A/N - This is a oneshot written as an offshoot to my Scarfy in the Middle but can be read on it's own. (might not make as much sense but it should work as an individual short piece too)
To SitM subscribers, i'm having computer problems and there will be a delay with the updates (more info on my profile). This was written to tide us over, hope you like it! (it's set on the same night of the last chapter I posted, so shouldn't be too confusing!)
If I Believed in Divine Intervention
I know I probably deserve this.
Punishment for all the crap I've put guys through in my lifetime, starting from my father and ending with my little cousin and not confined to just family. Most definitely not confined to family.
"So I was like 'woman please! You're creasing my shirt!' and I walked the hell away from that bitch!" He said with an added scoff of disgust. Tom the Finance Adviser; why had I agreed to go out on a date with him again? Oh yeah, my shallow, horny, stupid persona took hold of me and I couldn't see past those blue eyes and perfect face and body, and I mean perfect. I don't throw that word around easily.
Tom picked up his beer and took a swig of it as he tried to disguise his attempt to watch the football on the big screen.
"Score's two-nil to Arsenal," I said, unable to hold back on my frustration. I mean really, if I could check the scores every minute without him realising I was more interested in them than him then how dumb was he? He gave me the worst 'shocked' face ever.
"Arsenal is playing?" he said, answering my own question. Very dumb. "I didn't even realise!"
Ok, I get it! This is karma rearing its ugly head and showing me what it's like to look in the mirror. I know this game he's playing all too well. He's trying to act cool and aloof so that he can come across as attentive but not desperate. It's supposed to make me want him and make me want to take him home tonight. His game plan won't end until tomorrow morning, when there will be no trace of him after a night of passion and he'll even have deleted his number off my phone.
I know this game because I've played it and am somewhat of a pro. But I'm not the slut I may seem to be. I meet a lot of guys, I date some of them but very few have gotten to see the inside of my house or under my clothes. Call it a fight in the name of feminism, call it unaddressed childhood issues, call it whatever but I like it this way. Men bring a wave of problems with them whenever they approach me and the few that I have trusted enough to take home have turned out to be complete psychos and I've had to hide from them in my best friend Lils' house..
"You have such beautiful green eyes," he complemented me. I smiled into my drink and thanked him with those green eyes he seemed to like. Words failed me at complements, even from sleazy guys like him who was so obviously trying to charm his way into my pants. The ease at which I'm genuinely flattered is something that I really tried to remedy about myself but failed miserably. I guess no matter how hard a person coats themselves in a hard shell, the naive person inside peeks out when the opportunity arises. "Wouldn't have put you down for shy!"
"Oh yeah? What did you have me down as then?" I asked, hoping this spike in conversation might be able to make the night better.
"Well, Kinky was pretty high on the list when I met you at the bar the other night with your friends," he said. Wow, this night is officially one of the worst. His game plan wasn't worth the money he spent on the drinks in this stuffy overpriced pub. Typical Financer's watering hole, of course. I hid behind a curtain of my long brown hair. "I wasn't expecting you to be so quiet either, but you know what they say about quiet girls?"
"Deep thinkers?" I suggested, not bothering to look at him. I had no idea what they said about quiet girls. I wasn't one. I was just bored and uninterested.
"Screamers in bed," he said smugly. Oh God, I think I threw up a little.
Must Karma punish me further? I doubt I can take much more of this.
"Classy," I muttered, taking another sip of my drink and finishing it.
"Can I get you a stronger drink perhaps?" Tom said, eyeing up my now empty glass that had held plain Coke with disdain. I don't blame him, he might have had more luck if I'd been drinking tonight but growing up with Lils, who is a devout Muslim and has my complete respect for it, I've never felt the need to drink. That and because I have a particular dislike for people who hide behind alcohol and use it as an excuse to do stupid things. I don't think there is anything fabulous about losing your inhibitions and your senses.
"No thank you. I've got an early start," I said, seeing Fabregas getting very close to the goal from the corner of my eyes. He was going to score. Tom began to say something but I couldn't hear it over the sound of the cheering in the pub. Fabregas scored and what a class goal it was!
"Hey, you want to get out of here?" Tom asked, leaning closer. I faked a smile and nodded, picking up my jacket and draping it over my arm. Only two minutes of extra time left in the game, Arsenal had won it. I was happy, brimming with joy, until I felt his hand on the small of my back and moving lower as he 'guided' me through the crowded pub.
An image of Ben, my unofficial boyfriend came up in front of my eyes and I felt a pang of guilt. This wasn't cheating, Ben and I never dated, he's never asked me to be his girlfriend and I've never pushed him to. What we have is more of a convenience thing. Lils says he's the male version of me, always hooking up with random girls and always going back to me when they don't turn out to be what he expected and she hates him for it but she turns a blind eye to me when I do the same to him after my bad dates. In fact I'll probably go to his to get my frustration out after I say goodbye to Tom, it's not an ideal situation but it works for us like this. If ever we went out officially, we'd drive each other crazy. No, it was definitely better in this more dysfunctional way.
Tom's hand brushed the curve of my butt as soon as we'd stepped outside and I stepped away before he'd try anything else, with the cover of putting on my jacket. A quick goodbye and then I'd escape.
"Well, thanks for the drink," I said, wondering if it might be better to just go to see Lils and forgo Ben tonight. Being face to face with Tom wasn't doing anything for my opinions about men and her house was closer than Ben's. When my attention returned to my surroundings I noticed Tom looking at me with a frown, eyes focussed on my lips and edging closer.
