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Family

Family

By Khaleel Jooste

Copyright Khaleel Jooste 2016

Shakespir Edition License Notes:

This free e-book may be copied, distributed, reposted, reprinted and shared, provided it appears in its entirety without alteration, and the reader is not charged to access it.

I seek protection from Satan the outcast and I begin in the name of

Allah,

The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful.

Ayat Al-Kursi (The verse of the Throne)

Allah – there is no deity except Him, the Ever-Living, the Sustainer of all existence. Neither drowsiness overtakes Him nor sleep. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. Who is it that can intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows what is presently before them and what will be after them, and they encompass not a thing of His knowledge except for what He wills. His throne extends over the heavens and the earth, and their preservation tires Him not. And He is the Most High, the Most Great.

Surah Al- Baqarah (The Cow) 2:255

As Allah wills

#AllThatMatters

#HappyBirthday

Family

“Look.”

“What?”

“You’ll see.”

حلم

They are alone.

The light is bright.

He guides her past the many… odd… things.

“Come, this way.”

They stop.

“You can open your eyes now.”

She opens her eyes and as she does, she gasps out loud.

“Sean, where are we?”

He smiles.

Satisfied.

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”

“Incredible. Wow.” She walks forward and takes it all in.

“Are we there yet?”

“Not quite.”

He takes her hand.

“Come, this way.”

They walk along the water.

It runs gently along the soft sand and rustles softly across the rocks. She reaches down and picks up a few. They were all smooth and round; turquoise, purple, black and white, a few tiger eye, shimmering and bright.

Her face beams.

She lets go of his hand and starts juggling them in the air. She manages to do that with six.

All the stones drop to the sand.

“Sean…”

She can barely contain her excitement as she takes his hand and runs to the waterfall. It was coming from somewhere above; almost like it was falling from the sky. It had a strange color to it. Like it was water, but not water that she has ever seen.

She let’s go of his hand and reaches for it.

“Slowly, Kimberly.” He goes to stand next to her.

She turns and looks at him.

“Why? What’s wrong?” Her hazel eyes confused. She stands back and sighs.

“Nothing,” he smiles.

The light coming from the water makes his blue eyes stand out more. A faint purple haze was about his face.

Kimberly moves closer to him; takes in his face. Her eyes follow the smooth contours. She reaches and runs her fingers along his thick brow; traces his high cheek bone. Slowly she reaches his lips and pulls suddenly away.

“Sorry,” she sighs. Her cheeks go more pink. She looks away.

“Why are you sorry?” He reaches for her face. She rests the side of her head in his palm.

“For touching you. I…” She shudders and faces the falling water.

She breathes deeply and faces him again.

Her eyes open.

“I’m so used to…touching people’s faces… to be able to make out what they look like.” She bites her lower lip.

“I… never thought… I’d see another face again… certainly not one… as… beau… beautiful… as yours.” She swallows and looks down.

He goes closer to her.

Gently reaches for her hand. He puts it to his right cheek.

“I never thought I’d feel the warmth of your touch again.” He closes his eyes and nestles his cheek in her palm. He breathes deeply.

Opens his eyes slowly.

“You may touch my face whenever you want.” He smiles.

She blushes and looks away.

He puts his arm around her waist.

“Do you hear that?” He gives her a quick look and gestures to the water.

Confused, she turns and says.

“I hear… what sounds like… not sure…”

“Laughter?” He smiles.

“Yes. That’s what I wanted to say. But… where is it coming from? Is it the water?” Her pupils large.

“It’s coming from the water, yes. But it’s the creatures in the water. It’s why I stopped you. Didn’t want you to get startled.” He pulls her closer to him and they slowly move more towards the waterfall.

“Go ahead.” He lets her go and gestures towards the water.

Slowly she walks closer to the water. She looks back; a curl to her lip. She takes in his face. The purple haze was more subtle; almost like it was mist. It floated about him. She follows it down his broad shoulders. She swallows hard and finds his eyes. She couldn’t understand the deep blue. It was unlike any blue she had ever seen in her life. She shudders and looks back at the water.

She reaches with her right hand; palm towards the water.

As she’s about to touch it, the light in the water starts forming the outline of her hand.

She gasps softly.

She reaches more.

Slowly the water comes towards her hand. Starts flowing around her fingers and then twists around her hand. She pulls away fast.

The water twirls a bit and then returns.

“What was that?” She looks at her hand and then at him.

“They’re water-jugglers.” He smiles.

They are responsible for the light you see in the water. The bluish-purple-yellow light to the water. That’s them. You can’t see them really.”

He walks closer to her.

“It’s like they’re invisible, but the water gives them shape. Only the light gives them away. That and the males mating call. The laughter you hear, that’s them.”

He stares into her eyes and then back to the water.

“They are the ones carrying the water from above.” He looks up and points with his finger.

“They’re carrying it from there. That leads to the moon waters. They’re carrying it to the breeding grounds down there.” He points to a spot at the bottom where the water seems to twirl like a whirlpool into the soft sand.

“That’s their nest.”

Kimberly looks at the cascade of water down below. It formed a shape that resembled a honey comb. Bluish-purple and bright yellow light came from it.

“It’s beautiful. But…why carry the water?”

She looks at him confused.

He smiles.

“The only way is to show you.”

He takes her hand.

Hesitantly she takes it.

He reaches for the water. It twirls around his hand and then his arm, till half his shoulder was covered too.

“Don’t be scared. Come.”

He disappears into the water, only his hand still visible.

Slowly she walks closer. The water starts forming the shape of her face.

She could see what looked like a water version of her face in the water.

It even mimicked her eyelids as they open and closed; the water a few seconds after her.

She walks closer to it.

The water comes closer to her face. A small drop forms in front of her left eye. It drops onto her nose. She starts giggling softly. The drop breaks into smaller drops and it’s as if it starts running about her face. More and more drops do the same. Her face was now completely submerged in the water.

She looks at the lights that surround her head.

Stares at the shape that stared at her; she couldn’t quite describe what it was. It had what looked like eyes, a chiseled face, and very long neck on top of what seemed like wings or fins. She examines it closer. It wasn’t fins. It was wings. Or was it the petals of a flower?

She shakes her head.

She wasn’t sure.

She reaches for it and it disappears.

She follows the sound of his voice.

“Kimberly, come.”

واقع

Kimberly!

Kimberly!

Kimberly!

Don’t!

Don’t!

Don’t do it!

Kimberly!

Please!

Listen to me!

Don’t!

Don’t do it!

Please!

Kimberly… no…

Don’t.

Don’t do it!

جدارية

2016

“You really gotta stop callin’ me, you know.”

Omar puts the brush down.

“That’s what you, you know, keep sayin’, but you’ve been callin’, you know, every five minutes. How’d ya expect me to get this done, you know?”

He stares at the wall.

“Listen, Peter-John, you gotta relax, a’ight. I’ll be done when I’m done.

He picks up the brush again and listens.

“Stop gardening, dude. How many times must I tell you that? It messes with your mind and slows you down.”

He shakes his head.

“Listen, I gotta go. Stop callin’ me, you know. Just chill. Everythin’ will be done, you know, before Drew gets back. Stop stressin’.

“A’ight. No worries. Peace.”

He slips the phone into his pocket and stares at the wall. He stands back a bit, shakes his head as if disagreeing with some statement he made in his head and stands back more.

“What you think, Tiger?” He asks the ginger cat as it slips into his room and jumps into its hammock with a lazy meow.

Omar puts the brush down and takes a seat next to the cat. He picks him up and puts him in his lap.

“I can’t seem to get it to pop, you know. It just, you know, doesn’t want to, you know, I don’t know…”

They both stare at the wall. After a while, Omar focuses on the cat.

“Where have you been, Tiger? You’ve been with the ladies again, a’ight?” He laughs.

He kisses the cat on its forehead. It purrs softly and seems to be listening to everything Omar is saying.

“You better put your best foot forward when Miss Mya gets here, you know, big guy. I think, you know, I like her a lot. And it seems like she, you know, likes me a lot too. Crazy as she is. Women, Tiger,” he shakes his head.

The cat sits up straight and stares at him.

“Don’t be like that, big guy. You can’t have all the fun, you know.”

He wants to pat the cat, but it knocks his hand away and scratches him lightly on the knee.

“So, it’s like that, hu? We gonna have problems when Miss Mya gets here?”

He stares at the cat and it seems to stare him right back.

“Still disappointed in you for missin’, you know, our first date. Where were you Tiger, you know? I was really, you know, worried. When I saw that stray at the theatre, I went backstage and nearly got into, you know, trouble with that, you know, girl, young lady.”

He strokes the cat gently. It sits back down and purrs softly, while licking Omar’s hand.

“She’s really pretty, big guy. I think her name is Kimberly. Kimberly Amber-Jane, I think. That was really a special night, you know. Hell, I believe in miracles, after seein’ her dance. The girl doesn’t dance, she hovers lightly and this with such grace. One would swear she had an invisible partner. I still can’t get over, you know, the way she did those last few moves. Simply bravo, you know.” He kisses Tiger on the forehead and stares at the wall.

“That’s it, big guy. You’re a genius, you know.” He hugs the cat, puts him gently back on the hammock, gets up, grabs a brush and heads back to the wall.

