Chapter 1: New Beginnings
Her white laced gloves waited tentatively on the table. Looking up at her as she applied more make-up.
The sunlight peered in, casting a shadow from the branches of a tree she had gotten to know over the years. As she looked around the bedroom for a sign that she had forgotten something, her cellphone buzzed its cheerful alert.
It was time.
Checking herself over once more, she grabbed her purse, nearly forgot her jacket, and dashed down the stairs.
Just in time.
The doorbell rang.
The silhouette of Ariya, waiting for the bride-to-be. Not a moment too soon as they headed over to the mosque where the ceremony would begin.
Maya realized she forgot her gloves the moment she stepped into the car, but by then she realized any further delay and Ariya would speed through traffic like a hungry person for McDonalds, so she decided to simply fasten her seat belt instead.
“Did Jacob remember to bring the flowers?” Maya asked, admiring the French braid with flowers in Ariya’s hair.
“I certainly hope so. I only had to remind him ten times this morning. Well, Noah that is. He guaranteed it himself,” Ariya replied, backing out of the driveway at a cautious pace.
Driving made Maya nervous.
It wasn’t the red lights or unpredictable patrons that made her anxious, but how quickly your life could change in a second with the wrong turn. She relaxed her nerves with some tunes from the radio, and looked outside at the promise of Spring outside.
Bright colors, and flowers blooming, she felt closer to God now more than ever.
She looked out the window to a busy parking lot of patrons. Many of them were there to attend to Friday prayers, while others were part of their exclusive guest list.
It wasn’t that they didn’t have many people to invite, but Maya didn’t want her marriage to start off on a financial burden. She already had more than enough debt that she would have to take care of once she returned from their honeymoon.
Within moments she found herself taking in a deep breath, and pacing up the steps of the old masjid.
Her phone buzzed, must be another alarm, she thought as she rummaged through her purse.
“Noah! Please tell me you got the flowers. I’ll be there in two minutes.”
“I got the flowers, but, well… maybe I’ll wait until you get up here.”
“Really? Why so glum? Are you still worried about Ariya? Listen, I’ve got it covered. We can surprise her next Tuesday. For now, let’s just worry about the sheikh getting here on time.”
“Yes, of course. But Maya, I’m not sure where Jacob is, I’ve tried calling his cell phone and no answer. Do you know where he went?”
She wondered to herself, hoping he hadn’t changed his mind.
His parents weren’t exactly thrilled with her but they didn’t completely disapprove of her either.
Maybe they duck taped him to a chair.
No, now that would be crazy.
She tried not to feel upset as he often seemed to run late.
“I could try his apartment again, but he was suppose to meet me at the floral shop. The store owner said that he never arrived. I thought it was strange. But then again, he has been absentminded lately,” Noah offered, not sure what would make a more plausible excuse.
A feeling of dread washed over her. She shook it away.
“Hang on, I have another call,” she placed him on hold and answered.
“Is this Maya Li?”
“This is Janice Reed from Eastview General Hospital. You are listed as a contact for Jacob…”
The rest of the information seemed to blur as Maya tried to understand what she was saying. It was like the English language became foreign to her as the nurse detailed what had happened.
“Yes, yes, of course I will be there,” she said, and dashed down the rest of the stairs, nearly colliding into Ariya.
Maya could feel her face flush.
Eyes watering, she didn’t know what to say as Ariya asked her what was going on.
She tried to open her mouth but the lump in her throat just swelled.
“Is something wrong? I mean, I know you aren’t crazy about the smell of stinky feet and all, but it is Friday.”
Maya shook her head, and started running back to the car in her stockings. Ariya fumbled with her keys, and followed her quickly to the car.
As she tried to understand what Maya was saying, she realized the there were tears flowing down her face.
She felt numb.
A chill went up her spine.
Jacob was dead.
Chapter 2: Brief Endings
The next 24 hours felt like a whirlwind of scenes to Maya.
She wasn’t sure if it was the flurry of guests that came to console her at the hospital that tasted ironic, or the veil over Jacob’s face that felt bitter.
