seventy-three

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Nicholas hummed a small tune that Dina embedded into his mind, walking into the office building without a care of whether his father had a new scheme of torment and lies prepared. He gave the resignation, and in some form, Nicholas was resigning his rights as their son. 

The thin line of patience was cut. Once the two weeks passed, there would be nothing holding Nicholas towards his family. Their relationship was always fragile, but it took years for their relationship to finally break, to splinter into a million pieces. 

Under his arms, he had a stack of papers ready to be approved by his father. He wanted nothing more than to go back to his home where his wife slept peacefully, enjoying her day off from school. He promised he'd come back soon, but the longing for her grew with every step he took towards his work. 

If only his parents could see how happy Dina made him. If only they could see the brightness of her smile and laughter. Maybe then would they finally accept her as a daughter of their own. If only they opened their minds and their hearts to her, maybe then they would fall in love with her as well. 

As he walked deeper into his father's territory, mumbling a couple of greetings to the secretaries, he felt his palms begin to clam the closer and closer he stepped towards the mahogany, foreboding doors, a gateway to his doom, dark and ominous of all the evil intention that lurked under a CEO's ambitious drive. 

His father reminded Nicholas of those villains from the fairy-tales his butler, Sergio, would read to him before bed. The villain would always seek to ruin the protagonist whether it be a princess or a prince. To villains, it didn't matter who unless they could actively taunt and torture those below them. 

It's okay, he told himself. I have Allah now. I don't need to fear the villains anymore. 

 Approaching the partly shut office door, he raised a hand to knock, yet a deep, familiar door stopped Nicholas. Someone was in the room with his father, and it wasn't another employee. No, the voice Nicholas was hearing was fatherly, soft, stern, and affectionate as he spoke Nicholas's name as if he was his biological son. 

It was his father-in-law. 

Nicholas pressed his ear closer to the door. 

"Nicholas is still your son," he pleaded. "Don't ostracize him because of who he married."

"I know he's my son," his father practically sneered. "I don't need you or your daughter to keep reminding me of my relationship to Nicholas. You've done enough damage."

Anger circled like a predator inside Nicholas, jaw clenching, but he kept his anger at bay. Why does he keep blaming Dina? He hasn't even met her!

"Please, Mr. Muller. I don't want their marriage to cause a strife. I came here for an understanding between us as father to father. These are our children. We cannot keep them in a cage all their lives only to satisfy our dreams. That's wrong of us."

A loud thump thundered throughout the room. "I don't care if it's wrong! He's my son. I know what's best for him. I know him more than you and your daughter. My son would have never disobeyed me if it wasn't for your daughter," he seethed angrily. 

"Are you sure that was Dina's doing?" his father-in-law asked softly. "Look at how you're speaking of your son, almost like he has no choice of his own. Don't you think he feels suffocated by that?"

"I-I..."

"Nicholas will always be your son by blood, but if you continue to mistreat and control him, you may lose your son forever. He's still a young man, and the more you push him, the more he'll distance himself. Trust me," he said gently. "When our sons leave our protection, nothing will hurt than to see their backs turned to their fathers. Don't let this be a reality for you."

His heart drummed against his chest, the rhythmic sound echoing in her ears, the blood rushing to his cheeks. The gentle, soothing words from the only man who ever treated him as a son, his father-in-law, eased the pain that tormented him for ease, erased the ink that blackened his heart. 

Dina's father came to defend Nicholas. 

He came to help him. 

With shaking limbs, Nicholas raised a hand, knocking on the door. Without waiting for a response, he walked into the office, seeing familiar cold eyes reprimand him for his lack of manners. Nicholas shrugged, disinterested, turning to his father-in-law with a small, grateful smile.

"Assalamualaikum," greeted his father-in-law. 

"Waalaikumusalam," he responded. "I didn't know you came here."

"I came to meet with your father."

Nicholas nodded. "I see. Well, I apologize for interrupting, but these are the papers from the last meeting. I added the proposal for the new project on top," he said, handing the stack to his father. "I'll need the approval by the end of the day to continue the negotiations." 

Stress lines marred his father's forehead, wrinkling the fragile, porcelain skin as if the previous talk weighed heavier on his than expected. His blue eyes were weary, tired, an exhausted, a sign of emotional turmoil overwhelming his mind. Does he really care about me? Am I more than just another Muller to the family legacy?

His father-in-law cleared his throat, breaking the two from their thoughts. 

Nicholas inhaled sharply, disappointment filling him. Guess the talk didn't help at all. He swiftly turned his back to his father, blinking the tears back from the sting of rejection. He would never be seen as more than just a pawn, not to his parents. 

"I'll be in my office if you need anything," he mumbled quietly, steps quickening. 

Who fucking cares? This isn't the first time. 

Nicholas wanted nothing more than to disappear, to go under his covers, to hold onto Dina while his fears consumed him. He wanted to go home to her, anything to escape the throbbing pain. 

All Nicholas ever wanted was to be loved by his parents. 

When Nicholas was a couple steps away from freedom, his father's voice called out to him, hoarse and nervous. Nicholas almost didn't believe his ears. 

"Come to dinner tonight with your... wife," he softly said. "Please."

----

I got like 2 exams this week, and I'm gonna cry. My major hurts T^T 

I know this is like one week overdue, but I've been so busy studying for midterms. I apologize, and In Shaa Allah I can continue with my weekly updates. Five hours of chemistry per night... Lord forbid. 

Anyway, props to Dina's dad, pulling through for Nick like that. Do you think this dinner might be different? 

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