Devil with the Angel's Eyes (16+)

(Based on Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner)

Saria Ahmed is Assef's twelve year old sister, a charming young girl with bright blue eyes, and curly blonde hair. With her girly dresses and sweet demeanour, she comes across as the perfect child. But there is evil lying just beneath the innocent facade, a darkness that is sometimes beyond her control...

Any characters, words or plot devices taken from the Kite Runner are copyrighted by Khaled Hosseini and Dreamworks studios. I do not own them, and no copyright is intended. Saria Ahmed, and any other characters not owned by Hosseini are owned by me.

Please note that this story does contain strong violence, language and mature themes, but it is meant to reflect the violent and sociopathic natures of both Saria and Assef, and is told from Saria's unique first person perspective. If you are under the age, or maturity level of 16, or are in any way squeamish about violence, please do not read this story. Any feedback/ideas are welcomed.

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16. Another Brother?

In chapter 15, Saria once again found herself at loggerheads with Ahtrai. Later, she and Assef went on a just because where Saria violently beat another girl in her class to the point of unconciousness.. Now we find her in the classroom as her fellow classmates learn just how much damage she caused to the girl...

There was a profound silence in the classroom. You could hear a pin drop. Mullah Fahsir Khan paced up and down, his hands behind his back like a security guard. His brow crinkled in worry. Each child in the room sat bolt upright, eyes straight ahead. The clock ticked endlessly on the wall behind me, making the seconds drag on.

Mullah Fahsir Khan opened his mouth as though he was about to say something, but decided against it. He looked at us all, making me feel extremely awkward. I could feel myself start to sweat in my cream dress as his eyes bore into mine. It truly felt as though he could see into my very soul. The other girls must have felt the same, because I noticed them shifting uncomfortably.

''I don't want to hear a word,'' Mullah Fahsir Khan said finally. ''Not one word. Not one sound. Is that clear? This is a very serious matter and I want your full attention. Do you all understand?"

''Yes,'' we all chorused, sitting up straight, backs rigid like pre-programmed robots. I glanced over at Ahtrai, who was glaring at me in total contempt. I ignored her, focusing my attention back on the Mullah. He looked around at all of us, worry etched upon his features. When he spoke, it took him a while to get the words out.

''Somebody... Somebody hurt Ara last Tuesday. She was beaten by somebody and left for dead.'' I tensed immediately. How did he know about that? What more did he know? Of course, I did not let any of these fears be shown on my face. I kept staring straight ahead, my eyes locked on the Mullah's. I pretended to be as shocked by the news as any of the other girls.

''A local merchant found her by the barracks late in the evening, and rushed her into the hospital.'' He pinched the bridge of his nose, gathering his thoughts. We all looked on in shock. False shock, in my case. ''She's very, very lucky to have survived. The poor child suffered severe trauma to her head, and was left blind in both eyes. Doctors don't know if she will ever be able to recover. She's also been left needing plastic surgery on her face to repair the damage.''

He became a little misty eyed as he struggled to continue. ''What kind of sick bastard would do this to a child?'' he snarled suddenly. ''What kind of monster would beat a little girl so badly she ended up blind?'' I had to refrain from cracking a smirk as I listened to his rant. He was such a sensitive soul, after all, the dumb fuck. ''I want each one of you precious girls to take care of yourselves this weekend. You must all understand that there are people out there who will hurt you the way they hurt our Ara. Some people are just pure evil, and can do things like this without a single feeling of remorse.''

Pure evil? I'm not pure evil, am I? Yes, I may have caused this child to be blinded but who's fault was that? She was the one who threatened me, the one who tried to pick a fight with me. Can I help it if I'm a more skilled fighter than her? No I can't and besides, the little whore deserved everything she got. Blindness was nothing compared to what I could have done to her, to what I would have liked to do to her. I could just as easily have ripped her fucking liver out and made her eat it. Gouged out her eyes and shoved them up her rectum. Burned her face off with my precious lighter.

