“You taunt me by asking me that. You
should already know the feelings I have for
Screaming myself into consciousness, I
bolted upright in bed, and before I could
register the woman who sat beside me, she
threw me in an embrace. I clung to her, my
eyes round with fear.
“Hush now,” she said, patting my back. “It’s
only a dream.”
Her voice, almost magical made to drown
my worry. I found myself giving in to her
warmth. My eyes adjusted to the room. I’d
never been here. I’d never even met this
woman. How did I get here? What did she
want from me?
Breaking out of her spell, I pulled away.
Yesterday’s events flooded my memory. I
saw Raheem’s pain as he watched me pass
“Raheem,” I said. “I need to see him.”
The woman smiled at me. “Raheem is fine.”
A fierce pounding in my head forced me to
relive yesterday’s events. My whole body
ached like I’d been pounded in a mortar.
Taking advantage of my apparent weakness,
the woman reached to hold me.
I shoved her off and sprang to my feet. My
bruised body groaned at my suddenness.
“Don’t. Touch. Me.”
She looked up at me, the softness of her
gaze tickling my fear. “I know you’ve been
through a lot, but you are safe now. Just
calm down, please.”
I held her gaze and willed my thumping
heart to stabilize. Only when I’d gotten a
grip of myself did the image before me
become clearer. The woman before me was
no stranger. I’d seen her once. Her face
could not be so easily forgotten, but the
cloud of insecurity hovering above me and
the absence of flawless makeup on her face
had hidden her away from recognition.
She smiled knowingly. Her arms flew open
and I threw myself into the embrace. I
melted into her arms, and in this moment, I
felt safe. The Kadirs seemed to be gifted in
keeping me safe.
I broke the embrace but didn’t let go of her
hand. She held a glitter in her eyes; a glitter
that spelt no harm had come to her son. My
Raheem was alright. But still, I couldn’t get
past the fact that he’d endangered his life
“Thank goodness you’re awake,” she said.
“We’ve all been so worried.”
“How is Raheem?” I asked.
“He’s in one piece,” she said.
I had to see for myself that no harm had
come to him. I’d die if something happened
to him for my sake.
“Where is he?” I asked.
“Here.” Raheem’s voice caught me off
guard. My gaze darted to the doorway and
there he stood, gaping.
A smile broke out on my face, but he didn’t
return it. Unsure of how to react to the boy
who had risked his life to save me, I stood
motionless. His flawless face had earned a
seemingly deep cut just below his right ear.
I traced it with my sorry eyes, noting how it
stretched along his cheekbone.
My stomach clenched as I found a bandage
wrapped around his palm. This only
happened because of me. If only I hadn’t
dragged him into this…
Raheem cleared his throat. “I will send word
to your family so they come get you.” His
voice held no emotions. Love, hate, it
showed nothing. Not even pain. With distant
eyes, he looked past me, at his mother, and
then he walked away, taking with him a part
I stood rooted to the ground, fixating my
gaze on where Raheem had been standing.
Even in his absence, his cold gaze left me
frozen. Mrs. Kadir gripped my shoulder from
behind. Turning me to face her, she wiped
away the tears I hadn’t even noticed gliding
down my cheeks.
“Do you hate me too?” I asked.
She raised her brows at me. “What?”
“Your son risked his life because of me,” I
said. “He got hurt. It’s all my fault. Surely,
you must also hate me.”
“Hush,” she said. “Don’t think like that,
Taking me by the hand, she led me to perch
with her on the bed. “No one hates you for
anything. Whatever happened wasn’t your
“But…what if something had happened to
him?” I asked.
“What if something had happened to you?”
Farah’s voice made known her presence.
Mrs. Kadir scooted closer to me, creating
space for Farah to plop down beside her.
Farah clung to her like a child.
“My son has been different,” Mrs. Kadir
said. “These past few days, he’s been aglow
in a way I’ve never seen him. It’s almost
like when he was with Jameela. But it isn’t
quite the same. At first, I used to think it
was the relocation that made him a
different person. But then I realized it
wasn’t. It was a girl. You.”
“Me?” I asked. What had I done?
“Yes,” she said. “You, my dear. You have
mended the deep cuts Jameela carved into
I shook my head and looked at Farah,
hoping she could help clear up her mother’s
g. But Farah didn’t seem ready to join in the
conversation. The serious look on her face
matched her mother’s. This brought an
unsettling sensation to my stomach.
“I haven’t done anything,” I said to Mrs.
I’d thought this would take away the gleam
in her eyes. But it didn’t. “Maybe you
haven’t done anything. But that is about to
change. I need you to do something for me.”