I put a hand out to stop him and he gave me the puppy dog face. Not so cute on him or on anybody above the age of five.
"The night's still young," he said, undeterred.
"I've got work tomorrow," I made my feeble excuse and he turned impatient, taking another step towards me but way too aggressively for my liking. "Hey!"
"Just a goodnight kiss Baby," he breathed all over my face. I tried to push him back but he pressed into my hands harder and pinned them between us.
"Not on the first date," I said, trying to sound calm but not feeling it in the least. Tom was more than a head taller than me at 6'1 and a lot stronger. Damn it, why did I always go for the muscle? "I'll bite you!"
"Ooh, feisty!" he droned, puckering his lips.
"Stop it, this isn't a joke," I turned serious.
"You shouldn't tease," he said, returning my tone and expression but adding a sinister ring to it and I was actually scared for the first time in a long time. I really hope this wasn't Karma anymore and just one of the shitty things that happen in life to make you reassess it and go on the right path or something.
"Get off me before I scream so loud, you'll be spending the night with the police," I said a little louder, pushing him with all my strength. It did nothing spectacular and Tom was getting more pissed off.
This is how I'm going to die. Outside a pub and by a violent angry man. Anybody who knew my family history would laugh at the ironic symmetry. Dear God, if you're listening, please don't let me die like this!
"Jessie?" I heard a familiar voice and felt my heart skip. I turned towards it. If ever I believe in divine intervention, this was it!
Adam Fernandez! Remember my best friend Lils? He was the guy that lived across the road from her and who she was completely in love with, though she was yet to admit it out loud. Adam was one of only two guys excluding family members that I did not feel the need to flirt with or date. The first being my colleague at the primary school I taught in, Pierre who was gay and obviously Adam was the second, not because he was ugly or anything but because he was totally into Lils and I, first and foremost, am an awesome friend and will never get in the way between two people in love. Plus he was kind of on the scrawny side but I would have jumped on him right there had I not been pinned by Tom the Barbarian.
"Oh my God, Adam!" I yelped in joy and saw his lips quiver in an almost smile while the rest of his face remained impassive and slightly threatening, a glare being sent Tom's way until he backed off a bit.
"Is everything ok?" Adam asked addressing the question to me. I shook my head and pushed a much more pliable Tom away.
"It's fine mate," Tom said, watching me carefully as I made my way to Adam's side. What a freaking hero Adam was! I'm going to give Lils a real talking down for refusing to acknowledge it the other day when he asked for her number whilst saving her housemate and our friend Noks from the drain that ran under the street...yeah, long story! Adam looked at me carefully and I gave him a small smile.
"It's fine, let's go," I said quickly. Adam nodded, giving Tom a long scary look as we walked away together.
It was only when we turned the corner and were a safe distance from the pub that I stopped, let out the breath I was holding and leaned back against a shop window to try and control the nerves that had taken my body up in shakes.
"Holy shit, that was close!" I said in a pitch too high to be normal. Adam swallowed hard and helped me sit down on the tiled ledge, crouching in front of me and stroking my arms in an attempt to calm me down.
"Any closer and you'd be on a police report! What they hell was that?" he said, half angry and half worried.
"Aw Adam, you're worried! It wasn't anything, just a bad date that ended even worse than it began," I said, feeling my lips quiver and my eyes well up. He frowned at me and I held my hand up to stop him from saying anything. "The water in my eyes isn't because I want to cry, not really, I mean they're just hormones making me feel like I want to cry. But I don't really."
"It would be understandable if you cry," he said worriedly, "I mean I might even join you!" I rolled my eyes and let out a choked laugh.
"Stop trying to start me off, it's a herculean task and I'm not sure you're up to it!" I said, holding back the tears successfully from years of practise. "Besides I'd be crying happy tears for Arsenal winning the match more than anything to do with Tom."
"Jess!" Adam said at a loss. I puckered my brows at him and hoped he'd drop it. The sooner I forget about this, the better. He let out a sigh and waited until I was calm again.
It took another ten minutes before the shaking died down, the urge to cry was still there but buried in the back of my head.
"Ok, I'm ok." I said breaking the silence. Adam looked at me warily but helped me up none the less. I really am not suited for the whole damsel in distress situation and it felt weird having him help me but I let him, feeling the need for it rather than the want.
"You going back to Khalila's or yours?" he asked, hands moving to his jacket pockets when I was more than able to stand unaided.
"Lils' house," I told him. He nodded and motioned towards it with his head.
"You want to walk off that adrenaline or shall I call us a taxi?" he offered and I smiled, shaking my head.
"Walking is fine, as long as you promise not to talk to me about it," I said, starting the two of us in the direction of the street he and Lils both lived on. I knew him well enough to know he'd try his hardest to get it out of me, it wasn't that he was nosy but he just seemed to have this way about him that made people open up to him all the time.
"Yeah right, you know I'm going to," he said with a scoff. I shook my head adamantly. "You're going to make me threaten you aren't you?"
"You know nothing that I'm worried about," I retorted coolly.
"I know about this and I'm pretty sure the girls aren't going to find out about it from you," he said, looking like he was going to whistle and skip at any moment. I narrowed my eyes at him and stopped walking.
