Chapter Forty Seven
My head was beginning to hurt.
I knew the Islamic rulings, of course. A widow was required to live in her husband’s home for the whole of her iddah or mourning period. Usually four months and ten days, for me it would last until the birth of my child.
I hadn’t thought of them applying to me until Nana had brought it up. Sometimes I thought I’d deliberately forgotten the knowledge.
I would have to stay in this place, this tomb, for another two months.
Shamima had thrown a fit upon being told the news. She wanted to stay, to be surrounded by the echoes of her child and having me there was unbearable. The mother I was slowly becoming sympathised with her. The selfish woman had no sympathy to spare for anyone other than myself.
I didn’t want to stay. I was already haunted by the spectre of my husband. He was there every time I shut my eyes. The mere thought of coming back made bile rise up in my throat and burn me.
I want to go home.
I’d thought it a thousand times a day for so long. And just like every other time, I kept the words inside, paralysed by the knowledge that there was no home for me to return to.
I’d thought I’d escaped. I’d thought I was in the clear.
But Zak held me, even in death.
He’d been dead for four days. And his hold was only getting stronger.
The sound of a door slamming shut woke me with a start. I rolled over in bed and tried futilely to latch back on to the edges of my dreams.
An urgent need to visit the bathroom urged me up and I yawned my way to the toilet and back. It was only once I was trying to persuade my mind back into slumber that I recalled what had woken me at all.
I knew that the noise must have come from Shamima and took it as the implied warning it was. She’d stopped even trying to disguise her disdain for me and I was half-afraid that she’d actually attack me one of these days.
Zak’s father shared his wife’s feelings but he’d been kind enough to stay civil on the few occasions that he’d spoken to me directly. For the most part though, he ignored me in favour of trying to convince his wife to go home.
How I was going to survive two more months of this, I had no idea. If I hadn’t known better, I would’ve wished for my baby to make their entrance early just so that I could get a reprieve.
I could hear muffled raised voices and, callously, all I could think was that I hoped they stopped by the time my family arrived.
It would be their final visit. They’d been away from their various responsibilities for close to a week now and I’d known before my father even brought it up that they’d be leaving soon.
I couldn’t dredge up much feeling over the upcoming separation. It had been inevitable. More, it was necessary. I couldn’t talk to my parents at all and I still hadn’t forgotten the things that Rayyan had said to me.
The only person I was still speaking to at all normally was my grandfather. But even Nana, brilliant and charismatic as he was, could only carry so many conversations by himself.
And I knew he didn’t understand why I was angry with the rest of the family. He hadn’t yet begun to play the role of mediator but soon he would and then I truly would be able to say that I’d alienated my entire family.
I heard the distinct sound of glass shattering and heaved a mental sigh, wondering idly what had been broken this time and whether there would be time to clean it before anyone arrived.
One week down, nine to go.
I shut the door gently.
“Tell us as soon as you go into labour, Az,” Dad had said.
“And remember,” Mom had added. “As soon as your iddah is over, you can come home to Stockholm where you belong. We can’t wait to have you back.”
I wouldn’t be homeless. I should have been comforted. Grateful even.
I was spitting mad. It had taken everything in me not to shriek and slam the door behind their retreating backs.
Now I belonged in Stockholm. Now they couldn’t wait to have me back. Now.
I took a deep breath and cast my eyes around the room, trying to relax. My gaze landed on the vase above the mantle, one of many that Zak had always filled with every kind of exotic flowers he could find whenever he was trying to make up with me.
Shamima had filled it with roses.
I grabbed it and hurled it at the front door, relishing the shatter.
My mother in law had been onto something, it seemed.
Amira ran in, her hand pressed to her throat. “Oh!” she gasped.
The rage drained as quickly as it had bubbled over. “I-” I didn’t know what to say. “I’ll clean it up.”
“No, no! I’ll do it.” She batted away my uselessly reaching hands and knelt to gather up the shards.
“Now might not be the best time,” she added, staring fixedly at the floor. “But Mr. Mahomed wanted to speak with you when you get a chance.”
What now? I thought wearily.
“Thank you, Amira. I’ll go see what he wants.”
“Good luck,” I heard her whisper to my retreating back.
I needed it.
Uncle Iqbal was in the office. I didn’t know if he’d confined himself to it because he knew his son had spent his last moments in the room or because he was entirely unaware of it and I couldn’t bring myself to talk about it either way.
It was none of my business anyway.
I opened the door and stood carefully in the doorway. “You needed to speak with me?”
“Yes, I do. Have a seat,” he said briskly, uncapping a pen.
Had Zak sat there and…
I wrenched my thoughts away.
“Suit yourself. You need to sign this,” he said, referring to the sheaf of papers in front of him.
I accepted the pen being held out. “What is it?”
“A contract, stating that you relinquish your rights to the entirety of Zak’s estate.”
I lifted my head. “I’m not signing that.”
Uncle Iqbal’s slight, plasticky smile widened until he was baring his teeth. “You don’t have a choice.”
3 chapters to the end of Part 1. Also, ow. Me no like migraine 😦