Thu. Feb 15th, 2024

Continues.

“I don’t think we can be friends. We are

from two different worlds.”

***

An hour or two ago, I had stridden into the

sickbay, hopeful that the end of my drip

session signaled brighter days ahead. But

here now, I headed back to class, my hope

drained to nothing. What would become of

Cinderella without her fairy godmother?

Half-way up the stairs, I stood face-to-face

with Raheem, the last person I wanted to

see at the moment. He stood motionless for

a second too long, giving me the idea that

his haughtiness wouldn’t let him step away

for me to pass.

I side-stepped, but he mirrored my move,

making me almost bump into him. Clenching

my fists, I sidestepped again, but there he

stood, blocking my way yet again.

“What’s your problem?” I asked, my voice

softer than what I’d gone for. Curse my ill

health and today’s news.

Raheem grinned. He obviously cared nothing

about my off mood. If anything, it seemed

to intrigue him. “Aren’t we destined to

always run into each other right here?”

As subtle as I could, I examined my

surroundings. I noted his point. We stood at

approximately the same place we’d stood on

our first meeting. But today’s meeting

differed greatly, as evident in the way he

stared at me. His eyes held no trace of hate

or irritation. Rather, he regarded me as he

would a friend. Did he see me as a friend?

After the time we’d spent trying to unravel

the Bloody Miri case, it would only be

natural for friendship to ensue.

“Are you okay?” he asked, searching my

eyes.

“Why would I be?” I asked. “You make me

sick.”

Smiling, he bit his lower lip. “Ah. Look what

effect I have on you. Intense.”

“Do you need something?” I asked.

He seemed to ponder over my question for a

moment or two. Done, he shrugged. “None

that I know of.”

“Then I want you out of my way,” I said.

“Such a hurry to get rid of me,” Raheem

said, clutching his chest in mock pain. “And

just this morning, you badly needed me back

as your seatmate. Touché.”

“What? I never said anything like that.” Or

had I?

Raheem chuckled, his eyes twinkling in a

way that made my heart leap. Although he

could not see the colors of emotions inside

of me, I inwardly cringed at the unseen

mess unfolding.

“So you think, Miss Brown,” Raheem said.

“So you think. Weren’t you the one trying so

hard to get madam Charity to make me

return to your seat?”

I never had any intentions of making him

return to my seat. If anything, I wanted him

to rot somewhere else. But I would not

stoop so low to explain myself to him. And

he probably knew better than to expect an

answer.

“You lied about the Hypermetropia,” I said.

A proud smile settled on his face. For a

moment, I felt like a pupil staring up into the

proud face of her teacher after solving a

brain-tangling equation.

“Of course,” he said. “Oh, and about what

you said back there, thanks.”

I couldn’t believe I’d allowed him engage me

in a conversation. I could just walk away,

make it all end. But every fiber of my being

willed me to stay back, and against my will,

I found myself easing into the discussion.

“What?” Although I knew nothing good could

come out of this, I had to know what he

referred to.

“About me looking like a rockstar.” Raheem

punctuated his statement with a drop dead

gorgeous wink.

“I didn’t mean that,” I said in a futile

attempt to shield my reputation, although I

knew the harm had already been done. Now

he saw me as no better than those other

girls drooling over him. How could I have let

the rockstar thing slip?

“Sure you didn’t,” he teased.

“I didn’t mean that! I would never

compliment someone like you.” My face

wrinkling with disgust, I made a fanning

gesture.

He glued his lean body to the balustrades.

“Someone like me?”

I couldn’t help but notice the open road

calling out to me. With nothing in my way, I

could leave now. But here I stood, rooted to

the spot, spelled by Raheem’s irresistible

aura. He spelt trouble. Him and all the

messy emotions he brought with him.

I’d thought staying away from him would

come easy. But here I stood, barely even

one day away from him, but already aching

to spend just as much time with him. Days

ago, I’d been in a hurry to rid myself of the

hellishly addictive emotions he triggered.

