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Excerpt for You are the Love of my Life 2 by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

You are the Love of my Life

Guitar break



By Khaleel Jooste

Copyright Khaleel Jooste 2018

Smashwords Edition License Notes:

This free e-book may be copied, distributed, reposted, reprinted and shared, provided it appears in its entirety without alteration, and the reader is not charged to access it.

Other books by Khaleel Jooste



You are the Love of my Life


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Torn Apart


https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/615196



Thank you Allah – Purpose


https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/764583

I seek protection from Satan the outcast and I begin in the name of

Allah,

The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful.



Ayat Al-Kursi

The verse of the Throne



Allah - there is no deity except Him, the Ever-Living, the Sustainer of all existence. Neither drowsiness overtakes Him nor sleep. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. Who is it that can intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows what is presently before them and what will be after them, and they encompass not a thing of His knowledge except for what He wills. His throne extends over the heavens and the earth, and their preservation tires Him not. And He is the Most High, the Most Great.

Surah Al- Baqarah (The Cow) 2:255



As Allah wills

And [He created] the horses, mules and donkeys for you to ride and [as] adornment. And He creates that which you do not know.

Surah An-Naĥl (The Bee) 16:8

“…wild horses run unbridled or their spirit dies…”

Butterfly

Mariah Carey

Claire



2002 (May 1)



Dear Claire

I miss you.

I wrote these songs for you. When I see you again, I’ll sing and play them for you. God willing.

I’ll try to be home before Christmas.

Please give Mr Biggs a kiss.

I wish we had another place.

Love and miss you much

May God keep you safe

Ben



For the Love of my Life, My beautiful Claire



Fuzzy White Cardigan



Hot cocoa on the night stand

Twilight skies

She sits and writes

Freehand

The letter writing she likes

She smiles

Stares out the window

First signs of snow

She sighs

Writes some more

All her lows her highs

Her longing she puts on paper

With pensive face she drinks her hot cocoa

Cute girly sips

She smiles and stares out the window

Soon I will be home

She’s no longer alone

For now

Her fuzzy white cardigan keeps her warm



Verse 1

I met her at the park

It was late and very dark

She was scared

All alone no one cared

Her feet bare

She was cold

Keep running keep running her words odd

Bold foolish blind dare

I reached didn’t think

Didn’t have to it didn’t matter

Just reached perhaps I could make her feel better

Remove the sorrow the despair

Dry her beautiful eyes

Those tears

They tore me apart



Verse 2



She took a leap of faith

So did I

I took her hand

She took mine

I took her to my house

There wasn’t much

Only the cat dad’s hat a lighter for the cranky old furnace

She didn’t want or ask for much

Only a place to rest some warm water

She washed the cat and fixed the furnace

She made my house our home

All she requested was a pen some paper perhaps a diary

I got her a fuzzy white cardigan too



Guitar break



Verse 3



Now we play in the park

We’re both here to stay no longer afraid of the dark

We found each other

In this very park

It still gets dark

But she is not alone

No longer am I

Last time we flew a kite

We brought the cat

He doesn’t like her washing him he seems to like her though

When I have to go

She wears her cardigan and he watches her write

Outro

Her white cardigan keeps her warm

She’s no longer alone

She made my house our home

She loves my cat

Her fuzzy white cardigan keeps her warm



ن



Claire folds the sheets of paper.

Smiles and sighs to herself.

Ben always did that to her.

Get her excited.

Silly as these songs were, she liked them.

More however, she believed that there was more to them than meets the eye.

Slowly she turns.

Yes.

She picks up her coat.

Gently caresses the cat, kisses its orangey head.

Gives the room one quick sweep with her eyes: the fire place was safe, the furnace off. She closes the door and runs to the shed, removes the cover hiding the bike. It was Ben’s, or so she thought. She starts it up and speeds off.



س



There were a few boutiques nearby; perhaps a library. She couldn’t be sure, but something in her gut told her to find a book, near the park. What she hoped was that she somehow understood Ben. That she understood the way he was communicating with her. The songs were only a front. That’s what she believed. It would suffice if she wasn’t the person that she was; an adventurer at heart, a heart that wanted to conquer the world.

She believed that we were not alone. Something she and Ben spent many sleepless nights discussing.

If only she could persuade him.

But Ben’s mind was made up.

But she was going to get her way.

One way or another.

She parks the bike, takes off the helmet and hangs it on the handle.

She fixes her hair, her beautiful orange hair.

She reads the first song again.

It can’t be the library.

There is no indication of a book title or even where to start looking.

She scans the area; coffee shop on the corner, a bookshop right around the corner.

She puts the pages back in her jean pocket and heads to the bookshop.

