Smoke & Mirrors
Written by Qaanitah Hunter and edited by Benazir Cassim
One day, when I eventually go to a shrink to deal with all my issues — starting at my abandonment insecurities — I will try to understand why I feel sorry and make excuses for the people who hurt me.
At night when I am deep into insomnia I think about why I didn’t demand that Ozayr maintain me after my divorce. He was not heartless, he probably would have done it, but I made excuses for him in my mind. I actually felt sorry for him for not being supported by his family in choosing who he loved.
The same happened with Nabs. I still think about her and feel bad for her, especially since her business has been suffering. There are moments when I tell myself that maybe I should have let it go and even though I wouldn’t have had the money, I would have at least had my friend.
This abused-wife syndrome was no different when it came to Adil. He effectively lied to me by not telling me the biggest piece of information possible: that he has a two-year-old daughter who will now be living with him full time. Yet here I was, getting ready to go over to his new home to help him get ready.
When I got home last night, I cried myself to sleep. Thank goodness my mum was fast asleep by the time I got home, because I was not ready to have this conversation with her.
As I cried and cried I couldn’t help but shake the thought that this was karma or something for me being what many call a ‘bastard child’. Zayn raised me even though I was not his, and maybe this was some sort of test for me. Did Adil automatically think I’d be okay with it because of my own story? I also kept thinking about the little girl whose life has been turned upside down by adults fighting.
By the time I woke up this morning I had no tears left in me.
“Hey Adil. Hope you’re okay, love. I am happy and free to help you today,” I texted him and he immediately responded that he really would need my help.
First, we had to go to his Melrose townhouse to see if it was suitable for a child. Adil had planned for us to move there when we got married, but he is moving in sooner now that his child is coming to stay with him.
Adil fetches me but doesn’t come in to greet my mum. I don’t think he can face her as yet. I too avoided her all morning.
We drive to the Melrose home and it’s even nicer than I remember. It wasn’t a home though — just a perfectly staged house.
“I brought a book and a pen,” I say to him as we sit down on the couch.
“Mar... Baby, thank you”.
I ignore him and start making columns for the list. I really can’t start crying again.
I am not emotionally prepared.
“Okay. Let’s make a broad list of what you need and then we will fine tune it as we go,” I say, having no idea what I actually mean. Adil just nods.
“Okay. Say you stay here, you will stay in the master bedroom and you need to set up the adjacent room for the baby. If you have a sleep-in nanny there is the helper quarters in the back that’s perfect, you just need to furnish it. Okay?”
“Okay. Where shall I start?” he asks me for direction and I appreciate it.
“First things first, you need to get all your stuff from your house here. Maybe outsource that to Ayesha and Percy. Then we need to make a list of things for her room. A cot, new linen for the two single beds, a soft mat, maybe a few baskets just to make the room pretty and neat. After she comes we will decide what she needs. Then you need to stock up on groceries. And then we need other soft touches for the rest of the house, like towels and bath mats and stuff.”
Again, Adil just nods.
“Do you mind me making these lists?” I ask to make sure and he insists that he really appreciates my help.
He starts by calling Ayesha to ask her to start packing his things. He then calls one of his employees who had agreed to help him with the child to ask if she can come in Monday and she agrees.
We then go to one of their store rooms and meet the guys who do the staging when they want to sell units. They manage to find a bed, couch, fridge, stove and chest of drawers for the nanny’s room.
Once we pick what we need, they load the van and deliver it to the house while we go to the mall.
I am in overdrive. making sublists of the lists I have.
We start in the home store and I take over, putting in the trolley whatever I think Adil’s house needs. He just follows me with a trolley. Thankfully, he has the big stuff in the house and only needs stuff to make it a home. At first, I was price conscious but then I just gave in to what I liked and what suited my style.
We are yet to talk about what this hearing tomorrow means for our marriage but it feels good to just spend someone else’s money.
Before we get the groceries we go into the baby store, but Adil suddenly has to use the bathroom. I can feel that he is uncomfortable and emotional so instead he leaves his bank card with me and leaves. I always wanted to have kids. When I was married to Ozayr he refused to entertain the discussion but I have never been opposed to children. I think I could be a very good mother. Turning into a mum blogger would be a dream for me.
I scan through my list and pick out a few extra things that I think Adil may need for Hana.
I wonder what’s going through his mind right now. Does he feel guilty? Is he overwhelmed? Does he appreciate that I am helping him?
By the time I pay and leave the store I find him sitting on a bench staring into space. This can’t be easy for him.
I mean it’s not easy for me too. I just found out my fiancé has a child who he is getting full custody of. And his family doesn’t even know about the child. Worse, I have this feeling of obligation that is eating me up.
Adil takes the trolley, which is overflowing by now, to the car while I continue to the grocery store.
There is a part of me that can suppress all emotion to deal with a crisis at hand. I feel absolutely nothing and my mind is forcing me to focus on helping Adil.
I have a list of groceries and cleaning supplies he needs in his house, and that’s the focus now.
Also, buying groceries without a budget is a real treat. I put three types of honey in the trolley just because I could. Also why buy one type of cheese when you can get four? I have always wanted to make a cheese board at home.
