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About a week ago, my father went missing after Isha prayers. How that went down is a story almost like the ‘Don’t breath’ movie…

My sisters and I were all seated in our room together with mum. Each of us was in a different corner studying for their own exams that were approaching while mum busily texted our other sister abroad. Just out of nowhere mum started, “Your father is really late from the masjid today.” None of us replied because mum always got anxious easily and she had such a talent at making me panic too. I, for one, didn’t want to hear of anything to excite my heart with anxiety at that moment, so I just sat calmly and read on. Some minutes later, mum walked to the window where she could directly see the masjid, “Your father isn’t back yet!”

“Relax mum, relax. He will be back any minute,” I told her as I went on studying. Soon enough, my elder sister’s husband came back home from work and they left, leaving two paranoid creatures alone with one younger but stronger one to keep us sane enough.

As mum kept worrying about dad being late, I kept checking the watch in my phone.

“Ma, it’s just 9 p.m. Say ‘audhubillah mina shaytan rajim’ (I seek refuge to Allah from the Satan). There is probably a meeting at the masjid, or he is talking to one of his friends, or someone needed his help urgently…all that is possible,” I said as I patted her shoulder.

“Audhubillah mina shaytan rajim,” she repeated after me.

Mum thereafter convinced my sister to go check if he is still in the masjid. It isn’t far so it is safe enough especially since we could see her movement. She came back and stood right beside our car, looked up at the window where we were waiting and said, “the masjid is closed.”

Now one thing about my father, which I really admire is that, he was never the kind to roam around places or talk to friends for hours. He was either out for a purpose or inside his home with his family. He is never late home unless it is beyond him. If he wants to go somewhere a bit far from home he wouldn’t go without informing my mother or at least one of us to inform mum. So this was kind of odd. Our masjid is just 3 minutes away. What could have kept him out for more than one hour?

So nowadays, i’ve been reading several self-help books to conquer anxiety and such, and since I know mum’s anxiety is enough to knock me off, I tried really hard not to worry. Time to time, I kept telling her that he will be back soon. My 17 year old sister was in control. Not showing her worry nor saying much, she was just by the window waiting for him to appear. His phone was at home that meant that he had no plan to go anywhere after the prayers and it also meant, we couldn’t call him.

It was already getting past 10 and now I was the one chanting, ‘audhubillah mina shaytan rajim’. I was really struggling not to allow the anxiety get to my head. My sister and I went to the next door neighbour who is also his friend to inquire if he was there or if they had seen him; but they hadn’t. My mum called my brother to inquire from my dad’s friends whether he was with them. His two closest friends said they hadn’t seen him that day let alone that hour. LOL now you know what that means. It means me allowing my super-active anxiety hormones start doing what they have to. My mother? Don’t even ask; she was already having stomach upsets.

We were all reciting duas now; seriously praying, each one of us at a different window. I kept pacing from the window in the bedroom to the one in the sitting room, just hoping to see him appear. Thoughts were now flowing like a waterfall. What could have happened between the masjid and home? An accident? No, it is so close home we would have known by now. Kidnapping? Raid by the police? Perhaps took him as Al-shabaab suspect? Lol but then why would my dad be a suspect anyway?! I started thinking of the families in news crying for their missing persons, of the facebook posts of people missing their dead dads, of what if my dad had gotten into a fight which ended at the police station??

My sister’s baby started crying in the room, barely thinking clearly I walked to him and fed him, “I have to remain sane,” I said to myself. “Things could get worse here…and I am the eldest available. If anything is wrong with dad, mum would need a sane person.” Now my anchor during my panic attacks has always been my best friend. She was the only one who could make me think rationally at such situations. So I was texting her while still checking one window to the other. Making me stay positive, to calm down bla bla bla…lol those are the perks of having a doctor as your best friend 😀

My mum insisted that I should call my elder sister and her husband to come join us in the search. But I told her, “What help can they really offer now? We can’t do anything ourselves except wait. We would just be making two more people anxious like ourselves.” And trust me, waiting helplessly without doing anything is the biggest test of patience.

We were barely exchanging words now; my sister,mum and I that is. Each one was either deep in thoughts, deep duas or deep in conversation with the people who could have information about dad. Mum didn’t want to create a fuss so she tried to only ask the closest friends and the neighbours who pray with him. My brother had already arrived by then. He went back to the masjid. checked again, went to ask the neighbours…no sign of him…

Several minutes past 11 I saw my brother, his friend and dad’s friend walking past home. I knew what that meant. They were going to the police station. It also meant, no good news will come out of this.

Only one thing was in mind now. If something has happened to dad, if he is dead…what would be the situation here?! How would mum be? Does he have any debts we don’t know about?…Drowning in the thoughts and after several hours of stopping myself, I broke down, silently…

I could hear my mother move some utensils in the kitchen of which she explained to me later. “I knew I couldn’t be sure what news was coming then; maybe a dead body so I started clearing the place…”

As I stood by the window, stomach upset and tears in my eyes, I saw my dad appear from the direction of the mosque. I just shouted, “Mum! dad is here!” before running downstairs to open the door. I wasn’t planning to cry in front of my dad but when our eyes met, I just started crying and hugged him.

“Where were you?!! We were worried?!” I said, still in his arms. He remained silent and patted my shoulder, which made me fear that maybe something had been done to him . But by then my mum was already downstairs too, her voice shaky. He looked at us with surprise, like he was confused why we were crying.

“I was in the car. I dozzed off unintentionally…”

Mum said this after she heard that statement, “Upon seeing him, I was already about to cry but when he said he was in the car, I forced back my tears” like ‘what??!!’ So she kept complaining and complaining how worried she was and how she had thought of worst of the worst.