The possibilities were endless. No, I think being blinded was a lucky escape for her, don't you? After all, this is Zainab's killer we're talking about here. Ara should consider herself very fortunate indeed. Mullah Fahsir Khan wiped his eyes with the heels of his hands. Tears ran down his large face, and, looking around me, I noticed that a lot of the girls were crying hard as well. I must have made a huge impact on them, HA! One girl of about nine buried her face in her arms and let out a loud wail. ''Oh, poor Ara!'' she sobbed, clearly in a lot of despair for her poor injured friend.

'Fuck with me and you pay the price,' I thought. I kept my eyes downcast, certain that if I looked at any more sobbing children I would surely bust my ass laughing. Ahtrai had her arms wrapped around two of her friends, and the three of them were crying loudly. You'd think someone had been fucking murdered, the way they were carrying on! It was truly pathetic! Mullah Fahsir Khan's shoulders shook, as he tried to find the right words to say to comfort us all.

''I don't... I... I just don't know what to say. This must be taking a huge toll on all of you. Ara is one of the kindest people on God's Earth, and to have this happen to her... It's just... disgusting.. Absolutely disgusting.'' He wiped his eyes again. He'd wipe them clean out if his head if he wasn't careful. How funny would that be? ''Girls, I... I don't need to tell you how hard things will be for Ara from now on. I ask that you all take the time to be there for her and to visit her in the hospital over the weekend. I'm sure she would appreciate your help and support in this turbulent time.''

The bell rang for the end of classes. At long fucking last! This time, however, there was no scrambling, no noisy chairs being pushed back, no pointless chatter as we packed our bags. The girls were still in total shock over the news they had just received. ''Remember, keep Ara in your thoughts and prayers,'' the Mullah said as a parting afterthought. Slowly, they began to file out of the classroom, one by one. Soon it was only Ahtrai and myself left.

She narrowed her eyes into slits as she passed me by. ''I bet you did it...'' she hissed.

I cocked my head to the side in confusion. ''What did I do, dear?''

''Attacked Ara. I bet it was you. And if I ever prove it, I'll make sure you get the punishment you deserve.'' Tears streamed down her ugly face. I stood up and made my way past her into the hall. I did not even bother to respond to her, and why would I? There was no way in high hell she could ever prove that I had anything to do with Ara's attack! After all, who would ever suspect sweet, benevolent Saria of doing anything wrong? All of Kabul would stand behind me in total support.

I took solace in this fact as I exited the classroom. The clear sky and heat that awaited me outside would be a welcome change from the stuffy classroom I had just spent the week in. Now it was Friday! At long fucking last, the weekend had arrived! Two whole days for me to relax, without the shit of schoolwork and bitches like Ahtrai. The girls walked in groups of two or three down the hall.

They gossiped among themselves, probably about Ara and her little ''accident,'' I could only hope that I would not become the target of any suspicions. Ahtrai seemed pretty damn sure that I had done it. As I walked, I noticed one eight year old staring at me. She held her books close to her chest and just watched as I passed by her. My heart began pounding in my chest. 'Saria, calm down, she doesn't know... She didn't see anything!' I told myself repeatedly as I inched by her. She gulped. I began to step closer to her, a perpetual smile of innocence plastered on my face.

''Is there something wrong, dear?'' I asked. She attempted to side-step me. I grabbed her arm. I wanted to cause some terror for the fuck of it. In retrospect, maybe I shouldn't have done that. My impulses often can't be controlled though. She closed her eyes and shook her head.

''Please don't hurt me, Saria...'' she begged.

''Of course not. You just remember to toe the line, sweetheart. Okay?'' The sweet little child nodded her head like it was on a spring. She reminded me of Adia. Perhaps I could manipulate her too. I always wanted to find ways to manipulate others to my will. We both walked out the door together in total silence.

''What's your name?'' I asked.

She seemed almost hesitant to answer. ''Delbar,'' she mumbled. She shook in fear of me. I smirked; I had made a serious impression on this girl's mind.

''That's a pretty name, isn't it?'' I asked sweetly.

