As narrated by Dee:
A soft voice stirs me from my sleep.
“Come on, we have Fajr to pray and a flight to catch,” says Amz, shaking me gently.
“What’s the time?” I mumble sleepily.
“6:15,” she replies.
I groan, burying my head deeper into my pillow.
“Okay, I’m getting up,” I say, succumbing to the comfort of sleep once again.
I dream a dream, then.
A dream of a peony covered pier at sunrise.
On its end stands a tall young man, his back facing me, brown hair blowing in the wind. The sight makes my breath cease to mix with the sea spray.
My heart racing, I slowly make my way up to him, the peony petals caressing my bare feet.
On reaching him, my hands move up and cover his eyes. Instinctively, his own hands reach for mine, trying to move them off.
“Guess who?” I whisper in his ear.
“My favourite?” he whispers back.
The sea tries to snatch his words, knowing their worth is more than the priceless pearls laying in its belly, but they’re meant for me.
I bask in the shiver of warmth that they fill me with for a fleeting second.
Then, smiling, I draw back my hands, and he turns around.
For the first time ever, the sun rising up on the horizon fails to hold my attention.
“5 minutes,” I grumble, really not ready to wake up.
“Time is going, come on,” Amz replies patiently.
“I’m so tired,” I complain, snuggling into the warmth of the duvet.
“Maybe if you had slept when you were suppose to….”
I’m suddenly wide awake.
My body no longer needs the duvet – thinking back to last night, my insides warm.
Amz pulls the duvet away from me, and laughing I hide my face with my pillow.
“We didn’t speak for that long,” I say sheepishly.
“Oh yeah?” she grins back at me. “You think I don’t know?”
“I thought you were sleeping!” I admit.
“I was,” says Amz. “But you didn’t hear your alarm. When -”
“Did you go through my phone?!” I gasp, wide-eyed.
“Nooo, chill!” laughs Amz.
Oh, thank goodness!
“I saw an unread message from Zee. It was sent at 5:13,” she says, looking at me knowingly.
Trying to hide my smile, I reach for my phone.
“No, no, no!” warns Amz, grabbing my phone. “You need to perform Salaah first, time is going!”
“Let me just see what he said!” I whine, trying to get my phone from her.
“Uh uh, Salaah first!” she replies.
“I won’t reply, I’ll just read the message, promise!” I plead.
“It says, Can’t wait to -”
I lunge at her, but she jumps neatly off the bed out of reach, laughing crazily.
“DON’T READ IT!” I shout.
“Shhh!” she gasps, between her laughter, her eyes widening. “You’re going to wake the whole house up!”
“Very good. Like you said, we have a flight to catch,” I say matter of factly. “Now give me my phone!”
“Nope!” says Amz. “Go perform Salaah.”
“Okay but don’t read my chat with Zee,” I warn.
“Why? Will it make me puke?” she teases.
I glare at her, feeling my cheeks heat up, then disappear into the bathroom.
Durban, though still a bit chilly, is much warmer than Joburg, the sun shining through the patches of clouds.
I hope that the good weather holds until tomorrow, and that the forecasted rain doesn’t make its way down.
After we settle in, I make my way to the room I’d be sharing with Maama.
Flopping down on the bed, I text Zee.
ME: The place is so lovely!
We were staying at Phezulu safari park, about 20 minutes from Durban, which overlooked the breathtaking Valley of a 1000 Hills.
Our Walima would be on the resort, and Zee’s family had booked all the units for the occasion.
My phone buzzes in my hand.
ZEE: You guys need anything?
ME: Don’t think so.. But I’ll let you know
ME: How long you’ll going to be?
Zee and them had went home first, and would be joining us a little later today.
ZEE: Another two hours, I’d say
ZEE: Missing me already?
ME: No just can’t wait to push you in the pool.
ZEE: I’ll make sure we take longer in that case
ME: Come in your costume one time
I look up and find Sumayya standing in the doorway, hands on her hips.
“What?” I ask innocently, trying to discreetly slip my phone under my leg.
“All you do is sit on that phone and speak to Zee! We’re going exploring, come on,” she says.
“Exploring? Didn’t know we came to a cave,” I muse out aloud.
“This is the African bushveld, there’s a lot to… explore!” replies Sumayya. “Now come!”
“Okay, okay, I’m coming,” I say, getting up lazily.
The next day…
“Don’t get back into bed,” I say softly, poking my head into the room Sumayya and Amz are sharing.
“Too late,” comes a muffled reply from Sumayya.
“What’s up?” asks Amz, eyeing me.
“You wish!” I reply to Sumayya, pulling the duvet off her.
“Dee!” she squeals. “Let me sleep!”
“You slept whole night!” I say. “We’re going for a walk, come on.”
“You’re nuts! It’s freezing!” says Amz.
“Yeah, take your husband and go!” adds Sumayya, pulling the duvet back from me.
“Spoilt sports!” I mutter, heading for the door.
“Okay, make us coffee to warm up and then we’ll come,” says Amz.
“No. I’ll just take my husband and go,” I mutter, mimicking Sumayya.
I head to the kitchen area and put the kettle to boil.
Locating the paper cups we had brought, I prepare three cups of coffee, each different yet perfect for the person who will drink it.
Then I head back to the room.
“Coffee is ready,” I say.
Amz is tying up her laces, Sumayya draping her hijaab.
They follow me to the kitchen and I hand them their coffees.
Quietly, we make our way out into the chilly morning.
“The sun rises by the pool area,” I say to them after taking a careful sip of my hot coffee.
