Chapter Fifty Seven
It took me over an hour to get Azmiah down to sleep. She seemed determined to play until her body gave out amongst an array of brightly coloured blocks. I had half a mind to ask Hajra what on Earth they’d been up to whilst I was in the garden to make my little girl still so full of energy an entire fourteen hours after I’d collected her from her new best friend.
My eyes were gritty and drooping before she agreed to put her head down and I waited on tenterhooks for any sign that she was starting to wake again. I would’ve fallen asleep like that, half propped up on an elbow if my arm hadn’t fallen asleep, startling me awake and forcing me to find a more comfortable position.
As I turned over, I caught sight of the time. Two in the morning. I sighed. We were going to have a horrible day, I just knew it.
It felt like I’d just closed my eyes for a moment when there was suddenly a pounding at my door. “Azraa!” Hajra called, sounding more strained than I’d ever before heard her. “Wake up right now please.”
I scrambled out of bed. “’m up!” I called. “I’m up. What’s wrong?” I reached out and flicked the light on. Looking at her face, I already knew.
“Is – is he gone yet?” I croaked.
“Not yet. But there isn’t much time. You need to go now, dear.”
“Right,” I said shakily. I grabbed the first set of clothes my hands touched and haphazardly yanked them on over the shorts and tank I’d been wearing to sleep in.
Should… should I comb my hair? Was there time? Frantically, I glanced at the clock on the bedside table.
“Go splash some water on your face,” Hajra told me tactfully. “While I get Azmiah ready.”
“Thank you,” I breathed.
When I finally took Azmiah in my arms, she was furious and letting us all know it as loudly as she possibly could. Putting her in her car seat was going to be torture, I just knew it.
“Is everyone else already gone?” I asked Hajra.
“Rayyan and your father both stayed the night but your mother’s waiting in the car.”
I quickened my pace guiltily.
Azmiah started to cry again as soon as I placed her in her car seat and it took everything in me not to start sobbing with her.
“It’s okay,” I cooed, the fake smile on my face never faltering. “You’re okay, everything’s just fine.” Mindlessly, I repeated the same seven words over and over until she’d finally calmed herself down, just as Zaakir directed the car into one of the open parking bays reserved for visiting doctors.
When I looked back, I could never remember just how I’d gotten to my grandfather’s hospital room. But the sight that met me when I went in, I never forgot.
I’d gotten somewhat used to his terrifying frailness over the past three weeks. It still sent a shiver down my spine when I stopped to examine the implications of it but in the day to day, I’d learned to ignore it and just focus on spending as much time as I could talking to him and making memories to save up for the days when there would be no way to make even one more.
Tonight, I couldn’t hide from the truth. Nor could I beg him to hold on any longer. The time had come to say goodbye and accept what I could not change.
He was leaving me and I didn’t know how I was going to stand it.
“I was waiting to see you.” He beckoned me over to sit next to him. “It won’t be long now, you know.”
Nana looked surprised. “Yes… you do,” he agreed, examining my face. “That makes this a lot easier.”
“But why?” He was sitting up. Talking! It was difficult for him, so difficult for him. No one could deny that. But he was doing it!
What I wouldn’t give to still be selfish, to still demand that he fight a losing battle and hold on, just so that I could have this worn out shell of him a little bit longer.
But I couldn’t. I couldn’t hurt him like that.
Pity shone in his eyes. “You know why.” He took a deep breath and rested for a moment. “In the end… we all must go.”
I couldn’t speak.
“There’s something for you.” He indicated toward a folded sheet of paper. “Nurse helped,” he explained.
Of course. He’d long since stopped being able to hold a pen for any length of time.
“If I could,” he said regretfully. “I’d tell you now. But..”
“I’ll read it,” I promised. “Do you want me to read it right now?”
Nana shook his head. “Later. After.”
“I’ll go get Azmiah so you can see her,” I offered, standing hurriedly, eager to leave so I could take a moment to cry without him seeing me.
“No. No,” he shook his head. “Sit – with me. Sit here.”
Nana cleared his throat and reached for the water next to him. I rushed to help.
“Make up,” he told me. “With your parents.”
I frowned. “Nana, everything is fine,” I assured him. “We’re not fighting.”
He ignored this. “They will need you. When I’m gone,” he swallowed. “They’ll need you then.”
I couldn’t deny him. I assured my grandfather I would try as hard as I could which seemed to satisfy him. And then, once I’d given my word, I said goodbye knowing with a certainty that I couldn’t explain that this was the last time.
My mother was pacing when I came out.
“Is he awake?” she demanded urgently.
I nodded and she rushed past me.
Dad seemed torn between following her and giving her some privacy.
I reached out and put a hand on his shoulder. “You shouldn’t waste any time.” My voice shook.