Old fashioned bell announces her entrance into the very quaint establishment. A few antique armchairs were in the reading area, right next to the archway that led to the adjoining coffee shop. The rich aroma of filter coffee and spicy cinnamon buns mixed with the smell of new books.

A few seconds later, the bell rings again.

Lanky man enters and looks about.

He heads to the back of the shop.

Claire doesn’t pay attention to him.

She heads to the counter.

Plump old lady smiles warmly as she approaches.

“Can I help you, sweetheart?”

“I’m not sure… lovely necklace, very elegant.”

“Oh, this old thing. Thank you, dear. It was a gift from my late husband.”

The plump lady caresses the pendant softly.

Smiles.

“I was wondering, do you stock any diaries perhaps? But ones more like journals, no dates or calendars.”

“You’ve come to the right place, dear. We have a few of those in the back. Let me show you. We got some lovely handmade ones too. Sure we’ll find you somethin’ nice.”

The lady walks down the aisle.

The lanky man moves more to the front; eyes swift.

He picks up a travel guide and starts paging through it.

Claire takes no notice of him.

The plump lady, dressed in a colorful, wide, ankle length skirt, plain white ladies shirt, with a few tassels in the front and along the sleeves, does however glance in his direction over her glasses and then focusses on the shelf against the back wall of the shop.

“Here we are, dearie. What tickles your fancy?” She smiles at Claire and takes in her whole frame.

“My, but you sure are a pretty thing, ain’t you just. These lovely layers of ginger sure bring out those gorgeous emeralds you’re peepin’ through. You most certainly are a welcome distraction from all these books. Are you from around here, lovely?” The lady glances at the lanky man quickly then turns her gaze to Claire again.

The man takes a seat on one of the armchairs closest to the door and continues to page through the travel magazine.

Claire starts to blush and runs her fingers through her hair quick, brushing her right hand against her chic, turquoise, knee length coat, slightly lifting her knee to brush dirt that was not there from her faded jeans.

“You are too kind, miss. I am not from around here, actually.” The word actually was such a pleasant note for the ear to hear that it brings an even more welcoming smile to the plump lady’s face.

“I am from Lambeth, actually.” Claire breathes in deep and gives a shy smile.

“Not too often we have someone from that part of the world grace our humble shop. What brings you to these parts, a handsome American prince perhaps?” The lady winks at Claire and then turns to remove one of the handmade leather bound diaries on the shelf to her left.

Claire doesn’t answer, just smiles shyly and brushes her thick curls from her face.

“What do you think of this, very soft to the touch, English leather, double stitch, perfect for everyday amusement. I do miss the days when I was young, before I met my keeper. I poured my heart out onto pages; filled many books. Pity I threw them all out when the naivety left me and the cold grip of cynicism got hold of my heart.” She closes her eyes and reflects for a second.

Claire admires her greying, brown hair, tied in a braided bun on top of her head. The braids were neatly twisted; each strand of hair perfectly in place. The woman wore little to no makeup, only a hint of pink to her cheeks and a touch of red lipstick to her thin lips. The woman reminded her of someone she knew, but she couldn’t say where. Something about her was familiar, though she knew she never met her before. Or did she?

“Hold on to the little girl inside you. Don’t let her spirit die. If anything, she will help you see the light, when things get dark.” The woman meets Claire’s bottle green eyes and holds her gaze for a few seconds. Her brown eyes were soft and warm. It brought back that feeling of familiarity. Claire smiles, reaches forward and touches the woman’s right shoulder.

Without saying anything, she takes the diary from her and opens the cover and runs her hand across the page.

“I like the texture of the paper. It reminds me of papyrus. I really do like it, actually.”

The woman closes her eyes at the mention of actually and smiles to herself.

“You have a pleasant voice, my girl. It actually warms my heart to hear you speak. Such a pleasure it is to have you in our midst.”

She turns her head slightly to observe the lanky man get off the chair and make his way into the coffee shop next door. He was dressed all in black; polo neck sweater, jeans and boots. She turns and faces Claire again.

“Would you like to see a few more, we do have quite a variety.” She starts taking other diaries from the shelf, but Claire gestures no.

“Actually, I think I will take this one. It feels right.” Claire smiles.

“Alright, my angel. Will that be all for you?” The woman turns and starts walking back to the counter.

“Yes, that is all I need, thank you.” Claire follows her.

The plump woman returns to the back of the counter. She rubs her hands over her arms.

“Quite chilly today, wonder what’s up with the weather? It’s not normal for this time of the year. The seasons have all but lost their reason. All these chemtrails, I swear. They really are doin’ a number on our environment. I don’t trust the news and their global warmin’ agenda. All lies I tell you. Let me put that in a bag for you, sweet thing.”