“Anything,” I blurted out. Her son had risked
his life to save me. Surely I’d do anything
they wanted me to.
She took my hand in hers. “I want you to
promise me something, Victoria. Promise me
you will never break his heart.”
I slipped my hand out of her grasp and
placed it on my lap. Why would she ask that
of me? “I’m sorry, but…Raheem and I aren’t
“I didn’t say that you are,” she said. “See,
my son likes you a lot and all I care about is
his happiness. I won’t be at rest until you
promise me his heart is safe with you. He is
a rock on the outside, a really tough person
who’s hard to approach, but on the inside,
he’s a very soft person.”
“I understand your fear,” I said. “But I don’t
think I’m in any position to promise you this.
Raheem and I aren’t in any kind of a
“Just promise her, Vicky,” Farah said.
An image of Raheem confronting those men,
alone and unaided, flashed through my
mind. I gulped down the image. If Raheem
were in my shoes, would he even hesitate to
make this promise? Without hesitation, he
had promised my stepmother and my fairy
godmother that he’d keep me safe. He’d
risked his life to save me.
“I promise,” I said.
“Thank you.” Mrs. Kadir ruffled my hair and
planted a kiss on my forehead. I froze for a
second too long as my dad wheezed across
my mind. On the day of his death, he’d given
me a casual kiss before leaving for work.
“I’m off to make breakfast,” Mrs. Kadir said.
I stared unblinking till she walked out of
Farah feigned disappointment. “I was hoping
you’d have questions about how he managed
to fight those men and win.”
“I was hoping you’d tell me how he managed
to fight like that,” I said.
Yesterday’s Raheem was one I’d never seen
before; one I’d never imagined. He’d turned
from rockstar to martial artist. “Where did
he learn to fight like that?”
“This brings us to one of those stories you
will never hear from him,” Farah said.
“Remember Jameela? The girl who broke
“Yes,” I said. “Is she dead yet?”
Farah gaped, her words dying on her thin
lips. And then, she clapped a palm over her
mouth, giggling. “To the Kadirs, yes. So,
here’s the story of how my cool rockstar
slash loner brother became Jet Li. After
Meela’s betrayal, he started to take pleasure
in martial arts. It became his new lifestyle,
his new way to vent out his anger. He’d
even enrolled in some local fight clubs. It
broke our hearts to watch him live with so
much pain. We tried so hard to get him to
quit. But he never did. So, mum and I
devised a means.”
“Mum faked an illness,” she explained, her
eyes glowing with mischief. “The doctor
said she broke down because she was
thinking too much. He said things would get
worse if she didn’t take care of herself. She
had to stop thinking. But she didn’t. She
said she’d rather let the sickness claim her
life than watch her only son make violence
his way of life. Raheem’s so predictable. He
stopped engaging in every form of violence
just so mum could recover. Till this day he
doesn’t know we deceived him.”
Graceful as a princess, she advanced to the
open windows. There she stood, staring at
something I couldn’t see from where I was
She gestured me over. “Come.”
Eager to devour the sight that stole her
over, I hastened to her side. I lowered my
gaze and found Raheem dusting his car with
a blue towel.
“What do you see?” she asked, her voice
dropping to a whisper. “You see him
cleaning his car. He probably has plans to
go out. But is this all?”
“Tell me what I don’t see,” I said.
“I see anger in his eyes,” she said. “Ever
since last night, he’s been like this. Cold,
distant, reserved. And most of all, hurt.
When he’s like this, he speaks to no one. He
hasn’t said a word to either mum or I ever
I mused over the words Raheem had told
me moments ago, and the cold gaze he’d
shot his mother. He’d talked to me. This had
to mean something.
“As typical of him, he goes out when he’s in
this mood. He spends days away from
everyone and everything. And then he only
If I let him go without thanking him for what
he did yesterday, I’d never forgive myself. I
made to leave, but Farah grabbed my arm.
“Where are you going?” she asked.
“I need to talk to him,” I said.
Farah sighed. Her gaze drifted between
Raheem and I. “What makes you think he’ll
talk to you?”
“He talked to me moments ago.” Retrieving
my arm, I bolted out of the house and only
halted a few steps away from Raheem. He
held open the door to the driver’s seat, and
made to get in.
“Raheem!” I called. “Raheem, wait.”
Raheem clenched and unclenched his jaws
as I took another step toward him. He made
no attempt to look at me. Farah’s question
resounded in my head. ‘What makes you
think he’ll talk to you?’
