30-Day Writing Challenge: Day 19

Posted: August 19, 2016 in Uncategorized

Day 19

What now? Omar thought, as he continued staring at his laptop screen. He had been sitting there for almost three hours, and every time he was almost about to finish a paragraph, he would just backspace everything and start over.

What am I doing wrong? Why does this have to happen now?

After another 20 minutes of feeling paralyzed, Omar finally got up and walked downstairs to the kitchen.

Coffee? Nope. I need to work on my caffeine consumption, remember? Okay, soda? Oh God, I forgot to buy some.

He finally grabbed a glass cup, poured some water from the tap, and walked to the window. After his first sip, he fringed. It was warm. Omar hated warm water, but his mind was too occupied with the words he desperately needed to push out, that he forgot to add some ice.

Yousra, his brilliant editor, was pressuring him to finish at least 7 chapters of his novel within 2 months, because their publisher needed to receive something tangible that would convince him to wait and not sign contracts with another writer. She had a very strict schedule for him, and even though he usually followed her schedules, this time he felt too pressured that he couldn’t go past the 3rd chapter. The problem was, he only had two weeks left. Something was wrong. His mind would always freeze every time he felt that his mental editor was watching over his shoulder, and it never gave him enough space to create.

Before he could go back to get some ice, he heard his phone beep and knew it must be her. He left everything and ran back to the room.

It was a text message, from an unknown number.

Hi Omar. This is Mrs. Nadia, Blue Sky’s principal.
We’ve been trying to reach you but something seems to be wrong with your phone.
Please call back ASAP.

Blue Sky was his nephew’s and nieces’ school. It was very unusual of them to contact him, but he knew he was their emergency contact and so it had to be something urgent. He immediately called back, with his heartbeats pushing hard against his chest.

“Hello?” Omar quickly said as soon as Mrs. Nadia picked up.

“Hi Omar. Thank you for calling back. We actually, umm, have some bad news.”

Omar didn’t respond.

“Your brother and sister-in-law had a terrible accident this morning near the school, after dropping off the children. They’ve been taken to the hospital, but, umm…”

Omar still didn’t say anything. His heartbeats raced even faster. It can’t be true, can it?

“Well, neither of them survived. I’m very sorry about that.”

Oh, God. No. No, no, no. No.

“Omar? You still there?” Mrs. Nadia asked after a long pause.

Omar cleared his throat. “Yes, Mrs. Nadia. I’m still here.”

“I know how this must be hard for you and the kids, but the kids actually don’t know anything up till now. They’ve heard about the car accident, of course, everyone has. But they still don’t know it’s their parents. The school day ends in two hours and we need you to pick them up and deliver the news yourself, they’ll need you around. I’ve also given the hospital your number, and they will be contacting you soon so please fix your phone. I’ll make sure to send you the hospital’s address in a text message anyway. If there’s anything the school can help you with, please let us know.”

That was too much to take. Omar immediately hung up after she was done, without uttering a single word. A few minutes ago, his only problem was how to portray the conflict between his characters in a novel that only exists on paper. Now he had to deal with a real conflict that he was unexpectedly being exposed to, while supporting four young children who needed to know about something that he himself could not fully grasp yet. That was definitely too much.

Not knowing what to do, he decided to text his editor.

I have a family emergency. Don’t think I can make it on time. He typed, and before thinking twice, he pressed send.

A family emergency?

It sounded weird to his own mind. He had never been late for work because of a family emergency. He never even knew what family emergencies meant. Omar had already been living on his own before his parents passed away, and the only family he knew of was his brother and sister-in-law – who was practically his own sister. Now, they were both gone. That was not a family emergency; that was a disaster!

Do I go to the hospital? Or do I pick up the children first? He already knew he was a terrible decision maker; he didn’t need something to prove it this loud.

The children first. He decided, and grabbed his shoes on his way out.

“Oh, you’re here already,” Mrs. Nadia was surprised when she saw him. “I figured you’d pass by the hospital first, you know, get done with the documents and everything before the kids are out.”

Shut up, you’re not helping. Just shut up.

“But, oh well, it seems like you’ve thought about it and decided it was better to come here first.” She replied to her own statement upon realizing he was not planning to give her any answers.

Yeah, right. Omar, thinking, and deciding, all in the same sentence. You really need to shut up.

“I’m just hoping… you’d take this better… You know, with the kids needing your support and everything.”

Omar nodded his head, with no words coming out. Who was she anyway to tell him how he should take this?

“Well, the kids will be out in an hour or so, you can rest here for a while if you wish.”

“Thanks, but no, thanks. I’ll be waiting outside in the car.”

