So, I have just figured out that possibly no one read Chapter Sixty because WordPress ate it. If so, SORRY! And please go read 60, 61 and then this one.
Chapter Sixty Two
It is counter productive to storm into your mother’s bedroom and drag her out by her hair, I reminded myself for what must have been the dozenth time that week.
Any lingering compassion I’d felt for Mom had long since evaporated like water being poured over a flame. I understood guilt and shame better than anyone but even I couldn’t make out what Mom planned to accomplish by banishing not only me and Rayyan but also Dad who’d been nothing but supportive and sympathetic to her and who was grieving for the loss of his father just as hard as she was.
I didn’t know what to do. Dad was wandering around the house like a lost soul. He’d understandably refused to move his things from the bedroom he shared with Mom and I’d found him asleep on the couch in his study when I’d made my rounds after Azmiah’s feeding at five in the morning yesterday.
Tears pricked my eyes as I remembered how alarmingly fragile he’d seemed when I shook him awake and took him to a bed so he could rest properly. He seemed so different from the untouchable figure of my childhood and it terrified me.
My mother had been his rock and my grandfather his shield. To lose both in such a short period of time… I didn’t know how long he’d hold up.
Someone needed to talk sense back into my mother and I had no idea who it was going to be.
I let my head drop down onto the smooth study table and shoved away the abandoned cup of coffee that had been cooling at my elbow. My fourth of the day. And I’d have drunk more if I wasn’t still breastfeeding.
Help, I thought miserably. I need help. I want to go home.
But I was home. Or as close to it as I was going to get for the foreseeable future. I couldn’t ever remember truly being home. Not the way I’d heard it described in books and movies, like a sanctuary built just for me. Even in those apartments I’d shared with my daughter, the spectre of her grandparents had always loomed, keeping my spine stiff and my sleep restless.
Even when I’d been little, I’d only ever been afforded glimpses of it before being shooed away to a nursery or into the arms of a waiting minder.
No, home only existed in my sweetest dreams. Fleeting and bittersweet.
Time to stop wallowing, I told myself sternly. There are things to do.
Like figuring out what to do with Amira. I winced at the phrasing, even in my own head. It made the poor girl sound like a problem in truth, she was the opposite. She’d insisted on helping Hajra until new staff could be interviewed properly. We’d made the decision to hire new people to deal with the growing work that came from the house suddenly being lived in for a decent period of time once again a while back but that had been done under the assumption that the full house would be temporary.
Now, I knew the older woman appreciated the help and it made Amira feel better about staying with us. But it made me feel strange to have the young woman so dependent on us – we weren’t paying her for her work yet, after all and she clammed up and ran away from me whenever I tried to bring up the topic of getting her back on her feet.
She still didn’t even have any clothes that I hadn’t yanked out of my own cupboards. I’d had some underwear and toiletries delivered but Amira had refused anything else with such discomfort that I’d let it be, resolving to tackle the topic another day.
A week was as long as I was willing, it turned out, to let Amira live with just about as many possessions as the average homeless person.
Today, we would go shopping. And I would be out of the house for the very first time since that last, awful trip to the hospital.
I liked to imagine that my grandfather would be proud of what had propelled me to make this first trip out.
Now all I had to do was convince Amira.
My head began to throb and I let out a groan. Checking the time informed me that not only was it past midnight but I’d stayed awake past dawn again. There was no point trying to head to sleep for just an hour or two.
I’d take a shower and get ready for the day. But first, another pot of coffee.
I blinked blearily at my brother, sure I’d heard him wrong. He “needed to get a few things too” so he might as well come with us.
Rayyan despised shopping.
I told him this and a faint red flush began to stain his skin.
“S’not so bad,” he muttered.
“Riight. And you’ve never thrown a tantrum because you hate shopping. Never faked being sick to avoid a trip to the mall. Never-” I was just getting warmed up when Rayyan hastily shoved a piping hot scone into my mouth.
“Mmph!” I shrieked. I carefully spat the offending baked good into my napkin, out of sight of Azmiah who’d just recently stopped doing the same whenever she was offered any food she wasn’t in the mood of swallowing. “What is wrong with you?” I demanded waspishly.
“Nothing,” Rayyan said stoutly. He stuffed a giant spoonful of granola in his mouth and chewed aggressively. “Drop it.”
I rolled my eyes. “You’re losing it,” I advised my brother.
“Yeah, I know,” he agreed. “I really am.” He shot a furtive glance at Amira who’d just walked in and sprung to his feet. “I’m gonna go. Call me when you’re ready.”
“Wha…” I stared at his retreating back.
What on Earth?
I put Rayyan’s strange behaviour aside for the moment, making a mental note to corner him later and interrogate him. Then I turned to Amira.
“I need your help, please.” I put on my most pleading expression. “Would you be able to come out with me? I just can’t handle Azmiah in the crowds all by myself.”
“Of course!” she agreed immediately.
I felt a twinge of guilt for tricking her and shoved it aside.
“Thank you!” I gave her a quick hug. “And we’ll look for a few things for you too,” I tacked on, unwilling to drag her out completely unprepared.
Amira’s eyes widened in alarm and I made a helpless face. “Please?” I wheedled.
Hesitantly, she nodded. “Alright. One or two.”
One or two dozen, I thought privately, outwardly nodding like a bobble head. “Okay, let’s go!”