Chapter Twenty Two
“Aabirah, finally! I’ve been calling you all day, why haven’t you been answering?”
Aabirah had never heard Qasim sound quite so off-balance.
“I was on a plane,” she explained. “Why did you call?”
“Have you seen the news? Dad’s been arrested.”
“Well, thanks for the concern,” Qasim said sarcastically.
Aabirah’s temper snapped. “I have no reason to be concerned, Qasim. Our father has been breaking the law for decades unrepentantly. I warned you and him that it would catch up to him one day and now it has.”
“He’s our father. How can you be so heartless?”
“Have you forgotten what he did to me? What you helped him do to me?” Aabirah’s voice wobbled and she fought to keep her composure.
“This again? When are you going to realize that we did you a favour?”
“You had no right to do it! Whether or not it ended well doesn’t take away the fact that you forced me into it. You took away my right to choose, Qasim. You stole that from me.”
Qasim sighed irritably. “I don’t have time to rehash this stupid argument,” he snapped. “I called because you’re in danger.”
“What?” Aabirah gasped.
“Dad… some of the people he conned and double crossed… they were the wrong people. We’ve been able to keep everything under control for a while but Dad’s had to keep finding money to take care of everything. Now that he’s gotten caught, now that he’s in jail, we can’t afford any kind of protection any more. You need to be careful, Aabirah.”
“What the hell were you and Dad caught up in?” Aabirah whispered, horrified.
“He hid a lot of it from me,” Qasim admitted reluctantly. “And he always told me that everything was under control. I only found out how bad things were today – he had no choice but to tell me because he’d been arrested.”
“So what am I supposed to do?” Aabirah asked shakily. “I can’t go to Daaem for help. Even if he believes me, he won’t care enough to do anything.”
“What? Why not?”
“It’s complicated, Qasim. But buying me as a wife hasn’t made him fall magically in love with me. What do I need to do?”
Qasim was swearing on the other side of the phone.
“Qasim!” Aabirah snapped. “Tell me what I need to do.”
“I don’t know!” Qasim yelled. “Dad has a plan for me but we expected Daaem to take care of you. God, this is a mess.”
“There’s nothing for me,” Aabirah said flatly.
“Don’t say it like that,” Qasim scolded.
“Like what? Like he didn’t care about me? He didn’t.”
“Dad expected your husband to take care of you. And he should have! I know Daaem, you must have done something to make him neglect you. He’s not the type to do it otherwise.”
“Never mind, Qasim. I’ll figure it out,” Aabirah made to cut the call.
“No, wait! Look, you’ll be safe with Daaem’s security, most likely. But just in case, there are still a few guards who are loyal to us. I’ll send one of them to you, okay?”
“Thanks,” Aabirah said grudgingly. “Do I get to know where you’re going?”
“No. It’s safer if you don’t know anything. What I’m doing isn’t exactly legal.”
Of course it wasn’t. Aabirah rolled her eyes. “Okay,” was all she said. “Be safe.”
“Mrs. Shaik?” Holly called. “There’s someone on the phone for you, ma’am.”
Aabirah’s eyes widened. Was this the guard Qasim had promised to send her?
It wasn’t. It was her father in law.
“I’m sorry I didn’t call sooner but I’ve been out of the country since Friday. How are you holding up with everything, sweetheart?” he asked kindly.
“It’s been pretty awful,” Aabirah found herself admitting without conscious thought. “My father’s always acted like he was above the law and I’m not surprised that it’s caught up to him. But it’s still tough to deal with.”
“I’m sure,” Ameer agreed. “I assume you’re back on the estate? When is Daaem joining you?”
“He’s not,” Aabirah said blankly.
“What? Why not> I hope you didn’t tell him not to bother, dear. He’ll listen to you. Daaem has no concept of subtlety or hinting.”
“He didn’t offer,” Aabirah said bluntly.
“Ah. Well, I’m sure it will occur to him that he needs to in the next few days.”
Aabirah made a non-committal sound.
“If you need anything,” Ameer went on, “please don’t hesitate to let me know, sweetheart. I’m more than happy to help in any way that I can.”
“Thank you,” Aabirah said sincerely. “I appreciate it.”
“Of course, sweetheart. You’re family, after all.”
Aabirah abruptly burst into tears. “Oh, I’m so sorry,” she sniffled, once she’d gotten herself back under control. “I really didn’t mean to do that!”
She apologized again, feeling mortified. She’d been trained out of crying in front of people by the time she was four and here she was as a grown woman, sobbing on the phone.
“You’ve had an incredibly long few days,” Ameer said. “It’s more than understandable that you’re not feeling your best.”
Aabirah hiccuped lightly, brushing away a few stray tears. “You’re really very understanding,” she told Ameer. “Most people wouldn’t tolerate me crying my eyes out to them like this.”
“I am not most people,” was the calm reply. “Are you alright now?”
“Yes,” Aabirah said. “Yes, I’m fine. Thank you, again. For everything.”
She hung up a few moments later and went to wash her face. She was blotchy and red and her eyes hurt.
Holly was there when she came out, looking sympathetic. She had a tray in her hands and she held it out to Aabirah.
“Tea and a cool cloth for your eyes,” she explained. “The tea is a blend, it’s got chamomile and lavender in it. It will help calm you down a bit.”
“Thank you, Holly.” Aabirah took the tray.
“And Mrs. Shaik?” Holly added.
Aabirah turned back around. “Yes, Holly?”
“My apologies if this is overly familiar but… well, I know the estate can get lonely sometimes. If you need someone to talk to, I am always around.”
Aabirah blinked in surprise. “Thank you, Holly.”