Chapter Forty Six
I had offended them. My family. They’d arrived and they wanted to… support me, I guess.
I’d made Amira turn them away.
Just thinking about it made my stomach hurt. I knew I should be grateful for the support they were trying to offer me but the resentment had welled up within me and taken up root.
They were there now. Now that Zak was dead. But I didn’t want them any more.
I’d begged and pleaded for their help before.
I’d needed it desperately.
I’d been terrified.
They were here now. And all I could find to meet them with was anger.
There was something wrong with me.
I’d reached a kind of acceptance of that fact. It helped, knowing there was a reason why I always came up short. Why I kept faltering.
There was something wrong with me.
It probably shouldn’t have felt like a relief.
Just like leaving Zak. Just like ignoring my parents. Just like letting other people do everything and ignoring every responsibility I had.
There was something wrong with me and I’d started to like it.
That scared me more than anything. What was I becoming?
My parents clearly thought I was about to have a nervous breakdown. They’d been staring at me since we’d arrived.
I looked around with a morbid sense of curiosity. I still didn’t know exactly how Zak had died, almost two full days after the fact. No one had volunteered the information and I hadn’t been able to ask. I didn’t know if I wanted to know.
Nor did I ask if he’d left a note. Would it be better or worse if he had, I couldn’t decide.
If he had… I could no longer lie to myself and pretend that I’d had nothing to do with it. I couldn’t pretend that his work had been so difficult and frustrating that it had ruined him.
But if he hadn’t… If he hadn’t, the last words I’d ever have from him were the ones he’d flung at me during that final, awful fight.
You can’t leave me.
Because I’ll leave you first, I completed in my head. And he had. As always, Mirzaq had had the last word.
My eyes burned. After everything, I still felt grief. I didn’t know whether I had the right to, but I did. I missed the man who’d swept me away. That Zak had stopped being him long ago didn’t make the hurt any less fresh.
I’d always quietly hoped that I could get him to be that way again some day.
Now even that feeble chance had been obliterated.
In a few short hours, I’d say goodbye forever. Zak’s funeral had been delayed until his parents could arrive but they’d been here for hours already. Time was running out.
As if she’d read my thoughts, Mom spoke. “Azraa. Honey. Don’t you want to join everyone else?”
“Everyone else?” I repeated.
She nodded. “A lot of Zak’s family was able to come. They’re with him.”
No, not Zak. Zak’s shell.
I didn’t want to join them. I didn’t want to answer the question that had to have been on everyone’s minds.
Where were you? When your husband was dying, where were you?
But my entire marriage had been built on things I didn’t want to do. What was one last, final thing?
Mom took my arm. “Your Dad will go join the rest of the men. But I’ll be there. You won’t be alone.” She patted my cheek. “Are you ready?”
“Yes.” I let her guide me forward.
A hush fell over the large room I’d so lovingly decorated all those days ago as we walked in. Right in the middle lay a shroud. I shifted my gaze immediately, accidentally locking eyes with a woman I only just recognized.
Grief had transformed my mother in law, stealing her essence. She looked as hollow as my nightmares had imagined the body she was sitting beside to be.
Her reddened eyes widened at the sight of me and she got to her feet, swaying slightly.
“What now?” Her voice was a hoarse croak. “What more? You’ve already killed him, what more do you want?!”
I couldn’t speak.
“You have no right to be here!” she shouted. “Just get out. Get out. Get out, get out! GET OUT!”
Mom hastily pulled me away, slowing only when we reached the little room that Amira had been calling her own. Unlike the rest of the house, it was deserted. “It’s okay,” she said over and over again as she urged me to sit on Amira’s one chair.
“She’s just upset,” Mom told me as she knelt before me. “She doesn’t mean it. Forgive her, Az, her son’s just died.”
“But she’s right,” I whispered. “She’s completely right.” And then, finally, I cried.