"That was below the belt!" I announced. He looked back at me and smiled, giving me a small shrug. We had a short stare out to test the other's resolve and were it not for the fact I was already close to tears I'd have won. "Damn it!"
"Spill Princess!" he said, when I'd caught up to him.
"He tried to make the most of a horrible, patronising, poor excuse of a date and then you came along and saved me and here we are. Your medal is in the post ok?" I said quickly.
"And do you usually go out with aggressive men that look like they could crush a bulldozer with their hands?" he asked seriously but breaking it up with a nervous chuckle at the end.
"Yes, bulldozer crushers are my type but I didn't know he was aggressive when I met him the first time," I explained feeling a little better that I was talking about it. If I'd gone back to Lils' house like this then I'd have gotten the girls worried and wouldn't have been able to explain it to them for fear of making them even more worried about me.
"Ok," he said letting out a breath. He turned towards me a little and looked at me hesitantly; opening his mouth to say something but nothing came out before he closed it again. I waited with raised eyebrows. "This may be out of place, I mean we aren't the oldest of friends but -"
"Just say it Adam," I interrupted and he nodded.
"Why do you do it to yourself Jess? Why do you put yourself out there for guys to come and take advantage of you?" he said, bottom lip sucked in nervously. Worried he'd overstepped his mark, no doubt.
"What you mean Lils hasn't given you the background and history of Jessica Keith and the reasons for all her questionable life decisions?" I replied with a scoff. It's not that I doubted Lils wouldn't keep my secrets, I know she does so and quite vehemently but I wasn't keen on spilling my guts out so sarcasm was my defence.
"No, she only said that you've been friends since you were 11," Adam said undettered. "I can tell you're not from London from your accent so I'm guessing you moved here at that age, any earlier and you'd have lost it and I'm guessing that the lack of information Onoko has given me on your childhood means that you don't talk about it openly which means something happened."
"Well aren't you the private investigator!" I said, impressed with his deduction skills. Adam smiled and shook his head dismissively. "I always thought I was good at sussing people out but you have trumped me man!"
"Don't change the subject," he warned me with a chuckle.
"Would never do that!" I said in mock offense. He shrugged and waited for my answer, which I did not give.
"I have to get something in return Adam. I'm not spilling my guts for nothing!" I replied too quickly. Adam frowned in thought.
"Ok, what do you want?" he asked carefully. I paused, taking a moment to really think about what I might find useful.
"Open question session on you and Lils," I said and he choked on his saliva, quite aggressively too. I took out the bottle of water I had in my bag and offered it to him, to which he just shook his head dismissively.
"What?" he said after he'd recovered.
"Come on, don't play dumb. You know that I know that you like her but I want to know why and with what intention and a little more minor details and stuff, you know?" I said plainly. Adam stared at me in mild shock. Oh boy, this was going to take a while. "Should I have been less abrupt?"
"Wouldn't be you if you were," Adam muttered and I smiled proudly to myself.
"I'm not going to say anything Jess," he announced.
"Why the hell not? You expect me to tell you everything just because you threaten me with telling the girls, you assumed that I wouldn't have told them anyway so really, it's water off my back, I was just humouring you!" he looked at me warily, weighing up my bluff or not. God, I hope he believes me. I don't really want them to know. Lils' would insist she chaperone all future dates or prevent me from going on any and Onoko would stock me with all sorts of self defence lessons and rape alarms. I dread to think what Michigan's reaction would be after the blood curdling scream she'd no doubt let out.
"I don't believe you," he said simply. "Besides why would you need to barter something in return if you were going to tell them anyway?"
"Why won't you tell me your thoughts on Lils if they're honest?" I retorted my latest attempt at getting some information and taking the conversation off me. "I should probably warn her off you!" Adam chuckled at that. Not the reaction I was expecting, I'll admit that.
"They're honest, you don't need to worry about that but I'm a guy ok? And we don't go spilling our guts out!" he said,
"That's an oxymoron!" I said annoyed that guys used that excuse whenever they wanted.
"What is?" he asked confused.
"That you have honest thoughts when you're a guy," I explained and his smile widened.
"Fair enough, they are relatively honest," he corrected.
"Ok Adam, you may have a slightly upper hand here but I have a greater favour with Lils and I will use it to my advantage if you don't tell me something!" I said clutching onto my last straw.
"How do I know that you won't go around and tell her everything I've told you, and you'll all have a giggle at my expense huh?" he said seriously, and showing a little apprehension, signs of his cracking will.
"I promise, anything you say will be held in my giant well of secrets, cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye," I said, doing all the hand actions. He laughed at it and finally agreed with a single nod.
"Fine, I'll barter my feelings for your history and some insider info on her feelings on me," he said, halting the first question that was passing through my lips.
"Aren't you being greedy? And slightly psycho stalker on her?" I said in mock outrage, all in the name of bringing down my side of the barter. In actual fact I admired his method of getting info but I couldn't give him too much. So not my style! "You're turning into Jimmy the Neighbourhood Stalker!"
Adam looked at me shocked and I couldn't help but think that maybe I overdid it. He shook his head and stuttered out an attempt to refute his stalkerish tendencies.
"Jesus, do you have to be so honest and genuine? It makes me feel bad duping you and trying to pull the carpet from under you, it takes all the fun out of it!" I said in a huff. He let out a sigh.
