an excerpt from Annabelle Thong
“NO. I told him it was either him or me. He was, of course, happy to let me be the one to cross oceans to take care of you. But that’s typical of your father, isn’t it, to shirk his duties like that?”
If I weren’t lying in a hospital bed with a mummified head, I would have slugged this one out with her. But given the circumstances, all I could do was whimper. Mum patted my heads again.
“Poor darling, your head still hurts, doesn’t it? Anyway, how did this happen? The officials from your school insisted that you were involved in some outrageous rebellion, which I told them was completely ludicrous.” She looked me in the eye, then paused, suddenly unsure of herself. “Isn’t it, darling? Tell me its utter rubbish.”
I assured her that I wasn’t a subversive and told her all that I remembered— the Revolutionaries taking us hostage, the police breaking down the library door, Didi packing his bag and shouting at me to leave with him, and then a big black spot of amnesia—which relieved her to no end and made her want to go shopping (“Well, I am in Paris, dear. See you later?”).
My friends came to the hospital later that afternoon, and after the ritual tribute of chocolates and flowers and general banter about how I was feeling, I got round to asking Didi what had happened.
Didi pursed his lips and started to tear up. I reached for his arm.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” I said.
He started to cry. “Chérie, it was supposed to be me. He meant to strike me but you pushed me away and took the hit.”
“I did? God, I don’t remember that,” I said, semi-impressed but mostly wondering, What the hell was I thinking? “And who’s he? One of the Revolutionaries?”
Didi, inconsolable by now, was literally crying on my shoulder. Yannick stepped in, seeing that Didi was incapacitated by grief and gratitude. “No, one of the riot police guys.”
I gave Yannick a bewildered look. He sighed. “When they broke the doors open, Didi rushed to get out and they thought he was one of the Revolutionaries…”
“Also, he is Arab boy in ghetto uniform,” Gula interjected.
“We think there might have been a racist element to the whole thing.”
Didi suddenly sat up, spent, if my soaked shoulder was anything to go by. “It’s all my fault,” he sniffed. “If I’d been wearing Burberry, none of this would have happened.”
I was appalled. “Did they hurt anybody else?”
“No. When you fell to the floor, there was so much blood, and everybody just froze for a while,” Didi said, grabbing a Kleenex and blowing his nose. “Then three of the CRS men carried you off, and the rest rounded all of us up, except for the librarians of course, and threw us into jail. It took them two days to sort out who’s who. The Revolutionaries are still inside.”
I was indignant, outraged. “It took three CRS men to carry me away?”
“They didn’t have a stretcher, chérie. They’re the CRS, not the SAMU. And they sure couldn’t fit you into a plastic shield.”
© Epigram Books
by Imran Hashim
from Annabelle Thong (2016)
published by Epigram Books