2: The search

‘What’s up bro?’ This is how my best mate, Mo, addresses me nearly every lunchtime these days.

Chapter 2 of my young adult novel, Seeking the one.

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2: The search

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

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‘What’s up bro?’ This is how my best mate, Mo, addresses me nearly every lunchtime these days. Without fail, he’ll thump down onto the chair beside me, study my face, lean in towards me and ask this question.

I feel like I’ll never get used to this college. Everyone is so laidback. Daily, I’m soul searching: why did I quit school and come here? Well there was an answer to that a year ago: because I was so damn miserable there that I couldn’t wait to leave. I was counting down to my exit since year ten, forever the misfit, wandering around in circles, so completely alone. But it seems I’ll always be the misfit, for I feel exactly the same here.

‘Seriously bro,’ he says when I don’t answer, ‘what’s up with you?’ 

This time I shrug my shoulders. ‘Nothing,’ I mutter.

Mo puts on that goofy face of his and starts messing about. He’s all bluster, never serious. I don’t know why I feel so out of place here; the faces in the canteen are so diverse, like all the world gathered together to share bread. There are afros and braids here, headscarves and turbans, skin of every shade and hue. My face fits, but that’s all. Grinning at me, Mo nearly breaks into song: ‘You’re in love, Ib,’ he laughs, ‘I can tell.’

This is Mo every single day: always the comedian.

‘Don’t be daft,’ I tell him, fleeing his gaze.

‘Then why’ve you been staring at Ayşegül all day?’

‘I’m not staring.’

‘You are, man,’ he chuckles, ‘The girls are laughing at you right now.’

The girls he speaks of are my great adversaries at college. He doesn’t mean girls generally. He doesn’t mean the BLM clique, nor the indie crew. He doesn’t mean the trainee beauticians, the science nerds or the wannabe influencers. No, he means Zahra, Rimsha, Shumaila and Parveen who seem to spend their entire lives convulsed in stitches, at my expense. I can’t really express how much I hate those four imbeciles. Sparing me from their dumb stares is the only thing I’m grateful to lockdowns for. But Mo’s right. Peeking across the canteen, I’ve already seen them pointing at me, nudging Ayşegül and laughing their heads off.

‘I hate those giggling weirdos,’ I tell him, ‘They’re so immature.’

Mo’s not much better, though. ‘Why don’t you just talk to her, man?’ he asks. ‘Or are you intimidated by her hijab?’

‘No,’ I moan. ‘And I’m not even thinking about that.’

‘What? Love?’

‘No, I’m just…’

‘Yes?’

‘I just want to ask her about something.’

‘Ask her what?’ laughs Mo, mocking me, ‘What’s there to talk about except love?’

‘I need her brains.’

‘You calling her square?’

‘I’m calling her a genius.’

‘She’s a nerd, Ib. But she’s a beautiful nerd, I’ll give you that.’

‘Just be quiet,’ I mutter, vexed.

Of course, Mo just laughs in my face: he thinks I’m a joke, too shy for my own good. ‘I’ll sort you two out,’ he tells me.

‘I don’t need anything sorting out for me,’ I say. Then I think about it a bit more. ‘Ayşegül’s too good for me anyway.’

‘I knew it, man,’ he guffaws, ‘you’re in love.’

Hopelessly, I watch as my mate clatters to his feet and bounds across the canteen, that table encircled by those five friends firmly in his sights. In despair, I watch him pointing back at me, prompting yet more derision. Obviously, I’m not going to wait around to see what happens next. It’s time to make my move and leave them to their fatuous stupidity. I’ve got revision to do, anyway.

I spend most of my life in the library, in between classes. Mo: I’ve never seen him in here. In fact, I rarely see any of my mates doing any kind of study at all; I guess we aspire to different things. I want to get away, far from here; they just want to hang about and enjoy themselves until they’re forced to get a proper job. Mo always says to me, ‘Just live a little, bro.’ Me: yeah, I want the same, but not how he means. In truth, I want to live a lot, but not by being sucked into their world. I’m not that daft.

I spend the next twenty minutes sitting in one of the dark pink bucket chairs next to the magazines. I don’t know why I always pick the New Internationalist. Is it because my dad’s English and my mum’s Indian, or am I just a secret socialist? Oh, but as if to compound my woes, I’ve hit upon an article entitled, Love and other conspiracies, which has sent my mind tumbling over my mum’s revelations last night about her own conversion. How I’d love the conspiracy theorists to get their teeth into that one. I can’t even make sense of it myself. If only I’d picked up The Economist instead.

