forty-three

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Graduation was the next day, yet Nicholas and his band of friends sat in an enormous library, laughing their worries away. The golden shelves of shimmering tales whispered in his ears and the soft hum of voices echoed off the walls.

Haroon, Humaid, and Elijah had kept Nicholas company as he stalked the empty corners with new adventures. The Younes twins mocked one another, thus gaining them an audience for most of the day, but all good things have to come to an end.

Being a med student meant nonstop lectures and studying, so Humaid had left early to catch his lesson. Haroon and Elijah would be graduating with Nicholas tomorrow while Humaid would not. He still had two years of medical school left while his other half would pursue his career in chemical engineering with his new master's degree.

Times like these, Nicholas felt sentimental. Here he was with all his friends, yet in a couple of hours they would embark on a new chapter of their lives, leaving him behind to chase after their dreams on weightless clouds of storm and dust, facing the harsh winds of reality and all the sunshines of happiness.

Haroon would be the student speaker for tomorrow's ceremony, so eventually he and Elijah left to prepare as well, leaving Dina and Nicholas in the library. Alone.

Her brothers must not have noticed it in their mist of college stress.

The sound of cocky voices and rough-housing broke Nicholas from his train of thoughts.

Students had been bustling in and out all day, and Nicholas was in charge of keeping the library clean and tidy, which proved to be a difficult task when the jocks arrived.

He didn't hate jocks, but he didn't like most of them either. Too many airheaded men believed muscles were all it took to prove masculinity, that a chiseled jaw exerted sex appeal, or that a douchebag personality emitted attraction. The stereotypes chained men in America from progressing into gentlemen.

Perhaps that was the reason Nicholas fell in love with Islam so quickly. The religion outlined gender relations, which may have seemed too old fashioned at the time, but with proper research it slowly began to puzzle through his mind.

Men and women coexisted with one another. Instead of gazing at the seductive allure of femininity, men were told to cast their gazes away when addressing women due to respect. In Islam, both genders held their strains to self-control, not permitting the devil's whispers to sought after the forbidden fruits of worldly pleasures. Muslims believed in mannerisms not popular modernity.

"No!" exclaimed Dina, brown eyes widening at her Nintendo DS with comprehensive curiosity. "I still don't have the Shiny Stone to evolve my Roselia."

Once Nicholas heard the grass-type Pokemon name, he automatically sighed, knowing far too well how addicted his beauty was to her DS game. "Dina," he sent her a pointed look, "we're in a library."

She lifted her gaze to him, smiling bashfully. "Sorry," she mumbled as a rosy ember tinted her cheeks. "I've just been trying so long to get a Roserade."

"Try harder," he replied absentmindedly as he kept a close watch on the jocks in the corner. "And try to keep it down this time."

"But Nemo," she pouted.

Just like that, Nicholas couldn't resist staring at her.

Dina was like an enchantress, tempting him with the promise of a love potion to cure all his troubles away with the soft press of her lips. With a lilting voice of royalty and a magical fury of giggles, Dina became his mesmerizing beauty from the East. As she held their stare, he couldn't help but fall in love with her all over again.

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