باقة أزهار

“John-Peter, you’re here.”

Madison opens the door and lets Peter-John in.

“Thank you for doing this JP, you really are godsend.”

Peter-John smiles awkwardly and passes her as she closes the door behind him.

“Don’t mention it. I’m glad I can be of service.” He lets his hoodie down; he was dressed in his usual cargo pants and white shirt.

“And always so modest, sweet, sweet, John-Peter.” She smiles and gestures for him to follow her.

They make their way to her studio.

“I managed to wrap most of it. I just need to get it all into that crate over there.”

He stares at her milky skin as she points to the crate near the large studio window.

Can anyone have more beautiful skin?

There was something different about Madison today though. Peter-John couldn’t quite put his finger on it. She was dressed in a white, knee-length halter dress with big pink and blue floral prints. She was wearing her sandals, as usual.

What was different though?

Her deep blue eyes were inviting, as always. He tried not to get lost in them, again. Ships could set sail in those eyes, he thought. Ships going places he had never seen before. Adventures he had yet to embark upon. He shakes his head and lowers his gaze. That was not why he was here.

He removes his spectacles and cleans them with his shirt.

Madison notices and stares at him.

The frown lines between his eyes. He shaved, she notices.

Wonder what he’s thinking.

She shakes it off and makes her way to the uncovered piece on the table.

“Come, have a look.”

She seems suddenly more excited; her face radiant.

“Wow!” Peter-John exclaims.

He stands away from the natural light and admires Madison’s work.

“Wow, Madison. This is really something else. The flowers look as if they are alive.”

Madison smiles shyly.

“I do try.” She tucks the loose strand of hair behind her ear.

That was it.

“You’ve changed your hair. It’s shorter!” The words leave Peter-John’s mouth and he immediately realizes what he said and goes stiff.

Big mouth.

“Yes, I didn’t think anyone would notice,” Madison shyer than before. She gives Peter-John a grateful smile and focuses on the piece again.

“Ugh,” Peter-John starts, “why isn’t it wrapped? Aren’t you taking it to the gallery?”

Madison turns and walks slowly to the opposite side of the table.

She takes in Peter-John’s curious gaze; those wild eyes more intriguing behind those spectacles; she wished he would take them off.

She sighs softly.

Smiles.

“No. I wanted you to see it first. I wasn’t sure… It’s for Drew.”

Peter-John stares at her for a moment. A smile comes to his face.

“For Drew?”

“Yes. Do you think he’ll like it?”

Peter-John stares at the pressed flowers.

“Beautifully arranged and many of Drew’s favorite colors. He does like purple and blue, white too.”

“Those there are…”

“Forget-me-nots,” Peter-John interrupts her, “I know. They’re so small and lovely.”

They were referring to the small blue, white and pink flowers intermingled with the others to the left and right of the pressed flower arrangement.

“You are right, JP. I agree. They are lovely, especially the sky blue. My gran has them in her garden back on the farm. The soft pale blue color like a carpet of small puffs wafting underneath her bigger plants, they really are special.”

Peter-John stares at the flowers and then at Madison. He liked it when she talked about her passion. She always radiated such enthusiasm and he could see that she was sincere when she did any of her pieces. There was always much thought given to it.

“Hold on to the beautiful memories. Those special moments that makes life worth living. That’s the forget-me-nots to me. They’re hermaphrodites. They have both…”

“Male and female organs, yes.” Peter-John nods with a smile.

“These are perennial. Not as grand as the impressive show the biennial ones give, but hey, I have to work with what’s available. They are very delicate but easy to press, since they are so flat, you see.”

Madison smiles shyly at Peter-John as he removes his spectacles and cleans them again. He rubs his eyes.

“They have ophthalmic properties and are thus used as a remedy for many eye diseases.”

Peter-John stares her and takes in every word she says. Her voice was soft and melodic. He really enjoyed listening to Madison. More than even he would admit. It didn’t hurt that she had flawless skin; must be the fact that she is a vegetarian. He smiles and listens.

“They are used to make lotions as well. This is because they have astringent properties too; very good for the contraction of skin cells.”

“Cool,” says Peter-John.

Madison points to the purple and blue flowers more to the right.

“Those are irises. The blue ones convey faith and hope. Some say the word means rainbow and that due to the fact that they come in so many beautiful colors.”

“Isn’t the iris the flower of the messenger of love?” Peter-John asks bravely.

“Correct. And for this reason, it is also considered the symbol of communication and messages.” Madison seems to relax more and takes a seat on the round stool by the table. Peter-John does the same.

“They are herbaceous and perennial too, very tough flowers.”

“Herbacasses?” Peter-John mumbles embarrassed.

Madison laughs softly.

“Herbaceous. It means they have soft, green stems. They don’t become woody and hard.”

“Oh,” laughs Peter-John.

“I do love the violet-like fragrance they have. Pity I can’t capture that scent when I press the flowers. It doesn’t last.”

“Do they have any benefits for us? Medicinal benefits?” Peter-John runs his hand over the glass.

“Their roots have been used for the treatment of skin diseases and the juice of the flowers is sometimes used cosmetically for the removal of freckles.”

“Wow, really?” Asks Peter-John amazed.

Maybe it’s these plants that give her that flawless skin.

“Iris flowers are used to purge the liver as well. Some praise its benefits for the treatment of dropsy. The fresh root of the Germanica especially. In the dry form it is used for the clearing of the lungs, coughs and hoarseness.” Madison was in her element.

“Wow, and here I thought they were just pretty flowers.”

Madison smiles encouragingly. She did enjoy Peter-John’s company. He really seemed interested in what she was saying and especially in what she was doing. She rarely came across a guy so mature, still her age though. The fact that he was handsome didn’t hurt either, even if he was scrawny. She liked that.

“I like the way they look. Some have beards, others not. Those petals there,” she points to the blue iris in the right corner, “are known as the standards. There are usually only three. Those three outer petals are known as the falls.” Madison moves her fingers to the center of the arrangement.

“Those are anemones. I specifically put them there for what you shared with me.”

“I know these. Wind flowers, right? And what do you mean? What did I share with you?” Peter-John was confused, but intrigued. He really didn’t think that there was so much to this bouquet. He suddenly looked at Madison in a totally new light.

“You’re right. Some refer to them as the wind flower, especially ‘cause the wind opens the petals.” She gives Peter-John a warm smile.

“And I mean about the atmosphere in your flat, you know.” She gestures with her hand.

Peter-John stares at her with a vague expression.

Then, as if it suddenly dawns on him.

“Oh, that.” He nods.

“Yes, it is often used for protection against evil, the blue and purple especially. I included a few white ones, ‘cause they’re just so cute. They go well with the forget-me-knots.”

“They do,” agrees Peter-John.

“They are also used for cramps, ugh, menstrual problems and emotional distress.”

Madison moves her finger more to the top of the arrangement.

“I wasn’t sure how to break the strong blue and purple of the arrangement, so I thought to add some warm apricot and salmon colors. Those are Peruvian lilies, also known as the lily of the Incas.”

Madison takes in Peter-John’s eyes hanging on her every word.

She swallows and then coughs.

“Drew has been a good friend to us all. This flower represents friendship. Some say devotion too.”

“Hopelessly devoted to you,” Peter-John croons.

Madison laughs. She admires Peter-John a bit and continues.

“I especially like the striped ones. The twists in the flower distinguish it from others, really something unique. It apparently represents the trials and tribulations that come with good, lasting friendships.”

“And haven’t we had our fair share of that these last few months.” Peter-John adds nonchalantly.

He sighs as if in thought, then focuses on Madison more.

“What else, I’m curious. This really is something else, very special. Drew is a lucky guy.”

“Thank you, John-Peter. It means a lot to hear you say that. I rarely get to share the story I wish to convey with my art, but in this instance, I wanted someone else to share the story. Drew might not necessarily get it.”

“Oh, not? You’ll be surprised. There is a lot to Drew that people don’t know about. He is just human, like the rest of us mere mortals. Sure he is in the spotlight a lot, but he is just a person, very sensitive and caring. Emotional like hell.” Peter-John smirks with a laugh.

Madison admires him more.

“That’s kind to share. I pictured him more a macho man. You know, that rugged look he has. James Dean.”

“Yeah, people think that. Not true though.”

“Anyway, Peruvian lilies are also known as miniature lilies. Some call them Astroemerias. They have no smell, but are very nutritious. Lots of palatable starch.” Madison nods, as if she could taste it.

Peter-John swallows and continues to listen.

“They are hermaphrodites too,” Madison says as she moves more to the bright golden flowers intermingled with the rest.

“Copa de Oro,” says Peter-John before Madison could speak.

“I’m impressed,” she says and adds, “yes, our state flower, California poppy. I just wanted to add some yellow-orange to the arrangement. It really does add a different dimension. Plus I think I secretly want to believe we have entered a new golden age and I wanted Drew to symbolically drink from the cup of gold.” Madison says embarrassed.

“Like some elixir that enriches from within,” Peter-John encourages.

“Something like that,” Madison smiles.

“If I remember correctly, my ancestors used it as food and extracted oil from it. They even ground it for flour.”

“You’re spot on, JP. The Native Californians did and still do to this day. The poppy oil is used for cooking. It is also employed in the making of soaps and varnishes.”

