Here is another excerpt from the novel I am working on, following on from the first part here.
Zaheera walked for hours. It was getting dark now; she knew because she could feel the chill enclosing around her. She decided to bury herself in the sand to try and keep warm. She felt a sudden wave of fear at the prospect of there being a scorpion in the sand and she regretted coming out all this way.
Yasmin squealed at the mention of a scorpion, Ryan laughed.
She didn’t know what to do, she had no idea where she was. She felt scared and she wanted to cry but instead she carefully buried herself in the sand to keep as warm as she could.
She did not sleep much that night. The cold and constant fear of scorpions kept her awake. When she could feel the warmth of the sun come through to chase away the cold of the night, she got up. She decided she would walk back in the direction she came in, only she didn’t know what direction that was. She began to panic and fear washed over her. She forced herself to start walking, simply to give herself purpose and to increase her chance of seeing someone. She pushed away the thought that she could in fact, be walking further and further away from the village. She could be walking in circles for all she knew.
The heat soared down on her that day. With no shade, no reprieve and no water, she was struggling. When the heat reached its peak, she sat down in despair.
As the intensity of the heat gave way slightly, she got up and continued walking. She found herself calling for Abdullah endlessly, shouting his name over and over; which only drained her energy quicker. More hours went by and she felt the familiar feel of the chill beginning to set in and she began shaking with dread. Her body shook with sobs but they were dry, her dehydrated body had no tears for her to shed.
Another day came much the same. Her steps were now small and feeble. She found herself sitting down when the sun reached its peak once again. She felt a dull ache of panic, fear and despair but she did not have enough energy to even feel those emotions intensely.
Zaheera had her eyes closed instinctively against the heat of the sun. She could hear someone approaching as they were breathing heavily.
“Abdullah?” She croaked, hopefully.
They didn’t respond. She felt uneasy. She sensed that they were standing behind her, she spun round and opened her eyes and to her utter shock she could see a man standing there. She could tell she didn’t have her sight back because she couldn’t see anything else except the man.
“Zaheera.” The man said in greeting.
“Wh- how do you know my name?” Her mouth was dry and she didn’t recognise her own voice.
“I have been waiting for you.” The man said.
Zaheera frowned. “Who are you?” She demanded.
“That all depends on you.” He said mysteriously.
She was confused and she didn’t have the energy to engage in this man’s riddles so she didn’t respond.
“I have a proposal for you.” The man stated.
Zaheera looked up at him and took in the detail. He was handsome, without a doubt. Large, dark eyes; a thick, neat beard. He was tall and strong. He was dressed in intricately detailed garments. He did not look like he had been walking for hours, which he must have been as there was no camel in sight and no village around them.
She still didn’t respond, waiting for him to explain himself.
“Come with me and be my wife. You will live luxuriously; you will want for nothing. And on top of that, if you agree to be my wife, you will have your sight back.” He grinned at her, revealing his dazzling smile.
Zaheera looked at this handsome, rich stranger, asking her to be his wife and promising her sight back.
“Only Allah can grant me my sight back.” Zaheera stated flatly.
“Yes, but through me.” He continued to smile.
“Why can I see you?” She asked suspiciously.
“To show you that it is possible for you to have your sight back. If you come with me.”
“Come with you, where?” She asked.
“Far away from here.”
“What about my family?” She continued.
“I will be your family.” He stepped closer to her, holding out his hand.
Zaheera looked at him, thinking.
If she went with him, she would have a handsome husband; a life of luxury and her sight back! If she didn’t go with him, the chances are that she would die alone in the desert. In that moment, Zaheera forgot Abdullah.
She began to lift her hand towards the stranger’s, timidly. As her hand got close to his, she noticed a glint in his eye, a sneer in his grin, his expression began to change. Horrified, she pulled her hand back quickly and with her other hand threw sand in his eyes. He let out an angry roar and Zaheera got up and with strength and energy she didn’t know she had, she began to run.
Abdullah had been looking for Zaheera as soon as he realised she was gone. After his conversation with his mother, with her permission, he was going to ask Zaheera for her hand in marriage. When he found her not at home, her mother was confused as she knew Zaheera had gone to look for Abdullah. It didn’t take long for Abdullah to realise that Zaheera must have heard something.
