Chapter Fifty Five
They kept hovering.
I truly wanted to appreciate the concern. Truly, I did.
But all I kept thinking was too little, too late. A year ago, I would’ve jumped at the chance to confide in my parents, to ask them for advice and have them solve all my problems. I’d wanted their help desperately. I would’ve begged for it.
Now, every time my mother or father tried to sympathize with me, all I felt was hurt. Every question they asked, trying to understand the life I’d been leading away from them, just made me feel resentful.
I was no longer the desperate girl I’d been. I’d had to learn to depend only on myself and I had, if only for Azmiah’s sake. And I preferred it.
But how could I say as much to my parents when they were finally being kind enough to give me exactly what I’d been begging for? How could I turn down the attention that I’d wanted for so long?
I didn’t know but I was going to have to figure it out before it drove me to do something foolish. I didn’t want to hurt their feelings but I couldn’t handle the constant questioning – especially since neither of my parents had bothered to apologize.
I loved that they were worried enough about Azmiah to keep her safe but I couldn’t just let it go even though I wanted to. It would be a lot easier if I could.
Thankfully, I didn’t have much time to dwell on it all. I’d been taking Azmiah to the hospital twice a day. Truth be told, if I hadn’t known how important it was for both my grandfather and my baby to rest, I doubt I would have left the hospital at all.
I was terrified that something would happen while I wasn’t there to say goodbye.
I jumped violently, upsetting the empty coffee mug that had been resting beside my elbow.
“Easy!” Rayyan exclaimed. “It’s just me.”
I took in a deep breath, trying to slow my racing heartbeat. “What are you doing up so late?”
“Can’t sleep. My brain won’t turn off.” He reached over and righted the mug I’d overturned. “What’s got you so wound up?”
I shook my head. “You just startled me. I thought everyone else had gone to bed.”
“Okay,” Rayyan said easily. “I’m gonna go make some tea. Do you want a refill?”
I handed him my mug. “Thanks. One sugar,”
“No milk,” Rayyan finished. “I do remember, Az.”
I expected Rayyan to drop off my coffee and head up to his room but when he came out laden with a tray, he set it down on the floor next to the sofa I’d curled up on and took the remaining space for himself.
I took a tiny sip of the coffee and the corner of my mouth curved up involuntarily. “You added cinnamon.”
“I remembered you liking it like that. Is it okay?” He paused with his own mug halfway to his lips, waiting.
I nodded. “Perfect.”
I’d brought down two of the cartridge pens he’d gifted me and some card stock to doodle with. When he’d startled me, they’d slipped down into the folds of the blanket I had wrapped around me.
I retrieved them now and waited for a comment that never came. Rayyan seemed content to just sit silently and watch as I put pen to paper.
Eventually, I lifted my head and looked at him. “Aren’t you bored?”
“Nope. I’ve never seen you do this before. It’s kinda soothing.”
“Soothing?” I let my disbelief show and he burst out laughing.
“Really,” he insisted.
“Of all the things you could have said, you go with soothing.”
“It is! Why would I lie about something so stupid?”
“I don’t know why you do half the things you do,” I muttered and grabbed my cooling coffee.
Rayyan sighed. “Should I go?” he offered, unfolding his long legs.
Now I felt bad. “No, you don’t have to.”
He didn’t listen. It took me reaching out and grabbing at his t-shirt to get him to stop. “Rayyan, sit,” I said tiredly.
“I don’t wanna bother you.”
Really? I made a face. “Don’t be a martyr.”
“You’re not comfortable around me.”
“I’m not comfortable around anyone,” I snapped, my voice rising. I forced myself to soften. “Just sit down, okay?”
Rayyan looked dubious but he sat, perching on the very edge of the sofa.
“Talk to me,” I demanded, shifting closer. Enough of this. I was sick and tired of the awkwardness.
“About what?” he mumbled.
“Lawyer stuff. Your hobbies. Or whatever. Just talk about something stupid.”
“My hobbies?” Rayyan repeated, wrinkling his nose. “Are we on a bad first date?”
“Feels like it.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s awkward, Rayyan.” I stated the obvious. “You’re tiptoeing around me and it’s grating on my nerves.”
“I’m trying not to upset you.”
“Well, it’s not working. Just…” I sighed. “Just be my brother again. Tease me and irritate me and get in my space.”
Rayyan was quiet for a moment. He began picking at his nails, a clear sign that he was thinking. “Okay,” he said finally. “But,” he held up a hand. “If I make you mad, you tell me. You don’t just stop talking to me. Deal?”
“Deal.” I stifled a yawn.
“Go to bed.”
Irritation flooded through me. “What?”
Rayyan was grinning. “You told me to be your brother. Well, little sister, go to bed. You’re sleepy.”
I smacked at him. “I changed my mind. Tiptoe around me again.”
He shook his head and laughed. “No way. No take backs.”
“What did I get myself into?” I lamented playfully. “I should’ve just left you moping.”
Rayyan put an arm around me. “That would’ve been mean.”
“I am mean.” On most days, I was even cruel.
Rayyan frowned. “No, Az, you’re not. You just think you are.”
I didn’t know what to say. Lost for words, I tried to change the topic. “I really like these pens. I’ve stopped using any others, you know?”
“You don’t believe me, do you?” he asked sadly.
“I think you don’t know the worst I’ve done.” I looked away. “Can we just change the subject please?”
He obliged me. “Tell me how to make Azmiah like me best.”
I giggled. “Never gonna happen. I’m the one who feeds her, remember? Besides, she already likes you. She got you to play with her, didn’t she?”
It had been adorable. Azmiah had toddled straight up to him and handed him one of her blocks and Rayyan had immediately abandoned the conversation he was having with my father to sit on the floor with the baby and let her give him the same block fifty different times.
Rayyan’s face softened. “Yeah. Yeah, she did. She’s a little charmer. I’m gonna miss her when you leave.”
“That’s not happening any time soon. We’re not leaving until…” I couldn’t say it.
“Until the funeral?”
I shook my head. “Don’t say it like that. Like it’s a certainty. He could get better!” But even as I said it, I knew I was lying to myself.