Tik, tik, tik...
The ticking of the clock above my head is deafening.
Every nurse who walks by my sitting body gives me the same look. What a sad little girl! She must be saved. I return the stare with my big hazel eyes, trying not to appear like a poor victim girl when I’m far from it.
My aunt and grandmother appeared exhausted and overwhelmed. They occasionally look at me with disgust and hatred. They have every right to be, because I am, after all, the cause of all this nonsense.
Another nurse arrived. She sat down beside my aunt and asked her a few questions. She sensed the tension between us and directed them to another room to finish the paperwork. My grandmother gave me a quick glance and told the nurse in a thick Moroccan French accent that she would stay with me.
The nurse had this white savior look on her face that almost made me chuckle, and she told them that both were needed there, and she could stay with me. I could see in her eyes that she wanted to end her relatively short sentence with What a sad little girl.
What should a New Yorker white nurse expect when she sees a Moroccan small boyish girl who received a double slap on the face twenty minutes ago for causing her father's heart attack? My aunt told my grandmother to accompany her and give me the dirtiest look after calling me a meaningful curse in Darija.
I shifted in my chair, feeling the burning sensation that hit my throat just before a crying meltdown. My father, who was kind but colorful when he spoke Darija, treated curse words as if they were normal ones. As an advantage, he taught me every possible curse word. He was the epitome of a cool father; he was very proud of who he was and where we came from.
I am a thirteen-year-old Moroccan girl who grew up in New York. Although I appear to be a young boy with short hair and a boyish body, my brain was much older. As they walked away, I swallowed my tiny pride and looked at the ground.
"Are you okay?" the nurse asked as she grabbed my frail hands. "Did she say anything bad to you?" I returned her gaze, wanting to scream at her.
“No.” I simply said.
The nurse moved her hand and looked at my legs. I was dressed casually in dark grey sweatpants. Something intrigued her attention, and she became even more irritated, the hero gaze returned. I followed her gaze and noticed the large blood stains that had dried on my skinny legs. The stains made the pants stick to my legs. I repositioned the fabric to make it appear looser.
"Did someone hurt you?!" she asked, her face altered. I returned my gaze to her, almost feeling my soul leave my body. "Did what happened earlier have anything to do with it?" Her blue eyes shifted from my face to my sweatpants. She seemed to realize I couldn't speak and said the stupidest thing. "Do you speak English?"
I really wanted to laugh at this. You look at a Moroccan girl in New York and think she can't speak English, which is strange because Moroccans are expected to speak at least three languages. I ignored it and simply nodded.
"Don't worry, sweetheart!" she said as she tightened her grip on my hand. "I will protect you and get you the help and support you needs." The nurse walked away from me and to the head of the nurses' front desks, where she whispered something to them, and they all looked alert and almost angry.
My gaze scanned their expressions; they were all moving too quickly.
Tik... Tik... Tik...
That annoying clock is ticking again. I clenched my hands together, everything moving at a frighteningly fast pace, along with my racing heart.
Should I prepare for the worst now? Should I be scared that everyone will find out what happened?
I didn't mean to hurt Papa. I never meant to cause anyone pain or trouble.
I know I should listen to papa; I argued with him earlier today. I was stating the obvious: I'm no longer a little girl. I don't need him to pick me up from school every day.
None of this would have happened if I had simply listened to him.
I closed my eyes shut. I can’t cry, I can’t. I don’t deserve anyone to help me. Everything is my fault. I should have called him to pick me up.
But… I always walk in that street why did it happen this time.
Still it is my fault.
We live in a crowded neighborhood; Papa moved here when I was a year old. My mother died just before my birthday. He eventually opened his own small Moroccan restaurant, which was very successful due to my father's intense dedication and mesmerizing cooking skills. Even though it was small, people from all over New York enjoyed it. It provided enough money for Papa to build us a stable life, and his name became well-known among locals, the handsome chef Rashid Alaoui.
Papa told me about his love for my mother. They were raised together and married in their freshman year of college. They were young and in love. He was pursuing a culinary degree, while she was pursuing a bachelor's degree in nursing. An accident occurred shortly after my birth, resulting in her tragic death. Papa refused to tell me anything about their lives other than the headlines. His conversations were always about her.
