Chapter Twenty Two

Start from the beginning

"Everything's fine Salem," I dismissed him, knowing how protective he could get. Tariq sent him an uneasy smile as we retraced our steps back to the loveseat. We had only been seated for a few minutes, before I noticed Tariq's dad spot us from across the garden and turn to mumble something to baba. Baba nodded his head in approval at whatever he was saying and just as I predicted, Tariq's father cleared his throat and stood up to call everyones attention.

Everyone listened with rapt excitement as he spoke, starting with the traditional speech of asking for my hand on behalf of his son. He mentioned some sayings from the prophet [pbuh] and spoke a few words of wisdom about marriage. Soon thereafter, baba got up and delivered his response of acceptance and announced for everyone to read surat al-fatiha.

There was silence as we all lifted our hands and closed our eyes, reciting the short chapter to ourselves. Some whoops and shouts filled the air once we were all done, and I laughed at how similar our families were.

It was a quick process, just how it should be and it wasn't long before a line formed at the buffet table as people hurried to pack their plates with the various sweets, fruits and even tea provided.

Arabs...

I swear, if there was no food provided, I doubt they'd even show up.

Tariq turned towards me. "How do you feel?"

I bit my lip. "Great actually. Yourself?"

He grinned at me, his smile real and refreshing. "Amazing. We're one step closer to being together."

I loved how he was acting like what just transpired before didn't affect him in the least. The last thing I would want is for him to constantly be on guard around me, to be too sensitive or reserved. He was being himself and I couldn't be more grateful.

I glanced up at him nervously. "Tariq...once everyone leaves in a few hours, is it OK if you stay a while longer? I know you didn't ask but I feel like I owe you an explanation."

"Sameena..." he started but I put a hand up to stop him.

"I'll rephrase that...I don't owe you an explanation but I want to tell you. I want this to work between us and you're going to need all you can get to understand me."

He scratched the back of his neck. "I'll admit, I am a bit curious as to who was involved in your past but I don't want you to feel uncomfortable."

I shook my head at him. "A true doctor...always putting others before yourself. Any other man would have demanded to know."

"I'm not any other man, I can tell you that much."

I opened my mouth to respond but before I could, a plate was shoved into my face. Startled, I looked up to find Mira cocking an eyebrow at me. "Well are you going to take it?"

I rolled my eyes and took the plate from her hand. She turned and handed the other plate in her hand to Tariq.

"Five star service," he joked, accepting the plate and thanking her.

"I know, see, I even put for you two before myself," she retorted.

Tariq chuckled and swallowed the bite in his mouth before speaking. "Then I'll promise Sameena and I will do the same when the time comes for your fatiha."

"You're smooth," she said with a laugh, before glancing at me. "Er, do you mind if I steal Sameena away from you for a minute?"

"Of course, go ahead." She instantly hauled me to my feet.

As if on cue, Ziad strode over with a drink in hand, perching himself right where I had been sitting next to Tariq.

Mira grabbed my hand and pulled me inside the house and off to a corner. "Is everything OK?"

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