Chapter Seventy Three
I had decisions to make. For the first time since before my daughter had been born, I no longer had to look over my shoulder or remain trapped where the security was tightest. I could go wherever I wanted. The question was – would I?
I’d dreamed about the moment when I would finally be able to lose myself in anonymity once again but now it was finally possible, all I could think about was the people we’d be leaving behind. I still ached to go, to discover and explore and find little nooks and crannies where I might finally feel like I truly fit.
It was just that now I found myself wishing I could bring a few people along with me.
I didn’t know what to do and it wasn’t like I could ask my parents for advice – they’d be furious that I was even considering leaving again instead of just staying put and letting them dote on their granddaughter at their convenience.
Neither of them could understand that I wasn’t happy in their home the way they were. Neither of them would understand why it didn’t fit me the way it did them, not without an explanation that I just wasn’t willing to give.
I didn’t have the energy to try and make them understand why I felt so differently to the way they did. I didn’t want to listen to the protests and defensiveness. They’d done the best they were capable of doing with me – for me – but somehow something had fallen short and I hadn’t been happy in my childhood home.
I’d felt left out and trapped. It wasn’t their fault in that they’d never meant to cage me away just as much as it was because they’d never considered that my demands to come with them weren’t signs of a spoilt child feeling jealous but of a lonely child feeling left out – yet again.
I hadn’t had an unhappy childhood. I would never be pitying enough to declare that. I’d had a good childhood, but I’d had it largely in spite of my parents rather than because of them. The most powerful feeling that came to mind when I drifted back into those memories was loss.
Years ago, I would have immediately reminded myself that my parents’ work was lifechanging and that they’d had their reasons. Now, while I still acknowledged the truth of that, I could see that the decisions they’d made were poor. They’d thought they were doing the right thing by giving themselves so unselfishly but they’d forgotten entirely that they were needed elsewhere.
Telling them both this was an urge that I’d been struggling with ever since I’d had the lightning bolt realization that made me finally understand. Like what seemed to be all of my realizations, it had come chiefly from worrying over the way I parented Azmiah.
I didn’t think that fear would ever leave me. I’d always worry that I was doing something that would unintentionally hurt her or damage our relationship and that very worry had led me to once again examine the way I’d been parented. From afar, with a lot of money and little attention.
I was as determined to never do that to my daughter as I was to ensure that I never morphed into an overindulgent, patronizing mother like her father’s had been. Balance – it had been lacking in both Mirzaq’s childhood and my own.
And balance, it occurred to me, was the solution to my dilemma. I didn’t have to disappear into the wilderness. I could find a halfway point, if I wanted to. It would be harder, to open myself up to the disapproval I would no doubt be met with from my family and to bring my little family back here regularly.
Extremes were easier. On the surface, they were cleaner too. I wanted to go to an extreme. I wanted to run off in the darkest part of the night and never deal with the objections and questions and doubts that my family was so good at loading on me.
Instead, I was going to be a grown up and face them head on. Starting right now, actually.
I penned a quick message to both my parents and then copied the text into an email to Rayyan.
I’m taking Azmiah on a little vacation in a few days. We won’t go far this first time and I don’t plan to be gone long. I think it’ll be good for us to get a change of scenery for a few weeks. Mom and Dad, if you want to see us off or see Azmiah one last time before we go, I’ll text you our itinerary as soon as I’ve made up my mind.
There. Too late to back out now.
Not ten minutes later, I’d begun to fervently regret my impulsive decision. I had a handful of my own hair twisted around my fingers that I was certain would need to be removed with a knife and I was ready to shriek at my mother until she finally listened.
”You can’t just up and leave!” she snapped, sounding frazzled. “What if something happens? You need to stay where it’s safe.”
I resisted the urge to remind her that something had happened – and not ever while I was out in the wild world, but when Azmiah had been left in her care. “Mom, you’re not listening to me.”
“I am listening!”
I rolled my eyes to the ceiling. “I’m not leaving for good,” I said for the third time. “I just want to go on a little trip with Azmiah. I’ll even text you our itinerary once we have it, if you like. But I’ve made up my mind – I can’t stay here any longer. I’m not asking your permission, Mom. I’m informing you of what I’ve decided.”
“It’s irresponsible!” my mother exploded, the second that I’d finished. “Azmiah is a little baby, you can’t take her up and down with you like a purse!”
“I know that!” I yelled, against my better wishes. How did my mother always know exactly how to get under my skin?
I reigned in my frustration. “Mom, I’ve already made my decision. I’d appreciate it if you could respect it.”
“I cannot condone this,” Mom said flatly.
I wasn’t asking her to. I said as much and ended the call, offering her a cursory goodbye and not waiting for a reply.
Well, that went well. I flung my phone away and tried hard not to feel disappointed. I’d known this would happen. But reminding myself of that only made me sad. As much as I’d expected the reaction, I’d still hoped that they’d somehow find it in themselves to trust my judgement.
Clearly too much to ask for, from my mother at least.
But why? I just didn’t understand.
My phone buzzed loudly and I hesitantly walked over to retrieve it.
Impulsively, I accepted the call. “Why don’t you trust me?”