Chapter Forty Five
I was in the breakfast room of a hotel when everything changed.
I hadn’t slept a wink all night and neither had poor Amira. I still couldn’t understand why she’d insisted on accompanying me when I’d left Zak but I was grateful to her nonetheless. I’d barely been able to manage calling a cab and booking a hotel before I’d started panicking.
I was eight months pregnant and completely alone. What was I doing leaving? What if I went into labour in a hotel room with no one there to help me?
Amira had discovered me in the nursery surrounded by baby clothes and toiletries and very gently taken the armful of things I was about to dump haphazardly into a suitcase. She’d made me tea and talked to me about nothing at all while she packed up everything she possibly could for me.
And then she’d insisted on coming with me.
“But what about Zak?” I’d protested.
“He will manage,” Amira assured me. “But you need to take care of that baby. Let me help you. Please, it’s the least I can do.”
I knew what she was talking about. We’d all elected to pretend it wasn’t happening but I’d seen the way Zak behaved when he was around her. And I couldn’t really blame him. She was adorable and sweet and they’d known one another forever.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Zak up and proposed now that I was out of the way.
“You don’t need to feel bad, Amira. It’s not your fault.” I knew that she did. She was always so skittish when I was in the room with them.
“Yes, it is. At the very least,” she trailed off, suddenly lost in her own thoughts. “At the very least,” she repeated eventually. “I should have warned you. Please let me do this.”
She looked so desperate in that moment, all I could do was agree.
I was waiting for her to get back from the bathroom when I got the call. It was Zak’s friend, Dawood, the one who’d followed him back here to run the business he’d been devoting all his time to.
Zak had missed an important meeting. No one had been answering the phones and Dawood had gotten worried. He’d driven over and found…
Found Zak’s body.
Zak was dead. He’d killed himself.
I choked out what had happened to Amira who’d returned and was watching me anxiously, her lovely eyes round and scared.
Her face crumpled and she fought to regain composure. “Oh,” she breathed. “Oh.” She sank into a chair and buried her face in her hands.
“Come on,” I reached out a hand to her. “We have to go back.”
She nodded dumbly and brushed her hands over her face. “Yes, yes, you’re right. For the last time.”
Less than twenty four hours ago, I left for what I thought was forever. And now I was going back. Zak’s parents were on their way, I knew. The police had been called. There were… I was going to need to prepare for a funeral.
I felt tears come to my eyes. It wasn’t fair.
It just wasn’t fair.
I sat in the cab silently hating myself for caring more about being forced to go back than I cared that Mirzaq was no longer alive.
“I’ll handle everything,” Dawood assured me. He looked sombre. “You can’t, in your condition…” He gestured awkwardly at my stomach.
“Thank you,” I couldn’t look him in the eyes. What must he – and everyone else – think of me? Zak had been suffering under my nose and I hadn’t even noticed. “I feel so guilty,” I felt compelled to admit. “I wasn’t even here.”
“That’s a good thing.”
I looked up in shock. Dawood’s expression was unreadable. “A good thing?” I repeated in a high voice.
“I – I just meant… It’s better that you weren’t the one to find him.”
I shuddered, imagining it. “Maybe if I’d been here, I would’ve been able to stop this.” If I hadn’t tried to leave him…
“No one would have been able to stop this. Zak did what he wanted. Always.”
“Do you know when his parents will be here?” I asked, abruptly changing the subject. I didn’t want to think about the way Zak had been. I didn’t want to think about Zak at all.
“They jumped on a plane almost as soon as I called. They’ll be here early tomorrow morning.” Dawood paused. “You should go back to your hotel,” he said abruptly. “Staying here… it won’t do any good.”
“Really. Go back and get some rest. You’ll need it for when his parents get here.”
He was right. And I desperately wanted to leave. But how could I be allowed to? It was… callous.
“He’s gone, Azraa. You can’t disappoint him any more. Do what you want, for a change.”
Blood rushed to my cheeks. I’d suspected Zak complained about me to his friends. But hearing the proof for myself was excruciatingly embarrassing.
I began to try feebly to defend myself. But Dawood brushed me off. “It’s okay. I understand.”
Somehow, I believed him. I’d never considered before that the other people in Zak’s life had to deal with the pressure I did from him as well.
Now, I saw differently. “Thank you.” I reached down and grabbed the small bag that was all I’d brought back with me. “Thank you very much.”
Quick announcement: Part 1 ends at Chapter Fifty and there will be a small break.