The webinar is done and the writer’s block has been vanquished. I’ll finish this thing yet!
Chapter Fifty Eight
A knock at the door made Aabirah lift her head. The low-level fear that she’d been carrying ever since that day began to grow. Jake was home and she’d never given her address to a single person.
Out of the corner of her eye, she watched Jake get up and walk towards the door. Silently, he gestured towards the bedroom.
Aabirah moved as quietly as she could, locking the door behind her with a sigh of relief once she’d reached safety. Worry for Jake gnawed at her and tears began to prick at her closed eyes.
She was so tired of being afraid. Sometimes she fantasized idly about hunting down the men who wanted her and handing herself over. At least then, they’d kill her and she would no longer have to live with fear knotting her insides.
Aabirah curled up miserably on her bed, clutching a pillow close. Today might be the day that she died. The thought made bile rise in her throat and silently, she cursed. She cursed her father for his greed. She cursed the killers who wanted her life for their cruelty. Most of all, she cursed herself for being helpless.
Jake’s voice sounded from just outside her door and Aabirah jumped. “Princess?” he called. “Come out here please.”
Hastily swiping at her cheeks, Aabirah went out into the lounge, carrying her pillow with her. The sight that met her eyes made her pause.
Jake stood stiff and menacing, all of his attention focused on the person standing in the doorway.
“What is it?” she asked in a shaky voice. Her mind told her that Jake wouldn’t call her out into danger but her eyes focused on his stance and her body tensed.
Jake gestured for her to get behind him with a single hand, not turning to face her. “You have a visitor,” he told Aabirah, trying and failing to make his voice sound casual. “Do you know this woman?”
Aabirah stepped behind him, using his bulk to shield herself, and peeked around his shoulder. She recognized the woman immediately and her eyes grew wide with shock. “Iman!”
Iman gave a brittle smile. “Are you satisfied now,” she addressed Jake. “May I come inside?”
Slowly, he nodded and backed away, stowing something back in his jacket. Aabirah caught a flash of metal. He’d been pointing a gun at Iman, she realized. And he’d been ready to use it too. The thought made her feel vaguely ill.
Iman stepped inside, letting her niqaab fall back down. She caught Aabirah in a gentle hug the second she was close enough and Aabirah bit on her lip to stop from crying. She hated being this off-balance but no matter how hard she tried to get them back under control, her emotions were still all over the place.
“I’m so sorry about Qasim,” Iman murmured softly and Aabirah sniffled.
“I wish I could have gotten to you sooner but it took Adam a while to sort everything out to his liking and he refused to let me come while there was still a possibility that I’d be in danger with you,” Iman continued, sounding exasperated.
Aabirah stiffened and she stared at Iman in horror. “Oh my God,” she whispered. “I didn’t even think – You have to go, now!” She got to her feet and tugged on Iman’s hand.
Iman didn’t budge. “Aabirah, it’s alright,” she said soothingly. “I promise, I’m not in any danger. And neither are you.”
Aabirah laughed humorously. “My brother’s corpse made headlines two weeks ago, Iman. I’m no safer than he was and you need to go! Please, it’s not safe.”
Iman got to her feet and cupped Aabirah’s cheeks in her hands. “Calm down,” she urged softly. “And listen to me.” She pulled Aabirah down to sit next to her. “You’re in no danger. Not anymore. It’s been dealt with.”
“What?” Aabirah frowned in confusion. “What do you mean ‘dealt with’?” What was Iman talking about?
“Exactly that. You no longer have anything to fear. Adam dealt with the people that were trying to hurt you. They know better now.” Iman said people the way others would have said vermin.
“But how?” Aabirah asked dumbly. “And why?”
“He has his ways,” Iman said dismissively, with a wave of her hand. “And as for why – Daaem asked him to. Begged him too, really. But even if he hadn’t, Adam would have done it for me. He knows how much I like you.”
“Oh.” Aabirah didn’t know what to say. “I – thank you,” she stuttered out finally.
Iman’s voice warmed with her smile. “You’re most welcome,” she assured Aabirah. “I only wish we could have done it sooner so you didn’t feel the need to run like that. The past few months can’t have been easy.”
The sympathy in her voice touched something deep within Aabirah and before she knew it, she was talking, so fast that she began to trip over her words.
“It’s been awful,” she wailed an indeterminable amount of time later, exhausted from her monologue. She’d told Iman everything – the loneliness that she’d felt from hiding away, the grief that had come with Qasim’s death, the guilt over – over everything… Lying, hiding, living instead of her brother. She left nothing out and when she finally ran out of words, she felt cleansed.
“Oh, sweetheart,” Iman whispered tenderly, squeezing her hands comfortingly. “You really have had a hard time of it, haven’t you?”
Aabirah laughed without humour. “You can say that again.”
“But it’s over now,” Iman said with calm certainty. “It’s all over.”
Aabirah wanted desperately to believe her. “What if it’s not?” she asked miserably. It felt like it would never be over.
Iman suddenly looked determined. “I need to make a quick call, is that alright?”
Aabirah blinked then nodded. “Sure,” she murmured confused.
Iman disappeared outside and Jake took advantage of her absence to come out from the bedroom he’d retreated to.
“Do you believe her?” he asked, brow furrowed.
“I want to,” Aabirah admitted. “I really want to.”
Jake sighed. “That’s dangerous,” he cautioned. “Be careful.”
Aabirah scowled at him. “I know,” she snapped. Almost immediately, she sighed and muttered an apology.
Jake squeezed her shoulder. “It’s taken a lot of effort to keep you breathing, Princess. Don’t go ruining it for me.”