"Jess, seriously, you're going to give me a heart attack one day," he said with a roll of his eyes. "After everything Jimmy's done to Khalila and my family, being put in the same sentence as him isn't the greatest feeling in the world."
"Oh yeah, sorry," I said, feeling bad about my loud mouth. CCTV on your house isn't something you get over quickly. There was a brief moment of silence when neither of us was willing to compromise on the barter. "We're at a standstill."
"It would appear that way," Adam said with a smile.
"Why don't we just think of this night like Halloween or something? The one night of the year when all supernatural things come out to play but they have to go back home before dawn except with us it'll be the one night of the year where we spill all our guts, no holds barred and at midnight we have to put it to the back of our mind and never mention it again until next year," I suggested.
"What are you going to name it?"
"All Admission's Eve," I said off the top of my head. Adam smiled and nodded.
"Questions asked must be reasonable,"
"I agree. Now, I'll tell you some useful info on Lils but you mister have to spill first! I'm determined to make this a productive night after that failure of a date."
"Pinky promise, I'll tell you but I have to make sure you're ok first," he said, giving me a careful look. "Please?"
"Fine, but I'm warning you from now, I'm not like Lils, I give the story in very little details and I just say it how it is, no matter how shocking or whatever," I said, feeling the anger at my past boil up inside me and take over with a cruel and impatient tone. Adam didn't even flinch at the difference and instead gave me a patient smile. "I'm serious, she's a scriptwriter by profession but that translates into her oral story telling very well, she makes everything sound great."
"You know something funny?" Adam said with a smile. "I was having a conversation of this sort with her once and she started it off waffling about you too, must be some best friend thing you've got going on." I smiled at his covert attempt to calm me down, and wondered if Lils actually did do that, it wouldn't be unlike her but it made me smile nonetheless, until I remembered the story I was supposed to retell. The smile faded to black.
"My mother died when I was 10, she was killed by a drunken man that had come out the pub across the road from our house and had seen her with me and felt like some MILF action and when she tried to fight him off he attacked her."
"You saw it all?" Adam asked, running a hand through his hair, the distress taking over his face. I'm glad it wasn't pity I saw in it when I nodded.
"So anyway, my dad moved us down here so that his sister could help bring us up. I was ten, my middle sister was six at the time and my little sister was only a baby. Just turned one, or was turning one at the time....I can't really think..." I trailed off and thought about how screwed up I became because of that drunk man and how even more screwed up I might have been had it not been for Lil's and her family treating me like one of their own. My aunt was a brilliant one to us, we never needed anything and my father gave us enough love to make up for not having a mother but there was still something missing inside and I only felt that hole getting filled up when I met Khalila's mum. I can't pinpoint the reason why but she made me feel the much coveted Mother's Love from her and it kept me sane.
"Shit..." Adam said, hands gripping at the back of his neck and still with that distressed look on his face.
"Pretty shocking huh?" I said with a light heartedness that felt and sounded weird. "Explains a few things about my behaviour? I'm a walking cliché!" His eyes glazed over as he thought deeper about it and I concentrate on watching one foot step in front of the other.
"I don't know what to say," he admitted, "In Arabic we say Allah yirhamha."
"I know, Lils says it all the time," I said when he struggled to translate it. "God grace her with his compassion, Lils told me once but I think something was lost in the translation there, in any case I never could tell her how hard it was for me to see the compassion in God when he could take a mother away from her children like that." Adam looked shocked now, it might be a Muslim thing that I couldn't understand but I think I'm justified in my opinion. The sensible voice in me suggested that I should've kept my mouth shut.
"Sometimes it's hard to see the reason behind the things that happen to us in life. I don't want to lecture or preach and the last thing I want to do is patronise you but maybe looking at it differently, you might realise that some good has come out of a bad event?"
"The only think I can think of, and trust me I've thought a lot about this, is that for everything I went through so early in my life, I wasn't even the slightest bit tempted to drink because I was determined never to be that horrible, selfish, drunk man. That's the blessing in it I guess," I said quietly. "But whether that makes up for all the other crap I've done in my life, for all the embarrassing, dangerous, stupid and regretful things I've done completely aware of myself, I'm not sure. It probably reflects worse on me since I was stone cold sober but it's who I am and I can't change it, I'm just as bad as that man in some ways and maybe worse."
"What have you done that so terrible that you actually compare yourself to that evil man?" Adam asked, voice rising in anger for the first time since I've known him all these months.
"I've treated men pretty badly, what that guy was going to do to me was physical, it would've hurt and left some scars but what I've done to guys? I've killed all good ideas they had about women and I've broken their hearts and why? Because of the anger I've harboured since I witnessed one stupid man, completely unrepresentative of the gender, murder my mother and I wanted my revenge somehow," I admitted, voice rising as my anger did. Adam's frowned deepened as he listened.
"All the guys I've hurt and given baggage to! Effectively I'm responsible for all the heartbreak they put their next girlfriends through. I broke my dad's heart when I got kicked out of the scriptwriter's foundation for messing around with the Dean. You know why I did that? Because he said that my script was too romantic for it to have been written by me and I wanted to prove him wrong, instead of a literary discussion I..." I shook my head. How stupid I was to throw away my future like that!
"I'm such a bad role model for my sisters, I used to be really close with the middle one but I haven't been able to look after her since she left for University a couple of years ago, we speak on the phone but she never comes home and who can blame her huh? Not exactly the epitome of happiness right? And my youngest sister? I'm just waiting for the day she realises I'm not the great person she thinks I am."
