as she went.
One of her handbags rested on a dressing table and she grabbed it, tearing it open in search of her cellphone.
It took her three tries to unlock the device but finally, it was open and she was waiting for Qasim to answer.
She paced the room as she waited, casting frantic looks at the door every so often.
Whoever she’d ended up with last night could come in at any moment and she was completely defenceless.
A sob built in her throat and she clapped her hand over her mouth. Now was not the time to break down. She could do that once she was safe.
She knew that no one had touched her – she’d never had sex and she knew that if that had changed, she would have felt at least a little sore. But her head was heavy and she couldn’t remember what had happened at all.
She hit redial for the third time, cursing Qasim’s lie-a-bed habits.
Finally, the call connected. “Hello?” she whispered.
“Aabirah, what the hell? Do you know what time it is?” was the groaned out reply.
“Qasim, where are you?” Aabirah asked urgently. “I need you to come get me right now.”
“No way,” was the instant reply.
Aabirah looked down at her phone in shock. “Qasim, I don’t know where I am and I don’t remember how I got here. Come and get me! Hurry!”
“What do you mean you don’t remember?” Qasim said, exasperated.
“I mean – wait, do you know where I am?” Unconsciously, the tension began to leave Aabirah.
“Of course I do.”
Aabirah sat down on the bed with a thump. Nothing bad had happened to her.
“You’re with your husband,” Qasim continued, oblivious.
“W-what?” She couldn’t have heard Qasim right.
“With your husband,” he repeated testily.
“What are you talking about?” Aabirah whispered, horrified. “That’s not til Friday.”
“It’s Saturday, Aabirah,” Qasim said, oddly gentle. “You got married yesterday.”
“I don’t remember.”
“Well, no, we had to sedate you a lot,” Qasim’s voice was matter-of-fact. “You kept trying to make a scene.”
“You had me sedated?” Tears pricked Aabirah’s eyes. Let him say no, she prayed silently.
“Well, it was Dad’s idea. But then he was busy and you were making such a fuss… I just got the doctor to give you a little top up.”
Aabirah wanted to scream. She dropped the phone and rushed to the trash can in the corner.
Qasims words repeated themselves in her mind and she began to sob. Her brother had been the one safe haven she’d thought she had. She’d known that Qasim didn’t have the spine to go against their father and she hadn’t blamed him – Aabirah hadn’t been able to stick up for her own self, after all. But to hear that he’d helped Mehmood.
Her stomach twisted and she bent over again.
She didn’t have Qasim on her side.
She didn’t have anyone but herself.