He borrowed a horse from someone in the neighbouring village and set out with his older brother to find Zaheera. They had no idea which direction she had gone in so they asked every villager if they had seen her, only some of them were glad she was gone. They secretly thought she brought bad tidings to the village and thought it was a blessing from Allah that she had decided to leave. With little help or encouragement from their fellow villagers, Abdullah and his brother set out. At first they checked the other local villages and when they were sure she wasn’t there, they went towards the open Sahara. Abdullah was filled with dread and anguish for his Zaheera as the first night came and went. The next day they resumed their relentless search and tried to do it methodically. Several times Abdullah thought he could hear her voice calling him but his brother didn’t seem to hear it. His heart playing tricks on him, he thought.
As the third day drew to a close, Abdullah began to grow frantic. They would lose the light soon and would not be able to see for much longer. His sharp eyes scoured the horizon greedily, desperate to find her. In the distance he suddenly noticed something. Not big enough to be her, but a clue perhaps. He shouted to his brother for them to go towards it.
As they got closer to it, Abdullah recognised it as Zaheera’s headscarf. He thought perhaps she had taken it off in the heat of the day but at least it meant they were in the right area.
As they got closer still, Abdullah saw her face. For one heart wrenching moment he thought somehow her head had been taken from her body.
“Zaheera?” His voice broke as called her name.
She opened her eyes, instinctively and frowned, not believing what she was hearing.
“Abdullah?” Her voice was hoarse. She sat up and the sand fell away from her body. She had buried herself in the sand, ready for another cold night. Relief consumed Abdullah as he jumped down from his horse and ran the last few steps towards her. He wrapped his arms around her and held her close as he uttered over and over again, “I’m with you. I’m with you. I’m with you.” His words came between sobs and Zaheera could taste the salt from his tears as they made their way onto her lips.
Zaheera had little energy for words but even if she had she couldn’t find the right ones.
Abdullah and his brother took Zaheera home where her family were waiting anxiously for her return. Zaheera never spoke of the reason for her walking away, not to her family nor to Abdullah. Her family believed that it seemed to have been a mistake. An accident. She got lost, which was partly the truth. But Abdullah knew the whole truth, deep down.
After several weeks everything went back to normal. Zaheera was with Abdullah in his garden and they were sitting in silence. After the emotional moment of finding Zaheera and bringing her back home, Abdullah had thought this bit would be easy. But now he sat there struggling to find the right words, overcome with shyness and anxiety.
Zaheera sensed the hesitancy in him, as she sensed everything and she felt an overwhelming rush of happiness at what she knew was coming. Only, it was taking him a long time.
Finally, Abdullah stuttered the word, “Zaheera?”
Zaheera understood everything he was trying to say in that one word. In response, and in acceptance of his proposal she said, “I’m with you.”
After they got married, Zaheera and Abdullah went on their regular walk through the village. As usual, Abdullah collected some stones and put them in his pocket, ready for the onlookers.
As they were walking Zaheera asked him, “Abdullah, why do you throw stones?”
He was slightly taken aback. “To make sure you know where the path is.” He fumbled.
But Zaheera knew and she had always known why Abdullah threw stones. She sensed people moving away from her, the side steps and the changes of direction.
“I don’t care what people think, Abdullah. As long as I have you.”
“I want to take you away from here. I want you to see the world. I wish you could see.” Abdullah suddenly expressed his sadness that his wife would never be able to see again. She would never be able to see their children, or see a beautiful sunset.
“Show me the world, Abdullah. Show me through your eyes.” Zaheera smiled at him, reassuring him that she felt no loss.
So that’s what Abdullah did. He showed her the world.
Yasmin clapped and smiled, “Aww yay!”
Fatima noticed that Ryan seemed to have lost interest long ago, and was now playing with the Lego, but he began clapping along with Yasmin anyway.
“Ryan?” Yasmin said, purposefully.
“I’m with you.” Ryan grinned at her and she grinned back.
Fatima was surprised at his response. He had obviously been paying more attention than he let on.
Yasmin looked at her mum and noticed a sad look in her eyes. She couldn’t tell why her mum suddenly had a hint of sadness. It was a happy ending, Yasmin thought to herself.