Chapter 26

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Hey Hana, I’m with Kareem at the park next to the Masjid. We got bored at home :)

Hana gave a smile as the text from Houssam came in, and as she had to pass the Masjid to get to Yusra and Amir’s house, she was only down the street from the park. Soon she was pulling into the parking lot, and was walking towards where Houssam stood next to Kareem, pushing him on the swing. As Hana approached them, Houssam looked up, and his face lit up.

“Hey! Salaam!” he exclaimed, and she smiled in return before dropping a kiss on Kareem’s head.

“Na!” Kareem exclaimed, bouncing up and down and pointing at Hana, and she laughed before looking up at Houssam.

“Walaikumasalaam.”

“How are you doing?”

“I’m good.” She tightened her hold on her purse strap, avoiding his gaze. “How are you?”

“I’m wonderful! Kareem and I were feeling cooped up in the house, so we decided to come have fun!”

Hana smiled as Kareem shrieked with laughter and she leaned against the swing pole.

“Well I’m here now, so I can take over if you have somewhere to go.”

“Not really,” he said with a shrug, “I’m meeting one of the brothers but not for another hour. Do you mind if I hang out here with you guys until it’s time?”

“No of course not.” She said, trying to sound convincing, though just the thought of having idle time to spend around him was a bit unnerving.

“Do you want to push him?” he asked, and her smile brightened.

“Can I?!”

“Of course.” He said with a laugh, and as she took his place, pushing Kareem, he folded his arms across his chest, watching them with a smile.

“So what was the most exciting moment of your career?” she asked and he laughed.

“You’re going to interview me here!?” he exclaimed and she smiled.

“Why not? We are just standing here.”

“Okay, okay. Um, my most exciting moment? Hmm, there are so many actually, my whole career has just been almost like a dream. I guess my first game was pretty unbelievable, the first time I won MVP. Getting my first paycheck was pretty epic!” he said with a laugh, and she smiled again. “The first time I was recognized on the street was pretty exciting.”

“What was the hardest?”

“Leaving here. Leaving everyone I loved and cared for.” He said immediately without even needing to think about it. “Sometimes I feel,” he hesitated, looking embarrassedly at his feet.

“What?” she asked gently.

“Lonely.” As soon as the word left Houssam’s mouth, he expected her to reply like everyone else he told. ‘What?! How can you be lonely!? You are always surrounded by people!’ But Hana just looked at him thoughtfully, before resuming pushing the baby.

“I can see that.”

His head jerked up in surprise.

“What?”

“I could see how you would feel lonely. Being away from familiar places and faces. Being around people who you aren’t sure if they only want to be around you because of your fame and wealth. It must be hard.” She said sympathetically, and he just stared at her in shock. He had never been able to have someone understand what he was going through, even though they had tried, and it was both a relief and unsettling to know that finally, someone did.

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