“It isn’t my fault. I came here and rang the bell for almost an hour (which apparently had a problem). No one opened the door for me. It was getting pretty cold out here. I didn’t have a phone to call any of you. So I just got into the car knowing Saeed (my brother) would be here any minute now and we can come in together. But then I just suddenly dozzed off and right now the only thing that woke me up was a noisy car that passed by.”

By the time he woke up he didn’t know that it was already getting to midnight. My mum quickly called my brother to stop them from going to the police station. My elder sister and husband had already been informed that dad was missing just a few minutes earlier by my brother and coincidentally, while mum was dialing my bro’s number, my sister’s call came in and thus both of them were in the call when mum said, “He is back home. You don’t have to go to the police.”

For a few minutes after dad was home, we were still contemplating what was going on.

“Imagine if they had already reported to the police…in fact the police would have wondered who reports a missing healthy, normal, grown-up man after just four hours? Then afterwards going back to inform them that he had just dozzed off in the car.” We were now laughing about it but after every statement, each one would say, ‘alhamdulilah’ (Thank God). That was a mighty scare. But for people like me and mum, we believe there are lessons to be learnt in everything that happens.

“Imagine I stood right beside the car when I was telling you the masjid was closed, I didn’t even notice he was in there. And when Saeed went to ask the neighbours he passed by the car more than three times and still…We just weren’t meant to see him,” my younger sister said.

“Oh my, Imagine the power of Allah. How He can shift just something really small in your life and how it can mess you up. Imagine just how all this happened because of the bell that we didn’t hear…God was testing our patience and the value of dad amongst us,” I told them.

“He wanted us to just have a taste of what it would feel like if He took him away from us,” Mum said.

We remained silent for a moment, contemplating that statement. It was heavy…and it made me dread the day I will lose my dad…or any of my family members.

We could barely sleep after that, we were just narrating how we felt during the trial, laughing at how silly the end is, at the wild thoughts we had, at how we made other people anxious too, telling the story to our sister abroad and keeping her in suspense just like I did to you right now 😀 …We slept late that night and in the morning, we had so much to tell to our elder sister and her husband.

If I have learnt anything from this experience is that, perhaps if it were not for this, my dad wouldn’t have known how much exactly I love him or how we all do. And that the worst words are those left unsaid.

P.S I love you dad!

Photo Courtesy: www.ayeina.com

Personally, I consider young marriages the best thing ever. You are not too old to have fun, do all these crazy things young people do while dating and especially that you can have children at a good age and be able to get playful with them. Yet sometimes, for some people, this may not be the best option for them. Parents usually think differently; their focus is on seeing their children happy and settled. However, they take some things for granted when it comes to young marriages involving their children which thereafter costs not just one person but both parties and families. The following are some of the things parents should keep in mind when dealing with such issues:

1. If it is not a happy marriage then she/he is better off without it. Marriage is an entire life of commitment, patience, tolerance, humbleness, understanding and most importantly, love. If the lady or young man is not interested in the marriage then please do not force them into it. This is about their happiness; not about the parents or two families or the business that would prosper if the two families joined. This is your child’s life at stake here. As much as parents are to be respected since they are more experienced in life and they have the wisdom, don’t assume your child’s happiness is the same as what you would consider as yours. We are living in totally different times and our definitions of everything has changed. Please do not force your child. And even when you are right, then definitely there will come a time they will realize it and appreciate your words but still, do not force. The consequences of that can be tragic.

2. When a young man says he wants to get married, GET HIM MARRIED. Parents should stop denying their young men from getting married due to excuses like ‘he is studying’ or ‘you are too young’. We all know that most men are scared of commitments and we probably know it is because of the responsibilities that come with it but if a young man says he needs to get married then it is because he really NEEDS to get married. When you stop him, do keep in mind you have a share of all the evil this young man will do along the way until the time you think he is old enough. This would be happening well if parents tried to understand their son’s situation and accommodate his financial needs and for his wife whilst he settles down. It is not a bad thing if he is given such support because we all know what a young energetic man can do in this current world when he is denied a wife. There is pornography, rape, fornication etc etc. So which would you rather offer to your son? Financial support or a go-ahead to spread immorality in this already rotten world? Same applies with a lady; even if she is studying but asks for marriage then don’t automatically reject. Advise her, yes but don’t get rough lest she becomes rebellious. Such issues need mature talks rather than abusive ones. This doesn’t mean parents should let them get into marriage just because of intimacy for marriage is a lot more than that. It therefore depends on the young man involved. If he is known to be responsible then why not? If he still needs to be grow up then parents should be there to advise him and guide him before letting him take up the commitment.

3. When a young man says he is not ready to marry then do not force him into it. As much all parents fear for their children on the fitna around and wish for them to settle down as soon as possible, pushing him to get married is unsaid of. Ironic thing about families is that they will be quick to say, ‘get married son, we will support you do the wedding’ so they will contribute thousands and thousands for dowry and a huge wedding and then when the boy comes to borrow salt from their house, they will be the same people to say, ‘see he took responsibilities he couldn’t handle and now he just keeps borrowing here and there.’ Oh! Weren’t you the same people who pushed him to marry even when you knew he is not ready financially and even maybe psychologically? Nowadays we have so many ladies so miserable in their marriages and maybe even have children because her home is just like a lodging to her spouse. He only comes home for food and bed and nothing else. Why? Because the boy was pushed to marry yet he still fancies his bachelorhood life and he lacks maturity. If the young man can control himself then well and good; please let us not ruin ladies’ lives because of an immature being. Again, same applies to a lady.

4. There is nothing like ‘You are rejecting God’s blessing or rizq’. How many times, have we heard parents or other people talk of ‘wakataa rizki’. Truly, marriage is a blessing and there are so many ladies out there who wish that any man would knock on their doors but this doesn’t justify the pressure parents and relatives put on their children so as to get married. We all have to keep one important detail in mind: When God wants something to happen then it WILL happen whether we like it or not; and He knows it better. Therefore, people should stop misusing this statement. If it is one’s rizq then it will definitely happen. It is NOT their rizq that’s why they rejected and most importantly, it is because God did not will it to happen.

