Author Archives: Farah Saleem

About Farah Saleem

Queer, Writer, Arab, Muslim. Part-time adult. She/Her.

Make a whole

Warnings: a line that could be taken as past dub con

Elise allowed herself one break down a year. It’s been that way ever since she could remember. Her mother said it was because she allowed herself to fall in love so easily, but Elise couldn’t help it.

Every time it was over she would pick herself up, put the pieces back together and move on, but there was always collateral damage. Something would always roll under the closet or behind the couch, never to be seen again.

She made the mistake of letting this happen in front of her now ex-boyfriend and he took a piece before she could collect them all. She’d walked away before she realised it was a piece of her heart and now it was too late.

He’d buried the piece deep inside his heart, irretrievable. Sometimes he’d poke at it and she could feel the ache, but she was never going back.

She was twenty nine now, and had lost more pieces than she could count. There was a crumbling hole in her side from the time she went shopping and nothing looked good. There was a small hole just above her left ear from the time she fell apart at university, and a hole the size of a quarter in her shoulder blade when her first boyfriend had pushed her past the point she was comfortable. And there was that piece of her heart.

Her heart, which had been shattered and put back together so many times it didn’t even look like a heart anymore. Sometimes she wondered how anyone would want something so ugly and misshapen.

“I’m not whole,” she told Jake when he first asked her out.

He smiled. “I don’t mind, neither am I.”

She looked closer and saw how the outside of his right hand was gone, how there was a chunk of his knee missing.

“Someone else stole a piece of my heart,” she tried.


“I don’t want him to have it, but I can’t get it back anymore, it’s only a small piece anyway.”

“Okay,” Jake said, “how about I give you a piece of mine instead?”

“Oh, I’ve never had a piece of anyone’s heart before.”

“I know you’ll keep it safe.”

She knew it was reckless of him to do it; she couldn’t even keep her own heart whole, how can she be trusted with someone else’s?

Then he took out his heart and she saw it was just like hers, broken apart and put back together so many times. He had even more pieces missing than she did.

“I dropped it a few times,” he admitted, “and I tried to fill the gaps with things, but that only made it worse.”

“It’s beautiful,” she said, “I can’t take a piece of it.”

“But-“ he started, “what do we do? We have two incomplete hearts between us.”

“We keep our hearts,” she said, “and we go out for dinner.”

It wasn’t until another year that the idea came to her. The hole in her side was slowly filling in again, and Jake’s hand was slowly getting stronger to compensate for the missing piece.

“What if we combine our hearts,” she said, “to make one whole.”

He looked up at her, his eyes hazy from sleep. “How?”

“Some of mine, and some of yours,” she said, “we can share it.”

“There’d be no going back,” he said.

“I know,” she replied, and felt her heart stutter, a moment of doubt.

“Okay,” he said, “let’s do it.”

She felt her heart settle. Nothing has ever felt more right.

In Another Castle

This was DJ’s last place to visit. Unfortunately it was right in the middle of the water, and very very high. He eyed the small wooden boat further along the beach and sighed. He needed to meet the target if he was going to get paid, and he was so close.

As he pushed the boat into the water and jumped in, he consoled himself with his plans for tonight, which consisted of alcohol, and stew and that book he can’t wait to start.

He was close enough to see that the castle was carved straight from the rock itself, and right at the base, right above the tide-line was a hole shaped like a doorway, and a ladder leading straight down into the water.

Just as he directed the little boat towards it, there was a whistling sound and a snick as something hit the water. A long moment later a small arrow floated up. He tried not to, but the urge to look up was irresistible.

“Get off my lawn!” someone yelled from one of the lower windows.

He let go of the paddles to put his hands up. “Please don’t kill me,” he said, “I’m a- a salesman?”

“Don’t want any,” the voice said, feminine he was sure.

“Please,” he said, “you’re my last castle to visit, I- I need to get paid.”

“I know all yer tricks,” she said, “and I don’t care. Get off my lawn or the next shot won’t be a warnin’.”

“Don’t you want to know what I’m even selling?” he asked.

There was a pause. “What is it then?”

“Pr-protective spells.” he said, feeling foolish as he said it.

The woman made a strange guttural sound and he realised she was laughing, no, cackling at him.

“What’s your name young man?”

“DJ,” he said.

“That the name your mother gave you?”

“No,” he said, “It’s Dinesh.”

“Dinesh,” she said, “you better come up, I’m losin’ my voice and I’m not done talking to you.”

He risked lowering his hands and tried to get a closer look, with no luck. Too late to back out now. As he tied off the boat and started climbing the ladder, he decided he’ll reward himself with dessert as well tonight. If he survived.

For my heart it wasn’t open

Title taken from Coldplay’s song Cemeteries of London

Jacob was a believer. Maybe he didn’t believe in God the same way his family believed in Him, but he believed.

What he didn’t believe in was praying to God. After all, the people that surround him now had prayed. They had prayed and prayed and where had it gotten them? Leaving their homes behind with everything they could carry on their backs, crossing a border in the middle of the night so they had a chance of living.

For as long as he could remember, he had been dragged along. He was told to sit still while the man talked about how you should treat people with kindness, give to charity, and thank God for all you have been given.

But Jacob also remembered that story his father had been so fond of, about the man who was drowning. He’d refused help from three different people, saying God will save him, until he had died. He’d asked God why He hadn’t saved him, and God told him He had sent three different people to help him.

He knew the lesson, of course, because his father had also liked to dissect things after saying them. God helps those who help themselves.

At the time he hadn’t been sure what that meant. If you were helping yourself then why would God need to help you? And those people, those monsters, had certainly helped themselves to his peoples land, to their homes and farms and God knows what else.

And God did know, he was all knowing after all. So had He helped the invaders? Jacob might only been fifteen but he knew that is not something you ask. God was meant to be on their side, one of the good guys.

He looked at his brother Henry, only two years his senior but had already seen more than any grown man should, and then at his younger sister Grace, who clung to their mothers hand as they walked over the soft earth. She won’t remember this when she grows up, he could only hope.

His mother’s face was haggard. They had set off at sun down and it must be well past midnight by now, but if they stopped they risked separation from the rest of the group. There was no added safety in numbers but without a grown man alongside them, they didn’t have much of a chance once they arrived at the other side.

Grace stumbled over a rock and nearly fell if it hadn’t been for his mothers steadying hand, but he could tell she was starting to wear thin. He knew his mother wouldn’t let him take any more of the weight on her back, clothes and food and other essentials, but he could bear something else for her.

He bent down and picked Grace up into his arms. She reflexively put her arms around his neck and held on. “I’m tired Jake,” she whispered, “when can we stop?”

“Not yet,” he replied, “get some rest.”

“Wake me when you get tired,” she mumbled, resting her head on his shoulder.

He adjusted his grip and kept walking, returning his mother’s smile.

No, Jacob didn’t believe in praying to God from inside a building while a man told them what to say, but as he put one foot after another, he believed they would get the help they needed.