But for some reason I could not fathom, I

died to feel them all over again. I’d never

been such a fool.

Knowledge of Stella’s departure had left me

vulnerable, emotional. And I couldn’t do a

thing about it. Against my will, my mind had

worked to find someone with which to fill in

the void she’d left. And it chose Raheem.

I stared into the sinfully handsome face that

rubbed me off speech. As though he’d been

waiting for me to hold his gaze for the

umpteenth time, he asked, “Do you have a

problem with me?”

Of course. Had I not had a problem with

him, I would be able to gain control of my

limbs and escape from his line of sight.

“All racists can rot, for all I care,” I said.

Raheem’s brows furrowed. But why would

he be bothered about the statement I’d just

made? More than once, I had already

clarified my stand against racists, and

although I cared nothing about how he felt, I

noted he hadn’t been bothered then. So why

now?

“I am no racist,” he said.

Although I wanted to stick to my first

assumption about him being racist, I knew

holding on to it would only be an act of

foolery. His actions these past few days

said a lot, kicking racism out of the

question. His hate for Sir Amadi had a

reason other than racism. And then, the

sluttiness of Cynthia and his other fangirls

had earned them his attitude. I doubted he’d

act any different had they been white.

A wry smile turned up the corners of my lips

as I remembered the case with Ingrid, a

science student from Madrid. Obviously,

she’d also thought him as racist, and her

white skin as an advantage. But she irritated

him no less.

And me? Did he despise me? Two days ago,

I’d scream out a ‘yes’. And I’d be as sure of

it as I was of being a girl. Now, though, yes

seemed wrong. And I had many points with

which to back up this claim.

While there were many people to choose a

sidekick from, he had chosen me. Who

would want to spend so much time with

someone he despised? If he despised me,

wouldn’t he treat me the same way he did

the others? But here I was, with him trying

hard to engage me in a conversation.

With a snap of his finger, I snapped out of

my thoughts. He gawked at me, still

expecting me to speak. I thought back to

the statement hovering in the air; the

statement of racism.

“Okay, maybe you aren’t racist,” I said,

defeated. “But you receive special treatment

from everyone. You don’t even try to

discourage it.”

“How on earth am I supposed to discourage

it?” Raheem asked.

I shrugged one shoulder. “You could just ask

them to stop or something. Give them the

idea.”

He held up a finger. “Wait. You’re jealous?”

Jealous? Was that the word? Prior to now, I

could have sworn Raheem had a devilishly

sharp brain, especially after he successfully

exposed Nengi’s schemes. But now, he had

altered my perception.

“Excuse me?” I asked. “Why on earth would

I be jealous of you?”

“Wow,” he said. “If looks could kill. You

should go easy on me, Toria. Keep treating

me like this and you’ll be driving me back to

my ruined country. I bet you’d love to hear

of my death.”

“Don’t joke about things like that,” I said.

Just to let him know my I’d heard my

petname slip off his tongue, and that my

opinion about it hadn’t changed, I added,

“Rah.”

Although I acted like I only intended to

irritate him, deep down, I wanted him to get

used to my nick for him. His numerous

fangirls flashed across my mind. I hoped

none of them had the guts to ‘Rah’ him. Not

even in a slutty chit-chat with their friends,

or in the dirty black box of their minds.

I cringed at the thoughts running through my

mind. Did I even have any right to think like

this? To be jealous over him?

Diverting my mind from this evil emotion

surging through me, I watched him feign

indifference as though he hadn’t been

pissed off by the petname. Although he only

did it to match my nonchalance, I felt a

flicker of hope within me.

My wandering mind returned to our ongoing

conversation. Securing my attention, he

said, “I’m only repeating the things you said

when Sir Amadi introduced me to the class.

According to you, I’d be blown to bits in the

twinkle of an eye.”

At the snap of his fingers, I cursed the

moment I’d said those awful words to him.

Nobody deserves to be blown to bits. I

shuddered at a mental image of tens of

people, maybe hundreds, lying helplessly on

the ground as the Iraqi war raged on. These

people had families. Families that would

never see them again.