She was awash with emotion that she couldn’t name.
It felt like everyone around her was invisible, and only her wedding dress mattered. She looked down at the white satin cover, the promise of truth. But the only thing she felt were stains from countless hugs, and tears that surrounded her.
It wasn’t enough that she was pretty, Jacob decided to start his life without her. A new life without him. She struggled to breathe quickly. Making this all go away.
But when she awoke hours later, she realized that his cold hand against hers meant reality would not change. He would be silent forever.
Maybe now I can tell him all our hopes and dreams, she whispered to herself, as she looked at him in disbelief.
Her eyes so tired from crying.
Is it not enough that I have waited my whole life for you? She asked him, holding back the flood of emotions brimming her eyes.
Her back ached.
It was midnight.
She felt tiredly awake, waiting for him to smile at her, to say that everything would be okay.
That marble expression of his mouth told her otherwise.
Is it wise to love a dead person? I heard the sheikh mentioning funeral arrangements. Why can’t I remember anything he said.
She slumped back into her seat, refusing any food given to her. She couldn’t remember what it was like to feel hungry. All she could think about was what time he would wake up.
Fall asleep my love.
I will be alright.
Don’t worry about the flowers.
I’ve got them covered.
They were pink you see, just like the way you make me feel. Like white peonies blushing.
But you already knew that, didn’t you?
From the moment I met you, amongst the columns of bookshelves and tired students, you knew how to charm me.
You were always so awkward, she thought to herself.
Always trying to impress me. You know, you didn’t have to do much to accomplish that. It showed in your kindness.
Like that time, remember.
When I caught a fish and you fed it back into the water, only to catch an even bigger one. You told me that it wasn’t fair to the smaller fish if I let the bigger fish live, so why not give the small fry a chance to prove itself to the world before its life ends at the line.
I always found you clever but maybe I’m the one who wasn’t smart enough to protect you.
Maybe if I had agreed to seven o’clock instead of noon, I could have saved you.
She looked at his stern expression.
Okay, fine, you’re right.
Yes, I remember. This is God’s will.
But how can God let me die like this?
She reached for her tissue, balled up into a fist.
A few hours later, the ceremony began, except it wasn’t quite how she pictured it. Throwing the dirt onto the wooden crate felt like abandonment.
Have I let you down, she asked herself, lifting sand throughout the tears.
Or were you never mine to begin with.
Her motions were automatic yet numb as she blinked blankly at the mound of dirt she was to call her husband.
She dove in, scratching away at the dirt, bare nails and all.
They watched, unable to stop themselves from the sorrow they felt for her.
She panted, and gave up.
Too many feet.
Too deep inside.
She would never see him again.
Chapter 3: Easy Changes
Her alarm rang.
Ariya peeked open one eye and groaned.
Really, do I have to go to work.
She forced herself out of bed, shaking off slumber. She asked herself what day it was, not recalling what happened the day before. Her hair was a mess. Just the way she liked it, as she combed through her mane. Tying it back, she brushed her teeth and thought about the many tasks throughout her day.
Lunch. Oh, shoot, I forgot.
Dinner? Maybe Noah will think of something.
She darted out to her car, peeled out of the driveway, and ended up at work somehow alive.
I really need to start waking up earlier, she thought to herself as she realized this was now the third week in a row that she had missed morning prayer.
I will get better, she thought to herself, as she rushed into the building and barely caught the slow moving elevator to the highest floor.
Being late was not an option for her, there were too many meetings booked back to back with clients who had as much patience as an ostrich. Do ostriches have patience, she wondered to herself as she quickly entered her office, only to find a stack of paper work to be buried in. Being a paralegal at one of the most prestigious firms on Wallace Street meant sacrifice.
In my case, she thought to herself, it means no social life.
Not that she minded. She preferred combing over files rather than listening to the versions of cases presented by clients. And friends.
It wasn’t until noon that she realized Maya had called in sick again.
Poor thing, it had been three months of absolute hell for her trying to tie loose ends with Jacob’s family. It didn’t help that they resented her a little as well.
