Decree of Hope

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I had called Mirriam’s phone eight times. She never answered. “Ommy, I’ll be back,” I called as I headed for the front door.

“Where are you going?”

“Across the street. I’ll be back. Wait here in case she calls.” Yeah, right.

I knocked on the Millers’ door, and Caleb’s mom answered. Her face was red and swollen like she had been crying. She clutched her cell phone in one hand and a cordless land line in the other. She smiled when she saw me. “Have you seen my son?”

“No, I was hoping you’d heard from him. I think my sister is with him.”

“Your sister is missing, too?”

I nodded.

She sighed. “Why does that not surprise me?”

She better not be implying this was Mirriam’s idea. Mirriam might have been rebellious, but she’d never come up with anything this elaborate on her own. “I don’t know what you mean by that. Could you try to call him? If my sister isn’t home soon, I’m calling the police.”

She glared at me. “My son has been missing for three hours. He’s still recovering from a run-in with a small car. He’s doing good to stand up on his own, and he can’t walk straight. You don’t think I’ve called the police?”

“You did? What did they say?”

“They said he’s eighteen. Call back this time tomorrow.”

I shook my head. “She’s not. I’m calling the police.”

“She’s not what? Eighteen?”

“No and she won’t be for another four months.”

“Shit. Let me try to call Caleb again.” She dialed a number on the cell in her hand and put her ear to it. She shook her head. “It’s going straight to his voicemail. It’s not even ringing. It’s almost like he’s on a plane or something.”

My mouth dropped when she said it. Mirriam had a passport, and she was pissed off about this arranged marriage. God, she’s done something stupid. “Does Caleb have a passport?”

“Yes, we went to Mexico a few years ago.”

I shook my head. “I gotta go.” I ran back across the street and called the police. I needed to call Rahim too and cancel the wedding. His parents were on their way here. He was going to kill me.

I dialed 9-1-1 on the way across the street. The dispatcher connected me to the local police station. “This is BJ. How can I help you?”

“I need to make a police report. My little sister is missing.”

“When did you see her last?”

“A few hours ago at her graduation.”

“You don’t think she’s out partying?”

“She’s not a partier.”

“Even so, she’s an adult. I can’t help you until tomorrow. What is going on tonight? This is the second call I’ve gotten about someone missing from graduation.”

“She’s not an adult.”

“She’s eighteen—”

“Are you listening to me? She’s not eighteen.”

“When will she be eighteen?”

“Not until the fall. Are you going to help me or not?”

He sighed. “Are you sure she’s not out partying? The school even sponsors a party that goes till mornin’.”

“She’s not partying. The other call you got was from the parent of a boy she’s not allowed to see, who can’t party because he can’t walk. That jackass jarhead that killed himself a few weeks ago did so because he shot my dad and aimed the same gun at my baby sister. He told the whole story on YouTube. You can watch it for yourself if you want. As far as I know the guy that ordered my sister shot was never arrested, and now she’s missing. With the son of the other guy the jarhead killed. I don’t know if it’s connected,” and I doubted that it was, “but I want my sister home. If the local police can’t help me, I’ll keep calling until I find someone who can.”

“We’ll send someone over to take a police report and look around her room to see what we can find. You said she’s not supposed to see her boyfriend. Did she run away?”

Yes. “No, Mirriam wouldn’t do that.”

I walked across the street later and told Caleb’s mom I called the police and blamed the military, not her little wannabe jarhead. Poor lady. I felt so sorry for her that I might not beat the shit out Caleb when I found them.

Time for the hard part. I had to call Rahim.

“Hello?” he said.

“I have to talk you about something, and before I start, I’m really sorry.”

“What’s wrong?”

“Mirriam is gone.”

“What do you mean she’s gone?”

“She’s run away.”

Rahim sighed. “Well, this is embarrassing.”

“I’m so sorry.”

“What do you need me to do?”

That took me by surprise. “What do you mean?”

“Should I come help you find her and marry her anyhow?”

“I can’t ask you to do that.”

