Chapter Sixty One
A few nights later, Iman waylaid Aabirah on her way up to bed. “Is everything alright?” she asked worriedly. “You’ve been quiet these past few days.”
Aabirah was mortified.
“Aabirah? Tell me what’s wrong,” Iman pleaded. “I can’t help if I don’t know what the problem is.”
“I – I’m jealous,” Aabirah admitted in a whisper. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be… it’s just-” She sighed explosively. “The two of you are pretty perfect.”
Iman let out a peal of laughter before the look on Aabirah’s face made her sober up. “I’m sorry,” she apologized, desperately trying to keep a straight face. “It’s just so funny.”
Aabirah crossed her arms grumpily. “I don’t see what’s funny about it. I thought you’d be angry,” she admitted. “I didn’t expect giggling.”
“I’m too amused to be angry. We’re far from perfect, Aabirah.” A distant look entered Iman’s eyes. “Believe me, we’re nowhere close.”
“You act so… in love,” Aabirah argued.
“We are. But lots of couples act like that. It doesn’t make them perfect.” Iman leaned forward and smiled mischievously. “I know another couple who acts pretty in love,” she said, smirking. “And they’re definitely not perfect.”
“Who?” Aabirah asked, lost.
“You and Daaem.”
Aabirah’s cheeks burst into flame. “We’re not a couple,” she reminded Iman, unable to keep the sadness from her voice.
“Not right now,” Iman agreed, undaunted. “But you will be again soon.”
“We got divorced,” Aabirah reminded her friend.
Iman was undeterred. “You can get married again.”
Aabirah scowled, furious with Iman’s casualness. “It’s not that simple!” she snapped.
“It’s as simple or complicated as you make it. You’re in love with Daaem, Aabirah. We all know that.”
There was no point in denying it. “But he’s not in love with me,” Aabirah protested.
Iman levelled her with an unimpressed look. “Right. That’s why he’s been texting you for months. Why he begged my husband to help him save you.”
Aabirah looked away.
“You can have the happy ending,” Iman said softly. “You just need to make an effort for it.”
“I don’t know how,” Aabirah said pathetically.
“Maybe you should ask for help,” Iman said pointedly.
Aabirah squirmed internally for a moment, fighting herself. Finally, she got it out. “Please help me.”
Iman smiled. “Of course I will.”
She was as good as her word. The very next day, she inquired sweetly after Daaem as they ate lunch.
Adam eyed his wife suspiciously. “Why the sudden interest in my friend?”
Iman shrugged innocently. “Curiosity, my love. What else?”
“You’re plotting.” Adam said with certainty, sounding long-suffering.
“Yes,” Iman agreed simply. “Now, how is Daaem?”
“Great,” Adam replied, feigning irritability. “Are you done thinking about strange men now?”
“Not yet.” Iman was unruffled. “Does he have a girlfriend?”
“No. Would you like to apply for the position?” Adam asked mildly.
“Yes,” Iman announced with an impish smile.
Adam growled. “Iman, he’s my friend. I don’t want to fantasize about yanking out his eyeballs.”
Iman’s pretty nose wrinkled in disgust and Aabirah felt her own stomach turn over.
“Not while I’m eating, Adam!” she scolded her husband. “Honestly.”
“You want to apply to be my friend’s girlfriend and you want me to be calm about it?”
“I want to ‘apply’ for Aabirah.”
Adam groaned. “You’re matchmaking?” He directed his attention towards Aabirah. “Are you a willing victim or is this something new to you?”
“Willing,” was all Aabirah said, trying to suppress the urge to laugh.
Adam sighed. “Well, why not?” he muttered. “Daaem’s so lovesick it’s gotten nauseating anyway.”
Iman smiled, satisfied. “I knew you’d come round in the end.”
Aabirah lost the battle with her laughter at the mock-outraged look Adam gave Iman. She giggled until her sides hurt and, for the first time in a long, long while, she lost herself in daydreams of a happily ever after.
‘You’ve been summoned.’ was the ominous message Daaem found on his cellphone. He blinked in surprise. What on Earth…?
‘Summoned to where?’ he typed back.
‘Home. Iman wants to feed you.’
Daaem looked at the pile of work sitting on his desk and began composing a message to excuse himself. He’d barely typed two words when another message came in from Adam.
Daaem groaned and hit the call button.
“I can’t,” he said as soon as the call connected.
“You have to,” Adam told him brusquely.
“Adam, I’m snowed under with work, I can’t make it.”
There was silence on the other end of the line. Finally, Adam sighed. “I can’t believe I’m getting involved in this,” he muttered.
“Iman… is matchmaking.”
“Then I definitely can’t make it.” Daaem shuddered.
“What?!” Daaem demanded. Did Adam mean what Daaem thought he did?
“She’s gotten it into her head that the two of you need to get back together,” Adam explained.
“But… I thought-” Daaem started, confused.
“I know,” Adam cut him off. “I said it was a bad idea. I still half-think it is. But I know when I’m beat. You, Iman and Aabirah all want to do this. So we’ll see you tonight?”
Anxiety curled in Daaem’s gut. He swallowed hard, trying to clear his dry throat “I-” he squeaked.
“Daaem?” Adam sounded concerned. “You okay?”
“No!” Daaem ground out.
“Take a deep breath,” Adam instructed. “And don’t freak out.”
“Little late for that,” Daaem muttered. Irritation welled up within him. “Did you have to do this today?”
“The worst. I’m not ready to do this, Adam.”
“Daaem, this isn’t the kind of thing that you can be ready for,” Adam pointed out gently.
“I can be readier than this.” Daaem said miserably.
“I’ll tell Iman to reschedule, okay?”
“No!” Daaem said before he could stop himself.
“I’ll be there tonight,” Daaem said reluctantly.
Daaem took a deep breath and put his head in his hands. He was getting to old for this kind of stress.
“Daaem?” Adam called.
Daaem jumped. He hadn’t realized that Adam was still on the line.
“It’ll be okay.”
“You think?” Daaem asked, hating how unsure he sounded.
“Of course,” Adam laughed softly. “Iman will make sure of it, don’t worry.”
Daaem believed it. Iman was a determined little ball of energy when she wanted to be.
“Okay,” he said, beginning to feel a little better. “I’ll see you in an hour.”