“Illumination,” Peter-John adds matter-of-factly.

Madison nods admiringly.

She focusses on the last of the plants in the arrangement.

“That brings us to this lone white lily. It is probably the most significant of the arrangement, very simple, but such a beautiful plant, especially considering.”

“Considering?” Peter-John was excitedly curious.

Madison gave him an appreciative smile and winks.

“I got this from a swamp. The plant grows from this dirty, dark water, but looking at its pristine whiteness, one would never guess it. To me, it’s almost like the lily overcomes harsh conditions and emerges victoriously without blemishes, the delicate flower towering above the darkness to give off this virginal whiteness.”

Peter-John stares at Madison and smiles.

“Beautiful. So appropriate, especially considering,” he nods.

“Considering,” Madison agrees.

They stare at the flower in silence. After a bit, Madison adds.

“Quite a story how it stays so white, the lily, I mean. Dew forms at the tip here and flows in a circular motion all along the petal to the bottom. That’s how it remains so white and beautiful. The dew cleans the flower to put it plainly,” Madison smiles.

“Cool bananas! Nature is really awesome.”

Madison agrees.

“There is so much more to flowers than just their beauty and fragrant scent.” Her eyes gentle.

Peter-John tries hard not to stare into them for too long.

Madison tries not to stare too long into his too. She continues.

“These are all affirmations of my faith in God, the Creator. It can’t all be some gigantic fluke. How people can accept that as such, blows my mind completely. Roses formed by accident? All these things I told you about the flowers, just accidently the way they are?”

She smiles at Peter-John.

He nods.

“It’s a Big Bang conundrum,” Peter-John stares at the piece again.

He shakes his head in admiration.

“I’m sure Drew will be blown away. He’ll like the subtle touch of the green fennel and rosemary too, lovely fragrance. This is all really something special. You’re really thoughtful.”

Madison shakes her head.

“Dear, John-Peter. You are the thoughtful one. Drew is lucky to have you. Throwing this party for him. He is blessed to have you as a friend.”

Peter-John smiles awkwardly.

“It’s nothing. He’s been through so much these last few months alone. He deserves to be spoiled, to be surrounded by friends. We’re the only family he has.”

“How is he since, you know?”

Madison gestures for him to help her lift another wrapped piece into the crate.

“I’m not sure. He looks fine. But that’s just Drew. He always looks as if he just stepped out of a magazine. And that million dollar smile is ready to charm anyone he wants whenever he wants. Literally. He could be annoyed one second, all frown, the next, pose for a picture frown gone, just that charming smile. It’s like…”

“I know what you mean.” Madison laughs. “It’s effortless.”

“Yes. But…”

Peter-John trails off.

“You’re worried? I can tell.”

Peter-John shrugs.

“It’s nothing. I’m sure he is fine.”

Madison gestures to the last piece. She wants to ask Peter-John something as they lift it into the crate, but decides to let it slide.

“That’s all of it. I’ll hoist it out of the window later. Let’s head to the kitchen. I have a new recipe I want you to try out. I hope you’ll like it.”

Peter-John smiles excitedly.

‘Lead the way, Madison.”

She blushes slightly and skips quickly out of the studio.

Peter-John right behind her.

It is He Who sendeth down rain from the skies: with it We produce vegetation of all kinds: from some We produce green crops, out of which We produce grain, heaped up at harvest; out of the date-palm and its sheaths come clusters of dates hanging low and near: and then there are gardens of grapes, and olives, and pomegranates, each similar in kind yet different in variety: when they begin to bear fruit, feast your eyes with the fruit and the ripeness thereof. Behold! In these things there are signs for people who believe.

Surah Al-An’am (The Cattle) 6:99

جذور

“I didn’t know who else to ask. You’re the only one that knows about this stuff,” Justin says nervously.

Ben nods his head.

Justin moves awkwardly past him to the edge of the garden. He stops where the picket fence meets the side of the shed and points to the very dull looking Buckeye situated next to the shed wall.

“It’s way too early for it to start losin’ its leaves. I don’t know what’s wrong,” Justin starts biting his nails.

“Don’t be so worried. I’m sure we’ll be able to determine why it’s dyin’,” Ben reassures Justin with a smile.

He inspects the tree up close, tracing the small sculptural white branches all the way to the trunk and goes on his knees to inspect the soil.

After a few minutes, Ben gives an enquiring look at Justin and starts.

“Did you move this, Justin?”

Ben gets up and approaches him. Justin swallows hard as he tries his best to relax. Things have been tense between the two of them since that Valentine’s Day.

“Ugh, yes.” Justin says barely audibly.

He walks to where the picket fence begins, closer to the main house.

“It used to grow over there, but I was scared it would cause problems in the future, as the tree grows. I also really didn’t like it under the kitchen window. I have a better view of it now, where it is, but, you know, it is dyin’,” Justin says with a soft laugh that sounded more like a cough.

He scratches his head and avoids eye contact.

Ben nods his head and as if it all suddenly made sense, he starts with a smile.

“Did you prune the tree after uprooting it?” Ben smiles.

Justin looks up and for the first time, meets Ben’s eyes.

“No, not with the uprooting, only when it was a bit younger; it already has the shape I like, so I didn’t want to cut it,” he says as he scratches his head.

“Don’t look so embarrassed. Few people know that you need to prune the tree, to make up for the roots that are lost when you uprooted it.”

He smiles more.

‘Oh, ugh, I didn’t know that.” Justin smiles too.

“Yes, say, for example, if a third of the roots are lost, a third of the tree needs to be pruned. Can you guess why?”

Ben was in his element. He enters the shed and emerges with the pruning tools.

“I… will… never mind,” Justin shakes his head.

Ben starts cutting the main branch and then pieces of the smaller branches.

“You have any idea why, Justin?”

“Sorry, what do you mean?” He laughs softly.

Ben seems to relax more.

“Thing is, the roots that form is always proportional to the tree above ground. If the roots are reduced, the amount of water and nutrients to the tree are reduced as well. So, basically, bro, if the tree above ground remains the same, there are not enough water and nutrients to sustain the tree and it starts to wither and eventually die.”

Justin nods in understanding.

“It made no sense, but now it does. I didn’t think about that. I did lose a lot of roots, you’re right. Just couldn’t get them uprooted.” He laughs.

Ben laughs too.

“Trees are sensitive things. They need to be nurtured and cared for. If the roots are not healthy, the tree will not be big and strong, if it grows at all.”

Ben finishes the pruning and returns the tools to the shed.

“Guess that’s it then. I’m sure it will be fine. Just keep waterin’ it, but don’t overdo it. You don’t want the roots to die, due to excess water.”

Ben starts making his way back around the house to the pathway that leads to the gate, Justin short on his heels.

“I… I really don’t know how to thank you. I…” Justin trails off.

“You can forgive me, Justin, bro,” says Ben.

Justin looks at him surprised, but doesn’t avert his gaze.

Ben continues.

“I’m sorry, Justin. I’m not perfect and I certainly don’t know everythin’. I’m sorry if I failed you. You put me on this pedestal, I get why, but I never asked you to do that.”

Justin listens. He seems suddenly more awkward.

“When it comes to the hard stuff, I tend to… to try and avoid it at all cost. It’s simply because I don’t know what to say or do. I’ve always only had myself. But I know better now. You, you say we are brothers and with that, I finally understand, comes responsibility.”

Justin crosses his arms across his chest.

He listens.

“I regret not sayin’ anythin’ to you when you told me about your dad. I’m sorry, Justin. It made me uncomfortable, to be honest. Not what you were sayin’, but rather that someone trusted me so completely to open up and say all those things to me.”

Ben clears his throat. He moves closer to Justin and tries to establish eye contact. Justin was staring past him though.

“I wanted to comfort you, I did. Please, believe me. I am not this unemotional rock you claim I am. I just didn’t have the words. I communicate better through physical expression, but… I thought you might be offended, if I touched you, embraced you, like I wanted to.”

There was a slight tremor in Ben’s voice. It sounded like it was about to crack, like he was holding back something. His eyes glisten more.

“With men, I am never sure if physical contact is welcome or not. We’re all homophobic, some more than others, I’ve come to learn. It is no excuse, but that is how it was, please understand, Justin,’ Ben was sincere.

“You know I am not like that. And especially after all I told you,” Justin softens up. He stops gazing past Ben and meets his eyes.

“I know. I’m sorry, bro.”

Both remain silent for a while.

A male and female Blue Jay fly past them and land in the tree near the walk way. The male’s soft medley of sweet notes penetrates the awkward silence.

They both stare at the birds with the deep azure blue, dusty grey-brown and white feathers.

Justin sighs and looks at Ben.

“Beautiful aren’t they,” he says without really asking.

“Indeed. Those are Western Scrub-Jays,” Ben says casually.

“How’d you know?” asks Justin as he continues to stare at the conspicuous visitors.

“The shape of the head,” Ben goes closer to Justin and points at the inquisitive onlookers, “it is more rounded and crestless.”

“Cool,” says Justin and meets Ben’s eyes. He manages a smile and relaxes his arms to his side.

Ben takes a deep breath and puts his hand on Justin’s shoulder and squeezes it slightly.

