Hasib turned slowly and crossed his own arms across his chest and raised an eyebrow. Fariha glanced between the two men and moved forward to Abdar.
“He’s here as my guest, Abdar,” Fariha said hurriedly.
“I didn’t think you had the authority to invite people into our glass factories,” Abdar replied.
“I’m the daughter of Malek, I can do whatever I wish,” Fariha returned, standing firm.
“I’m sure your father thinks very differently,” Abdar said. “If he knew that you were bringing a banished tribe member back to the glass fields, I’m sure he’d have a few things to say.”
“I’m sure he would, but he’s away and I am making my own decisions.”
“I’d think my decisions through a little more. Do you know what they’ll do if they find he’s come back here and taken you away from the camp?”
“I am perfectly ready to take any rebukes or punishment for my actions. Anyone would think it’s a crime to want to spend time with one’s brother.”
Abdar watched Hasib as he remained with crossed arms.
“Don’t you have anything to say?” Abdar asked, raising an eyebrow.
Hasib smiled and laughed quietly.
“Not really, I’m just amused by this pointless argument you two are having right now,” Hasib replied.
“It is not pointless. Abdar is planning to throw you out and take me back to camp without you,” Fariha said with annoyance. “You said you had business to do here.”
“I do,” Hasib answered simply.
“Abdar isn’t going to allow that,” Fariha said.
“I don’t believe Abdar ever said that,” Hasib replied.
“Oh shut up, Hasib. You know he will do that, because he is under our father’s command.”
“You said yourself, Fariha, Malek is currently out of town.”
“That doesn’t change anything,” Fariha sighed in annoyance.
“No it doesn’t,” Abdar agreed, stepping forward.
“See,” Fariha said with a wave of a hand.
“I’d accept you into the camp any day of the year,” Abdar said, walking up to Hasib.
The two men shook hands and hugged, smiling cheerily.
“What?” Fariha said in confusion.
The two men merely laughed at her confusion and Hasib moved forward to pat her on the arm. Fariha frowned and then crossed her own arms, demanding an explanation.
“We are friends, Fariha. We have been since we were youngsters,” Abdar explained quietly.
“But you hardly ever spoke to each other, how could you have been friends?” Fariha asked.
“We didn’t speak at the camp because of our social differences. Once Hasib was sent to the glass fields and began working, we usually talked daily. I was a messenger between the camp and the glass fields and Hasib was the most knowledgeable one on how production was going. We found we had more in common than we first thought,” Abdar continued smiling.
“How often did you go to the glass fields, Hasib?” Fariha asked directly.
“Whenever I angered Malek, which got more regular the older I got,” Hasib replied, honestly.
“Father just said that you had run off to have a think in the desert. I thought you were crazy but father insisted that’s just what men do when they have to think,” Fariha said.
“Well technically I did go off into the desert and I did do a lot of thinking. There’s not much else you can do when you’re doing the night shift, collecting endless amounts of sand,” Hasib replied with a smile. “Ah, those were the days.”
“Yeah, remember that time you were stung by two scorpions in a matter of minutes?” Abdar asked, grinning across at his friend.
“Yeah…that was a not so pleasant night,” Hasib admitted. “They may not be fatal, but they still hurt like hell. I’m surprised you haven’t been stung by one ever though.”
“I’m just lucky I guess. My day too shall come,” Abdar said, with a laugh.
“Yeah right, they all run from the sight of you. Have you built up even more muscles since last time I saw you?”
“You have to keep fit, especially when you need to mount a horse at a moment’s notice.”
“Sure, I’m pretty sure you’re just showing off. My Eladrin side won’t allow me to build much muscle mass,” Hasib said with a shrug.
“You’re kidding me right? You’re toned as f-” Abdar said, punching Hasib in the arm. “-as, erm hell.”
“Toned as hell?” Fariha asked, raising an eyebrow. “I do know swear words, Abdar. Father says enough swear words to give me quite the vocabulary, should I wish to use them.”
Hasib and Abdar laughed, having been at the end of Malek’s swearing tirades before. Fariha shook her head at the two of them and smiled.
“Well, I’m glad you two get along,” Fariha said happily.
“Especially since he’ll soon be my brother-in-law,” Hasib whispered, so only Fariha could hear.
“Shut up!” Fariha hissed, punching Hasib in the shoulder.
Hasib moved away, with a laugh, and rubbed his shoulder gently. Abdar raised an eyebrow and Hasib waved him off with his left hand.
“Never mind, inside joke,” Hasib said. “And that hurt, Fariha.”
“Then you shouldn’t tease your dear sister so much,” Fariha replied sweetly.
“Fair point,” Hasib replied, with a bow.
“So how long are you planning to stay, Hasib?” Abdar asked.
“A couple of weeks. I’ll be out of here well before the caravan gets back,” Hasib answered seriously. “I have quite a bit of work to do, so I’ll be camping out here until then.”