She forced her thoughts on work. As the day passed by quickly, she waited for Noah to meet her for dinner at six. Her heart always raced a little at the thought of seeing him. It wasn’t his boyish grin that made her smile, but the way his presence calmed her worries before she could even say a word.
He had proposed the week before, but they both felt it would be inappropriate to celebrate an engagement with everything that had happened. Maya had grown so pale these last few months, it made Ariya feel inappropriate for being ecstatic. They agreed to postpone any announcements until it was appropriate, but she couldn’t help but feel impatient to get her new life started with him.
As she reminded herself to be patient, Noah arrived, and they hurried off to a Thai restaurant that they frequented to.
“You know, she will wonder why we didn’t tell her. I mean, it’s not like she would be angry with us. Maybe it would help her move on,” Noah said.
“Yes, I know. But don’t you feel awkward?”
“I do, with all the pressure. Mother looked at the door again last night, expecting him to walk in. I’m starting to think this wedding isn’t about me anymore.”
“It’s hard to say, but maybe you’re right. Maybe it is time that we all move on. Try to smile, even if it’s fake. He wouldn’t want us to grieve like this. It’s unfair to him.”
Noah beamed a little, but his sadness stuck. Ariya had been too busy to notice how much he had changed lately.
He felt like he had to replace his brother somehow, but he wasn’t sure in what way. He could barely stand driving up past his apartment. His parents had barely uttered his name in months. It was like they were afraid to walk into it somehow, the conversation about his death. And when they did, it was only when they spoke to Maya and demanded that she return certain items back. As if this would bring him alive again somehow.
It made it that much more difficult for him to refuse them now.
On the way home, they discussed what to do next.
I’m not even sure it will be a happy wedding, Ariya thought to herself.
She realized that it was better coming from her than it was from Jacob’s parents of their upcoming plans in June. But before she could dial her number, Maya was already calling.
“I’m leaving in four weeks,” she said.
“What? Where! But you can’t, I’m–”
“I already booked the plane ticket. One way. But I’ll come back and visit.”
“But, what will I do without you? Where will you go? I can’t believe this.”
“I’ll be fine. I saved up some money from the wedding.”
“I’m sorry I haven’t been around. It’s just been so hectic with the firm, and Noah asked about you too. We feel terrible how badly his parents have treated you.”
“No, no, it’s not about them. I need change. Being here reminds me of him too much. It’s like he’s everywhere. I keep running into people who knew him. I’m so tired. I think a fresh start will do some good.”
“Listen, I wanted to tell you this earlier, but I wasn’t sure how to. You see, Noah and I are getting married.”
That was the last conversation they had.
Chapter 4: The Promise
Her tea stirred as she sipped it carefully. Jacob’s mother wasn’t use to the silence in her home, the softness of the cheese as she sliced into the Camembert delicately. Her frail wrists smoothing the soft cheese across a slab of bread, her eyes wary from the sleepless nights since his departure.
It had been months since she had spoken to Him, if only in her prayers. She missed Jacob terribly and the only way she could console herself was to blame it all on her.
A girl who seemed too loud and lively. Her son had always been obedient until he met her with that radiant smile and easy charm. It was like he was captivated by her somehow, and all she could do was stand by and watch her son slip away. It made her feel invisible, like as if the past 25 years meant nothing compared to the year he spent getting to know a girl that was too modern and conventional by her standards.
Maya is a nice girl, she thought to herself, but she doesn’t quite fit in with us.
Looking outside her window, Olivia ate the rest of her toast with Camembert quietly. Her tea was soon finished and it was time to pray soon before heading out for errands. She stared at the clock for what seemed like hours, only to find herself weeping unexpectedly.
I miss him, she confirmed to herself, more than I can possibly bear.
She closed the white wrapper around the powdery cheese, and cleared the table. It was time to head out to the bank, and close the last few accounts of Jacob’s.
Chapter 5: As You Wish
It felt like forever for Jacob as he tossed and turned. Where am I, he asked himself, unsure as to why he felt uneasy with the silence around him. He looked around, and realized he wasn’t in his car anymore. He glanced at his watch. Nothing. What on earth? He pondered to himself as he tried to get up.
