Zara knocked on her next door neighbours door, twice, three times before the door opened and the opener of the door stood behind it meekly. Zara walked into the house holding a plate of cakes before the door was shut behind her, 'Assalamalikum Meena,' she said to the scarfless lady who smiled at her as they both walked into the living room. Meena returned the greeting before placing the cakes on the coffee table infront of the chairs that they sat in. She poured tea for them both, before leaving the room to return with the sugar she had initially forgotten. Adding the sugar to the cups Zara asked how her and her new husband were getting on, Meena smiled 'alhamdulillah,' she said quietly.
Meena wasnt a quiet or shy person, she was usually the louder of the two. They had known each other since college, came from similar backgrounds and shared similar opinions. The only difference was that Meena always knew college was just something to take up her time before her parents found her a husband, and not long after graduating that had happened.
The wedding had been an amazingly lavish affair, much to the insistance of her family, but the short break with her new husband had been welcomed. Zara hadnt seen much of her best friend since she had come back 4 weeks ago but she assumed that was normal, assuming because none of her close friends were married. She had noticed her leaving her house occassionally during the day, with her hijab pulled tighter around her head and her abayas a lot more flowing than usual. She also noticed the increasingly timid way that she walked, the smaller strides, the occasional flinches when someone walked too close. Zara had only met Meena's husband at the wedding briefly, since they came back he had hardly been seen out in the daylight hours. Meena said it was his job calling him away from home for long hours during the day.
As Zara sat across from Meena, she realised how frail and petite she looked on that day it comparison with when they were growing up together, eating halal chicken & chips at Raja's or the mushroom pizzas they both loved. As she picked up her tea from the table Zara brushed Meena's arm, she flinched in pain, Zara frowned 'are you ok?' Meena nodded 'just banged it on the bedside table last night' Zara stood up and sat next to her best friend, she held her arm and pulled at her sleeve, much to the protests of Meena. There it was, open to the world an open cut surrounded by a 2 day old bruise which Zara knew thanks to her medical training, she also knew it wasnt from a bump in the middle of the night. 'Did he do this to you?' she whispered, not sure why... Meena pulled her arm away, her eyes glistened with the tears she refused to allow to fall... 'hes a good man,' she told Zara... Zara was dumbfounded, after all of their training and volunteer work at the womens centre, how could she live with this. 'Its only the once,' but Zara knew from the way she had noticed her best friend change that this had started practically when the marriage had started.
'You have to leave him' Zara said, not wanting to push boundaries but also remembering this was her best friend, who she had vowed to protect forever. Meena shook her head and pushed her friend away 'he wont do it again, besides... I couldnt do that, can you imagine what my family would say?!' Zara's eyes grew in astonishment and Meena saw that. 'I think they would rather that than find you dead one day at the bottom of the stairs' Meena shook her head, even smiled, 'hes not like that Zee, he had a bad day and I was nagging him about the wedding photos. Its only been the once, I promise'
Zara stood up, 'I cant sit back and watch this happen to you, get worse as time goes by. I know this isnt the first time, I watch you outside walking around. I know Meen. You have to leave him before it gets worse.' Meena stood up, obviously frustrated and upset, 'he told me you would be like this Zee, please dont be jealous, you will have a husband too one day insha'allah.' She reached out to stroke her friends arm, Zara pulled back, 'see, its started already' 'Ok Zara.. thats enough, Ive told you Im fine.. but if you are going to be like this I would like you to leave.'
With that Zara walked out of the room, grabbed her things and walked out of the house, out of her best friends life....
.... until they were together again just 2 years later. Zara cried when she saw her once best friend, she held onto her new husband's hand tightly as the older uncle pulled the white cloth over her friends face that already covered her body. Before she was lowered into the ground, to return to Allah (subhana wa ta'ala)