37. Picture Perfect

COARIN

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

I told him. I told Papa all about the stalker. Now I sat staring at him nervously. He was still silent. Papa sighed. “Why didn’t you tell me before this?” he rebuked.

I sniffed. Once… Twice… And then I could no longer control the torrent of tears pouring down my cheeks. The extent of miserableness I felt currently overwhelmed me.

I shook my head hard. No amount of trying would make it stop. Papa pulled me close to him which just made me cry harder. I don’t know how long I cried for. Next thing I knew, I awoke in bed with bright light streaming in through my windows.

I squinted my eyes and lifted my head slightly. Papa was the one drawing my curtains. “What are you doing here?” I asked sleepily.

“Assalaamu Alaikum, sleepy head. Its already my lunch break. You’ve slept right through…

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36. Picture Perfect

COARIN

“What’s she doing here?” Papa questioned when I let matron in.

“Papa!” I chastised, staring at him in shock. That was rude and strange, Papa was always polite.

Papa winced as if he just realised how what he’d said sounded like. “Sorry, I just meant that I wanted to talk to you about your behaviour recently, alone. I’ll be in the lounge.” And then he left.

Matron’s shoulders were stiff, had been since she heard Papa’s comment, but she turned to me and her eyes crinkled slightly beneath her niqaab, a sign that she was smiling at me. “Assalaamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullah, Haalah. How are you?”

As she returned my greeting and I led her to the lounge, I felt like someone had thrown a bucket of ice cold water over my head.

Matron didn’t need to be here, I realised. Not now, not the first time and not any…

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35. Picture Perfect

COARIN

After a tiring day at school, where I had to remind myself to stop acting proud at practically every turn, all I wanted to do was throw myself onto my bed and sleep. But life doesn’t happen how you want, and i jumped when I saw Papa’s car in the driveway when I walked home from school.

It should have been a pleasant surprise to come home to a father after years of an empty house with just a housekeeper, but my tummy pooled with dread. Unable to stop myself, I did what was fast becoming my comfort blanket. I pulled out my phone and called Matron.

“Please can you come, please? I can’t do this alone. Please.” Desperately, I pleaded. I waited till she acquiesced and then I squared my shoulders and walked in to face the music.

Papa would be sitting in the lounge waiting for me, I…

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34. Picture Perfect

COARIN

Plz Read chapter 33 again. I added a little more to the end.

That morning was eventful like never before in my life. We went back to matrons house, and after Matron made me pray Fajr AND gave me an earful about listening to orders, I hit the sack.

Less than two hours later, I was forced to wake up and then my whirlwind of activities started again. I took a brisk jog back home, and after a quick shower and breakfast, exited the house. Deciding that I was way too tired to walk, I rang Papa’s driver and asked him to drop me off to school. While I was waiting, my phone rang. Pulling it out, I saw a strange number and hesitated. Should I answer? Or not? What if it was… The creep?

Still debating with myself, I decided to answer. “Hello?”

“Assalaamu Alaikum Haalah. How are you?…

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33. Picture Perfect

I woke up to a load shrill. I groaned and groped for the light. I had promised Matron I’d go through with whatever she said and I basically committed to being your typical goody two shoes Muslim Girl for a while, but already my resolve was waning.

If it involved awakening so early every morning, there was no way I was going to be happy about it. I looked around the room, puzzled. I didn’t see Matron and where did the ringing come from. Rubbing my eyes, I stepped out of the guest room and saw Matron rushing towards the telephone in the hall. I followed behind her and stood straining to hear the conversation. The few words I picked up didn’t give me too much of a clue. Emergency… Resisting… Medical assistance… Immediate help… Urgent…

Matron put down the phone and she was running around like a mad woman the next moment, grabbing her abaya, hijab, niqaab and handbag. Everytime I tried to ask her what was going on, she disappeared in some other direction.

Eventually, just as she was about to exit the front door, I grabbed her arm. “What’s going on? Where are you going?”

“Not sure. Go to sleep Haalah.”

“No, tell me!”

“I honestly don’t know myself. I got a call from the police department with directions and telling me that it’s an emergency. Now I really need to go.”

“I’m coming with you,” I insisted.

She shook her head but I persisted.

“I’ve never stayed a day of my life alone in a building at night. I’ve always one person, even if it was just the housekeeper. I’m not staying here.”

She sighed and relented, “Okay but you’re staying in the car.”

I noded and shrugged. We drove in silence until Matron pulled into the parking lot of a building. “This is the address the inspector gave me.”

I stared at her dubiously. “You’re sure this is not a prank? You know what this place is? It’s the most popular outlet for sporting goods. Practically every teen has shopped her at least once in their lives.”

The next five minutes passed by tediously slowly. Matron forced me to wait in the car. Eventually I couldn’t take it anymore, so I got out and went searching to see where Matron had gone to. Hearing a soft hum of voices, I followed the noise till it led me inside the outlet.