5.Coming to the consequences, there are some psychological effects of pushing children to get married. Some end up hating the whole idea of marriage while some go into marriage with an attitude. Where will the peace be found in such a home? The one forced will always be moody and temperamental and will always find faults in the spouse. Where is the happiness there? Some people are lucky that with time they were able to accept their spouse as they are and finally found the peace and joy… but for others it ends up being a miserable life which may end up in divorce. Parents should know that the pressure they exert on their children affects them deeply more than they can imagine. So please stop the psychological torture, blackmail and bullying. Please stop using words like ‘what if we die without seeing your wedding?’. Where is the belief in qadar (fate) here??

6. If someone is on a self-discovery journey then please respect that. Some people have issues; deep issues. Some have very low esteem. Some don’t love themselves. Some are broken. Some need to stand up from their fall. Some need self acceptance. The current generations have too much stress; which is such an unfortunate thing but nonetheless, we can’t close our eyes to these problems. Parents should help their children deal with their emotional problems before pushing them into marriage. How can someone love someone else before they know how to love themselves?

7. Personally, I really dislike when I hear families saying, ‘She is a wild girl, maybe he will be able to settle her down’ Same case with boys. So many times parents have married off their wild, hyper, immature children to partners with good profiles with the hope that they will change. As much as I understand the plight of the parents but this is unfair sometimes for they are using the girl/boy. It is no longer a marriage but rather a therapy. Not unless the other child involved is interested then this shouldn’t be okay at all. Most of the times, the one being used here is the one who ends up being miserable. How do you marry off your daughter to a drug addict just because he needs someone to change him? No one can change anyone except when they are willing so. Change is self driven.

8. Marriage is a beautiful thing really and parents, especially of the lady, should know that when their daughter is proposed then it is her life, her chastity and dignity that is in hand here. As much as you believe your daughter is priceless, do put into consideration how much damage you are causing by demanding high dowry rates or only accepting very rich men’s proposals. Yes money is important but not more important than your daughter’s happiness and dignity.

The old say, if you haven’t tasted marriage then you haven’t tasted the sweetest part of life. It’s a bond that can’t be compared to any other and for us, the Muslims, it can be your reason to go to jannah. So for the married couples, I hope you are doing it right 🙂 And for the parents, please be supportive to your young men and ladies; you are all they got! Because at the end of the day, a young man’s/woman’s perception about marriage is shaped by what they have seen from their parents. So parents have a big role to play in such matters coz you have been it and much as experiences may differ, you are familiar with the common denominators in marriage which might act as critical pointers as to how our children perceive of marriage.But when all is said and done, it is the role of parents to encourage their children to uphold the institution of marriage because negative forces exist and the event of falling into it is a real threat. May Allah protect us all and guide us on the right path.

Photo Courtesy: Salem_Beliegraphy

Mama’s laughter was always hysterical. It would echo all around the three-bedroom house. It was something I always enjoyed hearing, especially when Mama Aisha came home. The short stout woman always had a story to tell; an adventure to narrate. I would hear her talk endlessly as if there was no tomorrow. White saliva would gather at the end of her lips and she would rarely pause during her narrating spree. Being the young boy I was, I always found it amusing just watching her lips move up and down. I usually wondered whether mama really believed her stories. I never asked but whenever Mama Aisha was telling her endless stories, I would keep glancing from mama then to her, trying to capture mama’s expressions.

Mama would squint her eyes tightly to show how deeply engrossed she was in the story and she didn’t fail to bulge her beautiful black almond shaped eyes when there was need to. In short, she was a good listener, whether she really believed the stories or not.

I could not withstand missing out on Mama Aisha’s adventures and thus, whenever I would just hear the doorbell and her loud voice start narrating from the doorstep, I would quickly slip out from my room, run downstairs and sit on Mama’s laps.

“ Hehe! Mamake Fatma!” she started with a great urgency.

“Ehe? Nini tena?!” Mama asked quickly; always prepared for a story.

“Today at the market…hehe!” she said; purposely pausing to keep us in suspense.

“What happened in the market?” Mama asked from the kitchen as she made her some juice.

“That lady…I don’t even know what she was thinking!”

“What lady?” mama asked excitedly.

“Juma’s niece! You do remember her right? The one who had gone to America for her studies!”

“Yes I do remember her. Her name is Leila. What happened to her?” mama asked, more calmly.

“I don’t even know where to start!” The suspense growing ever more.

“From the start mama Aisha…from the start,” Mama said, rolling her eyes.

“Basi Leila leo! She came to the market in those short tight dresses from America. She didn’t even have her hijab on! I heard she snatched a mzungu’s husband and came with him to Kenya. So sad!” she said as she vigorously shook her head.

Mama shook hers too, as if in shame.

“Watoto wa siku hizi!” mama Aisha said before circling her index finger around her temple, as if to express how much abnormal the current generation is.

“May God guide us and our children. Western life is really having a negative influence on our girls and boys,” mama said, caressing my hair.

“Yes indeed,” Mama Aisha said before she stood up to leave.

She chattered away until she was outside the door. I always stood out to see her disappear into the third lane with her quick steps, frequently throwing the edges of her long scarf to her back. Each day she would go to the market and come by with a brand new story. It would either be about the thief that was beaten up or how the vegetable vendor smells like rotten fish. As I escorted her with my eyes as she walked away, I always wondered what it would be like to have a mother like that.

I grew up frequently hearing mama being called ‘mama Fatma’. I always wondered why they still called her by my older sister’s name while she no longer lived with us. I still remember that tragic incident that shattered our family forever; the night when Fatma called from America. She had finally graduated and now she had her degree in hand. Mama sounded very excited talking to her; telling her to take the first plane back home. Suddenly, she fell silent and handed papa the phone. I stood still at the door, listening quietly. I could see how much mama was straining to hold back her tears. Papa took the phone, gesturing to mama, as if asking what was wrong. It didn’t take long before I saw papa’s face turn red with rage. His voice grew into a thunderous roar as he barked several questions into the phone at once.