Families like the Kadirs’ who had lost a

member in the Baghdad suicide bombing. As

much as I wanted to pry, to find out about

his other family members, if they were all

safe, and how they’d coped during these

heated times in Iraq, I knew he would not

welcome my probing.

Raheem’s mock innocence stole me over.

“What now, Miss Brown? You don’t look so

thrilled about me dying anymore. What has

changed?”

“Only fools joke about death,” I said.

“Blowing me to bits was your idea. So we’re

together in this, I guess. Seems we’re stuck

being partners. Seatmates. Sleuths. And

now, partners in foolery. How exciting.” A

bubble of laughter erupted from his lips.

The other Raheem deserved being blown to

bits. But not this one. Now I felt like a

horrible person. “I’m sorry I said that.”

“What?” he asked.

“About you being…blown to bits. I was just

so annoyed, I—”

“Don’t apologize,” he said.

I’d been wrong about him all along. He

should at least let me apologize. It would

make me feel more human than monstrous.

“I really am sorry.”

“You said you wished me dead because you

were annoyed,” he said. “Annoyed about

what exactly?”

“You were an a-s,” I said. His subtle nod

told me to elaborate. “First, you called me a

sleepwalking zombie. And as though that

wasn’t enough, you regarded me as though I

were less than vermin.”

“Bullocks! I made you feel like vermin?”

“Less than vermin.” I corrected. A wry smile

stretched my lips.

“Now I admit I really was an a-s.” Mirroring

my smile, he raked a hand through his hair.

“Would you blame me though? I’m forced to

school here, and as though that isn’t

enough, I have tons of fangirls to deal with.

When I should be thinking of a way to

convince my dad to join us here where it’s

safe.”

I gasped. “Your dad is still in Iraq?”

Raheem raised his brow at me and I knew

I’d overstepped my boundaries. I took a step

back as though the literal move would be

any good.

“Sorry,” he said. “But I don’t discuss my

family with strangers.”

“Oh,” I said, hoping I looked as indifferent as

I sounded.

“Yeah, so, how about we try to be friends?

Like get to know each other all over again?”

“Don’t flatter yourself,” I said. “I don’t think

we can ever be. We are from two different

worlds.”

“Huh?” Raheem said, his voice drenched

with an amusement I couldn’t understand.

“Relax, please. I’m not asking for a date or

anything. You intrigue me is all. So let’s

take a shot at it?”

“I intrigue you?”

“Scratch that. Toria, I want to be your

friend. Will you reject me?”

He wanted to be my friend? He had to be

teasing. I stared into his eyes for a clue.

Anything to give him away. But found him

eagerly waiting. The genuinity of his

proposal unnerved me. Friendship was no

big deal. But Raheem had made it clear

from the start that he could go on just fine

with close to zero friends. So what had

changed?

“Why me?” I blurted out. “You reject

everyone else. I should give you a taste of

your own medicine.”

“Fair enough.”

Silence built a bridge between us. And while

this seemed to unnerve me, I couldn’t say

the same about Raheem. Taking his time, he

gawked at me as though seeing me for the

first time. With folded hands, I looked away,

only to hear him burst into laughter.

Before I could ask, he said, “The perfume I

wore the first day made you sick and drove

you away from me. But today’s perfume

seems to win you over.”

I rolled my eyes. He needed more than a

good perfume to win me over.

“I thought you were going somewhere?” I

asked. “I mean, you were hurrying down the

stairs.”

“Yeah,” he said. “I was headed somewhere.

But that won’t be necessary now. I’ve got

what I was going to fetch. You.”

I smiled. Although I knew he’d joked about

it.

He smiled back. “There. You should always

smile. Hiding your beauty behind a grim face

isn’t cool.”

“And hiding the Western High student in you

behind stubbles, a stylish hair and unfitting

shoes isn’t cool either.”

