I stood rooted to the spot as his mouth drew closer to mine. My mind and body had gone numb, unable to process what was happening. Through the numbness my mind was processing the most inane of things; the musky scent of him, sleep and sweat mixed with a faint, stale hint of cologne; his warm breath washing over my face, tea, overlaid by a faint scent of toothpaste, mixed with something indefinable; his arm brushing against my hand, the short hairs prickling my soft skin; then his mouth brushed against mine, his lips warm and dry, pressing, trying to mould into mine…and the horror-induced trance that had fallen over me shattered like a huge chandelier, splintering into a million shards, the vibrations rocketing through my body, shuddering in every nerve-ending, jarring me violently. With a gasp I jerked my head to one side, then raised my arms and shoved him back as best as I could. Caught off-guard he stumbled backwards, the back of his knees hitting into the table behind him, making him clutch the table for support. I took a step towards him and, raising my right arm, slapped him hard across his face.
I bit the words off through clenched teeth, my chest heaving, my breath coming in short, quick gasps. My face was feeling hot and my eyes were burning, a sign of imminent tears. I caught a glimpse of horror etched on his face; and then I was running from there, flinging the door open on my way out.
I ran blindly, without having the faintest idea of where I was going. Tears prickled at the back of my eyes but I blinked furiously, forcing them back. Thoughts warred with each other, trying to crowd into my mind but I forced them back as well through sheer will, and ran harder to drown them out. Somehow my mind led my body to the beach. I ran along the shoreline, my feet pounding in time to the waves crashing and breaking onto the shore, creating a turbulent melody. I ran without conscious thought, wanting only to escape the reality of what had happened. I ran until my lungs felt like they would burst into flames and my legs threatened to give way under me. In the end my body refused to obey my mind’s insistent commands, to run, keep running, and simply stopped. I dropped to my knees, back hunched, head down, drawing great gulps of air into my burning lungs. For a time I concentrated only on my heart pounding in my ears, on my laboured breathing. However, as my heart rate and breathing slowed, sense returned; and I could not stop the thoughts crowding in once more, breaking through the fragile barrier I had erected to keep them out.
And then the tears came; torrents of scalding liquid, flowing down my face unheeded. I wrapped my arms around my middle and sobbed out my shame, disgust and heartbreak. I rubbed the tears over my mouth, scrubbing it over and over it again till my lips felt raw, wanting to erase all traces of the humiliating incident. I clenched my hands hard, my nails digging into my palms, and pounded the sand below me, raining my fists down in a storm of helpless fury. I cried until I felt like there was nothing left in me; and still I cried, silently this time, letting the tears drip off my chin and onto the sand.
After what seemed like an eternity I dragged myself to my feet. With a glance around me…I had run so far that I had reached an almost-deserted spot of the beach, and whoever else was around was too far away to see what I was doing…I pulled off my socks and shoes, tucked my abaya around my knees and waded into the cold water. I gasped as the cold liquid bit into my skin, sloshing over my feet and calves. I was getting my leggings all wet but I was beyond the point where I would care about something so mundane. I turned around and started walking back the way I had come, splashing through the water, allowing the thoughts to tumble through my mind, spinning round and round in a dizzying blur. I felt a multitude of emotions; rage at what Bashir had done, shame at having allowed him to do it, disgust at the thought of what had happened, self recriminations at having somehow led him to it…
How could he?????? I had taken him as a brother, as a friend, as a confidante…how could he betray me like that??? I had trusted him!!!! I had allowed myself to become comfortable around him, letting down my guard…only to be stabbed in the back like this?????
“Bloody, dirty-minded pervert!” I muttered out loud, kicking furiously at the sand beneath the water. I yelped as my toe struck something hard.
Or had it been me? Had I been too forward with him, too friendly, too open?? Had I given him the wrong impression…that I liked him maybe?? I shuddered at the thought, tasting bile at the back of my throat. Why had I let down my guard with him? Why had I smiled so freely at him? Why had I joked so easily with him?? My mind chose that untimely moment to present me with the most damning evidence; me sitting across Bashir in the kitchen, having breakfast cozily with him, laughing and chatting with him…oh Allah, I moaned softly, how could I? Tears trickled down my face again and I hunched my shoulders in shame, staring down at the water through blurry eyes. Bashir was a man, and men obviously had desires. If I hadn’t been so open with him I wouldn’t have tempted him then none of this would have happened…it was my fault, all my fault…
If only I could go back in time; I would never have allowed him to lay eyes on me. I would have stayed the hell away from him. I would never have set foot in his house. I would never have…
But you didn’t, did you? A voice whispered insidiously in my head, you sat at the same table with him. You ate with him while his wife was peacefully asleep…
His wife…oh Allah! I cried as Zee’s face flashed through my mind suddenly. Guilt slammed into me, hard and fast, almost sending me to my knees with the brutal force of it…Zee…soft, trusting Zee…betrayed by her best friend and her husband…
“Oh Allah…oh Allah…not Zee, please, not Zee,” I wept, fresh tears rolling down my face. Would he tell her? Would Bashir tell her? Probably not, if he was feeling as horrified as I was…but he might tell her from guilt and a sense of obligation. What if he did? What would she say? How would she feel, knowing that her own best friend and her husband…two of the people she most trusted…
“Allah, please, don’t let Zee find out. Please, Ya Allah, please don’t let her find out. It will destroy our friendship, Ya Allah, it will destroy her marriage…it will destroy her, Ya Allah, please…” I prayed mindlessly, weeping, feeling like my own heart was shattering into a million pieces.