She didn't respond. The sky was clear, and the sun shone down on us, making the godforsaken cotton disaster I had chosen to wear extremely uncomfortable. Delbar was silent as we walked, her grey eyes flickering back and forth. I almost wanted to cut her throat for the sheer hell of it! The thought of her choking on her own blood was so erotic! Fortunately for her, we both had to turn our separate ways in order to go home.

''Have a nice weekend, Delbar. I'll see you in school on Monday!'' I called after her as she scurried away. 'Yeah, you better run, bitch!' I thought, watching her little rucksack bounce on her back, her hair flying about her face. No, before you ask, I had no intentions of attacking or beating this girl, why would I? She had done nothing to me! I just wanted someone else I could manipulate and control. Somebody I could use to my advantage and dispose of once I was done.

I could tell that Delbar would be going to be someone I would need to keep a very close eye on. The busy streets were full of hustle and bustle as men, women and children went about their daily business. I straightened my hair, brushed down the front of my dress, and began skipping. Just another childish mannerism I'd managed to perfect. Women simpered as I passed them, cooing to their husbands about how precious I was, how much they wished their daughters could be like me. I had to smile to myself at the ease of the role I was undertaking.

Sweet and innocent little Saria. A role I had managed to perfect as a young child. The cool air ruminated around me as I walked. I shivered and wrapped my tiny arms around my chest, fiddling with the buttons of my blue duffel coat. The beige tights I wore did little to stop the frigid cold on my legs. It took all of twenty minutes for me to walk home from school.

As I approached the gate, I immediately took notice of the fact the car was missing again. Obviously Mama and Papa were out, since Papa had taken holidays from work these past three weeks. ''Fucking hell, couldn't they wait for me? Assef better be home!'' I grumbled as I trudged up to the house. I knocked a few times on the door, and after a few minutes impatient waiting, Hamilra unlatched the lock and pulled back the door to let me in. She bowed her head as I passed by without even a thank you. The Hazara bitch didn't deserve to be in my presence!

''Good afternoon, Saria khanom, I hope your day was pleasant,'' she said in a timid voice. I didn't acknowledge her and continued on towards the kitchen. Assef had obviously just got in seconds before me, because he was just putting his bag down. He smiled widely when he saw me, opening his arms for me to run into. I pressed my face up against his chest.

''Hey, kiddo, welcome home. Did you have a good day at school?''

I nodded vigorously. ''Come on into the living room with me and I'll tell you all about it.'' I half dragged my brother over to the couch and sat down on his knee.

''You know that girl we beat on our last 'just because?''' I asked.

''The dumb cow who thought it would be a good idea to attack you right in front of me?'' Assef asked. I played absent-mindedly with the buttons on his shirt.

''Yes. Mullah Fahsir Khan lectured us all about it today.'' Upon hearing those words, my brother immediately became concerned for me.

''He doesn't know it was you, does he?''

''No, of course not. I acted as shocked as those other girls. Assef, listen to me. She's blind. The bitch is blind! I knew we did damage to her, I fucking knew it!'' I let out a loud whoop of delight and bounced on Assef's knees.

''Wow, kiddo, wow, I am so proud of you. You know that?'' I could hear the laughter in his voice. "Blind.. I mean.. my God, fucking brilliant!"

I kissed his cheek. ''I couldn't have done it without you.'' I smiled warmly. He ruffled my hair and set me back on my feet. I rocked back and forth on my heels, giggling like a maniac. How I loved when I could cause pain to others.

''Do you have homework, kiddo?'' Assef asked.

''No,'' I shook my head. ''Mullah never gave us any. Guess he was too shaken up over Ara. That's her name, by the way. He cried when he told us!'' I doubled over in hysterics. ''He broke down in tears.'' Assef grinned at me.

''Assef, I'm going to take a bath, I'm sweating like a pig here, these dresses are going to be the death of me!''

''Alright, Saria, you go and look after yourself, but don't go into my room, okay? Do you promise?''

''Ah, okay, yeah, I promise,'' I said. I walked out of the room and bounded up the stairs.

