Diamonds & Pearls-The Epilogue

I stood in front of the mirror and stared at myself in amazement. I felt a smile light up my face as I thought about what I'd accomplished today. I'd walked across the stage and collected my degree. It didn't matter that I was extremely exhausted from finals, volunteer work, and preparing for the release of my book. I'd freaking graduated college with high honors and the book I'd written about what had happened to me five years ago was being released in a week. I heard noise in the hallway and braced myself as Suleiman burst into my room. I gave him a look because he hadn't knocked.

"I know, I know. I didn't knock. But Ummi said everyone is waiting for you and we have to go now so you can get on the big plane." He sighed in an exasperated tone. My mother had combed his hair and dressed him in a button down shirt with suspenders. Now his hair was a poofy mess and one of his suspenders were hanging off his shoulder. I stripped out of my cap and gown and then pulled his suspender back onto his shoulder.

"Come on," I said, smacking him lightly in the back and guiding him out of my room. We made our way down the stairs together.

"I don't see why I can't go on the big plane with you. Ummi said I'm a big boy now." My younger brother pouted.

"I know Sulz but I have to take care of some adult business. But I promise when I come back we'll go get ice cream and do whatever you want. "

He looked up at me with a skeptical look in his eyes. "You said that last time when you had your big test. You said after you did your test we would do what I wanted." I cringed. He wasn't lying.

"Well this time I really mean it young one." I tried to reassure him. I had honestly forgotten about my promise to him in the midst of the chaos of trying to graduate and getting ready for my book release & tour.

"Muslims shouldn't lie." Sulaiman grumbled under his breath. I sighed. I would make it up to him but I still felt bad for letting him down. We made our way down to the living room and my heart nearly stopped from who I saw standing in the living room.

It was Qaasim holding a bouquet of roses. He was a tall, handsome, dark skinned Muslim brother with a heart of gold and what seemed like an Emaan of steel. We had met in my earlier years of college. We used to always give each other salams in passing on campus. He was the first person to speak to me the day I started college. I remembered being so scared and then there he was. He'd been a friendly face who was always there to make sure I was getting along well. He knew my story when we first met and told me that if I ever needed anything to let him know. It had meant so much to me. But I hadn't seen him since a year ago when he graduated. For a time, I had a crush on him but I'd smothered it due to my vow not to fall for a guy again. Why was he here?

He looked so nervous as he stood there, his eyes fixed on me before he shyly looked away. My dad stood to the side with a ridiculous looking grin on his face. My mom sat on the sofa with a similar expression and winked at me. Zayan sat on the sofa eyeing Qaasim suspiciously. Zayna sat rubbing her pregnant belly on the sofa with the same suspicion in her eyes that Zayan's eyes had held. What the hell was going on? "Assalamu alaikum sister Daleela," Qaasim greeted, his voice low and deep. I could feel my face fluster from hearing his voice again after so long. He had a voice that wrapped around you like a warm blanket and held you close.

"Wa alaikum assalam, it is good to see you again." I managed to say as I stepped into the room further. I straightened my back and tried to hide the confusion I held within. "What brings you here?" I asked, my voice unwavering.

"Well, first off I wanted to say congratulations on graduating college today. I was there to see my sister walk across the stage." He said with a soft smile. His full lips moved aside to make way for his straight pearly white teeth. He had the most charming smile I'd honestly ever seen. I looked away and straightened my back in annoyance at how much I seemed to still like him. I had to stay focused. I'd done a good job for the past five years and he wasn't about to throw me off that easily.

"Well, that's very kind of you. Thank you." I replied stoically, my guard still up.

"You're welcome." He replied awkwardly before finally clearing his throat. "I am actually here to ask you if you would like to have a sit down with me."

I felt a flutter in my stomach as shock ran through me. I couldn't lie and say it hadn't crossed my that this was why he was here. But something in me hadn't believed the idea. I just stood there like a dummy as everyone waited for my answer. I quickly pulled myself together. "Can I just think about it for a while? I have a lot going on, you know. And I have a plane to catch to California and I'm just trying to kind of deal with my nerves over my appearances on The Real and The Ellen Degeneres Show. So, thank you so much for coming. I'll think about it on the plane ride and have my father get back to you with my answer insha'Allah. Assalamu alaikum." I stated quickly before rushing to the door where my luggage was and hurrying outside.

I took in the fresh air and tried not to hyperventilate. "What the hell was that?" I mumbled smacking myself on the forehead. What if he thought I wasn't interested? Was I interested? Why would my family think it was okay to spring this on me so suddenly. I straightened up, took a deep breath, and reorganized my thoughts. I would deal with all this later. I had a plane to catch.

* * *

I hid in my car waiting for Qaasim to disappear. When he finally left, I went inside to hug my family and say my goodbyes before driving to the the airport. My mother had tried to convince me to sit down with him when I came back. "One sit down doesn't mean you have to marry the boy." My mother had reasoned. I tried to brush her off and just told them I'd think about it.

As I drove myself to the airport, my mind raced a mile a minute. I'd graduated today. I was going to be on television in forty eight hours. Qaasim was considering marrying me. I had fumbled through my mock interviews with my brother. Were people going to like my book? Would I find a job soon? I shook my head in an attempt to clear my brain of the clutter. "I got this!" I yelled aloud. I tightened my grip on the steering wheel before looking at myself in the rear view mirror. "You got this...insha'Allah." I whispered before taking a deep breath and then I was finally calm again.

Before I knew it I was at the airport. You know how you start driving and zone out and wonder how you made it alive when you weren't paying attention at all. Yeah, that was the moment I was having. I shook it off and thanked Allah I was alive and safe before grabbing my bags and heading into the airport. I was supposed to be meeting Raf and I was late. I rushed into the airport dragging my luggage behind me while asking siri to text Raf that I was here. I rushed through the double doors inside, my heels clacking against the floors of JFK as I hustled onward, barely looking where I was going as I fumbled with my wallet to find my ID to get my ticket.

In a flash, I was on the ground and all of my things flew across the floor. I'd ran into something or someone. I groaned in frustration before looking up to see who or what I'd crashed into. "I'm so sorry," I mumbled in embarrassment as the man I'd bumped into turned around in surprise. I barely glanced at him as I gathered my things up from the ground. I prayed nobody stepped on anything important or I would be royally screwed. I nearly had a heart attack when a woman almost stepped on my tablet. Luckily a large hand grabbed it before she could. I let out a breath in relief. It was the man I had bumped into.

"Sorry about that." The man said, crouching down in front of me. His deep voice held a strong resemblance to someone I'd once known. My eyes slowly moved up his form until I finally met his gaze. The shock hit both of us all at once.

"Daleela, is that you?" The man asked, his voice barely above a whisper. But I heard him and hearing my name roll off of his tongue made my spine tingle. I felt a ball form in my throat as my heart fell off of its rhythm. He looked so different yet exactly the same. His dark hair was short now and styled lightly with gel. His eyes were still dark, beautiful, and surrounded by never ending lashes. His dark beard and mustache were groomed to perfection. He was dressed in a black suit that set off his entire look. He was truly a man now.

"Cole." I responded, unable to stop the tremor in my voice. There was no mistaking him, even after all these years. He opened his mouth to speak but could not seem to form words. The lump in my throat was too large to say anything else. So we stayed there, on the ground, in the middle of the airport staring at each other. So many questions flowed between our gazes but none of them could be answered.

Not today anyway...

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