When The Air Strikes

By Mariya Nadeem All Rights Reserved ©

Mystery / Adventure

The Big Gift

8

Andrew is in action but this time I can’t wait. Luke and I walk sternly. It’s not like my parents’ disappearance is Andrew’s fault but the confusion in me is turning into rage by bits. I hold my hand out like a barrier for Luke and signal him to wait in the corridor. He obeys. All of it feels very corporate. As I walk into the hall I hear Hanna exiting the lift. She instinctively shouts, “What’s going on?” while panting a little. Luke hushes her. Andrew doesn’t look up from his laptop. A journalist is standing beside him. They both are reading something from the screen, I can see the journalist’s lips moving and his eye crawling all over whatever it is that they’re so engrossed in. I cross my arms across my chest mutely. It’s not my best move since there are too many people around and I’m hardly noticeable. That’s when the journalist looks up at me, then nudges Andy, not sure if hitting his boss in the gut was the right thing to do. Andrew needs no telling. He hands the laptop to the man beside him, watches him walk back to his seat and pulls out a little box from his drawer. It’s been carefully wrapped with a dark blue, almost black, paper. He pushes it at me and says, “Happy birthday, Z,” ruffling my already messy head a little. He looks above my shoulder at my friends, and motions them to come in.

All four of us sit in my dad’s cabin. It’s a small room, lined with books. On the wall above my dad’s seat is a huge world map. There are two chairs in front of my dad’s desk. Andrew motions his hand for me to sit on dad’s chair, smiling, like it’s a movie and we’ve to act according to scripts. Hanna sits beside Andrew and Luke on the desk.

“Go on, open your gift,” Andrew says and I hate it. I don’t understand why he has to so elaborately pretend that nothing unusual has happened. Despite the influx of emotion in me I rip apart the wrapping paper- there’s a wand shaped pen placed neatly in the middle of the case. “Create magic,” Andrew repeats twice in a husky voice. I manage a smile that lasts half a second before yelling, “Mum and Dad, Andy. Please. Where are they?”

He immediately becomes very conscious of the three pairs of eyes looking at him and walks towards me. Switching on my dad’s laptop, he signs into his mail and opens up a message he’s received just this morning from Kevin Battle.

From: Kevin Battle

To: Andrew Adams

Received: 11:00 am, 5th July

Hello Zara,

Not the best surprise ever, but it still ranks somewhere along the top fifteen. We’re very sorry. I hope you have a good time today and forever. Mum is missing you. We’ll be back as soon as possible. Don’t worry. Ask Nona to not feed you too much sea food, resist if she insists. I know she can be a bit extravagant with her skills. I’m pretty sure Andy has forgotten; remind him to give you our gift. Take care. Happy 18th Bigday. We love you, the most.

Dad (and a bickering interruptive mum)

Before I can scroll further, Andy says, “That’s it. Time to party. Let’s go.” He asks us to wait while he grabs something from his table. Without saying another word he takes us to the ground floor and out of the building, through the rear exit. The backside of the building is comparatively quiet and less crowded, except for the large number of cars. A few people are going about their normal day. An old couple is trying to fill their trunk with groceries. A young lady is walking down the lane; the tip of her nose red from having been rubbed by the tissue in her hand. Her eye makeup has been freshly redone. I am slightly proud of my uncanny knack to observe everything around extra carefully when I am confused within. And it strikes me how eerily wonderful it is that each person around has a chaotic set of things going on in their brain. Living with the ruckus in the head and keeping intact the sanity at the same time is heroic.

Andrew stops abruptly in his tracks and takes a robotic turn. I follow him with my head bowed down, trying to step over his shoe marks while Hanna and Luke repeatedly bust against my shoulder because of my slow pace. We all come to a halt when Andrew holds out his left hand and throws a key at me using his right. The key falls in my palm and slips through my fingers. It’s just sad. When I pick it back and look up, I’ve completely zoned out. My parents’ sedan is parked in front of my slouched figure.

“How’d you like it?” Andy asks. A guttural sound forms around my voice box. I should have thought about their car. Not having remembered about it creates an impression of me not working hard enough towards finding them. I want to try hard enough. The word ‘try’ seems very wrong, because it implies a probability of failure. I can’t take it anymore.

Before I even know, we’re sitting in an Arabic restaurant. Everything is a blur. Through the dots and stains spread across my eyes and mind I see Luke and Hanna very tenderly bite their Shawarmas. Andrew is very interested in what seems like hummus, but I can’t tell, it could be just plain mayonnaise. The room is brightly lit against the little of the dark sky that can be seen in between the skyscraper and the wooden windowpane. I drink the special kahwa tea, I don’t remember ordering. It’s bitter, so the taste just camouflages with my within.

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