Chapter Twenty Two
I headed into the kitchen, leaving Zak to sit with his father in the large dining room. Eating in the Mahomed household was always an experience and even though it was only the four of us, we ate in a dining room that could hold forty eight people easily. I’d asked Zak why once, trying to understand, but all he could tell me was that it was the way they’d always done it. His mother preferred it that way apparently.
Of course, I could ask his mother herself – if I wanted to get my head bitten off. My mother in law detested me for God only knew what reason.
She grunted as she saw me enter, piling my hair up in a bun as I walked. “There’s no point in you coming in here. By the time you’re finished with that mane of yours, I’ll already be done. Just go sit and let me wait on you.” The words were aggressive but they were delivered in such a high pitched tone – almost a squeak – that I had to fight down giggles.
I let the amusement help me keep a smile on my face. “I’m sorry. I wanted to come down earlier but I got busy with Zak. Are you sure there’s nothing I can do to help?”
“If you had come down earlier, there would have been,” she said brusquely. “It’s fine, I suppose. You can’t be blamed for giving into your urges.”
I blushed scarlet. “Aunty Shamima, really,” I began, only to be cut off by the woman in question clearing her throat loudly and dropping a pot with a clatter.
“I’ve asked you not to call me that and I don’t appreciate you continuing to do it,” Shamima snapped heatedly. “Honestly, Azraa. We’ve only asked you to do a few things to accommodate us and it is quite rude of you to not make the slightest effort to comply.”
I flushed and bit my tongue to keep silent. Why was this family so particular about their names? Zak had been incensed when I’d called him Mirzaq and the first time I’d made the mistake of referring to Shamima as Mom, she’d torn into me like a disobedient child.
Foolishly, I’d gone to my husband for some sympathy only to have him take his mother’s side. It didn’t matter that Shamima had berated me or that she’d made me cry. I’d been the one to offend her by claiming a relationship I had no right to, as she’d put it – I needed to apologize.
It had made bile rise in my throat. But I’d done it. My mother had warned me that this was something I’d have to deal with and so I had.
She hadn’t warned me that it would happen this often and it was getting harder and harder to keep my mouth shut.
I was quiet throughout the meal, listening with half an ear as Zak amused his parents with tales from work.
“They’re so annoying,” he complained, referring to his co-workers and rolling his eyes.
“Well, at least you won’t have to deal with them much longer,” I commented. He’d – we’d – be in Australia in two weeks. As he’d known for the past three months, since before he’d even met me. That I’d had to learn about it by walking in on him having a conversation with his boss to finalize the details still stung.
Uncle Iqbal looked quizzically at me. “Why is that?”
Zak glared at me and made a discreet cutting motion. “Azraa’s talking about my trip. Three weeks in Australia, remember?”
“I can’t believe you’re going that long,” Shamima said grumpily as she took Zak’s empty plate and began to make it up. “And all the way across the world too! Here,” she handed the laden plate to him. “You need to eat more.”
“It won’t be that long, Mom,” Zak placated her. The corner of his mouth twisted as he spoke and it hit me. He was lying to her! Just as he’d lied to me.
I’d been furious all morning, ever since I’d caught Zak because I’d thought that I was the last one to know about his move. But even his mother hadn’t known… She didn’t know, still!
I felt a stab of pity for my mother in law. She was going to go insane when she found out. Zak was her life, the centre of her universe. She still waited on him as a twenty five year old man, for God sake.
“Amira, you can start clearing up the dishes,” she instructed the young maid who stood unobtrusively in the door, waiting for us to finish our meal.
“Are you finished, ma’am?” The waif-like girl asked me in a clear, sweet voice. I was about to nod my head when Zak answered for me. “Yeah, she’s done.”
Amira looked at me for approval. “Go ahead,” I tugged my lips into a smile, closing my mouth around the contradictory retort that wanted to escape them.
Fatigue rolled over me and I raised a hand, blocking a yawn.
Uncle Iqbal glanced at me. “Someone’s tired,” he commented. “Maybe you should go up to bed?”
I was imagining the snideness of the comment, I was sure. More importantly, he’d given me an out. “Thank you, I think I will.”
Shamima’s eyebrows had climbed into her hairline. “Why is she so tired?” I heard her ask Zak as I walked out. Her voice climbed steadily but I was too far away to make out any actual words.
I stripped and grabbed the first set of pyjamas I found in the walk in closet, yawning twice more while I washed my face and applied both moisturiser and hand cream.
I was asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow.
The next thing I knew, I was being shaken. I tried to lift a hand to rub at my face but the arms around me were like iron. I groaned and opened my eyes.
“Zak?” My mouth was dry, making me croak out the name.
“Hey. Get up, we need to talk.”
I shifted. “What?”
He shook me irritably. “Wake up already. Come on!”
“Zak, I was sleeping,” I complained. “Couldn’t this wait?”
Zak looked at me quizzically. “No. I want to talk now. Get up!”
My shoulders slumped as I sighed. “Let me go wash my face, at least?”
“Fine,” he said crabbily. “Just hurry up. Here, maybe this’ll help.” He flicked the overhead lights on and I clapped a hand to my eyes, wincing. “Zak!”
“Yeah, that did it. Finally!” he grinned. “Come on, hurry up!”
If he snapped his fingers at me, I was going to scream.
Q – Neymat, where on Earth have you been?
A – Handling the launch of my book which was also at a High Tea that I was helping organize. Also, working and studying (it was assignment season).