The minute I heard my father’s voice calling out for me to open the door, I jumped out of bed in panic. “Layla! Layla! Wake up!” I hissed under my breath patting her back not so gently to wake her up. She lifted her head from the pillow but her eyes were still closed. “What?” she responded, half asleep. “Dad’s outside! Don’t you hear him?” I said. “Khalid, open up the door,” he was calling again. . “Just a minute. I need to get dressed. Wait,” I said trying to make myself sound sleepy but my voice came out shaky and more alert than what I intended for it to sound. Layla jumped out of bed too and now we were both panicking. “What do we do?” she asked. “I don’t know! I don’t know. Do I look like I have a clue?” I almost yelled at her.
I figured the best thing we can do is try to hide her somewhere. We looked around the room and then I pointed, “The closet!” “Wait. We need to fix up the room first!” she said. I put on my clothes as fast as I could only to find out that I wore the t-shirt inside out with the rush. “Your shirt,” she said but I told her it does not matter. We hid her clothes and her Abaya underneath the bed. “Come on!” dad shouted. “OK!” I shouted back. Layla got into the closet carrying her bag with her and I inspected the room one last time wondering if we had missed anything.
There was no time for me to think so I just unlocked the door and half-opened it standing behind it. “Sorry. I was asleep,” I said to my dad who was standing impatiently in front of the door. “What do you want?” I asked. “I’ve been waiting here for over ten minutes! Step aside,” he said and pushed away the door and me in the same motion. “Remember last night I came here to photocopy a couple of papers? Turns out I left one of the originals inside the photocopier and forgot to take it with me,” he said.
All I could think of was how this cannot be! This is ridiculous. No. It is way beyond ridiculous. Out of all the times he photocopied anything using the small multi-purposed machine in my room, he had to forget this stupid paper yesterday! Moreover, he happened to need it or rather remember it this particular day! I could not believe what was happening. My father never forgets to take anything. He is never home before dinner. Why did he have to come back at 10 in the morning for some meaningless paper? I was silently cursing the paper alongside the machine and the company that created it and just about everything while he went to fetch the dreadful paper.
I started to thank God a million times when I saw that my father had the paper in his hand and was heading to the door. I almost let out a sigh of relief but he suddenly stopped. He was looking at something. I stretched my neck to see what it was. “Shit! I knew we had forgotten something!” Her red sandals were tossed somewhere below the edge of the bed so we could not see them. However, they were right in front of my father’s sight now. He turned to me and asked, “What’s going on?”
“Nothing. Why would you think that?” It was a stupid thing to say but it was the only thing that came to my mind at the time. “You’re lying,” he said trying to meet my eyes with his. I looked away and stepped out of the room trying to get him away from it. I opened the fridge, took a sip of the water bottle in attempt to hide my nervousness, and said, “I’m not. Now could you please leave my room so I can go back to sleep?” “There’s a woman’s scent in the air. It’s too strong to miss. Who do you have in there with you?” he said accusingly. “No one. You’re only imagining things,” I said and stood leaning on the doorframe because I was not sure I could hold myself standing for much longer. “She’s in the closet, isn’t she? There’s no other place for her to hide,” he said conclusively and headed for it. I realized there was no point of trying to fool him anymore. “She is. I’m sorry,” was all I managed to say. “Let her get dressed and come both of you to my room. We need to talk” he said firmly and walked out of the room.
I opened the closet and told Layla to come out. She looked at me with questioning eyes so I told her to get dressed and that my father is waiting for us in his room. Her eyes started to tear up a little bit so I hugged her and I assured her everything was going to be alright even though I did not believe that myself. I sat on the edge of the bed while she got dressed and collected her stuff. When she was done, she sat next to me and we both just held each other’s hands in silence. A minute later, I stood up and helped her up because she did not seem capable of standing on her own. We knocked on dad’s door and he said, “Come in.”
