Did this chapter publish or was it stuck in drafts for almost a week? If you read Sixty One without Sixty, please read this one and then read Sixty One again #_#
“So what happened?”
I’d put Azmiah down and used Rayyan’s bathroom to wash my face, hands and knees and I felt a little more human. My heart still fluttered when I couldn’t see Azmiah, even for a moment but I knew deep within me that that wasn’t going away any time soon.
My daughter had nearly been stolen from me while I was none the wiser. Having her out of my sight was going to terrify me at least until I knew her grandparents were dead and gone and no longer able to touch her.
Zaakir cleared his throat. “I’m going to go check on…” He gestured vaguely towards the door. “Rayyan will explain.”
I turned to my brother who was shaking his head. “Twenty years of knowing us all and he still can’t criticize Mom,” he muttered ruefully.
“What?” Rayyan straightened up out of his slouch.
I held up my hands. “I know you love to take their side, Ray. But if I have to hear even one word defending what Mom did, I’m going to lose it. So, if you’re here to try and make peace or something else ridiculous, you can just leave. Okay? Just leave.”
Rayyan’s lips were pursed. “Are you done?”
“Completely? No more accusations left in you?”
“I’m not accusing you!”
“No,” Rayyan acknowledged. “No, you’re just attacking me.”
He sighed. “Look, I get it. You’re terrified right now. But don’t take it out on me – and don’t jump down my throat before I’ve even said anything.”
“Sorry,” I told my feet. “I’m just stressed. And mad. And scared.”
So scared. What if we hadn’t found her in time?
“We did find her.” Rayyan reminded me, crouching down to rub my shoulder. “We did find her and she’s right there behind you. Look.” He turned us both.
Azmiah lay on her back, snoring softly. One of her little fists slowly unclenched.
I felt a smile pull at my mouth.
I’d looked over every inch of her and hadn’t found any damage but I couldn’t dispel the nagging worry that something had been done to her while I wasn’t there to protect her.
“How long was she alone with Shamima?”
Rayyan thought for a moment. “I don’t think she ever was. Zaakir said Amira came up to him with her just after he got off the phone with you and Mom handed her off to Amira directly, right?”
Amira? Of course – my mother had mentioned a young woman with Shamima. I hadn’t even realized just who she must have been referring to.
“Amira came up to him?” I repeated. “She gave Azmiah back?”
“Yeah. It sounds like she waited for a chance and then ran off with the baby as soon as your mother in law’s back was turned.”
I cringed. “Could you not call her that?” I didn’t want Shamima to be my anything.
“Where are they now?” Zaakir had said he’d called the police. Had the two women been arrested?
“Amira’s downstairs. I think, um, she was arrested though. Dad handled all of that.” Rayyan smiled. “It’s the first time he’s shown any emotion in the past few days. Since…”
Since our grandfather had died. God, it suddenly seemed so long ago.
“He drove like a madman coming back from the graveyard, you know. We were frantic.”
Graveyard. My eyes widened. “Iqbal. What happened to him?”
“He didn’t come. I would’ve seen him.”
“Are you sure?” I was starting to panic again.
“Azraa, deep breaths. I’m sure he wasn’t here but I’ll go tell Dad you’re worried about it. Maybe he can talk to the police.”
I nodded distractedly. “Okay. I can’t believe I forgot – God, what else have I forgotten?” I chewed at the skin around my fingernails, trying to focus.
“Az, I’m going to talk to Dad, okay?”
I nodded, barely listening.
Who else did I have to be afraid of?
I went to the crib and stuck my hand through the bars, feeling Azmiah’s chest rise and fall as she breathed.
Get it together Azraa. You’re falling apart.
Get it together. Get it together. Get it together.
What had happened to all of the strength I’d discovered in the year since Azmiah was born? How had it all drained away without me even noticing?
I needed to get it back somehow. I needed to get myself back.
I found Rayyan and Dad in the smaller sitting room with their heads bent together as they talked. Identical looks of shock spread over their faces at the sight of me and I couldn’t help but smile a little.
“Hey.” I took the remaining seat on the sofa next to my brother.
“Hi, baby,” Dad greeted me softly. “You came down.”
I nodded. “Yeah.” I felt like I was going to vibrate out of my skin and I had a death grip on the baby monitor in my hand but I was determined to get over it.
“Azmiah still asleep?”
“Yeah, she’s barely moved. It’s been a long day.”
“The longest,” Rayyan agreed.
“Don’t you want to try and get some sleep?” Dad suggested, frowning at me. “You must be exhausted.”
“Later. Once everything’s done.” If I even could sleep. I had the distinct feeling that I was in for yet more nightmares once I closed my eyes.
“It’s going to take more than a day, Az.” Rayyan pointed out.
“I know. But… I just don’t want to go to sleep yet. And I may as well do something useful while I’m up.”
“There’s not much left to do, darling. We’ve talked to the security company and to the police. For now the best thing to do is just to rest up.”
I hesitated. “Shouldn’t I talk to the police?”
Rayyan nodded immediately. “You’ll have to. But not tonight. It’ll wait til morning.”
I thought back to my mental list. “And Mom?”
Rayyan turned to Dad who shook his head. “I don’t think that’s a good idea,” he said gently. “Not yet.”
I accepted this calmly – I’d expected it. “Alright. I’ll talk to Amira first then.”
“If you’re sure you can handle it?” Dad checked.
“Then,” he turned to Rayyan. “Go on. Take her.”