At ten to two, I abandon my reading back on the shelf in the hope it’ll perturb someone else after me, and wander down the stairs in pursuit of my first lesson of the afternoon. There are so many stairs in this place. I feel like I’m being prepared for a future walking up and down them. Does that mean I’m destined for a career in healthcare? I must say my college reminds me of a hospital, with its white tiled floors and endless corridors, not to mention the mandatory surgical masks. It’s a bit depressing, when I think about it.

At five to two, I come to a halt outside my classroom, waiting first in line for our tutor to arrive. First in line because, well, I guess all my friends are right about me: super nerd, alpha geek, anorak, dork. Mo, if he arrives at all, will turn up fashionably late, blustering into the room with a hilarious jibe which will set everyone at ease. Me? I just seem to invite derision wherever I go. Yes, and here we go again, for I’ve seen them: Ayşegül and Zahra are coming my way. Zahra’s ceaseless laughter grates with me, but it’s the sight of Ayşegül which sends my gaze plummeting to the floor. I’m not sure if it’s just me, but it suddenly feels way too hot in here.

‘There he is,’ I hear Zahra whisper in her friend’s ear, and then I shrink back in horror as she pushes her right in front of me, causing both of us to panic. ‘Don’t be shy, Ibs,’ scoffs Zahra, ridiculing me as usual. ‘Your mate said you wanted to speak.’ Momentarily she glances at her friend, smirking blithely. ‘I’ll leave you to it, yeah?’

In a year and a half, I’ve never spoken to Ayşegül. We’re not in the same tutor group, but she’s in a couple of my classes. Of course, I’m aware of her; how could I not be, for she seems to float so gracefully around college, clothed in those long flowing skirts and scarves of hers. Now, all a sudden, she stands directly in front of me, seeking my eyes.     

‘You look stressed, Ibrahim,’ she says, smiling benevolently.

Timidly, I glance back at her. ‘I’m sorry about this,’ I mutter.

‘Why sorry?’

‘My mate’s an idiot,’ I tell her, ‘It’s not…’

‘Not what?’

I have to stop and think. To be honest, I have no idea what Mo said to them, but I think I can guess. Mo’s never going to get a job as a diplomat. No, I know exactly what he’s said to them, so it’s best I start with an apology. ‘I know you don’t do the whole boyfriend-girlfriend thing,’ I whisper, eyeing the floor once more.

‘I know you don’t either,’ she replies, still smiling.

‘Yeah,’ I nod.

This is awkward; seriously awkward. I wish I was normal. I wish I wasn’t so self-conscious. I wish I could just go with the flow like everyone else. I wish I knew what I was doing.

‘So?’ she says, ‘Your mate said you wanted to talk to me about something.’

‘Yeah, I do,’ I stutter. ‘You’re a computer whizz, right?’

‘I know a bit,’ she says.

I know for a fact that she’s being modest, because I’ve seen her at work; she’s amazing. ‘I need your help,’ I tell her. Yes, if anyone can help me, it’s her. ‘Do you think, possibly… maybe… you might be able to…’ Now Ayşegül seems to be laughing at me too. Oh why, oh why am I so awkward? ‘Could you perhaps… give me, like, ten minutes… later on?’

Ayşegül’s not like me at all; she’s self-assured, her face always bright with that eternal happiness of hers. She must think I’m a total moron. No, but she doesn’t let on. ‘Sure,’ she says instead: ‘anything.’

‘Really? Seriously?’

‘Yeah, of course,’ she says, nodding. ‘Where shall I meet you?’

‘Library’s best. Maybe, like, three-thirty?’

‘Sure,’ she says, grinning. ‘Inshallah.’

‘I’ll grab a computer.’ Yeah, smile Ibby: smile back at her. No, but I can’t, and don’t. It’ll have to be a self-conscious murmur of my lips instead: ‘Thanks,’ I mutter, ‘and, erm, jazak...’

‘Really, it’s no problem at all,’ she says, ‘It’ll be my pleasure.’

‘Seriously?’

‘Yeah, seriously, Ibrahim,’ she laughs, leaving me, a skip in her step.


None of my friends at college know anything about me. These thoughts occupy me all afternoon long, distracting me from my studies. I’ve never invited them to my home, nor have I swung around their place. I live fifteen miles away, half an hour by car, an hour by public transport, an hour and a half to cycle. It’s not like we’re separated by a vast ocean, but it’s as if we live in different worlds. My town is about a third the size of theirs, nestled in the meeting of four valleys; theirs sits on a windswept plane, boring and flat.

