Chapter 12

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Houssam sat in his car in the parking lot of the park, watching as his friends pushed their babies on the swings. They were so happy and content, laughing and talking, the little children having the time of their lives. It was a truly beautiful moment and one that Houssam was trying with all of his might not to be jealous of. He loved all of them for the sake of Allah swt, and he counted Mustafa and Hisham’s children like his own nieces and nephews along with Kareem; but he couldn’t help but feel sad.

He wanted that.

He wanted to be able to join them with his own baby in tow. When Amir had invited him to ‘daddy day’ he had accepted because he wanted to be with them, but now as he watched them move over to the benches for lunch, the older children joining them, the kids all clamoring for their father’s attention, he had half a mind to turn around and go home.

He had never been one who was obsessed with getting married. He knew he would eventually InshaAllah, but it was not at the top of his list. He had been much more focused on his career, and now he was wondering what he had to show for it. Sure he had six MVP pins, but what else? Money didn’t really hold an interest for him, he could survive on the salary of one game for about two years, and so the rest was just sitting in the bank. He had started college funds for all of his nieces and nephews, and Ilham and Hisham’s children and in all honestly, each of the fourteen children had a million dollars and it hadn’t even made a dent in his savings.

He didn’t care about the fame either. In fact it was a burden that he often wished he didn’t have to deal with. Even now he knew his time of being out in the open without being swarmed by paparazzi was limited, it had been two weeks since he had come back home, they would know he was here soon. So far he had been lucky and hadn’t really been recognized by fans outside of the Masjid. It had happened once or twice but nothing major.

What he loved was playing the game, that’s really why he stuck with it. But now as he watched Amir bend to fix Kareem’s bib, and the little boy gave his father a kiss, he felt that familiar pang come back. The one that was there when he had to watch Amir and Yusra together.

That pang that felt a little bit like a heartbreak.

But Houssam being Houssam, got out of his car, put a smile on his face, and approached where the group was sitting. Almost immediately choruses of ‘Amu Houssam!’ and one really loud bellowing of ‘MOO SAM’ rang out, and the children all abandoned their food to greet him. As he was descended upon by them he had to admit, it made him feel a little better.

“Salaam everyone!” he exclaimed, laughing as Kareem began to push Amir out of the way so that he could get a full view of his Uncle. He paused to shake hands with his friends before scooping up Kareem. And the baby immediately put his arms around his Uncle’s neck, and Houssam kissed his head before sitting down next to his dad. Amir gave him a half wistful and half amused smile.

“Well I see I come in second when Moo Sam gets here.”

Houssam laughed, and rubbed a hand over Kareem’s back.

“You think we should tell him that I am actually his Khalo Houssam and not his Amu?”

A laugh rang out at the table, and Amir shook his head.

“All the other kids call you Amu I think he thinks that is your name.”

“Amu Houssam Shaykh! Star of the Lakers! Has a nice ring to it!” Mustafa teased, and Houssam laughed loudly before shifting Kareem so he was sitting on his lap, and able to reach his juice.

“So how was lunch?” Amir asked, and Houssam shrugged.

“It was nice MashaAllah. Ahmad had to get back home, he has a big surgery tomorrow and expects to be in it all day, and Rami is defending in court tomorrow morning so he wanted to go over his notes.”

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