By the time Adil comes back from offloading our earlier shopping in his car, I am pretty much done with grocery shopping.
“Do you want to check what else you need?” I ask him and he asks for spinach for his smoothies.
“I love grocery shopping without a strict budget,” I say to him and he starts laughing. The perfect ice breaker. I never had this luxury before. Food was always the budget I cut so I could afford clothes and shoes.
After this shopping trip I am tempted to shoot a ‘grocery haul’ video that American YouTubers do, but now is not the time to be thinking about content.
“We got the Sunday Times to pull the story because it involves a minor,” he says to me as we get into the car.
Maybe Simmi will know more about this, but I haven’t spoken to her in a while. I suppose that is a relief.
When we arrive at Adil’s new house, Ayesha and Percy are there unpacking all of Adil’s things.
They both give me tight hugs but we don’t talk about the elephant in the room. I am not ready to talk about it.
Instead, I focus on meticulously packing his fridge in a way that I would love. My Pinterest vision board is filled with fridge organisation pictures and I love that I can indulge in Adil’s fridge.
While I am in the kitchen, he goes to check on the nanny’s room. Ayesha is cleaning the bathrooms and Percy is unpacking a few boxes they brought from Adil’s parents house.
“Are you guys hungry?” Adil asks as he enters from the back door.
“I am starving and could do with a box of hot wings,” I say and Ayesha nods in agreement. There’s nothing like greasy food to make you forget your problems.
Adil leaves to get us food and Percy goes upstairs. Ayesha forces me to sit down.
“How are you feeling?”
“I’m good. Did you see the Pinterest fridge I set up?” I ask, desperately trying to change the subject.
She just sits, holding my hand and not saying anything.
I can’t start crying. Not now.
Eventually I have the strength to talk to her.
“When I find a shrink , I am telling her to clear her diary because your brother needs a truckload of therapy,” I joke and Ayesha starts laughing.
“Also me! We can have days. Monday is your day for therapy, Tuesday Adil, Wednesday me. Then rinse and repeat,” she laughs.
I don’t care what happens, I am definitely going to therapy in the new year. At some point you have to just deal with all your issues and lighten your burden. We all have issues. Some bigger than others. I feel foolish for believing that rich people didn’t have issues.
By the time I am done setting up the baby’s room and assembling the cot, Adil is back with our hot wings.
The house has one big bedroom on the ground floor along with a study. Then upstairs there’s the master bedroom, two smaller bedrooms, two bathrooms and a small pyjama lounge. It’s actually the perfect home for newlyweds. And a child, I guess...
“Babe, are you going to eat?” Adil says from downstairs.
When I get to the kitchen he gives me a hug and peck on the cheek and Ayesha grimaces. She is not used to us behaving like this.
“I am eating 16 wings by myself,” I say as we sit down to eat.
Part of me believes if your boyfriend or fiancé has a secret child it’s a definite dealbreaker.
The fact that he had a crazy past with lots of partying is also worrying.
But a bigger part of me says his child can’t be a dealbreaker for me. My own upbringing doesn’t give me the option to just walk away because there’s a child in the picture.
My issue is not really the child. It’s the history and drama of his family. He is already really emotionally wrecked before bringing a child into this situation.
It’s not going to be easy, with or without me.
“Okay, we’re going,” says Ayesha, and she and Percy leave after they tidy up from lunch.
I decide to walk through the house to see if everything is in order and as I pass the master bedroom, I can imagine myself living here. There is enough closet space for me and all my clothes, plus the study downstairs could be my filming room.
If my mother moves in with us, she has her own room downstairs that would be away from us so it gives her some privacy and peace.
I try to imagine our life together while I sit on his bed and look out the window at the next-door unit.
My life has changed so much in two weeks. We went from being engaged, meeting his parents and friends, starting to plan a wedding, to having to plan for a child.
“What are you thinking about?” Adil asks as he joins me in his room.
“I’m thinking about how crazy life is,” I smile at him.
“F***K.” I’ve never heard him swear before. It doesn’t suit him.
“What do we still need to do?” I ask him and just shakes his head.
“I don’t know what I would do without you. I mean it, Mar. I would have been a mess. I have made so many mistakes in the past.”
“We will figure it out.”.
“My parents... they are going to die.”
“We will figure it out. Let’s focus on getting through Monday.”
“How are you so fine? How are you so calm? Our lives are never going to be the same again,” Adil is suddenly frantically pacing up and down.
“One stupid night messed up my whole life,” he is now spewing venom.
“Adil, how is your life messed up? You have a beautiful house. You can afford to look after a child. How is your life messed up?”
I get super defensive because Zayn’s family used to say that about me.
“A child doesn’t ask to be born. And yes, it’s going to be hard. And yes, you screwed up but it’s time to get your shit together. You are a 30-year-old man who acts like a bloody juvenile delinquent in front of your parents. Get a grip on your life. You are a privileged ass who just happens to have a house and live-in help and every other possible resource to look after this child. You have a supportive sister and grandmother. Hell, you have a girl who will put aside her own feelings and help you get ready without a clue what this means for her relationship. At some point you need to get out of your head, face your demons and deal with your life.”
I don’t care if he is offended. Somebody had to tell him.
This is fiction
No, really. It is fiction. All characters are made up.