He always complimented my eyes because they reminded him of hers; we both had hazel eyes and curved lashes. She had naturally ginger hair, whereas I have thick black hair like him. She was a beautiful woman; he always carried her picture with him, close to his heart. We had a ritual in which we had to tell her picture good night before he kissed me on the forehead. I swear I felt her kiss a few times, but I kept telling myself it was just my mind playing tricks on me.
I wish she was here.
A strong shake on my shoulder startled me out of my thoughts. I turned to face the nurse who was speaking to me. She appeared to be even more terrified than before. What happened!?
"I'm very sorry kid, we have lost your father," she squatted to reach my eyesight. When I looked around, I noticed that my aunt and grandmother were frail and pale. When they locked eyes with me, they had the same hatred look on their face. My aunt quickly moved her gaze to the tall, suited man in front of her. He shook her hands and approached me. He stood next to the nurse, she cleared her throat, almost tripping, when she stood up and left.
The man looked at me strangely, with no expression on his face. "I'm sorry about your father, kid." He looked at my aunt, and I swear I saw a fearful look escape her frowned eyes. He walked away without saying anything else.
My papa is gone! Why? I didn't say goodbye. I didn't mean to hurt him. I finally stood up, eager to see my aunt, who was still standing in front of the nurses' front desk. "Where are you going?" she said angrily as she raised her hand to stop me.
"I just want to see Papa..." She raised her hand once more.
"You've done more than enough! What a shame!" She said this as she grabbed all the papers from the nurses' hands, which were still terrified and pale, matching her blonde hair.
I tried to speak again, closing the gap between us, but was cut off when my grandmother's hand grabbed my forearm roughly. "We're leaving for Morocco, and I don't want to hear your voice until then."
I looked at the nurse, hoping she could help and save me, as she said she would. Even though I do not deserve to be saved. But… I just want to see Papa one last time. The nurse refused to look me in the eyes and instead turned to my aunt, informing her that his body would be delivered to the airport in two days.
My aunt signed the final papers required from her, giving the hospital permission to move papa's body and fly him to Morocco for burial.
I can't believe what I'm hearing. I lost him.
It's my fault.
Another tall man approaches us, my grandmother says something I don't understand, and we all walk outside the hospital with him. A large black car was waiting outside, and the man motioned for us to enter.
Who is that man? Why do my aunt and grandmother just sit there and listen to him? I didn't do anything either, being dragged along by my grandmother. We went inside and they exchanged a strange look and said something in a language I couldn't understand. The man was on the phone and only said a few yeses before hanging up. He returned his gaze to my aunt and informed her that our flight would depart in four hours.
That man apparently moved their original flight date, which was supposed to be in three weeks, to today. I wanted to say something but couldn't because the look on their faces whenever I make even the slightest movement shuts me down.
The next few hours flew by. My aunt is packing everything important from our house in two large bags, in addition to their own bags. I'd never seen anyone move as quickly as she did. My grandmother kept me by her side as she looked around the house, with sadness written all over her face.
My eyes welled up with tears, which I quickly wiped away. I don't deserve to be sad. Papa died because of my actions.
My aunt grabbed everything and motioned us to the car. I returned for one more glance before she shut the front door to my childhood home.
As his present alerted everyone, the man followed every move we made. I never imagined airport check-in could be any faster. We were already in the plane after only thirty minutes. The man remained with us and entered the pilot cabin with the senior cabin crew. They looked at us when they came out.
The heat of their stares burned into my skin. When I looked at my aunt and grandmother, I noticed that they were both nervous and scared.
Not sad. Scared.
I kept my eyes closed and my head down. It's entirely my fault.
Tik, tik, tik...
The same clock sound again!
When I looked up, I noticed a female cabin crew member wearing a black watch that made the same noise. Another male crew member advised the passengers to fasten their seat belts because the plane was about to board. The female crew was inspecting our row when she bowed her head slightly to my grandmother, who mumbled in the same language I don't understand. When I looked at her, I noticed a smirk on her sad face.
It was gone when I blinked.
Everything I know is gone.
Tik, tik, tik...