I went along with it all because of my love for Sarah. I wanted to surprise her with something spectacular, something theatrical, even though she’s Syrian American, Arab, and not desi herself. Even if she doesn’t understand all the mehndi party traditions, I’m banking on the drama factor to wow her.
Honestly, she’s been like a sister to me from the moment I confided my pain about the assault to her, so she needs to be blessed with an abundance of mirrored cushions artfully arranged, and a slew of Persian rugs littered with fake flickering candles.
“Why would I go in there? There’s a big sign on that door that says ‘No Sarahs Allowed,’ ” she says, her laugh turning to a frown as she opens a box to reveal bright blue party horns.
“What are those for?” I rifle my hands through the tassely, crinkly foil in the box, frowning too.
Sarah hefts another box up that’s labeled For Decorating and reveals its contents. “Look at this. Balloons. For making animals.”
“Like a clown does?”
Sarah nods and stares at me in pain. “This is why I came up early. With my brother and my cousin Haytham. You met Haytham, right? From Arkansas?”
“Yep. I sure did.”
“We drove up the minute I handed in my final assignments, Janna. Because I found out only this week that things have gotten out of hand.” Sarah frowns full blown now and directs it at me. “And you didn’t even stop it.”
“Me?” I make a scowly face back at her, confused. “Didn’t stop what?”
“How crazy this wedding has become. It was just supposed to be a simple nikah. A family-and-friends thing by the lake. That’s what your dad said.” She suddenly sounds like a completely different Sarah, frustrated and despondent. “That’s what he promised back in April. Remember? After the fight?”
Oh yeah. The fight.
THE FIGHT THAT ALMOST MADE THE NEWS
Muhammad: I got into law school at Stanford! And since Sarah’s also doing her PhD there, it’s perfect!
Sarah’s father: Oh no, not so fast, young man.
Dad: Why? He’s finally settling down to a real degree, after his aimless ways. I even moved out here to the less expensive countryside so that I can help fund his education again. And Janna’s, too.
Me: Thanks, Dad. Although I got a scholarship to college—but if you’d pay my dorm fees, that would be great!
Muhammad: We’re talking about me here.
Sarah: And me.
Sarah’s mother: There’s no way we will have you two going off to Stanford together without getting your nikah done.
Dad: Let’s get their nikah done, then.
Mom: We can have it at the Eastspring mosque with my brother the imam officiating.
Me: Aw, I love Amu! Yes, I like this idea.
Sarah’s mother: Yes, let us do the katb el-kitab with just family and friends. At the mosque where the kids met each other.
Mom: Yes, just warm and casual.
Me: Yay, so then I can wear jeans!
Dawud, Sarah’s little brother: Can I wear my Pokémon shirt?
Sarah: But what about everyone we want to see at the wedding? Like our friends from Chicago?
Sarah’s father: We will do the real wedding next year. The official reception. I’ll host it, and it will be how you like it.
Sarah: You mean with a tasteful matte-gold-and-gray color scheme?
Sarah’s mother: Yes, and we’ll fly in all our relatives.
Mom: Yes, then Teta can fly in, too. For the nikah this year, we’ll share dates and simple food.
Sarah’s mother: Yes, it will be simple and sweet.
Mom: I can make basbousa.
Sarah’s mother: I can order baklava.
Mom: Then, as a family, we can go out to dinner at a restaurant of the kids’ choosing.
Dad: I have an idea.
Dad: Why don’t we treat our children properly? Instead of like their union is a sneaky secret? Why don’t we honor them with a real nikah party? I’ll host it on my property with a large backyard overlooking the lake and an adjacent field that can park a lot of cars. Then they’ll know that they’re loved from BOTH sides of the family. What about that?
Sarah’s father: You think we’re doing the nikah like it’s a shameful secret?
Sarah’s mother: You think we don’t know how to treat our daughter properly?
Sarah’s father: Have you even seen the wedding we’re going to throw them next year? How great it’s going to be? How many people we will feed and how beautiful the decorations will be?
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