“I don’t know if I can do this anymore, Man.” Rahsia gripped her mug of hot cocoa with both hands in the silence of her living room. Nek had felt well enough in the morning to go to the Rumah Ibadat, a duty she only managed to discharge two to three times a week now. The priests had sent a young acolyte to walk her there and promised to send her home if she weakened.
Iman, cradling her cup of tea in a similar manner, looked at her pointedly. “You were the one who asked her to stay with you.”
“What else could I do? It’s easier than having to run over five times a day every time Nek has a fall. Besides, she has yet to finish teaching me. She has to teach me everything about the Secretkeeper role before she dies.”
“That’s the real reason you want her here, isn’t it?” Iman said with a sly grin. “You think she’s going to die soon so you want to keep her close to ensure the power goes to you.”
“Iman! You know—”
“Yes, yes, Sia, I know. The role passes through the family line and you’re next in line. You don’t need to worry. Who wants to steal it from you anyway?”
Rahsia rolled her eyes. “Nek will know the time of her death anyway. She says it’s a boon given to the Secretkeeper so that she can prepare her successor.”
“So I’m guessing she doesn’t have a date yet?”
Rahsia shook her head. “No foreknowledge as yet. Though she could be keeping things from me…”
Iman reached over and laid a hand on her best friend’s thigh. “She wouldn’t do that. Look, she’s still strong enough to be out and about discharging her duties. Don’t worry. Besides, I can help, you know.”
“I—she’s not your—”
“Sia, Nek took care of me when I was young too. She’s like my godmother. Like my own grandmother.”
“But your children—” Rahsia stilled at Iman’s hand wave.
“Would benefit from knowing Nek better as their adopted great-grandmother. Tulen is already seven and Telus is three. They don’t need second by second supervision. I can come over on the weekends and you can take some time off for yourself. You need rest, Sia.”
Rahsia sighed, but nodded in assent. “Where are they now anyway?”
“Their father took them out.”
“Huh. Visitation day?”
“He just decided to show up. I don’t know how to predict the man anymore. At least he takes an interest in the children. Occasionally.”
Iman’s husband had left the family suddenly two years ago, when Telus had barely been weaned. After a couple of frantic months searching for him, involving daily visits to the local policing force and the Rumah Ibadat, Iman had decided to move on with her life. With Nek’s and Rahsia’s help taking care of the children, she’d found a job that would enable her to support her family. Now she worked during the weekdays when Tulen was in school and Telus was at the babysitter’s. Her husband had suddenly reappeared a year later, often staying only a day or two before moving on again.
“You won’t divorce?”
Iman smiled wryly. “You know I don’t believe in divorce. He’s still my husband, still their father. Whether he decides to take an active role in their lives or not, that’s his choice. Though I won’t deny that if he disappears and never comes back, I will be relieved.”
“Did he ever say where he went?”
“No. And I can’t exactly ask, can I? We’re not quite on talking terms right now.”
Rahsia snorted then grew serious. “Iman, I can’t exactly ask you to deal with my problems when you’re barely coping with your own.”
“Rahsia, what else is family for?”
“Shh. Best friend.” Iman pointed at Rahsia. “Plus godmother,” she brought her index fingers together, “equals secret sisters.”
“You’re ridiculous,” Rahsia replied, but she couldn’t help smiling.
And we finally get a current snippet from my failing campnano effort!
Iman is Rahsia’s best friend and Tulen’s mother. She's a slightly wacky and scatterbrained counterpoint to Rahsia's serious, earnest persona, and plays a key role in Secretkeeper.