I stared down at my phone grumpily. Just where was Zaakir?
The sun’s glare forced me to shield my eyes with one hand and type with the other, squinting down at my screen. He’d kept me waiting for almost ten minutes already on one of the hottest days of the year.
“Azraa? Why are you waiting out here?”
“Because,” I snapped, “I want to go home! Where were you? I’ve been waiting for ages for you!”
“I was praying,” he said, infuriatingly unapologetic. He opened my door and I handed my bag to him automatically.
“Couldn’t you do it later? What was so urgent today?” I felt like stomping my foot. He’d kept me waiting and now he wasn’t even bothering to try and make up for it?
He rested a forearm on the roof of the car and answered me. “I pray at this time every day Azraa. If I’d known you were going to be done early, I would have dropped you off first and gone back.”
“How long were you waiting?” he asked, as he shut his door, waiting for me to get in and do the same.
I didn’t answer, my mind still focused on what he’d said before. Had I finished early? The lecture had seemed to end surprisingly fast. I ducked into the car and immediately glanced at the dash clock once Zaakir had started it.
“Azraa?” Zaakir glanced at me.
“You didn’t answer my question.” The corner of his mouth turned up.
I looked away. “Concentrate on the road,” I instructed him, my cheeks beginning to redden. He’d realized that I was in the wrong, clearly.
I felt the urge to apologize and scowled. I hated apologizing.
“Sorry,” I mumbled eventually.
Zaakir glanced at me, a look of mild surprise on his face. “It’s fine.”
“And,” I added, remembering the nastiness I’d indulged in while the sun had been souring my temper. “Don’t read your messages.”
“Actually,” I changed my mind. “Just give me your phone.” I held out a hand.
“It’s fine, Azraa,” Zaakir said dismissively. “Don’t worry about it.”
“Give it to me,” I insisted, wiggling my fingers. What had I been thinking, actually sending those messages? They’d been cruel, even for me.
I sat there with my arms folded across my chest, fighting the urge to tackle him and grab it. As embarrassed as I was about those messages, killing us both to stop him from seeing them was drastic, even for me.
“Don’t pout,” Zaakir sighed.
“I wasn’t,” I lied, pressing my lips into a line to hide the smug smile that now threatened. Zaakir hated it when I pouted. Nine times out of ten, he’d give me whatever I wanted just so I’d stop.
Just as I’d expected, he heaved an enormous sigh and stuck a hand in his pocket. “Here,” he shoved the device at me. “Happy now? Just stop making that face, please.”
“Very happy,” I told him, as I deleted every single message and all the calls too for good measure.
Curiously, I scrolled further.
Can’t wait to meet you again, his most recent message said. He hadn’t opened it or saved the person’s number but a few clicks brought up a picture of a gorgeous girl. She couldn’t wait to meet him again? Did Zaakir have a girlfriend?
I suddenly felt grumpy. He’d never told me about her. “Who’s the model?” flew out of my mouth before I could stop it.
“What?” His eyebrows scrunched together in a frown. “What are you talking about?”
I waited for a red light before shoving the screen in his face. “Her. You never told me you were dating someone.” I couldn’t keep the accusation out of my voice. What else had he been hiding?
“That’s because I’m not, Azraa. That’s one of the girls in my class.” He batted my hand away. “Are you done with my phone?”
“No,” I said grumpily, beginning to scroll through the rest of his messages.
“Didn’t anyone ever tell you that it’s rude to go through someone’s phone?”
Yes, actually. But this wasn’t someone. This was Zaakir. “You don’t count.”
“Of course not,” he said, rolling his eyes. “What was I thinking?”
I kept hold of Zaakir’s phone for the rest of the drive home but there was nothing else. I looked up at him suspiciously when he opened my door. “Are you sure she’s not your girlfriend?”
“I think I’d know.” He reached in the back for our bags and shut the door behind me. “Why are you so concerned anyway?”
I opened my mouth to reply and hesitated. Why was I so concerned? It was no business of mine what he did. “I’m not,” I said then. “I just thought you would have told me, is all.” We had known each other for almost two decades.
But maybe I was wrong. It wasn’t like we were friends – we hadn’t been friends for a long time.
“I would have,” Zaakir agreed, surprising me. “If I had ever dated anyone.”
I stopped short, halfway up the front steps. “You’ve never dated anyone?”
Zaakir wasn’t ugly. He hadn’t even had the decency to look bad during puberty like the rest of us. He had just always been Zaakir, forever unchanging.
I looked at him critically, trying to pretend he was a stranger. He’d always been tall and thin but somewhere along the line he’d gained a decent amount of muscle to fill out his frame. His hair was sloppy as always, falling into his brown eyes, but it was thick and healthy, and his skin was the colour of my favourite type of caramels.
Standing there, I was hit with an uncomfortable realization. Not only was Zaakir not ugly, but he’d somehow become decently attractive. When had that happened?
And how had it taken me this long to notice?
“Azraa? Are you planning to stay outside for the afternoon?” Zaakir asked sarcastically, leaning against the door frame.
That was why. The second his mouth opened, that attractiveness disappeared.
“I’m coming,” I snapped. “What, do you have somewhere to be?”
Yikes, Azraa’s a brat! She’s even worse than Daaem used to be 😀