When he clenched his teeth, I knew I’d

struck a nerve. Clearing his throat, he said,

“Go get your stuff. I’ll wait for you at the

lot.”

I opened my mouth to speak, but he cut me

off. “Unless you want to trek home. But I

doubt you have the strength for that. Then

again, I’m probably wrong, since you have

the strength to annoy me. If you had a

wristwatch you’d know the closing bell went

off almost an hour ago. Seems you had a

hangover at the infirmary. So, are you letting

me drive you home?”

So much for forgetting to wear my

wristwatch today. Raheem gave me a

moment or two to think things over. Walking

home would make me arrive an hour late.

And my stepmother wouldn’t be pleased.

Hell! I was already an hour late. Things

wouldn’t go well. And I didn’t want to make

it all worse by prolonging my away time. A

ride from Raheem would sure he helpful.

“I will find you at the lot,” I said.

“It takes you eons to make up your mind

over petty things,” he said. “How long then

would it take you to reply yes to a date?”

“You have to ask to find out,” I said.

“Very well then.” With an old fashioned bow,

he said, “Go on a date with me?”

“No.”

Grinning, he took a squint at his wristwatch.

“Half a split-second. Now let’s see how

many split-seconds it takes you to fetch

your bag and meet me at the lot.”

He turned on his heels and descended the

stairs. I headed for my locker, grabbed my

backpack and strode to the lot.Resting

against his car, with dark sunglasses hiding

his gorgeous eyes, he glanced at his

watch.”Two minutes,” he said, seemingly

impressed. “Did you run?””I need to be

home early,” I said. “That’s the only reason

I accepted your help.””It’s a little too late

for that now. Arriving home early, I mean.”

He walked around the car and yanked open

the front passenger seat. “I’m sure your

family will understand you didn’t mean to

turn up late.”I wouldn’t be so sure if I were

him. Ignoring the door he held open, I

reached for the back door. “I don’t need

help getting into a car. And besides, here’s

where I’ll be comfortable.”Raheem watched

me climb into the car. Before I could

protest, he helped me shut the door. With a

subtle shake of his head, he said, “A

gentleman’s got to be a gentleman.”Grateful

for the tinted glasses, I smiled as I watched

him shut the front passenger door. Once sat

behind the steering wheel, he strapped on

his seatbelt, started the engine and turned

on the air conditioner.He pulled out of the

school premises. “Which way is your

house?””Left,” I said.He took a left turn and

glanced at me from the rear view mirror.

“Are you cold?””I’m fine.” Could I say

otherwise? Being with him triggered an

unsettling feeling in my stomach, turning me

back into the quiet girl I once was. I found

myself counting down to when I’d get

home.Embracing the cold overwhelming me,

I hugged myself. Atleast, I knew that feeling,

as opposed to the foreign ones Raheem

triggered.”So, Cynthia Brown is your sister?”

he asked. “Or is it just a coincidence with

the surname? Because I see nothing similar

between you two.””We are sisters,” I said.

Although if he asked Cynthia, she would say

otherwise.”Wow,” he said, the word heavy

on his lips. “Really. I could never have

imagined. That is, without the surname

thingy,and the fact that you come to school

in the same car. You are from two different

worlds. The only similarity is thatyou’re both

in the same school, same class, you’re both

really bright students. And then the surname

thing, which leads me to the conclusion that

you share the same parents.”For the next

few moments, he kept mum, probably

wanting me to speak. It didn’t take long for

him to realize I would not sever the

silence.”Twins?” he asked.”No.”He tilted his

head to look at me from the rearview

mirror.”Aren’t you both 17?””She’s August. I

am October.” I knew my honest answer

would only make him probe. But what could

I do? Lying wasn’t one of my strong points,

unfortunately.”

How is that possible?” he asked. “Unless of

course, there’s something you aren’t telling

me.””Of course,” I said, focusing my

attention on the road.”Keep going. Straight

ahead till you reach the junction. From

there, it’s left till you pull over.””Got it,”

Raheem said. He slid back into the

conversation I didn’t want to have with him.

