Chapter Forty Eight
Ameer took one look at Daaem and grabbed him by the arm, steering him in the direction of his office. Daaem suppressed the urge to shake off the grip and hole himself up far away from his father.
“Now will you tell me what’s wrong?” Ameer asked insistently. “And I don’t want to hear that nonsense about it being ‘nothing’ again. Tell me the truth, Daaem, and now – we’re not moving from here until you do.”
Daaem tried to block out the insistent voice, focusing on keeping his temper.
It didn’t work.
“Just stop!” he shouted, at the end of his patience. “Stop it already!”
Ameer stopped, startled. “Daaem, what on Earth… What’s gotten into you?”
“I am so sick and tired of you pushing! Over and over and over again. Why do you have to keep doing that? Why can’t you just leave it alone for once? Just leave me alone!”
“The last time I left you alone,” Ameer said hotly, “you tried to kill yourself in your bathroom! Can you possibly imagine why I would be reluctant to do that again? You’re sick, Daaem, you need looking after.”
“No,” Daaem denied furiously, “I don’t. I’m a grown man! I’m not helpless, I don’t need to be minded like a child!”
“No one’s saying that,” Ameer snapped, exasperated. “We’re worried about you, is that such a bad thing?”
It shouldn’t have been. It should have been comforting. And, at first, it had been. But now, Daaem was suffocating.
“I can’t breathe,” he whispered softly in defeat. “I can’t breathe anymore.”
Now Ameer looked alarmed. “What do you mean,” he asked urgently, moving forward.
Daaem backed away. “I can’t – you need to stop. I can’t…” he trailed off miserably.
“Okay,” Ameer said soothingly. Somehow they’d gotten down on the floor without Daaem noticing. “Okay. If you need me to stop, I will. Okay?”
Daaem nodded, the pressure on his chest beginning to ease slightly. He didn’t know how long he sat there on the floor with his father crouched next to him, mumbling soothing nonsense and being careful not to crowd him.
“Thanks,” he whispered eventually, sitting back up from where he’d been leaning against the wall.
“What happened there, Daaem?” Ameer asked seriously.
“I don’t know,” Daaem admitted. “That’s never happened before.”
Ameer was clearly resisting the urge to demand answers, something Daaem was absurdly grateful for.
“Alright,” he said calmly. “Well, can you get up? My knees aren’t as young as they used to be.”
Daaem nodded, using the wall for support as he got to his feet. “Sorry,” he mumbled out of habit, blushing. He still hated losing it the way he kept doing it, no matter that he should be used to it by now.
“It’s alright,” his father said, patting him on the back slightly awkwardly.
Daaem mopped at his eyes.
“How do we stop this from happening again?” Ameer asked, looking concernedly at him.
“Just… don’t smother me,” Daaem said with a final sniff. “I know I need help with everything and I’ve messed up my whole life and I can’t make any good decisions by myself but I need some space. You can’t keep treating me like a child, it’s driving me insane. I just -” he was gasping by the end of this long speech.
Ameer held up his hands. “Whoa, slow down. You haven’t messed up your whole life,” he said soothingly.
“Yes, I have,” Daaem disagreed. “Nothing’s gone the way it was supposed to.”
Ameer looked amused. “No one’s life goes the way it’s supposed to, Daaem. Now, I understand what you’re saying about being treated like a child and I’m sorry.”
Daaem looked at Ameer disbelieving and hopeful.
“But,” his father added.
Daaem’s shoulders slumped.
“But, we’ll need to come to a compromise. And stop looking like I just run over your puppy, Daaem!”
“What kind of compromise?” Daaem asked suspiciously.
“I am not going to stop treating you like my child, that’s what you are and always will be. But if you’re feeling too harangued, you could tell me. Civilly, without shouting and preferably without crying.”
Daaem blushed. “I… hadn’t thought of that.”
“Is that acceptable?” Ameer asked gently.
“Yeah,” Daaem nodded. “It wasn’t just you,” he felt compelled to point out. “It was Adam too.”
“Well, I don’t know about your friend, that’s your business,” Ameer said comfortably. “But I am not unreasonable, Daaem. Not if you come to me and ask nicely, anyway.”
Daaem nodded silently.
“But Daaem,” Ameer added. “If I truly think you’re about to hurt yourself, I will harangue you. That is non-negotiable.”
Daaem nodded, knowing it was the best he would get and too tired to keep fighting the issue. He’d try again later, he promised himself, suppressing a yawn. After he’d taken a nap.
Aabirah watched Daaem and Ameer curiously that night at supper, trying to figure out what was different between father and son. They’d been oddly nice to one another all evening, a far cry from the sniping and bickering that had occurred the last time Aabirah had witnessed them interact all those months ago.
Curiously, she wondered what had changed. Was it just because of Daaem’s new, nicer attitude? Aabirah didn’t know but she appreciated the change nonetheless. She liked Daaem’s father far more than she liked him and it pleased her to see Ameer so clearly enjoying his time with his son.
Ameer drew her into the conversation then and Aabirah spent several minutes chatting happily with him about the gardens and forest. She felt eyes on her and looked around to see Daaem watching her with an uncharacteristically soft look in his eyes.
Immediately, she jerked her gaze away, cheeks burning and feeling foolish.
“Sorry, what were you saying?” she asked Ameer contritely.
Her father-in-law repeated the question, looking amused. Aabirah fought to keep her attention solely on Ameer for the rest of her meal but the feeling of being watched remained.
She squirmed in her seat. Why wasn’t Daaem looking away?