“I’m sorry about last night,” I said. I studied
him for a reaction. Finding none, I went on,
“You got hurt because of me. You risked
your life to save me. Words can’t describe
how grateful I am. Had you not come to my
I trailed off. I couldn’t even say the words.
Those men would have killed me, or worse.
Yes, people of that sort do worse things
than death to anyone unlucky enough to
cross paths with them.
My gaze rested on Raheem’s bandaged
palm. I covered his hand with mine. I’d
expected him to flinch, but he didn’t. He still
didn’t turn to look at me.
“I’m so sorry you had to risk your life like
that.” Tears gathered in my eyes,
threatening to drop, but I blinked then back.
I wrapped my arms around him. I felt him
stiffen. His hands hung limply at his sides
as he probably contemplated on whether to
accept the hug or shove me off. I wanted
nothing but for him to let me stay in his
arms, where it’s safe. Just this once.
I breathed, holding him close and savoring
the moment. I savored the smell of
peppermint entangling with the air he
breathed out. I didn’t want to let go. I’d
found the person who could keep me safe
from all harm. When he’d promised my fairy
godmother he’d keep me safe, I hadn’t
thought much of it.
I kept my arms wrapped around him. And in
the warmth emanating from him, I found
soothing relief. His hands found my
shoulders. With a gentle shove, he
wordlessly screamed his indignation towards
me overstepping my boundaries. His
rejection stung like a slap to my cheeks.
Once again, he made to climb into the car.
And once again, I got in his way. Literally.
“The wounds from yesterday, are there
He still didn’t meet my gaze.
“Your phone’s screen was severely damaged
yesterday.” After what seemed like forever,
he’d finally spoken. I beamed at the sound
of his voice. “I’m taking it for repairs. But I
can’t be on my way with you standing in my
“You don’t have to—” I said.
He held out his palm, silencing me. “I didn’t
tell you that because I needed permission.
I’m just doing what I know is right. If you’d
just get out of my way and let me get
If only he knew how he hurt me with his
coldness. Then again, he probably knew, but
couldn’t be bothered how I felt. He obviously
seemed to regret what he’d done for me last
night. Why then had he done that?
And now, he seemed to be helping me with
my phone out of obligation. I’d be much
content with nothing, than having someone
subject me to this torture, making me feel
less than nothing all over again.
Too hurt to speak, I stepped away to let him
pass. He bumped my shoulder with his arm
as he made for the car, but he didn’t even
take a moment to acknowledge this.
I turned to face him. Or at least the back of
his head. “If you hate me so much, why did
you have to save me?”
Raheem halted. Once again, I’d stopped him
“I need answers, Raheem Kadir.” I turned
him around to face me, but his gaze didn’t
stray from the ground.
“You should have just left me there to die.
More stories @ www.chorusman.com
Why did you have to act like you cared when
really you don’t? You hate me so much that
you won’t even look at me, won’t even
speak to me. Just tell me why you—”
“I feel a very strong emotion for you,” he
said. “And it isn’t hate. It stuns me that you
think like this. You of all people should know
that I…” Trailing off, he made no attempt to
“You do not hate me?” I asked.
“How is that even a question?” For the first
time, he held my gaze. I gaped at the rue-
ss carved into his eyes.
“Even after you risked your life like that?” I
asked. “You could have died out there,
“And so would you. I couldn’t forgive myself
if anything happened to you. I’m just…” He
raked his fingers through his hair. “I failed
you. Can you ever forgive me? I should have
protected you. Those men were never
meant to touch you, to hurt you the way
they did. It’s all my fault you got hurt.”
“Raheem, what are you saying? I’m fine.
Nothing happened to me.”
“Did you see what state you were in last
night?” he asked. “Do you know what it’s
like to see you like that, in that state? In a
pool of your own blood? I felt I’d lose you.
And it’s all because I wasn’t paying
attention to priority. If only I’d been more
attentive, more capable of looking out for
you, I would have been able to stop that
b—–d from hurting you. Maybe I don’t
deserve you. I mean, I couldn’t even protect
you. I can’t forgive myself. This is why I’ve
been avoiding you. I’m unworthy to behold
“Do I mean this much to you?” I asked.
He stared deep into my eyes. “You taunt me
by asking me that. You should already know
the feelings I have for you.”
“Then who are you to forgive yourself when
I declare that there is nothing to forgive you
for?” I asked.
I caught a glitter in his eyes. It mesmerized
me how his features softened, matching
mine. He held me with a gaze so intense, I
found it magical. I could feast my eyes on
him all day without even blinking.
