Ten to five and still I was not done. Anisa was heading out the door when she yelled over her shoulders, "Don't forget, the show starts at seven."
"I'll be there," I called back.
"That's what you said last time," she grumbled, "and you didn't show. Can't that wait until tomorrow? This night is really important; you have to be there."
"Don't worry, I just have a few more i's to dot and t's to cross," I said, trying to sound convincing and sincere. She looked at me. "Okay, but if you miss my performance I will never forgive you."
"I will be there, I promise."
She blew a kiss and left the room. I smiled to myself. I was quite proud of Anisa. Of all my friends, she was the most quiet, timid and reserved person I had ever known. She had some real self-esteem issues when we first met due to her misfortunate upbringing. But she has changed. Ever since she volunteered at a shelter for homeless kids, she has blossomed. A year ago today, I could not get her to speak in front of our sisters' group, now she's performing on stage for an audience at the Islamic Convention for Women Against Violence!
I quickly delved back into the pile of files on my desk. Obsession with completion and accuracy has always been my problem. I could stay up all night perfecting a perfect document. Now was no different. I was just closing the last file with a smile of achievement when the phone rang.
"Fatimah Abdul Kadir?"
"Are you a friend of Anisa Mahmoud?"
I gasped. "Anisa!" I looked at my watch, ten-thirty. I did it again. Where had the time gone? She'd never forgive me this time.
"Yes, I'm her friend."
The gloom in the speaker's voice began to frighten me. My heart began to race. "Is she okay?" I asked feebly.
"I'm sorry ma'am, but she has been killed in a car accident. We will need you to come and identify her body."
Dead! Anisa was dead! How could that be? I hung up the phone and sank into the couch. Allah have Mercy, I broke a promise. I let her down by not being there for her and now I can't tell her I'm sorry and how proud I was of her for her achievements. Why didn't I seize the moment when I had the chance? How could I let my obsessions occupy me so much that I could not make it to her final performance?
The next day, the papers were filled with praise and sorrow. They told of a promising, guiding light for disadvantaged children of the inner city, which was put out by a drunken driver when he slammed into her car as she was driving home from the Alpha Theater, where she gave a stunning performance. A young lark, she learned to fly – and now she has flown away never to return.