1st part of the series “Three days; Three trials”
The twentieth of June was a very important day. Not only was it the last day of school and the beginning of summer, it was also Khalid’s birthday. Perhaps it was not his birthday that was as important to him as was the fact that it was his tenth birthday. Turning ten was indeed a big deal-it was a lot older than nine…finally he would stop being treated like a little kid who had no opinion, he knew he was old enough to understand half of what grown-ups talked about so why should he not have a say in any of their matters?
As he hurried home from school, Khalid could already feel the vacation spirit in the air, children of all ages playing around in the streets, many licking popsicles as they made their way home. As he neared his street, he spotted his next door neighbors, and best friends, Saleem and Ammar, playing cricket with a group of other boys from the neighborhood.
“Khalid!’ they called out. “Why don’t you join us?”
“I would love to, it’s just…I just got back from school. I need to go home and change and tell my mom I’m home. I’ll be back later!” he shouted back.
“Aw, come on! It’s the first day of summer vacation. Loosen up!”
“Just for a little while?” Ammar pleaded, noticing Khalid’s hesitation.
Eventually, Khalid relented, setting down his backpack and joining his friends for a game of cricket.
It was 4 30 PM when the doorbell to the Rashid family’s house finally rang. Sadia frantically opened the door to reveal her youngest child standing on the doorstep, his face smudged and his school uniform dripping with mud.
Exactly two seconds after breathing a sigh of relief at him being okay, she erupted into a series of scolding, “Where have you been?!? School ended over an hour ago! Do you know how worried I’ve been? Waiting for you to come home- I thought something had happened to you! The least you could do is let your mother know where you are before heading off to Allah knows where! And look what you’ve don’t to your uniform, how am I ever going to get all that dirt off? What have you been doing anyway?”
She said this all in one breath, not waiting for her son to offer an explanation. His head hung low in shame; Khalid removed his muddy shoes before entering the house. Closing, the door behind him he headed to the living room where his siblings waited. His mother, following him, was still not done with her reprimand. “Really, Khalid, where have you been? I thought of a dozen things that may have happened to—oh, never mind…why don’t you head upstairs and freshen up a bit?” Her expression softened as she took in her child’s disheveled appearance.
Khalid grumpily got up and trudged up the stairs towards his room shutting the door behind him.
The Rashid family sat down for dinner, with the exception of Khalid. He had been holed up in his room ever since he came home. Khalil Rashid, the head of the household, and Khalid’s father had come home from work-exhausted, only to discover that his youngest son had received a good share of rebuke at the hands of his mother, and had not come out of his room since.
Presently, he instructed Maria to go check on her younger brother and coax him into joining them for dinner. She returned a short while later, Khalid in tow- refusing to meet anyone’s eyes.
“Asalamualaikum, Khalid!” Khalil greeted his son.
“Wa Alaikum Assalaam, Abu.”
“How are you doing? It was your last day at school today, no?”
“Yes, it was. It was okay, I guess.”
“Your mother has been telling me about how much you worried her today. Really, son, try to be more responsible!”
Khalid mumbled a small “Yes”, his head still down, playing with his food.
“Hey, it’s alright. Besides, it’s your birthday today, right?”
Khalid looked up suddenly, surprised that his father had remembered his birthday.
“You remembered?” he asked with genuine shock.
“Of course I did! Turning ten doesn’t happen every day, now does it?”
The beginnings of a small smile on Khalid’s face appeared. It quickly faded though after hearing his father’s next words.
“However, you do need to realize something, Khalid. As you grow older, you need to be aware of your responsibilities, and right now, your first and foremost responsibility is to your parents.”
“Abu, maybe you guys just need to give me some space! I’m ten years old now, not a baby. All of my friends are allowed to play out for as long as they like. None of them are ever scolded for it, so why am I?”
“Khalid, don’t speak to your father like-” his mother butted in.
“It’s alright, Sadia.” Khalil held up his hand interrupting his wife. Addressing Khalid, he said “Listen to me, to be treated like an adult, you really need to start acting like one. If you can prove to me that you are mature enough, I promise you, you will be given more independence.”
Not one to back down from a challenge, Khalid knew right away that he was going to end up agreeing to whatever his father had in store for him. “What do you want me to do?”
At Khalid’s words, a mischievous glint arose in Khalil’s eyes. Looking around at his other children- who had been quiet till now, he made a decision.
“Over the next few days, you will do as we ask; there are certain habits in you that must be changed, and I want you to prove yourself a mature boy by fixing these habits.” He paused to think for a short while, the light dancing in his eyes, he continued, “How about this?, we are going to place a note in your room, which will contain your instructions. What you have to do is find out what that note is asking you to do, and then show us that you are doing it.”
“Wait a minute! this is going to be way too easy for him! Make it a little challenging, Abu!” Khalid’s eldest sibling, Sa’ad cut in, always prepared to make life complicated for Khalid.
“Yeah, make it harder!” Maria piped in.
Khalid groaned, why were those two always after him?
“What do you suggest, then?” Khalil inquired.
“I say, there should be a clue Khalid is given to help him find the note. He solves the note, only if he solves the clue!” Maria supplied with a triumphant grin on her face.
“The clue should be hidden too then. Wouldn’t want to make it too easy for him, now would we?”
“Hmm.” Khalid’s father seemed lost in thought. Khalid himself looked resigned, used to his family’s antics. His mother, on the other hand, could not seem to contain her disapproval.
“Really, he’s just a kid, for Allah’s sake! He made a mistake, fine. Let him apologize and get this whole thing over with!” She shook her head as if fed up with the eccentric ideas her husband and children seemed to come up with.
Khalid, however, perked up at the mention of ‘kid’, and decided right away what he was going to do, “I’ll do it.”
Click on the link to Read the next part: The 1st trial