Islamic Fiction Contest Winner - 2012
By: Hanna Bernhard
Trudging along, on the snow covered street, delicate flakes falling all around me, I realized something. I’d messed up. This wasn’t like last time, where I’d just apologized and everything was all right. No, this time I’d hurt somebody worse, worse than they ever deserved.
“Farah…I’m sorry…I didn’t mean it! Please, don’t be mad.”
He held my latest project from Ceramics; the one I’d spent the last several weeks perfecting. The once delicately shaped flower was destroyed, shattered into innumerous pieces and then clumsily glued back together. It dripped, milky white glue, over his fingers.
“You WHAT?! Shu’aib?! How could you!!” I cried, realizing just how much effort had gone down the drain.
“I-I tried to fix it, but it just got worse. I’m really really sorry!”
Shu’aib sniffed, tears filling up his pale blue eyes. I knew that I needed to stop; it hadn’t been his fault. But, I felt so…angry.
“No, you’re not! You wouldn’t have done it if you were sorry!”
A petal of the flower fell off, landing on the hardwood floor, the wet glue giving away. It broke into several small pieces, smeared with glue. He frantically tried to put the pieces together, but I smacked his hands away.
“I can’t believe you! How could you do that?! NO—that isn’t going to help! Just go away! JUST STAY OUT OF MY LIFE!!!” I screamed, pushing him away.
He stared at me, tears rolling down his face. A sudden shame slashed through my anger, bringing heavy guilt.
Shu’aib, before I could react, turned and ran, leaving me with the remains of my project.
He didn’t come home after school. Hours passed without a word from him; my parents worried sick when he was twenty minutes late. At five, it had begun to snow, first softly, then harder as the night progressed. Within several hours, my parents had called the police. Not only that, but half the community was out looking for my brother. Except me. I was stuck here at home; ‘watching’ the house, in case he came home. I was so sick with guilt that it was all I could do not to run away myself.
My own harsh words echoed in my mind, and I closed my eyes, trying to forget. Sighing, I got up off the sofa and wandered into my room, picking up the first book that I found. It was a hadith book, one that my parents had given me for last Eid. I sat on the bed, opening the book at a random page.
Narrated 'Abdullah ibn 'Amr, may Allah be pleased with him, that: “The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: ‘A Muslim is the one who avoids harming Muslims with his tongue and hands. And a Muhajir is the one who gives up all what Allah has forbidden.’” (Bukhari)
I groaned, flipping the page. The last thing I needed was to feel worse for what I had done. Now the only thing I wanted to do was to forget.
Narrated Abu Hurayra, may Allah be pleased with him, that: “Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said: ‘The strong is not the one who overcomes the people by his strength, but the strong is the one who controls himself while in anger.’” (Agreed upon, Bukhari and Muslim) I stared, feeling the guilt claw at me. I had done something wrong; I knew it. Shu’aib didn’t deserve to be yelled at, and I had no right to do that either. I flipped the page again.
Narrated Anas, may Allah be pleased with him, that: “Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said: ‘All the sons of Adam are sinners, but the best of the winners are those who repent often.’” (At-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah)
Tears welled up in my eyes. I’d been denying this for as long as I could, trying to tell myself that it wasn’t my fault. Shu’aib had run away because of me, and I knew it, he knew it, everybody probably knew it. It was my fault, only my fault. But what to do? What could I possibly do to help? I’d only made things worse! I stood up, my mind spinning. I felt so confused! I didn’t know what to do!
Calm down, Farah. Calm down. Breathe in. Breathe out. I forced myself to calm down, trying to think logically. First – Get forgiveness. Repenting was most important. To do that, I needed to find Shu’aib and apologize. I needed to make things right.
Without hesitating, I began bundling myself up. I threw an abeya on, then a sweater over that, and then a heavy jacket. I found my gloves, my favorite purple ones that Shu’aib had given to me several years ago. I grabbed my hijab, a plain white one, and quickly threw it on. I found my boots and carried them with me into my brother’s room. I found his fuzzy hat and jammed it over my head. It was a little tight, but I was more worried about him not having enough to wear, than how I looked. I picked up a jacket of his and several other thick articles of clothing. Somehow, I managed to stuff them into a backpack, and within minutes I was out the door.
And this was how I found myself trudging through the snow without a clue as to where I was going, looking for a needle in a haystack. Ya Allah, I had to choose the day it literally snowed a blizzard? SubhanAllah, it was cold outside.
