When Aabirah’s cell phone rang, it shocked her enough that she threw it clear across the room. Who on Earth could be calling her, she wondered, as she hunted for it, finally tracking it down under the carved leg of a chair.
“Daaem?” She’d never heard him sound so awkward.
“Yeah. My father wants to meet you.”
Aabirah frowned down at the phone. “Alright, when?” She walked over to her bedside table, grabbing the little calendar she kept there with Daaem’s events carefully pencilled in.
“This Friday? That’s tomorrow!”
“Is it?” Daaem asked. Aabirah heard him smothering a yawn.
“Are you okay?” she asked before she could stop herself.
“Are you okay?”
“I guess. Why do you ask?”
Why had she asked? “You don’t sound that great.”
“It’s been a long week. Look, I have to go. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Wait, what time do I need to be there?” Aabirah scowled when she realized Daaem had ended the call on her.
She sighed in frustration, dropping her phone and going in search of Holly. It was late enough that the housekeeper would be getting ready to leave, but hopefully not late enough that Aabirah had missed her leaving for the evening.
She found Holly about to leave and rushed forward, calling her name.
“Yes, Mrs. Shaik?” Holly looked inquiringly at her. “What did you need?”
“Did you have Daaem’s secretary’s number? I needed to check something quickly – he didn’t let me know what time I’d be leaving tomorrow. And I’ve never called Emma myself, just received calls from her on the land line. I’ve got no idea how to reach her.”
“Of course, Emma’s contact details are in the book with everyone else’s. Just wait right here and I’ll go get it for you.”
“You can just tell me where it is, Holly. It’s late.”
“Oh, it’s no trouble,” Aabirah was assured. Holly disappeared into the first floor office and returned a few moments later with a slim leather-bound book.
“Here we are,” she handed it over. “Is there anything else you need?”
“No, nothing else. Thank you Holly. Good night.”
It was too late to call, Aabirah realized a moment later. She settled for sending a quick text and was surprised when it was replied to almost immediately. Her flight was at two the next afternoon and she would be meeting her father in law for supper.
She hadn’t even thought about Daaem’s parents. Clearly he had them but she didn’t even know their names.
Well, that would soon change, she supposed. It was even possible that she’d met them before but didn’t remember. Surely they would have been invited to her wedding?
She resolved to ask Daaem for some background information the next day and decided to have an early night. It was barely eight but she was tired and it wasn’t like she had much else to do.
Ameer Shaik was nothing like his son, Aabirah soon realized. And there was little love lost between father and son. They greeted one another brusquely and Ameer quickly drew her into conversation, completely ignoring his son.
“It’s wonderful to finally meet you,” Ameer commented halfway through the meal.
“You weren’t at the wedding,” Aabirah realized, blushing when she unintentionally spoke the thought.
“No, I wasn’t,” Ameer smiled tightly. “Daaem didn’t see fit to inform me that he was getting married and by the time I’d found out, it was too late to rearrange my schedule.”
Aabirah smiled uncomfortably, at a loss for how to salvage the situation.
Daaem spoke up unexpectedly. “You generally invite people you care for to your wedding. People who would be happy for you.”
Aabirah winced, waiting for an explosion.
But Ameer Shaik just shook his head, unsurprised. “Perhaps if you didn’t spend all your time coming up with new ways to insult people, it wouldn’t be so hard for them to care. And I was happy for you. I still am, even if I may disagree with how quickly you got married.”
“It didn’t sound like it when you called me at six in the morning to rake me over the coals,” Daaem said pointedly.
“I was frustrated, Daaem, and you cannot blame me for that. I had to hear about your wedding from a tabloid – it’s insulting!”
“Oh, don’t pretend like it’s my fault. You stopped speaking to me, remember? There was something about ‘not being able to handle the constant disappointment’ or something like that.”
“You have some nerve. How dare you try to blame me? I tried constantly with you, you never wanted to listen! And yes, eventually I got tired of talking to a brick wall.”
Daaem’s face hardened. “Right, it’s all my fault. You did nothing wrong.”
“That’s not what I’m saying!” Ameer shouted exasperated.
“That’s what it sounds like!”
Aabirah felt like she was watching a tennis match. A private, emotionally charged tennis match. Finally, she’d had enough.
“It sounds like the two of you have a lot to catch up on,” she cut in, getting to her feet. “I’ll give you some privacy.”
Both men looked at her, chastened.
“No,” Ameer said immediately. “My apologies, we shouldn’t be airing out dirty laundry tonight. Unfortunately, Daaem and I tend to rub one another up the wrong way.”
“Well, I’m the one who hit a nerve tonight, I think,” Aabirah smiled. “So some of the blame lies with me as well.”
Internally, she sighed with relief at having managed to cut off the fight before it escalated any more. She’d seen the way Daaem was tensing and flexing his fingers and had honestly been afraid he would punch his father if they’d kept going.
Daaem kept silent the rest of the night, leaving the conversation to her and Ameer and not even pretending to listen.
Aabirah wondered apprehensively whether she’d be the one to deal with his temper once they’d left for having brought up the wedding in the first place.