I spent the morning first writing back to Rayyan and then baking with Azmiah. All she really made was a mess but she had a ball all the same and I enjoyed it myself. She’d need a thorough bath but she’d gotten the chance to play with icing and decorate some cookies for her uncle. I was in love with her little hand prints so I let her cover her fingers with melted chocolate and then smack them down onto giant cinnamon sugar cookies, her uncle’s favourite.
I also made a whopping twelve dozen madeleines and vacuum sealed everything for good measure before loading up a box with goodies and three separate full memory cards and then sending the whole lot off.
With any luck, by the time it arrived at Rayyan’s doorstep, I’d be putting my plan into motion.
My stupid, reckless, insane, prone to failure plan.
God, I needed ice cream.
Zaakir had insisted, in the way that he’d rarely ever insisted anything in my hearing, on coming along with me all the way to an entirely different continent. I was fairly certain he thought I was about to get myself killed and I couldn’t exactly blame him.
I was about to threaten crazy people who had no problems evading international attempted kidnapping charges. It was the stupidest thing I had ever done. If I’d had even a shred of another idea, I would have continued to keep at least one ocean and several hundred thousand miles between myself and the Mahomeds.
Unfortunately, this was all I’d been able to come up with. Threatening to shred their image. I knew from living with them that both my in laws spent a great deal of time and effort engineering people’s perception of them. I didn’t know quite why it was so important. They took it to a level of obsession that I’d never seen before.
Regardless, I was hoping it would work in my favour. It had to. The alternative was too depressing to even consider.
At least Azmiah was safely tucked away at my parents’ house with Hajra doting on her and the contracted security guards that we had long ago contracted permanently briefed to be on high alert until I returned.
Now all that was left was to get an appointment with my father in law… and threaten him.
I stuck a finger in my mouth and began to gnaw on the skin around my cuticles.
Zaakir was almost as on edge as I was. I’d insisted that he wait outside and not come with me and he was still visibly unhappy about it even as he handed me the small backpack he’d been carrying for me.
“This is a horrible idea,” he said quietly, almost vibrating with tension.
“Rayyan will kill me when he finds out about it.” he continued. “I don’t even blame him. I should never have brought you here.”
I was already on edge and filled with far too much coffee. The comment, said more to himself than to me, grated on my nerves and made me snap; “If you hadn’t brought me, I would have figured out how to get here by myself. I’m not helpless, Zaakir.”
He drew back, shocked. “I didn’t mean that. I’m just worried.”
Now I felt bad. “I know. I’m sorry. Let’s just get this over with.”
“Azraa, wait!” But I’d already walked through the glass doors.
I went straight up to the receptionist and asked for a message to be sent to Mr. Mahomed that his daughter in law was waiting for him.
The receptionist, a plump middle-aged woman, gave me an apologetic look as she explained that their switchboard was in the middle of being repaired. Was it urgent that I see him, she asked me.
I nodded mutely and she gave a decisive nod. “Well then, I’ll just take you to him. Follow me.” She took a key card from her belt and held it up to a discreet scanner on the wall next to the elevators.
I spent the long ride praying and questioning myself. What was I doing? I’d thought I wasn’t putting my life in any real danger by coming to a public place but had I been mistaken?
I wasn’t a cop. I didn’t know how to defend myself. I hadn’t even been a fighter as a kid. All I knew how to do was sulk and shriek, neither of which was going to help me here.
Too late now. The doors were opening.
“Through there,” my companion pointed. “There are two offices for the Mr. Mahomeds. You’ll want that one.” She pointed vaguely but I barely paid attention, my thoughts drawn instead to the second Mr. Mahomed.
I’d been thinking about Mirzaq more often as of late. Right after he’d died, just the thought of him had been enough to make my chest tight with guilt and regret. These days, the predominant emotion I felt was disgust and not a small amount of anxiety when I thought of how narrowly I’d escaped.
More than that, I wondered why I’d been kept separate from that side of him. Luck? Lack of attraction? It was driving me insane, trying to understand and I feared that I would die still filled with questions.
Never mind that. Focus on what’s happening right now. You need to keep Azmiah safe. For good.
I walked on shaky legs to the right office and rapped sharply on the privacy glass.
He wasn’t expecting me. Would that work in my favour?
The door swung open and I came face to face with a tall, thin man my grandfather’s age. “Yes?” he frowned down at me.
My mouth fell open in shock. If I’d ever bothered to imagine Mirzaq as an old man, the face I was met with was exactly what would have come to mind.
I took an involuntary step back.
“Who are you?” I was subjected to a quick once over. “How did you get in here?”
I found my voice. “I’m Azraa Razi. I’m sorry, I knocked on the wrong door.”
Recognition flared in grey eyes the exact same shade as my dead husband’s. “Ah. You are the granddaughter in law I’ve been hearing so much about lately. Come inside.”
I didn’t move. “I’m afraid I can’t stay. I need to see Iqbal quickly and then leave.”
The man considered this and then, coming to a conclusion of some sort, nodded. “I’ll join you.” A wrinkled hand gestured out towards the hall. “Lead the way.”