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The sound of a car interrupted her thought. It was Ani, her best friend. Saleha had called and asked Ani to meet her there. Ani knew about Saleha's illness. She had been accompanying Saleha to University Hospital in Kuala Lumpur from time to time. Ani owned a Muslim clothes boutique. Her business had always been the reason every time they went to the hectic city. Today, she went to the General Hospital in their hometown to get the latest result of her condition. Her doctor at GH and Dr. Norman at UH had been in contact for months now.
Saleha looked into Ani's eyes and broke the news to her best friend. The woman had been her friend since they moved to Johor Baharu twenty-five years ago. Holding Ani's hand, they walked to a bench.
"Thank you, Ani", Saleha began. "Thank you for all that you've done for me and my children...for always being there for me especially...giving me the courage and praying for the strength for me to face this ordeal."
Ani watched Saleha and she could sense Saleha's calmness even after the distressing news. But she was not surprised because that was something that she had always admired about Saleha. She always looked calm. "Sal, you know how much I appreciate our friendship. You're like a sister to me. We are like one family. Your children are like mine."
"I know and that is why I need your help", Saleha looked into Ani's eyes again, searching for an agreement. Deep in her heart she already knew what the answer would be. As if confirming what was in her friend's heart, Ani responded.
"Of course, I will do anything I can. In sha Allah. Is this about the children? Have you told them?"
"No and I don't intend to...well, at least not yet." Saleha turned to face the sea. The small waves moved in rhythm with her calmness but a strong will was inside her.
"But, Sal don't you think it's time for them to know. You're their mother and they love you. At least it could prepare them for any...". Ani looked concerned. She knew the family was very close. It had become even more since Kamal's death. She admired and respected the strong bond in Saleha's family….the loyalty of the children.
Saleha faced Ani and said, "I know, but right now I can't tell them yet especially not to Imran". In a deep strong voice, Saleha continued. "He has done a lot for the family, ever since Kamal's death. He always wants to be strong for me and for his siblings. That night is still fresh in my mind...he was trying so hard not to breakdown. And since then, he has thrown himself into work and more work. He has taken care of me, Iskandar, Hanim and Hidayat for so long. I know I can count on him when that day comes. No doubt he would be there…always… for Iskandar, Hanim and Hidayat. Just as he did for me when Kamal died. In sha Allah, he will."
Silence. They both watched the sea. Their heart beats matched with the rhythm of the waves…which looked calm as they moved towards the beach but after they hit the white sand, they went back into the sea…continuos without an end. The same was felt in both women's hearts and minds. They felt the urge to reveal the "secret" to the children, but telling them would not change Saleha's condition. And the woman didn't want to drag the family into the unhappiness and uncertainty of the illness. And they knew Imran well not to tell him yet.
Ani saw Imran grow up into a fine man. She knew almost the whole chapters of his life. "I always see Kamal in him... strong in facing life and believe in himself. And, like his father, family is so important to him", Ani said.
Saleha's friend had known her son since he was nine years old. She remembered him as a quiet but easy-going little boy. He was like any boy of his age except a strong loyalty in him. When the other boys would play with friends, leaving behind the siblings by themselves, Imran would not leave his behind alone. He was also very protective of his brothers and sister.
Turning to face Ani, Saleha said, "That is why I want to do something for him before I finally closed my eyes, In sha Allah. And I need your help to do it".
Ani quickly nodded in response to her friend's request. "What about Iskandar and Hanim?", asked Ani.
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