"Your younger sister will always look up to you, if she's 15 and still listening to you then she always will. As for the other one, we all drift a little when we go to Uni, it's part of growing up, you test your boundaries and discover who you are. She's only got you, she won't go far. I can guarantee it!" Adam said, his voice back to calm but with a tinge in it, as if he was steaming on the inside.
"You think there is another blessing I can't see?" I asked and he nodded reluctantly.
"Perhaps it was really harsh way of making your family as close as it is. I don't want to speculate on what it might have been if your mum was still alive because I think that does more harm than good but I can see how much you love your sisters, how closely connected you are despite the distance. You may not think you epitomise happiness but no family really does, we all just strive to look like we do. Perhaps what you have, no matter how distant or different, is better because it's real. Nobody is pretending to be somebody they're not and you all accept that and love it about each other. Why would you want it any different?"
"Maybe," I said, absorbing all he'd said. I'd definitely ponder over that later until I come up with my own conclusion about it.
We drifted into another comfortable silence and I couldn't help but feel my heart well up a little. Not in that infatuation way but in that humbled way, I really did appreciate that he was taking his time to talk to me and to calm me down. Is this the good thing to come out of tonight's horrible events? IS this God's way of making me see that I've strayed too far from my path and that a little introspection might help resolve all the anger in me? Was Adam arriving right on time a coincidence or pre-ordained? Destiny? So that this conversation could happen and so that I could see that I'm not the 19 year old carefree girl I used to be. I'm 24 and in serious need of calming down, was Adam there to show that not every guy out there is a challenge for me to claim. Had Ben been the one to show up, then it would have been a completely different story so is that God's compassion?
"There's just one more thing," Adam said giving me a grin and interrupting my musings. "Your accent?"
"It's from Chester." I said plainly. It doesn't matter that I've lived in London for the larger part of my life, I was born and raised in Chester and that silly accent stuck!
"I knew it!" he said, slapping his thigh in frustration and I couldn't help from laughing, despite feeling like I've just been dragged through hell's gates. I decided to play devil's advocate and pay extra attention to his reaction over my next admission.
"I regret letting Khalila go clubbing when we were at Uni when I should've put my foot down and kicked some sense into her and now it's her life's biggest disappointment and it's all because I wasn't a good enough friend to her," I admitted and watched him nod a couple of times with an otherwise stoic face. No anger, no surprise. I knew she'd told him but I also knew a little about Arabs and their honour, did he really mean what he said to her about forgiveness, did it really not matter to him that she used to do it when I know it bothers almost all of Arab and Muslim men out there and their mother's too, whether they care to admit it or not. There was the big infatuation with a pure, untouched girl that they all seemed to have, which of course Khalila is but not according to the strictest rules of some. It appeared Adam wasn't one of those close minded men, truly and deeply, it wasn't something that he put on to convince Lils or anything. Adam just shot up in my books.
"Or maybe you were too good a friend to her that you could refuse her?" He said with a shrug. I smiled.
"Well, she can be pretty stubborn when she wants but who can blame her after that whole thing with her cousins?" I blabbed, feeling more relaxed but instantly regretting it when Adam stiffened visibly.
"What thing?" he asked. I thought about refusing to say but in the end I figured the only reason Lils didn't mention it was because she was trying to save the reputation of her cousins.
"Her cousins in Syria caused a bit of a fuss when Lils moved out for University, they said it was un-Islamic and that she'd be taken advantage of and other slightly more disgusting and fruitful things I won't go into," I said, noticing his face turn paler. "So, the cousins convinced their mums, who are Mr Saqr's sisters, to convince Lils' dad to get her married off to another boy cousin of theirs in order to save the family name.
"Mr Saqr got very angry and Khalila got very upset over the whole thing, because it was her closest cousins who had started the whole thing and they knew that the cousin who they had wanted her to marry was nothing more than a brother to her and it kind of made things awkward between them. What am I saying? It was a giant spectacular mess and it's what spurred her on to loosen up a little, under the thought that 'if I worked so hard to maintain my reputation and I still get branded a whore why should I care anymore?' of course that was angry talk, she never really misbehaved and I'm babbling now. Please stop me!" I pursed my lips and covered my face in shame. What had I done? I think I just condemned Lils!
"It's ok Jess, I don't think any worse of Khalila, if that's what you're worried about," he assured me when I'd peeked at him from behind my fingers.
"Oh thank God!" I said and hand on my racing heart. If I was the cause of her broken heart, I think I'd die. Adam chuckled and gave me a knowing look.
"Do I really need to ask what she thinks of me or shall I interpret your reaction to suit?" he said and again, I was taken aback by his perception.
"You know, I don't think she realises how much you read into facial expression and behaviour," I mused. "You must have her completely sussed out!"
"No, she's quite guarded with me," he admitted, "but that's why I've got you right? To fill in the blanks?"
"Yeah, just as long as you fill your end of the bargain and you remember it's for this night only," I reminded him.
"I know," he said with a chuckle.
"Ok, I'm listening."
"What was my end of the bargain again?" he asked acting dumb.
"Nice try, you were going to tell me your feelings and your intentions towards Lils. I may be pushed into a Q&A to explain a little bit of your behaviour I couldn't figure out in my analysis."
"You analysed me?"
"Yeah, I do it to everyone I know!"
