There wasn’t time to call before leaving, just enough time to throw a few things in a bag, grab his books and the photo album and rush out. No time. He’d only barely managed to get a ticket before the train pulled into the station.
Seated on the train, Khaled suddenly wasn’t so sure. Maybe he should have found a way to call, one quick message left for her brother to smooth things, to acknowledge that more was needed than what would happen now — him turning up on Murad’s doorstep, or calling from the station in New Haven to beg a sheet and pillow on the couch.
The hurry was Sajida’s fault. Her refusal to include him in any part of her pregnancy. As if he wouldn’t have wanted to be with her, as if he couldn’t have taken care of some of the expenses, helped her set up a space in her room for the child.
He’d called her repeatedly in the final months, hoping to place himself back in her life.
“Do you really think I want anything from you now,” her one voicemail response said. He had saved the message and played it back again and again. “For six months you told me my child was an abomination, that I would die of the birth. And now you want to be a father? Fuck off.”
Khaled sat by the window, closing his eyes as the early morning Connecticut towns flew past. She was right, of course. He had wanted her to go against everything they both believed in and abort the child. Had demanded it. Had threatened, even, to force her … though he had no idea how he would have done such a thing.
And wouldn’t it have been worse if she had bowed to his command? The abortion would have been the greater, the true abomination. And he would have shunned her, would have turned from her as violently as he was now trying to connect with her.
His child. A son, her cousin had said. That news had changed his mind. A son. After seven pregnancies, his wife had produced only girls. Four had survived, and all were as good, as obedient and shy as their mother. But now, with Sajida — this child he should never have spoken to, this girl who laughed at the idea of wearing hijab, who wore short skirts and tattoos — now, a son.
He’d followed her final trimester through text messages from her cousin Naima. A quick note here, a longer description there. It wasn’t much, but if he hadn’t remembered that he had Naima’s number, he wouldn’t have had any news at all.
“Why are you texting me? Call Sajida yourself if you want information.” That first text response hadn’t given him much hope, but he had worn her down, convinced her of his sincerity.
“Let me send the money to you, Naima. You can help Sajida and she never has to know where the money comes from.”
He imagined it was the money that had persuaded Naima to help him, wondered if any of it had ever gone to Sajida. It hardly mattered. If his checks kept the text messages coming, that was all he cared about. He would have his son’s whole life to shower him with gifts, to let money open doors and pave a smooth path.
Originally intended to be part of 30 Stories 30 Days / Tumblr.