While she did tell me about her going somewhere, Binara’s leaving still caused a flash that I could have sworn would be seen by my neighbors. It certainly upset a few of the spirits I saw as my meds were wearing off.
But that didn’t matter to me as time marched forward, and my classes continued their progression. I was able to visit Nana’s grave on the reservation after a surprisingly easy paper was turned in, and spent some time cleaning the area of leaves and trash that someone had littered from the nearby road. I didn’t feel her spirit around like I always hoped when I go out there, but maybe that meant she was happy in the afterlife. At least I didn’t have to clean any graffiti off of the headstone like I did my senior year of undergrad.
It had been nearly two weeks since Binara had left when I felt something push me while I was on my way out of class to the student center, and almost knocked over a woman in a copper hijab. She spilled the armful of textbooks she was carrying and I faceplanted into the grass. Not my most graceful moment, I know. Once I’d gotten my feet back under me and dusted off, I helped her regain control of her stack.
“Sorry about that,” I said as I picked up a chemistry book and placed it in her open backpack. “The pavement can be a bit finicky with dress shoes.”
“Don’t I know it? I swear, I was wearing my heels to a symposium and tripped on the stairs to the auditorium,” she said with an Arabic accent and shuffled more of the books into her arms.
I reached for another book, and our eyes met. She looked familiar, like…
“Wait, aren’t you the woman who saved me from those muggers down on the south side of town?”
I swam through my memories, until a few seconds of the gunman and the woman in front of me snapped into place. Had that only been a couple of months ago?
“Yeah, though I wasn’t the one on the offensive,” I said, handing her the book.
Her eyes lit up. “I never got to thank you! It’s been on my mind ever since a few days after the incident.”
“You don’t have to thank me—”
“I’m Medhi Faruq, and I’m a pharmacy undergrad here,” she said and nodded in place of a handshake.
“I’m Ami Storm, law student,” I said and smiled uneasily as I handed her the last of her books.
“Good to finally know your name. Words cannot express my gratitude, seeing as a life debt is too great for them.”
I didn’t have the heart to say it was a coincidence. “It was really no trouble…”
“Still, at least let me treat you to a late lunch off of campus. The halal options here are scarce.”
“There is the deli.”
“True, but I’ve already eaten there a couple of times this week. And my ride will be annoyed. Do you have any classes later? I don’t wish to be inconsiderate in that regard.”
I shook my head, glad that I had the day off from my internship, and then my stomach rumbled. That bowl of granola had worn off an hour ago, and lunch did sound good. “Fine, but my bus line stops running around nine.”
“That’s ok, I’m sure Hakim won’t mind dropping you off after.”
I smiled and followed her to the Uber pick up point, where a sleek gray BMW was waiting for her. She leaned in the passenger window, said something in Arabic, and then put her books in the popped trunk.
“I told Hakim you’d be coming with us to lunch,” she said and motioned for me to get in the back seat.
Reluctantly I slid into the back seat, my hunger warring with every stranger danger video I watched in elementary. The car was a posh one, and once both of us were strapped in, the driver took off.
Medhi quickly texted someone before putting her phone away. “I hope you like Syrian food.”
“It’s been a while since I’ve had anything resembling a falafel, with how much my classes have me at the grindstone,” I said and kept an eye out for which way we were going.
“Rasha’s has delicious falafel! Most of their food reminds me of home.”
“You’re an international student?”
She nodded. “My family’s from Damascus, and I’m staying with my uncle until I finish my education. After that, I want to evaluate if I stay in America and look for work here, or go back home and start a pharmacy.”
I smiled. The rest of the car ride was small talk about how we each were faring in our classes, favorite TV shows, tastes in music, and the like.
When we pulled up to the drop off, I thought that it was some mistake. The exterior looked like the Four Seasons, not a hole in the wall restaurant. Still, Medhi lead me through the lobby and up to the signature restaurant, Rasha’s. There, an upscale Syrian motif surrounded us as we were seated at a table for four and given menus to pore over.
I cringed internally. Even the hummus and pita bread was more than I could afford on my own. I was thanking my ancestors that it wasn’t my bill when Medhi interrupted my thoughts.
“Oh, I should let you know, my uncle is going to be joining us,” she said. “He’s the one who suggested the restaurant this week.”
I nodded. “So what is his profession?”
