They say when you break your parent's trust one time, you can never regain it again. I desperately hope that that isn't true...and I feel that it isn't fair, either. A person should be given another chance. We all make mistakes. We all deserve a second chance.
But how can I?
The silence is killing me. It fills up the living room and swarms around me and up to my neck, choking me. I wish someone would say something, anything.
I cannot meet my father's gaze. He sits across from me, his head bent forward a little and he is rubbing his hands together like he does not know what to do with them. Ammi is pacing around the room, placing the palm of her hand on her forehead as if she is hitting herself. Humza has slept over at a cousin's house so even he can't break the silence.
I can't take it anymore so I get up from my seat. "I'm...really sorry." My voice comes out cracked. "Abba. Ammi. I mean it. It's not what you think--"
"What you think? What we think?" Ammi repeats. "For Allah's sake, Iman. You didn't think once about the fact that you are involving yourself with a boy?"
"I wasn't!" I quickly answer. "I swear. I wasn't even--"
"Then what were you two doing there?" She raises both her hands and squeezes here forehead. "Ya Allah, the image just won't go away from my head. My daughter. My daughter, with a boy. And that close together."
My cheeks flare up with heat at the sound of her words.
"Our dignity," Abba finally speaks. He doesn't yell but instead talks in a low subdued tone. "What we worked so hard to achieve. All gone in an instant."
"No, Abba," I beg him. "Please don't say that."
"I never thought that the same boy who helped me out that wintery
day...the same boy who I allowed to stay overnight at my house would be
the same boy to be so indecent to go after my daughter."
That day seemed so long ago, when I barely knew Tariq. I suddenly feel so old, like my body has aged.
"And what a terrible mistake that was," Ammi says. "We should never have let him into our house."
Hearing my parents talk about Tariq like that makes me uneasy...I still have feelings for him and I have a strange sense of urgency to speak up and defend him. But thank God, I have a little ounce of good judgment left in me so I don't make that mistake.
Abba shakes his head. "It's not entirely his fault either. You cannot clap with one hand. Two hands have to come together to make that happen."
My mind flashes back to the incident, only several hours earlier. The moment when Abba and Ammi caught me red-handed with Tariq. The chance of them walking together like that and passing by us in one of the most secluded areas of the banquet hall was so minimal. And yet, it happened.
We all seemed to freeze at that moment. My heart threatened to leap out, my head spinning because I couldn't comprehend what was happening and that is was actually real, and not a terrifying nightmare. Tariq, so confident and collected, suddenly stepping as far away as he could from me, awkwardly meeting my parent's gaze until Ammi grabbed my wrist and pulled me away.
I wasn't sure what Abba said to Tariq. I could only focus on Ammi's words as we walked away--"Don't say a single word and walk beside me like nothing happened." She spoke through her teeth, smiling only seconds later at a woman who greeted us in passing.
I knew her biggest fear. About what people would say. "They're always looking for a chance, Iman. Something juicy to talk about. Don't give them a chance," she would tell me. And then I would roll my eyes at her and say, "Seriously Ammi, how many times do you have to tell me that?"
We had walked back into the banquet room and those two remaining hours of the
wedding felt like an eternity. Pretending to laugh, to be happy, to be
so innocent among all the guests when my mind and heart were shaking
with fear, shame, and anxiety.
And Ameera Auntie, who must have know because she had immediately come up to me. "Iman, are you alright? You look like you're looking for someone?"
She was such a good observer. No matter how much I tried to stop myself, my eyes searched for Tariq. What had Abba told him? Had he interrogated him, reprimanded him?
"No, I'm just looking around to see that all the guests are fine." I had replied to her, hearing my voice tremble slightly and praying that she couldn't tell.
"What a splendid necklace, Ameera." Ammi had smoothly changed the subject of the conversation, touching the gold pendant lying on Ameera Auntie's neck. "I keep forgetting to ask where you bought it."
"Oh I didn't buy it. It was a Mother's day gift..." And the conversation had continued with Ammi rescuing me once again.
But there is no guarantee. There were guests, many guests in that banquet hall. Anyone could have seen Tariq and I together, or the way Ammi had pulled me away. And if one person knew, it was only a matter of days before the tale spread like wildfire.