Before she takes the diary from Claire, she turns and drapes a white cardigan across her shoulders. “My, but it is cold for the end of Spring. Turbulent times if you ask me.”

Claire is immediately more intrigued by the woman soon as she notices the cardigan.

“Beautiful white. It reminds me of snow.”

“This? I have had it since forever. It is my favorite. I would love to lie and say I knitted it myself, but you are too lovely a girl for me to fib and I am too old to tell tales. I bought it many years ago. That was when my dear Barry was still with us. I do miss him so.” She hugs herself, pulling the cardigan tighter over her shoulders.

“This fuzzy old thing does keep me warm. There were times when I used to sit and wait for my Barry to come home. I would sit by the window, stare out at the snow, drink hot cocoa and write, this across my shoulders. I did keep a diary still, but it was not like when I was younger, much less angst and more real. Love is blind and marriage is the eye opener, so I started to see.” She scoffs and smiles.

“Have you got a handsome heartthrob to keep you on your tippy toes?” She puts the leather diary into a bag and places it on the counter.

Claire was distracted by what the woman was saying about her husband and how she used to wait for him. It sounded awfully like the lyrics to the first song Ben wrote her.

She knew these lyrics specifically had nothing to do with her, because she didn’t own a cardigan nor did she keep a diary, but somehow this woman seemed to fit the part exactly.

“Actually, there is someone. But we are not together. I just stay with him. It is rather complicated actually.”

“Life’s too short to get tied up in excuses about complications concerning matters that are simple, my dear. If ever in doubt about anything, bring the matter to the core, find the bottom line and focus on that. Ignore the what ifs and perhaps whens. Nothing is guaranteed, only now. So if you feel this prince will be there for you when you’re no longer young and beautiful, then make the complicated matter simple and take a leap of faith. Alright?” She looks at Claire expectantly.

Claire stares at her for moment and considers what she has said.

“He does bring me such joy, actually. He is kind and understanding. Mostly he just listens, and in spite of my apprehensiveness, my guardedness to let him in, he remains patient with me. He is such a patient person, actually, really enduring.” Claire smiles at the plump lady and shakes her head.

“My name is Claire by the way.”

“I am Rose. I am delighted to make your acquaintance.” The plump lady hands Claire the bag with the diary inside.

“How much do I owe you for the diary?” Asks Claire and reaches for money in her coat pocket.

The plump lady reaches for a card below the counter and hands it to Claire.

“For you, sweet face, it is on the house. Please, take this too.”

The glossy card was printed with beautiful flowers, all different lilies, and on the right edge was a detachable bookmarker.

“You can use that to keep your place in your diary. It makes finding your last entry a breeze in the park.” The lady smiles and stares at Claire. She is however distracted by the lanky man who has returned from the coffee shop. He was drinking a large cup of dirt and was back in his seat by the door, still paging through the travel magazine.

“Miss Rose, are you sure that I shouldn’t pay? It doesn’t seem fair. It is so finely crafted; whoever made it spent a lot of time on it. It is actually really something special.”

“That’s why it is free. It was made especially for you. Believe it. And I am sure that you will appreciate it and fill it with all your beautiful words. Do you write songs?”

Claire looks at Rose surprised.

“I do, actually,” she smiles shyly.

“Don’t mind me, I am intuitive like that. I imagine you to be a cabaret artist or an elusive chanteuse with groupies obsessed with your every move. Forgive me. I am just speculatin’.” Rose focuses on the man in the chair and for the first time their eyes meet. His eyes were dark, almost black. They shifted swiftly left and right, but if you were not focused on his eyes, you wouldn’t see them move. It made her uneasy. She moves from the back of the counter and starts escorting Claire to the door.

“Actually, I am not one for the stage. I used to sing for my friends though, back in London. My voice is rather mediocre at best. I try to be more prolific with the songwriting. Perhaps one day I will get some credit for that.” She giggles softly.

“You have the right to dream, so dare to fly.” Rose puts her arm in Claire’s and they go outside.

The streets were quiet, with a few children in the park. The sky was bare and blue, but the chill kept Rose tugging at her cardigan.

“I do fear getting ill.” Rose lets go of Claire’s arm and puts the cardigan on properly.

“It was pneumonia that took my dear Barry. He was never one to keep himself warm. He was always stubborn and hotheaded. Look where that got him.” Rose shakes her head.

Claire put her left hand on Roses shoulder and gave it a squeeze. “Does it ever get easier? The loss of a loved one, I mean? Sorry if I am prying.”

Rose gives Claire’s question some thought.

