Chapter Fifty Four
Aabirah had a calendar on the wall of her apartment and it had become her routine to mark off every day. Another day that she’d survived. Another day that she’d spent getting accustomed to being a ‘normal’ person, as Jake called it.
She’d been pretending to be a normal person for six weeks now. She lived in an ugly, tiny apartment made up of three rooms – the bedroom, the bathroom and the one big room that held everything from the kitchen to the lounge to the dining room all in one and doubled as Jake’s bedroom too.
Aabirah had learned a great many things in the past month and a half, including how to operate a washing machine and that there was a wrong way to wash a dish. She’d thought to herself more than once that without Jake, she would be lost.
Unexpectedly, she had found herself taking pleasure in each new skill, no matter how tiny or mundane. They are signs that she now has to depend on herself. More, they are signs that she now can.
She even has a job! Jake had taken advantage of her love for reading to get her a job at the local library in this unpleasant corner of the city they now live in. And despite her initial reservations, Aabirah has begun to love the work. She feels needed in some small way that she has never before experienced. She has a function. She fulfils a purpose.
It’s unexpectedly empowering.
When she tried to explain this to Jake, over yet another supper of greasy pizza, he laughs at her.
“Don’t go overboard,” he cautioned, from where he lay on their lumpy couch. “You’re a junior assistant librarian – not exactly curing cancer by day.”
She sighed and threw a wadded up paper napkin at him. He didn’t understand. But then, Jake had never been told day in and day out that his only function is to smile and look pretty. He’d never been looked over in disgust by a father who saw an extra, unwanted child as an annoying, unneeded spare who demanded far too much of his attention that he was unwilling to give.
Aabirah gave up on trying to articulate the reason for her happiness and just basked in it. During the thousands of times she’d imagined being free, she’d never thought it would be like this. It’d been harder than she could ever have imagined and there were days when she longed to be back with everything in her. But she didn’t regret leaving.
She did wish that she could have kept Daaem and she knew that the sting of leaving him would stay with her for a long, long time. But she had a life and a job and she was happy for the most part. It was enough.
And if there were days when she woke up having spent the night lost in him, well that was no one’s business but her own.
It was a perfectly ordinary day when Jake handed the package to her. She’d just come back from her shift at the library and she was starving. She was standing with half her head stuck inside their tiny fridge, trying to find something edible in it to scarf down when he came up behind her wordlessly, making her jump and bang her head on the fridge’s roof.
“Make noise when you walk,” she scolded half-heartedly, rubbing the crown of her head.
“Sorry,” he winced. “I forgot.”
“Again,” Aabirah shook her head in exasperation.
“Sorry,” Jake rolled his eyes. Then he sobered. “This is for you. It came for you earlier.”
Something about the way he said it made Aabirah pause. “It’s not from you, is it?”
Jake shook his head. “No, it’s not. It was handed to me by a very terrifying guy a half hour ago. It’s nothing dangerous,” he assures her quickly. “It’s… just open it.”
Aabirah opened the box. There was a cellphone and a stack of paper inside, along with an envelope bearing her name resting right on top.
The envelope was unopened and she glanced at Jake, confused. “You didn’t read it?”
“I looked at the papers first and then I figured you’d want privacy,” he explained, fidgeting. “I can leave while you look at this stuff,” he offered.
“No,” Aabirah shook her head. “No, it’s okay. But… I’m gonna take this into my room.”
“Okay. I’ll be out here if you need anything.”
Aabirah smiled her gratefulness before taking her mysterious package off to her tiny bedroom.
The envelope was opened quickly with a nail once she’d settled herself back against her pillows and the first line made her mouth fall open in shock.
The box was from Daaem. The letter, written by Adam, was long, taking up almost a whole page.
Aabirah, I don’t know if you remember me. We’ve only met the once and I don’t know if Daaem’s told you about me yet. He’ll never tell you this himself but it needs saying so it falls to me to be the one to say it. Daaem is attached to you, to a ridiculous degree. He’s been trying to find a way to say goodbye to you ever since you left and I’m helping him only because he can’t seem to let go of this.
You need to be the one to end things with him. You need to make your position clear so that he doesn’t keep hoping. Right now, he’s still lying to himself and pretending that he still has a shot. If (and this was underlined heavily) he doesn’t, please tell him so. Gently.
There’s a cellphone in this box. Daaem’s number is programmed in. When you’re ready, use it to call him. And once you’ve signed the divorce papers also in the box, call the other number so they can get picked up and filed. Daaem has already signed them.
The papers were signed without a second thought. Aabirah had completely forgotten that she would need to consent to being divorced and she laughed at her own silliness.
She’d realized by now that Daaem is not her father, that he would hesitate to break the law so casually by forging her signature. But she still slipped sometimes, expecting him to do the things Mehmood would have done to ease the road.
The phone was examined from all angles and then carefully placed in a drawer. She wasn’t ready. Not yet.