“Justin, kids are kids. They say things that hurt and make our lives unpleasant and I’m sorry you got to be around the worst of them. I’m sorry you had to endure that. I’m sorry that it made you lose out on so many happier things. No one deserves it. I’m really sorry they made your life a living hell. Bullies…”

“Are sad people that need love too,” says Justin sincerely.

Ben admires Justin.

“That’s very mature of you,” Ben smiles.

“Dude, there’s no use holdin’ onto the past. I refuse to be a prisoner of a bully’s careless actions. I decided that a long time ago. When I told you those things, it wasn’t me lookin’ for sympathy even though I said what I said. I just wanted someone to understand me, really know me. I wanted you to be the one, ‘cause I trust you. You’re my brother. I love you.”

“I love you too, Justin. I do. I’m really sorry. Really, I am.”

They stare at each other, awkwardly.

Then Justin turns. Unsure of what to expect he embraces Ben.

“I’m sorry too. Hope you can forgive me as well. I really missed you.”

“Same here, dude. And don’t mention it.” Ben embraces him back.

They let go and smile.

The Blue Jays chirp happily and fly off into the sky.

Do they not see the birds controlled in the atmosphere of the sky? None holds them up except Allah. Indeed in that are signs for a people who believe.

Surah An-Nahl (The Bees) 16:79

“These last few months have been really tough, but I have learned so much,” says Ben as he starts further towards the gate. “If we want a miracle, we have to work towards that miracle. Prayin’ for things to change or happen, while we do nothin’ to change or work towards makin’ it happen, rarely bares any fruit.”

Justin nods his head in agreement.

“God helps those who help themselves.”

“Indeed. That is what that girl from Good Hope said.” Ben seems to try and recall her name.

“Think you’re referrin’ to Maryam, the one who’s always smilin’.”

“Yeah. That’s her. She keeps sayin’ that God will not change the condition of a nation, unless the people start changin’ themselves.”

Justin looks at Ben curiously.

“What have you discovered, Ben?”

Ben turns and faces him.

“Don’t know, bro. But I am really worried. What if it is all true? What if they are goin’ to blow up Los Angeles? Blame it on some terrorists, or worse, some natural disaster like an asteroid or somethin’? That lady from the World Bank already said they wanted to drop a nuke on us, but those generals couldn’t go through with it and dropped it 500 miles off the coast. That’s why they were all fired. This was all part of the reason they shut down the government back in 2013.”

Justin shakes his head in disbelief.

“Can our government really do that to its own people?”

Ben shakes his head in disbelief too.

“I know. It’s hard to accept. But what about 9/11? We have all the evidence pointin’ towards an inside job. The evidence is too overwhelmin’.” Ben opens the gate and stands on the side walk.

“We should stop seein’ it as our government doin’ it. It is the ones who control the government and in turn the one controllin’ them. It is Satan.”

“I agree. I doubt any American will want to cause harm to another American. I truly believe that.” Ben was convinced.

“I agree,” says Justin, “but how and why?”

Ben gives it some thought.

“God is in control of everythin’, right? I think we should see it as a warnin’ from Him. Emergency 9/11. A warnin’ of bigger destruction to come. We have to look at it from a different perspective. 9/11 happened ‘cause God let it happen. He has destroyed so many nations before us. Perhaps it is our turn?”

Justin agrees.

“Scary thought, really. But I also believe He will not destroy a nation if there are Believers among the people. Even if there is one Believer, God will keep it from being demolished.”

“I agree, bro. Americans need to start believin’. That is the only way.” Ben was sincere.

“Yeah. That’s what Maryam said. We should stop fightin’ each other and rather fight the enemy. Satan is the enemy. And she said to fight Him, is merely to do good deeds and to tell each other the truth, while endurin’ our sufferin’ with patience.”

Ben smiles.

“You’re right. I am very optimistic. But how to get the people to unite?”

They both look at each other expectantly.

“Just like Britney said. Don’t call the police… Don’t call the governor… Ring the alarm…Tell somebody in your town…Spread the word… Spread the word.”

They both nod their heads in agreement.

“She’s a soldier.”

Ben smiles.

“Really good to have you back, bro, but I need to go.”

“Where are you off to?” Justin asks curiously.

“I’m off to Good Hope,” Ben says.

“Why?”

“Maryam.”

For each one are successive angels before and behind him who protect him by the decree of Allah. Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves. And when Allah intends for a people ill, there is no repelling it. And there is not for them besides Him any patron.

Surah Ar-Ra’d (The Thunder) 13:11

See they not how many of those before them We did destroy? – generations We had established on the earth, in strength such as We have not given to you – for whom We poured out rain from the skies in abundance, and gave fertile streams flowing beneath their feet: yet for their sins We destroyed them, and raised in their wake fresh generations to succeed them.

Surah Al-An’am (The Cattle) 6:6

يصدق

“This is all only guidance, Ben,” says Maryam.

Ben stares at her confused.

Maryam notices and explains.

“We have to put the words into action.”

She takes a piece of paper and draws something quickly. It was a tree with roots and fruits.

“Knowledge is like a tree with well-developed roots. You see? The words are its leaves, but action, those are the fruits it will produce.”

Ben nods, but still seems confused.

“Let’s take for example the Qur’an verses for protection I gave you. Let’s look at this part here: I seek refuge in God from the accursed Satan…”

She circles these words with her pen.

“We seek refuge with God to protect us against Satan, but how? By simply saying these words? No. That is not enough.”

She gives him a quick look and continues.

“Firstly, we must believe in God, believe that He is One and be sincere with what we are saying. Then we need to really seek refuge with Him, by doing what He instructs. Only then will He shade us with His mercy and grace.”

Ben nods in understanding.

Maryam continues.

“By seeking refuge with God, we must therefore believe in Him and everything He has created, we must pray, we must take care of the poor, we must fast during the prescribed times, we must make every effort to do pilgrimage at least once in our lives and we must continue to share the good news of paradise and the assurance of the forgiveness of sins after sincere repentance, all this with patience, even in times of hardship. All hardship is from God too, do you understand, Ben?” Maryam looks at him hopefully.

“I think I do,” says Ben. “If I understand you correctly, we must do as God commands, in turn, He will guide us and protect us?”

“Correct,” says Maryam pleased.

“And, if we do good, good will come to us and if we do bad, bad will come to us,” Ben says confidently.

“You reap what you sow, correct,” says Maryam.

There is a loud knock at the open door.

“Excuse the interruption,” says the plump receptionist as she enters, “but it’s Mark. He’s hysterical. He’s askin’ for you.”

Maryam gets up quickly and heads to the door.

“Ben, I hope that helps, but I have to go. Peace be with you.” Maryam gestures good bye with her hand and follows the receptionist quickly down the hallway.

Ben looks at his watch.

“I have to confirm somethin’ with Florian.”

He leaves too.

محبي الطعام

Do they not see that We have created for them from what Our hands have made, grazing livestock, and then they are their owners?

And We have tamed them for them, so some of them they ride, and some of them they eat.

Surah Ya-sin 36:71 – 72

It is He who made for you from the green tree, fire, and then from it you ignite.

Surah Ya-sin 36:80

“I think we should keep it simple,” says Florian.

He stares at the computer screen as he continues talking on the phone.

“I mean like a barbeque or so. It would be best. We can all sit around a fire while barbequin’. I think Drew will like that.”

He frowns as he reads comments on his latest article. He shakes his head.

“No, I wanted to go Indian. Drew has expressed his love for Indian food when we last got together. Remember, he was a bit off. That was before he left…”

Florian’s face tenses up as a pop-up appears on his screen.

He sighs and breathes deeply.

His jaw muscles tense up.

“Of course. Beef burgers, chicken and lamb kebabs, flavors light and sweet, but also some spicy, mild heat and added smokiness. We’ll roast some vegetables and corn on the cob too. I’m sure Madison will like those and the mushroom puffs. They work well on the barbeque.”

He scrolls down and reads further comments on his article.

“At least we have fame and money… you’re still another broke working class man… Join us… join us.”

His face reddens and he sighs hard.

“Nothin’, simply more of the usual. The harassment continues.”

He closes his browser and opens a Word document.

“Stopped? I doubt it will ever stop.”

He types a quick note and then turns in his seat.

“Nothin’ I haven’t heard before. You’re crazy, comments on how I look, physically. Superficial fools. Some really low blows. These people really stoop to seedy levels.”

He does a gesture with his free hand as he says people.

“I know it sounds strange, Pete, but I don’t think they are people. And if they are people, then they’re merely puppets. Literally people bein’ controlled by them.”

He shakes his head in annoyance.

“Them, man. Haven’t you been listenin’ to me?”

He turns and faces his screen again.

A new Wi-Fi hotspot pops into the available menu of internet connections.

“The Bureau just popped in again. One guess why.” He clicks on it and just as he does that, a picture of a man with a gun to his head pops onto the screen.

“They’re threatenin’ my life again.”

He chuckles softly.

“My last article must have hit them where they don’t like it.”

He laughs more.

“About me?”

Florian breathes in deep and seems to collect himself.

“I have figured it out, bro. It is about me, yes. But it is about all of us. When you wake up in the matrix, they will come at you and you will also see that it is about you. And Mr Smith can be anyone. I don’t know how they take control of someone just like that…”

He snaps his finger and calmly continues.