“What do you mean you got married?! How could you do that without seeking our blessings?!”

I didn’t like the sight of my parents but for some reason I couldn’t detach myself from the room. I looked at mama once again who was now seated at the edge of the bed, hugging herself tightly and crying silently. I stared at her for a while before I was startled by the end of the conversation when papa slammed the phone into the floor. I had never seen him that livid, even for a policeman who had been through so much stressful times. Papa had always been very patient. I always considered him to be the coolest police officer ever, and now I held my breath, unsure of what would happen next and afraid for the first time ever around my papa.

He moved around the room in restless steps, fidgeting with his fingers. He then sat next to mama before he turned to her after a short pause.

“You knew that she was interested in an English non-Muslim man?”

Mama nodded slowly before sniffing loudly.

“I…I tried to stop her…I did, I swear!” She sobbed.

“You should have told me!” papa said with finality before he stood and left.

The whole neighbourhood soon knew about Fatma’s marriage. It wasn’t surprising at all that they knew even without mama telling them. The news just had to get to Mama Aisha and the whole neighbourhood soon knew the story. Some friends came to console her silently and Mama Aisha was obviously there. Soon though, as with all other stories, it died away and people found more interesting topics to gossip about.

We didn’t hear from Fatma for quite some time. It was much later that she called to inform Mama that she was expecting a baby. Being the golden heart lady that Mama was, it wasn’t surprising that she was soon in frequent communication with Fatma. She often tried to give the phone to papa so he would also talk to her but he would push it off by saying, ‘I don’t have a daughter.’

Papa was my biggest role model and mentor throughout my life. He was tall, masculine and his brown skin shined under the sun.  He walked in quick steps and he spoke very little. I looked up to him with so much admiration as he sat with his colleagues and held what seemed to be very important conversations. He never spoke much but it was very clear how the visitors frequenting our house respected his opinions and thoughts. My friends were always amused that papa was a policeman, but what was even more amusing was that he wasn’t rough as many expected; he was simply a tough hard-willed gentleman. He and mama always took turns entertaining guests at home. They would talk on politics, the society and many other things. I always felt proud when he’d call me along to sit with him as he spoke with his guests.

He sometimes took me along to the police station where he worked in Mtwapa whenever he could. Because of this I always though he wanted me to become a policeman like him and like his father and his grandfather too. It felt like family heritage that the men ended up being protectors of the law, or more importantly, guardians of the common mwananchi. In fact, for the sake of continuity, I never imagined myself doing any other job apart from being a police officer. So I just followed him without complaining.

Mtwapa was the kind of town that had a stretch of bars from one end of the town to the next, which meant the police always had their hands full. I would stand outside the police station and watch drunkards stumbling as they walked past and the provocatively-dressed women who had no business being out so late.  It was a queer town. When sunset approached, just before the evening prayer, I would get a stool from the office and sit by the gate next to the guard. I was always amused and concerned by the sheer number of bars situated just next to churches and mosques. It seemed like a never-ending struggle between servants of their own desires and purists. There were times when I could hear the call to prayer blend with the loud booming music from the nearby bars and I’d just shake my head. Strange world.

When papa was done with his work, he joined me where I was seated, shook his head and said, “Where Satan is involved, fickle humans always grow weak. It is the end of the world.” I slowly nodded in agreement. I was thirteen years old; old enough to understand his perception of life.

One day, after another long one at school, I stood by the bridge together with my friends watching the beautiful ocean beyond. That had always been our norm. We would stand there for as long as it would take before dispersing upon hearing the evening call of prayer.

I fastened my steps and dashed into the house to avoid mama’s scolding for coming late but she didn’t even notice my entrance. I could hear some loud weeping from the sitting room. That isn’t mama’s voice, I thought to myself. Puzzled, I peeped at where she was seated and saw that it was Mama Aisha who was crying uncontrollably.  She was chattering away, pausing once in a while to wipe away her tears and blow her nose. I couldn’t clearly hear what she was saying but I could read the deep grief on her face. She kept calling out her eldest son in a depressing tone. I inched closer to the door to eavesdrop some more when papa appeared and gestured to me to follow him.

I rushed into my room, dropped my back pack and changed into a kanzu. Papa was walking really fast and I could see he was deep in thought. I tried to ask him what had happened to Mama Aisha but all he did was whisper, ‘Not now!’

When we got back home after prayers, Mama Aisha was in the company of another elderly lady. I could see that she was still crying and all I ever heard was, “He was going to Dubai and now they say they found him at the Kenya-Somalia border! This is too much! They won’t even allow me to see him…” Papa interrupted my attention as chaperoned me off to my room and ordered me to stay in there.

Back in my room, I pressed my ears to the door. My curiosity was really getting the better of me. It was hours later after I had climbed in bed when I heard some commotions from our front door. I rushed downstairs immediately to find Mama Aisha’s husband at the door, yelling at her.

“Come back to the house woman! Why are you bugging everyone about your useless son who can’t even help himself?!”

Mama Aisha cried as mum held her hand.

“I’m looking for help unlike you who does not even care about his own son! The only thing you ever know to do is spend your day at the maskani and chew khat and get high on your family!”

I stood still on the stairs hoping I would not be noticed. Papa led Mama Aisha’s husband out of the house and they talked for a moment. Then papa called Mama Aisha outside as well. I never found out what happened next for I was asked by mama to go to sleep.

The next morning Mama didn’t come to wake me up for morning prayers. I woke up several minutes late and rushed to my parents’ room. Mama was busy folding clothes in a suitcase and Papa was fully dressed; checking some papers on the bed.

