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A Date with Destiny

“When Allah wants two hearts to meet, He will move both of them, not just one.”

~Unknown


We are not allowed to choose our lot in life.

Fatima knew this truth well.

We do not choose to be born or whom we are born to. And the trivial things people often fret about such as beauty, wealth, and (arguably) health are inherited to us by chance. It is a dangerous lottery, a rigged game, an arbitrary gamble with fate. But as the old saying goes, beggars can’t be choosers. And that’s why instead of crying her heart out, Fatima opted for a new change in clothes.

As she shed her green jumpsuit, the fabric fell seamlessly off her body like snakeskin, bunching up at her feet on the floor. The loss of her clothes left her with nothing but flesh and curves. It was the natural state in which she was brought into the world, and with it was her lot.

While Fatima rummaged through her closet for something to wear, her madarbozorg’s words taunted her in her head.

I think I smelled it on the way in.

The painful reminder paralyzed her mid search and she saw that her hand had stopped on a cotton white sundress. The lace on its bodice scratched her knuckles, drawing her to her ultimate choice. She took the dress off its rack and found a complimentary cardigan to maintain her modesty.

As she dressed herself, she could not help but think about her life as it was. It was not uncommon for Fatima to endure nights of her father’s drunk rambling, vomiting, and crying, all while trying to study for the next day’s exams. And when morning came, she had to drag her father out of bed to prevent him from missing work.

Although her life was hard, she could not blame her father even if she tried. She understood why her father was in so much pain. After all, she missed her mother too. She had been gone for seven long years. The woman she cared for every day was not her mother. No. The person she cared for was the shell that her mother left her with. It was a flawed copy, a cruel reminder that Fatima had been robbed of the happy childhood she thought she deserved.

Just a glass to ease the nerves, her father would say before the amber liquor vanished into the abyss of his throat.

Fatima looked into the mirror and watched as her reflection glanced back at her. That girl had the appearance of a bride. The youthful rouge rising to the surface of her olive skin could easily pass as blush. Her lips were stretched into a secretive closed-mouth smile. An explosion of waves bursted from the roots of her hair, framing the soft curves of her oval face in all the right ways. The girl in the mirror was undeniably beautiful, but the only thing that distracted from her beauty was the coldness of her intelligent eyes. Her eyes could cut through the thickest layer of facade. It was a power so frightening, so dangerous, that it masked her beauty almost completely. They were also the eyes of someone who had endured pain.

Fatima wasted no time in delaying her date with destiny any longer and grabbed a floral patterned dupatta from her drawer. She draped the scarf over her head and wrapped it over her shoulders. It loosely covered her wild waves, holding the ocean that her hair contained.

Now, Fatima was ready.

She unlocked her door and threw herself back out into the living room and was instantly met with gasps and hushed excited whispers. It would have been more than encouraging to say that her family’s reaction was due to the sudden change in her dress and how bride-like she seemed but that would be a lie. There was an anxious air stifling the room, and it was all due to a phenomenon that never occurred before.

Her suitor was late.

He was an hour late to be exact.

And Fatima’s father was worried to death. For the past hour, he was pacing around the front door in circles like a dog. Fatima rushed up to her father with her dress fluttering behind her and led him back into the living room. She told him not to worry and that he should be patient. From the way her father was fidgeting, she could tell that he was itching for a drink. She tried to keep him distracted by talking. The last thing she wanted was for her father to do something haram in front of the entire family.

“It’s going to be fine, Baba. If he doesn’t show, we can all drink tea and enjoy each other’s company. It won’t be any different than any other family gathering. We can still have a good time.”

Her father squeezed her hand with a strong pulse that turned her hand white like her dress. “I hope so, eshgham. I really hope so.”

The father and daughter held each other’s smiles until they were interrupted by Fatima’s dayi (uncle) Abbas. With bulging eyes, he frantically told everyone that he saw six cars pull up in the driveway and left to get the door.

They heard the front door open with a drawn-out squeal and sprung to their feet. Everyone in Fatima’s family stood tall and rigid in anticipation, everyone except Fatima. She had been through the process too many times to feel anything other than mild curiosity. However, this time Fatima had a reason to be more curious than usual because this time was different. With the last thirty-two suitors, Fatima got to know what they looked like before meeting them. This time, she didn’t know who she was meeting at all. She knew nothing about him other than his name: Samir.

Fatima did not expect much from her mysterious suitor asides from excessive sweating and a deathlike pallor, a reaction she had grown used to receiving from men. Oh, how she couldn’t wait to add poor Samir to her long list of rejections.

The delightful thought quickened her heart rate as she watched a procession of Samir’s family march into the living room.

The elders came first. They came in a pair, an old man and an old woman, whom Fatima could only assume were Samir’s grandparents. The old man donned a green beret on his head which complimented his linen coat and the old woman perched on his arm wore a long skirt and a full head scarf. They reminded Fatima of her own grandparents in appearance except for the steel gazes of their eyes. It was like they had already judged the people in the room, seen what they wanted to see, and looked past everything like it was transparent.

Fatima’s third cousin Tahmine grunted under her breath. “Bosnians. Why am I not surprised?”

Following the elders were the adult men and women. They were all uncles and aunts and the in-laws. Like the elders, they, too, carried the same cold disposition expressed by their steel gazes and rigid lips. The only warmth they brought to Fatima’s home came from the coos and giggles of their children.

“I heard they came here as refugees of the Bosnian war.” One of Fatima’s dayi whispered. “You can tell they’ve seen things. Unimaginable things.”

Her family’s excited whispers raised her curiosity to its peak. She desperately needed to know the poor soul she was going to disappoint. Fatima’s eyes wandered down the influx of people bursting through her door.

Who?

A man her age walked past her without looking her way.

Who?

Her eyes followed another striking young man with charcoal hair. He, too, passed her by without giving her so much as a glance. Fatima could have sworn that his coldness gave her the shivers.

Who?

The house was quickly filling up with strangers. People had to shuffle towards the back of the living room where an extra long table had been set out. Fatima was lost in a sea of people, their faces blurring together into a homogenous mess.

In the midst of her search, Fatima heard the front door close shut. It meant that the entire party had arrived. Samir had already arrived. So who was he?

As the crowd dwindled down to a manageable size, a young man passed by. He did not stop for her, but Fatima could have sworn that he had slowed his pace ever so subtly. His gray eyes betrayed him by veering from its straight gaze and running towards her. There was something in his expression that Fatima read as recognition.

He knew her.

The slight rise of his full brows made it seem like even he could not believe it as well. It was then that Fatima understood that cheesy, horrible, moment described in rom-coms, that feeling of the rest of the world disappearing until there were only them two.

Fatima was too shocked to be horrified. The glint in his eyes, that terrible keen spark of knowledge, captivated her. Knowing that he had successfully captured her attention, the young man had the audacity to do something bold, something unthinkable.

The young man had winked at her.

It happened in a passing second. Had it been anyone else, the moment would have gone unseen but Fatima’s perceptive ability allowed her to see it happen. She looked on dumbly in shock, so much so that she did not realize she was the only one left standing. Everyone had taken their rightful place at the table.

“Fatima!” Her father called out to her. “Don’t just stand there. Aren’t you going to pour the tea?”

Fatima should have felt the weight of everyone’s eyes on her, but the only stare that had any effect was the young man seated next to Fatima’s father. It was finally confirmed. She could no longer deny Samir’s identity now nor can she ignore the impending danger his existence held for her.

It made her all the more determined to get rid of him.

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