Chapter Forty Five
Aabirah sat playing with her phone, tossing it up in the air and catching it, trying to make herself make a decision. She’d saved Iman’s number when the other woman had called her and she’d been wrestling with the decision of whether or not to call her for the past fifteen minutes.
Aabirah needed advice. She needed to have an outsider tell her if she was crazy or not and Iman was the only soul she knew who was neither biased nor untrustworthy. And yet, she was reluctant to actually call the other woman, embarrassed by her problems.
Aabirah tossed the cellphone a little higher than normal in her agitation and it came crashing down onto the floor. She sighed and bent to grab it, checking over the screen and sides for damage. Taking a deep breath, she dialled.
It rang so long she was convinced no one was going to answer and had lowered the phone from her ear when the call finally connected.
“Hi, Iman,” Aabirah lifted the phone back up hurriedly. “This is Aabirah, Daaem Shaik’s…” she trailed off. Daaem Shaik’s wife. The title made her nauseous.
“Oh! Hi, Aabirah, how are you?” Iman politely pretended not to notice that she’d stopped talking in the middle of a sentence.
“Fine and you?” Aabirah replied automatically.
“I’m alright,” Iman said, smiling.
“Actually…” Aabirah said then, shaking her head. “I’m not. Not fine, that is. I need some advice, Iman, and you offered… But I don’t want to make you uncomfortable either,” she finished, beginning to gnaw on her lower lip.
“You’re not making me uncomfortable,” Iman said at once. “Not in the least, I promise. Do you want to talk on the phone or would you like to meet me somewhere?”
“I can’t leave the estate,” Aabirah admitted.
Iman was undaunted. “Alright, well would it be alright if I came out to you?” she suggested.
“It’s a four hour flight,” Aabirah explained.
“Yeah, can you get visitors there?”
“I – yeah, yeah I can,” Aabirah said.
“Great, what’s the address?”
Aabirah gave it to her. “Are you seriously going to fly several hours to come see me?” she asked, bemused.
“Yep,” Iman said brightly.
“Thank you,” was all Aabirah could think to say.
“I’ll be there tomorrow morning, alright? Try to hang in there until then.”
“Yeah. Thank you again,” Aabirah added, feeling dizzy. What had just happened?
There was a knock on the door. “Come in!” Daaem called, head stuck in his closet. Where was his black jacket?
“Um, Daaem?” Aabirah stood in the doorway. “Are you busy?”
“Aabirah! No, what is it?” Daaem walked toward her.
“I have a friend coming to visit me tomorrow. I just wanted… to know if it’s okay?” her voice tilted up at the end.
Daaem winced at the question. “Yeah,” he nodded hard. “Yeah, of course. Who is it?”
“Um, Iman Cassim? You know her.”
Adam’s wife? Daaem hadn’t known that she and Aabirah were friends, though when he strained his memory, he remembered hearing something about how well they’d gotten along.
“That’s great,” he told Aabirah, smiling.
“Yeah,” she smiled awkwardly. “I’m gonna go now.” She gestured towards the corridor before grabbing the door handle and leaving quickly.
‘Patience,’ Daaem reminded himself yet again. ‘Be patient. You were the one who messed up, it’s the least you can do.’
That didn’t make it easier, it just worsened his mood.
Aabirah didn’t believe Iman was actually coming until the other woman stood in front of her. She still couldn’t believe that the other woman had dropped everything and flown to their little patch of nowhere for an almost complete stranger. Yes, they’d hit it off when they’d first met… but this kind of behaviour was unheard of.
Perhaps Iman was simply bored and had nothing better to do? But even with Aabirah’s limited knowledge, that didn’t seem particularly in character for the sweet woman. And she’d sounded so sincere over the phone…
Aabirah let out a surprised noise as Iman came right up to her and leaned in, clearly intent on a hug.
“Hey,” she greeted sweetly. “I’m so sorry it took me a while to get here, I had to settle Adam and rearrange some people and by the time I was done, it was too late to fly. I came out as early as I could this morning.” She pulled back and looked at Aabirah closely. “How are you doing?”
“I’m in shock,” Aabirah admitted candidly. “I didn’t expect you to come.”
“Well, I’m glad I got to give you a surprise then,” Iman’s lovely eyes were warm. “Should we go inside?” she suggested.
“Oh! Sorry,” Aabirah squirmed. She’d completely forgotten that they were standing in the middle of the courtyard. “Please come inside.”
They settled in the guest room that Holly had prepared for Iman’s stay, making small talk over nothing in particular. Aabirah babbled nervously, trying to head off any actual questions.
She may have asked Iman for advice but she wasn’t ready to share. What had she been thinking?
Eventually, Iman laid a hand over hers and stopped her. “Aabirah, it’s alright,” she said earnestly. “I’m not going to start interrogating you, I promise. If you’re not ready to talk, we’ll wait until you are.”
Aabirah hid her face in her hands. “I’m a hot mess,” she lamented. “I really shouldn’t have bothered you.”
“We’re all a mess,” Iman said serenely. “Some of us are just a bit more accustomed to navigating that mess than others.”
Aabirah looked at her, disbelieving. “You’re a mess?” she challenged.
Iman giggled. “A huge mess. I am better than I was – three years ago, it was a lot worse. Adam and I both, we’ve come a long way. But I’m not perfect, Aabirah. Far from it, in fact.”
“You look pretty great from the outside,” Aabirah admitted, unable to keep the jealousy from her voice.
“So do you,” Iman said pointedly. “People look a whole lot better than they are when you’re seeing their best and comparing it to your worst.”