Chapter Forty Eight
“What do you mean?” My voice shook audibly. “What are you talking about?”
He laced his fingers together in front of him. “It would be easy for me to kick you out. Easier still for me to make you miserable enough that you beg to leave. But we must keep up appearances, you see. And I am willing to give you this house to stay in, alone, until the baby is born. All you need to do is sign.”
I was hardly aware of shaking my head.
Zak’s father frowned. “You don’t seem to understand the position you’re in. The only reason you are still alive and well is that child you’re carrying. You have the last piece of my son within you and I am willing to tolerate you until and only until his birth. If you force my hand, I will have that baby delivered now. He will survive. You… well, I don’t place a high value on trash.”
I believed him.
Hesitantly, I picked up the pen. It weighed heavily in my hand, the metal cold enough that it had my skin breaking out in goosebumps.
“Very good,” he praised. “Very wise.”
I didn’t feel wise. I felt terrified. “What now?” I whispered.
“Now,” he said pleasantly. “You have until the birth of my grandchild to find yourself another place to live. Once that deadline passes, I want no trace of you remaining in this house. Understood?”
The hairs on the back of my neck stood up as he rose. “Leave now,” he ordered.
I walked out on unsteady legs.
“I don’t understand why you were so generous with her,” I heard Shamima snap to her husband the next morning.
“It’s not for her sake. And it’s for one month, Shamima. Trust me, will you?”
“No. No, Iqbal, I won’t trust you. I trusted you with my son and now -” Her voice broke and I felt a stab of pity despite myself. “Now,” Shamima went on determinedly. “my boy is dead and the only thing I have left of him is attached to that little bitch. That baby and this house is all that we have left and you’re giving them to her. How can you? How?!”
I knew I should leave but I couldn’t make myself move. And when Zak’s father began to speak, I was glad that I’d stayed.
“My dear,” he began patiently. “If you will just be patient for a little while, we will get the house back. She will give birth and leave and this way she can’t take a thing that was Zak’s. She gave up all the rights their marriage gave her!”
“You could have done more,” Shamima said finally. “You could have gotten rid of her immediately. Sent her away with that family of hers.”
“People would have talked. We would have been vulnerable.” It was clear from his tone of voice that that would have been unacceptable.
I shivered. What had Zak come from?
There was a scrape as someone pushed their chair away from the breakfast table.
I crept closer and strained my ears, scared but still determined to hear what they were saying. I was so tired of never knowing what was going on.
“That baby does not stay with her. I don’t care how you do it but my baby does not stay with her. I will tolerate her having to birth it but it’s mine.”
No! Hell no.
“Shamima,” Iqbal said carefully. “Is that wise?” He put his arm around her shoulders.
“She took my son!” Her hands shook. “She took him. She doesn’t deserve...”
Neither did she.
Carefully, quietly, I retreated.
I’d been in a daze for so long but Shamima had woken something in me. Rage.
It was a good thing that I’d finally made peace with being bad. Because I was going to need to be truly evil to make sure things went my way.
They were gone but the traces of them still remained. Just as the traces of Zak did. Perhaps it was a family trait.
I was jumping at shadows, terrified that every creak or groan of the house was a stranger coming to pull my baby from me, no matter that they were still inside me. Iqbal had threatened to force the delivery and I had no doubt that if either he or Shamima caught wind of what I was planning, they’d force me into labour.
Even Amira had no idea what was going on.
The only person I couldn’t doubt was Nana who’d been kind enough to stay close by, in a hotel so that he wouldn’t have to deal with Zak’s parents but in the city so that I’d have someone there when I gave birth.
I hadn’t even known that he’d stayed behind until he showed up at the house the afternoon after they’d left to make sure I was doing alright.
Even still, I hadn’t told Nana a thing yet. I was afraid to say anything in the house. But today, we were meeting for lunch.
All I could do was pray that he’d believe me – and that he’d help.