It’s not the geography that separates us, though; that chasm is cultural. To my family, religion is everything; to my friends, it’s an inconvenience at best. Naturally, I wouldn’t dare tell them anything about my family, nor would I tell my family anything about them. On the face of it, Mo is the same religion as me, but our attitude to just about everything is so completely at odds that I have to wonder sometimes.

He believes he’s a mind reader, capable of discerning exactly how I’m feeling most days. But then that’s not hard, for the perpetual frown on my face says it all. I guess he just makes up for my shortcomings. I know I’m not a great friend to him: he’s the one who’s just seen his parents go through a seriously acrimonious divorce, the culmination of five years of bitter arguments and open warfare. He’s the one who should be messed up, not me, but still he always checks on me. Perhaps it’s because he’s had a quarter of his life to get used to it, or maybe he just knows how it starts.

‘Lost in thought, Ibrahim?’

When I glance up, Ayşegül is standing there, watching me, right on time. ‘Yeah, something like that,’ I mutter.

‘You’re a deep thinker.’

‘Not so much,’ I say.

She shuffles closer to me, and pulls a chair out from under the desk beside me. ‘Salams,’ she says, taking her place at the next computer along. ‘So what’s up?’

I’m not used to company in the library. Though there are twelve computers on this bank of desks, there’s hardly ever anyone here after 3pm most days, let alone during the last week of term.

‘I know this is going to sound a bit odd,’ I tell her, ‘But I’m trying to find someone.’ I glance back at her shyly. ‘My gran,’ I say. ‘A gran I didn’t really know existed until yesterday.’ Ayşegül seems to be studying my face as I speak. ‘I mean, obviously, I knew I must have one. But never had a name or anything. I want to find her. But I don’t know where to start. I tried Googling, but… but I just don’t know how I’m ever going to find her. That’s why… I thought maybe you could help.’

Ayşegül smiles at me, pulling her keyboard towards her to log in. ‘Is she here or in Turkey?’ she asks.

Turkey?

‘You’re Turkish, aren’t you?’

‘No,’ I splutter, confused.

‘You look like you’re Turkish,’ she says, sort of wrinkling her nose as if I’ve just destroyed everything she thought to be true. ‘Are you sure?’ she asks, jokingly.

‘Yeah, I’m sure,’ I nod. ‘My dad’s English, my mum’s Indian.’

‘Oh,’ she says. ‘But you are Muslim?’

‘Yeah. Mum and dad: they both converted in the ‘90s.’

‘Seriously?’

‘Yeah. Though I didn’t even know that myself until yesterday.’ I admit, that belated realisation does sound dumb, listening to myself. ‘Thought my mum’s family was always Muslim. Turns out my grandad was Hindu and my gran was Christian.’

‘I see,’ she murmurs, as though she’s not entirely convinced, ‘That’s…’

‘A surprise. Yep, was for me too. Yesterday… an evening of big surprises.’ That’s to put it mildly. All these years, I thought I knew my family, and it turns out I know nothing at all. ‘So, yeah, last night I found out not only that everyone in my family’s a convert, but also that somewhere out there there’s this gran I’ve never met. Sound dumb, but I know nothing about my dad’s family. It’s this big black hole.’

‘Strange.’

‘Yeah, really strange,’ I nod, thinking back to everything my grandad told me yesterday. ‘My dad, he’s… I don’t know what to say really. He’s in a strange place these days. Mentally, I mean. I’m worried about him.’ I don’t mean to act all vulnerable in front of her, but maybe that’s just how I am these days. ‘I feel like he hates me to be honest,’ I say, choking.

‘Hey,’ she says, looking at me kindly, her fingers landing just short of my sleeve.

‘I’m sorry,’ I mutter, pushing my fists into my eye sockets. ‘But, yeah, it’s getting to me. It’s like we’re not friends anymore.’

‘I thought you looked down earlier.’

‘Yeah. I guess I am.’

Ayşegül scrutinises my face, as if she’s trying to read me. ‘But it’s good,’ she smiles: ‘I wouldn’t have listened to your mate if it wasn’t for that.’

‘I never asked him to speak to you,’ I tell her, still embarrassed by that idiot’s latest intervention.

‘But it’s good he did. Don’t you think?’ She looks at me like we’ve been friends for years, not like this is the first time we’ve ever properly spoken. ‘I’m glad he did,’ she adds, beaming at me.

