I groaned when Han burst into the room to wake me up, burrowing deeper into the covers.
“For heaven’s sake, Faz, it’s eight-thirty already! Amy called and said you have a nine-thirty appointment by Maseeha so get your butt out of that bed now!”
“Go away,” I mumbled in response, keeping my eyes squeezed shut. A moment later the covers were ripped away from me.
“You don’t have time to sleep in. It’s your walima day incase you’ve forgotten,” Han peered at me, “what time did you get home last night?”
I grumbled under my breath but swung my legs over the side of the bed and sat up, rubbing my gritty eyes. My eyes burned, feeling dry and scratchy. I felt like I hadn’t slept all night. Which was true since I hadn’t.
“Just past twelve,” I replied.
“No wonder you’re so tired! Couldn’t you come home early knowing that it was your walima the next day?”
“That was early,” I said in response. And it had been. Early enough to give me at least five hours of uninterrupted sleep…if I’d gone to sleep immediately afterwards. But I had seen that text of Ahmed’s and just could not ignore it. So I had replied to it and he had replied in return…and before we knew it those five hours had flown by and the sky had started lightening as dawn crept in. We’d only stopped talking to go pray fajr. Ahmed rushed to go to the masjid and I rushed to the bathroom to make wudhu. By the time I had finally gone to sleep it was just before six. No wonder I felt like I could barely open my eyes now!
I dragged myself to the bathroom to change then came down to eat. A cup of hot tea revived me, the accompanying hot buttery toast melting on my tongue, making me feel more ready to face my day. Which was good since Amira and Aliyah came over at the dot of nine, ready to drag me off for some more dressing up. I would be glad when today was over and I could go back to my good old sweats!
I grabbed my walima dress on my way out, the one I’d had sewn Tariq’s time. It was a lovely dress and would suit whatever lavish affair Ahmed’s mum had whipped up. I cringed, just thinking about it. I had asked Ahmed how big it would be but he hadn’t known anything except that it was at Running Waters…which I already knew…, it would probably be large since his mother liked to go all out…and it would be completely separate because he had put his foot down about that.
“I told her that if I saw even a bit of mixing I would turn around and walk out again,” he’d said, “so don’t worry about that. My mum will make sure it’s separate.”
Amira and Aliyah took me to Maseeha’s house again which I was glad about since I’d experienced first hand how good she was. She took a look at my dress and whistled.
“Hotness! You’ll rock this dress, babe!”
Looking at the dress she wanted to go for a smokey eyed look this time and I agreed. As the day before she kept the rest of my makeup light and natural, my lips painted nude with a slight gloss to them. It made my eyes stand out more and knowing how much Ahmed loved my eyes I knew he would appreciate this look. My hair was twisted up into an up-do again then Maseeha stood and held out the dress to me. I slipped into it and zipped it up then slipped into silver, rhinestone-encrusted stilletos which wrapped around my feet, hugging my ankles securely, then stood up again.
“Where’s your jewellery?” Maseeha asked.
“I brought it along but I don’t think I’ll need it. I want to wear a full scarf this time because the walima will be in a hall. So there’s no point.”
“Nonsense!” Maseeha declared, “I’m sure your husband will see you later on. Wear them for him.”
“Okay,” I smiled, “but no necklace. I’ve got enough bling on my dress.”
Maseeha agreed about that. I wore dangling silver earrings and slipped on a matching bracelet above the fitted sleeve on my right hand. I wore a narrow white-gold ring on my right hand, leaving just the wedding rings on my left. Maseeha and the rest wow-ed in appreciation then Maseeha turned me to face the mirror. A satisfied smile curved my mouth as I took in the woman staring back at me.
Ice-blue chiffon over satin hugged my form, flowing down to sweep the ground lightly. The bodice was heavily encrusted in silver beadwork and different sized sequins, encasing full sleeves and ending in deep points below my hips. A satin sash of the same material encircled my waist with a small bow in front. My nikah gown had been fire…this one was ice. That one had made me look bold, impetuous, fiery…this one made me look cool, regal, aloof. Fire and ice make a good combo… My smile widened. I’d had this dress sewn with Tariq in mind but it had been made for Ahmed. And it was just the type of gown I needed to tackle this walima…
“Perfect,” I proclaimed, turning back to the others, “only the scarf is left now.”
