More Precious than a Crown(2)

By: Carol Marinelli


‘Please,’ Trinity said, and then sighed. Zahid was so austere, so formal and so rigid that it was pointless even trying to get him on side. Yet, just as she went to walk off and face the music, he halted her.

‘If I am going to cover for you, first I need to know what you have been up to.’

Trinity slowly turned. Even when she had asked Zahid to cover for her, she’d never really expected him to agree, yet it sounded now like he might. ‘I was at my friend Suzanne’s,’ came her cautious reply.

‘Doing what?’

‘Just...’ Trinity shrugged.

‘Just what?’

‘Dancing.’

‘You have been to a party?’

‘No! We were just listening to music in her room and dancing.’ Trinity almost rolled her eyes as she attempted to explain to his nonplussed expression, because clearly that wasn’t the type of behaviour Zahid would understand. ‘We were trying on make-up, that sort of thing.’

‘Why are you hiding clothes?’ Zahid looked at what she was wearing—a long-sleeved top and a pair of jeans—and then he watched as Trinity screwed her blue eyes closed, no doubt to come up with a suitable lie.

Trinity was, Zahid knew, a skilled liar, only what he didn’t know was that she wasn’t trying to lie now. She simply didn’t know, in this, how she could tell the truth, when it was just a feeling she had.

How could she explain that Suzanne had suggested she borrow some clothes because Trinity hadn’t liked the way her aunt’s new husband had been looking at her in the dress her mother had bought for her? Trinity didn’t understand enough herself, let alone know how to explain it to Zahid, just how awkward Clive made her feel.

She refused to call him Uncle.

He was the reason that she’d run off.

It was the reason that Trinity was always running off at family things and, given that Zahid was only ever there on family occasions, he saw this behaviour all too often.

‘Last time I was here, I caught you climbing out of your bedroom window,’ Zahid said, and watched as Trinity did her very best to keep her face straight. ‘It is not a laughing matter.’

No, it wasn’t a laughing matter, Trinity thought, but the memory of it made her smile. Zahid had refused to believe she had simply been hungry and, rather than facing all the guests, had simply been trying to sneak into the kitchen. He’d brought her out a plate of food and then watched as she’d climbed back up to her room, using a tree and the trellis. Given her practised movements, it had been a presumably well-worn path for Trinity.

‘I haven’t done anything wrong,’ Trinity said.

‘Perhaps not, but on family occasions you should be here.’ It was black and white to Zahid yet sometimes with Trinity it blurred to grey. She was so spirited and wilful and just so visibly unimpressed with her family that at times she made Zahid silently cheer, not that he would let her know that. ‘You don’t just disappear.’

‘I know, I know,’ Trinity started, but then a mischievous smile prettied her sulky face. ‘So, what’s your excuse, then?’

‘Excuse?’

‘What are you doing in the woods?’ And then, as realisation hit, she started to laugh. ‘Sorry, that was a stupid question.’ Zahid’s frown only deepened the more she tried to explain. ‘Well, I guess you needed to...’ Trinity stopped then. There was not a single vulgar thing about Zahid and, no, now that she came to think of it, Trinity could not imagine Zahid popping into the woods to answer the call of nature! ‘My mistake.’

‘I went for a walk so that I could think.’ Zahid looked down at her. Of all the Fosters, Trinity was the only one he would miss. Yes, she made him smile at times, but he wasn’t smiling as he saw that since her last escapade Trinity had changed. She had, in fact, grown into a very beautiful young woman. Her hair was blonde and had been cut in a jagged style, her eyes were huge in a too-thin face and they sparkled as she waited for him to speak. ‘If you were in Ishla you would be expected to support your parents and mix with the guests...’

‘I’m not in Ishla, though.’

As they started to walk back towards the party, Trinity tripped a little.

‘Have you been drinking?’

‘No.’

‘Are you sure?’

‘I think I’d remember if I had.’

He turned her to him and took her cheeks in his hands. He saw her dilated pupils and neither quite recognised the lust between them yet. ‘Blow.’

‘You’re breath-testing me?’

‘Blow,’ Zahid said, and she did, but he could smell no alcohol.