Chasing Dreams

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"Allahu Akbar," Ahmad's smooth voice called out as he bowed down in the small hospital room. Behind him prayed his father-in-law, his brother, and his cousin. Behind them, Ahlaam followed along in her hospital bed, with her mother praying in a chair beside her.

The afternoon sun was just outside the window, shining through on the bouquet of flowers resting on the bedside table. The men all prostrated on thin, blue prayer rugs that Abdul-Malik had stored in his car for travel. They, along with Ahlaam's mother, faced the qibla* while Ahlaam adjusted her sitting body towards it as best as she could in the stationary bed.

Despite having lighter injuries than Ahmad, Ahlaam's situation was a bit more difficult. Ahmad had gotten stitches and was temporarily forced into wearing a sling on his arm. Ahlaam's surgery and stitches meant she would be in bed or on crutches for some time. Even so, she was grateful to be alive, and in spite of the aching pain, she had nothing but smiles and cheerfulness to offer the world.

That much worried Ahmad, though he said nothing of it. He wondered if it was simply her manner of coping with the traumatic events of the previous night. After all, he too endured some of the hardships and near-death experiences, and while he was certainly appreciative of their miraculous survival, his joy at living was far from the giddiness his wife exhibited.

He knew that Tom Rose had also unfortunately survived, and he bitterly accepted that bit of news. He'd also since found out that in his initial visit to the police station, Chief Rutherford had had his phone bugged. As angry and violated as that made him feel, he accepted that much too because it was, after all, the means through which she'd heard his conversation with Tom Rose and tracked him down to the studio at the end of the night. The chief personally explained as much in a private conversation. In exchange for his silence on that and cooperation in the ensuing case, she guaranteed his safety from facing any charges over his vigilante actions.

When he finished praying, Ahmad turned around to face those behind himself. Abdul-Malik and Umar had their heads bowed, focusing on their adhkaar, while Mustafa was looking up towards the door, seeing doctors and nurses pass by every so often. Ahlaam, in her bed, was draped in a large, red prayer-hijab, borrowed from her sister-in-law. From their first moment of opportunity, Ahmad and Ahlaam had informed their families of what had happened, letting them know where they were and how they were doing. Ahmad requested a hijab for his wife from their first round of visitors, and thankfully, one such scarf was brought along in the early morning.

Ahlaam beamed radiantly at her husband, and he flashed a comforting smile in return. Every silent glance between them had become a moment of thoughtful communication. Under his breath, Ahmad whispered praise of gratitude to Allah, as did Ahlaam. Then, upon hearing a knock on the door, Ahmad moved aside and stood up with his rug.

A female nurse came in to check on Ahlaam, and the men all left the room. Abdul-Malik prepared to take his rugs back to the car, while Mustafa and Umar stood with Ahmad. Umar thanked Ahmad for leading them in prayer, and for protecting Ahlaam like he did, before wandering off to take a phone call. Mustafa folded his arms before leaning against the wall beside his cousin.

"I still can't believe you really went in there on your own like that," he said in wonderment. "Forget Idris Elba, I think we got the real black James Bond right here, and he's Muslim too."

Ahmad shook his head. "I'm no secret agent or British super spy," he said. "I'm just a man who loves his wife, she's the apple of my eye."

"See, that right there. That kind of stuff is why I always thought you were really just a 'sensitive artist' type of guy. Now I know you were just perpetrating."

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