“Where are you going papa?!” I said as I went to kiss his hand.

“You have to go to the mosque by yourself today son. I will pray on my way to the bus station” he said without looking at me.

“Where to?!”

“To find justice son. To find justice,” he said as he picked up the now closed suitcase and left the room. Mama followed him to the door and waved him goodbye.

“What is happening mama?” I asked, worried without question.

Mama took my hand and made me sit down next to her.

“Your dad is going to help Mama Aisha find her son. He will be leaving with her husband to find out what really happened.”

“But why was he arrested mama?”

“They say he was caught at the border heading to Somalia. The police are now holding him as a terrorist suspect….so sad. I’ve seen Hassan grow up in the neighborhood all his life. He was a good boy,” mama said, tears welling up.

“Do you think that he might really be involved with terrorists?” I asked as I stared at mama, scared of the answer she might give.

“That is what your papa has gone to find out. There might be a misunderstanding, maybe a case of mistaken identity, or at least we hope it is so…Last we knew was that he was heading to Dubai for a business trip.”

“But what if he is found guilty mama?”

She took a long breath and said, “Then it would be very unfortunate…” She patted my back and asked me to prepare myself to go to the mosque.

A week passed without a word from papa and mama was getting so worried. The days seemed so long and the nights were dragging. Mama could barely eat. She had dark marks under her eyes and her face was so pale. Weeks turned into months and the silence was deafening. But Mama was not alone in this misery. Every evening upon entering the house from school, I would hear mama Aisha’s loud weeping; she had not only lost her son but her husband too. Mama was mourning silently, she would let her tears flow yet she was too quick to wipe them away. She made sure to smile when with me to make me believe that she was alright yet I knew how much she was hurting deep inside. Then finally we got the call we waited so long for; a call from papa, only it wasn’t papa on the phone but someone else using his phone. No one had to tell me that, it was just so clear from how mama talked. She had started talking with a very excited tone before her voice slowly died away.

“What do you mean?!” she said in a slow yet anxious tone. Her eyes were watery and her hands were visibly shaking. My heart was beating fast and I kept hovering around mama, trying hard to hear what was being said on the other end. Mama suddenly dropped the phone and fell on her bed. She sat frozen as tears welled up her face.

“What happened mama?! What happened?!” I asked, panicking. She sat still in her position, staring at the wall as the tears mixed with her running nose.

“What happened?” I asked, almost shouting and in my anxiety, I broke down too. I hugged her and stayed in her arms for the longest time.

Papa and Mama Aisha’s husband had been shot; Mama told me in the quietest, most depressing tone. Millions and millions of questions raced across my mind as the house started getting crowded with visitors coming to console us. I watched Mama as she sat silently in a corner, wiping her tears. Mama Aisha was seated next to her and she kept wailing uncontrollably. I was confused and depressed, but mostly I was angry; I did not know what or who exactly I was angry at but all I knew was that the fury inside me was going to consume me. What had happened to papa? What had gone so wrong that he was shot? Who had shot him?!

The next morning I bought all the local newspapers I could get my hands on and sat in the sitting room, poring over each one.

‘A local policeman shot dead by unknown people during his investigative probe into the arrest of one terror suspect …’

‘…shot along with the suspect’s father where he was planning to release the terrorist suspect from the hands of law…’

‘It is alleged that the policeman had connections with the terror suspect’s handlers…’

‘As to the question of who could have carried out this heinous act, that still remains a mystery…’

‘Could it really be possible that an officer of the law was so deeply connected with a terror group …?’

I pushed the newspapers away. My anger had now turned to bitterness and my mind seemed to be moving in circles. I wanted to scream, I wanted to cry, I wanted to hit a wall; I just needed to do something. I looked up to see mama standing at the window staring outside with longing; as if expecting papa to appear any moment. She sniffed slowly and wiped her tears every once in a while with her head scarf.

“I talked to Fatma, she cried so much. Your papa died before they reconciled,” mama said between tears, “She will be flying in this evening with her husband.”

I moved to where she stood and hugged her tightly.

Strange world this is, I muttered to myself, where in the struggle between good and bad, the bad always won!

I did not know how, but I was going to avenge papa’s murder somehow. Even if it meant the death of me!

…Even if it meant being on the Wrong side of the law!

#To be continued…

Photo Courtesy:data:image/jpeg

Max came running towards me, his head held high and breathing loudly. I could clearly see the anger, lust and greed in his eyes and I knew one thing would come next-a fight. I didn’t even finish my thought when he pounced over me and let his sharp teeth dig deep into my skin. I let out a loud scream before mum and dad rushed to my room with worried faces.

“What’s happening here?” dad boomed. Max quickly let go of me and immediately started talking,

“Dad, you know that Jack never liked the idea of me ever coming here. That’s why he is doing all this to me,” Max said with so much sorrow and pretense.

“No dad, don’t listen to him. He just came over to me and bit me with no clear reason. I don’t even know what I have done,” I said with pain as I looked at the bite mark left on my hand.

“I know you will never believe me coz he is your only son but come let me show what he did…” Max said as he pulled both of my parents to the back yard. And there stood the new bicycle he was bought for just the previous night but it wasn’t new anymore. It was just an image of a bicycle with parts of it far apart. I was running out of words and I stood there in shock.

“What happened Max?” I quickly asked, still staring at the bicycle.

“Stop pretending Jack, I saw you knock it down yesterday night with that metal hockey stick of yours that you made.”

“What are you saying Max?”I asked as my mouth formed an O with what I was hearing.

“Jack, how could you do that? Didn’t I promise you that I’m going to buy you too another bike?”My mum was already agitated.

“But mum…”

“No! I don’t want to hear. How could you do that to this poor boy? Was it wrong that I wished to have another child in this house? Was I wrong that I wanted you to have a partner and a friend? I can’t believe it! You are grounded this weekend. No TV, no going for hockey matches, no phones, no nothing. You hear me?”

