When The Air Strikes

By Mariya Nadeem All Rights Reserved ©

Mystery / Adventure

Breaking Silence

14

There are different kinds of silences. The library is a silent place, so is the graveyard. At times books fall disturbing the sheet of wordlessness around. They’re picked up and put back. In the middle of the night, leaves crumble under footsteps, fluttering around tombstones. There’s no putting them or the fear that’s building in you, back. But these are places that have held back voices all their life. And then there’s silence in a room full of people wanting to talk, not knowing what to say. Letters bubble at the rim of the bucket the mouths are, sticking like drool crusted at the corner of the lips. I’m stuck in one of these rooms when Andrew walks out, “I’ve been thinking and I’ve decided it’ll only be fair if I should be the one to go. I don’t want to live with this weird version of survivor’s guilt.” Nikki goes next, “The office has already lost most of its best people, you don’t tell me you want it to be shut down. If not the audience that waits for information from you every day, keep in mind Zara. You’re the Godfather.” From the corner of my eye, I can see all the heaters in the house switched off. What with this perspiration? I need to motor the conversation, “Believe me, we have no time for a moral science lesson right now. I should go. Please Andrew, don’t give me that look. I want to go. Think of it as a birthday present.” I don’t know if Luke considers this is a must-participation-debate or if he means it, nevertheless he chimes in too, “Birthday present? It’s a bloody death wish. And what about that wand pen he got you?”

“Luke, I’m already really overwrought with confusion. I don’t need this shit right now.”

“This ain’t no shit. If you’re going I’ll come too.”

“It’s not a fucking road trip you moron. Besides you have your college entrances and counseling.”

“I don’t care, I’m coming.”

Hanna is at a loss of words. By default, it’s her turn to speak so we all take rest while she processes the new developments in the heated up argument. She takes hands out of her pocket and places them very roughly across her face, staring through her fingers first at Luke then at me, “I can’t lose both of you. And what about mum, Luke? She’ll never let you go. To hell with parental permission, I’m not letting anybody.”

I’ve got my patient clear voice back, the one I use on people when I have lost the urge to shout.

“Hanna, listen to me, alright? Luke does not need to escort me.”

“It’s not just him, I don’t want you-“

“I understand. I’ve got family stuck there, and believe me there’s not a worse feeling- knowing they’re enveloped in destruction and not being able to do a thing.”

“God. I’ll come too. Don’t say a word, Zara Battle. Just shut up.”

Nikki looks like she’s about to laugh, “Woah woah woah. Keep that adrenaline to yourself. What do you think is going on here? This is super serious business. We have to come up with a practical plan and soon.”

A look of defeat descends over Andrew’s face, which makes me really happy. He’s finally give in. I look at him and see the concern for the first time. He does genuinely care. In between the lines etched over his forehead, the crow’s feet beside the eyes that have recently lost their shine, the intensity of dark circles, the improbable roughness of his unshaved cheek and a trembling lower lip is, loss. It only occurs to me now how madly he’s been trying all these days to work his way through the problem. Trying his best not to, he looks at me, hanging in head, in what I hope is not shame. I might have said it, but it’s not his fault. An eerie silence engulfs the room and it’s hard for anyone to tell if it is the permanence of peace or the calm before the storm. Hanna walks out into the lobby to call her parents, Nikki goes towards the kitchen for fixing us some food and I gape intently at Luke in disbelief, how can he just not take a hint? As if hit by a baseball bat at back of his head, he recoils and plops his butt on a cushion, very apparently not trying hard enough to curb his curiosity. My knees are wobbly as I walk across the carpet. Andrew has put me in a very awkward situation but I cannot let this moment become another anecdote for Luke to remember and joke about, so I sit cross legged in front of his chair. I take his huge hands marked in ink at several places in mine and tentatively put my head on the puzzle of fingers. And then suddenly it is happening- Andrew and I, sobbing like crazy, our tears flooding the hem of his shirt. He makes me sit beside him, my cheek resting on his shoulder. A little sunlight filters through the curtain and reaches us, casting a halo on the floor. Maybe after all Guardian angels are true.

It is now very obvious that my parents are not the best decision makers in the world, but their every move has always only bettered me. People thought it was crazy of them to ever name Andy my Godfather, even people who hardly knew my parents or Andrew, because he has always been so oblivious to everything. But what others fail to notice is his energy concentrated towards whatever it is that he loves the best. He creates an aura out of everything he has to protect his belongings, never letting go, which makes him seem indecorous to others’ existence. That’s why it has hit him so bad, not being able to beshield my parents.

If not for anything else, I have to bring mom and dad back for restoring faith in a man who restores my faith in the goodness of the world.

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