I stumbled along, my mind a jumbled mess of emotions, my eyes blurred with tears, unable to see anything except for Zee’s face, the trusting look in her eyes changing to shock, then horror as awareness set in…then hardening into hatred; the soft, smiling face turning into cold marble. The mistakes of a moment are expiated only by a lifetime of penance…
When the phone call came I did not register the sound at first, lost as I was in my own thoughts. Then I felt the vibration in my pocket and the muffled nasheed emerging from within and hastily whipped out my phone, swiping my hand across my eyes to see clearly. It was mum. I saw her name flashing on the screen at the same time as I spotted the time mentioned above; it was past ten. She must be frantic. I quickly scrubbed my face free of tears, even though she could not see my face, cleared my throat a few times to sound reasonably convincing then answered.
“Salaams, mummy, I’m coming.”
“Where you??? Do you know what the time is, Fazila???”
“Uh…jee, I know, mummy. I’m sorry, I’m coming right now.”
“Where are you?”
“At the beach…”
“Beach?? What you doing at the beach???”
“Thinking,” I replied simply. Something in my voice must have stopped her because she cut off whatever else she was about to say, told me to come home immediately and hung up. I turned to face the vast blue ocean and bent down, scooping water into my hands and splashing it over my face to erase all traces of sweat and tears. My eyes felt puffy and I was sure they must be red and swollen, but at least my face felt better after I washed it. Turning back I walked onto the sand and sat down, drying my feet as best as I could before pulling on my socks and shoes again. Then I began my long walk home, grateful for the walk and the time it took to reach home, to try and pull myself together into some semblance of normality. Mum would probably know that something was up when she saw me but I could try to hide it as much as possible…and if she was in the bathroom or in her room and I could slip up unnoticed to my bedroom then all the better.
I could hear mum in the kitchen as I entered but I didn’t pause to check. Making salaam loudly I called, “going to shower, mummy,” and scooted up the stairs, into my room to get fresh, clean clothes then into the bathroom in quick order. I felt much better after I had showered, though my emotions were still raw and I knew any little thing was enough to set me off again. Thankfully though, no one pressed me to say anything at lunch time, though they did ask and comment. I simply waved off their inquiries as no big deal, saying it was a small argument that had occured between a friend and I, and I was perfectly okay now. They were not entirely convinced but they accepted it for the time being. I spotted Adnaan looking at me thoughtfully more than once and knew he’d probably tackle me later on but for now he left it as well.
I spent the rest of the day moping around in my room, feeling low and horrible. Thankfully Zee didn’t message at all; I didn’t think I could bear to talk to her at the moment, even on WhatsApp. I had no idea what would happen from the next day, when she would expect me to show up as usual but I did not want to think about any of that now. I tried to sleep after lunch but sleep evaded me, my mind choosing instead to taunt me with images best forgotten. With a loud, irritated sigh I jumped off the bed and went to rifle through my book shelf. A thriller. That’s what I needed. A fast paced book with so many twists and turns it would leave my brain boggled with no time to think of anything else; that would serve the sadistic lump of flesh right!
I tried for fifteen minutes; fifteen minutes of reading the words before me, frowning in ferocious concentration, trying to disappear into the world of fiction and make-believe. But it was no good. My mind could not concentrate on the words for more than two minutes at a time. Finally I gave up and threw the book across the room with all my might, sending it crashing into the wall and drifting to the floor in a swirl of loose pages.
Why was I seeking oblivion in the wrong things? Nothing could help me now except dua and sadaqah. That’s what I needed to do, turn to Allah and beg Him to set things right. With renewed conviction I stood up and went to make wudhu. The cold water sluicing over my limbs made me feel rejuvenated immediately. Then, laying out the musallah, I prayed two rakahs of nafl salah and raised my hands in dua. I begged Allah to forgive me, forgive my wrongs, to not let Zee find out, to not spoil my friendship with Zee or spoil her marriage….I let the tears pour down my face as I let down my guard with my creator; the only Being infront of whom I did not have to put up any guard….the only Being who would never break my trust, who would take my secrets and heartbreak and grant me solace in return. By the time I said ameen I felt infinitely lighter. Wiping my hands over my face I turned around and retrieved my quran from the top shelf. I opened it to the page I had reached and started reading. The soothing, melodious words of the quran dispelled the last of my worries and I recited page after page, letting the words wash over me…my mind for once totally absorbed in the beautiful words of my Rabb. Time flew by but I had no clue; only stopping my recitation when Han poked her head to tell me to come down for tea. I gave her a warm smile and told me I’d be right there. She looked relieved at seeing me as my normal self and nodded before disappearing. I prayed till the next ruku then stopped and closed my quran. This time when I went downstairs I was able to converse with my family and act normal because for the moment I did feel normal and like everything was okay. Tomorrow would bring its fair share of worries but for today I was fine…