Chapter Fifty Five
“Another one.” Waseem announced, walking into Ibrahim’s study. “That’s four in less than a month and a half. Doesn’t this kid sleep?”
“You almost sound concerned,” Ibrahim eyed his old friend knowingly. “You’re starting to feel bad for him, aren’t you?”
“Can you blame me? He’s like the road kill you see on the highways – too pathetic to not feel bad for.” Comprehension dawned on Waseem’s face. “That’s why you helped him back then?”
“He did look remarkably pathetic.” Ibrahim thought back almost two years. “But back then, I was curious more than anything. He had a lot of potential. I wanted to see what he’d do with it.”
Waseem hummed. “Looks like all he’s doing is trying to get himself killed. If he doesn’t slow down he’s either going to burn out or die over something stupid and careless. What a waste.”
It was a waste, Ibrahim agreed privately.
“Has Iman agreed to see him?”
“No. Your granddaughter is as stubborn as you when she’s got it in her head to be.”
Of course she was.
But that didn’t solve their problem.
Ibrahim looked at his Second. “Talk to him,” he instructed.
“What?” Waseem looked taken aback. “Me? I don’t even like him! And he’s well aware of that.”
“Exactly. He won’t think you’re just being nice.”
Waseem threw his hands up in exasperation. “You don’t really think I can influence this boy, do you?”
“No,” Ibrahim admitted. “But it’s worth a shot. If he kills himself somehow, Iman will be very upset.”
And that, it went without saying, was to be avoided. His granddaughter had suffered enough.
Adam was here again. Five times in six weeks, Iman thought grumpily. What was he doing?
He hadn’t asked to see her after the first time. But Waseem continued to inform her every time Adam made an appearance – waiting, it seemed, for the day that she finally agreed to see him.
He’d be waiting a long time.
She couldn’t bear the thought of Adam dying. But seeing him? Forgiving him? That was another matter entirely.
What he’d done… it had changed things. Permanently.
She finished tying the laces to her shoes and pulled her hair into a quick ponytail, shaking off the gloomy thoughts.
She’d discovered that she liked running quite by accident. James had suggested it to her as a way to get her stamina up and Iman had been hooked almost immediately. The runs were a way to distract her when she was too fidgety to paint and they worked fantastically.
A run would help her clear her head.
She walked down the stairs planning her route in her head, so absorbed that she didn’t initially recognize the hard, familiar body she’d crashed into.
She lifted her head and her mouth dropped open. “What happened to your face?” she shrieked.
Adam didn’t realize what she was talking about at first.
In his defence, he was preoccupied. Iman’s hands had landed squarely on his chest and he’d automatically grabbed her around the waist to steady her when she’d wobbled.
The last thing he was thinking about were a few old bruises.
He blinked at her dumbly and she lifted a hand, carefully tracing the worst mark. Adam winced as she disturbed a cut, causing it to start leaking again.
Her eyes widened comically and she drew her hand back as if it had been burned.
He’d been waiting so long to apologize to her. “Iman,” he began.
Her lips thinned. “Don’t.”
“Don’t apologize,” Iman continued. “If I have to hear that you’re sorry, I might scream.”
“What do you want then?” He’d do it, whatever it was. He owed her at least that.
“I -” Iman looked conflicted. “I don’t want to see you again,” she whispered.
“Okay,” he heard himself say.
Mechanically, barely paying attention to where he was going, he left.
Waseem found her curled up on the stairs, staring at the doorway Adam had disappeared through.
“Oh, dear.” He settled himself next to her. “Is that really what you want?”
Iman should have known he’d be listening.
“No,” she admitted. “It’s not. But he can’t give me what I want.” She wanted time to rewind. She wanted Adam to not be a killer. She wanted… she wanted to be with him and not feel like she was betraying the people he’d murdered – the ones she’d known for years, who’d only been trying to protect her.
They’d died through no fault of their own. How could she forget them? How could she let their sacrifice be meaningless and be with their killer? They deserved better.
“Be careful,” Waseem warned, “not to punish yourself for crimes you haven’t committed.
“I’m punishing him too,” Iman told him. “That makes it worth it.”
“Do you think this is what anyone would want?” Waseem looked honestly curious.
How could it not be? “Yes.”
“You’re wrong,” he told her. “They wouldn’t want you to twist yourself in knots like this. I may not like that boy but you care for him a great deal. And what happened was a tragedy, but it was a misunderstanding.”
“Shouldn’t he pay for what he did?” Shouldn’t they both pay?
“Yes.” Waseem reached out and tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear. “But you shouldn’t.”
“But it’s my fault!” Iman snapped irritably. Why did no one seem to understand that?
“No, it is not. Many people are to blame for this mess. But you are not one of them.” He took hold of her shoulders. “You did nothing wrong, Iman. Let go of the guilt – it’s not yours to carry.”
Iman ached to believe him.
Waseem read her refusal in her face. “You are just like your grandfather,” he told her, audibly frustrated. “He still blames himself, you know? I could never get him to forgive himself either, no matter how hard I tried.”
“Your grandmother. He still believes that her death is on his hands. I suppose he does have a point,” Waseem added.
“That’s ridiculous!” Her grandfather had had nothing to do with his wife’s death. She glared at Waseem. “He did nothing wrong!”
Waseem made a non-committal sound. “If he’d been there…”
“He had no idea what was going to happen! It’s not his fault, there’s nothing he could have done!” Iman’s hands had clenched into fists and she felt an insane urge to hit something.
“You’re right,” Waseem agreed.
“I… am?” Off-balance, Iman stared at him.
“Yes. There was nothing he could do. And there was nothing you could do either.”
“You… you were making a point?”
Waseem nodded. “Do you understand now?”
Iman replayed their argument in her head. “I-”
Waseem shook his head fondly. “Was your grandfather to blame?”
This, Iman had an answer to. “No.”
“Then neither are you. And maybe one day, one of you will truly believe that.”