As I disrobed, I felt a shiver run up my naked body. I filled the bath with warm, bubbling water. Dipping my toe in, I sighed in content as I climbed into the bath. I rested my head against the taps and just let the warm water envelop my every pore. Outside, I could hear Assef thumping around in his room. Why was he so on edge? He'd never had a problem with me going in his room before, why now? The dimmed bathroom light bathed me in serenity as I relaxed.

This was the kind of bliss I rarely got to experience in my hectic life. It seemed there was always some sort of problem for me to come up against. Whether it be Ahtrai and her teasing, or little bitches like Ara not knowing their place, my life seemed to be getting tougher by the minute. I just seemed to be a good target for teasing in the eyes of Ahtrai and her friends. I hoped that none of them would have the audacity to challenge me again, but what chance was there of that?

''Stupid Ara, you knew what I was capable of,'' I murmured in frustration. It was her own fault she's in this situation now. The water began to heat my small frame from top to toe. I shut my eyes and let the worries of the day just float away. ''You're in charge, Saria. Remember that,'' I repeated this relaxing mantra as I washed.

The sound of Assef's footsteps stomping across the hall made it fucking hard for me to bathe in peace. ''Assef, what are you doing?'' I lamented loudly, punching the edge of the bath in frustration. I heard his bedroom door slam and there was silence. I climbed out of the bath and wrapped a fluffy white towel around my tiny frame. I patted my self dry and made my way into my room. ''Now, which abomination do I put on?'' I pondered as I sifted through my dresses and pinafores. I pulled out a green plaid pinafore with a large collar that reached my knees.

It would have to do, I suppose. After slipping it on, I lay down on my bed, attempting to learn those Rumi poems from Mullah Fahsir Khan. We often had a poetry competition, and I was hoping I'd win the next time. Studying, however, is very difficult when one's brother keeps making a ruckus in his bedroom.

''FOR FUCK SAKE, ASSEF!'' I shouted in frustration. He mustn't have heard me, because that godawful racket continued. Why was he like this today? He certainly seemed to be in a bad mood about something, but what? I had to find out! I had to. I opened my door a fraction of an inch and peeked out.

Assef walked briskly down the hall. As he passed, I automatically turned and pressed myself up against the wall so that he couldn't see me. My heart was in my mouth as I breathed in and out deeply. Assef's footsteps clattered down the stairs. Now was the time to make my move. I tiptoed as silent as a little mouse down the hall. Being secretive is one of my many talents, after all.

I walked in socked feet to Assef's room and gently shut the door behind me, making sure to lock it as well. A part of me felt guilty for betraying my beloved brother's trust. For doing something that I knew would cause pain to him. No matter now. He shouldn't be so secretive. Siblings don't keep secrets from one another. Not now, not ever! I made sure to not make a sound as I searched for evidence. Assef's room was a total mess. Papers, bottles and books littered the floor. I almost fell flat on my ass as I tripped over a stack of papers he'd left lying around. I caught myself on the edge of the bed.

''Stupid mess!'' I cursed. Brushing my hair back from my face, I rummaged through his chest of drawers, looking for some evidence. Any evidence. There was something jammed in the drawer. I tugged hard on it and almost overbalanced as a large, old scrap book came flying out at me. ''So this is what's got him so on edge!'' I thought. The scrap book looked as though it would fall apart at any second. I knelt down on the floor and began flicking through the photographs Assef had so carefully and religiously stuck inside.

It seemed to tell a story, beginning with an old sepia picture of Mama, her hand on her pregnant stomach. Above it, read the caption; I'M GOING TO BE A BIG BROTHER! Then, more pictures. Mama and a two year old Assef, smiling widely as her stomach enlarged. I continued to search through my brother's most personal possession. After a while, I came across a photo of him, and a baby boy in his arms. There were a whole series of them, Mama, Papa, Assef, the mysterious baby. The caption read MY BABY BROTHER ABDUL! Assef was grinning widely in the photographs and so was little Abdul. Pictures of them playing, giggling, laughing. Just being innocent children.