“Are you sure? Because I gave you my word I’d take care of your sister.”

This guy was a better friend than I ever knew. He would have taken good care of my sister. Why can’t Mirriam ever just go along with the grain? Ever? “I won’t ask you to start a life like this. I need to find a reform school for Mirriam.”

He laughed. “First you have to find her. You want me to come help you find her and not marry her?”

“The police are on their way. If they can’t find her, I’m afraid it’s a loss cause.”

“What happened?”

“She swears she’s in love with that white kid. She was angry with me for arranging the marriage—”

“Speaking of which, my parents are on their way.”

“I know.”

“You get to break the news to them.”

“I’m sorry.”

“They’re not going to take it well, but I’m fine.”


“Yeah, I don’t want an arranged marriage. I agreed to this because you asked me to and I know Mirriam. And that picture was nice.” I didn’t like the way his voice got deeper when he said “nice.” “But maybe with the arranged marriage blowing up in their face, they’ll drop it.”

“I’ll pay for their hotel room. I’ll take care of them.”

“I know. They’re going to yell. Good luck.”

I’d made it into the house, and I was sitting on the couch now.

“Abrahem, who are you talking to?” Ommy asked.

“Rahim,” I answered.

“You can’t tell him about this. We’ll find her before tomorrow!” She threw herself down the couch beside me.

“Abrahem?” Rahim asked.


“Tell her I broke it off. You can tell my parents the same.”

“Are you serious? They’ll crucify you.”

He laughed. “They will. But it will be less embarrassing for them than a girl running away to keep from marrying their son, and your mom will take it better, too.”

“Thank you.” Back home this would be a bigger deal. Anyone canceling a wedding made a liar of their family, and the whole family would lose face in the community. Neither party to the marriage would be able to get an arranged marriage after that, and for a girl to run away was unheard of. What Rahim did for my sister—for my family—was huge. I hoped she found another guy like him.

“You’re welcome. I need to go refund my plane ticket now.”

I hung up the phone and told Ommy the truth. I cancelled the wedding because there was no point in having Rahim fly across the country when Mirriam wasn’t here.

“Everyone back home is going to talk about us. How could you do this? We could have found her.”

“Mirriam ran away because of the arranged marriage. If I find her tonight, I’m not going to force her into this. I should have let her date that punk across the street and then we’d know where she was right now.”

Ommy shook her head. “You did the right thing, but you shouldn’t have cancelled it.”

“Rahim wants his parents to think he cancelled it. No one in the village is going to talk about you. But Ommy, our life in Iraq is gone. We’re here now. Things are different, and you can’t worry about things you would have if you were home.”

Her mouth gaped like she couldn’t believe I told her that. I should have told her two years ago when we came here. I should have made her learn to drive. Even in Iraq, lots of women drove, but Ommy was older so she didn’t want to.

The police showed up. They asked me the same questions they asked me on the phone. Then they asked Ommy and wrote everything down. They picked Mirriam’s room apart.

“Where would she have kept her passport?” One of the cops asked.

Ommy said, “I keep all the passports in my room.”

“Have you checked to see if it’s missing?”

“Why would my daughter’s passport be gone?”

“Just check.”

Ommy went to her room and screamed. She came out sobbing. “It’s not here!”

“You think they’re headin’ for the border?” One cop asked the other.

“Well, if you weren’t allowed to see your boyfriend, and someone arranged your marriage, and you had a passport—”

“Ahh—I’m on it. Any idea what they might be drivin’?” the other cop asked.

I slapped my head with my hand and collapsed on the couch again. “This is my fault. I was trying to protect her… ”

“It’s okay, son. Do you know what vehicle they would have left in?”

“I saw that punk’s white Jeep disappear after the graduation. I tried to catch them, but I lost them.”

“What’s the make and model? Do you know the year and plate number?”

I shook my head. “I don’t know any of that. But he lives across the street. His mom wants to find him. She could probably tell you.”

They exchanged a look, nodded, and left. I wondered if I should try to talk to Caleb’s mom again, but I walked to the front door and saw them crossing the street.

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