Following my instructions Maseeha wrapped the scarf securely around my head, covering my head and neck.
“Wait a minute. Aunt Nasima, the woman who sewed this dress also made a headpiece for me,” I dug into my jewellery box and removed a long, sequined headpiece made from the same sequins as the dress, “It’s supposed to be clipped onto my scarf.”
Maseeha nodded but her attention was caught by the last piece of material remaining on the hanger. She pulled it out and unfolded it. It was another scarf, this one long and rectangular and sheer, made of the same chiffon material as the gown.
“How about this?” She asked.
“Aunt Nasima also sewed that so I’d have a choice of which one to wear. She said I could also wear both,” I replied, shrugging.
Maseeha frowned thoughtfully, tapping her cheek lightly with her finger, then her eyes lit up. “I’ve got it!” She draped the long scarf halfway on my head, over the one I was already wearing then clipped the sequined headpiece over it, securing it in place, the ends fluttering down my back. Like my nikah scarf except that this time I was wearing another scarf underneath it. It gave the gown an elegant touch…
“Jazakillah so much!” I hugged Maseeha tightly as we were leaving, “I’ll definitely recommend you to any bride-to-be inshaAllah. You’re too talented mashaAllah.”
Maseeha laughed and hugged me back. “It was a pleasure working with you, Faz. I hope to see you again soon.”
We left at close to noon, me in my ice-blue gown, Han in a baby pink gown, Amira in emerald green and Aliyah in dark-grey. Maajidah and Madeeha wore matching gowns in cream and gold. The rest of the family was waiting for us as we drew up outside my house and then it was rush-rush again. We had our wudhus so we prayed zuhr then relaxed, waiting for the men to come back from the masjid so we could leave. My phone buzzed as I sat chatting to my cousins.
Ready, my gorgeous bride?
I smiled. As ready as I could be. And you? What you wearing today?
I’m supposed to be asking you that. So…
What you wearing?
That’s for me to know and you to find out…
Not fair! I have to come now then or curiosity will kill this cat.
I grinned. So who’s stopping you? Come see me right now *wink*
“Look at that cheesy grin!” Amira groaned, “I’m feeling sick!” She made gagging sounds and I reached over and punched her on her arm.
“You think this is bad? Come live with her then see how she is. Can’t take her face out of her phone!” Han grumbled next to her. I stuck my tongue out at her and turned my attention back to my phone. Ahmed had already gone offline so I put my phone back in my clutch.
Seven cars turned up to take us to the hall…plus one, which I was unaware of. I was discussing with Amira and Aliyah that we would go together when Adnaan cleared his throat from the doorway.
“Mrs. Cassim. Your ride is here.”
“My ride?” I looked at him blankly.
“Your husband,” he grinned.
“Here we go again!” Amira groaned, “tell him to scoot. We were here before him!”
“Yeah right. Like she’ll ever tell him that!” Aliyah chortled.
“Go on, Faz. Tell him. Sisters before misters,” Amira said.
I smiled at her apologetically and held my hands up in surrender. Her gaze narrowed at me in a glare. Blowing her a kiss I backed out of there, bumping into mum on the way.
“You’re going with Ahmed?” She asked. I nodded and she smiled. “Go on then. We’ll meet you at the hall.”
“InshaAllah. Salaams mum,” I kissed her swiftly on the cheek before tying on my niqaab and pulling my jilbaab over it. It felt so weird to go separately from the rest of the family. Marriage changed things so fast…not that I was complaining, I thought, my cheesy smile breaking out again as I caught sight of Ahmed. With a white imaamah wrapped around his head, his broad shoulders and chest visible above the dashboard, clad in a black kurta he looked hot! He caught sight of me approaching, broke off whatever he was saying to Immy and broke into a similar wide smile.
“Gawwwdd, look at the love-birds,” Immy drawled, “I’ll be off now. Not that anyone cares,” he added as he winked at me and walked away. I shook my head at him and turned my attention back to Ahmed.