“But, it’s about humankind, each and every one of us. Satan does not want a single one of us to go to the promised Paradise. That’s why people sound crazy when they say: they are after me. Why would they care about little you? But it is like that. Once they know you see them, they come at you harder. And when you tell others the truth, they do all they can to silence you.”

Florian decides to switch his computer off. He seems less annoyed and continues to listen to Peter-John on the other end.

“I used to believe that they are watchin’ us through our webcams and listenin’ to us by switchin’ on our microphones. Perhaps Snow White does exist and they spy on us via some satellite, who really knows, but…”

He rubs his eyes and stares at the wall behind his computer. On the white parrot board was the picture they took on the day that he gave that speech.

“Don’t you remember what Maryam said? She really got me thinkin’ you know, about the demons or as the Quran calls them, the Jinn and in this case, the bad Jinn.”

He nods his head.

“She said the Quran says that they watch us from where we cannot see them. You remember?”

He nods his head more and sighs.

“Yes, they plot against us and we are defenseless against them. Our only defense is God. Just like Maryam said. I believe that now more than ever.”

He turns in his seat and listens.

After a while he nods his head and continues.

“People think it is the elite, the rich and powerful, that want to be omnipresent and omnipotent, like God, and perhaps that’s true, who knows. Perhaps the human element needs to spy on us by means of technology, like they’re probably listenin’ to our conversation right now, don’t you hear that beep and fuzzy noise? It happens only when I speak about this. But any way… the humans might need technology, but the actual enemy, Satan and his followers, they don’t need technology to spy on us.”

He nods his head as if agreeing with something that Peter-John was saying.

“Indeed, bro. I cannot say. Whether it is that they are in another dimension lookin’ in on ours or whether they are in our reality, but only invisible to all our senses, is not clear. But the fact of the matter is, they can see us, we not them, unless your spiritual eye, for a lack of a better word, opens and you start seein’ them.”

He seems to mull this all in his head as he listens to Peter-John for a while.

“I agree. We should definitely do that.”

He nods his head.

“You’re right, Pete. But listen, I have to go. I still have a million and one things to do today. Have to head to the LAPD Hollywood station. There’s a source I need to see near Wilcox Avenue as well. Gonna hop on Little Santa Monica, ‘cause I suspect there’s gonna be a sig alert on Route 2. I need to get to Santa Monica by 6pm. Taylor asked me to join them there.”

Florian chuckles.

“Me, a ladies man? You’re full of jokes I see. Who’s the one charming all the ladies? One minute you’re with Madison, the next you’re with Maryam, don’t forget Jeanne.” He laughs more.

“Yeah, yeah. Where are you now?”

Florian lets out a big ‘yes’.

“See, just left Madison’s. You and the vegetarian.” He laughs more.

He nods his head.

“Sure thing, Pete. Don’t worry about the food. I’ll have everythin’ ready for Drew’s party. Peace, bro.”

He hangs up and puts the phone in his pants pocket.

“Let’s go Flo.”

He heads out.

O children of Adam, let not Satan tempt you as he removed your parents from Paradise, stripping them of their clothing to show them their private parts. Indeed, he sees you, he and his tribe, from where you do not see them. Indeed, We have made the devils allies to those who do not believe.

Surah Al-Araf (The Heights) 7:27

النزاهة

“Listen, I gotta bail. I had wayyyyy too much to eat. That animal style was hella good.”

She stretches more.

“Thought you said you gonna lay off the In-N-Out burgers from now on?” Taylor mocks her with a grin.

Kristin laughs.

“Deny myself of the few joys of this world, I’d rather die.” She starts running on one spot.

“How far you gonna go? You really make me feel bad.” Taylor takes a bite of her liquorice wand.

“I’m gonna try and do about two hours. I wanted to check out that roach coach near Polliwog Park.” Kristin squats flat on the rubber mat and stretches more.

“Polliwog Park? Is that your usual route?”

Taylor stares at her confused.

“Not really. I usually head from here to Hermosa and from there to Manhattan, less marine layer. It’s really bad. Hope we don’t end up like China.”

“909 as hell.” Taylor sighs.

Kristin starts doing breathing exercises.

“What have you decided about you know, what we found? Are you gonna publish?” She stares at Taylor.

“Stop with all the intensity. You gonna stare a hole right through me.”

Taylor gets off the bar stool and heads to the balcony.

“I’m not sure what to do.”

She looks at Kristin confused.

“You want answers from me? Again? This one is on you Taylor, you know, dude. Can’t help you with this one.”

Kristin gets off the floor and does a final few lunges, before rolling up her mat and putting it in a small back-pack.

“It’s an integrity thing.”

She sighs hard.

“Doing the right thing, knowin’ that no one is watchin’. Now I really don’t feel like I’m in a state of being whole and undivided.”

Taylor puts her head in her hands.

“I’m so confused, Kris. I have written so many things that I’m so convinced are true, but I’m always left in doubt. What if I am defaming people, writin’ things that are false? You know?”

She looks at Kristin imploringly.

“Taylor, you gotta stop doubtin’ yourself. You are one of the sincerest people I know. You would not be writin’ these things if there wasn’t some part in you that believed it was true.”

Kristin takes a sip of water and joins Taylor on the balcony.

“What’s more, you are a believer. God is your Guide. He is your conscience.”

“But if anything, He wouldn’t want me to be bad mouthing people without proof. Witnesses are a pivotal part in testimony when it comes to God.”

Kristin sighs hard.

“Taylor, you are not bad mouthin’ no one. You’re givin’ a voice to those who have none. I’ve not seen you focussin’ on slanderin’ or writin’ any libel.”

Taylor stares at her.

“This, Tails, it’s huge. You have uncovered somethin’ that is un-American. It goes against our very way of life.”

“I know, but…”

“But nothin’!”

Kristin interrupts her.

“Listen, I might not know much, but one thing I do know, is that you are one of the good guys. Taylor, you have more integrity than anyone I have ever met. And more, you have a different kind of integrity.”

Taylor eyes her with big eyes.

“Integrity is integrity. Doing the right thing, even if no one is watchin’.”

“Yes, that is true, but yours is different.”

“How’d you mean?”

Taylor was more confused than before.

Kristen smiles.

“You don’t know how special you are, Tails.”

She touches Taylor lightly on the shoulder.

“You do the right thing, knowin’ that God is watchin’ and to me, that is true integrity. Tellin’ the truth, knowin’ that He is watchin’. Bein’ whole and undivided in your faith in Him. Your integrity is towards God and that is much more sincere, in my books.”

Kristin puts her back-pack on her back.

She gives Taylor’s shoulder a last squeeze and starts heading to the front door.

“What you goin’ to be doin’?”

Taylor follows her down the passage.

“I have to head to a swap meet to pick up somethin’ to rock my look for Drew’s party. I have to get some cheap electronics too to work on that scrambler, remember?”

Kristin turns.

“So, you have decided to go to Drew’s party? This is news. Thought you two had beef?”

Taylor sighs.

“I’ve decided to love myself and to let it go. He was a douche, but I have forgiven him and have moved on. He deserves a second chance. I wish him only good things. This party is a chance to show him I still care. I do want things to be better for him.”

Kristin smiles.

“I like it, Tails. You deserve it too.”

She heads to the door.

“Hope you get what you lookin’ for.”

She opens the door and goes outside.

Taylor stands in the doorway.

“I hope there’s no sig alert on the 405. I really need to get to Santa Monica too.”

“What’s happening there?”

Kristin stares at Taylor curiously.

“It’s a secret.”

“Secret, hey? Thought we had none.”

Taylor laughs.

“No man, that’s just what they called it.”

Kristin stares at Taylor intrigued.

Taylor laughs shyly.

“The party is called ‘The Secret’. Jennifer invited me.”

As if it all suddenly makes sense, Kristin winks at Taylor.

“You’ve gone soft on those Mahomies, haven’t you?”

Taylor laughs.

“It’s just so touching to me, you know. A bunch of strangers throwin’ a birthday party for someone they have never met. That’s somethin’ special.”

Kristin laughs.

“You’re a real softy, dude.”

“Yeah, yeah. I’m investigating.”

“Whadever, dude. Safe me some cake.” Kristin winks and blows Taylor a kiss as she starts jogging down the road.

Taylor smiles and heads into the house.

She heads straight to the living room.

The swallow pops from the clock as she enters the room. Its high pitched shrieking alarm whines and gurgles were slowly becoming soft liquid chirps.

Taylor shakes her head.

“Can it really be that time already,” she says to herself.

“Tell me about it.”

“Jeanne! 909 as crap, dude!” Taylor holds her hand to her heart.

“Désolée,” Jeanne says casually and continues to brood on the sleigh sofa.

“What’s up with you?” Taylor calms down and takes a seat next to her.

Jeanne stares at her with a long frown and starts.

“It’s Daniel. He is on his way over. Qui est la dernière chose que je dois!” Jeanne says annoyed and tightens her grip around the teddy’s neck that was lying on her lap.

“That serious, hu?” says Taylor confused.

“Oui,” says Jeanne unaware of Taylor’s confusion.

“Earth to Jeanne. Dude, it’s me, Taylor. Not Kristin. You know I don’t understand French.” She sighs and gets off the sofa.