“One copes better. One moves on. But when it hits you, it is like it was the first time. Just this gigantic sense of somethin’ lost. It can be anythin’ that triggers it. The worst for me was always the wretched telephone. Barry and I talked all the time. He would leave for work and I would call to see if he arrived safely. ‘I’m barely out of the house, my crazy beautiful muse’ he would shout. When he was at work, he would call me to tell me he arrived safely. That is how we were, always in touch, no matter how frivolous or insignificant somethin’ was, we would call each other and talk about it.” Rose smiles showing her dentures. Then she frowns.

“I find myself pickin’ up the phone and dialin’ his number, and as I put the handset to my ear, it hits me. Barry is gone. This person I shared every stupid thing with is not there anymore. Suddenly these stupid things become greatly significant, because there is no one to talk about them to. I have no one who cares to listen anymore. It is just a big vacancy. I am sure that is why JK wrote that book,” she sighs and stares at the children playing in the park, “he is just gone.”

Claire nods her head in understanding. She however says nothing.

She too stares at the children enjoying themselves.

After a short while, Claire turns and faces Rose.

“It has been really pleasant meeting you. I actually got more than I bargained for. I must however be off again.” She smiles but more with her eyes.

“I didn’t mean to keep you, sweet face. I just felt genuinely drawn to you. You captivate me; your presence, your eyes, your pleasant voice. Rare is it that my eyes experience such coolness, my heart such comfort. Thanks for carin’ to hear the rantin’ of an old widow.” Rose smiles.

“Is that your bike?” They walk to the motorcycle together.

“I am here with it, yes, but it is not mine. It is Ben’s.” She puts the bag with the diary in the custom made seat glove box and picks up the helmet.

“So, is Ben the complicated heartthrob?” Asks Rose curiously.

Claire smiles.

“Actually, Ben is simple. I am the complication.” She sighs.

“Well, you know what to do. Off with you. Pop in and keep me company if you grace our midst again.” Rose stands back. Just then the man in all black comes out of the shop and makes his way to the curb. He stares at the two of them quickly, then makes his way to the opposite side of the street and disappears amongst the trees in the park.

Claire mounts the bike, but before she starts it, Rose says.

“You take care now, Claire. Be wary of the wind, it is not called Maria for nothin’.” She focuses her gaze on the trees in the park, and then settles them on Claire’s. She smiles.

Claire smiles too.

“Thank you,” says Claire and starts the bike, “take care of yourself and thank you for the beautiful diary.”

Rose smiles and waves as Claire revs the bike and speeds off.

When Claire disappears around the corner, Rose’s eyes trail the trees in the park. She couldn’t see the man, but he left her with a strange, uncomfortable feeling.

What did he want with Claire?



م



“Alright?” says Claire as she casually sits next to the ginger cat on the single seater.

“Budge up, Mr Biggs.” She picks up the cat and kisses its head, then puts it in her lap. She strokes its body gently from head to tail as she stares out of the window.

“It’s monkeys outside.” She rubs the cats belly as it turns over in her lap.

“Wonder what our Ben is up to? I’m sure he’ll be all chuffed that you are eating again. You had me jolly worried, Mr Biggs.” She kisses its head. It starts to purr louder as it snuggles more into her lap.

Claire sighs.

It was days like these that she really missed Ben a lot. She realizes more and more that he has become a big part of her day; a big part of her life.

If only she could let go of the past. That was what was holding her back. More than anything, the ambivalence she feels, the shear walls of defense she built, these were the obstacles that made it hard for her to let Ben in. She was just not ready. She has never felt completely safe around anyone; always protective about whom she lets in. But with Ben, she trusted herself enough to trust him to let her guard down. But somehow there was always something.

Claire wasn’t sure what it was.

She sighs. Puts the cat in the cot next to the window and reaches for the bag with the diary inside. She admires the beautiful leather, running her index finger all along the stiches. She puts it to her nose and breathes it in. The smell took her back home to their farm in Lambeth. Her dad had lots of sheep and cattle. She used to love playing with the lambs. The shepherd always allowed her to tag along when the animals went out to pasture. The meadows were beautiful. The green always reminded her of hope, of promise, of life. The smell however was also a reminder of death. The tannery was her least favorite place on their farm. She would always hide the lambs when she knew they had to go too. The silence of the lambs haunted her. That is what she realizes now.

She gives this some thought and opens the diary.

She takes a pen from the drawer next to the single seater and she sits with her feet beneath her on the sofa and prepares to write.

At first she just holds the pen to the page, as if unsure of what to write. She closes her eyes, prays softly, and then begins.

May 2002



I’m lost.

That is the only way I can describe what I am feeling.

I am lost.

I always believed that the Truth sets you Free, but all the truth did was open a maze of confusion and it set me on a path with no map and now I am utterly and completely lost.

More than that, the truth shattered my beliefs, it shook my core, and it removed the very foundation beneath my feet.

