Chapter Forty Eight
Iman stood rooted to the spot, afraid to move for fear that she’d find she was dreaming.
“I can really see him?” she asked, half terrified of the answer.
Fareed laughed. “Yes, you really can. He’s right in there.”
It was an effort to make her feet move. She’d longed to see him for so long, to make sure that he was still alive. But now… She was scared, Iman realized. Scared to see what had happened to the strong man who’d taken care of her all her life.
How would she cope if he was different?
She knew one thing for sure – no matter how things had changed, she would find some way to cope. She had to.
Iman took hold of the handle and pushed open the door.
“There you are,” a warm voice said. “I’ve been waiting for you.”
Iman burst into tears.
She felt like a small child who’d gotten lost and had just been found. The panic and fear that had been her constant companions for almost a month now evaporated and were replaced with a relief so strong it made her dizzy.
“Oh, sweetheart,” Ibrahim made an aborted movement, as though to get up and then cursed. “Help an old man out and come a bit closer please?”
Iman went, hiccuping and sniffling. She hovered awkwardly within touching distance, wanting so badly to hug her grandfather but afraid that she’d somehow hurt him.
Ibrahim solved the problem for her by taking hold of her closest arm and pulling her down onto the bed with him. “Much better,” he said in a satisfied tone.
Iman sat stiffly, hesitant and Ibrahim sighed. “I’m not made of glass,” he reminded her gently. “I won’t break.”
But he nearly had. “You almost died.” Fresh tears welled up in Iman’s eyes just saying it but she dashed them away impatiently. “I was so worried about you!”
“It’s alright now. I’m alright.”
“You’re in a hospital bed!” Iman couldn’t seem to calm herself down. “You’ve been in a hospital for over three weeks now. They said… they told me they weren’t sure you were going to survive.” Her voice wobbled.
Her grandfather scowled. “Who on Earth told you a thing like that?”
“Fareed.” Iman drew back. “He wasn’t lying to me.”
“No,” Ibrahim agreed reluctantly. “He wasn’t. But he shouldn’t have told you something like that. I’m fine now. Just fine.” He rubbed her back lightly, trying to soothe her.
Iman was having none of it. “You’re still in a hospital,” she persisted. “You’re still hurt. You almost died!” She looked away. “And it’s my fault.”
“What? What on Earth do you mean?”
Did he not know? Had he not seen who had attacked him?
Iman opened her mouth, struggling to find the words to explain. Before she could, her grandfather spoke.
“That Adam shot me is not your fault, Iman,” he said patiently. “You don’t have to take the blame for everything sweetheart. I made a bad choice when I picked him for you and we’ll have to deal with the consequences of it.”
Iman wasn’t comforted. “He told me,” she got out. “He told me that he was doing it to hurt me. It is my fault. Why are none of you mad at me? Waseem, Shaida, Fareed… all of you are being nice to me when it’s my fault that all of this is happening!”
If she hadn’t begged her grandfather to find her a husband… If she’d just agreed to one of the men Aasia had tried to pawn her off onto… Everything would be different. It was all her fault.
“Iman,” Ibrahim’s voice was steely. “What do you mean ‘he told you’? When did you talk to Adam?”
Iman frowned in confusion. “That day. After he… you know. He found me and he was yelling… He told me…” She struggled to remember. “He said he wanted me to feel the same way he did.”
“He didn’t hurt you?” her grandfather asked urgently, tightening his grip on her arm.
“No. He just… left.”
Ibrahim pursed his lips. “Hmm. Do you remember what else he said?”
“N-not really. Why? Does it make a difference?”
“It might,” Ibrahim told her. “It just might. Could you get Waseem for me sweetheart?”
Italy was just as beautiful as it had always been. Adam had only been there two days and already, he was starting to feel better.
He’d been forced to remain sober for a large part of the past two weeks and it had forced him to find another way of keeping himself numb. He hadn’t had to look too far. A few little pills were far easier to swallow than the bottles he’d been throwing back, even if they were harder to get access to.
He knew he was playing with fire. He’d heard horror stories of men who couldn’t function without some kind of substance in their system and had scoffed, finding them weak and arrogantly thinking himself so much superior.
Now he knew better. He was weaker than any of them.
He’d tried, last night. Tried to end things for good. He’d had the gun in hand, loaded and ready. And he couldn’t pull the trigger.
For the second time in his life, he had failed to kill someone.
He felt disgusting. He hadn’t shied away from killing an innocent animal. He’d been too much of a coward then, too afraid to stand up for what was right. But his own life… Her life… Those he couldn’t bear to take.
He was hopeless.
A thought occurred to him and he suddenly felt a jolt of excitement, waking him up.
He couldn’t kill himself, no. He’d tried and failed.
But maybe someone else could.
He was in Italy. He’d been there enough times that he knew exactly where to go. And where not to go.
All he had to do was wander down to one of the seedier parts of town.
He’d find someone looking for a fight eventually. And he’d give it to them just long enough to make sure they stopped him for good.