The rays of the morning sunlight shine through the curtains of my bedroom window and spill across in front of me where I sit on the carpeted floor. I lean my head against the wall and try to block out the throbbing pain in my temples.
I can hear the sounds of pots and pans in the kitchen through the closed door. I dread facing my parents again and decide to stay in my bedroom. A small hope emerges within me, telling me that Ammi will come to get me for breakfast.
Just as the thought occurs in my head, I hear my parents' voices.
"She can come down. She's not a young child." Ammi's voice rings loud and clear, while Abba's is too soft for me to discern the words. "She can starve herself if she wants to. I'm not spoon feeding her." The harsh words slice through me and I squeeze my eyes shut to stop the tears.
It seems like hours have passed before I finally hear a knock on my door. I get up too quickly, the room spinning around me and blackness threatening to envelope me. I manage to open the door before sitting down again but my heart drops to see that it isn't Ammi.
Humza walks in, bringing me a cup of chai and biscuits. I feel ashamed in front of him too. I should be the role model, setting a good example for him. But here I am, paving the way for him to disobey our parents too.
He sits down next to me, crossing his legs. "Eat," he commands, motioning his hands towards the food. "Abba told me to bring this for you."
My heart yearns for my father. I can't forget the fact that it isn't Ammi who sent it, yet it's still her that made the food. What would I do to get back the love and trust of my parents again? Was being with Tariq worth of all this? I suddenly feel like a prisoner in my own home, within the confines of my bedroom.
"I've never seen them so upset," Humza says quietly. "But, I'm sure they'll get over it," he quickly adds when he sees my reaction.
I shake my head. I know he is trying to appease me, but I know what I've done and there is nothing to hide now.
"What did they say," I ask, half afraid of the answer. I sip the warm chai and it soothes my throat.
Humza shrugs. "Not much." He leans his head forward even though it's only two of us in the room and says in a whisper, "I think Abba was mentioning something about talking to Tariq's parents though."
My hands shake and I barely manage to put the cup down before it spills on the carpet. Dread fills me up and my heart races just thinking of what Abba would possibly want to say to Tariq's parents. I don't even know them that well and have no idea how they would react to this situation. I can only imagine them being defensive. Or...would Abba talk to them about something else? The thought of marriage slips into my mind and I shudder.
"Did Abba say what he wanted to talk about?" I ask Humza, again afraid of the answer.
He shrugs again, then switches the subject. "Why aren't you coming down anyway? You can't stay here in your room forever."
I lean against the wall and sigh. "You're right," I say with my eyes closed. I had to let go of my stubbornness. Ammi wasn't going to come get me like a small child, telling me it's okay and that she forgives me. I would have to go and ask her myself again. And I have to find out what Abba is up to.
I finish my breakfast, wash myself, and hurry downstairs. To my dismay, I see Abba is on the phone when I take the dishes from my breakfast to the kitchen. Panic grips me. Is he talking to Tariq's parents? Had other people found out? Is it a family member calling to divulge in the gossip?
But Abba has already hung up the phone by the time I arrive in the living room. He turns around and looks at me where I stand by the door frame.
"Come sit down." He doesn't sound angry but I hint a sense of frustration in his voice.
Where is Ammi? I sit down across from Abba, just like last evening. It's not any easier and the pain in my temples continues to throb and I feel a sudden fatigue all over my body as I sink in the couch.
I know I should let him speak first but I'm impatient. "Did someone call?" I ask eagerly.
Abba can probably see the worry in my eyes because he says, "No one knows anything."
I sigh with relief. But what about contacting Tariq's parents? I wonder.
Abba sits a bit straighter, a sign that he's going to start a serious conversation. "We all have choices, Iman. Sometimes we make the right ones. Sometimes we don't."
I swallow, my eyes glued to the floor. I don't want to cry again so I avoid meeting Abba's eyes.
"I can't force you to make a choice, Iman. You're grown up now and no matter what I or your mother tells you, the choice is still yours." His voice sounds sad and the tears threaten to spill out. I want to be young again, the little girl who got yelled out for getting her dress dirty from playing at the park. But Abba isn't even yelling at me. I realize in that moment I don't deserve the kindness he is showing me.
"But still, rules are rules." I look up to see Ammi standing, her arms crossed across her chest. I spoke too soon. Ammi wouldn't be so forgiving.
"You will not talk to him ever again. Do you understand me?" She doesn't sit, which makes her even more threatening. Her presence fills the entire room.
"I asked you a question, Iman," she says sternly.
"I was talking to her," Abba speaks up on my defense.
"I know what you were telling her. I'm not going to dismiss this like it was nothing."
"I am not either but there is a way to talk--"
"Please," I say a little too loudly, getting their attention. "Don't fight." The words seem silly. I was the cause of their fight for the entire night, I'm sure.
Abba sighs heavily and then stands up. "I'll let you two have your...talk then."
Maybe that wasn't actually the best idea. I look again towards Ammi and see an anger in her eyes that I dread.
"I'm sorry," I say because I don't know what else to tell her.
She shakes her head, now sitting down where Abba was. For a moment I think she'll say the words I so badly want to hear. But she doesn't.