“MUM!!” I screamed, “Please listen to me. He is lying; I didn’t do anything that he’s saying.”

“Jack! That’s enough. Your mum has said what she needed to say,” my dad said and they left the backyard leaving me still in shock. Now, I really regretted ever agreeing to my parent’s idea of adopting another son and here was my reward for it. I just walked to my bedroom and slammed the door loudly. That night I went to bed early and I didn’t even have my dinner hoping mum would come and force me to eat but she didn’t.

Next morning, I went downstairs to the dining hall and found the table already deserted and the breakfast still on the table.

“Mum! How could you have breakfast without me! This isn’t fair at all!”

“Sorry Jack, you woke up late and Max was in a hurry so we sat and ate together,” mum shouted back from her bedroom.

“And where did he go so early today? Its weekend right?” I said as I sat down to have breakfast. I was so angry that I was seated alone for the first time in my life, but my stomach was rumbling from hunger. I had no other choice but sit down and eat.

“He said today the homeboy hockey players will be recruiting new members so he decided to join too.”


“Isn’t it so nice that he is getting adapted to this town? I’m so happy for him. By the way, what you did to his bicycle was never right,” she shouted, still from her bedroom.

“Mum, I told you I didn’t do what he said. How can you believe a stranger rather than your own son? And about the hockey players, there was only one new member needed and it was reserved for me.”

“Yes he told me that the chance was reserved for you but you are grounded, remember? So you won’t have the chance to go for the practice. So when he asked if he could go instead of you, I allowed him. Anyway, you are both my sons. And Max is not a stranger anymore. He has stayed with us for more than a week now.”

I stood up from my seat with rage, feeling so helpless and out of words.

“Mum! How could you do that to me! At least you should have left that chance for me. You know how much I’ve waited for this chance!”

“Jack! Max is your brother now. You should learn to share your opportunities.”

I didn’t say anything anymore and I didn’t even eat my breakfast. I took some pan cakes from the refrigerator and went with them to my room. I locked myself in there the entire day. I did my homework, read a novel, painted, played games and spent the rest of the afternoon dozing on my bed. How unfair! I thought to myself. Max was trying to live my life as he could. I knew that he envied the perfect life I was having before he came into our family. He was going to take all my chances, all my dreams…but I won’t let him do it! I never will!

My worst weekend passed by and I woke up happy Monday morning, ready to go out from the house at last. On the way to school, I met Tanya my best friend, neighbor and my desk mate in class since kindergarten. I cheered up a little bit and we walked together to school. I listened to her interesting stories which never ended. I always wondered where she got them from. We finally arrived in class and I was still listening to Tanya when the teacher came in with Max.

“Excuse me class, this is Max, Jack’s brother. Please welcome him.”

I shrugged my shoulders and looked away.

“Is this the Max you were telling me about? Oh! He looks totally innocent, not as you seem to talk about him.”

I glared hardly at her and she realized her mistake.

“Okay Jack, of course I believe in everything you say but just look at that angelic face. Is he 12 years old like us?” Tanya said anxiously.

“No, he is one year older and please let us not talk about him anymore. I don’t want to remember what a horrible weekend I had because of him.”

“What did he do this time?” Tanya asked, her eyes widening.

“Not now, I’ll tell you later. Just continue telling me about you weekend with Prisca at your aunt’s place.”

“Oh yes, where was I?” she scratched her head and continued narrating…

School was fun and at least I got distracted from Max. He had started befriending some of the boys in the class and he was busy with them. I left the school compound with Tanya and as usual, she was the one talking. Then she suddenly stopped talking.

“Oh my God! I almost forgot! Now what am I going to do?” she started whining.

“What happened?”

“Tomorrow is my mum’s birthday and I haven’t yet bought her anything yet.”

“So what? We can go buy her something after we change our clothes right now.”

“That’s exactly the problem. I didn’t save any money to buy her the present. I used my money during the weekend with Prisca.”

“Oh! And I also finished my money buying the materials to make the metal hockey stick.”

“Ah! I got a wonderful idea. My mum has always loved your paintings. Why don’t you try painting her?”

“Painting her? I’ve never painted anyone.”

“You can do it! I’m sure you can. Just try, please. I am so helpless right now.”

After a lot of persuasion, I agreed to try. Right after dinner, I went and locked myself in my room. I looked attentively at the photograph Tanya had given me of her mum and soon started painting. It was a peaceful moment and I was enjoying how I was doing it. Before I realized it, I had finished the painting and I was amazed myself how good it was. It was already past my bedtime, so I hurried and kept it safely by the window and covered it well with a piece of cloth before dropping myself on the bed and immediately dozed off.

The next morning, I was so anxious to show off my painting to Tanya. I quickly went into the bathroom to take a shower when Max called out to me.

“Jack, may I please use your laptop for a moment? I want to download something from the net. You know I wouldn’t borrow if I had mine.”

I listened and shrugged, if I was to deny then my mum was going to give me another confrontation which I didn’t want. So I let him use it. When I was out, mum shouted at the door that Tanya was there to talk to me. I quickly dressed up and let her in.

“Did you do it? Please tell me you did,” she said anxiously.

“Come here,” I said as I pulled her to where I had left the window.

“Surprise!” I slowly pulled out the piece of cloth while looking at Tanya. Her eyes widened up and she held her hand to her mouth.

“What? Didn’t you like it?” I said, surprised with her reaction. I slowly turned to look at my painting and I stood still too. The painting had been renovated! The eyes were painted red and flowing from it were red tears; looking so evil and scary. I slowly moved my hands to touch the tears that looked so fresh, but it wasn’t paint. I looked at Tanya as fear crept on my face and we both realized something…it was real blood!


