The Poet's Return

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Narrated by Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him), Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, "There is nothing better for two who love one another than marriage." (Ibn Maajah, 1847)

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The metal cuffs were unlocked from his wrists and he was pushed into the tiny room, greeted only by a concrete floor, a silver table with two stools bolted to the floor, and the sound of the stainless steel door slamming shut behind him. The door locked and he was enveloped in darkness. A dim light flickered overhead.

Two unsteady steps led him to the stool nearest to him, and he sat with a heavy exhale. He ran his fingers back and forth through the dense, black curls atop his head before his palms slid down his bearded face. God only knew what sort of a mess that he was in now, and what would become of her.

Just as he raised his hands and fixed his lips to whisper a prayer, he heard the muffled sound of approaching footsteps marching towards the room. He focused in on the sound, and it stopped just outside the door. Every second of the long pause dragged on at an agonizing pace, until finally he heard the door unlocking.

A light gust of air preceded the heavy boots that entered the room. Standing tall in her uniform, the police chief looked over him with a scrutinizing glare. There was no mistaking it; this was him...

~Eight Months Earlier~

LOS ANGELES


Thunderstorms and security checks had caused enough delays. What was supposed to be a sixteen hour flight had become a twenty-three hour ordeal. Still, the hassles of travel and being "randomly" selected for an extra intrusive search were the least of his concerns.

For the last six hours of his flight, he did nothing but watch his screen. His eyes scanned the message again and again, his grip on the device so tight that he nearly crushed it within his hand. As the plane landed, he gazed intently out of the window, having just missed the familiar LA skyline. He slid the phone into his pocket and his fingers drummed methodically on the armrest until it was time to unboard.

As he dragged along his large suitcase, his paced footsteps were soft, quiet. From the other direction, another set approached, stiff, heavy. They belonged to the man whose bespectacled eyes scanned every face in the vicinity. The phone in his hand buzzed, displaying an image that he had seen at least three times now. He was certain it was the right location, and yet, his objective was nowhere to be seen.

Again, his phone buzzed; this time a call came through. After casting a glance over his shoulder, he answered with two simple words. "I'm here."

"Turn around," the voice on the other end spoke. Slowly, he looked over his left shoulder again, seeing nothing but the faces of strangers. "Now turn the other way."

As he faced further left, almost making a complete circle, he spotted his contact. Standing beneath a coffee shop sign with his suitcase at his side, there was his second passenger for the next two hours. His athletic frame was cloaked in a wide and flowing white thobe*, his steely brown eyes deadset with a stern glare. Beneath the blinding lights of the airport hall, his chestnut brown complexion shined until his face softened, his stiff frown curving into a warm smile.

"*As-Salaamu 'Alaikum," he said, reaching out to firmly shake his older brother's hand. A larger hand reached back, taking hold of him and pulling him in to give a quick pat on the back.

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