‘What did he say to you?’

‘Some great eulogy.’

‘Embarrassing,’ I mutter, shaking my head.

‘Not at all. I knew all that anyway.’

‘Knew what?’

‘You’re a gentleman. And extremely shy.’ My eyes hit my keyboard when she says this. ‘And modest too,’ she adds. ‘I like that.’

Cringe alert. I can’t stand this nonsense. She’s got me completely wrong, for I’m none of that. I’m just awkward. Seriously awkward. Incompetent. Clueless. ‘Yeah, well,’ I mutter dismissively, ‘we’re not here to talk about that. There’s something much more important. Do you think you can help me?’

‘I can try,’ she says, unsettled, as if I was too curt. ‘What do you know about her?’

‘Only her name and my dad’s hometown.’

‘Well that’s a start. Let me drive,’ she says, pulling her own keyboard even closer to her. I’m amazed by the speed at which she types, her fingers dancing around the keyboard, even as her eyes remain firmly on me. ‘How are you spelling Catherine?’ she asks.

‘I assumed with a C, but…’

‘But could be K? And with an e in the middle or an a? And ine or yn at the end?’

‘I never even thought about that.’

‘And she’s definitely known as Catherine, and not Kate, Cath, Katie, Cat?’

So this is why Ayşegül popped into my head first thing this morning: only she would’ve thought to ask all these questions. I really have no idea why she hangs around with those dunces who make my life such misery. She’s wasted on this place.   

‘Okay, well don’t worry,’ she says when I shrug my shoulders. ‘We’ll start with what you first thought.’

Peering over her screen, I watch her open a new browser tab and type in my gran’s name. ‘Ooh, look, famous author,’ she says, ‘Could that be her?’ On the side panel, there’s a photo of a blonde woman and a long list of her book titles. She has a wiki entry too.

‘Don’t think so. Doesn’t look like a grandmother.’

‘I don’t know when that was taken,’ she says. ‘Could be her.’ She opens a page and scans over the article, murmuring words and phrases on her way. ‘No, she’s American,’ she concludes, ‘Sorry.’

Ayşegül adds the word Facebook onto the end of her search terms and hits enter again. ‘I tried that already,’ I tell her. ‘There’s like a billion of them,’ I murmur, already defeated. ‘Tried logging in too. Didn’t help.’

‘Did you search by town?’

‘Of course. But nothing.’

‘Instagram?’

‘Would my gran be using Insta?’

‘Maybe someone who knows her.’

‘I tried Twitter, but nothing.’

‘What about LinkedIn?’

‘Don’t have an account.’

‘Let’s create one then,’ she enthuses, pulling up the signup page and rattling away on those keys again.

‘Wait a minute,’ I say, gesturing toward the keyboard, ‘Go back.’ Glancing at me, she slides it across to me and I type in her name, followed by my dad’s hometown. ‘What’s all this?’ I ask, pointing at some directory that keeps on coming up first each time we search. I watch her click through. ‘Could that be her?’ I ask, pointing at a name.

‘Maybe,’ she says, shrugging, ‘but it’s way old. Based on the 2002 electoral roll. Before I was even born. This is all public domain crap from before they had GDPR. Pardon my French.’

‘Still, it’s worth a look, isn’t it? Click on that other name. Maybe it’s someone close to her.’

‘Different postcode. And it’s based on the 2003-06 electoral roll.’

Beside me, Ayşegül’s not wasting any time. She’s gone back before I’ve even had a chance to scribble down the postcode. She’s dismissed it already anyway, writing it off as an exploitative money-grabbing exercise, ripping people off for data that’s already in the public domain. Her eyes are scanning lines of company data instead.

‘Ah, forget that,’ I tell her, waving my hand, ‘She wouldn’t be in there. The way by grandad described her. She’s not in that world, at all.’

‘You never know,’ says Ayşegül, cheerfully. ‘No harm looking.’

Before I’ve even had time to think about it, her fingers have already amended the search query. She’s added an extra term on the end and now sits scrolling through a list of company data. A government website seems to grab her attention. ‘Look,’ she says, ‘the name matches. There’s a full correspondence address. What’s her date of birth?’

‘I don’t know,’ I mutter. ‘Wait, maybe… Maybe I can work out the year.’ I start doing the maths in my head: my dad was born in 1977, when she was just sixteen. ‘1961, maybe.’

