Friday 24th of March in the year 2000, Hadiya had come home with exciting news. She had scored 100% on her chemistry exam and it was the highest score in the whole class! As the family sat down for dinner her mother and father had noticed that she was eating her food at a faster than usual.
“Why are you rushing your dinner sweetheart?” her father asked,
“Have you got somewhere to be?” he continued.
Once she finished swallowing her last bite of food she replied,
“I got a 100% score in chemistry, I have to tell Papa before his bedtime!”
Before her parents could congratulate her, she had already gotten up, grabbed the phone and made it halfway up the stairs to call her Papa. She was so excited to speak to him she had started to dial the number before even making it to her room. Once she entered, she threw herself on her bed and rested on her front waiting anxiously for her Papa to answer.
Once she heard the rings her excitement grew stronger, her feet rubbed against each other as her teeth bit into her nails, an action that she hated but found herself doing when feeling overwhelmed. After a few rings, someone finally answered the phone but before they could say anything, Hadiya quickly said,
“Salaam Papa, It’s Diya! …” with no reply she said,
“Hello, can you hear me? Papa, it’s Diya!”
After a long pause and a quiet sound of sniffles, a woman’s voice on the other end of the phone responded,
“Diya, it’s your Aunty Kimmy”.
“O, Salaam Aunty Kimmy,” she replied,
“Where’s Papa? I’ve got great news, I came first in …” but before she could complete her sentence her Aunty interrupted her,
“Diya, your Papa isn’t feeling well, he’s not able to speak on the phone right now”.
Hadiya’s heart sank.
Even though she had known that her Papa had been ill for a while her fear that his condition had worsened was confirmed by the pain and in her Auntie’s voice and her struggle to fight back the tears. She discovered that her grandfather had fallen fatally ill and had been bed bound since earlier that week. With no appetite or energy he was weak, fragile and was no longer able to do his daily chores with the doctor’s warning that he didn’t have long to live.
Once the conversation was finished, Hadiya hang up with tears streaming down her face. She had finally been hit with the harsh reality that he may not survive till summer and even if he did, it will most likely be their last summer together. She slowly moved from the bed onto the floor and as she got onto her knees she raised her hands up high and started to pray.
The weeks of spring passed and finally summer had arrived. Hadiya’s weekly phone calls never stopped but sadly Papa was not always able to speak with her, a sad truth that caused great pain to them both. Every night, before getting into bed, she would stand opposite her wall calendar and stare at it. As each night drew to a close, she would take her red marker and cross it off. Each day was a day closer to finally seeing her beloved Papa. Perhaps that was the reason why time was slowly passing until the day finally came when her calendar read,
Friday 21st July 2000: Flying to Morocco!
At the departure gates of Heathrow Airport, Hadiya and her mother both waved goodbye to her father before boarding the plane and making their way to Morocco. After the plane took off, Hadiya turned towards her window and started watching the clouds as they travelled through them. With her mother sat beside her she started feeling a strong mix of emotions. She couldn’t bear to see her Papa in such a poorly state. She knew she had to muster up the courage when the moment would finally come to say goodbye forever but for now all she felt was unbearable sadness and fear. As she dived deep into her thoughts she was interrupted by a voice,
“Diya, would you like chicken or fish?”, her mother asked her as she held her hand.
“Chicken’s fine mum”, she replied.
She looked at her mother’s face and saw eyes filled with deep sorrow and pain. She felt the firm hold of her mother’s hand gripping onto hers, it was at that moment she realised she had to be strong for them both.
Just under four hours later, they had landed in Morocco. Soon after they exited the airport, they flagged down a taxi that dropped them off at the front door of Papa’s house. Hadiya jumped out of the car and ran into her Aunty Kimmy’s open arms as she stood at the front of the house to welcome them. After a long embrace she held Hadiya firmly by her shoulders then kneeled to a point where their eyes met and wiped the tears from her face. Karima then felt a figure emerge, as it walked closer towards them she looked up and saw Maria. She instantly stood up and flung her arms around her and Hadiya watched on as both sister’s hugged and cried in each other’s arms over their beloved father.
“Come in”, she told them,
“He’s been expecting you, I’ll walk you to his room”, she continued as she walked back into the house and down the corridor, wiping away the tears from her cheek with her scarf.
Hadiya and her mother stood by the front door and took a moment to compose themselves. Her mother had noticed that a few strands of her hair were out of place. She took a hair brush out from her bag and as she brushed Hadiya’s hair she shakily said,
“Baby, give me your hand and remember to be brave for Papa, okay?”, Hadiya just nodded.
Her and her mother slowly walked behind Karima hand in hand down the long and empty corridor. She felt her heart racing as she reminisced about the warm memories of when she used to run down the same corridor with her Papa chasing behind her making her laugh and smile with joy. A corridor that once was bright and filled with happiness had now loomed with darkness and grief.
Once they approached Papa’s bedroom door, Hadiya’s body was overflowing with fear. Fear of no longer having her Papa to protect her, fear that no one would make her happy the way he did, fear of simply not being able to hug him anymore, the simple things.
The sight of her frail and weak Papa laying on his deathbed filled her eyes with water as tears rolled down her cheek once again. She was no longer strong enough to hold them back. She ran through the open door, rushed to his bed side and threw herself onto him. He hugged her back with all his might and held her as they cried together, both with the heart wrenching reality that this may be their last hug.
“My beautiful Prin…Prin…Princess,” he stuttered. While struggling to breathe he continued,
“I haven’t got much time left on this Earth but I want you to know that I love you very much. I pray for you day and night and now I fear that the day will come where I will not be here to protect you against those who want evil for you. As I felt the time was drawing closer for me to leave, I made this for you…”
He tried to reach over to his bedside table to grab the gift that he made for his Diya. As he got closer to it he suddenly let out a cry of pain before quickly biting his bottom lip to stop himself from screaming. Maria instantly jumped forward to hold his hand. Hadiya turned her head to the bedside table to where her eyes met a shiny bracelet glistening under the brightly lit lamp. Made up of around twenty wooden beads, each one coated in her favourite shade of blue. Out of the twenty beads she noticed that four beads looked different, they were carved with outlines of rock like shapes. She gazed deeply at the bracelet before her mother said “Diya, give the bracelet to your Papa”.
She then carefully picked up the bracelet and gently placed it into her Papa’s soft and wrinkly hand. He held her small hand in his and said,
“I had a dream that one day you will be faced with a troubled situation. You will be brave my sweet one but fear will overcome you at some stage and when it does look at these four beads”. He pointed at the four carved beads before continuing, “These beads will guide you out of the darkness, so always wear it, always be brave and know that I am always with you.”
He cradled her hand and rolled the bracelet over her fist but before she could respond she felt his grip slowly start to loosen from hers. When she looked up she saw his eyelids gradually closing shut. She looked on in shock while clutching her bracelet tight as her mother and her Aunty suddenly let out a wail of grief. It was at that point that Hadiya knew that she had lost her Papa forever, or least that’s what she believed.
As she glared down at her plate of cinnamon pancakes the day before her 18th birthday, she decided to replace that unhappy memory of her Papa’s death into happier ones which she quickly forced to the front of her mind. Her focus was redirected to her wrist, where her blue beaded bracelet rested. Her smile widened as she recalled her Papa’s final promise made to her, that she was always protected, and all her worries swiftly vanished.
Suddenly there was a knock at the door. A knock that not only interrupted their family breakfast but one that would unknowingly change their lives.