"Nance told me your analysis of her," he admitted, "a bit harsh wasn't it?"
"Not really, Miche kept on censoring me!" I said seeing his unconvinced look and letting out a sigh. "I know I probably shocked her with my opinion but I just don't want to see her get hurt. Honestly, life throws enough shit at us without us even trying and I don't want her to have regrets."
"Not that I don't appreciate the concern and attention you're giving my sister but I am wondering why," Adam said with a raised eyebrow.
"She reminds me of Lils when we were younger, they both have the innocent naiveté and that willingness to trust everybody. They are both so beautiful and so unaware of it that it just attracts all kinds of people and they are both so sensitive!" I told Adam truthfully. "I mean Lils has built up a few protective barriers growing up but that came after getting hurt and I'm trying to get Nancy to see that she needs them as a prevention but I don't want to tell her too much because that might be harmful too."
"I see," he said too quietly. I looked up and saw him immersed in some deep thought and decided not to disturb him. Instead I thought of a way to get him to talk after noticing his eagerness to avoid his turn.
"Ok Adam, your turn to 'fess up!" I said, deciding on the direct approach. I wasn't really in the mood for subtle right now. He frowned in mock confusion so I gave him an unimpressed and stern look and he rolled his eyes and gave out a big sigh.
"Ok, my feelings about Khalila...well you know I like her. A lot!" he began and his nose scrunched up in distaste. "I can't do this man, this is so stupid."
"Why is it stupid? Aren't you going to admit it to her one day?"
"Well, I was hoping she'd just realise it actually," he said with wide eyes and complete seriousness. "She's really good at reading into things."
"You know for someone so perceptive and generally mathematically gifted, she doesn't put two and two together very quickly when it comes to you," I told him and Adam raised a sceptical eyebrow. "I'm serious, she gets this long drawn out stares and random outbursts and I assure you this is a new development."
"I did notice that actually," Adam laughed. "I think it's cute though."
"Well I think it's a sign of a mental imbalance but what is my view in the grand scheme of things?" I went on, happy he was revealing a little more but determined to pull out his true feelings for her. He was always so guarded about them, commendable to say the least but very frustrating for me. I was born inquisitive, I tried to corner him before but Michigan always prevented me.
"Still, maybe those long stares will help her realise,"
"Realise what?" I asked, wanting him to say it out loud. Adam gave me a look.
"Jessie," he said pleadingly, looking at me with those big eyes that make Lils melt in an instant. No real effect on me, I'm pleased to note.
"For my own peace of mind?" I said to him. This wasn't a lie. I needed to know I was backing a winner or helping her punch him out of the ring. Adam let out a big sigh and shook his head, as if he was going to regret this.
"Some things should stay personal," he mumbled, scratching his head.
"I hope you've got a lot of unanswered questions in there right now! A truck load of indecision and self doubt!" I said in a huff. Adam dropped his jaw in exaggerated shock.
"Why would you say such a mean thing?" he said, holding back his laugh.
"Because I've had to watch Lils question herself over and over again...it kills me honestly! She doesn't know what to do around you, it's her nature to be cautious but I'd rather she throw it to the wind a bit more. I would push her into it but I mean the last time I suggested she let her hair down, she really let it out and judging by your timidity now I don't blame her reservation."
"I'm not timid, I'm being careful!" Adam said in his defence, "for the both of us, rushing only reveals cracks later on."
"How much longer can it go on in this limbo? You're not just acquaintances, you're not simple friends and you're not anything more!" I said, letting out my frustration.
"She's going to the US for a month, is it really the right time to be starting anything?" he asked seriously and I had to agree with him. She'd be away for the filming of her movie script and while I was worried that the distance would convince her to try to forget him in misguided pride, I couldn't imagine what Adam was thinking of.
"So what?" I asked, hoping he'd enlighten me.
"So, I'm going to miss talking to her because she wouldn't give me her number!" he said, letting out a sigh and then giving me a full grin. "But man, did I like that she didn't give me her number. I swear she shot up in perfection tenfold!" I rolled my eyes and shook my head laughing.
"Is that a guy thing or an Arab thing to like the 'hard to get' game?" I said dryly. Adam smiled at me.
"Both, I don't know," he said, turning serious again, "It still leaves me with the problem of not being able to communicate with her for a month,"
"What do you need to communicate to her about?" I delved. Adam seemed to have let loose a little and I was going to use it to my advantage.
"Everything! Anything! I'm just worried that she'll see and experience so much in that one month that she'll grow away from me," Adam admitted, "It's a selfish thought to assume that she'll commit to me despite me not having given her anything solid to hold on to."
"You know instead of all this self doubt and heart ache, you should just talk to her and tell her what you want!"
"I can't do that!" Adam said outraged.
"You still haven't told me how she feels about me," he said with a smile up one side of his face.
"She's crazy about you! Like you didn't know!" I said honestly, "And even though you haven't given her anything solid, she's holding on."
"You think so?" He asked, unsurely. Excitement evident in his voice.
"The two of you should just confess your feelings to each other in a dramatic way and be done with all the suspense! You run towards each other, rain chucking it down from the sky, soaking the both of you to the bone. You sweep your hand nervously through your hair, like you normally do and she gives out that giggle of hers when she's shy," I suggested, my imagination running wild. Adam smirked in amusement. "You take her hand, apologise for how forbidden it is in Islam but that you have something important to say. She takes her hand away because propriety is never far from her mind and says 'feelings travel much further than the physical planes of touch' and then-"
"Jess!" Adam interrupted bursting into laughter.
