Chapter Fifty Two
My old bedroom had been turned into a nursery.
I settled Azmiah in the pretty crib and then took a seat in the rocking chair next to it, marvelling at all the changes. Who had done all this?
Our house was decorated by staff that my parents hired but this nursery wasn’t put together like a professional would have done it. It was just a little off from picture perfect and I liked it better that way.
The thought of my parents going shopping for baby things made me smile. Staying away hadn’t meant that I wanted to keep them out of Azmiah’s life. I’d sent dozens of photos and recordings in an effort to try and involve them even when I’d been unable to bear opening their replies to read their anger.
They still didn’t understand. They thought that I was irrational and worse, that I was vindictive. I had no proof to show them that Zak’s family was what I said they were and I had no idea whether Rayyan had said anything in my defence in the weeks since he’d sent me that email asking for my forgiveness.
I hadn’t replied. I had let go of the resentment and anger for the most part but I couldn’t – wouldn’t – let him back in. Truthfully, I couldn’t let anyone in any more. I’d disappointed and been disappointed by too many people too many times. I preferred living without strings.
Except for my daughter. Azmiah was the only person who owned space in my heart. I didn’t give anyone else time to root themselves and that was the way I liked it. I knew that eventually I would have to settle somewhere for the sake of Azmiah’s schooling and so that she could make some friends but for now, she was too little to be damaged by moving around, which I’d developed a taste for.
In the past year, we’d lived in six different cities – always cities, never towns. It was easier to go unnoticed, to slip past. When Azmiah had grown out of the newborn stage, she’d become a fantastic sleeper and I’d finally found time to read the journals my grandfather had gifted me so long ago.
I felt like I was getting to see a side of him no one else in our family ever had. The journals weren’t too personal; he focused instead on describing every new place meticulously, from what he saw to how the history he touched felt under his fingertips. But little tidbits came through even so.
I’d always known that he’d been an orphan from a young age. It was one of the reasons he liked my mother so much, because she could understand that tragedy in a way that few others could. What I hadn’t known was that he’d begun to travel because he was trying to escape the fact that he never felt at home, even in the country he’d spent his childhood in.
I’d cried for him while reading. I didn’t feel his loss but I understood feeling out of place intimately. And once I’d gotten to the end of the first journal, I’d been desperate to recreate his journey.
I was lucky – I’d signed away my rights to everything Zak owned but I still had the money he’d given me whilst we were married and the funds my parents had set aside for me. I didn’t need to work, I could devote all my attention to my baby and I had nothing to tie me down.
I’d made the first trip mostly out of fear. Looking back, I knew I’d overreacted but at the time, the deluge of well-meaning questions from my neighbours and Azmiah’s paediatrician had made me panic.
I’d packed us up in the span of a few hours and booked a one way flight to Athens. Greece was where my grandfather had started out and also the place he spoke about least. He’d returned many times over the years. After spending two months there, I understood why. It was gorgeous.
I’d almost regretted leaving.
The time I spent in each city varied. I waited until I felt the itch to travel and then indulged it. My leases were month to month and I’d embraced minimalism. The vast majority of our possessions belonged to Azmiah.
I looked down at my watch. Azmiah would need feeding in an hour, just after she woke up from her nap. I needed to get going if I wanted her to stay asleep until I was back.
I headed down the stairs to find Hajra and bumped into her halfway there.
“I was just coming to get you,” she told me. “Your car’s waiting outside the front doors.”
“Thank you, Hajra. Do you know what the floor and ward numbers are?”
She handed me a little scrap of paper. “I wrote them down for you. Is there anything I need to know about the baby?”
“She’s breastfed,” I explained. “And if she sticks to her schedule, she should stay asleep until I get back. Um,” I pulled my phone out of my handbag. “What’s your number? I’ll text you so you have mine and if she gets upset, just call me and I’ll come back.”
I felt strange walking out the door without a baby in my arms. I took Azmiah almost everywhere with me and my brain was convinced that I was forgetting something.
I got into the car distractedly and told the driver where I was going. Was I really forgetting something? Azmiah wasn’t sick and I’d changed her before she fell asleep right after we landed. She wouldn’t wake up because of that.
What else could it be? Or was I just losing all my sense?
Either way, I needed to go back and check. I finally looked up as I began to tell the driver this and felt the blood rush to my cheeks.
A familiar pair of brown eyes stared at me through the rear view mirror, brows furrowed in concern.
Oh. That’s what I was forgetting.