“Taylor, I am sorry. Please, désolée. My mind is not here. I am verry, I am not surre. I zon’t want to see Danielle, but…”

“I understand. You have mixed feelings. You don’t know whether you want to hug him or kill him.” Taylor finds the pad she was looking for and grabs a pen and starts scribbling.

“Oui. Yes.”

She drops the teddy on the sofa and focuses on Taylor.

“What are you doing?” She tries to sound more cheerful.

“Me? Just making a list of things to get at Joe’s; fruit and vegetables. I’m going on a juice cleanse.”

Jeanne rolls her eyes.

“I feel like going on a raw-food diet too. Get me some avocados, if you’ll let me bum a few bucks. I’ll pay you back when…”

“Chill. I know you’re still trying to break into The Industry. It’s a waitress’s life, dude,” she laughs.

Jeanne laughs too.

Taylor finishes her scribbling then stares at her reflection in the mirror. She fixes her hair and turns.

“Well, I’m off. I won’t be gone long. I need to get to Santa Monica around six. That gives me about four hours. Need to get to a swap meet too. Will I have time for it all,” Taylor says to herself as the bell to the front door rings.

Jeanne stiffens up.

Taylor gives her an encouraging look and leaves the room.

Jeanne gets up from the sofa and is short on Taylor’s heels.

“Is it him,” her voice low, almost a whisper.

“Looks like it. I can smell the English leather from here,” she winks at Jeanne and opens the door.

“Alright?” says Daniel nervously.

“Hey,” says Taylor, “please, do come inside. Those smell lovely. Kristin will be sorry she missed you.”

“Blimey. I got the chocolate croissants she’s so barmy about. It really is dog’s bollocks,” his usually crisp British clear, though his voice was low.

“Well, do excuse me,” Taylor makes her way past him.

“Dear, you’re all dressed up like a dog’s dinner,” Daniel removes his Panama hat; he was dressed in a blue suit with tan penny loafers, no socks.

Taylor stares at her clothes confused and then meets his cheerful face. She was dressed in baby pink skinny jeans and a white Mexican peasant blouse with a colorful scroll pattern along the rounded inner corners of the square neckline. She was wearing white, braided, flat sandals.

“I hope that’s a compliment,” Taylor stares at him, still confused.

“Don’t fret, dear. The knee’s bees. Simply brilliant,” he reassures her.

She nods and stares at the door as Jeanne finally shows her face.

“Well, I have to go. Nice to see you again.” She skips to her car along the side of the road.

“Cheerio,” says Daniel with a wave.

He turns and faces Jeanne.

“Miss Dieudonné,” he bows his head, with the hat to his chest, “your face shines like the sun upon my dreary heart.” He looks up and finds her eyes.

“Ever the charmer. You’re sweet talk is not going to work on me. I’m not Kristin.”

She turns and heads back into the house.

Daniel clears his throat and follows her into the lounge.

دليل

Indeed, within the heavens and earth are signs for the believers.

And in the creation of yourselves and what He disperses of moving creatures are signs for people who are certain in faith.

And in the alternation of night and day and in what Allah sends down from the sky of provision and gives life thereby to the earth after its lifelessness and in His directing of the winds are signs for a people who reason.

Surah Al-Jathiyah (The Crouching) 45:3 – 5

“I don’t understand why this is such a big deal? So we have a difference of belief, what does it matter?”

Daniel moves closer to Jeanne.

He was about to touch her shoulder when she moves away.

“Not a big deal? Are you listening to yourself? This is everything, Daniel. Everything.”

She shakes her head and moves towards the window.

Her skirt bounces with every quick step she takes.

She turns and faces him.

He loosens the top button of his shirt.

Jeanne stares at him as he does this.

She always liked him in this blue suit, specifically.

She shakes it off.

“Daniel, I’m sorry, but I cannot be with someone that does not share my convictions. That is just something I cannot compromise on.”

Daniel puts his hands to his head.

He rubs his face.

Takes a deep breath.

“Jeanne, Love, are you going to throw away everything, just because of something you have no proof of? Those books were written by men who wanted the rules to suit them. Bugger what the rest has to say or think. Not to mention all the money they make from it.”

Daniel tries to establish eye contact, but Jeanne averts his penetrating gaze.

“You religious fanatics are all mugs. These people diddle you, nick and pinch every last penny you have and all you do is give more and more.”

He tries to calm himself.

“You can’t even make a decision about your own family, without consulting a priest or a deacon. You’re all so gormless. I’m gob-smacked that an intelligent woman like yourself can’t see that they are all dodgy. Those books only exploit the blinkered.”

Jeanne puts her arms protectively across her chest.

“That may be, Daniel, but my belief is not based purely on some books.”

He rolls his eyes.

“Then what? Where is your evidence?”

He sounded impatient, but he remained calm.

She relaxes her arms.

Gestures with her hands to her body.

“Me. I am evidence enough.”

Daniel stares at her confused.

“Meaning?” His voice softer. He too seems to relax.

Jeanne paces about a bit, before she turns and faces him.

“Daniel. Two eyes, two ears, a mouth a nose, my arms my legs. My brain. The way everything works together in harmony. This is all evidence to me that a God exists. Those books as you say are simply a way for me to make sense of what I see in myself.”

She shakes her head.

“I know you believe that we crawled from the sea. I respect that. Why can’t you respect me?”

Daniel moves closer to Jeanne.

“My love, I do respect you. Even if I don’t agree with your convictions.”

Jeanne meets his eyes.

She cringes.

She always got lost in Daniel’s eyes. Ever since that first interview in France. He had her heart. To see him now, made it so much harder for her.

“Danielle, s’il te plait, if you respect me, you would respect zat I cannot be wit zomeone zat,” she sighs, “Dieu, pourquoi doit-il être si difficile.”

She puts her hands to her head.

“I do love it when you say my name like that. When your English goes out the window like that, it makes my heart melt more.”

Jeanne shakes her head.

“Homme fou.” She smirks with a gentle smile.

Daniel approaches her more.

“At last, a smile.” He tries to put a hand to her shoulder.

Jeanne moves away before he could though.

“Danielle, je t’en prie, I beg you. Let me be.”

She turns and heads to the front door.

She opens it and gestures for Daniel to leave.

“You should never have come here, Danielle. Daniel.”

Daniel stares at her for a moment, and then exits the house. He turns and faces Jeanne.

“You have my heart, Miss Dieudonné. I will not rest, till you are mine.”

He puts his Panama hat on his head.

“Go back to England, Daniel. Find yourself a nice wife and forget about me,” the tremor in her voice made her sound unsure of herself.

“We were doomed from the start. French and English don’t gel well. I should have listened to my father when he told me to stay away from you.”

Daniel stares at her in silence for a moment. He says.

“Then why did he give me your address in America?”

Jeanne didn’t know how to respond.

“I won’t give up without a fight, Miss Dieudonné.”

He nods his head.

“Mark my words.”

Jeanne stares at him, as he turns and walks away.

“Dieu me donne la force s’il vous plait.”

لا يمكن ترك

Ben was lying in bed.

He kept tossing and turning.

Mostly, he kept staring at his wrist watch and then at the one against the wall. It’s tick-tock-ing the only noise that disturbed the aria of the night.

His phone beeps. It’s a message from Kimberly.

23:59

Get some sleep, Ben. Please.

Ben sighs as he puts the phone down. Every year it was the same thing and ever since last year, Kimberly has been sending him these messages almost like clockwork right before midnight. She knew him very well. Sometimes, Ben thought, too well. It was like Kimberly could see things about him that not even he could.

Instead of listening to Kimberly’s well intended advice, Ben gets out of bed and heads to the kitchen. He decides to only switch on the small cupboard light, right next to the refrigerator. He scans the top of the cupboard. All the dry ingredients stood together next to the utensils he would need. He checks on the perishables in the fridge? Everything was ready.

He checks on the waffle maker. The rectangular shaped metal plates were still in the iron. Today, as always, he replaces it with the heart shaped plates. He decides to give it a thorough cleaning before plugging the iron into the wall. Satisfied, Ben looks at the time. It was 00:40. Still 6 hours and 20 minutes then he can start cooking, but what to do now?

Ben contemplates what he was doing. Ever since… then, he does the same thing and he was always disappointed.

Every year he pulls out all the stops, but she, she never shows.

It was all for nothing.

But he couldn’t let go.

He refused.

He only loved her.

His dear Claire.

“Lord, please be with her, especially today.

Amen.”

He switches off the cupboard light and heads to his study.

He focusses on the Demolition man’s message.

What does it mean?

He takes a seat at his computer.

Do the twins hold the key?

Perhaps Niall can shed some light.

Ben sighs.

“Where is Niall?”

الحمدلله

“We can’t keep waiting here.”

He moves uneasy from one window to the next, peeping through an opening in the curtain as he does. He turns and faces the rest of them.

“We have to move, please. It’s getting really bad out there.”

He closes the curtain and goes flat on the ground, with his head between his knees.

“Relax, Diqi. Sabr.”

This was the guy standing in the far corner of the dark room.

Sadiq mumbles something in Arabic and continues to sit with his head between his knees.

“We can’t stay for much longer though, Bones. What are we going to do?” He moves from the dark corner, closer to the computer where Bones was busy checking for any news from Codes. He was dressed in all black. Only his head was uncovered. He had a short beard.

