Authors: Ashley Cassidy
Resilient Hearts Book 1
Copyright © 2014 by Ashley Cassidy
Cover Art by Mandy Hills of MHPhotography and Kari Ayasha of Cover to Cover Designs
Editing by Anna Gorman Coy
Inkstain Interior Book Designing
All rights reserved.
This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. Please do not participate or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
You are the wind beneath my wings.
Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”
The ocean breeze is slowly wafting over my skin.
The view in front of me is breathtaking. Turquoise blue water as far as the eye can see and waves crashing at the unyielding edges of the cliffs that stand erect below me. A few sailboats leisurely travel the ocean waters and seagulls move their wings harmoniously with the wind. The world seems serene, delightful, and heavenly. Yet, what I feel inside is a world of turmoil so overwhelmingly severe that I feel like I am in a dark black pit.
I try to focus on the view in front of me and force my lungs to take in some air. Inhale, exhale, I repeat to myself, as I try to think about anything but the dreadful mess my life has become. But no amount of focus or meditation can keep my mind away for more than a mere few seconds from the horrific tale my life has turned into.
My mind travels back to the events of the past few weeks and inevitably comes back to the same question I have been asking myself for over three weeks: “
How could my life turn so suddenly and irrevocably upside down in a matter of a few minutes
I always played by the rules, never stepping over boundaries or doing anything that my parents would consider unacceptable behavior for a girl. All through high school, when my friends secretly broke their parents’ rules, sneaked out of the house, and partied, I stayed home like the good girl my family expected me to be and buried my head in my books. My breaks from my studies consisted of helping my mom with housework.
All of those studies paid off. I was at the top of my high school class and had a very high SAT score. The full ride scholarships I got to two of my top four college choices were a direct testament to my hard work. My parents were beyond excited. Not only was their daughter going to be the first one in the family to go to college, but also all her educational expenses would be covered.
After all the years, I finally felt like I had gained my dad’s admiration and trust. But, I wanted more than that. I wanted his affection. I wanted him to finally look at me the way he had been adoringly looking at my brothers for as long as I could remember. That is why I decided to stay here in LA and go to UCLA instead of moving to the Bay area to attend UC Berkley. Berkley had been my first choice, but I decided to stay in LA to make my parents happy.
Choosing UCLA meant I could continue living at home instead of moving away. This way, my parents didn’t have to worry about their little girl moving out and living on her own in a new city. I knew I wasn’t a little girl anymore, and I understood too well that their worries and their protectiveness was ridiculous, but my desire to make them happy overrode my sensibility.
Thinking back, I think I always did what my parents wanted me to do. Even after I started college, I never strayed too far from what they expected of me, and that
included their rules about boys. My parents are from Pakistan. They are traditional with very strict views about what are appropriate behaviors for a girl. Dating
is not one of them.
In their view, girls are supposed to stay single and chaste until it is time for them to marry. Most girls in my family are set up with men their family already knows or they have been introduced to, and there is generally very little dating done before the couple becomes engaged. Of course, just because the parents forbid it, does not mean the children follow the rules. Most of my cousins secretly dated many times and broke all of the rules before they decided to marry.
I was really an exception. I knew I could break the rules, but never had any desire to. I was always too worried about disappointing my dad to risk breaking his rules.
That’s why when Imran first started showing interest in me I was very hesitant to respond, especially since he was my best friend’s brother. Zoha had been my friend ever since I could remember. Our moms were close friends before we were even born, and we started playing with each other when we were just babies. Our families were from the same country and they shared many cultural traditions. This meant we had a lot in common. We understood each other well and were inseparable from childhood. But because she had older brothers living at home, my parents rarely let me sleepover at her house until the boys moved out. After they left, I was finally allowed to stay at Zoha’s house as much as I wanted to. And with me having very little social life, I started spending a lot of time there.
At first, her brothers would come around only a couple of times a month, but after realizing that I was there a lot, her younger brother Imran started coming around more and more often. Every time he came by, he would try to find an opportunity to talk to me.
In the beginning, our interactions were very innocent. He would ask me about my school and family or talk about the latest movies or mutual friends. After a while though, when he could tell I was starting to get comfortable around him, he gradually turned the conversations flirtatious.
When that happened, I was hesitant to respond to him at first. I stayed polite, but distant. I had very good reason to stay away from him. I had grown up with Zoha and known Imran’s reputation well. He was a known heartless playboy who treated girls like trash after he got what he wanted from them. I had seen him in action many times over the years and had heard many stories of the trail of broken heart girls he left behind.
Imran understood that I knew his reputation, so he played his cards right. He was calculating and very patient as he slowly and methodically broke down my walls. He acted very differently with me than all the other girls I had seen him with. Imran had always been after only one thing with girls, and he pursued the kind of girls he knew would not be too much of a challenge for him. So the fact that he kept coming back to talk to me time after time, even when I gave him the cold shoulder, really grabbed my attention.
He also approached me at first by talking about things that mattered to me. But what surprised me the most was how he was always very respectful and mindful of my boundaries, instead of being his usual overly fun and flirty self.
It wasn’t until I had started to trust him that he began using his charm. And when he wanted to, Imran knew how to be charming. He played his hand right and I fell perfectly into his trap.
