Mirzaq. I needed Mirzaq. I rushed down the stairs, blinking hard to keep from ruining my make up. A few frustrated tears stubbornly refused to disappear and I impatiently dashed them away with the knuckles of my fingers. It was fine.
I was fine. Everything was fine.
I took a deep breath and immediately let it out as a sob.
No, it wasn’t.
Why was this happening to me? Allah was punishing me, clearly. But why? Alright, fine, I was a bad Muslim. I didn’t pray and I wasn’t a good person. But didn’t I get a break?
Just one? Just today! For my wedding day.
I felt a surge of hatred toward my Creator. Why had He had made me this way if it was so objectionable? Why was I the one who had to be bad? Why couldn’t I have been made the right way?
I sighed bitterly. Taqdeer.
Well then, fine.
My family was imploding and there was nothing I could do about it. I was not going to let go of my husband. Not ever.
Mirzaq had never put me last. Mirzaq had never yelled at me. Mirzaq had never, ever been anything but sweet.
Thank God I’d found him.
A cold shiver ran down my spine. I’d been so willing to let him walk away. What would I have done if he hadn’t pushed me?
My feet quickened on the stairs. I needed to tell him, to thank him for not giving up on me.
I spun around and tripped on my dress, wind-milling my arms to stay upright. “Whoa!”
“Careful!” Zaakir’s mother exclaimed.
I blew out a breath. “I’m okay,” I assured her. “This dress is a hazard.”
She chuckled. “It’s twice the size of you, darling. But you do look lovely.”
“Thank you,” I smiled, tucking a curl behind my ear. I hesitated. “You really think so?”
Mirzaq had told me he liked the dress. But he was sweet enough to have lied to me for my own good. Hajra would tell me the truth, however.
She came up the stairs and took my face in her rough hands. I towered above her in my heels and she had to reach a little to get to me. “You look beautiful. A stunning bride. There’s just one thing that doesn’t suit.”
I frowned and looked awkwardly down at myself. “What?”
Hajra brushed over my cheeks with her thumbs. “Tears. Why were you crying?”
I couldn’t tell her. Her son was the one at the heart of the problem.
“Jitters,” I lied, pulling away slightly. “That’s all.” For the first time, I noticed that she was still dressed in her ever-present apron with her salt and pepper hair braided tightly down her back. “You’re not dressed yet?”
Hajra looked puzzled. Then she made an “oh” of comprehension. “Oh, darling, I’m not coming out there. I’ll stay in my kitchen and organize your caterers.”
She caught the fall of my face. “Now don’t do that.”
“I want you down there. Please?” I’d never had a problem with Hajra. She’d always treated me exactly the same – no matter what I did.
“Oh, Azraa, you don’t make things easy, do you?”
“It’s my wedding day,” I wheedled. “You’re not really gonna miss it, are you?”
She twisted her hands in her apron. “I-” She sighed. “Oh, alright. But I’ll only stay for a little while, you hear? And only because it’s your day.”
I threw my arms around her impulsively, squeezing her bony shoulders. “You’re the best.”
She patted my back. “It’s hard for them, darling. They’re giving you away today, after all.”
They didn’t act like it. They acted like they were getting rid of me. And whoever heard of fighting with someone because you were going to miss them?
“I know,” she added, guessing my thoughts. “I know that it seems silly. But you can’t truly understand until it happens to you.” She patted my cheek again. “Go easy on them.”
It was on the tip of my tongue to refuse but I knew Hajra would hound me for it. “I’ll try,” I relented.
“Good girl. Now, go on. Your guests are waiting for you to make your big entrance.”
I grinned, suddenly breathless for a whole new reason. “Right.”
The butterflies in my stomach had begun to riot. I was so nervous I barely cared that I would be walking in all by myself instead of with Dad as I’d always wanted.
He’d be inside, at least.
I shut my eyes for a second, straightened my shoulders and then nodded at the attendants waiting to open the sides of the tent for me.
I waited a beat, looking around at the grounds, then began the slow walk inside.
Mirzaq shot me a heart melting smile, already getting to his feet.
I didn’t look at the guests, not even at my family. I kept my eyes on him the entire time.
He held out a hand to me and I took it readily, letting him pull me so close I could count each individual eyelash framing his grey eyes. “Congratulations,” he told me teasingly. “You landed quite a catch.”
I burst out laughing and he joined in, chuckling.
I looked down at our linked hands then lifted them to show him. “I don’t think it’s official until the rings are on.”
“Better do that then.” He looked a the little pedestal that held the two ring boxes. “How do we do this?”
I picked up his ring. “Just like this,” I said, sliding it onto his finger.
“That was easy,” he commented, slipping on my ring.
There was a smattering of applause and the flashes of our three photographers and the guests combined nearly blinded me.
Mirzaq’s mother – my mother in law – immediately came up to us and threw her arms around us both. “My baby,” she cooed at her son. “Finally. I’m so happy for you.”
She stepped back to let her husband in but stayed at Mirzaq’s side, a hand in the crook of his elbow.
Uncle Iqbal pulled Mirzaq into a bear hug, making him let go of me to return it.
I watched them happily, trying to ignore the longing in my gut. Why didn’t I have that?