Daaem was fed up. In the past few weeks, Aabirah had mentioned his father constantly. It was driving him insane.
He knew, rationally, that she didn’t have any idea of the history or the baggage between he and Ameer. But the repeated references to Ameer were putting him on edge. And Aabirah had witnessed the way they interacted when together. Hell, Daaem had even told her that their relationship was rocky.
So why did she persist in talking about Ameer?
Couldn’t she just talk about something else? They only met once every week or so, surely she could watch what she said for that long!
Emma appeared at that moment, ushering in his next meeting and he forced all thoughts of Aabirah and Ameer out of his head. He needed to concentrate.
Aabirah was having an awful time.
Daaem had been in a strange mood all night and she had no idea how to deal with it. She’d tried to start a conversation several times only to be rebuffed and had finally given up, resorting to playing a game on her cellphone in an effort to stave off the boredom while she trailed behind him.
“Aabirah! Oh my goodness, it is you, what a surprise!”
Aabirah groaned internally. Blond, blue eyed Amy looked like and angel and acted like a devil. She’d been a ‘friend’ of Aabirah’s before she got married – the type of friend who made you wish you didn’t have any.
She plastered a smile to her face and turned around. “Hi, Amy.”
“Oh, you’re with Daaem!” Amy squealed, catching sight of him a few feet away. “You know, we’ve never properly been introduced. I mean, I met him at your wedding but only for a few seconds and I’ve really been wanting to meet him but you’ve never been around!”
Amy’s eyes narrowed. “Why did you run off after you got married? And to the countryside too, I don’t know how you can stand it.”
“Oh, but it’s beautiful,” Aabirah defended. “I prefer it there, really.”
“Well, you always were a bit strange,” Amy said doubtfully. “Still, I’m glad I got to see you again! You and Daaem must come out with the whole gang, it’ll be so much fun. Everyone’s really missed you,” she said earnestly.
So much that none of them had bothered to respond to her efforts to keep in contact.
Aabirah gave a non-committal shrug. “I’ll ask Daaem.”
“Why don’t you just go ask him now? We’ll do it together!”
Before Aabirah could react, Amy had linked their arms and towed her over to Daaem, calling his name loudly.
She stood frozen as Amy introduced herself to Daaem, flirting and leaning into his personal space all the while.
“… so what do you think? Will you and Aabirah join us tomorrow?” Amy batted her eyelashes, expecting an immediate agreement. Men never refused her invitations.
But Daaem surprised her. “No,” he said simply, turning away.
Aabirah hid a grin with her hand. Amy looked shocked. She clearly had no idea how to respond to rejection.
The blond turned to her, clearly confused.
“Sorry, Amy. I think Daaem’s probably got something planned.”
“Well, he didn’t have to be rude about it,” Amy said crossly.
“You caught him off-guard,” Aabirah pointed out.
“Hmmph.” Amy crossed her arms, pouting. “Well, I’m clearly not wanted here so I’ll go find someone who wants my company.”
“You do that,” Aabirah said brightly, unwilling to soothe the dramatic woman. She couldn’t believe that she’d ever actually pandered to Amy’s ego before but she knew that a year ago, she would have been apologizing profusely to try and get herself out of Amy’s bad books.
She’d been so desperate for company that she’d put up with everything, knowing that if Amy decided to dislike her, everyone else in their social circle would follow suit.
Aabirah shook her head at herself. She’d been ridiculous.
“I can’t believe how rude you got! You know when people said you’d gotten snobby, I defended you. But you have! All you did was marry a hot guy, you’re not better than any of us!” Amy stormed off.
Aabirah laughed. She couldn’t help it, the entire situation just struck her as completely ridiculous. At least, until she caught the look on Daaem’s face.
He looked furious.
Daaem stared along with everyone else in the room as Aabirah’s friend began to shriek. As he stood there, he saw people beginning to whisper, some of them even turning to look at him before returning to the train smash happening in the middle of the room.
He was annoyed but not furious – Aabirah hadn’t reacted to the blond woman’s antagonism in any way – she didn’t scream or, God forbid, start a physical fight. It seemed like a salvagable situation right up until the blond walked away and she began to laugh.
Daaem’s mouth dropped open. Was she insane? Quickly, he walked up to her, grabbing her arm.
“Stop laughing,” he hissed in her ear, looking around for an exit.
“I’m sorry,” she gasped. “She’s just ridiculous.”
“Stop talking too.”
Five minutes later, they were in the car and he was on the phone with Emma.
“Daaem? What’s going on?”
“I’m trying to fix this mess,” he said shortly, trying to keep a hold of his temper.
“Mess?” Aabirah blinked. “It was a little fight. They happen all the time.”
“Yes,” Daaem agreed. “They happen all the time. And every single time, people talk. The media, society, everyone talks. And everyone remembers.”
“I – what do you mean?”
“I mean that this little fight will be gossiped about by everyone. Did you have to laugh at her? If you hadn’t, we might have been able to salvage things!”
Aabirah narrowed her eyes at him. “I didn’t start the fight,” she protested. “If you want to get technical about it, you’re the one who offended her.”
“Me?!” Daaem growled. “I told her no. There was nothing offensive about what I did.”
“It’s what set her off! I don’t understand what the big deal is anyway,” Aabirah said exasperated.
“The big deal, Aabirah, is that in the space of ten minutes, you’ve dropped my image. You’ve made people doubt me, doubt whether or not they want to do business with me because my image is tied to yours.”
Distantly, Daaem realized that he sounded just like his father. He shook thought off.
“I didn’t know,” Aabirah said in a small voice. “I’m sorry.”
“Well, now you do. So, in future, if you could stop yourself from doing things that make me look like an irresponsible idiot, I’d appreciate it. And if you could maybe stop yourself from commenting on things you have no idea about, that would be great.”
“I – I made a mistake. I’m sorry. I just acted without thinking, I guess.” Aabirah looked down at her lap.
“Yeah, you have a habit of doing that,” Daaem said irritably. First she talked about his father all day, now she was causing fights!
“When have I ever done anything like this before?” Aabirah asked astonished. “I’ve always done the best I could when I’ve attended events with you.”
“Obviously, you’re getting paid for them, aren’t you?”
“You offered to pay me. I didn’t ask you to.”
“You could’ve turned me down.”
“Maybe I should’ve,” Aabirah agreed.
They spent the rest of the drive in silence and Aabirah disappeared into her bedroom the second they got home.
Daaem stayed up, trying to do damage control and felt his mood worsening by the second.
For the first time in a long time, he found himself regretting ever getting married in the first place.