Chapter Thirty Three
I pulled away from him. “W-what?” The sweet daydreams that had accompanied me all day began to evaporate like smoke, even as part of me prayed that I was just misunderstanding Zak horribly.
“It’s too late for you to take a pill, right?”
I flinched. My arms had crept down to cradle my middle without me even noticing. I felt weak as I stood there listening to my husband plot to get rid of the little life that I’d already fallen hopelessly in love with.
I’d pick them over him. The thought flitted through my mind and I didn’t feel an ounce of guilt. I wasn’t giving up this baby and if Zak tried to force the issue, that was that.
I’d spent almost half a year adjusting and giving in, he could damn well be the one to change this time.
I opened my mouth to tell him exactly this, unconcerned about the fight my words would cause. A recklessness had come over me, almost as though the old, icy Azraa had taken control of my body and was now the one calling the shots.
A scream shattered the air, drowning out the start of my speech and stopping me cold.
Zak ran, easily recognizing his mother’s voice and after a beat, I followed.
We found her in the small family lounge, clutching something small and white to her chest.
Zak was by her side in an instant. He reached for her but she shook him off impatiently. “Oh, Azraa!” she exclaimed, hurrying towards me with her arms outstretched. “Congratulations! What a good thing you’ve done. Oh, I’m so happy I could kiss you!”
Please don’t, I thought before I could stop myself.
I caught Zak’s eye, asking wordlessly for help. I wasn’t used to Shamima being more than politely civil to me and I had no idea how to deal with it.
Zak took his mother by the shoulders, disengaging her. “What did Azraa do exactly?” he asked as he led her to the closest sofa.
With their bodies out of the way, I finally spotted the gift box I’d so eagerly handed Zak not so long ago and it dawned on me exactly what my mother in law was clutching to herself so tightly.
I let out a gasp and both mother and son turned to look at me. Shamima smiled happily. “Yes, that’s right, Azraa. I know all about your little secret. Oh, but why did you hide it! If I’d known, I would have been much more understanding. I would have been able to help you!”
Zak was looking between the two of us with a perplexed frown on his face as he tried to understand.
I pointed wordlessly to the gift box.
“Crap,” he said succinctly, his broad shoulders slumping.
I lifted a hand to my mouth to conceal the smile that was threatening. There would be no more talk of – I shuddered to even think the word – abortions now.
And while I knew there were still a whole host of battles to be fought, I couldn’t help but relax for a moment and enjoy the victory.
“I just don’t want one! God, why can’t you understand Azraa? Stop nagging at me!” Zak raked a hand through his dark hair. “What does it even matter?” he muttered. “We’re having the thing, aren’t we?”
“Don’t call them a thing!” I snapped.
“For God’s sake!” Zak untangled his long legs from mine and snatched up his jeans from the floor where they’d been so hastily discarded earlier. “Leave it alone, Azraa,” he warned me.
“I just want to understand,” I said helplessly. I’d hoped that getting him in a good mood would help but it had backfired on me – badly. He was even angrier now, his grey eyes narrowed as he glared down at me.
“You don’t want to understand,” Zak corrected me. “Trust me, explaining this to you is not going to magically make it all better. Now,” he added in the soft voice that always made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. “Take some good advice and leave it alone. Got it?”
I nodded mechanically. Zak had never hurt me but when he was in this kind of mood, I knew to tread carefully. My husband had a hair-trigger temper and I was nowhere near brave or stupid enough to push him until he snapped.
I opened my mouth and then closed it. Now was the worst possible time to ask. I’d just give Mom another excuse if she brought up telling my family again.
But Zak had seen me in the large mirror above our shared chest of drawers. “What?” he asked with his back still to me.
“What?” Zak pressed.
“My mother… she keeps asking when we’re going to tell my family.” I risked a glance at Zak and couldn’t read his face. “She’s leaving tomorrow,” I reminded him carefully. “She won’t be able to hide it from my Dad or brother.”
Zak stared at me expressionlessly for a long moment. Then he grinned. “Is that all? Why didn’t you just say so, gorgeous? You can tell them right now if you like.” He held out a hand to me. “Well… maybe you should put something on other than our sheets.”
I giggled, relief flowing over me. “How about a shower?” I offered.
Zak made a show of lifting his wrist like he was checking a watch. “I guess I can slot you in.”
Zak had remembered an urgent meeting – probably something to do with the fact that we’d been away for almost three weeks now and he’d barely given his colleagues any notice – so I’d been left to call Dad and Rayyan by myself. Mom had offered to sit with me while I made the calls but I’d turned her down.
I wanted to do this myself.
Rayyan took so long to answer that I gave up and tossed my phone aside to sulk. Mom had warned them that I was going to be calling – and they knew that I’d been ill.
Before I could really get going, my phone began to buzz. I snatched it up instantly.
“Az!” My brother mimicked me. “You don’t sound sick at all. Were you being a drama queen about the sniffles like usual?” Beneath the heckling, I could hear the relief in his voice.
“Oh, no. There was something. Is something,” I corrected myself.
“What is it?” Rayyan demanded immediately.
There was a beep and a request popped up on my phone. My brother was requesting to do a video call.
“You look awful, Az,” was the first thing out of his mouth. “What’s wrong?”
I felt a rush of guilt. “Nothing, Ray,” I said soothingly.
“Don’t lie to me!”
“Really. Rayyan, nothing’s wrong with me, I promise. I…” I paused. “I’m having a baby.”
The worry creasing Rayyan’s forehead turned instantly to joy. His eyes were wide, almost childlike. “What?” he breathed. “Oh, I, what?!”
I giggled. “I’m pregnant.”
There was a blur as the phone crashed to the floor and I just made out a wrist before the screen righted itself back onto my brother’s face.
“Congratulations!” Rayyan shouted. “I can’t believe it. How did you -” his face scrunched up. “Ugh, ew. Never mind how.”
I heard a door close and Rayyan lifted his head. When his gaze returned to the screen, he looked preoccupied. “Listen, Az. I am so, so happy for you and I’m gonna call you back in just a bit. But I have to go for a little bit, okay?”
“Is everything okay?”
“Yeah,” Rayyan tried to smile. “Yeah, I just have to go take care of someone.” He ended the call quickly.
The wrist that had come across my screen flashed in my mind again. The skin had been too dark to be Rayyan’s. And I knew that watch. I’d been the one to buy it, for his sixteenth birthday.
To make up for how long it’s been, there’s a quarter of what was originally Chapter Thirty Four in here too. I’m still having internet issues so these will be going up whenever I find Wi-Fi. (Please pray for Telkom, I may end up killing them).