Bile rose in my throat as I watched the scene in front of me. I squeezed my eyes shut and I had to resist the urge to vomit. My head spun. Oh god! I can’t handle blood.

I forced my eyes to open and take in the scene in front of me even though my feet were itching to run away. The was a boy on the floor, excessively bleeding from his right leg. A few paramedics hovered uncertainly around him.

No one had noticed me yet. I stared at them incredulously. Why were they not helping him! Even if he was a criminal, he still deserved medical assistance. Just as I was about to say something, one of the paramedics stepped forward and attempted to examine the man’s wound. I sighed in relief but then gasped as I watched the man thrash and fight against the paramedics hold. He was desperately injured and I have no idea where he found the energy to fight, seeing the amount of blood pooling beneath him.

My eyes suddenly found Matron, rushing towards us. Next to her was a man dressed smartly in a formal suit. Rochdale’s police chief, I realised. I recognised him from the local gazette.

Matron rushed towards the injured man and knelt down next to him. I crept forward, desperate to hear what was being said in their hushed tones. One of the paramedics was speaking to Matron, “…just need you to administer a sedative if you can manage that. We’ve tried but cannot manage, he’s fighting everytime we get close to him.”

I glanced down at the man, now that I was nearer, I recognised him. He was the same guy who had called Matron, ‘Ummi. In my peripheral vision I noticed the paramedic unwrapping a needle and attaching it to a syringe. Oh god! I squeezed my eyes tightly shut, and tried to block out all sounds and thoughts about that huge terrifying needle, from my mind.

So focused was I on blocking everything out, that I jumped 2 feet when a hand rested on my shoulder. “What are you doing here? I gave you clear instructions to wait in the car.”

Uh oh!

32. Picture Perfect

COARIN

Haalah

I felt light pressure on my shoulders, and suddenly my whole body was shaking and vibrating. It stopped and I froze in shock. Slowly, I lifted my gaze and stared at matron. “Did you just… Did you just SHAKE me?” I stared at her incredulously.

She shrugged. “Someone needed to shake some sense into you.”

I gaped at her in horror. Who was this person in front of me? The matron I knew was prim and proper and… Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine her ever shaking someone. I opened my mouth to protest but she stopped me.

“Shh! I’m going to talk now Haalah, and you are going to listen to me. You claim that you are not turning to Allah because you are such a terrible sinner. Do you realise that you are actually insulting Allah? Do you?” She questioned, her eyes boring through me…

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31. Picture Perfect

COARIN

“I don’t think it’s your fault, but neither do I think that you’re free of all blame,” she stated bluntly. “Tell me something, this teenage club is connected to the normal one where alcohol and stuff is served, right?”

I nodded mutely.

“And from all the people you knew, I suppose they were at least a few who broke the rules and touched alcohol?” she probed.

“Yeah,” I whispered, “It’s not even hard for them to access it. As long as they have the money to bribe a few guys, you can get access to anything there.”

“So do you agree with me that it was not a safe place?” she asked, her voice terrifyingly low.

I nodded shamefully.

“Knowing that it was not a safe place, you still chose to go there willingly. Correct me if I’m wrong. Where you forced to go there?”

“No,” I said quietly, my…

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30. Picture Perfect


**Aaisha

“You heard right. In the heat of their argument, she picked up her heel and whacked his abdomen with considerable force. It.. It pierced through his skin.

She chose the wrong shoe. She used her brand new Casedei blade heel.” She lifted her head and at my blank look sighed. “It’s these stilettos that are really really thin but they’re also very strong. The entire heel is made of pure steel. I still get shudders when I see it for sale anywhere.

I couldn’t… There was so much blood. And then Papa passed out. He… I.. It wasn’t anything fatal but… He needed two stitches. The doctor later told us that he only lost consciousness because of shock, not for any medical related reasons. I didn’t know that though, and it was pretty darned scary. The ambulance came after half an hour or me nearly having panic attacks, convinced that Papa was going to… die,” she finished with a whisper.

“The backlash from the media after that was almost as bad as the event itself. Through some of the nurses, it reached the media and they were having a field day with the story. It sounds funny, doesn’t it?
Arguing couple… Wife stabs husband.. Huge media exposure… Like something out a comedy novel.” she laughed with derision. “Oh how I wish it were all a joke.”

“One of the reasons for so much media exposure was because Papa was partner in an elite law firm. The incident had made it into the news but just a few small articles in local newspapers. They thought it was bad publicity for the firm and insisted that Papa file a lawsuit. He had no choice, it was that or possibly losing his job. So they went to court and it was horrible. By then Papa had already pronounced Islamic divorce and the state divorce was almost formalised. That’s when it made national papers.