It is hard for me to accept that my past truth was nothing but a fabrication of lies.

That is the truth.

That is my reality now; this maze of confusion; this feeling of being lost.

I loved you.

I mean that with my whole being. I believed in everything you said and I was there supporting everything you did. For many years your words brought comfort and a sense of not being alone. It meant the world to me.

Perhaps I should hold on to that.

Perhaps that is not lost too.

But how can any of it be true? Are any of those words truly yours?

My eyes are wide open.

I am not sure though what I am seeing.

Everything points to one truth that you are not in control. That the person I thought I knew is not real. That all the things you said are as a consequence then also not real.

But that is not the worst of it.

What gutted me was learning the real truth and this is what has me so boggled.

Is what he says then true? Are you really at her majesty’s pleasure? Or are you really something way more sinister?

It is hard for me to accept.

It is hard to face reality.

But what is the reality?

If you are you and only under control, that means that you endured torture and hell. I would like that not to be true.

If you are not real, however, what does that mean then? What kind of life do you then really live and how do you live knowing that the whole world is being lied to about who you are?

I battle with this inside me and it is hard for me to forget.

I forgive, but I can’t forget.

Every day I deal with this.

I deal with the side effects.

The spell has been broken.

But how do I say goodbye?

How do I move on?

More importantly, how do I now move forward, still with you, but knowing that I know nothing about you, except this?

It overwhelms me.

I don’t want to let you go.

I still love you, but that is just it. Whom is it that I love?

Or must I love as Ben so repeatedly says to me.

Love for God’s sake.

Love because God says to love each other.

I am struggling with this.

I am lost.

ك



Claire sighs as she closes the diary. She stares out the window and drifts off into thought. After a while she opens the diary again and reads what she wrote. She can hardly believe that she had written so much. And all of it was about him. He will never read this, she knows that. But somehow it helped. Just like crying is good for the soul, so this writing was cathartic to her own mental well-being. She decides then and there that she would continue to write. Perhaps it will help. Perhaps it is what she needs.

To let Ben in.

That is all she wants; to be one with Ben; to be his, undivided and whole.

Without him allowed a voice.

That is all she desired.

She sighs and opens the diary to the last entry and puts the bookmarker there. She however notices something scribbled on the back of the bookmarker.

She reads.



Be careful.



It would have meant nothing to her if it wasn’t for the small little ginger cat that was inked in below the words. Was it supposed to be Mr Biggs? Can this message be from Ben?

She examines the bookmarker more closely. Lilies covered the one side, the side with the scribbled note and cat had an address. The area code was also near where she got the diary.

Perhaps there was something there for her. Claire ponders this thought as she puts the bookmarker into the diary and puts it in the drawer with her pen.

She removes the sheets with the songs Ben wrote her. She reads the Fuzzy White Cardigan again. Perhaps it held more clues, but she couldn’t be sure.

She puts the sheets back and picks up Mr Biggs.

He meows softly as she puts him in her lap.

“What is our Ben up to, hu?”

Claire gets up and heads to the kitchen.

She prepares some cocoa and then takes her seat by the window again.

She smiles to herself as she remembers the lyrics to the song. It was as if Ben predicted the future or he programmed her somehow.

She smiles and strokes Mr Biggs.

“Our Ben.” She laughs softly.

“Those three dimples.”

She sighs.

Deeply.

“Can anyone be so lucky? Whenever I frown, ever so slightly, they call me a sourpuss. Him? No. When he frowns, his smile becomes more adorable. It is that deep dimple at the top his upper lip.”

She moves her hand gently across the cat’s head as she continues.

“First day I saw him… my knees nearly gave in… never have I been so rattled.”

She kisses the cat.

It meows softly, stretches its legs and then curls up again.

“I was busy with a presentation. Complete berk I was. Was I glad when I left that conference room.”

She turns the cat around and lifts it into the air.

“That was at the Super Soldier Summit in Vegas.”

She kisses the cat and puts it down on the floor.

It stretches lazily, walks slowly to the low window and curls up on the small cushion by the sill.

Claire takes a sip of her cocoa.

What was Ben trying to tell her?



ع



The next day Claire heads to the address that was scribbled on the bookmarker. She was convinced that this was the next part of the clues Ben left her in the Fuzzy White Cardigan.

She was sure that she was right.

But does that mean that the lady in the bookshop was in on it too? After all, she was the one that gave her the bookmarker and even the diary. All for free. She also seemed eerily familiar, but Claire was sure that she had never met the woman before.

Or did she?

Claire shakes it off and makes her way into the pawn shop.

She browses around, not sure what she was looking for.

While casually walking about, she removes the lyrics and reads to see if she can find a clue perhaps.

