“What a heavy burden,” she sighed, mildly looking out at the bright mid-morning radiance atypical for Mondays.

“So heavy.”

Absently tapping her fingers against her thumb, she placed her head in the palm of her other hand. Her eyes never left the sight which she focused on, growing more and more weary by the second. It had been raining for a week now, thick, wet and messy rain. The kind that seeped into the corner of her kitchen where a small, yellow bucket with daisies she painted herself collected the excess that dripped from the leaky roof. The kind that seeped into her thoughts, distorted her mood. The brightly lit kitchen, filled with lavender, teal and red touches here and there, required some of her attention, as she had yet to do the dishes. None of these, however, were what held her interest. Her gaze was pinned onto the little girl who lived next door. She was among a large family of five, and her name was Ijlal, a simultaneously odd and unique name. Every Sunday the child found her way, unbeknownst to her parents, into her garden, where she sang softly to herself and watered the roses. Ideally, Rahima should have been watering her own roses, but, like everything else in her life, gardening was just not a priority right  now. All of the tasks which she often prided herself on her ability to complete, she had fallen short of recently.

She told herself that the soft, imperfect voice of the idle child soothed her because she was bored and a little on-edge; her LSAT grades were yet to be posted, and the possibility of failure loomed ominously. In reality, she knew there was another reason why she was so fixated. Ijlal reminded her of Sakina. Both happy-go-lucky, sweet and shy little girls, who preferred to be alone with their happiness than have others ruin it. She mentally berated herself for thinking of Sakina, there was no use in scratching at old wounds, or in this case, freshly formed scabs that were still incredibly sensitive. She paused to lift up the cup of herbal green tea to her mouth, noting the tapping she had been doing and shaking her head.

“Get a  hold of yourself, Rahima,” She muttered angrily.

Light footsteps came from the hallway into the living room.

“Yeah,” came a familiar loud, teasing voice, that of her sister Najma. “Get a freaking hold of yourself big sis. Don’t you know that talking to yourself is talking to the shaytan?” She gave Rahima a shrewd look before throwing her head back and laughing.

Rahima turned to face her with a scowl, although her heart wasn’t in it. After all, this was Najma. Constantly looking for a opportunity to make a joke out of Rahima. It was both aggravating and amusing, and it hid the fact that she had probably known why Rahima was so frustrated with herself.

“If you’re here to make breakfast, go right ahead.” Rahima cooly stood up, not in the mood to be the butt of another one of Najma’s jokes. “But, if you’re here to ruin my peace, I can drink my tea in my room.” She walked over to grab another tea bag and folded her arms, frowning at Najma’s mood.

Najma’s smile only broadened, before she walked up to her sister and gave her an unwelcome pat on her head. “I love it when you threaten me. Its always so ineffective,” she sighed.

“Now, tell me whats really on your mind.” She transitioned into concerned sister mode, and pulled up a chair on the island, her eyes still twinkling with mirth. Her eyebrows,, however, seemed to have a permanent furrow in them lately, and it deepened as she peered over at Rahima, who stood in front of the sink piled up with dirty dishes.

“You know what,” she mumbled, debating whether she should start washing them to avoid opening up.

“Come on, Rahi, just have a chat with your favourite sister,” Najma joked half-heatedly, gesturing widely with her arms, “I want to hear what you have to say, and listen to it and receive it.” She gave Rahima what should have been a comforting look, but really made her snort. Najma had been into reality shows lately, digesting one after the other without ever actually pausing in between. One of the main themes she had picked up on, was that all reality shows had therapists, otherwise, they weren’t quintessentially a reality show. And all the therapists had the same calm, wide-eyed demeanor that Najma was putting on.

“Just shut up, I’ll talk to you, okay? But there’s nothing I have to say.”

Najma made the required mhmm sound, and gestured for her sister to sit, which illicited a strong eye-roll and a half-smile.
“Is this about Saki, or about Law School?” She began, taking in Rahima’s baggy shirt with the cereal stain on the right arm. Unlike a girl who was very proud of her style, and liked to always be presentable.

Rahima, who really did not want any part of this intervention, felt for Najma. Rahima was the older sister, but in many ways, her and Najma were best friends and equals. They always made decisions together, turned to each other for laughter, support and compassion. But without Sakina, Rahima felt the two year age-gap between them widening. She wanted, no she needed, to protect Najma and to be there for her. But she also needed to shield her from any pain she might experience. Without her mom and dad here, she was responsible for that.

And she kept that in mind as she responded, “Law school. I just don’t want to disappoint them, you know?” By them, she was referring to her parents, who only wanted her to succeed in whatever she wanted. And what she wanted was law school. But, she could not mention Sakina to Najma, and so she omitted that from her list of worries.

Najma nodded and listened patiently as Rahima lamented. She offered up advice that maybe Rahima should do some volunteering to distract herself, to which Rahima said she’d look around. Both sisters smiled at each other, Rahima sipping her tea. Najma looked outside to watch Ijlal, who had moved from the roses to the shrubbery at the end of their yard. Rahima watched Najma as she gazed at Ijlal.

Najma decided she’d put off talking about Sakina until Rahima was in a better mood.





Light does not filter through the cracks

Sand gathers at my feet



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