There were no tears to be cried.
I’d frozen, turned myself numb and cold and unfeeling to cope. I couldn’t believe he’d done this.
With him at least, things had been going so well. I’d relaxed and come to count on having my brother’s support right there beside me again. But it wasn’t there. Rayyan had made that clear to me with just a few short words.
The messages were still stored on my phone. I couldn’t bring myself to delete them and every so often, I opened them up again, trying in vain to find some different meaning, some way to reinterpret what he’d said to make it hurt less.
Don’t bring me into the middle of your problems with Mirzaq, he’d responded. You picked him all by yourself and now you get to deal with all his flaws.
I’d just wanted someone to sympathise with me. Zak had been horrible to me.
But Rayyan had insisted that I was overreacting and when I’d tried to tell him about all the other times I’d kept quiet, he’d shut me down instantly.
You can’t bring other people into the middle of your marriage, Azraa. You’re not a child any more, you need to learn to deal with things by yourself. I love you, but this is ridiculous. Your problems with Zak are yours, not ours.
Fed up and trying to make my brother understand the gravity of the situation, I’d rashly admitted that I was considering leaving Zak.
Don’t think that you can throw tantrums and run back home, he’d warned me. Mom and Dad will not entertain you and neither will I. Stop running away and live with the consequences of your actions for once. You picked Zak. You picked this life.
My head throbbed and I put the flat of my hand to my temple, trying to drive away the pain.
Amira found me still curled up like that when she came in to bring me a breakfast tray. “Oh, what’s wrong?” she asked in concern.
I smiled at the slight girl. “Just a headache.”
“I’ll bring you a pain reliever. You don’t want to feel ill on the plane.”
I’d completely forgotten that we were flying out today. I didn’t even know what time the flight was – Zak had handled the booking. “Thank you, Amira. What time are we meant to leave?”
“You have an hour to get ready, ma’am.”
“Great,” I mumbled. “Okay, I’d better get up.”
Even the thought of returning to Sydney, where I’d no longer have to deal with Shamima’s jabs didn’t perk me up.
I drifted through getting ready on autopilot, waking only when it was time to say goodbye.
My father in law embraced his son and nodded at me on his way out the door.
“He has a meeting to get to,” Shamima explained. “We thought you’d be leaving earlier… But anyway,” she turned to Zak, “at least you still got to say goodbye properly. I can’t believe you’re leaving again.” Her eyes turned wet.
“It won’t be for too long, son.” she assured Zak, patting his cheek. “I’ll come for a nice, long visit very soon.”
Zak looked alarmed. “You have to take care of Dad,” he protested.
“Well, yes, of course,” Shamima allowed, dabbing at her eyes. “But I also need to take care of the rest of my family. And Azraa can’t be expected to cope on her own. She’s too young. But we’ll talk about it closer to the time,” she added hastily, seeing Zak’s face sour. “Call me as soon as you get there.” She handed Zak a backpack. “And here. All your favourite snacks.”
My husband’s face brightened. “Thanks, Mom.”
Shamima turned to me. “There’s some stuff for you in there as well.”
“Oh, thank you!” I exclaimed, taken aback. “That’s so sweet of you. You didn’t have to.”
“Can we go?” Zak demanded. “Before we miss our flight. We’re already late because you slept in.”
I hid a flinch. “Of course. Let’s go.”
“Mirzaq?” Even Shamima had picked up on her son’s bad mood by now. “Is everything alright, son?”
Zak ignored her. “I’m going to wait in the car. When you’re ready,” he said, with clear distaste “we’ll leave.”
“Don’t keep him waiting,” my mother in law advised as soon as Zak was out of earshot. “He hates that.”
“I know.” It was the first thing Zak had yelled at me about, all the way back when we were on our honeymoon. I gave Shamima an uncomfortable smile. “Um, bye.” I waved lamely.
“Azraa!” Zak roared. “Hurry up!”
“Should’ve left you behind,” Zak muttered when I got into the car.
I said nothing.
“What were you doing anyway? Gossiping about me to my mother?”
Amira and the driver were both politely pretending to be deaf. I tried to do the same but Zak wouldn’t let it go.
“I’m asking you a question!” He reached over and jostled my shoulder. “Don’t ignore me.”
“We weren’t talking about you,” I said tiredly. “I just thanked her and said goodbye, Zak.”
He didn’t seem to believe me. “Your mother would never gossip about you,” I tried.
Zak’s grey eyes darkened. “But you would?”
“No, Zak!” I cried, stunned.
“That’s what you said.” There was an ugly expression on his face. “I knew it. Who? Who do you talk about me to? Is it that brother of yours?”
“No,” I said weakly. But it wasn’t true and he could hear it in my voice. I had talked about him to Rayyan. But not because I wanted to gossip about him! Why did no one understand that?
“I can’t believe you.” Zak turned away from me. “You make me sick sometimes.”
“I just wanted some advice,” my voice rose with every word. “I asked him for advice so we could stop fighting all the time.”
“Don’t lie! If you wanted advice, you’d come to me. You wouldn’t embarrass me by talking about me behind my back. How could you betray me like that?” Zak was openly repulsed by what he was describing.
“I didn’t betray you!”
“You exposed me, Azraa! How would you like it if I did the same to you?”
“He didn’t listen anyway,” I said feebly, closing my eyes against the throb of pain admitting that brought.
“He has more class than you then.” Zak’s parting shot, spoken to the window and not my face, landed right on the mark and I flinched.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered at his back. “Just. Sorry.”
Zak said nothing.
My head was beginning to throb again.
Enough of this, I thought, frustrated beyond words. Enough.
I began to type. Mom, I need your help. I think I want a divorce.