The only words that stood out to her were ‘Guitar break’.

Could it be?

She makes her way to the counter at the back of the store and speaks to the shaggy man reading a comic.

“Alright?” Greets Claire as she brushes a few ginger strands from her face. Her hair was loose and tumbled across her shoulders and chest. She was dressed in a royal blue turtle neck sweater, jeans and knee length boots.

The man looks up and immediately a smile comes to his face. He runs his fingers through his hair, wipes the hair above his mouth and clears his throat. He tucks at his black shirt and pulls up his camouflage cargo pants.

“My…” he sighs, “How may I help you?” He smiles more.

“I was wondering if you have any guitars here perhaps?” She returns a smile.

The man moves to the front of the counter and gestures for her to follow him. He seems nervous as he walks.

Right in front, just as you entered the store, there was a guitar on display in the window to the right.

“This is the only one we have. Was left here by a guy a few months ago. He was a bit odd. Said that the love of his life would understand why he was doing it.” The man shakes his head and runs his right hand across his beard.

“Really? It sure is beautiful.” Claire admires the guitar.

“Definitely a custom job. You don’t get guitars like this in commercial shops.” The man takes the guitar from the soft cushioning and carefully hands it to Claire.

“You are too kind,” Claire smiles and takes the guitar from him.

“Take a seat if you want to try it out. It is out of tune, but it should sound fine just the same.” He moves a recliner that was for sale closer and gestures for her to take a seat.

“Get comfortable.” He smiles and seems a bit shy at the same time.

Claire sits down on the edge of the recliner and holds the guitar close to her body; the neck of the guitar in her left hand, her upper right arm resting on the upper part of the guitar body and her right hand above the sound hole. She strums the strings gently one by one, placing her index and middle fingers on the frets in turn, tightening the tuning peg to bring the notes she was playing in harmony.

Once she was satisfied, she plays a tune.

The man admires Claire as she strums on. The tune sounded beautiful, though he didn’t know the song. He smiles to himself and closes his eyes.

Claire stops playing and gets up.

“Sounded pretty darn beautiful. My, my…” The man smiles and shyly takes the guitar from Claire.

“It’s a song from back home. The Lambeth Walk. From the musical Me and My girl.” Claire gets off the recliner.

“How much for the guitar?” She gets her wallet from her small bag.

The man shrugs and gives a shy smile.

“I really don’t feel comfortable taking a lot of money for this old thing. Let’s say you give me twenty and we’ve got ourselves a deal, hey?” He heads back to the counter gets a guitar sleeve to put the guitar in.

“That really is kind of you. Are you quite sure? The guitar really looks to be worth much more than that?” Claire takes the money from her wallet and hands it to him.

“Just having you here in my store is worth more than any money in the world. You just made my day and played me a lovely tune to boot.”

He takes the money from Claire and hands her the guitar.

“You take care now, lovely.” He smiles shyly.

Claire smiles too, says bye and makes her way out of the shop.

Once outside, she heads down the road to where she parked the motorcycle. Instead of getting on though, she decides to head down an alley to have a look at the guitar. The alley was quiet with only the sound of cars driving past in the main road.

She removes the lyrics too and reads again.



Guitar break.



She considers this for a second.

Dare she really destroy this beautiful guitar?

It was ice white with a gold finish. It reminded her of the piece of porcelain her mom kept… there. The color and feel was the same.

Did I tell him about… that?

She considers that for a moment.

Couldn’t have.

She sighs.

Hesitates.

As much as she didn’t want to.

She breaks the guitar.

Smashes it hard into the wall.

Pieces scatter onto the alley way.

She was right. She understood Ben, a bit, after all; the way he included her, in his life, his search for answers. It was not only for him.

It was for her too.

She liked the puzzles.

It made her feel like some important sidekick he had.

Nancy drew perhaps.

There was a note.



Claire, I’ve found something.

Please be careful.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably already made.



“You are not safe here.”

This voice startles Claire.

There was a man standing by the wall as you entered the alley way.

His voice boyish for the big, bulky figure.

“Who are you and what do you mean?”

Claire eyes him up and down.

Stares at his dark eyes.

The thick brows.

If mom was here she would call him uni-brow man. Like she always made fun of… her obsessive ex.

Who was he?

The big shoulders and strong legs.

Who still wears those?

She moves her gaze from his shoes and focuses on his face.

Looks like some…

She looks away.

Scratches her neck.

“Where did you come from? Have you been following me?”

“We don’t have time for this, Claire. If you want to live, you’ll come with me. Right now.”

“Why? Who are you? How do you know my name?”

“Just be glad I did follow you. We can get to the introductions later. I am a friend of Ben’s. This way.”

He turns right behind the small wall and disappears into the darkness.

