Chapter Thirty Seven
“You should go see her. Just give her a few minutes first.” Adam said as he closed the door behind him.
Iman’s heart sank. “You didn’t…?” she asked, needing to make sure.
“I don’t know,” was the quiet answer. “I tried my best but… it depends on her now. I’m sorry it’s not better news.”
That he’d done anything at all had been a pleasant surprise. “Thank you for trying,” Iman whispered gratefully. She squeezed his arm tightly, enjoying the contact. A loud, gurgling noise made her glance down in alarm.
Adam’s cheeks turned bright red. “I… uh. I seem to have forgotten to eat.”
And sleep and shower. Iman looked at him properly, for the first time noticing just how run down he looked. “You should go home.” She felt a peculiar sense of loss as she said it.
Adam shifted uncomfortably. “I don’t particularly want to leave you alone right now,” he admitted, studying the wall behind her head.
“Oh,” Iman breathed, suddenly feeling warm. She clamped down on the urge to give in and persisted. “But you’re tired and hungry. And I’ll be with Shaida anyway. You should go get cleaned up and get some rest. But-” She stopped herself, feeling foolish.
“What?” Adam looked at her intently.
“You could come back when you’re done?” Iman offered hesitantly.
“Of course.” Adam’s tense posture relaxed. “I’ll be back soon.” He hesitated for a moment, looking at her oddly, then left.
Disappointment curled in her gut as she watched him walk away, along with a longing for something she couldn’t quite identify.
“Iman? Are you still out there?” Shaida’s muffled voice stopped her from exploring that puzzling feeling any further.
Iman hurried to Shaida’s side. “What is it?” The normally vibrant woman looked lifeless and dull
“Come sit with me.” Shaida patted the side of her bed gently. “I need to talk to you about a few things.”
Iman tucked her hair behind her ears, still leaning over the older woman. “What’s wrong?”
“Just sit,” Shaida took hold of her wrist and tugged weakly.
They sat in silence for a while. Shaida had a faraway look in her eyes and a wistful smile on her face. “Do you remember how we met?”
“You found me hiding under a table, crying. I wouldn’t talk to anyone else but you managed to get me out.”
“That’s right. You were such a cute little kid with that ridiculous pageboy haircut. You looked like a little boy.”
“You were a spoilt little brat too! You had everyone in this house wrapped around your little finger, sneaking you candy and making you laugh. And then,” she sighed. “And then you had to go.”
Iman looked away. “Shaida, don’t-”
Shaida patted her cheek. “Let me finish?” she requested.
Iman nodded silently.
“You had to go,” she repeated, “and it broke my heart. I was furious with everyone and everything for a while there. It took me a long time before I could even be in a room with your grandfather without yelling at him. I thought you were safest with us and he disagreed. He had his reasons, I understand that now. But it didn’t make it any easier for me to swallow.”
Shaida paused, taking a deep breath as if to steady herself. Her eyes were wet. “And then you came back and you were suffering. But it wasn’t enough for us to bring you back. We thought it was better for you to be a little unhappy and safe rather than letting you stay where it was dangerous.”
She gripped Iman’s hand tightly. “We had no idea,” she sobbed. “I had no idea what was being done to you. I should have known. I should have – I should have realized! I’m so sorry, Iman. Believe me, I-” She broke off into sobs.
Iman’s own eyes began to water sympathetically. “Shaida, it’s okay. Please, don’t do this to yourself! It’s okay.” She put her arms around the sobbing woman.
“I forgive you,” she whispered. And she did. The hurt that she’d been holding onto for such a long time was not gone. But it had began to dull. The wound had finally been treated and now, now she could finally begin to heal.
Shaida sniffed lightly and mopped at her eyes. “I’m a mess,” she said ruefully. “This pregnancy has turned me into a tap.”
Iman gave a ghost of a smile.
“I’m glad I told you all of that. But it wasn’t what I’d called you in here to hear. I got a bit side-tracked.”
Shaida took a deep breath. “I’m going to go to my mother’s.”
Yes! Iman smiled so wide her cheeks immediately began hurting. She hugged Shaida tightly. “Thank goodness,” she murmured. “I’m so relieved.”
“Oh, what have I been doing?” Shaida mumbled reproachfully. “He was right, I have been selfish.”
Iman lifted her head and pulled back. “Who?”
“Your Adam. He was very rude to me.”
Iman’s mouth dropped open. “He was?”
“Oh, yes.” Shaida chuckled. “Don’t look so horrified. It was a good thing. It made me think.”
She got a satisfied look on her face. “He really was the best choice of them all.”
Iman cringed remembering those frantic days when she’d had men paraded in front of her like clothing options. “If only I’d realized that immediately.” They would have saved so much time.
“Things happen as they’re meant to,” Shaida reminded her. “Now listen – if you need anything at all-”
“Call you,” Iman completed the familiar refrain. “I will,” she promised, feeling incredibly fond.
Shaida glanced at her. “How are you feeling?”
Iman looked away. “That’s not important right now.”
“Of course it is! Iman, you went through a terrible ordeal last night.”
Iman’s throat felt tight. “I know. But-” she sucked in a breath. “I’m handling it.” Badly, but that was no one’s problem but her own.
“Okay,” Shaida said simply. “I’m here if you need me.”