Chapter 1: Homecoming

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     She stood in the arrivals area of the airport, anxiously looking at the screens that listed flight information for all arriving flights. She glanced at her husband and felt his hand on her shoulder as he whispered, "Relax, Amina. The flight is on its way. I told you we should have left the house later." "You saw how restless Mama was at home too, Dad," a young woman said as she brought over two cups of coffee and a bagel. "Eat something, Mama." Amina looked at her daughter and said, "You know I can't even look at food until that damn flight arrives, Jannat." Jannat sighed and handed the bagel to her father, "Then you eat it, Baba." Harun thanked his daughter and noticed that even though Jannat acted calm and collected, her shoulders were also tensed. She would never admit it, but Jannat was in every aspect just like her mother. Both Amina and Jannat had dark brown almond shaped eyes. Jannat shared her mother's hair color; a rich mocha, which accented her eyes perfectly and also, shared her mother's perfect pearly white smile. The main difference between the two women was that Amina conservatively covered her head with a scarf, her hijab, whereas Jannat had short hair that she proudly flaunted.

     "Uncle!" A familiar voice yelled out from behind Harun, causing Harun to turn around and watch a tall, lanky man come running towards him. "Breathe, Ahmed," Harun laughed while he patted Ahmed's back. Ahmed smiled and huffed before he handed Harun a set of keys, "I swear they have about ten news channels waiting outside. I had to park in the dirt lot and run back." "The dirt lot is about six blocks away, Ahmed," Jannat pointed out. "You ran all the way back?" "I'm pretty good at running, I'll have you know. Plus I wasn't missing this for anything," Ahmed huffed and walked over to the LCD screens to check on the flight's timing. Amina smiled as she looked at Ahmed. The boy had practically been raised with her own children and she considered him to be her fourth son. Rain or shine, she could depend on Ahmed to be there to help her family. "I think he's the most nervous out of us all," Jannat pointed out to her mom. "I appreciate him being here. He had the decency to come even if your other siblings didn't," Amina sighed.

     Jannat noticed the look on her mother's face and sighed as well. Her siblings were no longer as close as they once had been. Marriage, employment, and life in general had driven them apart, even though they all lived under the same roof. They all had their own morals and beliefs that were guiding their lives and most of the time; they just didn't agree with one another. Still, Jannat had hoped that her siblings would make time on this day, even if it were only for their mother's sake. Jannat pushed back her hair as it fell in her face and looked at Ahmed. Her family had emigrated from Pakistan nearly thirty years ago. Besides her youngest brother, all of her siblings had been born in Pakistan, including herself. They had been raised with Pakistani traditions and it always made her smile that Ahmed, a man of Persian descent, had incorporated himself as a part of her Pakistani family. "Why are you staring?" Ahmed asked as he wrinkled his nose and looked at Jannat. "Wondering why you always look like a geek and then I remembered, that's just you," Jannat grinned.

     Ahmed snarled and shook his head adding, "You're worse than my own sister." "Well, while she's away someone has to take care of you," Jannat laughed. "Jannat," Amina said in warning. "Oh come on, Mama. He's my little brother. I can't mess with him?" Jannat asked. "It's cool, auntie," Ahmed shook his head. "I'm used to it." Ahmed smiled as he watched Amina sigh in defeat. He loved the small, petite woman in front of him like his own mother. His own mother had died when he was very young and his sister had raised him. He had received a mother's love with open arms from Amina and for that, he would be forever grateful. Even though the majority of Amina's children did not always like having Ahmed around, Amina had always treated him exactly how she treated her own offspring. He smiled at the thought of the days and nights he spent at their house whether studying, helping around the house, or just hanging out. "It's here! The flight's here!" Amina yelled out, making Ahmed snap out of his daze.

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