There was dirt everywhere, all around him, making him wonder if this was some kind of practical joke. I’m going to be late! He panicked slightly, but felt calm at the same time. Suddenly, a flash, light blue glowing above him. Looking more closely, he realized it resembled a human.
Am I dreaming? He strained his eyes at the figure of light blue hovering near him.
They asked him three questions. He struggled to remember. Everything seemed so foggy in this dream. Or is it a nightmare? He asked, unsure as to why nobody had found him.
Suddenly, the heavenly angels vanished and left Jacob alone.
He sat, waiting, for what would feel like an eternity.
Chapter 6: Maya
Five years have passed since my betrothed has left me, and all I can say is that while I have gotten use to the feeling of missing him silently in my heart everyday, I haven’t gotten use to the loneliness without him in my life. It’s like a vessel that rides along the lonely waters at night, searching amidst the fog for a caring stranger that will no longer return. And as I struggle to keep my memory of him fresh in my mind, it’s like I don’t have space for anything else in my life. He takes up so much room that instead of feeling full, I am just too overwhelmed to take on anything else.
I can’t remember the last time I spoke to Ariya or anyone else that I thought cared about me. And none of it seems to matter anymore. Every time I try to stand up, I have to remind myself to sit down. To bear with this pain of losing someone who was just next to me, only to be laying beneath the heap of dirt.
I feel like dirt. Scattered, disheveled, and heavy. Its no longer a question of wanting to live so much as asking when will I see him again. My love feels like a burden, and only I can carry its weight.
I can’t remember the last time I even spoke with my family. Maybe if I actually gave them my number, they would be able to reach me.
But life doesn’t seem to have the same taste anymore. It’s like a part of me just died with him and I can’t seem to dig it back up. It’s gone. Or is it?
Recently, I took on a catering business to help me with my taste buds. It has been hectic running my own halal catering venture but I figured with the dark feelings that lurk back, I may as well busy myself with a scent of newness in my life. Even if it can be totally stressful at times when doing back to back events in the same day, but thankfully I have Sammie to help me with the dish menu as well as cooking while I maintain my logic with business matters, new contacts, and networking.
Who is Sammie, you ask? Simply one of the best chefs that Vancouver has ever seen. Well, I think so anyway. I met him a few years ago while fishing for ideas. Literally. I was walking into the fish market, and there he was, staring at a piece of cod, chatting with the vendor about the latest in fish news (as I would imagine), and he turned over to look at me and flashed his white smile.
To say the least, I felt relieved to meet another friendly face and we became fast friends as he told me about all the intricacies in fish on the West Coast, and ate sushi soon after. It wasn’t so much what we talked about, but that we connected on a deeper level, much to my chagrin, while holding onto my three pound salmon on the way home.
What is even stranger is that I don’t really remember how we sparked our conversation, but that somehow God sent me a friend who could be there for me after two years of hell in dealing with Jacob’s parents, the funeral payments, and moving to a brand new city. Thankfully, my aunt helped me with a place for a few months until I got back on my feet again.
And no, Sammie and I are not anything more than friends. I can’t possibly think about him in any other way because well… I don’t know if that would be fair to Jacob. He still haunts me in my dreams and a think a big part of me will always be with him, whether it be here or in the Hereafter.
Besides, Sammie is much too good for me. I mean, he’s a chef who has been raved about in the local papers for his fusion of both Guyanese and Italian cooking, thanks to his mixed heritage from his parents. He’s an amazing father with his son who still misses his mother very much. And above all, I think I’m much too old for him as I’m sure there are many females who would have much more energy than me to handle his adorable five year old.
In any case, my biggest concern is to remain steadfast in my practice as I have found my faith dissipating over the years. First, it was the hijab that I removed, now I feel like I’m lost somehow without it.
Perhaps I was angry at God at the time I did it, or maybe it was because I didn’t want to face the reality that no matter how good I am as a Muslim, his parents would never accept me, even with his death. It’s like a symbolic reminder for me that I’m just not good enough, so there is no point in pretending to try. I even feel guilty for liking it when I have good hair days, and then of course I miss it when I don’t.