"You're not going to talk to him, Iman. And if I ever find out that you do, I swear I will remove you from that school that second," she says firmly.
Now it's my turn to shake my head. I cover my face with my hands, finally letting go of the tears. How am I supposed to do this? How could I face Tariq every day at school and forget all those feelings and memories we shared, or worse yet, pretend like he didn't even exist?
"From now on, I will be checking all your phone messages and call log. And you can also delete that Facebook account of yours. You come straight home after your last class - no more after school activities. And you tell me where you need to go - there is no need for you to have a car anyway."
The list keeps going on and on and my whole body shakes as I continue to cry. If this isn't cruelty, what else could it be?
I splash cold water onto my face and it burns my eyes. To think that I have to go back to school in one day makes it unbearable. I look wretched, a mess and even if I hide most of my face with my hijab, I can barely think coherently enough to get through a whole day of classes. Not to mention, facing Tariq. Just thinking of him makes my heart ache.
My cell phone rings where I left it on my bed after Ammi returned it to me. "Remember, I can take this back anytime," she warned. I wanted to tell her I didn't want it then. I didn't want her favors and it wouldn't really be a favor anyway with all my privacy gone. But I took it silently and left.
I'm afraid of who is calling. I'm not ready to speak to anyone about this. And Ammi had already blocked Tariq's number from my phone so it couldn't be him either.
Oh no. She must know then. Did everyone?
At first, I don't pick up, pressing the side button to mute the sound. And then a voicemail.
Hey Iman. Just wanted to check up on you and see how you're doing. Give me a call when you get a chance!
How can her voice sound so chirpy and pleasant? But of course she would. She has a husband she loves, I think bitterly.
I end up calling her after 15 minutes only because I feel suffocated and I don't know what else to do. I can always cut the phone call if I don't think it's going in the right direction.
"Hey, salaam!" Mariyam says. Again that chirpy voice, but it's refreshing after these past two days of misery. "How are you?"
I never thought I would hate those words so much. "I'm not okay," I croak. And then everything spills out. I don't pause until the very end, where I tell her of the punishment Ammi has ordered for me.
"I'm proud of you Iman for telling me all of this," she says and pauses for a moment. "It's not easy." Being proud is the last thing I feel right now. But I'm eager to hear the rest of her response.
"About your parents--it's going to take a while for them to forgive you, Iman. They need some time."
"I don't know if I can even forgive myself." I think of everything I've lost.
"You will. And you can find comfort knowing that Allah forgives you, too."
I swallow. Has He? I think. Have You forgiven me? I silently stare up at the ceiling of my bedroom.
"Iman, this is hard. And yes, you are responsible for what happened and I'm not undermining that. But at the same time, I don't blame you either."
"You don't?" I ask, feeling strangely alarmed and touched at the same time.
"Being a teenager in the environment that we live in is super hard, Iman. You had good intentions the last time you encountered him. But emotions get in the way."
"Yeah." There is no denying that.
"Can I come over this evening and take you out for dinner?" Mariyam asks.
I'm touched by her offer. "You better ask Ammi," I say. Another blessing I wasn't grateful enough to realize I had.
"Don't worry, I'm pretty good at convincing her," she laughs. "I'll see you soon, Iman."
"See you," I say. It's not until I hear my stomach growling under my shirt that I realize how hungry I am.
There have been very few instances I've seen Ammi cry. She's not the type to cry in front of everyone.
I am frustrated with my feelings. I'm so angry and upset at her for her long list of punishments for me. But at the same time, seeing tears in her eyes - the fact that I'm the cause of her sadness and pain makes me hate myself.
"It's good to know you at least feel comfortable sharing everything with Mariyam," she says, folding the laundry in her room. I don't miss the hurt in her voice and how she subtly wipes her tears, pretending like she's lightly scratching her skin instead.
I don't say anything. She is the one who called me to her room, giving me permission to go have dinner with Mariyam. I guess Mariyam was convincing enough all right.
"You think I'm cruel," she says suddenty. I try to swallow away the guilt. "Maybe you'll understand one day." The tears fall onto Abba's pants as she folds them neatly.
I don't know what happens in that moment but I walk over and embrace my mother, forcing her to hug me back. "I'm sorry," I say over and over gain, my voice muffled against her shoulder. She pulls me away, meeting my eyes.
"I'm sorry I'm not the good daughter you hoped I would be," I say, remembering what she had said about me to Ameera Khala.
She cradles my face with her hands. I can feel the roughness of her skin, years of hard work, of raising me and Humza.
"You have no idea, you can't even imagine, Iman how much you mean to me," she whispers. The tears continue to glimmer in her eyes. "I don't want to see you hurt. I don't want to see you used and thrown away by someone. Iman."
I can't imagine Tariq that way and I refuse to. But as a mother speaking to her daughter, I can understand what she means.
"You're special, Iman. And you don't need a boy out there to tell you that."
I nod and somehow I'm able to smile for the first time that day. But it only lasts a moment before Ammi turns away and goes back to folding the laundry.
I know that things between me and my mother are not the same as before. But one thing I do know is that I am going to keep fighting and take every step I can to regain her love and trust.
Posted by Dreamer at 4:18 PM