forty-two

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Nicholas was doing his daily tasks around the library, stocking books back on shelves, organizing the new releases, and then cleaning the dust from the numerous textbooks that decorated the west wing of his beloved home of knowledge. 

His graduation was in a few days, yet he couldn't bring himself to leave the home he made for the past four years. Nicholas lightly brushed his fingers against the jagged lines of auburn wood, the sturdy shelves that he spent so long staring at, and the binders of myths and legends, authors of spectacular talent. 

I'm not ready to say goodbye, he thought.

When it seemed like there was no one in the world to understand his hardships, the books were always there, ready to take his hand into a world of bliss and happiness, a realm of fantasies, and a place where he could soar relentlessly. 

Books had distracted Nicholas. 

He shook his head, amused. Little did he know that his destiny was being written in their own pages. So much had changed in so little time. So many people had left imprints in his life, reminding Nicholas that he would never be alone not in this life or the Hereafter. 

Soft footsteps echoed behind him. "Hey, Nemo," her velvet voice greeted. 

Nicholas turned with a smile gracing his lips. "Hey."

Dina bit her lip, nervously shifting from one foot to the other. Her classic gray hoodie concealed her curves from the outside world, a rosy headscarf locking away her beauty but dispatching her dignity for those to admire. Nicholas could never get tired of seeing Dina's casual attire. 

Even in her sweatpants and hoodie, she was breathtakingly beautiful. 

Nicholas placed a hand in his pockets. "Fancy seeing you around. Shouldn't you be at home and asleep around this time?" he asked with quirked brows. 

"Not exactly," she shrugged. 

He tilted his head at her, wondering what nonsense had infiltrated her mind to make her adorable lips twist in qualms about her upcoming words. "So," drawled Nicholas, taking a couple steps closer. "Was there something you needed?"

She shook her head, fumbling with the edge of her sleeves and averting her eyes away from him. "It's just... I..." she stumbled, voice becoming more quiet as Nicholas inched himself closer to hear. Dina paused, inhaling deeply like she was motivating her words before she lifted her head, brown eyes locking onto his. "I came to say goodbye."

"What?"

Goodbye? What does she mean?

"You're graduating. There's no reason for us to see each other anymore," she whispered, wincing from the harshness in her own words. 

"Yes, there is!"

"No," she denied as she took a couple steps back. "We can't keep doing this. You're a Muslim now, Nick. You have to adhere to rules. I don't want to be the reason for your sins."

"Dina," he started, talking slowly as if she was a panicked animal. 

Something in her eyes made Nicholas freeze. It was fear, a horrified glaze of terror in the mist of shadows, consuming her entire being with tendrils of penetrating distress. Her once doe-like brown eyes became engulfed in an emotion that Dina could not escape from. 

She was scared. 

Nicholas walked closer, cautiously towering her small frame. His fingers itched to brush against her cheeks, to cradle her head, to kiss the soft lips that tempted his sinful desires. His body urged to pull her against him, to show her that he was hers for eternity, but Nicholas had to be patient. 

She gazed at him with teary eyes. "I don't want to be the reason that you sin. I don't want to be a temptation for you anymore."

"You're not," he softly said, gazing at Dina as if she were the most beautiful girl in existence, shining as radiantly as the sun and burning his heart with a flurry of embers. Nicholas had no idea what he had done to deserve such an angel, but he thanked Allah everyday for his blessings. "You remember when I asked you to wait for me?" he asked.

She nodded, peering at him through her thick, hooded lashes. 

"I'm serious about you and me, Dina. I'm serious about us. I want to be a good Muslim for Allah and you. We don't have to say goodbye," he pleaded with her. I can't lose her. 

"What are you saying?" 

"I love you, and I want to be with you."

"Nick-"

He cut her off. "I know you're afraid of loving me. I know you're afraid of what being with me could do to you, but I'm not asking you to run away with me or to secretly date me."

Dina sighed, the pained expression returning to her eyes. "Then what are you asking of me?" she questioned. 

"I'm asking you to help me."

She raised a brow.

"Let's start simple. How the hell do I pronounce these prayers?"

Slowly, Dina threw her head back, lips curling into a stunning smile. It was as though the tension that had coiled around them seemingly disappeared into wisps of foreign sorrow. Petals of ordinary life swirled around them in its wake, and life finally felt normal again.

That day, Dina spent her time slowly teaching Nicholas the proper pronunciation of duaas (small prayers) and Quranic letters, comforting him at every obstacle and supporting him at every mistake. Every soft whisper on her lips was an awakening in his mind, a reminder that Nicholas had found the perfect girl. 

----

Sorry that the chapter sucked. I'm awful at fillers, but I needed to update to keep the story going. In all honesty, I was playing Pokemon all week XD

I'm getting my wisdom teeth out tomorrow, so pray for me y'all.

Anyway, anyone noticing the change in Nicholas's behavior with other characters? Don't forget to vote, comment, and follow!

Anyway, anyone noticing the change in Nicholas's behavior with other characters? Don't forget to vote, comment, and follow!

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