But this doesn’t mean that I don’t treasure God everyday of my life that He is in it, it’s just that well, I’m not sure if I’m ready to bear the responsibility and stigma attached to it all over again. I didn’t just lose my husband, I have lost my home as well. He was my home. And I feel forever amiss without it.
Maybe I’m not living my life as fully as I should, or perhaps I am wrong to have male friendships, but at times I feel like all I am doing is surviving. Just floating a long without drowning myself in despair that perhaps deep down, God is punishing me for not being grateful enough to Him.
I know this isn’t true, but this is the truth that speaks within myself everyday that I wake up and I feel the coldness beside me.
He’s not here.
He never will be.
I need to face that.
Together or alone.
Chapter 7: Sammie
“From where I stand, I think it looks awesome. You did a great job, sport!”
“Really, Dad? I mean, come on, it looks lame.”
“Well, why don’t we let Maya be the judge of that.”
“Woo, really! When she coming over again? It’s been a whole week!”
Yes, it has. What has she been up to? I’ve tried calling her but she hasn’t been picking up. I’m worried she’s recluding again, into that cocoon of hers she calls a studio. Yes, yes of course it’s for her art, but still. How healthy is it to shut everybody out?
Must be an introvert thing.
Some things, maybe I’ll never understand. Women are such strange creatures, it’s like they are delightfully cheerful one minute, and the next, you don’t know what to think.
But maybe that’s why God gave me the gift of cooking to remind her of the balance to have in life.
“Zach, why don’t you hang that with the other pictures you have waiting for her, and I’ll get supper ready.”
“Awww… but Dad!”
“Come on, it’s time to get ready for dinner, and you smell like a laundry basket.”
“And don’t be too upset, I’m making us hamburgers! With cheese! Just the way you like it.”
“With extra ketchup?”
“Yes, Zach, with extra ketchup.”
Now where did I put that? Hmmm…
If Maya were here, she would know exactly where it is. Maybe I’ll call her again this evening. She must have gotten my voicemail this morning.
“Maya’s car just pulled up! I think it’s her!”
Looking over at the lobby window, my heart skips a beat. Did I remember to shave? Am I wearing a clean shirt? Why do I care? Ah! So frustrating.
Maybe it would help if I actually open the door for her. Oh geez, here she comes! Okay, act cool, act totally normal.
“Maya! How nice for you to join us,” as I casually open the door to let her in.
“Sorry for the last minute drive by. You must think I’ve been avoiding you.”
“No, not at all. You’ve been busy,” while I attempt to look manly in my red apron. With ruffles.
“I see you’re wearing that apron that Martha gave you,” she smiles with a nod of approval. God I love her smile.
“Why yes, of course. Even if she thought I was a female from my fan postcard. Whatever! It matches the rest of this house. Joyous and fruity.”
“You know, if I didn’t know any better, I would swear you were gay.”
“Ha, ha, ha,” if only you knew how untrue that was.
As the evening passed, and Zach and I wished Maya a good night home, I’m starting to realize how fortunate I am to have her in my life. I’m confused as to why I didn’t meet her sooner, but then again, my wonderful son wouldn’t have been borne.
“Dad, will she visit us sometime soon? She loved my painting. Loved it!”
“Yes, of course, she has to! Who wouldn’t want to see your adorable smile again,” as I tuck him into his pajamas.
“Do you think mom would mind?”
My heart stops a moment.
“You know, your mom loves you and I both very much. She only wants us to be happy. I’m sure she wouldn’t want us to feel badly for letting Maya in our lives,” as my throat feels heavier somehow.
“Well, Maya says that mommy is with Jacob, and they are both in a happier place, but that it’s really far away. We only see it after a very long sleep. Do you think it will be sometime soon?”
“Well, I… uh… yes, of course… we will see everyone one day. It will be like a big party, with lots of balloons, halaal hot dogs, and pinatas. With chocolate filled bunnies inside, and roasted marshmallows that you can eat!”