‘Bingo,’ says Ayşegül, pointing at her screen. ‘Here’s her name. Here’s her date of birth: 21 April 1961. There’s the correspondence address. There’s her role: director. Status: active. And a company name: Seva Social Enterprise. Could it be her?’

‘I don’t know,’ I shrug. ‘Click on the company. What does it say?’

‘Registered office address. Company type: community interest company. Status: active. Incorporated on 6 May 2011. Accounts, blah, blah, blah. Nature of business: other education not elsewhere classified, other social work activities without accommodation.’

‘Click on those tabs,’ I tell her.

‘Filing history? Just loads of PDFs. People? Just her. She’s both director and company secretary. More? Nothing there. You have to sign in.’

‘Never mind. Google that company name. Seva Social Enterprise.’

Ayşegül types it in and starts scrolling through the results. ‘All the same stuff,’ she whispers.

‘Keep going.’

She clicks on the second page of results.

‘There,’ I say, ‘the Facebook page. Click that.’ I watch her do as I ask, but it just opens up a very basic stub of a page. Naturally, I’m disappointed, but I have Ayşegül at my side egging me on.

‘Try logging in,’ she suggests. Beside her, I flip to my phone, open the app and search for the same page. ‘Any luck?’ she asks.

‘Not really. Seems dead. Last post June 2014.’

‘No About section?’

‘Yes. But no contact info. No, no phone. No email.’

‘Website?’ she asks, only to watch me nodding my head. ‘Open it then.’

‘Nothing. “This site can’t be reached. Check if there’s a typo. DNS probe finished nxdomain.” What does that mean?’

‘It’s either a broken link or an old website.’

‘That’s it then,’ I moan.

‘Don’t give up Ibrahim,’ she tells me, her eyes enlarged. ‘Let me have a go,’ she adds, taking her own phone out. She’s typing so rapidly with her thumbs now that I struggle to keep up with her. ‘It’s not a proper Facebook page,’ she tells me as she begins scrolling down to the end. ‘They’ve just set it up like an individual. There’s a Friends list. Let’s take a look.’

‘Many?’

‘Hundreds. But there’s search.’ She taps in Cath… ‘And there we are!’ She passes me her phone, waving it under my eyes. ‘Have a look,’ she grins, ‘Typical Gen X. Wide open, no privacy.’

‘Woah,’ I say, blown away. ‘That’s… The profile photo… Some of her features… it’s my dad.’ No, but let me think about this: be rational, Ibby. ‘But maybe I’m just imagining it.’

‘Follow your instinct,’ she says.

‘I feel like… I feel like it’s her,’ I mutter. ‘But no posts since 2014.’

‘Maybe she found the privacy settings,’ she suggests, smiling.

‘What do I do now?’ I ask.

Ayşegül nearly titters at me, her right eyebrow raised. ‘You’re asking me?’

‘I didn’t think I’d find her. I’m in shock.’

‘Do you want to find her?’ she asks me.

‘I only found out she existed last night. So… I don’t know.’

‘So what are we doing here?’

‘I don’t know,’ I say, panicking. I don’t mean to, but I almost throw her phone back at her, my chair shooting behind me at speed as I leap to my feet. ‘I’m sorry,’ I say, gathering all of my things together, turning to leave.

I can’t help running now: through the door, down the stairs and out of the main entrance, gasping for air. Ripping the mask from my face, I almost choke on my knees, my entire body convulsing violently. I don’t feel right at all: I have no idea why I’ve reacted this way. I feel sick. Honestly, I feel like I’m going to wretch all over the pavement. I’ll find a bench: I must just sit and breathe. Breathe, Ibby: breathe.

By the time Ayşegül finds me again, I’ve managed to quieten my racing heart. Of course I’m embarrassed when I see her approaching; she must now think her mates are right about me. I can barely look at her, ashamed for departing in such a rude manner after she helped me so much. I want to apologise, but she speaks before I find the words.

‘Here,’ she says, handing me a lined page from her notebook. ‘I wrote down the address from that company page. And there’s her Facebook page. I would’ve messaged you, but…’

‘But you don’t have my number. I know.’

‘I can give you mine.’

‘Best not,’ I tell her. ‘Don’t want to have to explain why I have a girl’s number on my phone.’

‘Yeah,’ she says, ‘you’re right.’

‘But thanks,’ I say. ‘Thanks for your help. Really.’

‘Any time,’ she says. ‘I hope it works out for you.’

It seems I’m forgiven already. I’m relieved. ‘I’ll let you know what I decide,’ I say.