“Jack! Jack! Wake up…you forgot what day it is today?” my mum came and raised the curtains to allow the sun rays fill the room.

I stretched myself and yawned loudly with a beautiful smile on my face.

“Mum! How can I forget today?” I stood up from my bed and hugged her tightly.

I walked along with her to the backyard which looked so beautifully designed and the fresh flowers bloomed so well under the dawn sunlight.

I took a deep breath and I just couldn’t stop smiling.

“Today is my engagement day…I just can’t believe that Tanya accepted my proposal.”

“You deserve it son! Okay now, before we start having emotional scenes, go…go and prepare yourself. This is your day.”

I once more took a deep breath and let the cool breeze slap my face before going back into the house…I had finally achieved what I wanted in life. To be a famous hockey player and marry Tanya, what more did need? I started sorting out my clothes, I knew the press would not miss coming to the great engagement ceremony of the hockey player of the century, I smiled to myself.

Half an hour later, mum was back in my room to check up on my progress.

“Hey, your friends have started coming in and I just talked to Joe, the press is on its way too. You better hurry and ask Tanya how far is she with the preparations. I’ll be checking the food preparations with the cooks and…”

“Okay, okay mum, relax dear. Everything is going to be alright.”

“Okay, I’m leaving and ah! By the way, your brother Max is here from the city. You’ve got to see him before the ceremony starts..isn’t it nice to meet him after nearly eight years?”

“Oh mum, can’t I just talk to him later on? This is not the right time to meet anyone…especially not him!”

“Jack, please don’t say that. He was just a young boy when…”

“When he made you guys take me to a boarding school right? Mum please, I don’t want to hear any of that right now. You can’t say he was just a young boy while he was older than I and…didn’t you think that I was also a young boy to be sent to a boarding school so far!”

“Son, son please listen to me, didn’t we come visit you every weekend? We thought that was the best for you.”

“And the best chance for him to stay around here and win over your innocent heart isn’t it? Only God knows what stuff he made you do in my absence.”

“Jack please, Max has nothing against you…and he never will. Please meet him before the ceremony for my sake. You just graduated and it’s been years since you met, don’t you think it’s high time you cleared up the air? Please Jack…” Mum said with a shaky voice. A tear was already about to drop from her eye. She quickly gave me a kiss on my left cheek and hurried out.

I sat down heavily on my bed with a sigh. I didn’t want to see Max at all. My childhood had been a living hell all because of him. I was sent to the boarding school at fourteen and I spent the darkest days of my life in a totally different city. After completing high school I joined college the same city and Tanya had been my encouragement all the time. We kept in touch and sometimes met and here, today was my engagement day and I wouldn’t want to spoil it by any chance. Not even with the presence of my so called brother…but I had to do it, for the sake of my mother.

I let out another loud sigh when I saw a figure by the door staring at me with a crooked smile.

“Hey small brother, our hero, what’s that big sigh for? Isn’t it your big day?” Max said, coming towards me and hugged me without getting a response from me.

“It’s been so long I have to admit. There’s a lot I got to catch up about your school life and…Tanya, hell! How were you able to convince her to marry you? I have to admit you did quite a good job. You were even able to become the famous hockey player you always wanted to be!”

“Yah, sometimes we earn what we want the hard way. Now please if you’ll excuse me, I got to get things ready and call Tanya too…”

“Okay small brother; see you out there later on.”

“Hey, don’t call me small brother and… please close the door behind you.”

He let out an enigmatic laugh and closed the door rather loudly behind him. I let out another loud sigh and immediately dialed Tanya’s cell phone number.

“Hallo Darling, how far are you with the preparations? The visitors have started arriving.”

“Hey dear, I’m just winding up. My friend Esther is just checking up on the last tiny details. Don’t worry, I’ll make it on time…Okay, have to go, you are delaying me even more…Ciao!”

I wore my sparkling clean coat and left the room. The environment outside was so welcoming. Soft music was being played and a cool breeze met me. I smiled again, this is my day and I won’t let anyone destroy it.

Slowly, the visitors started approaching me in ones and twos. Happily congratulating me, meeting old friends and trying to catch up on their lives. I moved around, ensuring everything was at its place. Then I checked my watch with a frown. It was more than one hour since I had talked to Tanya and she hadn’t yet arrived. Before I could give more thought to the matter, mum hurried to me.

“I’ve been looking for you. Tanya called half an hour ago, the car had a problem and since I couldn’t find you to pick her up, I sent Max.”

“What?! What problem is with the car? I checked everything last evening and I made sure everything was okay, including the car…and how could you allow Max to go pick her up?!”

“I don’t understand too what happened to the car…and come on Max, he offered to help and you were nowhere near.”

“I just don’t trust him mum!…and why didn’t Tanya call me directly?”

“she said she tried to call you but you weren’t picking your cell phone. Where did you leave it?”

“Oh! I forgot it in my room after talking to her earlier on. I’ll just pick it up.”

I took my cell phone from my room and went to the backyard once more. I was in high demand already. Everyone was asking on my whereabouts. I smiled and tried to be happy but I was really worried about Tanya. Another half an hour had flown and they weren’t here yet. My cell phone’s ringtone alerted me and I could see Tanya’s number on the screen. I hastily picked it up.

“Tanya, where are you? Are you okay?” I asked, panicky.

“Jack, please come take me…I need your help…” she said slowly with heavy breaths, as if in pain.

“Tanya what happened? Where are you right now?”

“I’m… at your family’s green orchard farm…please hurry…I’m in pain…”

“Tanya!” but the line was already dead.

That was enough to drive me crazy. Without saying anything to anyone, I picked my car keys and drove marathon speed, wondering how Tanya got to our family farm. It was miles far from her home. Thoughts were pondering in my brain and I could feel a tough headache coming up. I don’t know how fast I was but in half an hour, I was already there. I banged my car door and rushed to the bungalow that is there.