“Really? Wow! I hope you are there with me too!”
“I hope so too. Let’s get some rest. You have school tomorrow and we don’t want to be sleepy for school.”
“Okay,” as Zach yawns, “I’ll get some sleep.”
“Love you, champ.”
“Love you too, Dad.”
These past few years have been difficult with Zaina’s passing. I don’t know how I got through it all, but somehow God comforted me with Maya, and Zachariah being so wise for his age. He has been through so much, it is really unfair to him.
I can’t believe he’s nearly turning six years old next month. It’s like your life moves on even when you don’t want it to, and without the support of the community, I don’t think I would have made it this far, infusing my love into the art of cooking instead.
And then, there is Maya.
A person who is so strong that sometimes it’s hard for her to just let go, and depend on others for a little while. Even after knowing her for so long, I feel like there are parts of her that will never be open to anyone. Not even me.
Maybe I should just be content with what I have in life, but isn’t life about getting what you want? Perhaps, I am being too selfish, and that’s why I don’t really deserve her. She needs someone much stronger than me, and half the time I’m trying to just remember which bills to pay.
Speaking of which, did I pay for my hydro this month? Hmmm….
Well, at least I can spice up my next dish for her taste buds, and it will remind her of the present. At times, she has this faraway look in her eyes, and I don’t know if it’s because of something I said that reminded her of her past, or that her past will always remain with her.
I am tired of waiting, but I have a feeling that she isn’t just anyone that I have met. It somehow feels wrong to date someone else. Even if she only thinks of me as her friend.
Or maybe this is my punishment for abandoning my wife those last few days of her life.
I couldn’t bear to look at her. So fragile and weak. My anger washed away any empathy I had.
“How could you leave us?” I begged her as she refused chemo treatment.
“It’s better this way, Sameer. I can’t stay with you forever,” she whispers, weak from the cancer that has spread to her lungs.
“It’s not fair. It’s just so unfair. How long did you know?” as my eyes watered, those many years ago in that distant hospital room. The curtains slightly agape for sunlight to pour in.
“That’s not the point,” she looked away, unable to look into my eyes.
“That is exactly the point! You didn’t tell me because you knew. You knew I would tell you to fight. But instead–”
“Sammie, it was too late by then.”
What started as a cough for months, like a cold that never went away, soon became a deadly end.
“What will I tell Zach?”
“Tell him mommy went on a long vacation.”
“Really? Is that what this is,” as I try to swallow the bitterness in my voice.
That was the last conversation we had as she refused to see me in her weak condition after that. Having beauty by her side all the time, also meant she shielded me from the moments when she felt ugly. And selfishly, I didn’t want to remember her in that light either. The side of her that just gave up on life, didn’t care about me or her son. It’s like she changed when she learned that life wasn’t continuing for her anymore, and her family’s support became more important than the years we had dedicated to each other.
Maybe that’s why it is impossible for me to think of opening myself up again. Friendships are safer, it means you keep your feelings at bay. Stay close to the shore because frankly, emotions of any kind can pull you under, leaving you breathless.
I can’t breathe when I think about Zaina. It’s like all I can remember was our last fight. How I ended things. Why am I so selfish? Can I not see my wife in her entirety? Not just the parts I like?
As the night passes, I swallow a few sleeping pills to help me get some rest. Damn these things are addictive. I wish I could get a good nights sleep.
A good rest.
Chapter 8: Ariya
Waking up next to you, Noah, are the best days of my life.
Sunlight peers in, and I’m too lazy to wake up.
“Ariya, darling, it’s time for breakfast,” Noah whispers as he dresses himself with a blue bathrobe.
“Ummm… how about five more minutes?”
“Ha ha, I’m sure the smell of coffee will get ya goin’,” as he gets up to prepare French toast. A Sunday tradition.
“You know it, baby. Love you,” as I sink my face into my fluffy pillow.
“Love you more,” as he gives me a peck on my forehead and gets ready for lazy morning brunches, a ritual since moving into this new house.