“Assalamu alaykum, princess,” Ahmed said, his voice pitched low and intimate. He flashed me his million watt smile and I melted. Literally.
“Wa alaykum salaam,” I squeaked in response. Gosh! Why did I have to sound like Daffy Duck when he was sounding like Shaykh Mahir???
“How you doing? Your eyes are popping, mashaAllah. So gorgeous. I think they should be covered as well,” he frowned a little, “don’t want anyone looking at them and falling for you.”
I laughed. “Then how will I see?”
“I’ll hold your hand and guide you. And you’re only allowed to “fall” for me so don’t worry if that happens,” he winked.
I laughed out loud. “Here goes Mr. Cheesy again!”
Ahmed grinned and hummed tunelessly in response.
We got to the hall too fast. My jaw dropped as we swept through the massive gates, winding down the endless driveway with lush greenery on both sides. Ahead of us a huge building loomed, it’s stucco grey walls curving in a wide semi-circle. Wide, shallow steps led up to a tiled terrace which spanned several feet in length. On the other end of the terrace several more steps led to floor to ceiling glass doors which were wide open, revealing glimpses of the lavish interior. Rows upon rows of cars lined the terrace, offloading crowds of elegantly dressed women, their multi-coloured gowns sparkling like jewels. Ahead of them more cars were rounding the curved driveway, disappearing from sight around the building.
“Ya Allah!” I whispered. All the nerves that had been sitting dormant in me reared up en masse, setting off a wild fluttering in my stomach. I felt a large, warm hand come to rest on my cold, clammy one, squeezing comfortingly.
“Don’t worry. It will be over soon.”
I looked into his eyes, warm with understanding and empathy and nodded, feeling my nerves slowly settle. It wasn’t like I hadn’t been to lavish affairs before. I had but not as the bride where all eyes would be on me. And not in a crowd of mostly unfamiliar people. I was suddenly fervently grateful for my family right behind me; more so when I stepped out of the car, causing heads to turn my way. I was immediately flanked by my crew; Zee to my right, Amira to my left. Aliyah and Han stepped into place behind me, offering me their silent support. I lifted my head and walked up the steps.
Aunt Nilofar was standing at the entrance, looking stunning in a plum, off-the-shoulder beaded gown. Her hair was done up in an elaborate up-do and diamonds glittered at her throat, ears and wrists. She welcomed me warmly, hugging me then sending Humaira with me to show me the bathroom so I could remove my jilbaab. Humaira, who was wearing a mauve gown, was friendlier today. She talked a little while escorting us to the bathroom. Her and Aliyah got along well and Aliyah was with me so maybe that was the ice-breaker. In any case I was happy and answered her back in more than friendly terms.
True to Ahmed’s word the walima was completely separate, though it was huge and lavish as he’d warned. There must easily be over five hundred women in here, I thought in awe, making me wonder how many men there were and how many people the Cassims had invited altogether. I hadn’t seen much on my way to the bathroom, occupied in talking to Humaira but now I stood in the doorway at the back and took it all in.
White billowing drapes covered the entire ceiling, large crystal chandeliers glittering with multi-hued fire at intervals. The large expanse of gleaming hardwood floor was liberally sprinkled with round tables and chairs. All of them were draped in white cloth which touched the floor, gleaming plates and cutlery set before each chair. In the centre of each table were tall, crystal showpieces, the light of the chandeliers bouncing off them. The entire place screamed of hushed elegance and muted wealth. Way out of my depth here…
Amira poked me in my back. “Go on. What are you waiting for?”
“For you. Don’t let me walk in there alone,” I pleaded.
Zee laughed and poked me in turn. “We all have your back. Start walking now.”
I turned and pulled her hand, making her stand next to me. “You’ll walk in with me. Maybe Laaibah will divert the attention away from me.” I pinched Laaibah’s cheek lightly, smiling fondly at her.
The moment we walked in conversations slowed, a hush falling over the room. I walked with a smile pasted to my face, my gown swishing around my feet, my heels clicking rhythmically on the polished wood, my eyes scanning the hall for my family.