“I know your life hasn’t been an easy one,”
he said. “Many times, you had to cry and
sigh. But I am here now. I can’t promise to
turn your life into a bed of roses, for that
would mean taking you out of this world.
But I can promise you this one thing—”
I held out my hand to silence him. “Don’t.”
The gleam I’d seen in his eyes fell to its
death, and I ached for it right away. But I
didn’t want him making any promises. A
promise, to me was a lie.
Although I trusted Raheem wouldn’t
intentionally lie to me, he would still be lying
by making me promises. I, more than
anyone else, knew for a fact that promises
were meant to be broken. It didn’t belong to
the one promising to choose this. Life had
its own way of breaking even the sweetest
“Are you okay?” he asked.
“Yeah. I just…I’m wary of promises.” I
braced myself for his reaction. He seemed
to understand. “I want us to take this one
day at a time.”
He cupped my face in his hands. “One day
at a time it is then. No promises.”
Silence crept in between us, our gaze
unfaltering. I felt his hands slip to my waist,
a tad out of my comfort zone. To be honest,
this new chapter with Raheem had already
slipped out of my comfort zone before he
even reached out to touch me.
My heartbeat quickened at the foreign
gesture. Raheem barely moved a muscle.
His eyes told me he’d give me all the time
in the world to adjust to the whole new
world we’d tossed ourselves into.
Holding on to his gaze, I willed my heartbeat
back to normal. Butterflies fluttered in my
stomach as he leaned in for what I knew to
be a kiss; a kiss to seal the deal that we’d
become an item.
I drew in a breath and closed my eyes.
Raheem’s breath hovered above my nose for
a second too long. His lips found my
forehead, and there they rested, glued to my
skin. Where had he been all my life?
Bursting out of the house like a mad horse,
Farah headed straight at us. I lowered my
eyes and stepped away from Raheem.
Although she’d obviously be the number one
fan of ‘Rahtoria’, I just couldn’t bring myself
to look at her. Not after she’d found me in
her brother’s arms. Like a diabetic kid
caught red-handed with a slice of cake, I
trained my eyes on my feet.
“What’s wrong?” The panic in Raheem’s
voice forced my gaze away from my feet.
Farah stood before us, her body trembling.
Her eyelashes, clustered and moist, told a
story of tears. “It’s Maggie.”
“Who’s that?” Raheem asked.
Farah sobbed, staring at her phone. “My
new bff. She isn’t answering my calls. I
have a bad feeling. I think she’s dead.”
“So because she didn’t pick your calls, she’s
dead?” Raheem asked. “Wow, to think that
I’m still alive. I have 100 lives, do I not?
Because I’ve lost count of how many times I
“Boko Haram struck last night,” Farah said.
Blood drained from Raheem’s face. “What?”
“The bomb blast happened at the very same
place Maggie went. I’m just so scared,
Raheem. Report confirms sixteen dead and
eleven severely injured. I’m just so scared. I
have to go to the hospital. I need to be sure
my friend is still with me.”
My lips stayed glued to each other. At times
like this, words eluded me.
Farah simmered with impatience. “Take me
to the hospital. Please, just take me to see
my friend.” She glued her palms together as
though saying a prayer.
Raheem pulled her close, giving her a
shoulder to cry on. He patted her head as
she sobbed. “Calm down, please. No harm
has come to your friend—”
She broke free from his hold. “How do you
know this? You said no harm would come to
uncle, but where is he now, Mr. No Harm?”
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m just trying to help
is all. It hurts me to see you like this. Just
get a hold of yourself. Please.”
“How do you expect me to stay calm?” she
yelled. “She’s like a sister to me.”
I moved to her and smoothed a palm over
her arm. “Raheem is right, Farah. You have
to calm down. We do not know for sure that
Maggie is dead.”
“Then why isn’t she answering my calls?”
she asked. “Why…”
Her ringing phone cut her off. She swiped
her fingers across her cheeks and glanced
at Raheem and I. “It…It’s Maggie.”
She sniffled. “M-Maggie?” A pregnant pause
followed. And then a squeal. I gaped at her
dimpled cheeks as she giggled. “You potato!
Why didn’t you pick up the phone? I’ve
wasted all my tears on someone who’s still
very well alive. How cool is that?”
Detaching the phone from her ear, she
turned to Raheem and I. “Sorry about that,
Bribing us with a seraphic smile, she
returned to her call and started toward the
house. “Oh, so you had a bad time? You see,
I told you Havana is bad news, but you—”
“Havana?” I croaked, my voice suddenly lost.
Somehow, Farah managed to hear me. She
halted and turned to face me.