So now where was the brother I had never met? Why didn't Assef ever tell me about him? My fury at being lied to by my beloved big brother was palatable. I clenched my fists and pounded them against the floor. I glared angrily at the photographs, at the lies. Tears sprang to my eyes. I shook my head to clear them. ''I don't deserve to be lied to,'' I murmured to myself. ''Stupid bastard!'' I had never felt this way about my brother before and I didn't like it. I kicked the edge of his bed in frustration. I angrily slammed a closed fist upon my leg, holding back the river of tears which were desperate to fall from my eyes.

There was an unmistakable sound of someone trying to open the door. I immediately tensed up as they tried three times in quick succession. My heart was in my stomach. I shook with fear. BANG! BANG! BANG!

''You'd better open this door right now, Saria Adelah Ahmed,'' came Assef's voice from the other side of the door. He sounded pissed. ''Do you hear me? Right NOW!'' The fury in his voice filled me with dread. It was even more terrifying than the time he had lashed out at me before Zainab's beating. I hurriedly tried to dispose of the evidence in my hand.

''I... One MINUTE!'' I retorted.

''No. Not one minute. RIGHT NOW! DO YOU UNDERSTAND? NOWWW!'' The door knob shook as he banged again. ''SARIA ADELAH AHMED! I am warning you! Open this door, NOW!'' he screamed.

Slowly, I opened the door and Assef stomped inside, then slammed it shut behind him. I watched the look on his face with utter terror. He glared down at me, arms folded across his chest. I hurriedly put the scrapbook behind my back with one hand. I extend the other up to my Assef in a sheepish, ashamed gesture. I shifted from one foot to the other. Assef loomed over me. It never occured to me until just now how fucking intimidating my brother could be. I was in a state of both rage and shock as he backed me right into a corner.

''What did I tell you about going in my room, Saria Adelah?'' His voice was low and dangerous. ''Huh? What did I tell you?''

''Not to go in there,'' I said.

''And what give you the right to disobey my orders?''

I shook with rage. ''Your orders?'' I asked. ''Your orders?'' I jumped up and down in utter frustration. ''I am your sister! I am not some fucking servant you can push about! I am not Wali or Kamal!''

Assef just shook his head at me. ''You're a spoilt little brat!''

''Fuck off, Assef, I don't want to hear it!''

''What did you just say to me?'' he asked. He slammed the palm of his hand on the wall above my head. I shrank away from him. 'He lied to you. He lied to you,' I thought to myself. I pushed my chest out and jutted out my jaw in utter defiance.

''Are you deaf, brother? I told you to FUCK OFF!'' I screamed at the top of my lungs. This was it. His lies were about to be revealed. There was no way he could ever defend this now, was there? With a cruel look marring my face, I procured the scrapbook from behind my back. ''Who's Abdul?'' I questioned with a hint of sarcasm. ''Huh? Not so high and mighty now, are you, my dear brother? Come on then, you're always so brave! Tell me who he is!''

Assef blanched. He stepped towards me, his hand outstretched. He could not hide the nervous twitch in his eyes as I dashed away from him, waving the book high over my head. I felt myself tremble with pure anger, and hatred. My brother clenched one fist, the other hand still stretched out for the book I had now taken from him. ''Give me that scrapbook, Saria. Now, please.''

I shook my head. I would not let this go. The emotional pain that my brother had put me through was all too visceral to just let slide. Did he honestly think he could keep something as serious as this from me. Huh? Did he? ''No. You lied to me. You kept this from me. I thought we trusted each other. You saw me kill a person.'' I shook my head. ''You will tell me who Abdul is.'' I clenched my fists by my sides. "You disgusting, pathetic excuse for a brother. HOW DARE YOU PLAY ME FOR A FOOL!" I roared.

Assef struggled to find the words to say. He took a deep breath. His voice became slightly more gentle, yet I could still hear the fury that dripped off his tongue. ''Give me that scrapbook, Saria. I'm not messing around any more. You are getting on my very last nerve. Hand the fucking thing over and let this be an end to your disobedience.''

''Disobedient, am I? Well you're not getting this back, Assef. You lied to me. You lied to me all these years. So excuse me for being a bit pissed at you.''