“It’s weird. The kind of relationship you have

with your sister. Aren’t siblings close? If I

had a brother or a sister in my class, we

would be really close friends. But that’s not

the case with both of you. Problems?”I

didn’t remember being obliged to answer

every question he had. Determined to end

this conversation without a word, I kept my

gaze focused outside. Perhaps when his

next questions went unanswered, he would

get the message.”Don’t worry,” he said.

“She’ll come around. Siblings fight

anyway.”‘Not a fight that goes on for a

lifetime’, I almost said aloud.”Your parents.

What do they do?””Mum manages dad’s

factory,” I said. “She’s home almost 24/7

though, so let’s call her a semi

housewife.””Typical. And dad?”An image of

dad drifted to my mind. I blinked, willing it

back to the unlit corner of my mind. I

couldn’t dwell on my hurt now. “He’s…

dead.”Raheem hadn’t expected a news like

this. His momentary quietude told me so.

“I’m sorry about that,” he said, his voice

comfortingly soft.”Now you know everything

about me,” I said. “Tell me about you.”Guilt

snarled at me as I realized the dishonesty in

my words. I’d made him believe he knew

everything about me, when in reality, my life

could fill volumes of books, and hebarely

even knew the prologue. Then again, did I

trust himenough to disclose this to

him?”What can I say?” Raheem said. “We

relocated from our country because of the

bloodshed and all. Trying to fit in here.””Do

you like it so far?” I asked.”So far so good,”

he said. “What can I say?””And your father?”

I asked. Raheem played deaf to my

question. “That’s not fair now, is it? I told

you about my father. And besides, you made

me believe that once we became friends,

you would tell me.””He stayed back,”

Raheem said. “He owns a hospital and

doesn’t think it proper to leave the sick and

injured and flee. We’re trying to make him

understand that his place is here. Family

must come first. Not some other people.

But then again, these people have lives,

families, and hope.But still. I don’t know

what I’d do if I lost him.””Your dad is a

hero,” I said. “He will be fine. His good heart

and the Almighty will keep him safe. You

believe in God, don’t you?”Raheem didn’t

seem pleased with my question. “Do I look

like someone who doesn’t?””Your dad will be

fine,” I said.”I am scared,” he admitted. And

in that moment, an almost irresistible urge

to comfort him with more than words tugged

at me. “I know my dad is a hero. But this

isn’t fantasy, Miss Brown. This isn’t fiction.

This is real life. A place where heroes don’t

live to tell the tale—””Hush,” I said. “Don’t

say things like that.””But it’s true. And you

know it. I’m just really scared, and Ican’t

help it. I know I sound overly emotional, but

I ring him every minute. Hearing his voice

and knowing he’s alright is what keeps me

going.””I know this is hard for you,” I said.

“But trust me on this one. He will be fine.

He will come back to you.””He better,”

Raheem said. “Or I swear I’ll go get him

myself.”Going back there would be suicide.

How could he let such thoughts cross his

mind? If he didn’t fear death, he should at

least consider those who cared about

him.”Tell me you’re kidding,” I said.”I won’t

be kidding when things get rougher than

they are now and…” He trailed off, his eyes

burning into something on the other side of

the road. I followed his gaze and founda

teenage girl hanging around with a boy most

likely in his mid twenties. But why were they

the object of his fury?Pulling over, Raheem

yanked off his seatbelt. “Wait here.”He

darted out of the car and zigzagged across

the busy road. Honks blared at him, but he

paid them no mind, not even slowing his

stride till he reached the couple.Once there,

he pulled the younger girl away from the

boy. Glowering at him, he spat out some

noticeably unfriendly words. With every

word, he jabbed his right pointer toward the

boy. And although I strained my ears, I could

not make out a single word.”Have you lost

your mind?” the boy said, his voice only loud

enough to reach my ears.Raheem spoke, his

voice still inaudible. His hands lashed out,

shoving off the boy. The boy jumped a step

backward,and the next moment, he lunged

forward, poised to retaliate.The girl sprang

forward, placing herself between the boys.

