Smoke & Mirrors
Written by Qaanitah Hunter and edited by Benazir Cassim
When someone is expecting a child, you throw them a baby shower. When the child is born, you host a baby viewing.
But what do you do when a man gets custody of his two-year-old child? Buy him a gift? Organise a lunch? Invite family members for a meet and greet?
Adil fetches me at the crack of dawn on Saturday to be at his house when his child arrives.
This is the most cheerful and upbeat I have seen him in ages. It is definitely a contrast to how he was last Saturday when he was a walking short circuit, ready to explode!
Today, he is calm and even volunteers to make us breakfast while we wait. This is a big deal for Adil who is so useless that Ma doesn’t even let him put his own sugar in his tea.
A green smoothie and cream cheese on toast aren’t really culinary skills but I’m impressed. That’s how low the bar is!
This is his effort to make it up to him after I deliberately made him feel bad for not spending time with me yesterday. I was never like this. But yesterday I insisted he takes me shopping and when he couldn’t because of work, I asked him to “spoil me”.
This was the first time in my life I asked a man for money. The whole fierce, independent, girl boss attitude I have maintained all these years is just smoke and mirrors.
I have no idea what I would have done if Adil said no. Thankfully, he simply transferred R3 000 to my bank account to “spoil myself”. It would have been nicer if he did it without me having to ask for it, but getting money just for the sake of it feels damn good.
Somehow I am no longer precious about asserting my independence. If I bring emotional stability to this relationship, he’s better pay up. Right?
I’ve met bloggers who get Hermès from their boyfriends. And if Simmi is to be believed, Adil is coining big in illicit government deals, so he can afford to give me Gucci shoes.
Once we are done eating, we go to the backyard because Adil wants to show me how he changed the pool covering from a net to a solid cover that’s motorised.
“I was reading a scary story about toddler accidents with pool nets so I got my guys to come to install this yesterday,” he shows me how it works.
We are interrupted by the intercom, signalling that Hana has arrived.This is it!
Adil opens up while I potter around the kitchen, unsure of what is expected of me.
Alicia, who I’d met before, walks in carrying Hana with Laura following behind her. I have spent so much time watching both of them on TV that I cannot believe that they are both here, let alone part of my life somewhat. I am marrying Laura Menta’s baby daddy?! That sounds as absurd as the situation.
“Laura, this is Maariah. Maariah, Laura,” Alicia makes the introductions and I am nervous.
“Can I get you guys something to drink?” I ask as I put out a snack tray I prepared earlier.
“Oh, do you have sparkling water, gorgeous?” Laura asks as if we are lifelong buddies.
After I pour drinks, Adil takes Hana from Alicia and takes her upstairs, presumably to show her her new room.
“Why don’t you go up?” Alicia tells Laura while the two of us sit downstairs.
“How are you doing?” Alicia asks me pointedly as Laura leaves.
“I am good! All good.”
“Is my friend treating you well?” she asks me and I laugh. Only she can ask me that question.
“The madness had to end. This week I had enough. I put the two of them in a room and they fought out their differences. You can’t have the future of a child left to lawyers. At least there’s peace now. Laura can go back to New York and I can stop playing therapist slash social worker,” Alicia jokes.
Adil didn’t say any of this to me. I could tell that he seemed much lighter and at ease but he didn’t say what happened and why the initial handover planned for Monday didn’t happen.
Moments after, Adil and Laura come back downstairs and a short glance at them pierces me with jealousy.
It makes no sense. Laura is an ex. I am his future wife.
Also, she is so much taller than him — it’s weird to see.
“Okay children,” Alicia says in a faux teacher voice, “this is not going to be easy but parenting is not easy. Laura, on paper Adil has full custody but you know you can visit Hana whenever you’re back in SA. Right, Adil? I think the trick in making this work is good communication. Don’t assume. Talk things out. I am not going to be playing referee forever.” We all laugh.
This could have been far more intense. Having Alicia there took away from the seriousness of everything.
Also, weirdly, Laura didn’t seem to have much of an attachment to Hana. I see it in how the child didn’t have a natural clinginess to her mother. To Hana, Laura was like any other person in the room.
Laura has been in New York for a long time now, so I don’t think she has spent a lot of time with her child.
Soon Alicia and Laura get up to leave.
“Okay, cheers guys. Thank you for the snacks,” Laura says, hugging me which is so weird. I would have preferred for her to hate me.
It sinks in when they drive away. Adil has a child. Adil has a two-year-old toddler who is full-time in our lives. Adil is expecting me to help him raise his daughter from a one-night stand gone wrong.
Breathe girl, breathe.
We turn to find Hana and she is playing outside under the watch of Percy, who is now working full-time for Adil.
“That went well,” I smile at Adil and he smiles back.
“As well as it could, thanks to Al,” he says.
“She told me she intervened...” I wish he could volunteer information to me.
“Ja... I mean it was just getting messy and so we had to just sort out our issues and be responsible adults,” he says as we walk outside to join Hana. There was definitely more to the story. There always is.