“There. Right by the stage,” Zee said, pointing.
A long table had been placed right in front of the stage…not on the stage at least, Alhamdulillah…with seven chairs placed behind it. Round tables scattered in front of it had Reserved signs on them, showing that they were for my family. They were already sitting there when I walked by, turning to look at me with smiles on their faces. I took a seat in the middle of the long table. Zee sat on my right, Laaibah next to her with Aliyah at the far end. Han was on my left, Amira next to her and Swaleha on the last chair. Maajidah, Madeeha and the rest of my cousins grouped on the table right infront of us, taking the opportunity to tease me whenever they could.
Women started coming in streams to congratulate me, bearing gifts and well wishes. I replied to all of them cordially, thanking them and murmuring “ameen” over and over again. The food, which came next, was delicious! Mutton biryani, hot melted barfee, roast chicken with potato wedges, pepper and mushroom steak with sauce dribbled over it, and chips… Aunt Nilofar went all out with the food as well and in that aspect I had no complaints. Our table was served first so we didn’t have to get up to get food from the buffet table. Dishes with tantalising smells wafting out kept being placed in front of us and I kept digging in, wanting to try out everything. I didn’t want to have any regrets afterwards…
“Only you can pig out even on your wedding day,” Han whispered next to me. The food on her plate looked paltry next to mine.
“I told you, my love affair with food comes first. Now stop disturbing me, I want this foodgasm so badly…ummmmmmmmm,” I moaned as the hot barfee melted on my tongue in a burst of sweetness.
“My God, Faz, do you have to be so loud! I’m sure the entire hall can hear you!” Amira hissed, leaning forward to look at me. I grinned at her wickedly.
“What? I’m not doing anything wrong, am I. I can teach people a thing or two about savouring their food…biting into it, sucking on it, licking off the sweetness…”
Zee cracked up next to me, causing quite a few heads to turn our way. Han had this shocked look on her face while Amira scrunched up her nose.
“Ewwwww! You dirty minded perv!”
Swaleha started laughing next to her while Aliyah demanded to know what was going on from her end of the table. I shrugged demurely and bent my head to my food again…
The desserts were next, choc-mint mousse in small cups, mini Oreo cheesecakes, molten lava cake with ice cream and tiny rose-shaped milktarts. I wanted to taste everything but my stuffed stomach was already protesting so I ate a cheesecake and molten lava cake and swiped bites of the mousse and milktart from Zee’s plate to taste them, grinning when she didn’t even bat an eyelid at my antics. She was too used to me and my ways…
After the food was over I was sitting back and chatting to Zee and them when my phone buzzed.
Ready to go?
I smiled. Depends on where you’re taking me.
Depends on where you want to go, princess.
My smile widened. The beach house, I wrote impulsively, I want to see it again in the daytime.
Sure, no problem. I’m bringing the car around…
“She’s smiling like that again,” Amira commented, “what’s Mufti Ahmed saying now?”
“He’s bringing the car around. I have to go.” I stood up and my cousins groaned.
“Already? Can’t he spare you for another hour at least?”
“Nope,” I grinned.
“She herself doesn’t want to be spared,” Zee grinned, “go on, Faz. Enjoy yourself and be good,” she winked.
“Of course. Good is my middle name,” I winked back at her and made my way to my mum and aunts to greet them. They all had these smiles on their faces as they nodded their heads and greeted me back. I made my way to Aunt Nilofar next. She smiled and rose to greet me.
“Yeah,” I murmured, “jazakallah for everything. It was out of this world, especially the food.”
“I’m glad you liked it. We’ll see you soon, InshaAllah.”
I nodded and made salaam to her before going to the bathroom to wear my jilbaab and niqaab again. I followed the ladies who were leaving out of the hall then paused on the steps, scanning the area for Ahmed’s silver Mercedes. I saw it parked off to one side and walked carefully over to it, opening the door and slipping inside.
“How was it?” Ahmed turned his head to look at me as he reversed the car.
“It wasn’t bad Alhamdulillah. Over the top like you said but still pleasant and nice. And the food was just wow!” I grinned, remembering my previous comments about the food.