Assef grabbed the edge of the scrap book. ''I'm not playing any more. You have no idea the trouble you're in. No idea. You'll be fucking lucky if I ever speak to you again. How dare you go through my things without permission? How dare you?'' He tugged on the book. I tugged back just as viciously.

''You lied to me!'' I repeated again, clutching the scrapbook for dear life. ''You lied to me! How dare you?'' I stomped my foot again. Assef pulled the scrapbook again, as it suddenly began to rip. Pages flew through the air and landed strewn all over the floor.

''No!'' Assef moaned, falling to his knees. He scrabbled about like a blind man trying to gather the photographs. He eventually managed to gather them into one pile and placed them on his bed.

''I'm sorry, Assef,'' I said in a timid little voice. ''I didn't mean to...'' I was cut off as he violently shoved me to the ground. I landed on my side. White hot pain enveloped me as I felt one of my ribs crack. WHAM! Assef nailed me on the jaw with his closed fist. The entire room spun upside down and my being, my soul, was numb. I let out a shriek of pain and terror.

My brother had never lashed out at me before. Never. I lay there, stunned from the force of the blow. Honestly, I felt sick. Assef's eyes became as wide as saucers. He shook his head, as if trying to clear the memory of his violent assault on his little sister. It took me a few moments to stagger to my feet. I could feel blood pouring from the gash my brother had left on the side of my head. Assef reached out to take my hand, but I elbowed my way past him.

"Sister, please, you know I would never..." he tried to plead with me, but I pushed him over. He was not expecting my outburst, and landed flat on his ass. He clasped his hands out in front of him, as though in prayer, his eyes shining with guilt and remorse. I felt a sob burst forth from the depths of my chest and, despite my best efforts, I could not stop it.

"Leave me alone. LEAVE ME ALONE!" I screamed at my brother as I wrenched open the door to his room, and staggered out into the hall. I raced into my bedroom, and shut the door behind me. With a feral scream of pain, I collapsed to my knees, bowing my head onto the white carpet and sobbing uncontrollably. 'Fuck, he busted my head open!' I thought. Tears streamed down my face. Most people would expect to be hit if their brother was a psychopath, but this was a huge shock to me. I never knew Assef had it in him to be so vicious towards me, to his Saria. The only person in the world he claimed to love.

As I sobbed on the floor, I barely noticed Assef open the door and come into the room. His breath hitched as he approached me. Whipping around, I gulped in fear, and scurried away, pressing my body up against a wall. Tears fell liberally from my eyes. Well, could you blame me for acting this way? Assef had the most remorseful, heartbroken look on his face. It was as if somebody had ripped his heart out and stamped upon it. He made his way over to me, and knelt down. His blue eyes surveyed the gash on my forehead.

"Come here, Saria. Please." He tentatively placed a hand on my shoulder. He tilted his head back and exhaled deeply. My lip quivered. Perhaps I was afraid my brother would lash out again, or maybe I just needed the comfort, but, against my better judgement, I crawled into Assef's open arms. Pulling a handkerchief from his pocket, he began to clean up the wound from my head. I winced as he applied pressure to the gash. "Oh God.." Assef murmured, devastated by what he had done.

He gently wiped the blood off my face. "I'm so sorry I punched you, kiddo. I was just so angry when I found out you were in my room without permission." Assef gently kissed my forehead. "You needed to believe me, little sister, I will never lash out at you like that again. Never." He placed a hand on my back and rubbed circles into it. He lifted my chin and looked deep into my eyes. "Please forgive me, Saria."

"I-I just got so mad because you lied to me. Siblings don't keep secrets from one another," I stuttered.

Assef pressed the cloth against my head, and winced empathically at the blood left on the handkerchief. "Look at what I did to you, my sister." His voice broke on the last word. "I love you, kiddo. You know that, don't you?" I glanced up at him. The look in his eyes told me he was telling the absolute truth. I would believe my beloved brother on anything. I trusted Assef and I knew that he would never hit me again. We had each other, we were a team, a family.

