Chapter Fifty Nine
“Mom!” I felt my knees go weak. “I found her,” I breathed into the phone, quickly disconnecting the call.
“Thank goodness! I thought – never mind what I thought. I couldn’t find you or Az-.” I faltered. Az. I’d found Mom but there was no Azmiah. “Where is she?”
I scanned the space around my mother as though expecting to see Azmiah hiding behind her.
Mom frowned, the faint lines on her forehead and around her lips deepening. “Azmiah? With that girl. I can’t remember her name.”
I wanted to shake her. “Which girl?” It took everything in me to keep my hands by my side. “Who did you give my daughter to?”
Mom looked taken aback. “Azraa, calm down,” she ordered in a low voice. “She’s with your mother in law and her nanny.”
“My mother in law,” I repeated stupidly. “My mother in law who I warned you was trying to steal her – that mother in law?”
My mother sighed. It was a familiar sound – I’d given her many a reason to sigh with the choices I made as I grew into a rebellious teenager and an irreverent adult. I’d been conditioned to feel a mixture of shame and defiance at hearing that sigh. Today, it ignited my temper.
“How could you be so stupid?” Panic robbed my voice of most of its power, but even still it was enough to stop the buzz emanating from the rooms around us as the many people who’d invaded the house quieted to eavesdrop more effectively.
I had no time to soothe feelings or diffuse a scene. Instead, I ran, praying as I went that the worst hadn’t come to pass. Mindlessly, I stabbed at my phone, bringing it up to my ear.
“Find Azmiah!” I demanded. “I don’t know what car – don’t know if they’re already gone – Just find her! She’s – my mother gave her to Shamima and they’re gonna take her somewhere. You need to find her! You need to – please help me find her.”
“Azraa, I need you to take a deep breath.”
“Azmiah,” I began. Why didn’t he get it? My daughter was… she was…
A sob slipped past my lips.
“Azraa, we’re going to find her. I promise, I’m going to do everything I can, okay? But I need you to take a deep breath and calm down. You need to look too and you can’t do that if you’re panicking.”
“Okay. Okay. Okay okay okay.” I filled my lungs with air.
“And let it out,” Zaakir reminded me. “Slowly.”
He talked me through several more breaths, coaching me into matching the pattern of his own breathing until I’d stabilized.
“Where are you?”
I told him.
“Rayyan is coming. And we’re looking. No one’s going to leave, no one’s going to get away with her. Just wait a few more minutes.”
“Call the police,” I requested.
“Already on their way,” Zaakir assured me. “Keep breathing, okay? And wait for Rayyan.”
I promised him I would, but I couldn’t. I got to my feet, feeling the sting of the scrapes on my knees where I’d hit the ground and started to make my way to the gridlock of cars. I’d look in every single one and when I found her… I didn’t know what I was going to do when I found her.
But I had to do something. I couldn’t just sit in the dirt while my daughter was being stolen from me.
All of them were empty.
I looked left and right, at a loss.
There. In the corner. I hadn’t looked there. I hadn’t even realized anyone was parked there.
Someone grabbed my shoulder, halting me.
I screamed and spun around, my ruined heels skidding.
“Easy, Azraa! It’s just me.” Rayyan put his arms round my waist to steady me. “Easy. It’s okay.”
“Why’d you sneak up on me?” I scolded. “You scared me!”
“I called your name twice, Az. You didn’t hear me?”
I shook my head. “No.” I squeezed my eyes shut. “Never mind that. Azmiah! Have you found-”
“Azmiah is fine. You’re the one everyone’s worried about right now.” He cupped my cheek. “You’re freezing and there’s no colour in your face at all.”
Relief flowed through me, so powerful it nearly brought me to my knees again. “You found her?” I couldn’t help asking again. “She’s okay?”
“She sounded fussy,” my brother told me as he led me back toward the house. “I bet she wants you.”
Rayyan nodded. “I was looking for you. Zaakir was the one who found her.”
“Oh. Did she get lost?” I asked hopefully.
“No.” Rayyan’s mouth turned down. “No, she didn’t. But she’s safe now, Az. And the police are here too. It won’t happen again.”
“No,” I agreed. “It won’t.” No matter what I had to do.
The house was empty when we walked in. Our father had ordered everyone out, Rayyan explained to me when he saw me looking around.
Zaakir was waiting with Azmiah in the kitchen, trying to distract her with a snack, but she wasn’t having it. Her face was red and blotchy and there were tears on her cheeks. The second she saw me, she cried harder and started kicking.
I took her in my arms immediately. “Thank you for finding her.”
“Of course,” Zaakir said immediately.
I bounced Azmiah in my arms, patting her back. “I’m going to try to make her sleep.” But the thought of putting her back in the nursery made me want to vomit. I turned to Rayyan. “Can I use your room?”
“Sure. Do you need any help?”
I shook my head. “Just find out what happened. Please,” I added belatedly.
I got to my feet, holding Azmiah as close as I could and still feeling like it wasn’t enough. I wanted to wrap her up and never let go. I wanted to keep her safe.
I had to keep her safe. From everyone. Even my own family, now.
Q: Neymat, where were you?
A: Throat thing and then tooth thing. Ow.
Jazakallah khair to everyone who checked up on me and made dua for me ❤ I truly appreciate you all ❤