Chapter Forty Nine
When I was little, my grandfather was the one who indulged me. He was the one I ran to when I knew my parents weren’t going to budge. Even when I was older and he was around so much less, I’d call and leave him messages. I’m sure I annoyed his secretaries but none of that ever got back to me. All I knew was that if I needed him, I just had to say. Eventually, if I just waited long enough, he’d respond.
He never scolded me for wanting things that were bad for me. I could ask for anything under the sun and I knew there would be no repercussions and even though I didn’t always get what I wanted, he always came up with something to console me.
In retrospect, it was obvious that he likely didn’t have much, if any, of a hand in getting me those gifts. The same staff members who took down my requests were the ones in charge of fulfilling them. But childishly, I couldn’t shake the feeling that all I needed to do was ask and my grandfather would somehow figure out a way to get me what I needed or at least something close enough that it would appease me.
All I needed to do was ask.
It was so simple but I was terrified all the same. Mom and Rayyan, they were a lot like Nana. Dad used to tease Mom about it constantly when I was little.
I’d find a way out even if he didn’t help me. I had to. But, I didn’t know if I could handle the disappointment of learning that this time, there wouldn’t be any consolation prize.
“Okay!” Nana exclaimed, throwing his hands up. “Okay.”
I dropped back into my seat. “You have to give me your word.”
“You have it,” he assured me. “Whatever you want. Just, please, don’t rush off. Sit. Eat something.” He pushed the plateful of pasta I’d ordered closer to me. “Just give me some time to think, dear.”
My stomach was in knots but I picked up my fork anyway. It gave me something to do with my hands while I waited.
My fingers drummed against the tabletop.
Why wasn’t he saying anything?
This was unbearable.
Just put me out of my misery already!
I jumped. “Yes?”
“Explain it to me again.”
I gritted my teeth. “Which part, Nana?”
“All of it, dear. For the life of me, I cannot understand your thought process right now.”
“Nana, there’s nothing else I can say. I don’t feel safe travelling under my own name. I don’t want anyone to know where I am without me telling them first.”
“But why do you want to leave at all? I thought you liked it here.”
“I do.” I was going to miss Sydney. “But Zak’s parents want to take the baby. And I can’t let them do that.”
“Darling,” Nana lowered his voice. “Do you think maybe… Maybe you should see someone?”
“I’m not crazy!” I snapped. “Nana, please.” My voice shook. “I have to do this. I’ll do it whether or not you approve of it but… please. I don’t want to cut you all off. I’ll miss you terribly.”
“Azraa, there’s no need for this! Be reasonable. All by yourself with a newborn, what if something happens?”
I took a deep breath. “You’re not going to get me to change my mind. Now please, I could really use some help!” A tear ran down my cheek.
“Fine,” Nana pushed his chair away from the table. “There’s no point in us going round in circles like this. I will get everything set up for you – you can go wherever you want and do whatever you want. But you will keep in contact with me and I will know where you are at all times.”
“Deal.” For the first time in weeks, I smiled. “Thank you.”
“I’m not happy about this,” Nana reminded me.
“I know. And I’m sorry. But there’s no other way.”
Nana shut his eyes and shook his head. “No, I suppose there isn’t. All I can do for you now is pray that Allah keeps you safe.”
Impulsively, I leaned over and hugged him.
“I love you, Nana.”
“I love you too, darling. Very, very much.”
I broke down and cried on the way home. I should have been over the moon but I couldn’t move past the fact that I hadn’t been able to tell Nana everything. I couldn’t bring myself to even utter Zak’s name let alone explain what had gone wrong in my marriage and led to his death.
I still trusted that Nana would say nothing to Zak’s parents. He’d given me his word and my grandfather was not one to break his promises. He thought I was insane and paranoid but he’d agreed to support me and support me he would.
Everything was finally going according to plan.
I would finally get to travel the way I’d always wanted.
Just… By myself. Under a false name. Looking over my shoulder all the time.
It was fine.
Everything was fine.