“I thought you were here to see me. I have like a billion questions to ask,” Fariha complained.
“And I shall answer all those questions, I promise. But now that I know you can sneak out of camp, I have no reason to be the one who goes to the camp,” Hasib answered reassuringly. “Beside Abdar can take you to and from the camp on his horse.”
“I’m willing,” Abdar answered. “But it’s up to you, Fariha.”
“Sure why not. It’s not like father will be able to do anything,” Fariha answered with a smile. “Besides I’m intrigued with what you do here exactly, Hasib.”
“You aren’t a spy for Malek, planning to tell him about all my movements?” Hasib asked.
“Perhaps, but you’ll just have to take that risk,” Fariha answered with a smile.
“Alright,” Hasib said, becoming serious. “I’ll go investigate the glass stock and quality. Fariha you can follow, just don’t touch anything hot or get in the way of the workers.”
“Hasib, I am not a child,” Fariha said with a loud sigh.
“I know, force of habit,” Hasib assured her.
Several hours went by, as Hasib checked all the glass stocks. He melted several down and tested the malleability and how it took the colouring powder. Hasib scribbled several observations on a clipboard filled with sheets of paper. He talked with several workers to see what sand fields they had been taking from and whether any new fields had opened.
Fariha couldn’t quite keep up with everything that was being said, but Abdar explained to her slowly. Abdar kept an eye on the time and it came time for him to return to the camp. Fariha joined him reluctantly and Hasib walked them out of the factory.
“What exactly is your role here, Hasib?” Fariha asked as he helped her mount the horse.
“I guess you could say I’m an investigator. I keep an eye on quality, worker’s conditions and come up with solutions to the problems,” Hasib answered.
“Who pays you for your work?” Fariha asked, with a frown.
“No-one. It’s a purely volunteer role,” Hasib replied, smiling up at her.
“But why would you do that?”
“They’re like my family. Even if it doesn’t give me any profit, it helps the workers and makes their life easier. It’s just like a vacation, because I love doing the work.”
“You’re a bit strange,” Fariha said, shaking her head.
“I’ve told him that many a time, he thrives on being strange,” Abdar chimed in with a grin.
“Yeah, well, you should probably get back, and leave strange old me to get back to work,” Hasib said.
“You mean get back to volunteering,” Fariha returned.
“Exactly,” Hasib said with a nod. “I’ll see you both tomorrow at some point.”
Hasib stood and waved goodbye as they galloped across the dunes and out of sight. He smiled slightly and sighed, before turning back to the factory doors. Hasib suddenly laughed however and several workers glanced at him curiously.
“I just wondered if either of those two will actually talk during their journey back,” Hasib explained, leaning on a bench. “Both of them are so awkward within themselves, they’ll take the whole journey to think of something with enough eloquence to say to the other.”
The workers laughed and nodded.
“True, if I didn’t know Abdar’s reasons, I would tell him to hurry up and ask her out,” one worker said. “He talks about her enough to make my ears bleed.”
“Ah, young love. Such youthful nervousness,” Hasib said, shaking his head.
“Does that mean you are or have been in a relationship yourself, Hasib?” one young female worker asked, a teasing smile spreading across her lips.
“Why, Aesha, do I hear a hint of jealousy?” Hasib asked, looking at the woman.
“Not even a sliver of jealousy in my mind, Hasib Asad,” the woman responded. “I already have a man in my life.”
“Congratulations! I’ll be sure to send a wedding gift,” Hasib answered with a grin.
“You avoided her question,” a male worker yelled.
“What question?” Hasib yelled back innocently.
“Whether you have or had a woman in your life. In the romantic kind of relationship.”
“Ah…” Hasib said, shaking his head. “Unfortunately no woman has been able to charm me yet, though many have tried.”
“As if!” a gruff male responded.
The factory was filled with laughter and constant banter. Morale was always high, when Hasib Asad was in town. He had dozens of offers for a place to stay and all manner of tasty meals were on the table. Hasib declined the offers and instead rested in a small tent, just outside the factory. The stars were bright and welcoming and the moon rose like an orb into the sky.
I’m so tired, Hasib thought with a yawn. But who would have thought that Fariha was so interested in the workings of a glass factory. Though I guess it does run in her blood line.
Hasib rolled over and picked up a bowl of curry that a worker had brought over to him. It was warm and the meat was welcomed like an old friend to Hasib’s growling stomach. Hasib sighed happily and took another scoop of the curry onto a piece of Naan bread. The bread made it an easy way to eat without the use of cutlery.
Ah, one thing I wish I had learnt while here was how to cook a good curry, Hasib thought. When you’re alone, you can’t rely on a community meal to feed you. I’ll have to add that to the list of things to do while here.
Hasib finished the bowl of food and extra pieces of bread and placed it aside. He crawled into his tent and pulled a blanket over himself. It was going to be a long day, and he need to get some good rest.