I couldn’t leave the house almost a month after that without the fear of paparazzi and press ambushing me. It was horrible.” She paused for a while before continuing, “Yeah, that’s it. That’s basically what happened all those years ago.”

“And the clubbing? When did that start?” I dared to ask.

“The year after that. I just needed a distraction. Being alone with my mind was driving me crazy. It’s not like I was doing anything wrong or anything. It had a section for under eighteens, it’s completely safe and legal,” she said defensively.

I snorted. “Yeah, right! That’s how you ended up with rohypnol in your system.”

Her face crumpled. My eyes widened. I wasn’t expecting that reaction. Stupid, I berated myself. She was bound to be upset and affected by it. What girl wouldn’t. Being slipped date rape drugs was no laughing matter.

“Did… Did the police get back to you after u filed that case?” she asked with seeming disinterest. Her tense posture and darting eyes belied her. She was interested, very interested.

“No. I’m not surprised. Nothing actually happened so they’re not going to give it priority. It’s probably really low priority at the moment, and by the time they do get down to investigating it, it will be so long from the time it happened that they’ll write it off.”

“Oh!” she said disappointedly.

I looked at her gloomy face, “Cheer up! InshaAllah, something will come through.”

“I, I’ve… I’ve been getting messages from someone for the past month. It was from one number, then I blocked it and since then the number keeps changing. I’ve blocked like twenty numbers already. The messages started of innocent enough, see.” She pulled out her phone and with a few taps, opened up her messaging app. I read the messages displayed on the screen. “You’re looking gorgeous today.” “Red looks good on you.” “I’m in love with the way your uniform drapes over your figure.” “Are you tired? Coz you’ve been running through my mind all day long.”

She scrolled downwards, showing me more messages. “If i could rearrange the alphabet, I’d put ‘u’ and ‘I’, together.” “Your legs in that mini skirt and tights are something I have fantasies about.”

Haalah looked up at me. “I blocked him there. Until then it just seemed like some harmless teasing but by then… It was going on for too long plus it was starting to make me feel uncomfortable.

She pulled up another chat and showed me. This chat just had two messages. “I want you to know something but I’m too scared to tell you in person. So I’ll just let the first 3 words of this sentence say it for me.” “Do you buy your pants on sale? Because at my house they would be 100% off.”

My brows furrowed in worry. For Allah’s sake, what exactly did she get herself into here?

“I blocked that number as well. But… I got more messages,” she said barely audibly, hanging her head in shame.

“This was the next one,” she whispered, not meeting my eyes. “”Is your dad a military general? Because when you walked by, my privates snapped to attention.”

I knew it was serious when I got that message. There was no way it was just someone messing around with me. I blocked that number too, and then I got one last message, “Last time you evaded me, and I was angry as can be. It took a lot of time to acquire that rohypnol you see, and I had to pay a hefty fee. But not this time, nothing will stop me from making u mine.”

I lifted my head to look at her, my mind still reeling. Haalah studiously avoided my eyes, no matter how hard I tried to catch her gaze. “Haalah…”

She flinched. “I know what you’re thinking! You think it’s all my fault, don’t you. I swear it’s not. I don’t… I’ve never touched alcohol or drugs and I don’t talk to strangers. I’ve never even talked to any of the people who come up to me at the bar, I just ignore them. I only talk to the people I know. And I make sure that the ones I talk to don’t drink and are not.. Using. I don’t know why this is happening. It’s not my fault. But that doesn’t change what you think, does it?”

29. Picture Perfect

COARIN

We ate in silence. I finished eating before Haalah so sat and nibbled a little, waiting for her to finish. A few minutes later, she finished and pushed her plate forward, dropping her head onto her place mat.

“I’m going to tell you everything now, please don’t disturb me till I’m done,” she requested, her voice muffled into the table.

I waited and then she began again, “I told you about Kevin, remember? I would spend my time with him all the time at these dinners and events, and occasionally, mama would join us. I loved those times because I had two people I liked spending time with me. After a while, mama was joining us more often than not. And I loved it.” she laughed bitterly.

“I came home early from school one day to find Kevin at home. While I didn’t catch them doing anything indecent, I was…

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28. Picture Perfect

COARIN

After about ten minutes of silence, my patience waned. “And then?”

I regretted it as soon as the words were out of my mouth. It was as if she’d shut down. All her features went blank including her eyes, absolutely expressionless. She smiled politely and shrugged. “I think I need to get going, it’s quite late.” Her voice was cold and expressionless.

She stood up and began to walk away. I jumped up and grabbed her arm, stopping her. “No! Wait! You didn’t finish telling me what happened.”

She wrenched her arm out of my grasp and started backing away. Questioning if I was making the right decision, I followed her. “Come on Haalah, what’s wrong? We made a deal, remember? You tell me what happened and then I’ll instruct you and help you to find happiness. Have you forgotten? Or do you no longer want to be part of…

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