There were raised voices outside her door and Iman was curled up in a ball in the bathroom. She hated this. Her chest was tight and her eyes stung and she hated that almost as much as she hated the way her shoulders were drawn up almost to her ears.
It was stupid to crouch on the floor like this, she knew. She couldn’t lock herself in this room forever. Eventually, her food would run out and she’d need to come out. Hiding like this would make it worse when she was finally forced out.
But Iman couldn’t bring herself to stand. Her limbs wouldn’t obey her. She was… she was terrified. The shame of admitting it, even to herself, made her cheeks burn. She was a grown woman and she was afraid of her mother.
She couldn’t even face leaving her room and risking the possibility of running into her mother.
A series of chimes sounded and Iman lifted her head. Her phone? It was in the bedroom, in the bag she still hadn’t unpacked four days after returning. To answer it, she’d have to go right up to the door where the bag lay.
Iman considered ignoring it, letting it ring until the person on the other hand gave up. But there was only one person who ever called her any more. She couldn’t leave her grandfather to worry about her.
Quietly, she crept toward the door. She was so focused on not making a noise, she didn’t even notice that the shouting had stopped. An eternity later, she had the phone pressed to her ear. “Hello?” she whispered, a hand cupped in front of her face to muffle the sound.
“Iman?” The voice hadn’t come from the device pressed to her ear but from outside, Iman realized.
“Shaida?” Iman experienced a moment of extreme confusion. What was her babysitter doing in her mother’s house?
The doorknob rattled and she jumped.
“Open the door, please,” Shaida called from the hallway.
Iman hesitated a split-second before turning the key in the lock.“It’s open,” she said quietly.
The door was being yanked open before she’d finished speaking.
“Thank goodness! Didn’t you hear us calling you?” Shaida came into the room. “And why is it so dark in here?” She touched the light switch on the wall and Iman flinched, squinting at the sudden brightness.
Shaida’s eyes widened in horror and she gasped. “What happened to you?”
How terrible did she look? Shaida looked like she was about to cry. “I haven’t been sleeping well,” Iman admitted.
“No,” Shaida hissed, her cheeks red with anger. She stepped forward and raised a hand, stopping just short of actually touching Iman. “What happened to your face?”
“An accident,” Iman lied, touching light fingers to the bandage that covered the scratches. “It’s not as bad as it looks,” she reassured the older woman. “I probably overdid it with the bandage.”
Shaida’s face softened. “Here, let me take a look,” she offered.
“No!” Iman jerked away. “I – it’s still a little sore,” she said lamely.
Shaida pursed her lips. “Alright,” she said softly. “We’ll leave it for now.”
“What are you doing here?” Iman asked, trying to keep her voice casual.
“I thought I’d help you pack. But it looks like you’re pretty much done.” Shaida indicated the suitcases lined up neatly in the middle of the room. She frowned. “Is that all you have?”
“Yeah,” Iman glanced at the three suitcases. “That’s all of it.” It wasn’t, but if it would get Shaida to leave and stop looking at her like the woman could read her soul, Iman would lie.
Shaida nodded decisively. “Alright, here.” She handed the smallest case to Iman. “Take this one and your purse.”
Iman took the handle. “Shaida, I’m not really up to going out today.”
“We’re not going out.”
“Then why do I need my purse?”
Shaida took control of the two remaining suitcases. “Because,” she fixed Iman with a serious look. “You’re not coming back here.”
At first, Iman thought that she’d gotten the days wrong. A quick look at her phone assured her that it was still only Thursday. “Of course I am. It’s only Thursday.”
“You’ll stay at your grandfather’s until the wedding.”
Longing filled Iman and she was hit with the urge to walk straight out. But…
Shaida read the disappointed look on her face perfectly. “Your mother-” She sighed. “She wasn’t particularly pleasant, as I’m sure you heard. I informed her that you were leaving today.”
“And she agreed?”
Shaida misread the bewildered delight in her voice and gave her a sympathetic look. “I’m sorry, sweetheart. It took a while for her to agree,” she added, clearly trying to make Iman feel better.
“She agreed to let me go?” Iman repeated, still marvelling. Could it really be that easy?
Iman could feel a smile spreading over her face. “Let’s go!”
“What the hell?” A tall brunette stood waiting in the entry way to Adam’s apartment. Her hands were on her hips and the look of fury on her face was so icy, Adam imagined he could almost feel the chill.
“Hey,” he said automatically.
Her chest heaved. “‘Hey’? Is that all you have to say to me?”
Adam closed his eyes and counted to ten. Twice. “Can I get in the door before you start interrogating me?”
“Fine.” She turned on her heel and headed for the lounge, her heels clicking as she walked.
Adam took his time putting away the groceries he’d just purchased. He was debating making coffee when he heard the sound of heels clicking rapidly.
‘Typical,’ he thought fondly.
“Aren’t you done yet?”
“No, Kat, I’m not. And since you ambushed me in my apartment, you can wait til I’m done.”
“Sorry,” she said begrudgingly. “Your Mom told me and I headed straight over. What are you busy with?”
“Nothing,” Adam admitted.
Kat’s mouth dropped open and she gaped at him for a moment before smacking him on the arm. “Mean!” she scolded.
“You deserved it. How many times have I told you not to just barge in?”
Kat rolled her eyes. “Whatever. Stop avoiding the subject. When were you going to tell me that you’re getting married?” She said it like most people would say jumping off a cliff.
There went his plans for a nice, quiet evening. “It’s a long story, Kat.”
“I have time.” She looked expectantly at him.
Just how many times was he going to have to tell this story? “Last year…”