“Please, Iyke. Let it go.”The fight, whatever

had triggered it, had drawn the attention of

many. I stared, unblinking, trying to figure

out what relationship Raheem had with the

girl.”Stay away from us,” Raheem roared.

“Or the next time, it won’t be funny.”

Grabbing the girl by the wrist, he led her

toward the car. She turned back to give her

other friend one last glance.Raheem let go

of her as they neared the car. He stood by

the driver’s seat and waited for her to

occupy the front passenger seat, but she

just stood there, gripping the handle and

glowering at him.”Get in right this minute,

Farah Kadir!” Raheem said.The girl, Farah,

yanked open the door and plopped down

onthe seat. Raheem did the same, the slam

of his door echoing his sister’s. Without a

word, he started the engine.Moments

passed, and no one said a thing. If it were

up to Farah alone, the silence would last an

eon. Arms folded defiantly, she looked out

the window. She could be mistaken for a

Nigerian, save for her reddish brown hair

and her accent.”I can’t believe this,”

Raheem said. He obviously didn’t want to

use the menacing tone he’d used on the

other boy with his sister, and so he’d stayed

quiet to extinguish the rage burning

intensely inside of him. “You aren’t fully

recovered and can’t start school. But you’re

fit to hang around with Iyke! Hell! You’re

starting school on Monday!””I am yet to

recover,” Farah said.”Do not infuriate me

with your lies!” Raheem retorted.”How come

you were even with him anyway?””He came

over,” she said.”What? Mum let him? Good

lord! You’re only thirteen!””Fourteen!” Farah

corrected.Raheem flicked his right hand.

“Whatever!””You’re forgetting he’s our

cousin,” Farah muttered.”Do not call that

son of a gun my cousin!” Although Raheem

did a good job at keeping his voice calm, the

menace lingering in it didn’t escape my

notice. “You know what kind of life he lives.

Smoking and heavy drinking andgambling.

Not to mention wild partying and his criminal

records. Is that the kind of a person you

want to associate with? I’m having a word

with mum as soon as we’re home. She is

never to let him meet with you again. Unless

under my supervision.”Farah let out an

animated grunt. “Good lord. Why do I have a

big brother?””Because you need someone to

stop you from walking into hell,” Raheem

said.”There is no way I’m starting school on

Monday,” Farah said. “Those kids will laugh

at my inability to hear without an additional

pair of ears.”She had a hearing disability? I

could never have guessed she relied on

hearing aids. Surely, if I hadn’t noticed, then

the kids at school wouldn’t either.”Curse

that stupid bomb,” Farah said, dissolving

into tears.Raheem fumed. “Had you stayed

home like I asked you to, your ears would

be intact. But you! You had to sneak out to

see a movie! A very lame movie. As though

you would die without it. And did you see it

in the end? No!””Don’t remind me,” Farah

said. “Please. Now, I regret stepping out

that day. I shouldn’t have. I didn’t

know.””You didn’t know?” Raheem’s voice

rumbled. “Just how many times did I ask

you not to leave home once you wereback

from school?””It could have happened

anytime!” Farah yelled. “Even when we were

going to school!””But it didn’t! What if I had

lost you? Do you think I can cope with that?

Do you think mum can live through another

loss? She hasn’t even gotten over Uncle’s

death! You didn’t even think of that, did you?

Now, you’re out with Iyke, despite my

warning to stay away from that no-goodboy.

You never learn to listen to elders, do

you?””Don’t sound like a sage,” Farah said.

“You’re only 17!”Raheem raised his eyes to

the rear-view mirror, and they met mine,

making me shrink back in an emotion close

to fear. I’d listened in on a private

conversation, knowing more than I should.

What next?”You said after the junction, it’s

left?” he asked.Farah turned away from the

window. “Huh?”She still hadn’t realized a

third presence. Not until she heard my

response. “Yes.”Her head snapped in my

direction. I noticed her emerald green eyes,

just like Raheem’s.”What? There’s

someone…?” Turning to Raheem, she

smacked his upper arm.Raheem grunted.