“The way to your heart is through your stomach. Got it!” Ahmed grinned.
I laughed. “And yours?”
“I’m chilled. I’ll eat anything like I told you.”
“But you must have favourite foods, right?” I pressed.
“Ermmm, pizza, I guess. And dry chicken.… stuff like that,” Ahmed shrugged.
“How about biryani? Akhni? Curry kitchri?”
“If it’s there I’ll eat it. If it’s not it’s cool,” Ahmed shot me a smile.
“No foods that you liss for…like you just have to have it right then or you’ll die?” I knew I was being dramatic but I really felt like that at times.
Ahmed laughed. “I’ll leave that for you to do. I’ve never felt like that before.”
“Wow. Lucky me I guess. I won’t have to run around catering to your stomach’s demands,” I joked.
“Yeah, you’ll just have to do that for yourself,” Ahmed joked back and I rolled my eyes at him.
We pulled up at the beach house thirty minutes later and Ahmed parked off then came to open my door for me. I let him, enjoying the pampering. We walked in and I admired the house again before kicking off my shoes and running out the kitchen door. My jilbaab and scarf were already disposed of in Ahmed’s room. I inhaled the crisp, salty air, relishing the breeze washing over my face, whipping my loosened hair about. Behind me Ahmed called out my name then followed my trail to the open kitchen door. I turned to face him, feeling the flutter in my stomach at seeing him in three-quarters and shirt again, his hair blowing around his face in the breeze. I loved seeing him like this, knowing I was the only one who saw this side of him… His eyes widened as they raked over me, seeing my dress for the first time. An appreciative smile curved his mouth.
“Just when I thought you couldn’t get any more beautiful you do,” he said softly, closing the distance between us, “I’m a lucky man.” His fingers trailed down my cheek and I shivered under his touch, his intense gaze. I realised that I had never complimented him before, only admired him silently and cleared my throat.
“You’re not bad yourself, Mr. Cassim. I’m a lucky woman.” Imitating his movement I lifted my hand and softly brushed his hair back from his face, loving the feel of the soft, silky strands against my skin. Ahmed’s eyes glowed as he captured my hand, pressing a kiss in the palm. Our surroundings faded as we stared into each other’s eyes, lost in each other. After an endless moment I cleared my throat, breaking the spell.
“Is the beach empty today as well?”
“Always,” Ahmed smiled, “the other cottages are all empty right now. They were here for the first two weeks of April but now they’ve all gone back.”
“I wish I’d brought my swimming costume with!” I groaned. What an ideal time to swim, both in the pool and the ocean and I had nothing to wear!
“Humi has quite a few suits here. Let me ask her,” Ahmed dialled her number before I could protest. I hoped she wouldn’t mind. He spoke briefly into it then hung up. “Go ahead. Humi said it’s not a problem.”
“Okay,” I smiled, hoping she really didn’t mind. I headed to her room and rummaged through her closet. Luckily for me Humi and I were around the same size. Her swimming costumes were not as decent as mine though. I pulled out a bright blue one, the top sleeveless and fitted, the bottom reaching my knees. I pulled off my dress and wore the costume, looking at myself self consciously in the mirror. This showed way more skin than I was used to. He’s your husband, Faz. Get used to it. I pulled my hair into a bun then walked out of the room and out onto the deck. Ahmed was already there, dressed in his swimming shorts which reached his knees…and nothing else. I sucked in my breath sharply, my senses reeling dizzily. His body was all sculpted lines and muscle. Too much… I was not prepared for this… He looked up and saw me, going still. Straightening he walked slowly towards me. My cheeks flooded with colour and I struggled not to squirm under his intense gaze.
“Beautiful,” he whispered. He tipped my chin up and bent his head to kiss me, betraying the depth of his emotion. When he finally straightened he smiled and held out his hand to me. “Where should we go first? The pool or beach?”
I blinked, coming out of my daze slowly. “Pool,” I replied. I hadn’t swum in so long, I was craving to feel the cold water against my skin. “I suppose you’re a good swimmer?” I asked him, testing the water with my toe. Cold, just as I’d thought.
