Chapter 2 –
Goodbyes and Farewells
“Who is it?” Maryam asked as she slowly opened the front door to slow the cold breeze from blasting into their small apartment. Her eyes widened as she noticed the navy collars of the police officers by her door. There was one too many, though she quickly kept her composure. “Good morning; how can I help you?” she asked, her voice cracked anxiously. She feared for the worst. A young police officer with long blond hair and a boyish stubble looked at her, half-dazed and almost out of place. It was apparent he was the most junior officer. He looked not more than in his early 20s, probably joined after all the firing and imprisonments. David knew many of the officers being persecuted; some were fired, others were banned from taking positions in other departments, and some even got life sentences.
“Good morning, ma’am!” the officer perked. Maryam nodded, holding her breath, deciding to choose her words carefully. “Sorry to bother you at this hour, but we’re looking for your husband, Mr. David Turkson, on an ongoing case. We may need him to provide us a statement regarding his old job at the Department of Interior.” The officer said, a naïve smile across his face. Maryam knew the situation. A couple of days ago, officers came to take her friend’s husband for “routine” questioning. He had been in jail ever since without a charge. An officer in his 40s, probably the section chief, started to speak in his walkie as he darted an eye at her.
David overheard the sound of the walkie as he peered off his newspaper. Fatima noticed unease on her father’s face, though he quickly hid it away as he looked at her daughter. Fatima eyed her brother, who was still finishing up his breakfast. The dining room behind the kitchen was separated by an open archway left of the entrance hall into the living room left of the dining table. She was sitting with her back to the front door. Her dad was on her left, and her brother was across. He collected himself and began to fold the newspaper, took his dishes to put in the sink, and grabbed his parka lying on the living room sofa.
Fatima felt suddenly urged to note everything as if she knew this memory would be vital for her as if the calm and warm house would quickly slip into oblivion like an earthquake, sudden and foreboding. The smell of tea as it slowly simmered and her mother’s woody perfume. The fresh bread on the table as it bathed in the morning sun’s calm and warmth as it fed her bones. Her father’s cozy shawl as he laid it down by the sofa. Their bikes that sat by the patio in front of her as they huddled and hugged together after their ride, with the drapes silently hanging on each side. The rustic wood-themed furniture and table her mother loved. As if bonded to all that meant natural and peaceful, a balance it had brought her growing up. A balance she would cherish her whole life, what she would fight for, a familiarity she knew could exist everywhere, a love. Though, for its mere presence, she felt what lay outside was bent on stealing that for itself.
“Adam, could you help get your sister ready for school,” her father said while buttoning up his coat. She knew he didn’t want them around, and it was all to get them away from the door. Adam had already gotten up, hurriedly leaving his plate on the table.
“Fadmay,” Adam called out. Whenever something was wrong, he would say Fatima, but this time he hadn’t. She half-nodded at him as he walked to the hallway to his room. For the past month or so, she and Adam had conversations that would somehow lead to Adam trying to reassure her of what would happen after this day. Almost as if to help her get ready.
She had eavesdropped on her dad and him a few months or so while in her room. She could still vividly remember her door was half open as she sat on her bed, her headphones around her neck, and the rain tapping on the windowsill while she was studying for an exam. It probably was for her history class. She couldn’t remember exactly when, but she knew it was on Thursday because her mother was out with her friends.
On Thursdays, her mom and a few friends would gather, and one of them would host each week. Her mother would look forward to them all week. It wasn’t unique; they would read together, chat, and have tea and dessert. Fatima loved Thursdays too, because when her mother came home, she would share something she found fascinating afterward. Usually, it would be a religious story about a companion of the prophet and how they dealt with hardships. There was always a light gleam in her eyes when she told those stories. Fatima loved sharing that passion with her mom.
She hadn’t been home yet that night, in any case. Her father was talking about the new layoff and firing that were happening in some other department and that he probably soon would be fired too, but that he and their uncle would be starting a business soon. She remembered her father saying, “Make sure your sister doesn’t feel scared or anxious with everything that is going on, be with her if the TV is turned on and the news looks uninviting. There is a chance that I may be accused of being a part of this insurrection, and I may not be home for a couple of years.”
“I know dad, they keep people in without proper charge or even probable cause,” her brother blurted.
“You know we didn’t do anything wrong,” her dad added.
“I know…” her brother’s voice trailed. He was in his last year of law school and wanted to be like her dad. Growing up, he loved talking about work with her dad. At first, she thought it was like a “guy thing” because it never really interested her as much as it did him, but she soon realized it was more than that. It was a sense of duty, a sense of responsibility that her dad had always carried with him. It was that sense that had mesmerized her brother all these years.
Her father was in a division that dealt with corruption involving law enforcement and narcotics. Or at least, according to things he would share with them. He had taken an oath of secrecy, and he really couldn’t talk much about work, only things that would end up in the nightly news, oddly enough, she had thought. She recalled things had taken a turn a couple of years back. Before then, her dad would always come home gleefully, and the news he shared made them all hopeful that things were changing for the better. Though ever since that day, when a corruption scandal involving family members of the ruling party came on the nightly news, her dad had become more somber; that old glow in his eyes became occasionally weary. During dinners, he always reminded them to, “pray for the country.”
That Thursday night was no different. Though this time, her dad even discussed plans to leave the country and start a new life in America. She had never imagined in her life that she would have to leave the only country she knew and loved her life this way. Maybe go to college in the US or have a few summer vacations in Europe, but not like this. Her parents had always trembled over her brother and her education, and she was a good student; she had gotten good scores in the national college exam, and she had wanted to study in the US to become a journalist or a diplomat, but she hadn’t decided yet.
“You have all the contact information you need,” she remembered her father saying, “I will join you guys after a couple of years at most, don’t worry, son.”
“I know, dad,” said her brother.
Chapter 3 –
Dining by a Storm
Her heart went numb, her eyes a bit teary from the heavy winds braising her sun-soaked hair as it waved past her beanie and scarf.