It had snowed every year for as long as I could remember, and I could’ve sworn it had never been this cold. The sun was setting quickly and despite my layers of clothing, I began to shiver. Still, I plodded on, determined not to stop until I found my brother. Time passed before I realized that I needed to at least know where I was going. I stopped and forced my numb mind to think.
Where would Shu’aib go? School? Nah, he’d have to be crazy to go back there. Home? No, I was just there. Store? Nothing to buy. Khalid’s house? Khalid’s in India. Nobody is home. Skate Park? Not a good idea. Probably already searched by Ami and Baba. Where did Shu’aib like to go? Where was his favorite place to hang out?
I mulled over the possibilities as I went on. If I were Shu’aib, where would I go? And then it came to me, as clear as day. I ran to the Summer Lake Park as fast as I could. This was Shu’aib’s favorite place to be. He could always be found there, staring up at the birds, or watching the forest’s reflection in the lake. I knew he would be there. He had to be.
Ya Allah, please, please, let him be there. Please let him be safe, I prayed silently, my lips barely moving between my ragged breaths.
It grew dark as I raced into the park, but I ignored it. For a moment I froze. In the twilight, everything looked so different. The snow seemed to almost glow along with the lazy pale light of the street lights. The park was empty, the play structure laden with snow. Ahead of me, a branch snapped from the snow's weight, the sound crashing through the silence of the park. After catching my breath for a moment, I continued on, this time carefully making my way through the snow that had piled up nearly to my knees. The path to the lake itself was almost indistinguishable from the rest of the ground, but somehow I managed to find it. “Shu'aib?! Are you here!? Please answer me!” I called out. I waited for a moment, listening hard. There was only the sound of my breathing. It seemed like everything else in the world was dead.
“Shu'aib?! Shu'aib, where are you?!”
There was a sniff, a loud sob that was abruptly cut off. My brother was here, I knew it. But where?
“Shu'aib, it's me, Farah!” I yelled, almost franticly.
“Go away.” A soft, faraway, voice came.
“No, I can't, Shu'aib. Everybody's looking for you!”
“I don't care! Nobody wants me anyway!”
My breath caught in my chest. It had been my fault he left. Now it was up to me to make sure he came back.
“You know that's not true!” I replied.
“What happened to 'stay out of my life?’” the reply came. I moved toward the voice, determined to find him.
“I didn't mean it. I'm sorry I yelled at you.” I apologized.
Abruptly, a snow covered figure emerged from the snow. It was my little brother, his head a cap of white snow. He shivered ever so slightly, and his face was paler than I'd ever seen it.
“You're saying that just so I'll come back,” he said, crossing his arms over.
“No, I really am sorry, Shu'aib,” I said sincerely, “I didn't mean to tell you off like that. I'm more sorry than you could ever imagine.”
I held my hand out, noticing how I shivered just as much as my brother.
“Please come home,” I said.
He stared at me for a moment, his brow furring with thought. He looked up at the dark sky, at the snow falling, and then finally he met my eyes. He sighed and took a step forward.
Just then there was a crack as a tree collapsed under its snow laden branches. Right on top of me. Like a deer frozen in headlights, the only thing I could do was think, “Ya Allah” before everything went black.
The next thing I knew, I was on a bed. Everything on me hurt, although it was amazing to be warm again. I blinked, opening my eyes.
“Farah?” a voice asked.
It was Shu'aib, his eyes bleary and red shot. We were in a hospital room, monitors beeping behind me placidly.
“Shu'aib? What happened? Where am I?” I asked, confused. He looked so tired, like he was really 30, not 12.
“I- I'm sorry, Farah. A tree fell, and it hit you,” he began, his voice thick with tears, “You almost died, I'm so sorry.”
He bent his head, his blond hair falling over his face and started to cry.
“It's alright, shh, it’s not your fault.” I said softly, lifting the hand that didn't have an IV in it to pat his head.
“Shu'aib,” I repeated, “It's not your fault, I'm not mad at you. I could never be.”
He looked up, surprised. “You're not?”
“No. If anybody needs to apologize, SubhanAllah, it needs to be me,” I said. “Will you forgive me?”
Shu'aib paused for a moment, his pale blue eyes fixed on my own. Suddenly, he crashed into me, an awkward, cute, and slightly painful hug. I smiled, wrapping my arms around him gently.
“I forgive you,” he whispered, “my best big sister.”
“I'm your only big sister,” I said, ruffling his hair.
“But, you’re my best little brother.”
Shu'aib smiled, “I'm your only little brother.”
“And the one I love the most.”