"What?" I said, annoyed at the interruption. We were just getting to the good part!
"Where did that come from Miss I'm-not-a-storyteller-like-Lils?" he asked. I frowned and remained silent, causing him to laugh some more. "Oh, is Jessica embarrassed?"
"Shut up!" I said, pushing him angrily before bursting into laughter when his wouldn't stop. "Adam! Stop it!"
"Ok, ok," he said, hands up in the air in surrender as he calmed down. "Just no more about Khalila talking about physical planes and-"
"Whatever! She would so say that!" I defended my story. Adam raised a disbelieving eyebrow at me. "She would now anyway, before you she was 100% sane and normal."
"Wow, what a burden to carry on my shoulders, I've made the girl I love insane!" Adam muttered. My eyes widened and I jumped out from in front out him triumphantly with a big "HAH!" he looked at me like it wasn't only Lils who was insane.
"You love her!" I said happily. Adam nodded with a shy smile.
"I promised I'd confess my feelings and I'm fulfilling my end of the bargain," he said to me in a soft voice, hands back in his pockets. "Can you kill the volume though? We're almost home."
"How can I be quiet at a time like this?" I said, moving out of his way so that we could get walking again. Adam chuckled quietly behind me. "So what are your intentions towards her then?"
"With the purest intentions, I intend to go the whole way with her, no funny business I assure you but no more information from me," he said determinedly. "The rest is getting saved for that melodramatic meeting in the rain."
"Fair enough," I said pleased with the information I'd received. "One more question?"
"I reserve the right to refuse to answer," he said, turning to me and waiting for it.
"I agree caution is wise, particularly when you're getting to know someone and when you know that once you commit it's very hard to go back, at least for you guys anyway," I began. "But you're a smart guy Adam, you've figured her all out, you know what she is right through to the core and you're still here. Still here but still hesitant, why?"
"You give me too much credit Jess, I'm still uncertain about how she feels about me, yes I love her despite her drawn out stares and defensive sarcasm and yes I'm pretty sure that our future would be happy on my part, but how do I know that I can make her happy? How do I know that I'm not condemning her to a life of misery and constant gossip and God know what!" he let out in a hushed burst.
"Why would that happen?"
"People do not need any help in coming up with gossip, the easiest thing that they could say is that we've been seeing each other for a long time behind her parents back and you and I both know how Khalila will react to that," he said and I nodded in agreement. She'd cut off all ties with him, even if she loved him with all her being, her family and their protection were top on her list of priorities.
"You're not though, why do you care what people say?" I said annoyed that people and talk were getting in the way of something good and honest. "Are you going to sacrifice a chance at happiness for them?"
"It's all good saying that they can be ignored but it's much harder than it seems," He said with a frown on his face as he looked up at his house not far away. "I'm not exactly the bachelor of the year; Arabs only count the dad when it comes to marriage issues. They see me as Cuban, and that's not a good image to have for them. It means that all the generations that follow will be considered Cuban and while some don't see it as a big deal, other do. How do I know that Mr Saqr is going to allow his daughter to marry me?"
"Marriage!" I repeated and this time he looked shocked. I don't think he meant to admit that out loud, at least not in such plain words.
"Shit," he hid his face in his hands and started laughing "You dragged it out of me somehow Jess!"
"Before I dance my dance of triumph, I want to answer your question," I said with a smile. "Mr Saqr wants more than anything in the world, a man to love his daughter and protect her from the talk of people as vigorously as he has done her whole life. You know Lils doesn't think about identity like that. You are Cuban and Iraqi in equal measurement, there is no way she'd wipe out half of you because Tradition dictates that."
"She considers herself more Syrian than Egyptian though,"
"You have to forgive her for that, she hardly goes to Egypt and her mother doesn't have any real memories from there apart from a few holidays growing up but look, she doesn't wipe it out from her existence does she? She's quite proud of the fact she's half of each," I said confidently. "And I know she likes that you're so proud of both of your heritages too."
"And you really think her dad wouldn't refuse a Cuban?"
"I'm pretty sure he wouldn't be able to refuse Khalila anything if she wanted it," I assured him and I watched his chest rise and fall as he sighed in relief. He gave me a sideways look.
"Is the Q&A over?" he asked. I smiled and nodded, pleased with everything I found out about Adam tonight.
"You're a tough man Adam Fernandez and I have severely misjudged you. I thought you were a bit of a pansy before, I'll admit that, you have that whole, polite, well spoken and mild mannered thing going on usually but tonight, I've seen you with new eyes. You have kick-ass scary glare and a will of steel, you saved me from near death, near panic attack and you brightened up my mood extraordinarily. You've shown great resilience against my haggling and I'm impressed; I usually wear men down to the ground but nope, not you!" I said proudly before turning to face him completely. "And you've put my mind and heart at ease with the whole situation with Lils but...and you can write this down in case you forget...you hurt her, you will suffer accordingly."
"Well thanks, I guess," he said, not sure whether to laugh or run, he settled for a nervous chuckle.
"Well now that's over, I can do my triumphant dance!" I said, wiggling a little to the soundtrack of his laughter.
"Happy?" he said, after I'd stopped.
