Khalid and Nara approached Alex gingerly, and it dawned on Alex how awful he must look. He hadn’t showered in two days. He had that forty-eight-hour unshaven look and a scummy taste in his mouth that came from sleeping so much. He felt like he was getting behind on his pain medication, despite his efforts to push the button on the morphine drip every time he woke up. His side throbbed. It felt like somebody had taken his insides out and beat on them with a hammer before sewing him back together.
He reached over and took a quick sip from his water bottle. “Thanks for coming by,” he managed. He smiled, but he knew it looked halfhearted.
Shannon stood on the left side of his bed, and Khalid and Nara stood next to his tray table on the right. Khalid started to talk and then swallowed hard to regain his composure. Alex was still a little groggy for this much emotion.
“I feel like I owe you my life,” Khalid said.
“She’s the one who knocked you to the floor,” Alex said, rolling his eyes toward Shannon.
“I don’t mean just that,” Khalid said. The sadness etched into his eyes made Alex remember how much this man had lost in the last few days. “I mean the way you stood by me in court and believed in me. There’s no way I can repay you for that.”
As Alex looked up at his client, he realized that he had never seen Khalid cry, even after everything the imam had been through. But there were tears in his eyes now, and he placed a hand on Alex’s forearm.
“You are one of the bravest men I’ve ever met,” Alex said. “If I had half your courage, I’d be unstoppable.”
Khalid shook his head slowly. “I’ve heard it said that success is when those who know you best love you most. By that standard, with the exception of Nara, my life has been quite a failure.”
Nara reached over and held her father’s hand.
“That’s not your fault,” Alex said. “People make choices. Even when you love them, they make choices we don’t understand. Nara is your legacy.”
Alex locked eyes with her. Nara looked tired, but her expression conveyed a deep sense of gratitude… perhaps not only for what Alex had done but for what he was saying now. He tried to concentrate, but his thoughts started running together.
“I’m sorry I doubted you, Khalid. There were times… I don’t know…” The sentence seemed to fall off a cliff. Alex wanted to somehow convey his admiration for this man’s unwavering convictions and for his trust in Alex as his lawyer. But he couldn’t quite string the words together.
“I’m sorry… I forgot what I was trying to say. But what I meant was that you can’t blame yourself. What you’ve done, and the way you handled yourself in this case, is amazing. And you’ve also got a pretty amazing daughter.”
The comment actually made Khalid smile. A thin smile, with a trace of irony, but it helped Alex realize that the only things Khalid had left were his faith and his daughter.
A nurse walked in and took some notes about Alex’s vital signs. While she did this, Shannon and the Mobassars chatted as if Alex had left the room. By the time the nurse finished, the mood in the room had lightened. Khalid and Nara asked the expected questions about Alex’s injuries and how he was feeling. Alex started fading fast, and after an awkward silence, Khalid said that he and Nara should probably be going.
“I’d like to stay in touch,” Alex said.
“I would like that very much,” Khalid responded.
Nara looked apprehensive and turned to Shannon. “Would it be okay if I had a moment with Alex?” she asked. Shannon looked a little surprised but didn’t object. Khalid touched Alex on the shoulder and thanked him again. He promised to come by the next day.