She moved from the floor to four poster Swahili bed. And just right then she felt rather than heard the clang of the door unlocking from the outside; a whoosh of air followed the burst of sunlight.
“For the love of God, open the windows, will you?”
Zohra’s double surprise dropped her jaw. I get kidnapped in the night, and get locked up in a room I can barely recognise, and I’m expected to open the windows in the morning? Sheesh, a little break from tradition under the conditions, no?
“He sent you.”
Rashid looked a little out of place in his crisp long-sleeved light blue shirt and striped tie, with even crisper razor edged trousers, as he opened the wooden windows and let in another burst of air which lifted the dust on the ledges and had him spitting out both dust and cobwebs.
She wanted to giggle at the sight of him fighting the cobwebs, but then he straightened, and looked down at her in that way that always made her feel defiant. He’s all the way across the room and he can still make me feel small.
“He didn’t send me.”
“Oooo-kay. So why are you here?” And now I notice that I am still wearing my crumpled jeans and my fade yellow t-shirt is great for work but not for post-abduction meeting with… yaaay!
He folded his arms over his chest, not looking at all insecure as her ‘body cues’ class might have explained. She faltered inwardly and found herself seeking the bed if only to keep herself from crumpling to the floor. Dear Lord, when did I turn into an inspid Mills & Boons girl?
He walked around the room to stand in front of her, a move which made her even more infinitely uncomfortable. Run, Zohra, that’s an option ‘cos the door is wide open.
“I didn’t mean to keep you here, but there’s a situation, and I needed to know that you would be safe.”
“What?!” The rise of anger nearly choked her so that when she spoke next, her voice was a choked whisper, and hardly matched the accompanied action of jumping to her feet with indignation. “You brought me here?”
He sat down on the bed, with an air that made her falter again, and slowly sit down next to him.
“What is going on?” She could feel her heart thudding heavily against her chest, the anger dissipating and being replaced with dread and fear.
“There’s is no easy way to tell you this, Zohra. No easy way at all.”
“Oh God, he is dead, isn’t he?”
“What? Oh no!” He stood up to look down at her with that quizzical way he always used to look at her when she came into conflict with her father over him.
“Then what? You just scared the batshit out of me! Can’t you just say what the hell is going on?!”
“Don’t talk like that, Zohra.”
“Like what, curse?”
“No, like your father is…” He interrupted himself, and pushed his hands into his pockets, pursing his lips for a moment, then exhaling the words, “Your father left the country. And he is under suspicion of… well, of certain things, by the government.”
“You could say that. But that’s not really the problem. I am sure your father can prove himself innocent soon enough.”
She laughed, a derisive laugh even though she had not quite meant to be derisive, “Don’t you need to be innocent before you can prove your innocence? If you go around kidnapping people and selling drugs-”
“Zohra, your father is a lot of things but he is not a drug trafficker. Those accusations are being thrown at him by people who want to destroy him. You better get that right, right away. You’ve been childish and naïve long enough, don’t you think?” He looked beyond exasperated, something that made Zohra pause in her righteous judgement. And that allowed him to drive the final nail, “Zohra, the people after your father, they’ve threatened your life. If I could I’d send you the hell out of this god-forsaken place. But I can’t do that.”