“I don’t know, Amr. I haven’t heard anything from him in such a long time…” he trails off.

The guy sitting next to him by the computer gives him a reassuring look and says.

“Brother, he is okay. Don’t look so despondent.”

Bones nods his head.

“Thanks. I am sure he is too. If something happened to him, I would know. We’re…”

He trails off again as his email account opens. There was no new news from Codes.

Disappointed, he starts to compose a new mail.

Bro

I don’t know if you’re still getting my messages. Sorry, but we can’t stay here anymore, Codes.

They have made us. No surprises there. It was only a matter of time.

I have no idea what to do now. We can’t take this computer with, again. It was too much trouble getting it here in the first place.

I am safe though.

Saliem and his friends have been really awesome. I wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for them.

God works in mysterious ways, Codes. I think I finally believe.

Can’t believe it took these Believers to help me to see the light.

I pray that you are safe.

We’ll find a way. I will not rest till we are together again. Like we should be. A part of me is missing without you, Codes.

I miss you more than words could ever express.

I miss you, Codes.

Love

Bones.

He scans the email one last time before pressing send and logging off. He switches the computer off and faces Saliem next to him.

“I’m ready, we can go.”

“Finally!” Shouts Sadiq. He is immediately on his feet.

Amr goes to the door and listens.

“It’s quiet. Do you see anything?”

He gestures for Saliem to have a look out of the window to his back.

Sadiq does the same on his side.

They both mumble something in Arabic.

“We’re good to go. I will go first. You follow me.”

Bones nods in agreement.

They both wait by the door.

Just as they were about to open it, there are three short knocks.

“They found us! I told you we should have left long ago!” Sadiq takes what looks like a baton into his hand and gets ready to whack whoever was at the door.

“They couldn’t have found us, not here, not so quickly.” Saliem says confused.

Amr shakes his head.

“When are you going to start believing me?” He doesn’t wait for an answer. Rather, he peeks through the window nearest the door to see if he could get a glimpse of who was there. All he could see though was the deserted street.

Someone knocks three times again.

This time, Bones peeks through the key hole.

Before any of the guys could stop him, he opens the door.

“All praise be to God!”

مفاجأة

Ben was busy in the garden.

It was still early afternoon, but the red ether skies made it look dark.

He was in the middle of the labyrinth. He was going to pull out all the plants, especially the ones that reminded him of Claire. He had finally accepted that she will never have anything to do with him again. She didn’t believe him, that he wasn’t drinking, definitely not while he was driving. That he wasn’t in the car when they made the accident. That was a lie too. He and Kimberly were never in an accident. But she refuses to listen.

He was about to pull out the rat-eating-pitcher-whatever, a smile plays across his face as he remembers Claire’s words, when he notices something moving to his right. He focuses on the bushes. He takes the spade in his hand and gets it ready to smack whoever wanted to jump him.

He was about to ask who’s there, when he saw the orange coat. It was a cat. He stares at it more. It wasn’t just any cat. He puts the spade down.

“Mr Biggs.”

He drops to his knees as the cat comes running towards him. It jumps into his open arms and starts licking the tears rolling down Ben’s cheeks.

“Mr Biggs… How? What are you doing here?” He gets up and holds the cat to his chest. He buries his face in its fur and hugs it more. The cat just purrs softly and continues licking Ben.

“What are you doing here, Mr Biggs. Where’s…” He stares at her, as she slowly appears from behind the bushes.

His Claire.

Dear Claire.

Just then he notices two falling stars so close, it looked like they just missed the roof of the house. Then a third that definitely landed not too far away.

Claire notices too, but was more focused on Ben.

She smiles.

Ben stares and smiles too.

“Claire.”

And we have, (from of old), adorned the lowest heaven with Lamps, and We have made such (Lamps) (as) missiles to drive away the Evil Ones, and have prepared for them the Penalty of the Blazing Fire.

Surah Mulk (The Kingdom) 67:5

حب

“Be a dear and fetch me another roll of yarn, please hon,” says Sarah Jones as she takes a sip of her chamomile tea.

“Make sure you get the turquoise, not the blue or green. They’re not the same. You’ll spot it easy enough. You left your eyes in the kitchen, you’ll need them.”

She was busy knitting in the den of their ground floor apartment, dressed in a warm, pink, three-quarter sleeve cotton duster with her cream shawl draped across her shoulders.

Bob smiles.

“My sweet Sarah, when are you joining me on the porch?” He kisses her lightly on the forehead as he heads into the kitchen to get his spectacles, before heading to the built-in cupboard in the hallway.

He returns with a new ball of yarn.

“Sorry, love. Let me join you now. Be a dear and take this. It’s coming along nicely, but the shell took forever. I dread that I might not be done in time. My fingers are so stiff and refuse to listen.”

Bob eyes her curiously.

“You’ll be done in plenty. Come let me help you up.”

He plants his feet firmly on the carpet and supports his wife as she gets off the high wooden chair.

“Give us a kiss, before my wife sees us,” Bob jokes.

Sarah turns.

She gently puts her hand to his cheek and admires him for a while. Her grayish-green eyes lovingly peer into his. She smiles and gently presses her lips to meet his.

“Come, let’s go.”

Slowly they make their way to the veranda at the back of their home. The backyard wasn’t big. A small patch of grass started at the edge of the wooden deck. Small flower pots were neatly lined against the far back fence, mostly different colored carnations, golden marigolds and a few blue as well as pink orchids.

A birdhouse hung from the heart shaped arch of the porch edge. The arch a spectacular sight of green and orange as trumpet vine covered most of the wooden structure.

The sun was about to set. Sarah takes her seat by the small stand as Bob heads into the kitchen. He returns with a tray of homemade ginger snaps and a fresh pot of tea.

“You’ve been at it since the crack of dawn. Thought you’re gonna stay in bed a tad longer this morning. You were restless all night.”

He pours them both some tea and takes his seat next to his wife.

Sarah sighs. She stares at Bob, eyeing him over her glasses.

“The pain was unbearable. I will have to get something else from Dr Brown. This osteoarthritis is a nasty business. She puts her knitting down, rubs her fingers and takes a sip of her tea.

“Not too much of that, Bob, please. You know better.”

She shakes her head disapprovingly as he adds his fourth spoon of sugar to his tea.

“Some sweetness for the bitter chill, sweet Sarah.”

Sarah laughs.

She takes her knitting and spreads it open across her lap. She gestures for him to look.

“You remember this?” She points to the brown-branded, spiral-horn sea shell that was the featured art of the quilt she was painstakingly knitting.

“No. Should I?” says Bob plainly. He takes another ginger snap.

Sarah smiles and nods her head.

“How could you forget, Bob?” Sarah smiles sincerely.

“I am old, Sarah, I forget.”

“Wish you’d remember that when you keep reminding me that you can still think for yourself.” She eyes him over her spectacles.

She continues.

“I’m not upset, dear. Just sad that you can’t share in the memories no more. The many tans we had, the turquoise waters. You brought me this when you went for a walk while I read.”

“Our 30th anniversary?” Bob asks with a frown.

“31st,” says Sarah pleased. “The kids sent us to Florida, so sweet.”

“I can’t remember that, try as I might.” Bob stares off into the sky.

“To be honest, how could you?” Sarah takes a ginger snap and takes a small bite and savors it in her mouth.

She sighs.

“You slipped into a diabetic coma. It is me that forgets. Sorry, love.”

Bob rests a hand on hers.

“Sweet, Sarah.” He kisses her hand and gently rubs it.

“We celebrated so much that we got careless. And you? Stubborn as always.” She reminisces.

“You came running to me with the shell. I was so focused on your bleeding toe, that I didn’t hear a word you said about the horn and how it reminded you of a trumpet. It was chaos.”

Bob closes his eyes and appears to be collecting his thoughts.

“The more you wanted to baby me, the more I told you that I can take care of myself. You were such a pain. I remember now.” Bob laughs.

“Strange. That day I thought I lost you. I kept the shell as a reminder; a last gift from you, if I may be frank. Guess that’s why I’m doing this, ‘cause I’m grateful for these extra years after that day.”

“Always so gloomy, Sarah. Can’t we enjoy the last bit of sunshine?” He winks at her.

Sarah smiles.

“Any news from Jill? I really need that recipe. Peter-John was adamant. Quite a forceful young man when he wants to be.” A smile plays across her face.

“You said it. I’ve always been fond of him. Drew’s blessed to have them all. They’re really like family.”

He smiles.

“No news from Jill though. Put your mind at ease. She’ll send you the apple pie recipe when she’s back in Toronto. There’s still plenty of time for you to get it to them.” He kisses her hand again.

“I got mail from Pam though. She found this homemade remedy that apparently aids with the treatment of diabetes, even reverses it completely.” Bob eyes Sarah.

“Really? Must be expensive. You’re meds already cost a fortune. And with this new health care, I really don’t know.”

Bob smiles.

“No, it’s nothing expensive. Simple ingredients: wheat, barley, black seeds and tree gum.”

Bob takes in Sarah’s skeptical look.

“Sounds too good to be true.” She continues with her knitting.

Bob sighs softly.

“I did do a bit of research. No real evidence of the doctor, but many blogs are saying that the concoction works and succeeded in reducing sugar levels.”