“Where did the bomb blast happen?” I
“At some club,” she said.
Bomb blast. Havana. My heart dropped to
my stomach, leaving my chest hollow and
vulnerable. The world seemed to stand still,
letting me assimilate this news.
A familiar kind of emptiness stole me over.
Light as a feather, I felt my body reach for
Once again, I’d awakened on this very bed
with no memories of how I got here. This
time, though, I knew where I was, and that I
While Farah paced the room, Raheem sat
beside me, his gaze flying through the open
window. My hand twitched as I made to
shift into a more cozy position. But then,
something soft tightened around it. I gazed
at my hand, enveloped by Raheem’s.
“You’re awake!” he said.
Farah rushed to my side. “Vicky. Thank
goodness you’re awake. I was so worried.
What happened? Everything was fine till I
Havana club. Boko Haram. Bombing. Death.
It all came back to me.
My mind drifted back to a conversation I’d
had with Cynthia moments before she left
for the party.
‘I don’t feel good about you partying so late
at night,’ I’d said.
And then came a voice I feared I’d never
hear again. ‘For Christ’s sake, Victoria, stop
acting like I’m a kid. I will be alright. Really.
Havana is my second house. Nothing can go
wrong there. And besides, I need some time
away from all the drama in this house. I
need to distract myself. I can’t keep
dwelling on mum’s inhumanity. It breaks
me. Which is why I really don’t want to
spend the night here. Anywhere but here.’
Snatching my hand from Raheem’s, I leapt
to my feet. “I need to go to the hospital. My
sister could be among the injured. Or
“Oh my God!” Farah gasped. “Are you
Raheem raised his palm, cutting her off.
“When mum comes back, tell her Victoria
and I left for the hospital.”
Raheem probably yearned to tell me
everything would be fine, but he held back.
Obviously, he knew even a single word
would snatch the little bit of composure I
had. Even when we were alone for the
lifetime it took to arrive at the hospital, he
said nothing. Once he parked the car in the
lot, I unfastened my seatbelt and reached
for the door handle.
He touched my arm. “Whatever happens,
please, be strong and know that I will always
“Nothing will happen to my sister.” I pushed
open the door and darted toward the
building, distancing myself from him and his
‘Nothing would happen to my sister.’ I
recited this like it were a spell; like it could
quell my pounding heart; like it could undo
whatever had already happened.
These were mere words, and could change
nothing. But I had hope. Wouldn’t that save
me this day?
I burst into the building, my heavy heartbeat
the only thing I could hear, the stench of
grief smothering me. Raheem blurred past
me. He headed for the nurses behind the
counter. “Cynthia Brown. Where is she?”
“One moment,” the nurse directly in front of
him said. While she searched for Cynthia’s
details, I feared my heart would explode.
The words had barely left her lips when I
darted into the passageway she pointed at,
my eyes scanning the doors for one tagged
’13’. A million thoughts flooded my mind.
Cynthia was really here. My sister, the one I
loved so much, was here, fighting for her
If only she hadn’t left for the party, then
everything would be fine. No, if only that
woman hadn’t tried to kill me, then my sister
would probably have spent the night at
home. What if I had followed her to the
party? Maybe I’d have been able to save
I slowed my pace as my eyes found the
door. I looked over to Raheem and s—-d in a
deep breath. What awaited me on the other
side? Would I be able to control myself
when I saw her lying helplessly, stuck in a
situation she didn’t deserve?
Tentatively, I reached for the door and
wrapped my fingers around the handle. The
door gave way, letting me into the room.
I could not fathom the scene before me. My
stepmother, the stranger who’d tried to kill
me, sat beside my sister who lay in bed. But
she wasn’t really sitting. The wideness of
her torso mounted upon Cynthia blocked her
Rage clouded my reasoning and I dashed
toward the woman I once called mum. I
gripped her shoulders and yanked her off my
sister. Yesterday she’d tried to kill me, and
today, here she was, smothering her very
own daughter to death.
“Get away from her!” I yelled. I had not lost
my sister in the bombing. I certainly would
not lose her to this woman.
I turned to look at my sister, the beauty I
feared I’d never see again. A gust of
emotions slammed into me. I clamped my
palm to my lips, suppressing a scream.
Her skin, once flawless, had become a
shadow of itself. I felt a squeezing
sensation in my chest as I drank in the
image before me. I wanted to look away, to
shield my eyes from the girl who lay on the
bed. Her skin had seared to the bone,
making her almost unrecognizable.
But what troubled me was the look in her
eyes. Cold and lifeless, they told me I had
lost once again.
To be continued