“Persheeey,” Hana shouts for Percy’s attention and we laugh.
“Hana, say Adil,” Adil asks her.
“Daaaddillll” she says instead and my heart melts.
She runs up to me to show me her new toy Adil had given her upstairs.
“See here guys,” she says in a fancy accent and I chuckle.
Instinctively, Adil and I sit down on the grass while Hana plays around us.
Never in a million years would I expect this of my life. Sometimes I think it’s a weird sense of karma. I was once Hana. And now, through a twist in fate, I get to play the role Zayn played in my life.
“So I guess we need to plan a wedding?” Adil turns to me.
“I think we need to introduce Hana to your family first,” I laugh but I am not joking.
“Now?” he asks, frowning.
“No... She needs to settle in. Maybe tomorrow for tea?”
“Will you help me?”
Of course I will help him. Hosting a tea party in this lovely house is a bloody dream come true.
“Who do you want to invite?”
“Ma, my parents and Ayesha?”
“But what about your cousins?”
“No ways! They will meet Hana at our wedding when I will be too happy to care about their judgement.”
I laugh. This is a very Adil thing to say.
“Okay, let me go home to start baking,|” I say to Adil and he is visibly reluctant to be alone with Hana. He needs time to bond with her before everyone else is introduced to her.
“Are you sure? Why don’t we just buy whatever we need?” he asks, and I shake my head vigorously.
Baking is just an excuse to go home and offload on my mother.
I call an Uber to go to my apartment because Adil and I are still nervous to leave Hana alone with the helper and her car seat hasn’t been properly fitted in his car yet.
“Are you sure you have to go?” he asks, holding me in a tight hug. The Uber shows up and it’s too late to change my mind.
He has to figure this out by himself and if he can’t, Percy is there to help him.
I am going to instead bake my feelings away. I am thinking of vanilla cupcakes, my go-to chocolate sponge cake and some sort of biscuits.
When I get home, I find my mum having lunch with some random lady. Since when did my mother have friends in Joburg?
“This is Aunty Zaida. She lives in Block C,” my mother introduces me.
How is it so easy for my mother to make friends? I still struggle.
Am I being selfish for wishing this lady leaves soon? I really need to vent to my mother.
Instead, I leave the two of them and go to the kitchen to start baking. At first, I thought of baking good old-fashioned delicacies but then by the time I reach the kitchen I convince myself to bake according to a theme. I am going to make petit fours in blush tones, rose and cardamom macarons, mini donuts and a savoury quiche for whoever doesn’t want something sweet.
I am going to bank these pictures and share them later when I am dry on content.
I start with the petit fours so that once they are in the oven I can painstakingly pipe the mini macarons.
The mini donuts are the easiest to make.
Eventually, my mother’s new friend leaves and she joins me in the kitchen.
“Since when do you have friends,” I tease her.
“I have more friends than you for sure,” she fires back.
“The child came today…” I say to my mother, and she doesn’t respond.
“It was so smooth. I met Laura... Adil’s friend Alicia was saying that she brokered some sort of peace deal outside of their lawyers and they seem to be okay.”
“And how is the little one?” my mother asks.
"She is okay. A really sweet child. I left Adil with her because I feel like he needs to bond with her without me.”
“That’s a good move. And there was no drama between that girl and you?”
“Not at all. She was acting like my best friend,” I tell my mother, who is literally my best friend. I have no one else to talk to.
“I have been making so much of dua... This really isn’t about you as it is about this child. There is no excuse for adults to create turbulence in a child’s life,” my mother says.
“Now we need to figure out the whole wedding thing.”
"Just have a nikaah at the mosque,” my mother suggests.
Absolutely not! I am going to have my dream wedding which I am going to use for content for a month! There is no way I am going to let this opportunity pass.
Just as I am about done cleaning up the kitchen after baking the day away, Adil calls me.
“Mar... I need your help. She is crying hysterically. I don’t know what to do.” I can hear the desperation in his voice.
“Where is Percy?”
“She refuses to go to Percy. She’s been under the table screaming for the last 15 minutes.”
“Okay... I am coming now,” I say to him, annoyed that my night of Netflix is now interrupted. It’s a nice feeling to be needed, though.
I pack all the baking in containers and take them with me one time.
I hear Hana’s screams from outside as I wait for Adil to open.
“Mar... I tried everything. I don’t know what to do,” he says, clearly frazzled.
“Hana,” I say to her under the table and she stops crying for a moment.
“Come here honey,” I say, and she doesn’t move.
A while later she starts crying again, although quieter.
“I’ve tried everything,” Adil says as he paces around the table.
“Okay Adil, Hana and Maariah are going to bake. Can you make us baking hats? What’s your favourite colour, Hana?” I say from behind the table. Adil goes to his study and fetches paper and a stapler.
“Hana, come and see your baker’s hat,” I say and she doesn’t respond but she’s quiet now.