There was complete silence in the place, that I got a strange chill in my spine. The trees were bending and moving with scary whispers I had never heard before.

“Tanya! Tanya! Where are you?” I hurriedly moved across the rooms looking for her but I just couldn’t find her, when I suddenly heard a low groan from upstairs. I rushed up taking two stairs at a time and there she was, in the main bedroom looking all a mess!

Tanya was lying on the bed, her beautiful and elegant dress all torn up. Her make-up messy all over her face and tears were flowing continuously. I stood there in shock before I realized where Tanya’s hand was covering. Blood was freely oozing out from her stomach and she was trying to cover the wound. And then I suddenly realized what had happened, she had been shot. I quickly hurried to her while my head spinned.

“Tanya, what happened? How did you get here?” I said as I tore my shirt to cover the wound.

“Jack…it’s Max. He did all this…” she said in slow but painful sobs.

“Max?! I just knew I shouldn’t trust him! I’m going to kill him!”

“Jack, you have to know some things…while you were away, he was after me. He envied you so much and wanted all you had for himself, including me…I made it clear to him that I won’t abandon you for him. That…that always angered him…and today, he got the chance to revenge on us…” she then broke down again only this time, heavy sobs.

“Tanya, we’ll talk about that later. We got to rush to the hospital before you lose too much blood,” I said as I bent down to carry her to the car, but she held my hand and continued,

“Max came home after Esther had gone, saying you wanted to show me a surprise before the ceremony…and I trusted him enough to come here with him. When we got here…”

“What did he do to you?”I asked angrily.

“He raped me then shot me before he left. He didn’t want to see us together by the end of the day…I pretended to have died and luckily, that got him to leave…” she said in small pauses.

I wasn’t going to listen to any of that anymore. I could feel my pressure rising fast and I was about to explode from anger. Without listening anymore, I picked her up carefully and hurried downstairs then to my car. I slowly kept her beside me and quickly drove away.

“Tanya, please don’t close your eyes…try to stay awake,” I begged.

“I’m trying…” she said as her eyes lazily blinked.

“Do you know where Jack went?” I asked, trying to keep her awake.

“No, he just walked away not so long ago…he could be heading back home right now, thinking I’m dead…” she swallowed hard.

“Please Tanya…try staying awake,” I continued begging. I wasn’t really focusing on the road ahead of me. I was so confused and angry. My phone was continuously ringing and I knew it was mum…but how was I going to explain this situation to her; that her beloved other son was a monster like I said?! I had to concentrate on Tanya right now. There was no hospital nearby therefore we had to get to town. I drove faster; my hands were shaking and sweating the same time. I turned to look at Tanya and I could see her take small, light breathes before she slipped down the chair, so helpless. I crazily stepped the brakes and the car stopped with a screech.

“Tanya! You can’t die now, not today!” I shouted, shaking her by the shoulders but there was no response from her. Her hands were getting cold and her face so pale. Without realizing it, painful tears were rolling down my face…I was not going to let this pass by unrevenged!

I took a deep breath and started driving once more…to the place the ceremony was to take place, my home.

Just then, my phone buzzed. It was a text message from my mum. I opened it.

“Max, where the hell are you?! It’s getting late, and Tanya is not here yet. Jack said he didn’t find her at her house and Esther says she left her a few minutes earlier; she wanted to get ready for the occasion too. What is happening? Are you with her? Please call me back, I’m dying with worry!”

I switched off my phone angrily. Jack was playing with his cards well, but I was not going to play games with our minds. He probably thought Tanya was long dead…that it would a perfect crime with no witnesses, in a far away land, full of trees and no neighbours around. But what he didn’t know was that Tanya had enough time to call and even explain to me in details what had happened. I could finally see my home ahead of me. I went and parked my car at the front gate knowing everyone was at the backyard. No one was to see me the way I was, in bloody clothes and my face full of grim. I hurriedly entered the house through the kitchen door. I immediately spotted Jack going inside my room. I tiptoed to the nearby window and I could see how crowded the place was. At a corner was my mum with the inspector, a family friend. I could see the fear in her face and how the inspector was trying to console her.

I swallowed a bitter lump of saliva and tiptoed to my room. I peeped at Jack who was now busily perusing through my laptop. I walked in loudly and he quickly stood up in surprise.

“Little brother? You are here? …” he said, giving me an enigmatic smile.

“Mmmh… I was just checking…your progress here. Mum has been looking for you…” he then suddenly paused, as if realizing for the first time how bloody I was.

“Oh my God! What happened to you little brother?!”

Without a word, I continued to approach him.

“You happened to me… you are the one who has ever caused all the mess in my life! What did you do to Tanya?” I asked as I finally reached him. He took a few steps backwards.

“Tanya? I’ve not seen her today. Stop being paranoid little brother…I’m sure she’ll come right away.”

Without thinking twice, I pushed him onto the bed and let my hands reach his throat. I mercilessly strangled him, letting out all the rage in me.

“You killed Tanya, damn you!”

I could feel the heat from my body as hate and anger filled my heart.

“Jack, stop it!”Max struggled with me. We were on a head to head struggle, each one of us trying to outdo the other. Then I saw a gun beneath his sock, probably the same gun he used to kill Tanya. I quickly pulled it out before he could snatch it from me, and then mercilessly, I pulled the trigger on his forehead.

There was a sudden hush in the background. Screams then silence…they were probably wondering where that gunshot was coming from.

I could see pain all over his face and I slowly muttered in his ear,

“This is for all the damage you ever caused this family, and for Tanya…”

“Jack…” before he could say anything more, he fell back again on my bed.

I let out a heavy sigh of relief and went back to the window. Mum was still there, fear all over her face. She was busy fidgeting with her cell phone, taking quick steps towards the house with the inspector. She would soon know and she was not going to believe it. Her one son was a monster, and the other, the little brother, had become a murderer!