Chapter Fifty Two
Lina gasped at the sight of him. “Adam! What are you doing here?” She didn’t sound particularly happy to see him.
“I… wanted to see how you were doing.”
His mother’s eyes hardened. “You wanted to see how I was doing?” she repeated. “Adam, it’s been over a month! Now you want to know how I’m doing?”
Adam winced. “I’m sorry,” he said helplessly.
Lina waved off his apology. “Where were you?” she demanded. “What was so important that you left me alone all this time?”
He had no answers for her. The justifications he’d told himself when he’d left seemed hollow now. He’d been furious and guilty and he’d wanted revenge on the Khans.
He hadn’t been thinking of her, Adam admitted to himself. He’d been trying to find a way to make himself feel better and it had been easier to convince himself that she’d be fine without him than to keep worrying over her.
“I’m sorry,” he repeated.
“Did you even think about me all this time?” She looked so disappointed in him.
“No. I was trying not to think much at all.”
“And why are you here now, Adam?” Lina’s frustration was palpable. “Why did you come here?”
Adam opened his mouth. “I – found some things out.” Most notably that his stepfather was a monster. He looked at his mother, trying to find the words to tell her what had happened and experienced a moment of clarity.
He couldn’t tell her.
If he did… If he even attempted to give her hope… He didn’t even know what Ali’s actual plans were. All he did know was that he needed to stay far away from anyone even vaguely connected to his stepfather until he got his head on straight.
He was in no shape to deal with Ali Cassim in his current condition. He’d be dead in minutes.
“I just wanted to see how you were coping,” he told Lina. “If you needed anything?”
She crossed her arms, unimpressed. “What would you even be able to do, Adam? You were barely a part of my life as it was and now… I don’t even know if I’m happy you’re back. You’ve always kept yourself away from me. If I hadn’t kept pulling you back, I suppose this would have happened a long time ago. Maybe that would have been better. Clearly you didn’t care enough to try and stay a part of my life.”
That wasn’t fair. Adam opened his mouth to protest then shut it and shook his head. What good would arguing with her even do?
“I’m sorry,” he said, for the third and final time, and left.
He ended up at his old apartment. He’d long since lost the keys but it was the work of a moment to retrieve a spare set that he’d kept hidden in an alcove by the elevator on his floor.
Looking at the familiar door, he took a deep breath and turned the key in the lock.
He’d prepared himself for a mess – he wasn’t naive enough to believe that the Khans would leave him be after what he’d done to them. But the apartment was untouched.
It was even clean. The service he used must have come by fairly recently.
It hurt, being there without Iman.
There were paints and sketchbooks scattered around and he could see canvases that she’d left out of the way to dry, leaning against the balcony doors.
He scrubbed a hand over his face and suddenly felt anew just how grimy he was.
A shower, he decided. Maybe it would help him feel a bit more human too.
There was a letter on the floor by his door. Adam lifted it, thinking of the other two he’d received just like it.
Why a letter?
Why not just kill him and end things?
What was Ibrahim Khan doing?
He slit the envelope open with a nail and pulled out the letter, his nerves jangling.
Blank. It was blank?
He was still puzzling it over when he heard a knock at the door.
Adam lifted his head, debating.. Run or open the door and try to fight?
He was in terrible shape for either.
Iman walked slowly, carrying a laden tray in her hands. She was about to call out and ask for the door to be opened when she heard a slam.
Startled, she jumped, making the tray rattled. The door was yanked open and she found James glaring at her on the other side.
“I-is everything okay?” she asked when he remained silent.
“Not really,” he muttered. “Here, let me take that.” He took the tray and stepped aside, letting her into the room.
Iman went over to her grandfather and kissed his cheek. “I heard a noise. Is everything alright?”
Ibrahim smiled. “Just a bit of a disagreement,” he said lightly.
Behind them, James snorted. “It’s a little more than that.”
Ibrahim glared at him warningly but James ignored the look. “I just don’t get why you haven’t snapped his neck already,” he complained. “He deserves it – he made a huge mess!”
“I would like to talk to him first,” Ibrahim responded, clearly annoyed. “As is my prerogative, James.”
“What are the two of you talking about?” Iman asked absently, focusing on fixing cups of tea to their liking.
“It’s not important,” her grandfather assured her.
“Your husband,” James said at the same time, rolling his eyes.
“What?” Iman lifted her head. “Adam?” The smile dropped from her face.
“James, go and get me a cup of coffee,” Ibrahim instructed.
“There’s tea,” Iman said blankly, still holding the cup she’d been stirring sugar into.
Her grandfather ignored her. “Go. Fast.”
James left immediately.
Ibrahim focused on her once James was gone. “I’m sorry about that.”
“It’s… fine.” Iman swallowed, her mouth dry. “You’re… he… you’re trying to find him?”
“Yes, I am.”
“To – to kill him?” She fought to keep her voice level.
Her grandfather looked intently at her. “Not immediately,” he told her.
“But eventually?” Her voice cracked.
“Oh. I-” She put a hand over her mouth.
Why did it hurt so much?
He’d killed people she cared about. He hated her. He was an awful person and he’d hurt her worse than anyone ever had – even her mother.
“Iman?” her grandfather said gently. “Are you going to be alright?”
Iman nodded silently, unable to speak. It made sense, logically. It was safer to have Adam killed.
It shouldn’t even hurt.
But it did. Thinking of him dead hurt so badly it took her breath away.
“Can you… not do it here?”
“Of course.” Ibrahim took her hand. “Why don’t you drink your tea?”
Iman took the cup. It rattled, sloshing tea on the carpet. “I – I think I need to go,” she heard herself say.