Chapter Fifty Six
His phone was ringing. His personal phone. Daaem frowned in annoyance. Who could be calling him so late? He debated whether or not to pick up the call. It was so late and he was almost asleep. Maybe he should just let it ring out…
It rang so long that finally he just reached out and picked it up, not bothering to get out of bed. “Hello?”
There was silence on the other end of the line. Daaem squinted blearily at the number. He didn’t recognize it. Who had gotten his number?
“Hello?” he said again, impatient now. “Who is this?”
“Hi, Daaem,” came a tiny voice.
Daaem was instantly awake. Adam had warned him that Aabirah might call but after so long, he’d given up on the idea. “Hi,” he said stupidly.
There was a long, drawn out silence. Daaem tried frantically to think of something to say but his mind had gone blank. He couldn’t believe that she’d actually called! And after weeks too…
This struck him as odd and slightly worrying. Was she alright? Had Aabirah called because she had a problem? Hastily, he asked her.
“No, no, I’m fine. Sorry, you probably don’t want me bothering you,” Aabirah said contritely.
“It’s fine!” Daaem said loudly. “It – you’re not bothering me.”
“Oh,” Aabirah sounded pleased. “I’m – glad.”
Daaem fidgeted with his sheets. He didn’t know what to say. What did one say to their ex-wife when she called in the middle of the night?
Absently, he blocked a yawn with the back of his mouth. “Sorry,” he apologized automatically. “It’s late.”
“It is,” Aabirah agreed. “I should let you go. Good night, Daaem.”
‘No, don’t hang up!’ Daaem wanted to shout. But she was already gone.
He sighed then pushed the covers off. There was no way he was going to get back to sleep tonight. He might as well do something useful with the unexpected free hours.
Aabirah couldn’t hide her good mood the next day. Admittedly, she didn’t put too much effort into trying. She savoured her smile and avoided questions from both Jake and her co-workers about it.
They wouldn’t understand why a conversation that had been less than fifty words long had had the power to make her so happy. She didn’t entirely understand it. It made no sense.
Was this what love was? She’d read so many different descriptions of it in books, watched it portrayed in so many ways but she didn’t know if that was what she was feeling. She’d never felt that way before. She’d loved her father and Qasim but that had always had a flavour of misery and anger attached to it.
This… It was different. She couldn’t summon up anger towards Daaem anymore. He’d apologized which was something neither Qasim nor her father had ever done with any kind of meaning. It had all faded.
She felt strange. When she’d left – when she’d fled, rather – the thought that she was falling in love with Daaem had terrified her enough to make her run. Now, she just felt regretful and a little confused.
It was too late now for them.
She’d divorced him and by now those papers must have been filed. They now longer had a tie to one another. It was over.
The happiness that Aabirah had been feeling all day was quickly being eclipsed by the realization of what she had lost. Her vision was blurring and she impatiently swiped a hand over her cheeks. She’d been the one to leave. She had to live with it now.
“Daaem? What are you doing?”
Daaem lifted his head and stuffed his cellphone into a pocket, flushing. “Just checking my messages,” he explained quietly.
Ameer smiled tolerantly. “Again?” he asked pointedly.
Daaem flushed harder and said nothing. He felt ridiculous.
“How are things?”
“They’re fine.” They were better than fine. He knew that he might be making a mistake – he’d been reminded over and over again in the past few months that he shouldn’t get too attached, that he and Aabirah were divorced and he probably wasn’t going to be able to win her back.
Daaem had accepted that. But he still couldn’t make himself let go of her completely. For as long as she was willing to still talk to him, he’d answer.
Ameer seemed to have given up on cautioning him and had taken on an attitude of tolerant amusement, likely because Daaem behaved like a lovesick teenager whenever he was speaking to Aabirah.
Daaem’s phone beeped and automatically, he glanced down at it.
Disinterested, he looked back up and found Ameer grinning.
“What?” he asked defensively. “What’s so funny?”
“You,” was the matter of fact response. “I have never seen you like this before. Were you always this nervous around women and I just didn’t notice?”
“You weren’t around to notice,” Daaem muttered.
Ameer drew back as if stung and Daaem winced. “I’m sorry,” he said, contrite. “I didn’t – that wasn’t fair.”
“It was,” Ameer said sadly. “But it wasn’t particularly nice. I do regret the choices I made, Daaem,” he continued. “I hope you know that.”
“I do,” Daaem felt guilt welling up in him. Ameer had been trying incredibly hard to fix things between them, Daaem knew that. And now that his own wife had left him, Ameer’s behaviour when he’d been younger was a lot easier to understand. Daaem could barely stand to look at things that reminded him of Aabirah either.
“Good,” Ameer smiled faintly. “I wish we’d had a better relationship when you were younger.”
“I didn’t do much to help that,” Daaem allowed reluctantly. “It wasn’t just you.”
Ameer said nothing.
“Could we just change the subject please?” Daaem asked, fidgeting. “To anything else?”
Ameer nodded agreeably. “How’s work going?”
Daaem groaned. “Something other than work.”
“How are you feeling?”
“Fine, Dad. I’m fine.”
“You’re sure?” Ameer persisted. “It’s only been a little while since you’ve been working by yourself again.”
“Yes. I’m… enjoying it, even though it’s been tough.” And he was, more than he had in a long time.