Fiction: The Art of Mutual Destruction Chapter Thirty Six

Chapter Thirty Six

One look at Iman’s ashen face and Adam was yet again fighting back panic. She somehow looked even worse than she had the previous night, almost as though a strong wind would be enough to shatter her.

He’d only been gone for an hour. What could have happened to make her this upset?

Adam gave her a quick once over. She didn’t seem hurt. He watched as she fiddled with her phone for a moment and then sighed unhappily.

What’s wrong?”

She jumped then looked round at him and attempted a smile. “Adam. I didn’t know you were back.”

What’s wrong?” Adam repeated. “Are you in pain? Do you need something?”

Iman shook her head. “No. No, I’m fine.” The way she said it made it clear that someone else wasn’t.

So who isn’t?”

Iman hesitated for a moment, clearly unsure.

Tell me,” he urged. “Maybe I can help.” Anything to bring some colour back into her cheeks. She looked unnervingly like a corpse.

She hesitated for an instant longer, then relented and explained, growing more upset with each word. By the time she’d finished, Iman was on the verge of tears.

He looked helplessly at her. “Where is Shaida?”

Lying down upstairs. Fareed’s with her.” Iman glanced anxiously up at the ceiling. “Everyone’s tried talking to her but she just won’t listen. And the harder we try, the more stressed she gets. I don’t know what to do.” She put her face in her hands.

Can I try?”

Iman lifted her head. “You? But you don’t even know her.”

Could it hurt?”

I guess not. Just… if she starts getting upset…”

I’ll leave,” Adam assured her, hoping he wasn’t about to make things worse.

Wait here, okay?” Iman climbed off the window seat. “I’ll come get you after I talk to Fareed.”

Adam waited, feeling more doubtful with every passing moment. What the Hell was he doing? He was about to interfere in something that was none of his business.

Iman poked her head in over the side of the door. “Come on,” she said, looking at him hopefully.

Right. That was why he was doing it. Because this tiny girl had looked so miserable that he couldn’t help but try to fix it.

God, what was happening to him?

Are you ready?” she asked, glancing back at him with her hand on the doorknob.

No.

Yes.”

Iman stood outside the large room that functioned as their infirmary, straining her ears to hear what was being said inside. She had no idea what Adam was planning to do, and she had little faith that whatever it was would actually succeed but she was desperate enough to point him in Shaida’s direction and pray.

Maybe hearing it coming from a stranger would help. Maybe Shaida would accept that they weren’t being unreasonable and would agree to slow down.

But probably not. Shaida was insistent that she knew her own limits and nothing anyone said or did seemed to have any effect on her other than to make her dig her heels in more. Fareed was at his wits end, worrying about both his wife and his baby and Iman couldn’t bear knowing that she’d been the one to cause the strain.

Seeing her old babysitter’s eyes roll into her head and watching her slump to the floor had been one of the most terrifying things Iman had ever experienced. She’d screamed and five different people had come running into her bedroom immediately to help but those few seconds while they’d been anxiously waiting for Shaida to wake up had been some of the worst in her life.

If something did happen to the baby… Iman would never forgive herself.

There was a handgun lying on the night stand. It was smaller than the one Adam had been threatened with that morning and by the way Shaida’s hand shook when she took hold of it, he knew that it had been replaced because she could no longer handle the weight.

Who let you in here?” she asked, instantly suspicious.

Iman. I heard you caused some chaos a little while ago.”

Shaida didn’t respond.

You’re supposed to be on bed rest somewhere, aren’t you?”

An ugly expression crossed the pregnant woman’s face at the words bed and rest. “I am supposed to be right here. Iman needs me,” Shaida said with a thread of steel in her voice. “Why are you so interested in the plans of a complete stranger?”

Because they affect someone I’m bound to.”

Shaida’s eyes sharpened and she propped herself up on her elbows. “You should be happy that Iman has someone else looking out for her. More protection is never a bad thing.”

In theory,” Adam acknowledged, watching the way she sagged back against her pillows.

So what’s your problem?”

My problem is that you’re being selfish.”

Shaida’s mouth fell open and her face reddened with anger. “What did you just say to me?”

He’d struck a nerve. “You’re being selfish,” he repeated. “Iman is outside tearing herself up out of worry for you. She should be resting and trying to recover from what that bastard did to her but instead, she’s pacing and worrying about you.”

Adam sighed. “I get that you want to keep her safe. So do I. But you’re in no shape to do that. It’s time to delegate before you hurt her more than help her.”

Delegate to who? To you?” There was a derisive snort and Adam gritted his teeth. “You barely even know her! She was with you last night and she was hurt worse than she’s ever been before.”

Because none of you bothered to inform me that she was in danger there,” Adam countered. “You’re right – I barely know her. But you… you’ve known her all her life and you still left her there!”

I had no choice! It killed me to have her away from me, to ignore her when she called and watch as she withered in front of my eyes but I didn’t have a choice. I couldn’t do anything else.”

So what makes you think you’ll make any difference now?” Adam asked her unsympathetically. “You’re risking three lives right now. Yours, hers and your baby’s.”

The blood drained from Shaida’s face. “Get out,” she whispered. “Get out!”

Adam did as he was told. He’d done all he could, cruel as it had been. Now all that was left to do was wait.

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