Imran waited until he knew I had started warming up to him before he asked me out on a date, and when he finally did, I didn’t hesitate before saying yes. I also didn’t think anything of it, when he suggested that we keep the date a secret, even from Zoha. In fact, I was somewhat relieved that no one was going to find out. Not only was I breaking my parents’ strict rule of no dating, I was also going out with Zoha’s brother. If my family got wind of that, they wouldn’t let me spend another minute at her house. Besides, everyone knew Imran’s reputation and I had no doubt if my brothers found out I was going on a date with him, they would be furious. I saw no reason to subject Imran or myself to that.
The only person I had a hard time keeping this a secret from was Zoha. We always told each other everything, especially things relating to boys, and I felt bad going on my first date with her brother behind her back. But Imran convinced me that I shouldn’t tell her anything until we go on this date and see how things go.
That date with Imran went better than I had expected. Being that it was my first date and I knew I was going out with a known playboy, I was very nervous in the beginning, but Imran eased my worries quickly as he acted like a perfect gentleman.
He was charming and funny, but remained respectful and didn’t cross any boundaries or do anything that could make me uncomfortable. By the end of the date, I was over the moon.
The truth was I couldn’t believe someone like Imran was interested in me. I had always been the shy nerdy girl boys didn’t pay much attention to, and I had only seen Imran with fun, outgoing, and gorgeous looking girls. I couldn’t believe he was now showing interest in me or that he cared enough to invest so much time and effort into convincing me to go out with him.
I was thrilled that a man like him was finally paying attention to me, and the prospect of taming a bad boy into falling in love with me was exhilarating. So at the end of the date, when he told me this was different for him, I believed him. And when he insisted that we keep our relationship secret from everyone including Zoha, I didn’t argue. He told me Zoha would try to break us up before we even got a chance to get to know each other, and I knew he was right. Zoha had never had a good relationship with Imran and I knew she would be livid if she found out that I planned on dating him. So that is how my secret relationship with Imran began.
We continued to see each other every few days, always at isolated places where it was unlikely we would run into anyone we knew. We also talked and texted every day. He would send me sweet little romantic texts all the time and even surprised me by leaving roses on the windshield of my car once.
So every day, I gave a little bit more of my heart to him. By the end of the first month, the desperately romantic girl in me was already fantasizing about wedding plans.
But when he kissed me for the first time, something didn’t feel right. I had pictured my first kiss in my head about a million times before that day and I always thought it would feel magical. I anticipated it to be an exhilarating experience but when it actually happened, it felt uncomfortable and forced. There was something about that kiss that didn’t feel right and it made me decide to take things slower with Imran.
When I first told him, I wanted to move slowly, Imran appeared understanding, but as the weeks went by, he started getting more and more impatient.
I should have seen the signs, but I was blinded by my idealistic desire to make my first relationship an everlasting one. In the last couple of weeks of seeing Imran, he wanted to meet me at places that were more private and out of sight, and as soon as he would see me, he would start trying to make out. I always stopped him after it got to a point I was uncomfortable with and he would act frustrated and irritated every time.
I blamed it on him being a guy and started making excuses for
him. I told myself Imran was not a guy who was used to going without sex and he was just sexually frustrated. I stayed patient with him and tried to explain to him that I just couldn’t go there with anyone until I was at least engaged. In my mind, I thought this would speed things up and would make him want to make our relationship official faster. How I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Imran was not interested in marrying me or even dating me long term. His sole purpose in dating me had been one thing and that was not even because he was attracted to me.
Just the thought of what he told me later makes me feel sick in my stomach, as it brings my mind back to the events of that horrific Thursday afternoon. After three weeks, the scene is still so vividly fresh in my mind that as soon as my thoughts travel there, I feel my stomach lurch. Pain overtakes my whole body. My heart pounds in my chest and my hands are drenched in cold sweat. My eyes burn with unshed tears and breathing becomes difficult.
I bring my knees up to my chest and try to hug them as tight as I can to try to prevent another dry-heaving spell. I haven’t eaten much in the past few weeks and any food I had last night already came out this morning, when my mom told me of my dad’s plans for me.
The pressure of knees in my stomach helps with the nausea, but it makes breathing even more difficult. I know I need to take in more air into my lungs, so as soon as I think I am able to stand on my legs, I get up from the bench and slowly make my away to the railing that barricades the park from the ocean below. As I lean against the railing, an errant thought crosses my mind; what if I jump from this cliff and end my nightmare now? Wouldn’t it be easier than trying to deal with this much pain?
As soon as it crosses my mind, the thought startles me. I have never been weak. Never a quitter. In fact, I was known in my family for my stubbornness in the face of challenges. When I had a hard time learning to play the violin as a kid, instead of giving up, I started practicing every day; to the point, my parents and my brothers started begging me to stop. Yet, I didn’t give up until I was good at it. And now here I am, at the age of twenty, contemplating ending my own life.
The reality that my life has become so horrific now that I would consider giving everything up makes my heart ache. I shake my head a few times to try and stop my mind from going there. I review all my options in my mind to try to think of a rational solution. But as I think everything through, I cannot help to think that death may be a better choice than what awaits me at home.