Chapter Forty Five
It was supposed to be his penance. And deep down, he’d hoped that it would help absolve him.
It hadn’t. The guilt was just as suffocating now as it had been that awful, blood soaked day. It was the least he deserved for yet another betrayal.
He hadn’t been able to kill her. She’d been standing right in front of him, utterly defenceless and still – still – spewing lies. But he hadn’t been able to do it. His rage had been so powerful he’d nearly choked on it but he hadn’t been able to pull the trigger.
He was pathetic.
His only consolation was that despite being entirely incapable of killing her, he’d at least made certain that she would feel a fraction of the pain he was feeling now. He slammed down on the small, traitorous part of himself that ached for the woman he’d thought he’d known, for being the one to take away the last remaining family she had who’d truly loved her, and forced himself to recall what she’d done.
She deserved every bit of pain she was experiencing.
And he deserved worse for being weak enough to still hurt for her.
Time passed oddly. He ate and slept only when his body’s needs became too overwhelming to ignore and spent the majority of his time trying to work himself to exhaustion.
He rarely succeeded. He’d collapse into bed, aching and drenched with sweat, and would lie there for hours, unable to escape his ghosts.
Ugly scenes flashed before his eyes whenever he dared to close them. Kat featured prominently, her body twisted into grotesque shapes and marred in unsightly ways by methods he himself had employed on others.
He spent most nights curled up in the tiny bathroom, retching until his throat was raw and cursing himself in every language that he knew.
Something had to change, and soon. He was running out of money, food and energy at an alarming rate and he hadn’t yet found it within himself to commit to ending things for good.
He needed to find a way to function. A way to dull everything so that he’d stop tearing his insides wide open every time he closed his eyes.
Never go near alcohol or drugs, Ali’s voice lectured sternly. You’ll dull your senses and make yourself stupid.
The slim, bearded man was examining a file and listening intently to the nurse holding it out to him, nodding as he scanned the page in front of him.
A bubble of happiness formed in Iman’s chest at the sight of him and she was moving before she knew it. She flung herself at him and he caught her gently, his arms coming up to pat her back and ruffle her hair.
“Thank God you’re here,” she whispered fervently, tightening her hold on the back of his shirt. “Thank God.”
Fareed pulled back, gently disentangling her but still keeping her close while he spoke to the nurse who’d tactfully backed away to give them a moment of privacy. “Thank you for all the help,” he said politely. “I’ll come find you if I need anything more.”
“Of course, Doctor,” she murmured, before darting away.
Fareed turned his attention back to her, his polite smile giving way to a concerned frown as he studied her. “When was the last time you ate something?”
Iman couldn’t remember.
“I’m glad that you at least went home to get some rest,” he commented. “Did you drive yourself back here?”
Iman remembered James for the first time. She looked over her shoulder, scanning the corridor. “He was just here…” She trailed off. Where had he gone?
“James. He took me to a hotel this morning to get cleaned up and I fell asleep. He was right behind me…”
“I’m sure he’ll be back soon,” Fareed said soothingly. “Don’t worry.”
“But…” Iman glanced behind her doubtfully. “…Okay,” she acquiesced eventually.
Fareed led her to a chair and made her sit. “How much do you know about your grandfather’s condition?” he asked.
“Nothing,” Iman said miserably. “They wouldn’t tell us anything.”
She swallowed hard. “Is… will he?” She couldn’t get the words out.
Fareed sighed. “It’s hard to tell right now. The biggest problem right now is his lungs.”
Dread froze Iman’s heart and memory washed over her. She was tiny and her eyes stung. She’d cried and cried, had refused to eat a thing or listen to any of the ways Ibrahim had tried to pacify her. She’d only relented when he’d sworn he’d stop smoking immediately, right then and then.
“He hasn’t smoked in years,” she protested feebly.
Fareed squeezed her hand sympathetically. “I know. And he’s strong. His doctors are optimistic. But… he did a lot of damage to himself. You need to be prepared, Iman.”
“Can I see him?” Iman begged. “Just for a few minutes.”
Fareed nodded. “Only a few minutes,” he agreed. “But you can see him. Do you want to be alone with him?”
Iman shook her head immediately. “Come with me?” she pleaded. “Please?”
“Of course. Come on. We’ll go right now.”
Fareed led her into a sterile room and patiently took her through the process of scrubbing and covering up then took her gloved hand in his own. “He’s got a lot of machines and tubes surrounding him. They look pretty scary, but they’re helping him. Okay?”
Iman nodded, her throat tight. “Okay. I’m ready.”
He looked frail. Her grandfather had never looked frail. He’d always been so strong. She looked down at his hands, studying the wrinkles and the harsh ugliness of the tubing that dripped medication into his system.
How many times had those hands held her? Would they ever do it again? She couldn’t even remember the last time she’d hugged him, much less told him she loved him. What she wouldn’t give to have him wake just so she could whisper it to him one last time…
Iman felt something break within her as she looked at him in that bed, fighting for his life.
Jazakallah khair to everyone for their duas, I really appreciate it ❤