And those were the only words Omar had heard himself saying since he received that phone call. The phone call that was already changing the entire course of his life.

Back in his car, he remembered he still needed to contact the hospital. It was one of the calls he so much despised.

“Cairo Medical Hospital, how can I help you?” The voice on the other end said.

“Hi. Aah, I wanted to ask about, ah, two patients. I mean, two… patients.”

“Yes?”

“I mean, they’re not patients. They… passed away at the hospital, today.” He finally said.

“Oh, I’m really sorry about that. Can you give me their names?”

“Ahmad and Arwa.”

“Okay, let me check. Ahmad Abdelfattah and Arwa Kamal?”

“That’s right. Listen, I have no idea how this whole thing is supposed to go. Can you please help?” He sounded too desperate, but something about her voice pushed him to ask.

“Well, yes, of course. Yes,” The lady sounded surprised. “We’ll assist you through the whole thing; you don’t have to worry about that. Right now, the two bodies are being prepared to move to the hospital’s mortuary until the arrangements are over. We actually tried reaching out to you earlier but failed, so we decided it was best for them to stay there for the time being. When you come over, you’ll need to get done with the financial stuff first, then we can proceed from there.”

“Okay, I just need to pick up the kids first. Can I be there later today?”

“Yes, whenever it suits you. But the sooner the better.”

“Okay, thanks.”

As soon as he hung up, he heard loud knocks on the window and almost jumped out of his seat. It was the children, all four of them, giggling and high fiving each other because they had succeed in scaring him. His heart sank, but he still smiled and unlocked the doors.

“Hi, Ammu Omar!” 8-year-old Nada enthusiastically said from across the car window. “Where are mom and dad?”

“Won’t you give Ammu Omar a hug first?” He stepped out of the car and she immediately ran towards him.

“How come you’re out so early?” Omar asked after they hugged.

“Mrs. Nadia said we can leave early today because there was a surprise waiting outside. Turns out you’re the surprise!” She giggled and hugged him again.

“Where are mom and dad?” Nora, their eldest sister asked again.

“I’ll tell you when we get back home,” Omar replied without stuttering, and kept his smile on. “Don’t you miss spending time with me?”

“Yeeesss!” The twins, Nada and Noha, shouted out instantly.

Ramy rolled his eyes. He was never fond of his uncle, and always preferred to stay in his room whenever Omar visited. It baffled Ahmad and Arwa how Omar could get along this well with the three girls, but not with the one guy who was already a smaller version of himself. It confused him too, but being the person he is, he preferred not to intrude and usually just let it go.

“Oh, oh, we have to show you our gingerbread house. We’ve spent all night working on it!” Nada said.

“Yeah, you’d love it. We’re going back to our house, right?” Noha asked.

Omar hadn’t really thought about that before.

“Well, yes, if you want to!” He quickly said. It did seem like the reasonable thing to do.

“Yeah, let’s do that. I have a lot of homework, too. Mom will barely get any sleep tonight.” Nora randomly added.

“You guys have the keys?” Omar asked.

“Mine’s with me,” Nora replied, “but Ramy’s was stolen last week.”

“Stolen? How was it stolen?!” Omar asked before Ramy angrily interrupted.

“Gosh! I told you I lost them somewhere around the house. Stop exaggerating everything this way!”

“Anyway, seatbelts on everyone,” Omar had to end it before they start fighting. “And then I want to hear eeevery tiny detail of how today went. Who’s starting?”

“Me! Me! Me!” Nada and Noha enthusiastically yelled.

“Okay, okay, calm down,” Omar said in between his laughs, “Nada, would you mind letting your sister start?”

“Do I get an extra cookie after lunch if I let her?” Nada slyly asked.

“Who taught you that?” Omar laughed and reached backwards to tickle her. Everyone laughed along.

“Do I?” She repeated with a wide smile on her face.

“Fine,” Omar surrendered. “Noha, you start.”

Noha started describing her day in details with Omar giving her the exact reaction she was waiting for after every sentence. She seemed to be enjoying it.

He couldn’t help but wonder though, was that the right thing to do? Should I have told them about their parents first?

It was just what he felt like doing at the time, and he was hoping he wouldn’t shortly regret it. Nevertheless, he was amazed at what he was turning out to be. A person who wasn’t able to form a proper sentence a few hours ago, but was now able to lift the spirits of those poor kids who had no idea what was waiting for them. None of them felt a thing. It’s just amazing what one can do when they realize they’re the only source of support for someone. It’s just amazing how we can sometimes choose to suppress our own feelings and emotions, just until we make sure that those who are in need of our help get the help they deserve. Omar was ready to do that for them. He was definitely going to learn a lot about himself in the process.

~~ To be continued

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