Today's Reading

I stand and fit my feet through the legs of my pants, frowning as I struggle to find the holes at the hem.

Who is he?

Haytham?


I mean besides being Sarah's cousin?

Besides being the guy I just got completely humiliated in front of?

Lifting my long burkini top and bunching it under my chin to hold it in place, I tug at the bottom's waist and knot the excess fabric as best as I can. Mental note: Get a new burkini.

I'm just going to forget this "Janna farted" incident and go get showered and changed and then head to the hotel in town to see Mom, who's arriving today to help with wedding stuff.

I haven't seen her in almost a month now, so I can't wait to catch up.

It was Muhammad who guilted me into staying so long at Dad's. I hadn't been sure I wanted to spend three weeks here before the wedding. I had originally wanted to stay home in Eastspring to work and just come up the week of the wedding to help him out, but then Muhammad had pouted, his lips drooping, and he'd slouched his whole self. So you don't want to hang out with me at Dad's before you go to college and before I become an old married man? Our last time as free siblings?

So yeah, I'd given in. And said good-bye to Mom. And a job.

I hung around here at Dad's scrumptious home just resting and relaxing and eating good food and swimming every day and reading all the books and watching all the movies and shows I'd missed while finishing high school. And of course hanging around with Muhammad and Luke and Logan.

And it was fun. I'm glad I did it, actually.

But there's something I like even more than the comforts at Dad's: After the wedding, after Muhammad leaves with Sarah, everything goes back to normal. Exactly how I like it.

It'll only be me and Mom in Eastspring once again, the way it used to be—well, the way it used to be since my parents got divorced when I was ten, and we moved apart when I was eleven.

Before the divorce, I used to think of myself and Dad as a team, as we're kind of similar in our eye-on-the-prize way of seeing things. He applies it to the business world because he owns a food company, and I apply it to the getting-the-best-grades-possible-in-school world. Dad's goal-oriented philosophy helped him become the number one prepackaged Indian dessert manufacturer in North America. And mine landed me a hefty scholarship to UChicago to study English.

Team Dad and Janna lasted only so long, though.

When a member of our mosque community assaulted me two years ago, Mom was the one who was there for me. She got me counseling with Dr. Lloyd, pressed charges, and wrapped me in relentless love, and so we became a new team, a championship team. Dad was just a ball of anger, blaming the mosque, wanting something bigger to be held accountable. I found it hard to connect with him then.

Like Mom, Nuah helped me through that time too. He was never far away and stood by me when some people in our community refused to believe what had happened. In addition to duas, he kept sending me memes to brighten my day. And specially selected cat videos—which I have no idea where he found, because they weren't the viral ones.
So it's going to be a Nuah-and-me and a mom-and-me summer when we get back to Eastspring, insha'Allah.

And my world going back to being small and cozy like that is exactly what I need when this huge wedding is done.


CHAPTER TWO

On the way back to the house a bit later, with a towel sheltering my shoulders, I notice there's a gathering at the gazebo.

It's Haytham and the laddoos, Logan and Luke. And is that Sarah's little brother, Dawud? Lying down on the floorboards with a book open in front of his face?

Haytham, clothed now in a navy T-shirt and khaki shorts, waves me over.

I tuck in the tendrils of hair that made their way out of my burkini cap, hesitating a moment, staring at my feet in the grass leading up from the sandy edge of the shore, across the huge expanse of backyard, to the patio at the back of the house. Then I turn left and make my way to the gazebo, my eyes still on my black-polished toes in yellow flip-flops moving through the neatly mowed grass, which feels cool against the skin of my feet.

When I glance back up, I see that my little brothers are holding a silver tray between them, excitement on their faces. Logan beams while Luke giggles.
...

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