Claire listens.

Hears his footsteps move further away.

Then the hum.

She looks.

He was right.

Something was not right.

But how can this be? Who was he? He did know her name and he knows Ben.

The only one who knew that she would come here was…Yes.

Ben.

She decides to follow the man further into the alley.

David

د



“I find it difficult to trust anyone anymore.”

Claire focuses her gaze on the trees.

“After… my ex… I went into a cocoon.”

She stares at him.

“You ever have someone… obsess… about you?”

“I would love to have someone obsess about me.” He tries not to laugh.

“You would not say that it if you knew what it is like.”

She sighs.

Puts her arms around her chest.

“To be obsessed over is nothing to be desired. At all. It is scary.”

He looks at her. Her eyes looked sad.

Almost hurt.

“When my ex obsessed, I became paranoid. Did not want to tell anyone anything, for fear of him finding out. I wanted none of my life to be known to him, because of his obsession. Perhaps he would think that I was giving him a message or that the things I did, were about him.”

He listens.

“What made it worse was that friends and family encouraged it. They were thrilled that someone loved me and did these… things… for me.”

She swallows hard; looks up at the sky.

“The fact that we had close friends we shared made it harder. I was alone. Could not confide in anyone. Also did not want it to be as if they had to choose.”

“Must have sucked?”

He was sincere.

“It did. Still does.”

She sighs.

“Fool even said once that if they had to choose, they would choose him. So I can try what I want.”

She faces him.

“Fact that he would even say that, made me hate him more. What kind of a person does that? And I mean, we are family. I didn’t even think that was an option.”

“Family can be real losers. Ask me, I know.”

She manages a smile, but the sad look soon returns.

“My cousin was all over him soon as I was out of the picture. She never liked the friendship… relationship… I had with him. She was always jealous. She was also the one that filled him in on my whereabouts.”

She shakes her head.

“With family like that, who needs enemies?”

“Tell me about it.”

He agrees.

“All I say to that is good riddance to bad rubbish. Blood is definitely not thicker than water.”

She seems to agree.

But shakes her head.

“I don’t know. My conscience simply will not let it be.”

He observes her face.

Thin lines at the corners of her freckled face.

She seems frustrated.

“What do you mean?”

She frowns more.

Folds her arms around herself more.

“Sometimes, I wish… I was someone else… or different.”

She looks awkwardly up.

Meets his dark eyes.

Those adorable brown eyes.

She swallows.

He doesn’t look away.

Rather.

“Different how?”

He asks.

She swallows again.

Focuses on the trees.

“Different like…in the sense… that I did not care… so much… did not want to help… like I do. I wish I could be selfish and quite frankly not give a rats… you know.”

“Why not simply do it. Be selfish.”

He was sincere.

She sighs.

“My moral compass will not allow me.”

She meets his gaze.

His eyes soft. Gentle, yet penetrating.

“As convinced as I am of the existence of aliens, I just do not know. As I look at the sky, the trees, those beautiful carnations over there. I just do not know… Not saying it… but if there was a God… he would not want me to be like that.”

She walks to the flowers.

Picks one.

The ruffled petals were white at the tip and purple towards the stem. The petals at the bottom were a much darker crimson.

“Beautiful, are they not?”

“I agree. I love the scent. It’s different to other flowers.”

He picks one too.

Smells it.

“You are right. Almost like…”

“Love?” He shrugs.

“I was going to say,” she gently scratches the tip of her nose, “never mind.”

She smiles and they walk further towards the fence.

She gets onto the top post and gestures for him to join her.



و



“Beautiful isn’t?”

He points to the clouds to their left.

“Yes.”

She looks at it. Mesmerized.

“What would you say that is?”

He waits.

Patiently.

“That is easy. A lion.”

He listens.

“But not only that… a lion… moving through a storm…”

She smiles shyly.

“I’m listening.”

His voice encouraging.

“The way the mane is flowing in the air…” she giggles, “I know it sounds silly… but it does look like it is flowing in the air… not down to its body… It is like it is running… into a storm… more than only wind…”

She eyes him.

Meets his gaze.

His eyes soft.

“Like a tornado or a twister.”

He wasn’t asking.

“Yes. It is the eyes… the creases in the forehead… am I right?”

He shakes in agreement.

“Absolutely.”

They both smile.

Keep staring at the clouds.

“And just like that, it’s gone.”

He looks at Claire.

Brushes a few strands of hair from her face.

She lets him.

Finds his eyes.

Can this be?

She sighs.

Scratches her neck.

He smiles.

The top of his head sort of pulls down as his mouth pulls into the smile.

Cute.

“Don’t know, Claire.”

He interrupts her thoughts.

“Sorry. What?”