I can’t believe it’s been four years since we have moved into the sunny neighborhood of Havenbrook, with its intricate houses, gorgeous trees, and delightful walkways for neighbors and children. It hasn’t always been smooth sailing, but overall, our marriage has been stable with Noah’s business picking up in Islamic art internationally, and with my consulting business for child cancer care also growing.
Daisies R’ Us has been picking up, thanks to a recent TV segment on the need for more dynamic, Pat-Adams-like care for kids who are undergoing chemotherapy treatment and psychosocial needs for both themselves and parents. With the CTB Network doing a feature, it has really helped to raise awareness of my efforts to improve care for younger patients. Having Pat as my go-to person in times of need, has really helped me survive the struggles of making a wish foundation for the few remaining months left in their lives, to be a moment of miracles.
“Ariya, would you like extra blueberries?” Noah quips, the smell of French toast trailing into the bedroom.
“Ha ha, yes of course. With happy face syruped,” as I lazily drag myself out of bed, into my fluffy bunny slippers.
“You know, I can’t believe you like my French toast that much.”
“It’s a Sunday tradition! I wouldn’t miss it for the world!” I grab a slice and munch away at it hungrily.
“Ha ha, I guess you aren’t going to wait for the blueberries?”
“Oh right, I guess I should also brush my teeth first too,” I smile as I gnaw away like a hungry puppy.
“You know, we only have enough bread for six slices,” Noah smiles back, as he cracks another egg.
“Well, I guess that means you’ll starve,” I grin with my fingers warm from the pan fried toast.
“Ha, ha, well you are feeding for two. It’s only natural that I eat less,” his face warm and beaming.
“You hear that munchkin, Daddy loves you more than his appetite,” I coo while rubbing my belly, a generous three month bump.
“Yes, and Daddy will cook you lots of French toast, halaal McMuffins, and buttery veggies!”
“Oh no, you’ll scare her off.”
“Ha! I still say he’s a he. It’s a family tradition you know.”
It is hard to believe that five years have passed since Jacob has passed. Maya hasn’t returned any of my emails since. Maybe some things are left in the past.
As we finished our breakfast, a hint of mourning as Noah chugged his coffee a little too quickly, I realize how hard it has been for him. His parents placed all business responsibilities to the sole living heir, and his father’s passing away just a year ago is still fresh.
At times, Noah appeared to be fine. Strong, in fact. But at night, I could feel the sweat from his nightmares as he tossed and turned, then apologized for having woke me up.
He didn’t want to talk about it, silence being his preferred method of manhood, but it has made it really difficult when at times, he would brood by himself secretly downstairs, the family room being a sorrow reminder of his own that he lacked.
Our newborn should hopefully remind him of a new family we could build, but there is a sadness in his eyes that even I can’t seem to take away, no matter how much I try to hide my challenges at work, or my worries with my pregnancy. Noah has so much on his plate, I feel like a burden just for asking him to fill mine.
But maybe that is the struggle in marriage. The balance of burden to be shared, and a woman knowing what to give.
My doctor tells me my pregnancy is fine, but I secretly worry about complications which I cover with a brave smile to my face. I don’t want Noah to have another reason to be exhausted when he comes home from work, it’s the least I can do as his wife.
It’s time to get the house ready, as Olivia will be here soon. She’s delighted to be a grandmother, and I only wish she had welcomed Maya with such open arms as she did with my union to her son. But perhaps that’s what happens with misunderstandings as to how Jacob met Maya. Olivia preferred to be involved with the marriage proposal, not excluded from it.
As a result, it seemed the wedge between Maya and I only grew faster with the unexpected death of Jacob and his brother marrying her best friend. Life just seemed to be so unfair as Olivia doted on my engagement, but refused to acknowledge theirs. It was like a form of punishment for having proposed first, with Jacob only informing his parents after.
Noah reminds me that Jacob has always been the younger more rebellious one while he has had to take responsibility as the older more conventional one. He let Jacob ride his motorcycle, despite his objections to do so, but he was running late, and Jacob didn’t want Maya to be upset.
Maybe, our lives really are just a collection of many moments, and we will be reunited together someday.
I really hope so.