“Good enough,” he shrugged, “you first or me?” He indicated at the water.
“Me!” I dived in with one smooth swoop, gasping silently as the cold water closed over me. I swam to the other end with powerful strokes, the water rejuvenating me. I loved swimming, had learned it at a young age…but hadn’t had the opportunity to do it much, due to purdah reasons. Having a pool to myself like this was heavenly!
Ahmed’s face popped up next to mine, streaming with water, his hair slicked back. I hadn’t seen him enter, occupied in my own swim. “Did you dive in?” I asked.
He nodded. “Yeah. You’re good, mashaAllah. Where did you learn to swim?”
“By some lady when I was young. Dad used to take us every weekend to learn by her. I’ve always loved swimming but haven’t had a chance to do it often,” I replied.
“You can make the most of this then. Like I will,” he grinned. Before I could ask him what he meant he disappeared. I turned around to look for him…then yelped as my feet were pulled from underneath me and I was abruptly submerged in water. Spluttering I came up, seeing Ahmed laughing from the other end of the pool. Oh, he wanted to play, did he? Fine…game on!
I dove under the water again, swimming rapidly underneath, looking for Ahmed. He had caught on to my intent and was circling me in turn, darting away when I got too close, trying to catch me from behind when I wasn’t looking. We circled each other till our breaths ran out then popped our heads above the water, gasping for breath. Then dove under to try again. After a little while I saw Ahmed’s head disappear above the water and pounced. Before he could catch his breath properly I had tackled his legs, giving a strong pull on them to pull him under. With satisfaction I saw his face abruptly appear under the water, eyes wide as he glared at me. Shooting to the other end of the pool I came up for air, gasping and laughing. Checkmate!
Ahmed came up and laughed with me. “Fine, you got me. Now it’s my turn to attack.”
“Don’t you dare,” I gasped as he disappeared again. I swam quickly to avoid the dark form pursuing me but he was too quick. His hands closed around my calves and I squealed, holding my breath in preparation of being dunked. In the next instant I found myself flying, my body shooting out of the water as Ahmed flipped me into the air. I came back down with a huge splash and went under. Propelling myself to the surface with my feet my head broke the surface and I gaped at my unpredictable husband laughingly, exhilaration coursing through my veins. “What was that?”
Ahmed grinned at me. “Like it?”
“Like it?? I love it! Do it again!”
After swimming for over an hour we got out and dried ourselves then walked hand in hand to the beach. We walked along the shore, soaking in the sun and salty spray. Walking on the beach without an abaya or even a scarf…being able to wear whatever I wanted…letting the breeze play with my hair, the sun hit my face…without worrying about anyone seeing me…and hand in hand with my gorgeous husband…this was my piece of heaven.
“What are you thinking?” Ahmed asked softly.
“This…it’s like a dream come true,” I replied just as softly, “jannah on this earth.”
Ahmed’s hand tightened in mine. “We create our little pieces of jannah on this earth and get so blown away by them. Imagine how the real jannah will be. So huge, not little pieces hidden away like this. So beautiful that this is nothing in comparison. And for all time. Makes all our sacrifices so worth it…because we sacrifice so little and get so much in return.”
“Yes,” I murmured, letting his words wash over me.
We prayed our asr awwal waqt then stayed on the beach till sunset, splashing each other in the waves, lounging on towels in the sand. We sat on the beach, me between his legs, leaning against his chest, his arms wrapped around me, and watched the sun descend into the ocean, setting the water on fire, the clouds fiery streaks above the orange globe.
We ordered takeaway again and ate on the deck outside, chatting about different things. We were in our own little cocoon, cut off from reality…just us two and the sea…I loved it, loved these moments, never wanting them to end… as Ahmed turned to me, feeding me a piece of sweet pineapple I silently said, “Alhamdulillah”, feeling the warm surge of love and gratitude flow through me again…
I’m not sure if I’ll manage to get another post up this week so if I can’t the next post will be up on Monday inshaAllah… but hey, look at it this way… other authors write posts of 1000 words each. This post is around 5000 words long so if you’ll break it up you can make it last till Monday😉