‘Red file, red file,’ Aabirah thought to herself as she scanned Daaem’s desk. ‘Where… There!’
She snatched it up and turned to go, pausing to disentangle a stapled together bundle that had come with accidentally. She wrinkled her nose. How could Daaem find anything in this mess.
She glanced absently at the top page of the bundle, pausing when she read what was written. The file dropped from her suddenly numb fingers. What the hell was this?
Daaem poked his head into the office. “Aabirah, did you find that file?”
Aabirah raised her head. “What?”
“The file,” Daaem repeated. Getting a good look at her face, he frowned and hurried in. “What’s wrong?” he asked, concerned. “You’re crying?”
She was. Aabirah lifted her fingers to her cheeks and impatiently brushed away the tears. “I found your contract,” she told Daaem, trying to keep her voice level. “It was… interesting reading.”
“What contract? What are you talking about?”
Aabirah handed it to him. “This one. This contract which makes me guilty of a crime, if I leave you.” More tears fell and Aabirah took a deep breath. “Move,” she said, going towards the door. “I can’t deal with you right now.”
“Daaem, move,” Aabirah snapped, at the end of her patience. “Now!”
“Wait,” he said softly. “Just, tell me what’s wrong? I don’t understand why you’re so upset!”
Aabirah stared at him, disbelieving. He was serious! She could see it, he truly didn’t understand why she was upset.
“According to that thing, I can’t leave you. I’m forced to stay married to you until you decide you want to let me go.”
Daaem nodded. “Yes, but…”
“But what, Daaem? What could possibly make this okay?” Aabirah asked miserably. She felt so stupid. Time and again, Daaem had shown himself to be untrustworthy and still, she’d kept letting him in anyway. What kind of idiot did that?
“You knew what this said, you signed it before we got married. Why are you freaking out about it now, over a year later?”
“I signed it?” Aabirah repeated, confused. “What are you talking about?”
Daaem turned to the last page and showed it to her. “Here. See? You had to sign or it wouldn’t have been valid.”
“I don’t remember signing that. My father must’ve…” Aabirah trailed off, fighting renewed tears.
Daaem looked regretful. “I’m sorry. I – I forgot.”
“How convenient for you.” Aabirah smiled without humour. “Who drew that up?”
“One of your father’s lawyers.” Daaem frowned. “Why?”
“Whose idea was it to cage me in legally? Or did you both come up with it?”
“What? No, Aabirah! I didn’t come up with this. Your father handed it to me and had me sign it after you… All I did was sign, I didn’t even read the thing until later.”
“Right,” Aabirah agreed sarcastically. “You signed a contract without reading it.” How stupid did he think she was?
Absurdly, Daaem blushed. “I… was in a hurry,” he admitted, shame-faced. “I really wanted to marry you, I would’ve done stupider things to hurry up the process.”
“I don’t believe you.” She didn’t, it was impossible for her to accept that he would have been so careless.
“I – I don’t know what else I can say. I’m telling you the truth,” Daaem said earnestly.
Aabirah looked away. “Why was it on your desk?”
“We’ve been married for over a year. Why was it on your desk? What were you doing with it?” she asked suspiciously.
Daaem sighed. “You’re not gonna believe me,” he told her ruefully.
Aabirah crossed her arms. “Try me,” she invited.
“I was trying to figure out if we could change it,” Daaem’s mouth twisted. “It’s not very fair,” he said lamely.
“I didn’t think of it before.” Daaem shook his head. “No, that’s a lie. I did think of it but…” He took a deep breath. “I… liked that it was hard for you to leave. I know, I know that that’s awful of me, but… I liked knowing that you couldn’t leave me.”
“Then, why change it?” Aabirah asked, confused.
“Because it’s awful!” Daaem shouted.
“Yeah, it is,” Aabirah agreed, sniffing. “But why do you care?”
“I – because it’s not fair to you. And I don’t like that very much,” Daaem stuffed his hands in his pockets. “I know I’ve been awful and I’m trying to do better.” He looked up at her hopefully. “Are we okay?”
“I need to think,” Aabirah told him. “I just… I need to think. Away from you.”
“Okay,” Daaem nodded. Finally, he stepped away from the door. “I’m sorry, Aabirah.”
She didn’t reply. Her throat was tight and she felt ill. She needed… she didn’t know what she needed.
Daaem aimed a kick at one of the chairs, filled with frustration and anger. It didn’t help.
He dropped into the chair he’d kicked and rested his head in his hands. Now what? Things had been going so well… They’d been getting along, Aabirah had started letting her guard down…
And now, she was furious and he had no idea how to convince her that he wasn’t trying to hurt her. Just how many more obstacles were there for them to trip over?
He looked at the sheaf of papers that had caused all their problems. A sentence caught his eye and he blinked, smacking himself in the forehead once he’d understood it. Aabirah couldn’t leave unless he let her if she didn’t give back the money he’d unintentionally handed her father.
Daaem grabbed his phone and called Emma.
Five minutes later, it was done. And just maybe, he prayed, it would help fix things between them. Help Aabirah to start trusting him, finally.