Aabirah felt off. She hadn’t realized how attached she’d grown to Jake until the time had come to say goodbye. They’d gone their separate ways at the airport – which had taken some convincing from Jake. Aabirah hadn’t wanted to leave without him but the burly man had insisted that his job was done and it was time for him to move on.
“Come on, Princess, it’s time to go. You’re okay now, aren’t you? I need to go find myself another damsel to rescue.” He’d grinned then and added, “One who’s less annoying little sister and more gorgeous model.”
Aabirah had smacked him and given a watery little chuckle. “I’m gonna miss you,” she’d admitted sadly. “I don’t know why, but I am.”
She’d grown ridiculously attached to Jake in the months that they’d known each other. But in the end, she’d realized that it was time to say goodbye for a while.
Now, she sat in a corner of the lovely bedroom Iman had shown her to and worried her fingernails. It was so big. She’d lived in rooms of similar size for twenty one years but six months of living in a tiny little apartment had rendered them strange.
She wrapped her arms around herself and sat quietly in a corner of the room, hating the unfamiliarity of it and at the same time feeling guilty for being ungrateful.
Iman had been so kind… She should be thankful. And she was. But living at the mercy of someone else was no easier a pill to swallow than it had ever been.
Aabirah laughed at herself quietly. She’d lived at her father’s mercy all her life until she’d been turned over to Daaem. Had six months of living alone really spoilt her so much?
It appeared it had.
Aabirah watched fascinated as Iman completed her prayer, the vaguely-familiar motions stirring up old memories.
Iman jumped slightly when she caught sight of Aabirah and Aabirah squirmed guiltily. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to intrude,” she said apologetically. She hadn’t – she’d come looking for Iman to ask a question and had been to curious to leave one she’d seen the other woman praying.
Iman shook her head. “You’re not intruding at all. Did you need something?”
Aabirah had forgotten her question. “I can’t remember what I came in to ask you,” she told Iman sheepishly, her eyes still focused on the prayer mat that lay in the middle of the room.
Iman followed her gaze and smiled. “It’s pretty, isn’t it?”
It was. “My mother had one almost exactly the same,” she found herself admitting.
“Your mother? You haven’t mentioned her before.”
Aabirah nodded. “She left when I was pretty little – around seven or so.”
“Oh,” Iman looked regretful. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to bring up a touchy subject.”
“I brought her up first,” Aabirah pointed out. “It’s okay, it was a long time ago.”
Iman said nothing for a moment. A frown crossed her pretty face and she examined Aabirah curiously. “Was your mother religious?”
She had been. Aabirah’s memories of her mother were mostly of the woman trying to teach her something about religion – those that didn’t feature Mehnaaz Amal crying her eyes out over something or the other her husband had done that she couldn’t bear.
“Yeah, she was. How did you know that?”
“I didn’t until you told me. Just a good guess.”
“She was very religious. It’s about the only thing I remember about her.”
Where is she now?” Iman asked curiously.
“I have no idea.” Aabirah hadn’t laid eyes on her mother since she was seven and she had no desire to ever do so again.
Iman sighed then clapped her hands suddenly. “This is far too depressing a topic for so early in the day.”
Aabirah giggled, allowing Iman’s antics to banish thoughts of her mother back to the little mental box where they stayed.
Once again, Aabirah was watching Iman pray. This time, her eyes were focused less on her friend’s movements and more on the expression on Iman’s face – specifically, the brilliant smile that crossed her lips.
Once she’d finished, Iman sighed happily and got to her feet. “You’re making a habit of that,” she commented lightly, not looking Aabirah.
Aabirah blushed and stammered an apology. She didn’t know herself why she was so drawn to watching Iman praying but it fascinated her nonetheless.
“You’re so happy,” she tried to explain. “It’s confusing.”
“Confusing?” Iman repeated, blinking in surprise. “How so?”
Aabirah thought back to her mother, to the way Mehnaaz would sob and wail. “I’ve never seen someone happy while praying before, is all.” She shrugged lightly, hoping Iman would take the hint and drop the subject.
“That’s very sad,” was all her friend said. “I’m not quite done yet – do you want to come sit with me instead of skulking in the doorway?”
Aabirah sat, watching curiously as Iman opened a copy of the Quran and began to read it aloud. It was so pretty!
“That’s really nice,” she said lazily from where she reclined with her eyes shut.
Above her, Iman grinned and shook her head. “I’m putting you to sleep.”
“It’s nice,” was all Aabirah said before drifting off.
Aabirah woke to her shoulders being shaken. “What’s wrong?” she asked blearily, rubbing at her eyes.
Iman’s face appeared above her. “You slept the afternoon away,” Aabirah was informed. “Time to eat. Come on,” Iman held out a hand and pulled her to her feet.
Aabirah still felt sleepy and excused herself for a quick bathroom break. The voices coming from the dining room should have tipped her off to the fact that Iman wasn’t alone but she walked in oblivious, stopping short when she caught sight of the couple cuddling at the far end of the room.
A blush immediately came to her cheeks. Iman and Adam were just holding onto one another but Aabirah couldn’t shake off the feeling that she was intruding. They were completely absorbed with one another.
She cleared her throat loudly and they broke apart.
“There you are,” Iman said with a smile. “Let’s eat.”
It was the first time Adam had joined them and Aabirah found herself studying him curiously, recalling everything that had happened. Somehow, Adam had not only been able to find her, he’d also had enough influence to scare off a group of murderers.
He looked normal. But clearly, he was anything but. Logically, Aabirah should have been afraid of him. But she saw the way he treated her friend and all she felt was sadness when she watched them together.
They brought back the daydreams she’d entertained when she was younger and prone to watching romantic movies. She’d always held the hope that one day she’d find a soul mate, no matter that she’d had ample evidence that no such thing existed.
Iman and Adam behaved the way she’d imagined soul mates would.
Jealousy welled up inside Aabirah and she hastily jerked her gaze away, berating herself for the unkind thoughts. But she couldn’t shake them and more than once over the course of the evening, she bemoaned the fact that Iman had found herself a soul mate while she’d never found her own.