Chapter Seventy Four
There was silence on the other end of the line.
“Azraa, you don’t want to start this conversation.”
The hair on the back of my neck stood up. My immediate reaction was to backpedal but I fought it. I’d done that far too many times already. I was tired of sticking my head in the sand and smoothing things over.
“I wouldn’t have asked if I didn’t want to know.”
She laughed. It was an ugly sound, entirely unlike the high, pretty laughter I’d used to love and try to copy. “Of course. Yet again, you refuse to take good advice. Well, alright. If you’re so insistent, then perhaps you should know.”
I waited silently.
“Azraa, what reason could you possibly give me to trust you? You’re reckless, you don’t finish things and you’ve never worked a day in your life! It would be absurd if I did trust you to do anything other than consistently make bad choices and then expect someone else to rescue you when you couldn’t cope any more!”
“I’m here.” I managed to choke out.
“Do you have anything to say?” I hated it when my mother’s voice took on that testiness. It made me imagine her as a shrew.
“I need a minute,” I said truthfully. “Actually,” I decided, “I think I’ll call you back.”
“No, Azraa!” Mom exclaimed. “This is exactly what I’m talking about! You can’t keep doing this; starting something and then not finishing it!”
“I’m just asking for a minute!” I took a deep breath, cursing silently. I’d promised myself I wouldn’t get emotional. “You know what, never mind. Let’s talk now.”
I didn’t know if I could even blame her for being so unsympathetic; from the outside it probably did seem like I was a spoiled little flake, still. I’d just thought that she would know me well enough to realize that I’d changed.
That was why it hurt so much – she didn’t know me, not in the way a mother was expected to. Not in the way that I would ever accept knowing my own daughter.
“Did you ever bother to think that maybe I’d changed?” I was angry now.
“But you haven’t, have you? You’re still doing reckless things, only now you’re endangering my granddaughter as well!”
“I had good reasons – and don’t talk to me about endangering Azmiah.”
“Don’t you dare speak to me like that!”
I grit my teeth. Don’t escalate. Do not escalate.
“I’m not doing anything wrong. I just want to go on a vacation with my daughter. And I would like you to respect that.”
“You can’t just get what you want, Azraa! You can’t demand that we go along with your recklessness. I will not allow you to do this again.”
My head ached. I was so tired of talking. All I wanted was to go back to before I’d even answered her call and chuck my phone out the window. I knew better – why had I opened this box?
“I’m not a child any more, Mom,” I reminded my mother tiredly.
“No, I suppose you aren’t,” my mother lamented. “And if it was just you, I’d leave you to fall flat on your face.”
What a wonderful sentiment.
Mom was still talking, “It’s not like you ever allowed us to parent you anyway.”
“It’s not like you ever tried!” I cried, stung. “You were never there!”
“I stayed with you constantly until you were five years old,” Mom snapped. “I got you the best possible care after that – was I supposed to become your slave until you decided you didn’t want me to any more?”
My mouth dropped open and an inarticulate sound of rage escaped me. “You were supposed to do more than dump me on Hajra and call it done! You call me irresponsible but I would never leave Azmiah.” In my heart, I silently firmed my resolve to never abandon my daughter, no matter what.
“You don’t have a job! You have nothing else to do, you can afford to be there for her. I had more important things to do than coddle you and I will not let you make me feel bad about that – you didn’t need me. I didn’t have a mother at all and I managed. You should be grateful, little girl.”
“I am done, Mom. I’m done with this conversation, I’m done with trying to make you see me differently and I am done trying to prove myself to you.”
My mother made a sound, but I didn’t let her speak. “I’m done. Goodbye.”
I dug my fingers into my scalp and sighed hard. I should have listened to my mother, I realized bitterly. She’d been right – I shouldn’t have started that conversation. I should have let it be.
I didn’t even want to book the trip any more. It felt tainted somehow and just the thought of it made me feel vaguely nauseous.
Contrariness took hold of me and deliberately, I began to make the arrangements.
We’d leave tomorrow.
And I hadn’t booked a return date.
“Is everything alright?”
“What?” I lifted my head to look at Zaakir.
“Are you alright?” he repeated, concern shining in his brown eyes. “You’ve been quiet.”
“I’m fine.” I forced a smile to my lips. “Just thinking.”
Azmiah reached up and grabbed hold of Zaakir’s ear, tugging until he turned back to her. “Yes, darling?” he laughed. “Are you jealous of your mama?”
She cooed and toddled back to her blocks, picking up two so she could plop them in his lap.
Zaakir thanked her and they began to play again.
I walked over and settled myself in between the two of them. “Can mama play?”
As Azmiah held out a chubby hand and placed a bright red block at my feet, I felt an overwhelming rush of love and couldn’t help but scoop her up, kissing her all over her face until she squirmed.
“When are you leaving?”
“Tomorrow.” I said shortly, bracing myself.
“I’ll miss you guys.”
I jerked, startled. “You’re not going to lecture me?”
“About what?” Zaakir frowned in confusion.
I shrugged. “Leaving? Going alone? Going now?”
He just shook his head slowly, clearly thinking I’d completely lost my mind.
“Thank you,” I breathed.
“Did your parents give you a hard time?”
“You could say that. I don’t really wanna talk about it.”
Understanding flashed in Zaakir’s eyes. “Okay,” he nodded. “Wanna stack blocks?” He held one out to me.
“Sure,” I took it.