“Percy, what is your favourite colour?” I ask Percy in an effort to lure Hana out from under the table.
“I want blue,” Percy says and Hana slowly peers out from under the table.
I squat down to her. “Do you want pink or blue?” I ask and she says pink.
Progress. Adil is sitting at the head of the table, defeated.
“Do you like glitter Hana?” I ask and she jumps up in excitement. “Hana like litter,” she calls glitter ‘litter’.
“Okay, do you want to put on your baker’s hat?”
Adil’s face falls with disappointment that she does not appreciate his efforts to staple paper together.
“Okay, Maariah is going to wear a baker’s hat. You can decide if you want to wear it later.”
She follows me to the kitchen to get plates and whatever else I need to do a little craft activity.
I somehow remember that when I went shopping for Adil’s house last weekend I bought a box of baking nice-to-haves — just for fun. I have food colouring and food glitter in that drawer alongside readymade buttercream and piping bags. I did go to town when shopping.
“Okay Hana, here is your cake,” I say to her as I hand her a donut I hadn’t yet iced.
“I choose,” she responds with toddler stubbornness.
“Okay you choose which one you want,” I say and hold out the container for her.
She takes one for her and puts one out for Percy.
“Okay so here’s your bowl. Daddy, do you want to help?" I signal Adil to move closer to her.
Adil sits across from Hana and Percy sits next to her. I am at the head of the table dishing out buttercream for everyone in little bowls and dropping food colouring in each bowl.
“Okay now Hana, you mix the icing,” I say to her and Adil quietly mixes his icing too.
“It’s yummy!” she squeals when she licks icing off her fingers.
We spend a good hour ‘baking’ and it is just so funny to see how hard Adil concentrates on piping his frosting on the petit fours and plain donut.
"Did she eat?" I ask Percy and she says Hana ate at lunchtime but hasn’t eaten since.
“Hana, Maariah is going to eat some yummy food. Do you want to have yummy food?”
“Okay, clean-up time!” I say in a high-pitched voice as I try to figure out a way to feed this child.
I tell Percy to warm the food in the meantime.
I remember once on Instagram, one of the mummy bloggers posted a series on how to get fussy kids to eat. While I wait for Percy, I find her post.
She encourages making the food interesting and setting it out for the toddler to feed themselves.
I take her veggies that Percy steamed earlier and arrange them in a smiley face on her feeding tray.
“Hana come see daddy’s face,” I say to her and she laughs hysterically as I put her into the feeding chair.
I turn the carrot upside down to make a frowning face and she laughs so hard.
“Do you want to eat daddy’s eyes?” I ask in reference to the peas and she breaks out into a fit of laughter.
40 minutes later she finally finishes her food and is ready for bath time.
“You are a godsend,” Adil whispers in my ear as we take her upstairs for bath time.
I sit in her room and search on YouTube: ‘toddler bathtime routine’ while Adil figures out what to dress her to sleep.
Okay, I got this. There is truly a YouTube video for every problem!
I bath Hana and then massage her with oils as the video suggested before I put on her pyjamas.
“Is she going to sleep in my bed or in her room?” Adil asks me, as if I would know what would work.
“Let’s put her to bed in her room and if she cries you can take her to your room,” I say.
By the time Hana eventually sleeps, I am finished!
We can’t go downstairs to watch TV because we won’t hear Hana if she cries. I follow Adil into his room and I plop onto the couch that he has by his TV while he sits across me, on the bed.
Adil looks completely defeated and it’s only 7pm.
"Mar, You saved the day again!" he says between his hands which are covering his face in exhaustion.
For an hour he just lays at the edge of his bed and I mindlessly scroll Instagram.
The makeup post I shot with Simmi isn’t doing very well in terms of reach. Instagram’s algorithms are crazy these days. I need to do more live interactions to get my engagements up. Brands don’t care what people engage you about, they just want the analytics to show that engagement is high.
To be honest, I am bored of Instagram. I don’t know if this is because my life has resembled a telenovela recently, with its mad twists and turns. Sometimes I miss my boring life, but then I remember my daily tuna dinners.
Talking about dinner, I am starving.
“Yeah?” he gets up.
“I am so hungry. What can we eat?”
The last I ate was his green smoothie and toast this morning and a donut earlier.
“I can order us a pizza?” he offers, and I agree. After the day — scratch that — after the month I’ve had, I deserve all the carbs in the world.
When the pizza arrives, we decide against going to eat in the dining room in case Hana wakes up, so we sit on the carpet on the floor of his room and eat.
“Pizza is our meal of love,” I say and Adil looks confused.
“We had pizza the first time we met!” How can this man forget! It feels like a lifetime ago.
“So how about we order a few pizzas, invite our family and get married,” he jokes. Is he joking? He has to be joking!
I know a child came before marriage but there’s no shotgun wedding here. I will have the wedding of my dreams!
Besides the wedding, I decided that I want a prenuptial agreement. I am not going to be dumped with nothing this time around.
This is fiction
No, really. It is fiction. All characters are made up.