He was rushed to the A & E ward. Maryam and her team did every possible thing to make him stable. After running a lot of tests, she found out his blood pressure is high which made him to faint. He was taken to a private room while she went out to inform his father and step mother about his condition.

Alhaji Muhammad scrambled up when he saw her walking towards them. "Maryam, how is he? Ya tashi kuwa? (Did he wake up?)" Umma asked worriedly. Maryam smiled a bit and shook her head. "No Umma but he will be awake in few hours, In sha Allah. But..." she paused and took a deep breath. "His blood pressure was very high which made him to faint. Umma, is there anything bothering Mahmud that he didn't tell me please?"

They stood still in shock. Alhaji Muhammad was out of words. "Maryam, you know Mahmud better than I do. We don't get the chance to sit and talk anymore ever since he moved out of the house to his own. I know it will be hard for him to tell anyone what is bothering him but you, so please help us and find out."

She swallowed hard and nodded. "I'll take care of him," she both looked at them. "May Allah bless you and give you a great spouse, my daughter," Alhaji Muhammad prayed. She replied sheepishly with Ameen. She went to his room while they left. She sat beside his bed and watched him as he sleep peacefully. His face looked pale, lips were dry. She shook her head wondering what could possibly be the problem. Why is he hiding his problems from her? It could not be because of his mother's death that caused that.

She sat there thinking of what could possibly be wrong with her best friend. She stood up from the chair when her phone indicated it was time for Zuhr prayer. She ordered Amanda to bring in her hijab and prayer mat to his room. She couldn't leave his side. She prayed and made her Du'a and stayed like that while silently reciting some Du'as.

She was deep lost in her ocean of thoughts when she heard his pale voice calling her in his sleep. "Manha... I can't hold it anymore... Manha..."

She rose up quickly and approached him. "Mahmud? I'm here. Look at me," she said softly, fighting back the tears. He finally opened his tired eyes and looked at her. "How are you feeling? Do you feel any pain?" She asks with concern. He stared at her without saying anything. He closed his eyes and smiled weakly. "I'm okay," he replied. She smiled back wiping her tears. "You still look cute when you cry." She rolled her eyes and chuckled. "Let's be serious here. You scared me. You've been unconscious for hours."

He beamed at her as if he wasn't feeling pains in his chest. "Salamu Alaikum," Umma came in. Maryam moved back a bit, greeting back. "Welcome back Umma," she said, helping her with the food basket. "Thank you my dear. Masha Allah he's awake, Alhamdulillah. Alhamdulillah." She praises. "Mahmuda? You really scared us."

"Umma I'm fine," he chuckled. "This has never happened to you so definitely we must be worried."

"I'll get my things to check him," Maryam said and excused herself. He stared at her till she closed the door. "Mahmuda when are you going to confess your love for this girl? She deserves to know and maybe she feels the same way about you," Umma advised. He shook his head, "no Umma. She sees me as a brother and best friend. Yes I love her but I do not wish to ruin our beautiful friendship."

"One day she will find out and I pray she finds out before it's too late."

• •

"Make sure you take all your drugs as prescribed. Please please please I'm begging you Mahmud, make sure you take them because it's very important, okay?" She talked as they walked out to the parking lot. "I promise you, I will take care of myself, trust me." He assured. She nodded and smile. “Yauwaa, Please tell him he has to stay with us till he recovers fully,” Ummah interrupts their staring contest. “You heard her,” Maryam said giving him a pointed look.

“Roger that,” he said teasingly. She opened the door for him and he entered. “I’ll come check up on you tomorrow morning, In sha Allah.” She closed the door for him and waved. She watched as their car left the premises. She heaved a sigh and turned, wondering how she’d make him speak up. He always looks happy, what could be the problem? She spent the rest of the day working while having a deep thought about it.

The next day, she woke up early and made Blueberry Muffin Waffles with Cinnamon Streusel and Vanilla Glaze. She got ready for work and headed to Mahmud’s parents house.

On her way into the house she met his step sister Aydah and his sister Fadila. “Dr Maryam,” Aydah said, hugging her. “Aydah, how are you? How’s school?” She asked. Fadila hissed walking away. Maryam looked at her smiling. “Don’t mind her, she’s not in a good mood today,” Aydah whispered. She hugged her again before walking fast to catch up with her sister.