He was sitting on the chair of his desk and I noticed that he had loosened up his tie. He nodded for both of us to take a seat in front of him. “Dad, this is Layla,” I barely finished my sentence when he stood up, came to me and slapped me hard right on my face for the very first time in his life. My left cheek was burning up. It was reddening with the sudden rush of blood. I did not know what I felt more, the pain from the slap or the shame for causing it in the first place. I saw him raising his hand again and I thought he was going to slap me a second time so I closed my eyes but then I heard Layla say, “Please don’t hit him.” He looked at her for a second then lowered his hand and started yelling at me,
“See what you made me do? I didn’t want to do this but you forced me to. Now tell me, what am I supposed to do now? How should I deal with this situation? I never thought I’d have to deal with such a thing, especially with you. I thought I raised you better than this but seems like I did not. Apparently I did something wrong. I thought you knew better, too. Go on; tell me you didn’t do what I think you did in your room. I’m not a fool. How could you allow yourself to do this? I take it this is not the first time you did this with her. Hell, probably she’s not the first girl you bring over. How would I know now?” “She’s the only one,” I mumbled. “Oh excuse me. Only one you say? Well, we should you give you a reward. You bring someone else’s daughter to my house and do god-knows-what with her. Have you got no shame? Have you not thought well of what you were doing? Didn’t you think of the consequences? Are you out of your mind?
And what about your mother? Do you want me to tell her what I found her precious son doing this morning? She’d flip if she found out. Thank God it was I who saw you, not her. God knows she has enough to worry about, not adding your stupid misdeeds. Honestly, I don’t know what you expect me to do. I’m confused myself.” He was pacing around the room. “I told mom about Layla,” I said, staring at the floor. “I’m sure you didn’t tell her about what you were doing this morning.
I look at you and I see you’re only a boy; young and foolish. I should force you to go and ask for her hand in marriage. Of course, her parents will reject you because you’re both still young and you can barely support yourself. Then I’d have to sit with them and explain to them why you must get married to each other so soon. It would be like my own worst nightmare coming true for someone else. How would I be able to look them in the eye? I should be proud and happy on your wedding day. I shouldn’t be feeling shame and disgrace like I know I would now if her parents learned the truth. My son had his way with your daughter. There’s no other way to put it. What about this poor girl? I don’t want to expose her and ruin her life because she made a mistake. You should’ve thought of all of this before you brought her into your room. Why on earth didn’t you think of any of that? Why? You piece of shit” He sat down and lit up a cigarette. He remained silent for a few minutes before saying, “Go. Take her to her house and come back so we can talk after I had some time to think.” When I reached the door, I turned and said, “I’m truly sorry. We both are. We weren’t thinking. I just want you to know that we love each other and that we want to be together one day.” My father waved his hand and said without even looking at us, “Just go.”
In our front yard, I told Layla not to worry then hugged her and kissed her forehead before we got into the car. On the way to her house, Layla would not stop crying. She had been fighting the tears but now she just let them fall unopposed. Her whole body was shaking. I squeezed her hand as tight as I could in attempt to calm her. “Everything’s going to be alright, inshallah. We’ll work this out,” I kept telling her over and over again.
Less than a minute away from her house, dad called me on my mobile. I answered saying, “We’re almost there. I’ll drop her off and I’ll be back in fifteen minutes or so.” He surprised me by saying, “No. Don’t drop her off. There’s this errand that I have to run. It’ll probably take me an hour. I’ll meet you after I’m finished at Aroma Café. You two just go there and wait for me.” I did not know what to say except, “Ok.” “What did your dad just say?” she asked me after I hung up. “He wants to meet us at Aroma Café,” I replied. Her teary reddened eyes widened up and she asked me why. I told her I had no idea.
I parked the car in front of an empty construction site near her house. I held her face in between my palms and wiped her tears with my thumbs. “Please stop crying. I can’t stand to see you like this,” I said then put my arms around her and hugged her. “I’m sorry for causing you all this trouble,” she whispered. I broke free for a minute and looked into her eyes. “No. No. Don’t ever say that. Do you hear me? You don’t have to be sorry for anything. I should be apologizing to you. I dragged you into this but Inshallah everything’s going to be alright.” She let out a faint giggle and said, “Do you know that you have said everything’s going to be alright like ten thousand times already?” I laughed and told her that I did not know what else to say, being the foolish little boy that I am. We shared a little laugh then we hugged again. I told her I loved her and she did the same. We held hands and headed to the café.