So, apparently Sixty didn’t publish when it was supposed to. Go read it and then read this one please.
Chapter Sixty One
Rayyan led me to the furthest of the guest rooms on the ground floor and gone to lean against the opposite wall as though he planned to guard the door. He’d been adamant that he was going to wait outside and I’d eventually conceded, too tired to try and herd him where he refused to go.
I knocked once and a small voice immediately sounded. “Come in.”
The room was dark save for the light cast by a single lit lamp on the far bedside table. I squinted and barely made out Amira where she was curled up on the window seat. She seemed to be staring intently out the window. I knew what she’d be seeing – I had my own fascination with the gardens.
She straightened as I walked in, the movement pulling her face from the shadows so that I finally saw it clearly.
Bruises marred her pretty face. I could barely make out any clear skin amongst the mess of red and purple.
I winced. “Did all of that happen today?”
She lifted a tentative hand to the worst mark, over the bridge of her swollen nose. “Most of it did. But it’s not the first time.” A sad smile crossed her face.
“Thank you for saving her.”
Amira screwed her face up. “It’s the least I could do. Is the baby alright?” Real concern pinched at the corners of her huge eyes.
“Fine,” I assured her. “Sleeping soundly.” I held up the quiet monitor I hadn’t ever let go of as proof.
Amira smiled for real this time, some tension going out of her frame. “Good. I’m glad.”
“Yeah.” I smiled automatically then fell silent, trying to gather my thoughts for what had to come next. I’d planned this out from start to finish a dozen times but in my head, she’d never looked quite this fragile. She’d never been covered in bruises and so pale that she reminded me of a broken porcelain doll.
“Amira, what happened?” I asked, breaking the silence we’d fallen into.
Her slim chest moved as she pulled in a deep breath and began to talk in a rush. “Mrs. Mahomed wanted to keep her. She seemed to think it was some kind of… An evening of the score or something. I think she thought taking your baby was a way to make up for Zak’s death.”
I shook my head. “No,” I cut in. “I figured that part out already. What happened when you were leaving? You got Azmiah away; did she attack you? Were you helping her?”
The young girl’s pretty eyes widened. “No, no I wasn’t helping her!” She shook her head so hard I was half-afraid it would fall off. “Mrs. Mahomed made me wait outside while she was talking to the lady – I think she was your Mom?”
I nodded. “Yeah, it was my mother.”
“When she called me inside, the lady – your Mom – gave the baby to me and Mrs. Mahomed told me to take her to the garden for a while. I was watching her crawl around on the grass when she came rushing out and told me to hurry up and put the baby in her car so we could go.”
I was going to throw up again. “How did you get away?”
“I had the keys,” Amira explained. “Mrs. Mahomed, she doesn’t like to drive. Thinks it’s servant’s work.”
“Thank God,” I laughed, feeling vaguely hysterical. The baby monitor had long since slipped from my numb fingers. “She attacked you?”
A tiny nod confirmed it. “I threw the keys, grabbed the baby and ran.”
The story had been playing out in my head as she talked and now I shut my eyes tightly, balling up my fists to press against them in an effort to rub away the stomach-churning images.
Amira patted me on the back. “It must have been so awful for you.”
“No less awful for you, I think.” I examined her face in the dim light. “That looks really painful. Do you need a doctor?”
“It will heal,” Amira assured me. “In a few weeks, it will all be gone.”
“But in the meantime, pain killers and a once over will help.” I got to my feet. “Just wait a moment and I’ll…”
A hand grabbed mine and I looked down to see Amira flushing under the bruises. “I cannot afford,” she started carefully.
Of course not. Stupid of me to forget, she’d tossed away her job alongside her safety when she’d stood between that monster and my daughter.
“Amira, both my parents are doctors. And all my Dad is doing right now is reading yet another medical journal.” This was a lie, my father hadn’t touched anything but a Quran since he’d come to understand that his own father was dying.
But he wouldn’t mind. And I knew Amira would be just as uncomfortable if she thought she were disturbing someone with her needs. As I would have been.
I frowned, another thought belatedly occurring to me. Had she eaten anything even?
“Just give me one minute, alright?” I murmured distractedly, compiling a list in my head.
Rayyan was just where I’d left him and I eagerly roped him into fetching everything I needed.
He cast me puzzled looks as we walked.
“I thought you’d be more vindictive.” He didn’t seem disapproving, just surprised.
Still, I checked: “Do you think she deserves it?”
His hazel eyes widened. “You easing up? Yeah, I do. She’s pitiful enough. But.. you’re angrier at Mom than you are at the girl who actually took Azmiah away.”
Of course. He just couldn’t help himself. I rolled my eyes. “Mom didn’t get her face beaten to hell keeping that harpy away from Azmiah.”
Rayyan conceded the point with a wince.
“Do you even know why I’m so mad at Mom?”
My brother shook his head warily. “Why?”
“I warned her,” I said simply. “I warned all of you. I stayed away from everything; my family, my country, my home just so that Azmiah would stay safe. I kept away even though I was terrified. I would have continued to do so until she was old enough that she’d be safe. Even though I had to do it all on my own without anyone to turn to. And Mom just threw all of that away.”
Rayyan looked away.
“She didn’t listen to me, Rayyan. You didn’t hear the way she spoke to me when she told me where Azmiah was. I was frantic and she just dismissed it. Dismissed me. She didn’t even bother to help me look.”
A mistake I would have understood. A mistake I would have forgiven. But it hadn’t been a mistake. It had been a complete, utter lack of care.
And that I couldn’t stomach.
From the despair I saw in Rayyan’s eyes, I knew he understood and maybe, possibly, even agreed.