Tears spring from my eyes as I pull myself back to the present moment. I don't realize how wet my cheeks are until I wipe them. My parents' painful words are like repetitive stabs piercing
my heart. "I'm-sorry--I-didn't-meant-to-I-swear," I say, my voice stuttering in between crying.
"Why didn't you come to me?" Ammi asks. "I asked you directly Iman about being with a boy after what your Khala had told me and you still lied to me."
Because you wouldn't have understood, I silently answer her. She wouldn't have understood my feelings, how hard it was for me.
I shake my head. "You don't understand, Ammi. I was telling him just that...that I wasn't that kind of girl that talked to boys and..." I skip the part about how much had already happened between me and Tariq, praying desperately that it wouldn't come up.
"And you were telling him like that? That close to him, like you were--?"
"Bas. Bohat ho gayiah." Abba interrupts her in Urdu, raising his hand. "Stop. It's enough."
I squeeze my eyes shut wishing I could reverse time so that this situation would never have occurred, this conversation would never have taken place.
"We'll discuss this tomorrow. It's too late and I have a headache," Abba says.
"I'll get you some Tylenol." There has to be a way to make this right...anything, even something as small as giving medicine. But as I start to walk over to the medicine cabinet, Ammi stops me.
Her eyes look so tired and sad. "Your father's headache isn't the kind to heal with medicine, Iman."
My heart drops. Hadn't I thought the same just days before when she had told me to get some rest because she thought I wasn't feeling well? The illness that had come to possess me, which no medicine or amount of rest could cure. And then the image of my parents blurs once again as my eyes fill with tears and I rush to my bedroom.
I cannot remember the last time I prayed...like actually prayed. I don't always pray all the five daily required prayers..sometimes I forget, sometimes it's too hard to wake up for Fajr or to find energy to pray Isha after staying up so late. When finals comes around, it's much easier to pray because I'm so desperate for good grades. But even with exams a couple weeks ago, I didn't feel the same motivation. Every time I tried to pray, I felt too ashamed...like I was cheating with Allah..asking Him to help me when I was directly disobeying Him. I didn't like feeling that way...so I stopped praying.
Until today, of course. With Farah's encouragement to forget Tariq, I had finally mustered enough courage to stand before Allah, placing my green-colored prayer mat and picking out my favorite hijab at Fajr time. Before the chaos of the wedding would hit later that day, I had poured out my heart to Allah in the quiet of the early morning before dawn. I had desperately asked him to help me forget Tariq...only for His sake. And I was so close...so close to making it all end before anyone found out.
It's 1:00am and only one question keeps repeating itself in my head. Why Allah? I ask, sitting on the floor of my bedroom against the wall. Why did this have to happen to me? You know I was trying to make things right, and yet You still let this happen?
Anger courses through my blood. Life is so cruel. I think of people who do everything they want, have everything they desire, and no problem seems to come their way. And here I was, seeking nothing when Tariq came into my life...making everything even more beautiful than I could ever have imagined, only to have my world turned upside down. What had I done to deserve this?
My head is throbbing and my eyes feel hot and heavy. I wonder if I should call Farah and tell her. She's the only one that can bring me some comfort. And then with another bout of pain, I realize I can't make any phone calls. My cell phone is gone. Again, I should consider it a blessing that I happened to delete every memory of Tariq from my cell phone just earlier that day. If it wasn't already bad as it was what my parents saw today, it would have only escalated if they had read the messages we had shared.
And then fear grips me...what if Tariq continues to send messages on the phone? I hope he has enough sense not to do that.
My body is aching for sleep but there is no way I'll be able to sleep well tonight. I drag myself to the bathroom and splash cold water onto my face. My eyes are bloodshot and I look nothing like the beautiful girl I thought I once was. I feel horrendous, disgusted with myself. Only Allah knows who is behind that seemingly religious girl in the mirror, her heart darkened with selfish sins of lust and desire.
I grab a dull gray colored hijab from my drawer and lay out my green-colored prayer mat. I don't have to push myself to pray that night...it comes naturally despite the fatigue.
I don't know how long I remain in sujood. I lie there in prostration--crying, whispering, praying to the only One who knows what I am going through and the only One that can make things right again. Only Allah can help me to make my parents not upset with me anymore, to regain their trust and love for me. Only He can help me forget him, once and forever.
And then I finally fall asleep on the floor, exhausted, with tears falling down my cheeks and onto the prayer mat.