Chapter Sixty Five
Aabirah flopped down onto her bed and sighed. “For a tiny person, you sure can carry a lot,” she commented lightly.
Above her, Iman laughed. “A few hours of shopping and you’re ready for a nap.” She shook her head in mock-dismay. “You’re a failure to the rich girl stereotype.”
“If you’d let one of your half a dozen burly guards even touch a bag, maybe I would’ve been able to go longer,” Aabirah grumbled.
“Adam would’ve lost his mind. The guards are there for one reason and one reason alone – to guard. No carrying allowed,” Iman’s tone made it clear that she was parroting her husband.
“But there are six of them!” Aabirah exclaimed. “Why do you need so many?”
Iman shrugged and made herself comfortable next to Aabirah, tucking her legs underneath her as she sat. “My husband has dangerous enemies. Adam is the world’s best boy scout – he’s prepared for anything and everything.”
Aabirah nodded, remembering a long-ago conversation. “Daaem told me he goes a little crazy with the background checks.”
Iman sighed. “That’s… a little different. Adam refuses to go near anyone with scandal attached to them. If it’s something that happened in the past, he might take a chance but he requires anyone he works with personally to be clean in the present, at the very least.”
“I remember. That’s why he refused to work with Daaem.”
“Yeah,” Iman agreed softly. “It was a mistake for Adam to turn Daaem down the way he did. When I think of what it led to…” she trailed off with a sigh. “Thank God Daaem was found before he could finish what he’d started.”
“Wait…” Aabirah sat bolt upright. “That’s why Daaem tried to kill himself? Because of what happened with Adam?”
“I don’t know if that’s the only reason,” Iman said slowly. “But I know the stress of that did contribute to it. Daaem had been working incredibly hard to woo Adam for a long time. Since a little while after you got married actually.”
Aabirah clapped a hand over her mouth, feeling ill. “Oh, God,” she groaned, pulling away from her friend.
Iman misunderstood. “Aabirah, don’t be too angry with Adam,” she pleaded. “I know it seems unreasonable but he does have his reasons. He – he’s been so afraid that if he comes near any of that stuff again, he’ll be tempted. It’s not because he thinks he’s superior or anything, I promise.”
Aabirah shook her head. “It’s not that,” she moaned. “It’s because of me!”
“What?!” Iman demanded. “Of course it’s not!”
“It was my father getting arrested that started all of this,” Aabirah reminded Iman miserably. “Oh, no. Oh, this is terrible.”
“Aabirah, it’s not your fault. A lot of people have blame in what happened to Daaem. Your father, Adam, Daaem himself… But you did nothing to deserve any blame for any of this.”
“But-” Aabirah objected.
“No!” Iman snapped. “Enough, please. Stop taking on guilt for things that don’t belong to you – you aren’t strong enough to bear it! None of us are. Stop! Promise me you’ll stop!”
“Okay,” Aabirah gave in. “Okay.”
“Thank you,” Iman sagged in relief.
“You’re scary when you’re mad,” Aabirah said eventually.
“You’ve never seen me mad.”
“What do you call the freak out from earlier then?”
“Upset and worried,” Iman said with a tiny smile. She looked at her watch and groaned. “I’m late. I need to go pray, I’ll be back in a little bit.”
“Actually, can I come watch?” Aabirah asked hesitantly.
“You’re asking now?” Iman commented, amused. “Sure,” she added before Aabirah could come up with a reply. “Come on.”
Listening to the Arabic, Aabirah found herself wondering what it all meant. Her mother had never taught her that, just that she needed to learn it and parrot it day in and day out. But surely it all had some kind of meaning?
“What are you thinking about so hard?” Iman asked curiously.
“What it all means,” Aabirah explained absently. “All the Arabic. It has some kind of meaning, right?”
“Of course,” Iman was surprised. “Did you think it was just some kind of gibberish?”
Aabirah blushed. She had, for a while there. “No one ever translated for me.”
Iman got to her feet and led Aabirah to the library. “Here.” She handed over a large book. “I’m assuming you don’t read Arabic, right?”
Aabirah shook her head. “Not even a little.”
“This has the transliteration and translation for everything said in salaah – the prayer. And it also contains the English translation of the Quran. You’ll find all the meaning you could ever want in here.”
“Thanks,” Aabirah smiled. “Why do you have this? I thought you spoke Arabic.”
“I do,” Iman agreed. “But we needed it a while ago. I kept it in case it came in handy again. And a good thing to – you’re using it now.”
“What did you need it for?”
Iman pursed her lips, thinking. “Adam used it,” she admitted eventually.
“Oh,” Aabirah replied, confused. “I didn’t realize…”
“Because he’s holy now?” Iman completed, sounding amused. “Adam wasn’t always like this. In fact, he’ll tell you that he was worse than you and Daaem combined. He might even be right.”
“Life. Love. Lots of things. He changed for the better. So did .” Iman smiled nostalgically. “We grew up a lot.”
“But…” Aabirah was still confused. “Why did he agree to marry you if you were so incompatible?”
Iman giggled. “Sorry, it’s not that funny. Adam didn’t exactly have much choice in the matter,” she explained.
Aabirah raised an eyebrow. “What did you do?” she asked curiously.
“It’s a long story. A very long story. But now’s not the time for that. Adam will be home soon.”
“You’ll tell me tomorrow though?” Aabirah persisted, incredibly curious.
Iman sighed. “I guess I have to now, don’t I?”
The hesitance in her voice made Aabirah back pedal. “You don’t have to if you don’t want to,” she assured her friend. “I’ll live.”
Iman smiled. “It’s fine. It’s not much of a secret anyway. Just… try not to be too shocked, okay? I behaved really terribly back then.”
Aabirah couldn’t believe it and she said as much.
Iman laughed fondly, shaking her head. “I told you I was a mess,” the tiny woman reminded Aabirah. “I don’t know why you won’t believe me. Well, you’ll know better soon!”