"Very!" I said contently. We watched as a moped buzzed past us loudly and I saw Nancy leaving their house with a serious expression on her face. Adam and I exchanged a look when we saw her crossing the road over to Lils' house, oblivious to our presence in front of her.
"Nance!" Adam called out and she looked up alarmed, smiling when she saw it was us and waving happily, all trace of seriousness gone.
"Oh look! Work let you out before midnight today!" she said in jest, giving her brother a hug and a kiss. Adam smiled, the tiredness showing for a second.
"So is this what you get up to when I'm not home? Wandering the streets at night?" he joked. Nancy gave me a resigned look and let out a sigh.
"See how highly he thinks of me?" she said a thumb pointing to Adam beside her. Adam chuckled and grabbed onto it and pulled it playfully. "I'm just going to the girls' house."
"What about your revision?" he asked, looking up as the man on the moped walked over to Lil's door. She ordered pizza the fatso! How many boxes is she going to eat? Oh, maybe the boys are there!
"I need to speak to Khalila," she said, nervous again. Adam frowned, saying nothing but looking at his watch. "I won't be late."
"I'll walk her back home, don't worry," I assured him when I sensed he was going to go all big brother on her. He nodded once and frowned at the pizza man and his irritating bell ringing. How rude!
"Is everything ok?" he asked her while my head was turned and when I turned back I saw Nancy nod, obviously lying because her eyes reddened in an instant. "Ok, well you'd better go in." Nancy kissed his cheek again and walked ahead of me, Adam took to glaring at the back of the man and the incessant ringing before rolling his eyes and refocusing on me.
"It was a good chat Adam," I said, pulling out my keys from my bag. "Tanks for...everything!" Adam gave me a smile and a wink.
"No need to thank a friend. Until next All Admission's Eve right?" he said, eyes going to the top of his head for a moment. "June 10th, put it in your diary."
"Definitely," I said, walking away with a smile on my face. The pizza man had his finger on the buzzer and didn't look like he planned on removing it, despite the strange look Nancy was giving him. "You might not want to do that."
He looked at me, finger still on the buzzer and gave me a dirty glare.
"I've got a shitload of deliveries and not enough time, ok?" he said panicked, moving out of my way when he saw I had keys in my hand.
"Alright, tone it done man," I said, wondering what happened to the ideal of customer service. "Unless you're Peter Parker, I don't really want to know about how hard delivering pizza is."
I opened the door and came face to face with a very annoyed Lils. Her gray eyes were a little panicked, as if she'd just thought of some scenario where her brothers all ended up dead and she was left to mourn them or something, she was kooky like that! I walked in with Nancy hot on my tail.
"Who's the jerk with the pushy knocking?" I heard a Canadian accent come from the living room and for a moment I thought Michigan had come home but I had spoken to her that afternoon and knew she wouldn't be back for another two weeks yet. "It better not be the pizza man." The voice called out again, must be one of Lils' friends. I saw the pizza man turn a funny shade of red and drop the pizza boxes in Lils' hands. Never seen anybody run away so fast. Hilarious! I liked the Canadian voice already!
"Free pizza, cool!" I said, taking the pizza off her and walking to the living room to give Nancy some space to talk to her about whatever she needed to. I saw Sami, Ahmed, Onoko and a girl I'd never met before but recognised her as Leah from Lils' on-set pictures, huddled around the coffee table over a game of scrabble. Jalal was sitting on Shy Spencer's lap and Karim beside them, drawing into his book and completely oblivious to everything around him. "Hey, what's up?"
"Pizza!" Sami exclaimed happily, taking the boxes off me and setting them on the dinner table. Ahmed jumped up and gave me a hug as Onoko introduced me to Leah.
"I'm honoured to meet a lady that can scare a pizza man out of taking payment with a single sentence," I said and she giggled warmly.
"Oh no, did I really?" she said, biting her bottom lip in embarrassment as we sat at the table. "How awful of me!" Jalal rushed passed between us with a pile of plates in his hands before resuming his position beside Shy. God, what on earth was he doing here?
I hope Nancy doesn't see him otherwise all my hard work convincing her that the idea of celebrity was evil and just a money making scheme will be wasted. Onoko introduced me to Shy and he politely shook my hand.
"Jessica? Kali has told us so much about you!" he said, starting a conversation.
"Oh yeah!" Leah agreed wholeheartedly.
"She says you're a genius at psychological analysis," Shy said interestedly. Note to self: Hit Khalila on the head and remind her not to tell people of my quirky hobbies.
"Not really, I just like to read a bit about people and their behaviour," I said dismissively. Shy's eyes narrowed in thought.
"Leah, what was that book you gave Kali to read? Carnegie?" Shy asked her and she nodded, taking a bit out of her pizza and by the looks of it she was enjoying it completely. "Have you read it?"
"How to win friends and influence people?" I asked, he nodded enthusiastically and our discussion on the power of manipulating people began. To my dismay I found him completely friendly and charming. How annoying! It would be harder to dislike him now and harder to convince Nancy not to be so obsessed.
After coming to the quick conclusion that wanting to be well liked and important was neither desperate nor sinister, Shy picked up a plate and filled it with pizza.
"We didn't give any to Kali!" he explained, leaving to give it to her.
Ok, so it was now extremely hard to dislike him.
A/n - So, what do you think now you've got to see life through Jess's eyes? I hope it gives you a little more info on her, and Khalila both...and of course Adam as he spilled his guts out...R&R anybody? yes please!!