Sarah nods her head.

“Wonderful. Black seeds, you say? You mean black cumin? Can we find that here? That and the gum?”

Bob sighs.

“Walmart does sell the black seed oil. I’m sure we can use that. The gum I’m not so sure, but the web does show that Spectrum Chemicals and Laboratory products in Gardena do sell it.”

He pours them both more tea.

“No harm in trying it I suppose. What harm can it do?”

Bob agrees.

“I’ll definitely make sure we get it and we’ll see what happens.”

He kisses Sarah’s hand.

She puts her knitting down and puts her hand on top of his.

“Any news from her, Bob?” She sounded hopeful.

He looks at her dismayed.

“Nothing, sweet Sarah.”

He sighs.

She sighs.

“Kimberly Amber-Jane has disappeared without a trace.”

They both stare off into the sunset.

Do you not see that Allah causes the night to enter the day and causes the day to enter the night and has subjected the sun and the moon, each running its course for a specified term, and that Allah, with whatever you do, is Acquainted?

Surah Luq’man 31:29

شفاء

“Please, M, stay with me tonight. I am scared,” says Mark.

Maryam gets onto the bed and snuggles next to him.

“Don’t worry, I will stay with you. Go to sleep. She gently strokes his head and kisses him on his forehead. She starts singing a gentle lullaby.

♪♫ ♪♫ ♪♫ ♪♫

Hush my little baby, warm and soft you lie,

Slip away to dreamland, lulla lullaby

All the fleecy lambkins, cuddle down to rest

Birdies snuggle warmly in your cosy nest,

Sleep and rest the sun says, as he leaves the sky

Hush my little baby, lulla lullaby

♫♪ ♪♫ ♪♫ ♪♫ ♪

Mark slowly drifts to sleep. His fingers loosen their grip on Maryam’s hand.

Maryam wipes away the perspiration on his forehead and kisses him gently.

Then, she goes stiff.

She stares at the wall and focuses on the spot where the wall and the ceiling meet.

Her eyes go immediately red and tears fill her eyes.

She puts her arms around Mark and starts praying.

“A’uzu bil Allah min al shaytan al rajeem, Bismillah al rahman al Rahim.”

I seek protection from Satan the outcast and I begin in the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

She continues to stare at the spot in the corner and continues to recite the last three chapters of the Qur’an: Surahs Al-Ikhlas, Al-Falaq and An-Nas. She recites the verses of The Throne and repeats all off this over and over again.

She falls asleep next to Mark, her lips still uttering the words softly as she does.

***

The next day, Maryam wakes up to the cheerful chattering of children’s voices.

She gets up and looks about the room confused.

She remembers.

Mark.

She sits up more and was about to speak, when Mark comes to her excitedly.

“You destroyed the boogeyman, M! I saw you do it. You grabbed him in your hand like this,” he takes a piece of paper and crumbles it in his tiny fist, “then you took him out of the room, out of the building and you threw him away.” He tosses the piece of paper against the wall.

Mark jumps onto the bed and hugs her.

“Thank you, Maryam.” He kisses her softly on her cheek.

“You saved me.”

Maryam was confused. She was not sure what Mark was talking about. Before she could ask, Mark adds.

“Happy birthday, by the way,” Mark gestures to the rest of the children, “come on.”

They all start singing happy birthday.

Maryam didn’t know what to do.

Last thing she remembers was lying next to Mark, reciting the protection verses of the Quran over and over again. She couldn’t sleep and she still felt like she didn’t sleep at all. When she opened her eyes, she was still reciting the verses.

Did she fall asleep?

What was Mark talking about?

He did seem different though. There was more color to his face and his shoulders were less slumped in.

Maryam noticed something else too.

Mark was smiling.

For the first time since he came to Good Hope, he was actually smiling.

That alone made Maryam very happy.

Very happy indeed.

She smiles as the children continue to sing.

“All thanks be to God.”

تنوير

“Can you see?”

In memory of my uncle

Hendrik Johannes Jooste

Surah Al-Ikhlas

(The Sincerity)

Say, “He is Allah , who is One,

Allah, the Eternal Refuge.

[_He neither begets nor is born, _]

Nor is there to Him any equivalent.”

Surah Al-Falaq

(The Daybreak)

Say, “I seek refuge in the Lord of daybreak

From the evil of that which He created

And from the evil of darkness when it settles

And from the evil of the blowers in knots

And from the evil of an envier when he envies.”

Surah An-Nas

(Mankind)

Say, “I seek refuge in the Lord of mankind,

The Sovereign of mankind.

The God of mankind,

From the evil of the retreating whisperer –

Who whispers [evil] into the breasts of mankind –

From among the jinn and mankind.”

Ayat Al-Kursi (The Verse of The Throne)

Allah – there is no deity except Him, the Ever-Living, the Sustainer of [all] existence. Neither drowsiness overtakes Him nor sleep. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. Who is it that can intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows what is [presently] before them and what will be after them, and they encompass not a thing of His knowledge except for what He wills. His throne extends over the heavens and the earth, and their preservation tires Him not. And He is the Most High, the Most Great.

[_ Surah Al- Baqarah (The Cow) 2:255 _]

Thank you to all these wonderful people, without whom this story would not be the same.

May the Lord bless you abundantly.

Peace and love

Khaleel

Adams, M. (2014, September 3). 29 Signs you were born and raised in Southern California. Retrieved May 5, 2016, from Matadornetwork.com: http://matadornetwork.com/life/29-signs-born-raised-southern-california/

Ager, S. (2016). Useful phrases in British English. Retrieved May 7, 2016, from Omniglot.com: http://www.omniglot.com/language/phrases/english-br.htm

Anglotopia. (2016). Anglotopia’s Top 100 Favorite British Slang Words and Phrases. Retrieved May 7, 2016, from Anglotopia.net: http://www.anglotopia.net/british-identity/humor/top-100-most-beautiful-british-slang-words-and-phrases/

Ardell, J. (2015, July 1). 10 Things To Know Before Moving to L.A. Retrieved May 5, 2016, from GlobalYodel.com: http://www.globalyodel.com/yodels/10-things-to-know-before-moving-to-l-a/

CornellUniversity. (2015). Bird Guide – Western Scrub-Jay. Retrieved May 6, 2016, from AllAboutBirds.com: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Western_Scrub-Jay/id

Farrar, J. C. (1998). Hopelessly devoted to you. (Olivia Newton-John. Mariah Carey, Performer) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ngkkD4WEL10, Australia.

KaisDukes. (2011). Chapter 6 – Surat-l-an-an’am (The Cattle). Retrieved May 7, 2016, from Corpus.Quran.com: http://corpus.quran.com/translation.jsp?chapter=6&verse=99

Kushwaha, R. (2015). Diabetic – Get rid of it – Just try it. Retrieved May 6, 2016, from Creative.Sulekha.com: http://creative.sulekha.com/diabetic-get-rid-of-it-just-try-it_423144_blog

LetsPlayKidsMusic.com. (2015). Lullaby Lyrics: 9 Best Songs for Babies. Retrieved May 5, 2016, from Let’s Play Music: http://www.letsplaykidsmusic.com/songs-for-babies-lullabies/

LoveToKnow. (2016). Common UK Expressions and Slang. Retrieved May 7, 2016, from Grammar.Yourdictionary.com: http://grammar.yourdictionary.com/slang/common-uk-expressions-slang.html

Mitchell, D. (2013, September 01). 3 Unusual Natural Substances for type 2 Diabetes. Retrieved May 7, 2016, from EmaxHealth.com: http://www.emaxhealth.com/1275/3-unusual-natural-substances-type-2-diabetes

Peckerar, M. (n.d.). Words And Phrases Only People From Southern California Use. Retrieved May 6, 2016, from RantPlaces.com: http://www.rantplaces.com/2015/03/25/words-and-phrases-only-people-from-southern-california-use/

Quran.com. (2016). The Noble Quran. Retrieved May 5, 2016, from LegacyQuran.com: http://quran.com/

Spears, B., Adams, W., Jettman, O., Ingrosso, S., Preston, A., & Cunningham, R. (2016, May 9). Work Bch. (B. Spears, Performer) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPharU5r778, America.

TheFlowerExpert. (2016, May 5). The Flower Expert. Retrieved May 5, 2016, from Theflowerexpert.com: http://www.theflowerexpert.com/

WeOccupyEarth. (2013, November 10). World Bank – Karen Hudes. Retrieved May 9, 2016, from WeOccupyEarth.com: https://weoccupyearth.wordpress.com/world-bank-karen-hudes/


Family

Bismillah “By seeking refuge with God, we must therefore believe in Him and everything He has created, we must pray, we must take care of the poor, we must fast during the prescribed times, we must make every effort to do pilgrimage at least once in our lives and we must continue to share the good news of paradise and the assurance of the forgiveness of sins after sincere repentance, all this with patience, even in times of hardship. All hardship is from God too, do you understand, Ben?” Maryam looks at him hopefully. “Knowledge is like a tree with well-developed roots. You see? The words are its leaves, but action, those are the fruits it will produce.” InshaAllah

  • ISBN: 9781311663108
  • Author: Khaleel Jooste
  • Published: 2016-05-10 17:05:08
  • Words: 14328
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