Chapter Twenty Six
Coming to the estate had been a mistake, Daaem reflected. He’d known from the beginning that it was a bad idea but he’d given in in the end, too weak to go toe to toe with his father again.
The first few days, he’d thought he was going to go insane. There was no easy way for him to go out and buy alcohol here without being recognized and he was in no state to drive himself anywhere.
After days of being so tired he could barely see straight, his body had finally given out. Even that had been a mixed blessing for he was still haunted by nightmares no mater how tired he was when he closed his eyes.
The one bright spot to the entire situation was how easily he’d managed to avoid Aabirah. Daaem hadn’t seen her once in the week since he’d been back.
Unbeknownst to him, that was about to change.
Aabirah stumbled, fetching up against something solid and warm? What had she bumped into?
Lifting her head, her eyes widened in shock. “Daaem?” she exclaimed. “What are you doing here?”
He looked awful, she noted. She wondered what had happened to make him look so haggard for a moment before scowling and forcing away the concern. Worrying over him was useless – he wouldn’t return the favour and it would only make her let her guard down again.
Daaem hadn’t answered. He stood there, still as a statue. As Aabirah watched, he paled before abruptly turning and sprinting off.
“Wha-?” Aabirah’s brow furrowed in confusion and she started off after him. She caught up easily enough – he really was in bad shape – and kept pace as he walked.
“Are you alright?” she asked worriedly, taking him in. He was thinner than she remembered, his cheekbones sharp in his face and his skin had an unhealthy pallor to it.
Silently, Daaem quickened his step, somehow managing to outpace her. He yanked open the door to his bedroom, hesitated for a second and looked back at her, then darted into the room and slammed the door behind him.
Thoroughly confused, Aabirah jerked to a stop. For a moment, she debated whether or not to go after him, finally deciding against it. He clearly didn’t want company.
Instead, she made her way to the lounge, seating herself in her favourite armchair, continuing her original plan of reading away the day.
When Aabirah next looked up, hours had passed. She’d lost herself completely in the pages of the book lying next to her and her stomach was growling. She’d always been able to enjoy the odd book here or there but living on the estate had turned her into a proper bookworm.
The combination of a good library and nothing else to do had allowed her to start making her way through a number of books she’d never had the time for before and she was enjoying it more than she’d thought could be possible.
Clearly someone in the Shaik family had liked to read because the library was packed full of a wide selection of well-loved books that Aabirah had taken full advantage of.
Aabirah’s stomach let out a particularly large gurgle and she put a hand to it, getting up to go find a snack. She’d missed lunch but past experience had told her Holly would have something waiting for the second Aabirah decided to head downstairs.
A quick glance into the dining room told her that Daaem would not be joining her – the table was laid with only a single place setting.
Aabirah put her head down on the table, cushioning it with her arms, suddenly ridiculously lonely.
When Holly came into the room, she looked at the other woman consideringly. “Holly, have you had lunch?”
“No, I haven’t,” the housekeeper shook her head.
“Great! Join me, please.”
“I would love to, Mrs. Shaik, but I can’t,” Holly looked apologetic.
“Why not?” Aabirah cocked her head to the side. “Would it make you uncomfortable?” she asked guiltily.
“No, not at all!” Holly hurried to reassure her. “But it’s Ramadan right now and I’m fasting.”
“I didn’t know you were Muslim,” Aabirah was astonished.
“I reverted when I was in my twenties,” Holly explained. “It’s been around six years now since I became Muslim.”
“But your name?” Aabirah was confused.
“I chose to keep the name my mother had given me,” Holly explained simply.
“I see,” Aabirah said quietly. She spent her meal pondering the little Holly had said and puzzling over her devotion. Aabirah had been raised Muslim but no one she knew practised Islam beyond abstaining from alcohol and pork, celebrating Eid and marrying in mosques.
She hadn’t even known it was Ramadan.
Daaem was bored. It was an odd feeling for him. He hadn’t had the chance to be bored in a long time. He’d always been busy, either with work or because he’d been going out, to network or find a woman to keep him company for the night. He hadn’t sat around doing nothing for years and now, he remembered why.
He hated being bored, hated having nothing to do and no way of occupying his time. In desperation, he’d decided to wander down to the library and try to find something to amuse himself with but even that hadn’t worked.
He’d bumped into Aabirah before he could even get through the doors and had fled back to his room like a scared mouse. He hadn’t spoken a word to her, even though she’d asked him questions, too terrified that the wrong thing would come out, that he’d spill his guts and explain just why he wasn’t letting her go.
Daaem knew that he felt something for his wife. He wanted her with him. And she could never know that. She could never know that she was important to him, that he’d refused to let her go not because of money but because he was attached to her. If she knew, she could use it against him. If she found out about this weakness, Daaem would be completely ruined.