Tim was a university student and had recently begun getting his doctorate, moving away from his old university friends. Moving away from his best friend, Nurah, was the hardest part. He had become almost like a member of the family, a point that still confused him. Nurha’s family were of Pakistani origin, and always surprised him with how open and welcoming they were towards him, a white guy. Not only had Nurah moved away, but so had her younger sister, Haifah.
Haifah was what many refer to as a “late bloomer”. At the age of 21 she was only just starting university, 3 years older than when Nurah had started. Her family were dubious about her starting medicine, a 5 year degree, at such an “old” age. But if Haifah was anything, it was stubborn. She reveled in their doubt and insisted on proving them wrong. She had moved to London, far away from their family home in the Midlands, her first time away from home.
Tim was on a train, heading for the capital, to spend the afternoon with Haifah. She was like a younger sister to him, and although she would never tell her family so, she was struggling with the workload. Although Tim hadn’t done medicine – with his doctorate being in Biology – he knew many of the core principles Haifah would learn in her first year. Haifah had confided in him that she was a little lonely, and a little behind on her work. Tim insisted on coming to help, much to Haifah’s feigned dismay.
“Haifah, its me…” he spoke softly, his iPhone to his ear, “I’m downstairs.”
Haifah lived in modest student accommodation, but with reasonable security. The guard on the desk wouldn’t let him in without being accompanied by a resident.
“How long will you be staying?” the security guard asked, winking to Tim as Haifah bounced through the door.
“Oh just the afternoon” Tim smiled.
“Oh, in that case, you just need to sign the day visitors book” the guard replied, throwing a pen in Tim’s direction and pointing at the ring binder on the desk.
Tim followed Haifah to her block, holding the door to her building open for her. Haifah was petite, and easily able to walk under Tim’s arm as he held the door.
“Aren’t you a gentleman!” Haifah giggled.
Tim followed Haifah up the stairs, three floors up. He’d never seen Haifah’s room, and had only seen pictures. Haifah opened the door to her room, which was in fact more of a studio apartment. It was pleasant, if a little musky. She had her own en suite toilet, and living area and shared a kitchen through an adjoining corridor with one other girl. The more Tim thought about it, the more strange it seemed – sharing a kitchen but not a living room.
As expected, Haifah’s apartment was only barely tidy, her bedroom even less so. He could tell that she’d thrown a lot of things into cupboards about 30 seconds before coming down to collect him. She never was very organised. Papers and books were strewn over what Tim assumed was a desk – he couldn’t actually see it, only make out what it was from its contents.
“Tidy as always I see…” Tim smirked.