I muffled a yawn with my closed fist. I was so tired my eyes hurt and all I wanted to do was lie in bed until my skin fused to the sheets. Instead, I’d soon have to drag myself up in order to get ready for the second too big, too fancy and too long celebration our parents had planned for us.
Their hearts were in the right place, I reminded myself as I stretched and reached for the hotel’s phone to order us some breakfast from room service before returning to my comfortable cocoon to reminisce about the night Zaakir and I had spent together. It had been nothing like I thought it would.
We’d surprised one another, confided in one another, even shed a few tears.
I’d always thought that I knew everything about him but I’d never even considered some of the things that came together to make Zaakir, the person. He was so close to his mother, yes because Hajra was lovely and caring, but also because she was the only person who’d been there for him since the day he was born.
It had never occurred to me either that hismanners were impeccable because he’d been so often scrutinized, nor that the imperturbability he projected was not innate but learned as a survival mechanism against the many people he’d had to deal with whoferreted out weak spots to target them and were encouraged by his reactions to their cruelty.
I’d been in a rage by the time he’d finished explaining, hating every one of the people who’d ever thought themselves better than him because of his mother’s station and loathing myself for the times when I’d used the fact that he worked for my parents as a weapon to force him into distancing himself from me.
He’d promised me that it was just a habit now to remain calm and, teasingly, had told me that he’d set me loose on anyone who upset him. I’d made him swear to truly do it and had curled myself around him, trying to take away the hurt for the boy he’d been.
We’d gotten distracted then, sharing kisses for a time.
When he’d confided in me that he’d always longed for and had felt the lack of a father, not for the man himself but due to the image he’d constructed in his head from jealously watching others, my heart had ached for him so hard there’d been a lump in my throat.
There in the dark, I’d even worked up the courage to begin confiding in him about the worst of my first marriage. Slowly, just a little.
There would be time for more later.
It was more intimate than anything I’d ever experienced before, baring not just our bodies but our inner selves. More so than sex. Though, I sighed happily, that had been pretty great too.
Zaakir had emerged from the bathroom while I’d been daydreaming, and now he cast a puzzled look at me. “I thought you’d be grumpy because it’s so early.”
“I’m in a good mood.” I watched unashamedly as he dressed, seeing a light flush begin to colour his cheeks at the attention.
“It’s rude to stare, you know.”
“I’m not staring, I’m appreciating,” I corrected.
I lay there contentedly as he got ready for the day, then went to retrieve the room service cart that had been left outside the door.
The scent of good, rich coffee made me sit up just so I could make myself a cup.
Fifteen minutes later, I was out of the shower and adding the last finishing touches to my make up, the energy boost courtesy of the giant mug of coffee I’d downed.
Zaakir had watched me in mild alarm.
“I need it to deal with all the people,” I defended myself.
Worry creased his brow. “How many people are there going to be exactly?”
From the guest list I’d seen? At least five hundred. “Lots,” was all I told Zaakir, standing up to grab my purse.
“Can we leave early please?” he requested.
I’d nodded so vigorously I’d shaken one of my curls free from its pin.
We needed a new place to live. I’d informed Zaakir of that fact bright and early this morning, after being told that yet another guest had arrived that I would need to entertain, no doubt by answering a thousand inappropriate questions about my personal life.
“Isn’t it a little soon?” he’d asked hesitantly. “We’ve only been married a few weeks, we can stick it out for a while longer. And if we’ll be travelling for most of the year, it’s a bit of a waste, isn’t it?”
In response, I’d made him entertain our guest right alongside me. By the end of it, he was ready to call a real estate agency right that second and was spouting off on the benefits of purchasing property as an investment as though I was the one who’d needed convincing.
I sat going through online listings now while Zaakir played peekaboo with Azmiah on the floor. He’d given me his list of requirements – all two of them. He wanted trees and a nice view.
I was fussier. I wanted at least two floors, good security, and a room right next to the master bedroom that we could make Azmiah’s so I’d never be too far from her.
I also wanted to move in immediately.
I scrolled through the listings that matched up with what we wanted, biting my lip. I didn’t like any of them. Finally, when I was about to give up, I found something that had potential. The photographs were such terrible quality I prepared myself for the possibility that the place was a ruin even as I set up a meeting with the agency that was handling the sale.
Zaakir raised an eyebrow at me. “Found something you like?”
I turned my laptop. “I can’t tell yet.”
“Well, if it isn’t nice, we’ll just keep looking. Do you want to set up a few more appointments?”
I wanted to play with my family. “Later,” I decided. “There’s no rush.”
High ceilings, beautifully finished wood floors, discreet fencing and reinforced glass on the windows. It was exactly what I wanted.
I knew from the slight ache in my cheeks that I had a silly looking grin on my face. Not the best behaviour for negotiating prices but I didn’t care. I liked it, I wanted it, I had the money to easily get it.
“What do you think?” I asked Zaakir in a low voice.
The agent tactfully disappeared, murmuring something about paperwork.
“I like it. The fireplace in the lounge is amazing.” He looked boyishly pleased at the idea of making a blaze.
I set Azmiah down on the floor. “Whaddaya think, sweetie?”
She walked forward a step and then decisively sat herself down on an area rug to examine it. “Mine!”
“Looks like she wants to stay.”
I kind of wanted to stay too. I stepped into Zaakir’s arms. “You know this means we’re going shopping for everything under the sun, don’t you?”
He made a face. “You go. I’ll stay home with Azmiah.”
I laughed and shook my head. “You’re not getting away that easy,” I told him playfully.
He scooped up Azmiah and handed her to me, then went to find the agent to tell her the good news.
Our house. I tried the words out in my head. No, that wasn’t quite right.
Our home. My home. The one I got to make just how I wanted it. The one with my family in it, happy and content. I couldn’t think of anything better.
You lot had best appreciate this chapter – I wrote it twice. It deleted itself when it was almost done and I started crying I was so upset.