‘I’d like that. You can talk to me any time. Don’t be shy.’ Of course I don’t reply when she says that, but she can’t help grinning at me. ‘Salams Ibrahim,’ she says, wandering off with that skip in her step once more.

I’m so glad Ayşegül isn’t like those other girls. Really, she’s so refined, and oh so elegant. I can’t help admiring her: for her confidence, for her courage, for her cool composure. She’s so at ease, a gracious smile always on her face. I like her sincerity; whenever I see her float past me in the corridors, she makes me want to be a better person. She doesn’t know it, but she’s my silent guide, calling me to faith. The complete opposite of  Zahra and Rimsha, who make me turn away repulsed. I’m so sick of those halfwit berks giggling inanely all the time.  

Collecting my car from the yard behind college, I’m soon on my way, negotiating the start of the evening rush-hour. It will take me fifteen minutes to clear the town, caught in the slow-moving traffic. Bad planning on my part; I should’ve left an hour ago. By the time I’ve reached the outskirts, I’ve already decided I’ll take the scenic route home, up through the woods. It’s not that it gives me any time advantage, it just means I’ll be on the move all the way without perpetually stopping and starting. On a day like today, I need to feel myself in motion; it helps me think. As I head up and down the hills, pushing my little car’s engine to the max, I can’t help thinking about that Facebook page. I can’t help seeing that photo in my mind either.

Troubled by these contemplations, I decide not to go straight home when I slide into town from the north. No, I need to settle a question in my heart, for I just can’t unsee my dad in that profile picture. Coming down the hill, I ignore the turning into our street, but pull up outside my grandparents’ bungalow instead. ‘Bismillah,’ I mutter as wander down their drive.

It doesn’t take long for my grandad to answer after I ring the bell. ‘Ibrahim!’ he exclaims, beaming at me.

Salams grandad,’ I say.

‘Here for our walk?’ he asks, expectantly.

‘Er, no,’ I mutter, apologetically, ‘I’m just on my way home from college. I just have a question. From what we talked about yesterday.’

‘You haven’t mentioned it to your dad, I hope.’

‘Of course not. But I’ve been thinking about it all day.’ I can’t help gazing at my grandad seriously. ‘You said when she had dad, she’d just turned sixteen. What did you mean? Days? Weeks? Months?’

‘Why do you ask?’

‘Just curious. It must’ve been tough for her.’

‘Yes, it was.’

‘So?’

‘I believe it was two weeks before the birth.’

Subhanullah,’ I mutter. ‘Thanks grandad.’

‘Is that it?’ he asks me, bewildered.

‘Yeah, sorry,’ I nod, ‘don’t mean to be rude, but have to dash. Haven’t done asr yet. Forgive me.’

‘Forgiven, Ibrahim. But next time we talk properly. Agreed?’

Inshallah,’ I say, but I don’t linger any longer.

As I get back in my car, I know it’s her: I know now the woman in that profile picture was my gran. Everything fits. It’s all here in the notes Ayşegül made for me. If only I’d taken her number; she’d know how to deal with news like this. Me? My mind is just blown, those awkward shivers pulsating through me again. Driving the last part of my journey home, I have no idea how I’m going to deal with this discovery. I fear that my quaking skin will betray all of my secrets the moment I wander through the door. Mum never disappoints.

‘You’re back late,’ she says before I’ve even removed my shoes.

‘Only a little,’ I mumble.

‘What kept you?’

‘Just doing some research in the library.’

‘And hanging out with friends?’ she asks.

‘Not really,’ I shrug.

‘A girl?’

‘Why do you keep asking me this, mum?’

‘Just interested in your life, Ibby.’

‘Yeah, well. My life isn’t that interesting. I go to college, come home. Rinse and repeat.’ Mum’s looking at me like she doesn’t believe a word I say, but I’m not stopping. ‘Anyways,’ I tell her, ‘I need to do asr.’

Fortunately for me, I’m not lying. Heading up the stairs, I visit the bathroom straight away, make wudu and do my four rakats. When I’m done, I lie back on my bed, fiddling with my phone, mulling over what I should do next. Do I dare send her a friend request? Or do I just message her? And say what? That I’m her long-lost grandson she didn’t even know existed? Oh, and by the way, I have a foreign-sounding name because your son’s a Muslim now? Yeah, that’ll work, won’t it? No, leave it: let me have dinner and sleep on it. I can’t process any of this at all.


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Table of contents: folio.me.uk/books/seeking-the-one

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