“What the hell?””You should have told me

we were not alone,” she said. “I would have

put on my best act, saving the drama for

when we got home. Now you’ve made me

mess up my first meeting with her. God

knows the impression she has of me

now.””Sorry,” Raheem said. “You should

have told me the bomb also damaged your

sight.”Waving him off, Farah returned her

focus to me. “She’s beautiful!”She twisted

around in her seat and trapped my hand in a

firm handshake. “I’m Farah!”I beamed at the

little darling. “Victoria.”Gasping, she gripped

Raheem’s shoulder and wiggled her full

brows. Ignoring her, Raheem hummed a

tune.She returned her attention to me.

“Sorry. I didn’t know someone else was

here. I’m sorry you had to listen to such a

messy conversation. Raheem and I, we’re

always like that. But I’m still his little

cupcake.””I’m sorry about the war,” I

said.”Blah,” she said. “It’s okay. Like, I get

to mute him out when he talks too much. I

just yank out my additional ears and ta-da! I

don’t hear a thing he spits out. That’s an

advantage.”Raheem hadn’t stopped

humming.”He’s told me a lot about you,”

Farah said.”Farah!” Raheem warned.”This

boy, he tells me everything. Sometimes I

wonder what I am. A human diary?” Flipping

back her hair, she went on, “When he told

me you got sick, I knew it had to be that

cursed perfume of his. To be honest, it

makes me sick too. “”Farah!””And then I

asked him to use mine,” Farah went on.

“After much persuasion, he did. He said he

was going to approach you and note your

reaction. He said if you reacted to that one

as well, he would stop using fragrances,

because obviously, he was planning to get

close to you.””I am going to kill you,”

Raheem muttered under his breath.Farah

chuckled. “Not before I kill you with this

exciting behind-the-scenes, sweet brother.

You should be indebted to me ’cause my

bottled love potion worked, and now she’s

coming home with us.””She’s not coming to

our house,” Raheem said.Farah’s face

dropped. “What?”When she got no further

response from Raheem, she turned to look

at me, her eyes cute like a puppy’s. “You

aren’t?I shook my head. She pouted. “But…

but…why?””Because she has a home,”

Raheem said.Farah’s face lit up. “Oh, you’re

giving her a ride then? Amazing! Raheem

never gives any girl a ride. Private space

intrusion. What has changed?”Raheem

played deaf to her question. But at least he

had stopped humming that dreadful tune.

The sign board of Crystal Avenue stole my

attention, and my joy. If it were up to me,

I’d stay forever in the company of my two

new friends.”Uhm…I am okay here,” I

said.”Here?” Raheem echoed, his gaze

locked on the street. He slowed down, and it

took forever for him to brake the car.”Are

you sure?”His question almost made me

laugh out loud. How wouldn’tI be sure where

I lived? I could tell he also wished I could

stay longer, but his ego would never let him

admit it.”Where is your house?” Farah

asked. “If it’s inside the street, I’m sure my

brother doesn’t mind. Let us drop you at

your gate.””No,” I half-screamed. “No.

Please. It’s trouble.””Please,” Farah

insisted. “It’s no trouble. I’m sure Raheem

would be honored.”She cast her brother a

side-glance, willing him to speak. But he

said nothing. He just held the steering wheel

in a death grip and stared straight

ahead.”My stepmother is going to kill me!” I

said, my voice giving away my fright.”Okay,”

Raheem said. “Bye.””Bye.” Flashing Farah a

smile, I climbed out of the car.”Hey,” Farah

called. “Can I have your number? I’m sure

my brother is dying to ask for it, but he’s

too arrogant for hiscomfort.””I don’t have a

phone, Farah.”Farah held her breath. She

looked over at Raheem, and when he didn’t

return her stare, she redirected her stunned

gaze to me. “Are you serious? Who doesn’t

have a phone in 2017?”

.

To be continued

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