“He’s an entrepreneur in the IT field. So, anyways, about that djinn…”
I was thinking of a way to deflect, when a middle aged Syrian man in a navy blue suit came up to the table.
“Uncle Ahmad!” Medhi said and stood to give the man a hug. “How was work?”
“Same as ever,” he said, returning the gesture before looking at me. “Is this the young lady you were telling me about?”
Medhi nodded. “Yes, she’s the one who saved me a few months ago.”
He extended his hand. “Ahmad Shamon.”
I shook his hand and felt a little off. “Ami Storm.”
He and Medhi sat down. “I must thank you for saving my niece that day. She wasn’t paying attention and the curs took advantage.”
So I was to get the credit from both family members, great. Would Binara be jealous? “I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.”
“Providence then,” Mr. Shamon said and smiled. “Still, lunch is on me.”
The waitress came by and took our orders and menus.
“Ami goes to my university,” Medhi said after the waitress left.
“Ah, what are you studying?”
“I’m a second year law student.”
“Law is a good subject to go into, much like medicine or business,” he said and nodded. “Tell me, do you have your internship lined up?”
I shook my head. “Not for this coming summer. I was going to start applying to a few firms once it got closer to winter break. Why do you ask?”
“As head of my own successful company, I, of course, have some dealings with several prestigious firms around the state. As my way of thanks for helping my dear Medhi, I could see that your resume ends up on the short list for their internship programs.”
“Would that include Mr. Reynolds?”
“Yes. In fact, he was saying something just the other day about it almost being consideration season again.”
“That is very generous of you, sir.” Even I knew about Tom Reynolds, the top lawyer in the state.
“It is a trifle compared to the rescue, I’m sure. Now, if you do wish to take me up on my offer, send Medhi your resume and cover letter and she’ll make sure to get it to me so that they get distributed in the right email boxes.”
I nodded, then smelled the kebabs and shawarma coming out of the kitchen. Our food was there, and we were too busy devouring it to speak much more on the matter.
Once we were full and the bill settled, Medhi and I bid her uncle goodbye and went back to the car. Something about the man, though generous and a bit too friendly, put me on my guard more than a seedy bar.
“He seems nice,” I said, trying to break the silence as Hakim brought around the car.
“He is,” Medhi said. “Though he doesn’t normally offer uses of his connections that readily.”
“I see,” I said and looked at my shoes. “Can I ask you a question?”
“Right now we’re studying people’s tells in my courtroom class, and you were throwing some of them. Do you know your assailants?”
“Why would you think that?”
“You looked away when your uncle was calling them curs. It’s a classic tell, when it’s not from an autistic person.”
“I don’t know them personally,” she said, looking a bit defeated, “but my uncle has a lot of rivals that would do anything to make him suffer. I’ve been worried that I would be a target eventually. Though I’m not sure exactly who it might be.”
The lawyer in me wanted to press the subject, but I could see that I was making her uncomfortable. I told that part to hush for now, and to wait until when I wasn’t depending on a ride back to my apartment.
“So, about the subject I was talking about before Uncle Ahmad joined us…” she said and slid into the car.
“Yeah, what about it?” I asked and hopped in, closing the door behind me. I gave the driver the address of the gym down the street from my apartment. I needed to walk off some of the lunch and make sure they didn’t know which of the complexes on the street mine was.
“That djinn seemed like they knew you.”
I looked at her like I’d been caught unprepared for a cross-examination.
“While I might study for a medical degree, I’ve loved stories about djinn and adventure since I was a little girl. I knew they couldn’t exist, but when I saw that one appear and shield us, I had a flame rekindled that I thought died a long time ago. Do you know anything about them? I’ve always wanted to meet one.”
It was my turn to give the truth avoidance tells. “I only know a little bit. She’s not a djinn, per se, but an Irish faerie who is good with air. I’ve seen her around the area a couple of times, but I don’t know her personally.”
Medhi’s eyes sparkled. “I never thought she was a foreign one, not with the silvery veins in her wings. I guess I should look into the folklore on them!”
“Yeah, you do that.” My stop was nearing, and I was eager to get home.
We exchanged emails as to facilitate the resume sending and made a half-hearted promise to hang out one day we both had off before I shut the door and they drove off. I felt as if I’d been dragged into a bigger than life mystery and needed to get my feet about me for the case. I resolved that, as I walked, I would look into this in what spare time I had.
But first, it was time to relax for a while then study.