The next morning I woke to a sounding phone. “Hello?” I said without opening my eyes.
“Good morning,” Kailee said.
“Life outside the slammer suits me. I watched the video on your memory card. It doesn’t prove anything other than Jackson and a girl were in the mosque when the fire started.”
“Kailee, that girl obviously didn’t start the fire. She’s terrified and screaming for God.”
“It could have been an accident. Or maybe a third person was there. I don’t know, but I’m telling you Jackson didn’t start the fire. We need to find out who did. Was there anything else at the mosque?
“No, and I stood there pushing around that pile of ash forever. I guess, if you wanted to prove Jackson didn’t do it, Rana would be the place to start.”
“How many Ranas can there be?”
I laughed. “Kailee, that’s like being named Katy here. Mirriam is coming home to pick up her clothes today. When she leaves, I’ll come over, and we can start looking for Rana.”
Before I could get up and get dressed, I heard Mirriam in her room. It was the first time she’d been home since she left, so I really hoped Ommy didn’t start on her.
I finished dressing and went to Mirriam’s room. I pushed her door open, and she gasped as she turned to face me. “Sorry, I thought you were Ommy. I probably need to talk to her. She’s going to be so mad. I don’t know what to say.”
“It’s probably not a bad idea to talk to her, but you made a choice. I don’t approve of it, and I definitely don’t approve of the way he handled it. And I’ll make sure the punk knows that, but it was your choice. If Ommy can’t accept that, tell her it’s not her business and leave.”
“Really. It’s your life. I think you screwed it up, but when you realize that it will be yours to fix. Now where is this loser that can marry my sister without so much as asking me first?”
“In the driveway. I didn’t know if it was a good idea for him to come in.”
I shrugged. “Ommy hates him. You may have been right. I need to go talk to him. Finish packing, try to talk to Ommy, and then you can come outside because I want to talk to you, too.”
She nodded, and I headed outside where I found Caleb pacing back and forth with a cane in the driveway. “Relax, man. We’re not going to eat her.”
He grimaced. “I’m more worried about you giving her to some Iraqi guy.”
“I’m not apologizing to you for that, because it wasn’t about you. I’m not really even sorry I punched you.”
When he looked up at me, his eye was still black. “Well, I’m glad we got that cleared up.”
“I know what you did to Kailee. I’m not sorry I tried to protect my sister.”
He sighed. “I think her version of events is probably a lot different than mine. I’m not mad at you for trying to take care of Mirriam, but you should know Kailee can spin things anyway she wants to. And she’s good at making people believe her. She’s probably not the kind of girl you want to be involved with.”
“If you trash Kailee again, I’ll make that purple eye one of a pair.”
He put his hands up. “Sorry.”
“Tell her that. I’m not the one you used. Look, I came out here to tell you I don’t approve of my sister’s choice, but I’m not going to make it harder for her. Life will do that. I’ll tolerate you as long as you’re with my sister. But if you hurt her…”
“You should have asked me if you could marry her.”
“You would have said no.”
“True. But you still could have been a man.”
“I’ll take care of her. I promise. I won’t hurt her. I love your sister for whatever it’s worth.”
“I believe you. But how do you plan to take care of her? Do you even have a job?”
He shrugged. “Not a great one. But we rented a studio apartment. It’s cheap so we’re okay.”
“Good to know.”
Mirriam came outside with a backpack and a duffel bag. “What did you want to talk to me about?”
“I’m moving to Denton in August. I quit in the middle of the semester to move here with you and Ommy. But it’s time for me to have my own life now. I’m going to do the biology program at UNT. Can you take care of her?”
Mirriam’s mouth dropped. “Ommy? Zmal! I live in Austin.”
“It’s not that far. Come back and stay here. If there is something you really need to do in Austin commute.”
Mirriam and Caleb exchanged a look. “Can I tell him?” she asked.
Caleb nodded, and I wanted to strangle them both. She was too independent for an arranged marriage but needed his permission to talk to me?
“Caleb’s been blogging about everything that happened with his dad and the arranged marriage. Some veterans outreach program and another organization for multiculturalism are going to pay for us to go to school.”
“In California,” he said.
“We won’t be here,” she finished.
“I moved across the globe to keep you safe. It’s time for me to have a life. Mirriam, I’ve taken care of you and Ommy for two years. It’s time for you to do your part.”
“You’re the oldest.”
“Like that’s ever mattered!”
“Why can’t your mom just stay alone?” Caleb asked.
I shook my head.
Mirriam laughed. “Caleb, it’s not like white families.” She looked at me. “My whole apartment is one room.”
“Well, I can’t take her either.”
She shrugged. “Abrahem, none of us wanted this. She’s going to have to change, too. She couldn’t have thought you were going to drive her around until she was eighty.”
As soon as they left, I went to Kailee’s like I promised.
“I stored Rana’s number in my memory card. Try reverse look-up,” I said.
Kailee still had the memory card plugged into her phone. She flipped through it for a minute then punched the number into her computer. “It’s a cell.”
I sat down on her bed. “Why does that not surprise me?”
“I only know one other way.”