Chapter Forty Two
Iman touched the throbbing bruise on her face lightly and winced. It had taken four guards to get Aasia off her and the older woman had done her best to do as much damage as she could to her daughter’s face. Iman was sure she looked hideous.
The young guard she’d spoken to earlier came up to her and handed her a glass of water. “We put your mother in her bedroom,” he said reassuringly. “She won’t be able to get back out. And I called the police.”
“What?” Iman gasped. “Why?!”
“She attacked you,” he said, looking confused. “I heard some of the stuff she was saying, it was awful. Is she… sick?” he added delicately.
“What? No, she’s just always been like that. There was no need to call the police,” Iman added.
The guard looked unconvinced. “Um, okay. Well, they’re already on their way…” He trailed off.
Iman got to her feet slowly, wincing. “I’ll deal with it.”
The two officers were far easier convinced, especially once she’d mentioned her stepfather’s recent murder a few times and talked about how on edge Aasia had been as a result. They left once she promised to have a doctor check her mother over to make sure everything was alright, after taking a brief detour to admonish the guards for wasting their time.
Iman breathed a sigh of relief. If she left now, she might just be able to make it to her grandfather’s before he began to worry. Her appearance, she’d worry about later.
The young guard came up to her. “Is everything okay?”
Iman nodded. “Yes. Could you please get a doctor here to check her out? I need to go.”
“Of course. Are you… gonna say goodbye?”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.” She held out a slip of paper. “Here, my number. If there’s an emergency, please let me know but I won’t be coming back. And you can pass it on to the other guards as well.”
The guard nodded. “Yes, ma’am. I’ll do that.”
As she got into her car, Iman thought about what she’d said to the guard. How many times had she sworn that she’d never come back? But she always had. She’d always clung to the hope that Aasia would change.
But even she had her limits. Aasia Rahman had run out of chances where her daughter was concerned. Iman had finally spoken the truth – she wouldn’t be coming back, not ever again.
James whistled as he took her in. “Do I even want to ask what the other guy looked like?”
“Girl,” Iman corrected crankily. “And she looked just fine.”
James assumed a sorrowful expression. “You got your butt kicked?”
“I got my everything kicked.” Iman limped into the house and groaned at the sight of the stairs.
A hand closed over her wrist and she hissed in pain. James let go immediately and held his hands up. “Sorry! Sorry.”
“That.” He pointed at her face. “You need to get all of that cleaned up or you’re gonna give your old man a heart attack.”
The infirmary was on the other side of the house, a five minute walk that would probably take Iman twenty in her current state.
She groaned and James laughed. “Come on, I’ve got some stuff in my room.”
“Thanks,” Iman said gratefully.
“You’re so close to the entrance,” Iman remarked as he led her to the small suite. Iman took it in, mildly surprised at how sparse it was. It looked like James was still living out of his suitcase.
“Yep,” James agreed. “I’m the newest guy back so I get the cannon fodder room.”
“You know… if something happens, I’m the first guy who’ll have to deal with it. Cannon fodder. Right up at the front. Whereas you are in the heart of the house, the most defended spot.” James indicated a little stool tucked away in a corner. “Sit on that.”
Iman sat. “Oh. Why is it like that?” she asked, meaning his living arrangements.
“Because you are the heart. For your grandfather, at least.”
Iman shook her head. “I meant for you. You’ve been working for my grandfather for so long. Don’t you get a better room?”
“I wasn’t here for a while, remember?” James began cleaning up the marks on her face. “What happened here, anyway? Scratches, cuts, did you get in a fight with a cat or something?”
“Or something,” Iman replied tartly.
James rolled his eyes. “How witty you are, little girl! Seriously, what happened?”
“Don’t worry about it. Thanks for cleaning me up.” Iman got to her feet.
“There’s nothing else?”
“Just some bruises.” A lot of bruises, if she was honest.
“Okay,” James relented. He took hold of her wrist and studied her fingers. “You fought back. Not well, but you tried.”
“If you ever wanna learn how to fight back and win, let me know,” he offered.
Iman was taken aback. “Really?”
“Yeah. I’ll teach you if you want.”
“You’re not busy?” Iman checked.
“Not really. I’m assuming you don’t wanna train like we do, right?”
Iman shook her head emphatically. “No way. But a little self defence might be useful.”
“Will be useful,” he corrected. “There’s no downside to learning how to defend yourself.”
He was right, Iman realized. Maybe if she’d known how to defend herself, he wouldn’t have…
She jerked her thoughts away. “When can we start?” she demanded.
James didn’t blink. “Tomorrow. Meet me in the gym at five.”
Ibrahim took one look at her and knew exactly what had happened. “Why did you even go near her?” he shouted furiously. “How many times has that woman hurt you already? Why would you let her do it again?”
Iman’s eyes filled with tears and her grandfather cursed. “At least tell me you’re not going to go there again?” he pleaded.
“I’m not,” Iman confirmed. “I just thought… She was all alone.”
Ibrahim pinched the bridge of his nose. “There’s a reason for that, sweetheart. She drove away every good person in her life. The only one who’s still giving her the time of day is you. And she’s not going to change. She’s…”
“Broken,” Iman finished.
“Yes. You know then.”
“I realized today,” Iman admitted. “When she was screaming at me. There’s something wrong with her, isn’t there?”
Ibrahim sighed. “I don’t know. Your mother would never agree to see a doctor, let alone a psychiatrist. But she was always very self-centred and possessive of anyone she deemed to be hers. Your Dad… he wasn’t in love with her. But he thought that they could be happy together. And they were, in the beginning. But when your Dad began to focus on other things – work, his friends, spending time with me – she couldn’t handle it.”
He was mine, do you understand? And every single last penny of his is mine.
A flash of insight hit her. Everything had to be Aasia’s. She couldn’t share, Iman realized pityingly.