She scratches her neck more.

He smiles.

His eyes smile more.

“I was saying… those clouds…”

She looks.

Only fiery clouds - yellow, orange, reddish - remained.

The sun was about to set.

“What about them?”

She looks intently; observes the soft twitch in his right brow.

Whenever he was about to say something that made him uncomfortable to talk about, his brow twitched like that. It was also when she listened the most.

She had never come across a person so honest.

Sincere.

But not afraid to speak up for what he believed.

But she knew it was not easy for him to do so.

The slight tremor, more a quiver like shiver, gave him away.

She admired that.

He starts.

“The sky, to me, is like… a canvas…” He smiles awkwardly.

“Yes?” She encourages.

He continues.

“The clouds… paint… or something like that…”

Claire looks at the sky.

Intently back at him.

“That image of the lion we just saw… so clear to us… detailed… we agreed that it was in some storm… it lasted only a few seconds, then it was gone…”

Claire narrows her eyes.

“I’m listening.”

He coughs.

Shrugs.

Smiles.

Starts.

“Those… are paintings… of the Creator.”

He looks down.

She looks at him.

Then back at the sky.

He continues.

“Priceless and grand. There and gone.”

He swallows hard.

Manages a smile.

She smiles too.

What’s happening to me?



خ



By the (Steeds) that run, with panting (breath),

And strike sparks of fire,

And push home the charge in the morning,

And raise the dust in clouds the while,

And penetrate forthwith into the midst (of the foe) en masse;-

Truly man is, to his Lord, ungrateful;

And to that (fact) he bears witness (by his deeds);

And violent is he in his love of wealth.

Does he not know,- when that which is in the graves is scattered abroad

And that which is (locked up) in (human) breasts is made manifest-

That their Lord had been Well-acquainted with them, (even to) that Day?


Surah Al-Adiyat (The Assaulters) 100



Claire and David continue to watch the sun set as they sit on the top rung of the wooden fence. Horses were making their way to the barn in the distance.

“Beautiful aren’t they,” says David.

“Quite majestic. Must be race horses.” Claire focuses her gaze on David.

They have gotten closer since that first day they met in the alley. Claire still didn’t understand Ben’s motives for letting her go there, but she was sort of happy that he did. David did seem to know a lot about Ben, so they must be good friends to know these intimate details.

She admires David. His brown hair was neatly combed to the back with the sides and back short. He was clean shaven. His dark, brown eyes, stood out against his olive skin.

She returns her gaze to the horses, listens to David as he carries on.

“When I look at a horse, its shape and form, I see that it was meant for us to ride.”

He takes in her disagreeing look.

“No. I don’t see that. That is simply the horse’s shape, actually.”

David smiles and nods.

“You are entitled to your opinion.”

Claire focuses on his smile. He had a gap between his two front teeth. His teeth were straight, not abnormally white and were part of what gave him his handsome appearance.

“I guess you are too.” She shrugs with a smile.

“I choose to believe, you know.”

“In what?” Claire eyes him curiously.

David clears his throat. His eye starts to twitch.

“God.” His voice cracks slightly.

Claire doesn’t say anything, just admires the first few stars that start to shine as everything around them darkens.

“I wouldn’t be here today, if it wasn’t for God. That is a fact. I owe Him everything and more. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you all the stuff I went through. My so-called best friends all deserted me, just when I needed them the most. So much for best friends forever. People really throw around words easily, but look at me now. With no one left. Only Him. Perhaps Ben, but haven’t heard from him in a while.”

Claire shrugs.

“I think we do mean what we say when we say them, but in reality, no one really cares about the other to see it through the difficult times. It is easy to be friends when things go well and life is good. But when you are challenged out of your comfort zone, you rather choose to take the easy route and go.”

David nods his head again.

He looks up and admires the stars.

“You are right. The only One who stood by me when I had to face the giant monster all by myself, was Him.”

Claire takes in David’s expression. This was not the first time he mentioned his battle with this monster.

She was curious to find out if the monster was real or just something catastrophic and devastating that happened to him.

She still had to pluck up the courage and ask him.

“When I thought I was losing my mind, He was there telling me that I am not mad. He kept my spirit from dying, when they tried to shackle me down. He kept me free to be, not to die.”

David smiles.

He looks Claire in the eyes.

He smiles with his whole teeth exposed.

“He is the Love of my life.”

Claire ponders these words.

Was this Ben’s intention?

She stares out in the direction of the barn.

Is this perhaps the park that Ben was referring to in Fuzzy White Cardigan?

She says nothing as David continues.

“I am forever grateful to Him.”

Butterfly

Written by Mariah Carey

Performed by Mariah Carey

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=stcdNj0SANw

As Allah wills


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