She entered the living room with Salam. The house was looked neat and clean. She heard Umma’s voice coming from the kitchen. She dropped the box of muffins and entered the kitchen. “Salamu Alaikum, Umma,” she said upon entering the kitchen. “Maryam, thank God you’re here. My dear how are you?

“Good Morning Umma. I’m fine Alhamdulillah,” she replied. “Masha Allah. I need you to take this food to Mahmud, he barely ate last night. He’s in my living room.” Maryam assured her he’d eat before she left the kitchen.

She took the box and headed up the stairs to umma’s living room. He was wearing a white shirt with blue jeans. His eyes were fixed on the Tv but his mind was far away. “Salamu Alaikum,” she repeated but louder. He looked at her and replied smiling. “You’re here,” he said scratching the back of his head. She sat beside him but with a bit distance. “How are you feeling?” She asked worriedly. “I’m feeling much better but I still have headache,” he replied.

“Mahmud is there something you’d like to tell me?” He stared at her face in astonishment. He was expecting that question. He shook his head no, smiling. Her face expression changed immediately, “please Mahmud, tell me. Is something bothering you? You know your problem is my problem. We don’t hide anything from each other. I promised you that I’d look after you so please help me keep my promise by telling me what’s wrong so we’d fix it.

He opened his mouth to talk but nothing came out. He shook his head to ease the pain he was going through. “You scared me. You really did when I saw how your blood pressure was High. Tell me what is wrong with you and I will help you go through it. You know I’m always here for you no matter what.

“Manha,” he called out facing her properly. “You already said it; we don’t hide anything from each other. If there was something I would’ve told you. Maybe... it’s just stress from the work I do at night. I don’t get enough sleep.

“Okay, if you say so.” She heaved a sigh not satisfied with his reply. “Now you have to eat. I made some muffins for you but you have to eat this mouthwatering Masa and vegetable soup before eating it.” She said trying to serve him his breakfast. “I’ll eat only if you will,” he stated. “Silly you,” she said chuckling. “I ate before coming out.

She stared at him, smiling as he ate his breakfast in peace. “What?” He asked smiling back. “I’m waiting for you to finish that up and take your drugs before I leave,” she answered. He chuckled and continued eating. He finished eating and with her help, he took his drugs.

He had so many reasons to love her. She took care of him like his own mother did. She scolded him like his mother, advised him like a sister and friend and supported him like a wife. She’s exactly what he wants. But wasn’t possible because she loves him only as a brother.

“Mahmud what are you always thinking about? The way you zone out amazes me,” she said worriedly. “When will I see you again? Can you come over later after work? Umma will not allow me to go anywhere.” He tried to change the topic. She rolled her eyes, sighing. “Toh, Allah baki hakuri.” He said standing up. “You just look lovely today so I couldn’t stop staring,” he commented. She blushed turning her face away. “I have to go now. I’ll come back later in the evening,” she spoke picking up her handbag from the carpet.

He accompanied her outside to her car. “We’ll talk later, okay?” She said staring at his face. He smiled and nodded. She hopped in the car and he closed the door for her.

Later that evening, she went back to the house to check up on him. It was past Maghrib time. She met his sister, Fadila on her way out. Fadila folded her arms on her chest chest laughing, “well well well if it isn’t the heartless idiot! As prissy as a porpoise, you little snitch, smelly old ratbag, reek like a fish that's been out of water for a month, horrible little earwig, as thick as a 300-year-old oak tree's trunk. We all know why you’re here, because my brother is rich, good looking, every...

“Fadila!” That was the breaking point of his patience. At that moment, He was blinded by a five-course serving of rage that tasted bitter, yet surprisingly satisfying. He reached out. He went to slap her in the face. When his palm came in contact she fell to the ground wailing in pain, “This woman is older than you. Has sense pass you. Financially stable and much more nicer than you are. Is something bothering you Fadila? You’re just 19 but look at how you’re comfortably insulting her like she’s your mate...

“Mahmud, stop please. Let’s go in please.” He heaved a sigh and walked into the house. Maryam followed him, leaving Fadila whimpering on the floor.

She furiously stood up, dusting her abaya. “The game is on, I will make sure you regret making my brother to slap me!

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