Streaks began appearing in the eastern sky and the mezzuin began his call. “Allaho Akbar, Allaho Akbar, Ash-hadu al-la Ilaha ill Allah - Ash-hadu al-la Ilaha ill Allah . . .”
After the prayers, Umniya stood for a moment, then turned to see her mother coming up the stairs.
“Come, child, you must be made ready. Today you will become a wife.” her mother said.
In the next hours, Umniya was allowed to do nothing for herself. As she was fed and fussed over, bathed, lotioned, perfumed, painted and primped, her mind wandered again and again to her betrothed. She remembered, when she was nine, the day she had been taken to purchase her first niqaab. Her mother's friend, Aaliyah, mother of Aaqil, had accompanied them. She remembered the moment of panic when, veil in place, the mesh eye cover had been lowered, discretely, over the eye holes. Suddenly, there seemed no air to breath, she would surely suffocate. Then as the two women proudly led her from the shop, Umniya had seen boys in the street, playing. One of them was Aaqil and he waved to his mother. As his eyes passed over his mother's companions, it seemed to Umniya that there was something different in his eye as it briefly touched her, then quickly, politely passed over. She had held herself a little taller, as they walked, secure in her mother's protection and her own nearing womanhood.
Her mind slid to the day when a betrothal was decided. Aaqil had requested that they say Salat-l-Istikhara to assure that this decision was right for both. When the prayer had been said, she knew that she would not be forced, she had the right to refuse, but what other choice was there. With head bowed, she silently nodded her assent and was allowed to retire from the room. Peering through the lattice from the next room, she looked at her betrothed's unsmiling face with its heavy eyebrows and dark eyes; the fierce black mustache that covered his upper lip; the full lower lip that made something in her stomach flutter. She would come to know this face very well.
Now, sitting still under the ministrations of her mother, friends and cousins, she felt the flutter begin again. A small knot of terror was born. Everything she knew in life was about to end. They pulled her to her feet; turned her in front of a trio of large mirrors. She, Umniya – the desired – was gone. The woman looking from the mirror was a stranger, a wife. The terror grew. It was time to go.
Her cousin, Jumana, turned from the door, holding a covered silver tray and a note, which she handed to Umniya. The note read:
Were you too young to remember the poem of the prince and his gift to his beloved bride? I bid you accept the gift of your prince to his princess.
Umniya lifted the cover from the tray and there, on a silk cloth, lay a single, perfect white rose. The fear faded, replaced by a gentler quiver. “Aaqil means 'wise'” she murmured. She picked up the rose and tied it to one of the colorful ribbons on her wedding dress then, surrounded by her ladies and holding her head very high, she went to her wedding.
Joann Brosnan is a Capricorn woman, faithful friend, intrepid adventurer, steaming through her 60s; she finally sprung her writing on the world, and is having great fun with that.
“Next up - figuring how to get paid for same. Ah, well, hope springs. Maybe better luck with photos. It can be a bit distracting, having a soupçon of many talents and no one big one!”