"I'm sorry that I went through your things without asking, Assef and I'm sorry I messed up your s-scrapbook, and I'm sorry I pestered you for answers," I sobbed uncontrollably, barely able to get the words out.

Assef shushed me, rubbing my back and stroking my hair. "Don't make excuses for me, sister. I hit you. I hurt you. No matter what you did, nothing justifies that. Nothing. I had no right to hurt you. Not you, not my sister. Besides," he choked out a half-laugh, half-sob. "You were right. You have every right to know who Abdul was and I was wrong to keep it from you. You're old enough now to be told." He picked me up off the floor and carried me over to the bed. I sat down on his knee.

"Yes, you did have another brother. He was born when I was about one or two. I don't remember, actually. It was that long ago." Assef gently brushed a lock of blonde hair behind my ear. "His name was Abdul and I loved that little boy. More so than I ever loved Mother or Father. Well, you know how they are; they just left us alone with Haliram so much. It really got on my fucking nerves."

"Who's Haliram?" I asked.

"Sorry, you wouldn't have met her. She's Hamilra's mother. Got fired before you were born. I hope she fucking dies!" Assef squeezed my hand. "Haliram always left the fucking back door unlocked, which, as you can imagine, I had no complaints about as a child! Abdul and I used to play by the pool all day long, and then." I tensed, already seeing where this story was going.

"I was four when Abdul… when he… We were playing hide and seek, Saria. Just playing! I hid behind a potted plant, and I could see him running to find me, laughing his little head of, he was. I… he was only two, he couldn't walk properly yet. He slipped and fell in the pool. There was so much blood, kiddo, you can't even imagine." I began crying for my poor lost brother.

"Oh, God," I lamented.

"Saria, Abdul died in the hospital four hours later. I was there when they told our parents. I thought Mother was going to keel over and die right in front of me. She just screamed, screamed like the whole world had been destroyed. I could tell she blamed me for it. That I should have taken better care of him. I wasn't being a responsible big brother."

"You're a great brother," I said and in my heart I knew my words were true.

"After I fucking beat you…" he lamented. I placed my head against his chest.

"Water under the bridge," I repeated Assef's mantra.

"I kept that scrapbook because, well, because.. Abdul was my brother. Our brother. I loved him." Assef took my hands and made me look into his eyes.

"I need you to hear me, kiddo. When you were born, I… well I never felt anything like it. I loved you from the very moment Father placed you in my arms. You are the most important thing in my life, and the only person I love. Do you understand this? Abdul is just a memory for me now, a painful memory, but a memory all the same." He stroked my bruised jaw and examined the gash on my forehead once again. Despite being superficial, it was still bleeding.

"You are my best friend, kiddo. I love you. I'm so sorry for hitting you," he repeated over and over.

"I forgive you," I murmured. "I love you too. You're my best friend too. You just understand me in a way nobody else ever did, or ever will." I sniffled. "You're everything I've ever wanted to be."

"You're so sweet to say that, kiddo." Assef lifted me off his lap. "Lie down and try to sleep, or something. Okay? You need to rest."

"My side hurts. I think you cracked one of my ribs."

The entire color drained from Assef's face. His eyes widened. "Oh, Saria. Oh God, kiddo. I'm sorry. Come here and let me look." I lifted my dress. Fortunately, my ribs did not actually seem to be cracked, just badly bruised. Assef helped me into bed and stroked my hair. "Shh, you just sleep now, sister. Okay? Mother and Father are away, it's just you and me. Okay? Shh now, you need to sleep." I grabbed his hand.

"C-Can I stay with you tonight?" I asked.

"Of course, kiddo. Of course you can. You just take a nice long rest now. I love you, Saria Ahmed. I love you." Assef leaned down and gently kissed my forehead.

"Love… you… too…" I said as I closed my eyes.

No matter what happens, I loved my brother and we had each other… We would always have each other…

Next, Saria takes a trip to Pakistan, and meets up with her cousin for the first time in years. Thanks to all who read and review... Keep 'em coming :D

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