THURSDAY, JULY 15
WEDDING PREP DAY
Chill while waiting for Nuah to arrive tomorrow
Go meet Mom at her hotel
I’m in the water. Floating on my back, staring at the bluest sky there must have ever been in the history of blue skies.
My burkini, almost all four yards of it, swells up around me and serves as a flotation device. I’m buoyed, but—secret smile—it’s not only because of the burkini.
Nuah’s coming tomorrow—for the entire weekend.
And I have a plan.
Now that I’m finished with school and will be starting college in the fall, I’m ready to actually tell Nuah that… that… well, I guess, that we can be a thing? I don’t know what else to call it when you say yes, I like you back to someone like Nuah, who’s interested in me, but also interested in following Islam.
Which means there are rules—but the rules will still lead to us being together.
I spread my arms out in the lake and let my secret smile take over my face, remembering the words of the scholar and spiritual poet Rumi.
“Rumi said, ‘Only from the heart can you touch the sky,’ ” I tell the sky, my eyes probing the blue expanse, my left hand pulling up my burkini pants, which are beginning to ride low again, their waistline weathered from overuse. “And I believe him.”
“Janna, are you talking to yourself again?”
I don’t need to lift my head to know that it’s my brother Muhammad. And that he’s on the dock, throwing our two little half brothers into the lake, one by one, each time they scramble back onto the dock in turn saying, “Again!”
He’s giddy, my big brother.
In exactly two days he’s getting married to the love of his life, Sarah. And it’s all happening on the grounds of this lakeside estate house right here that Dad bought and renovated last summer in grand fashion.
I mean, there’s even a perfect white gazebo by the water. Dad had wanted it to be his wife Linda’s “sanctuary” space—with white couches and some kind of tulle hanging off the entire structure, doing double duty as a practical mosquito net and an ethereal fantasy thing.
But Linda is more of a chasing-after-the-kids-in-her-leggings person, so the gazebo is a neglected thing of beauty, lying in wait for its moment to shine.
That moment began a week ago when white-overalled workers descended on the gazebo to perk it up. Remove the couches, dismantle the net, give it a fresh coat of paint, fix the trellis roof.
This weekend everyone Muhammad knows, and I mean everyone, is driving up either three hours from Eastspring, our hometown, or an hour down from Chicago to see Muhammad and Sarah’s relationship get solemnized in that gleaming white gazebo.
It’s THE wedding of the Muslim community round these parts.
Wedding preparations have been going on for weeks now, led by Dad and Muhammad, as Sarah is scrambling to finish a master’s degree and her family is throwing an official reception of their own next year.
But this event here by the lake is going to be a monstrous affair, and it’s kind of unnerving. I can’t even move around Dad’s place without bumping into strangers measuring distances or erecting beams or looking me up and down as I flop around in my (signature) ripped, faded, slouchy clothes.
Big Fat Muslim Wedding is on everyone’s lips. Like three-hundred-guests big—which is huge for being a private wedding in Dad’s backyard.
Muhammad and Sarah are even letting me invite some of my friends, plus their plus-ones.
One of them is Nuah.
Who, being friends with Muhammad, is coming up to help him out prewedding.
Floating in the lake, I hitch up my burkini pants again, do a flutter kick to keep from sinking while doing so, and smile bigger at the sky above as I think about Nuah all dressed up for the wedding.
I haven’t seen Nuah in forever because, after his freshman year ended, he stayed in California, where he’d started college for engineering last fall. But when he comes up tomorrow, it will be for the summer.
I close my eyes because, sappy but true—as Rumi himself knew—the blue skies have moved into my heart now.
* * *
Water splashes on my face. A truckload.
Grunting and sputtering with frustration, I flail for a moment before reaching to clear my eyes, to get ready to deal with my super-immature, forever-goofy brother.
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