I dreamt at night. A vivid, disturbing dream, shifting and changing in the confusing way that dreams did…
I saw Bashir, smiling, laughing…then his face changed, his eyes boring into mine with an intensity that scared me…he started walking towards me while I backed away, holding up my hands as though to ward him off. He stalked me step for step till I bumped into something which cut off my retreat. Then he was coming closer, closer, leering, leaning towards me, his eyes hot in anticipation…and then, a moment before the gap between us closed he stepped back and laughed.
“I’m joking,” he said, “I’m only joking.”
Then his face changed to Ahmed’s, dimples flashing as he smiled warmly at me.
“There’s nothing to be scared of,” he said, “I won’t harm you.”
Then, just as I began to relax his face changed again…and the eerily familiar face, one I hadn’t seen for years but had never forgotten, loomed before me…and suddenly I was back at the back part of campus and the guy lunged for me, gripping the neck of my abaya hard and pulling it, ripping it apart…………….………..
I woke up with a start, a scream stuck in my throat. My heart was pounding in my chest and I was drenched in sweat that made my top cling to me. I looked around wildly before my eyes registered the dark room, the safe outlines barely visible in the dark.
“Only a dream,” I whispered, trying to calm myself down, “it was only a dream.”
I ran my hands through my dishevelled hair and stood up to go to the bathroom and kitchen. I needed a cold glass of water to ease my parched throat.
I slept after that but restlessly, waking up in the morning in a black mood, ready to murder the next person who crossed my path. I decided to go running as usual, though I steered clear of Zee’s house. There had been no news from her and I wasn’t sure if that was good or bad. Incase it was bad, though, I wasn’t risking my neck by messaging her first.
I took my usual route and was back before eight. I felt a pang when I thought of Laaibah and it turned to a dull ache when Zee’s face came to mind again. Would we ever meet as close friends again?
“Oh, Allah, don’t let her find out. Save our friendship and her marriage,” I prayed as I had prayed countless times before.
The rest of the day passed uneventfully but there was plenty of activity going on in my mind. I felt restless, like I must do something, but I didn’t know what. I was irritable and annoyed but these were just cover-up emotions for what was really going on underneath; fear, lingering vestiges of shame; and guilt. An overpowering sense of guilt, like I’d taken a knife and stabbed Zee in the back, literally. And the worst part was, I didn’t know what to do about it.
After another night spent restlessly I was done with moping around and feeling low. I couldn’t live with this guilt forever. I had to purge it. I had to tell someone about it, someone who would tell me what to do. I wanted someone to tell me it was okay, that mistakes do happen. But who? I couldn’t confide in my parents or siblings. I shuddered, just thinking about it. They might blame me, and I wouldn’t blame them if they did. Worse was the shame, of telling them that something as disgusting as that had actually happened to me. I couldn’t do it. I’d never be able to look them in the eye afterwards if I did.
In this frame of mind I pulled on my running shoes and took off, running off my various emotions. I ran along the usual route but went further than normal, lost in thought. My phone, vibrating in my pocket, jerked me out of my thoughts. Slowing to a stop, panting hard, I pulled it out and answered it without looking at the caller ID. It would be mum, of course; who else?
Who else, indeed. The familiar voice in my ear gave me such a jolt that I almost fell down. Between the confusion of righting myself and getting my scattered thoughts in control, over the roaring of blood in my ears, I totally missed what Zee was saying.
“Faz! Are you there?” She said impatiently.
“Yes, yes, I’m here,” I said finally, still sounding breathless. But, well, I had been running so she could attribute it to that, instead of shock.
“Are you running?”
“Were,” I corrected, “I stopped to take your call.” Which I wouldn’t have taken if I’d known it was you. Now that I had gotten myself under control, somewhat, coherent thought was returning to me. Zee sounded normal, just like herself. That meant she didn’t know what had happened…yet. So I could keep up the pretense…for now.
The momentary illusion of safety was shattered by Zee’s next question. “Are you going to pick up Laaibah today? You haven’t come since Friday.” There was curiosity in her voice.
“I…errr…” my mind went blank as I mentally struggled for an appropriate excuse on the spur of the moment. I couldn’t go there. Bashir might be there and I couldn’t risk facing him again. I didn’t want to see that slimeball for the rest of my life!
I was casting my eyes around desperately as my mind groped for an excuse, when my gaze landed on a small, neat house just ahead of me on the right. And inspiration struck.
“Actually, I was thinking of visiting my apa today,” I said as casually as I could, “I’m by her house anyways so I thought I’ll just pop in. I won’t manage to pick up Laaibah today. You don’t mind, do you?”
“I see. No, it’s okay. Bashir put her to sleep before leaving for work so I got a chance to sleep in till she woke up. He’s been leaving really early these days. I just thought I’ll ask you because you normally come by this time.”
So Bashir was leaving for work before the time I could go to his house. Good. At least the man had a bit of sense in his head.
“Oh, okay. I’ll try and come from tomorrow…oh no, I can’t!” I exclaimed as a thought struck me, “madrassah starts from tomorrow so I won’t be able to go running anymore.” I felt a flood of relief at that thought. I didn’t think I’d ever been happier at the thought of holidays being over!
“Oh, well. It was good while it lasted,” Zee said with a sigh. I laughed then told her I’d see her inshaAllah (probably when she came to her parents house) and rang off. Then I took a deep breath and eyed the house infront of me. The house of a soft and friendly apa, the type who put us at ease immediately. Apa Tasneem’s house.
Had my mind led me here instinctively, knowing that I needed someone to confide in? Maybe…I hadn’t come this way before. I hesitated at the thought of confiding my deepest, darkest secret to someone who had no relation to me and whom I’d never confided in or revealed anything personal about me before. And yet, even as I stood there, my heart in my mouth, my palms clammy, feeling fear and apprehension course through my veins, I knew that this was the best decision I could have made. Squaring my shoulders I took a deep breath then marched to the front door and knocked firmly on it.