TWO WEEKS LATER
I was playing hide-and-go-seek with Amber when the doorbell rang. Amber came out of her hiding place and bolted for the door, but not before I got there first. I opened the door to reveal Greg and a young blonde woman. They both had suitcases with them.
“Valerie! I haven’t seen you since you and Niall were in eighth grade!” Greg said, hugging me. “How have you been?”
I hugged him back. “I’m good,” I said.
Niall stopped decorating the tree to greet his brother. “Greg, Denise! Come in!” he said, hugging Greg.
“I have an announcement to make,” Denise said, smiling.
“Oh, really?” Niall said. “What is it?”
“I’ll wait until Christmas Eve dinner. And is this your girlfriend?” Denise pointed at me.
“Yes, it is,” Niall said, wrapping his arms around my belly. “Her name is Valerie, and she’s five months pregnant with my little girl.”
“Her name’s Tatiana, after the nurse who helped save her life,” I added.
Bradford, Shaza’s POV
“Are we there yet?” Aviva asked for the umpteenth time during our trip to Bradford to meet Zayn’s family.
“No, honey, we’re not there yet,” I said to her.
“When will we be there?”
“In about five minutes, love,” Zayn said. “Chill!”
Aviva shut up after that, and five minutes later, Zayn pulled up to the curb by his house. The driveway was already occupied by two other cars, and he didn’t wanna block the sidewalk.
After Zayn parked, we got out with our in-the-car stuff, and Zayn let us inside.
“Hello!” he called.
Just then, he was tackled by three girls, one older and two younger than Zayn.
Zayn wriggled out from underneath and introduced them to me. “Girls, this is my girlfriend Shaza and her daughter Aviva,” he said. “Shaz, these are my sisters. In birth order, their names are Doniya, Wahliya, and Safaa.”
“Zayn! I thought I heard you come in!” I heard Mrs. Malik say. She was wearing a stained apron, so I could tell she’d been cooking. She and her son shared hugs before she asked who I was.
“This is Shaza, and her daughter’s name is Aviva. Shaza, my mum Trisha.”
“Nice to meet you,” I said to Trisha.
“You too!” Trisha returned. “And your daughter is even cuter than described! How old are you, love?”
“Three ‘n’ a half,” Aviva said. “What’cha doing?”
“I’m cooking dinner,” Trisha said. “Do you like chicken?”
“Well, too bad, because that’s what we’re having. Besides, chicken is good for you. It’s got lots of protein in it.” Aviva stuck her tongue out at her. She ignored it and turned to me. “How did you meet?”
“I met her when she was picking Aviva up from a playdate with Valerie’s daughter Amber,” Zayn said. “I’ve told you about Valerie, yeah?”
“Yes, I remember her.”
“I was in the middle of finalizing my divorce, though, so he had to wait a couple months for our first date,” I said.
“Where are you from, Shaza?”
“My daughter and I are from Kuwait. After I divorced my then husband for having an affair, we moved to England.”
“He’s a right bastard for having an affair on you! I can tell you this—Zayn will be a much better man for you. Right, Zayn?”
“Right,” Zayn said.