Chapter Thirty Five
I didn’t know what to say. I hadn’t even broached the subject of going back with Zak yet. I’d been too focused on trying to get my strength back. I fiddled with the drawstring on my pyjama pants, trying to buy time.
“Have you spoken to Zak about this?” I asked finally.
Approval flashed in my mother in law’s eyes. “No, not yet. I wanted to talk to you about it first. But don’t you worry,” she assured me. “Zak will listen to me. He almost always does.”
Shamima got to her feet, tucking her hair behind her ears. “I’ll finish up getting lunch ready and then talk to him when he comes down. Oh, and I should talk to him about moving back into his old room.” She looked me up and down pityingly. “You’re looking worn out. That’s why I had the two of you separated in the first place, but Zak just had to have his own way.”
I pasted a smile on my face. “Great,” I said with false enthusiasm. I knew I was being ungrateful, that my mother in law was trying to be nice in her own way, but I couldn’t help wondering how long this sudden niceness would last. I knew she was excited for her first grandchild but eventually, that excitement would wear off and I wasn’t looking forward to being there the day that happened.
“I’ll just go let my mother know that lunch will be ready soon,” I said hastily, springing to my feet. And I’d ask her for some advice at the same time. I couldn’t talk to Zak – he’d blow up and we’d get nowhere.
“You can get dressed if you like,” Shamima said sweetly. “There’s enough time.”
I hurried out of the kitchen, not bother to respond.
I reached Mom’s guest room just as she was exiting it, pulling her suitcase behind her. Her thick hair was pulled back into the bun she only wore when travelling. “Oh, there you are, Az.” She gave me a tight smile, looking harried.
“Mom, you’re leaving? Your flight’s not supposed to be til tomorrow!”
Mom winced. “Patient emergency,” she explained. “I just changed my flight and my cab will be here in fifteen minutes.”
“Oh.” My shoulders slumped in disappointment. “So soon?”
Mom nodded. “I managed to get a flight out in two hours. I’ll already be travelling for almost half a day and every second counts.”
“Well…” I wasn’t ready to say goodbye yet. “Maybe I could come with you to the airport?”
Mom blinked at me. “Dear, that’ll tire you out terribly and they won’t let you through security anyway.”
“Right,” I acknowledged. “You’re right. It’s just…”
Mom looked at her watch. “I still have fifteen minutes. We can sit and talk until I leave?” she suggested.
I nodded hard, relieved. “That’d be great.” I followed Mom into the room, carefully shutting the door behind me.
“Now,” Mom smoothed the front of her dark coat with the palms of her hands. “What were you coming to find me for?”
“Well, lunch mostly. But also,” I added quickly. “I needed some advice.” I fiddled with the edge of my shirt.
“Oh!” Mom smiled. “That’s a new one. Well, I’ll do whatever I can to help.”
I quickly summarized Shamima’s proposal. “What do you think we should do?”
“Well, you should say thank you and agree, of course.” Mom sounded puzzled. “What else would you do?”
“I kind of wanted to go back home,” I admitted reluctantly. “Shamima and I don’t really get along.” That was an understatement, I thought privately.
“Azraa,” Mom sighed and I felt my shoulders tense in response. “Don’t be stubborn. I know you like to be in charge of everything but your mother in law has a point. Did you know that your doctor was worried you had an eating disorder? That’s how badly ill you let yourself get.”
I stared at my mother in shock. “What? Why didn’t you tell me that?”
Mom waved the questions away dismissively. “I didn’t want to scare you. But that should tell you just how unprepared you are to be on your own. You rushed into getting married – and I thank Allah constantly that it hasn’t gone badly for you. Now you’re having a baby but you’re still not ready. You need adults around you to make sure you don’t make any mistakes.”
“I’m trying,” I whispered, fighting back tears. Whether by accident or design, I didn’t know but my mother had hit every sore spot I had. It was like she’d yanked out every worry I’d been harbouring deep within me and thrown them in my face.
Mom’s face softened and she reached out to embrace me. “I know you’re trying, Az. But you don’t know best. Your mother in law is going out of her way for you – she’s opening up her home to you for several months. You need to be grateful for that.”
“I know,” I leaned forward, hiding my face with my loose, messy hair. “You’re right.”
I went to the door to avoid having to look her in the eyes. I felt ashamed of how petty I’d been. “You should go. You don’t want to miss your flight.”
“Call me whenever you need to,” Mom instructed “And thank Shamima for me, please. It’s taken a weight off my shoulders to know that you won’t be alone, even though I can’t manage to be with you.”
“I will,” I assured her.
“Good girl.” And with that, she was gone.
I sat on the edge of the bed and tried to make myself feel better about staying in America. But I couldn’t. I just couldn’t stop longing for the house we’d left in Sydney. I hadn’t thought of it in all the days we’d been gone but now that there was a possibility I wouldn’t see it again any time soon, I longed for it fiercely.
Typical of me, I thought without humour. Contrary to the end.