Amz was right.. it is freezing! But also, fresh and crisp, the grass still wet with dew.
We walk in silence, breathing in the invigorating air and admiring the view.
On reaching the pool area, we sit down next to each other on a little step and wait for the sun to transform the sky.
Sumayya breaks the silence.
“What’s it about the sunrise….”
Amz and I turn our attention to her.
“…that just makes you feel.. so…” she trails off, trying to find the right word.
“Awake?” says Amz, raising her eyebrows.
“Ugly?” I suggest.
“Hopeful?” I suggest again, seriously this time.
“Yes!” says Sumayya, her eyes lighting up. “That!”
It’s quiet for a moment, each of us lost in thought.
“I don’t think it’s always the case,” Amz says finally, staring into the distance. “Some days you wake up feeling like you wish you didn’t.”
I watch her intently for a few moments before listening to Sumayya again.
“No, no,” says Sumayya. “I’m talking about when you wake up before the sun and then watch the daylight seep in. Like, watching the sun rise.”
“I think I get you,” I say.
“It’s.. you feel like the sunrise…” explains Sumayya. “Your emotions being all the different colours because you feel… a whole lot of things at once. Like, the colours in the sky stir the colours within you. But there is that… that feeling of… peace.. which stands out the most.. just like the sun stands out the most, despite all the colours around it.”
“Like, Amz, right now, don’t you feel.. content? Like your worries aren’t that worrisome and your problems can all be solved.. will all be solved, somehow or the other.”
“I think I get what you mean,” Amz replies softly, her gaze focused on the now almost fully risen sun. “I don’t think my problems are just going to be solved, but I do feel that… peace. That it’s okay.. if I just sit here and take this in.. if for a moment I don’t think about all that’s going wrong and how to make it right.”
“That’s it,” Sumayya says softly. “Exactly that.”
It’s quiet for a while again before I speak.
“Guys. Today is my walima.”
“Don’t remind us!” says Sumayya.
“How is this happening? Why is life moving so fast? I still can’t quite believe it all,” I say, all in one breath.
Amz wraps her arm around my back and squeezes me gently.
“Don’t remind us,” she repeats Sumayya quietly.
“Do you think life will be very much different?” I ask them worriedly. “Will we still be able to hang out and have sleepovers and -”
“Dee! Sshh!” complains Sumayya.
I turn to her.
“Oh no! You’re crying!” I exclaim.
I look at Amz.
“And you! I’m sorry!”
They laugh and I frown.
“Wait, are you’ll happy or sad?” I ask.
“Happy-sad,” they say in unison, wiping their eyes.
I’m about to say something, when suddenly I’m being lifted.
I clutch desperately onto what my hands can grab hold of, my eyes widening as I see a grinning Zee looking down at me.
Though out of sight, I hear Meez greet the girls.
Where did they come from?
My mind begins processing then.
Zee lifted me…
He’s currently holding me…
We’re by the pool…
It’s – Oh god.
“No! NO! Zee, DON’T!” I warn, locking my hands tightly behind his neck so that he won’t be able to throw me in without coming with himself.
Still holding me he drops me further.
“Zee, it’s freezing! I’ll get sick!” I shout, clutching him tighter.
“Ask nicely,” he says, his eyes twinkling mischievously.
“Please don’t throw me in,” I plead… nicely!
He dips me further and I can almost feel how cold the water is.
“Zee I -”
He lifts me up and puts me down, grinning.
“Idiot!” I grumble, moving away from him.
“What was that?” he asks, reaching for me again.
“Nothing!” I yell, my laughter trailing behind me.
and the feeling you get as you watch the sun rise, in silence, with your hands wrapped around a steaming mug of coffee as the crisp morning air stings the tip of your nose, that’s contentment. happiness unfiltered. because despite what’s going on in your life, in that moment, as the sun comes up you know that today is a new day. that you have another shot at fixing things up. It’s gratefulness in its purest form. an unfiltered feeling of bliss realizing just how blessed you are.
~ troubled illusions.
I stand in front of the mirror.
The same feeling of surprise I had felt when I had looked in the mirror on my engagement day washes over me.
“I.. wow you guys.. is it not.. too much?” I ask nervously.
“For goodness sake, Dee!” laughs Amz. “It’s your walima! What do you want to wear?! Sweatpants and a sleep-shirt?!”
“No, but like, the dress… it’s so.. beautiful,” I say, glancing at myself from every angle.
That sets Sumayya off.
“That’s the point you dumbass!” she laughs hysterically. “You are so funny, Dee, honestly!”
“Come now, put on your shoes, Zee will be here just now!” says Amz.
“Okay,” I reply.
At that exact moment, I hear a tap on the unit door.
My heart goes into a mad frenzy.
“Wait, you guys!” I call, as Amz and Sumayya move to make their way out of the room.
They turn around.
“Do I look fine?” I ask.
“More than fine!” says Amz.
“Just ask Zee when he comes,” adds Sumayya.
“Sumayya!!” I hiss.
Laughing, they make their way out.
I hear the door opening and the brief conversation between Meez, Zee, and the girls.
My heart pounds, my hands feel clammy and my stomach cramps painfully out of nervousness. Once again it baffles me.
How come before he shouldn’t make me nervous?
“Come inside,” I say.
“Why do you never follow the -”
Seeing me, he stops abruptly.
I don’t even realize.
How come before he wasn’t this handsome?
The walima set up takes my breath away.
It’s minimal and beautiful and there’s white roses and lavender and candles and…
“Fairy lights!” I all but squeal.
I look at Amz, and she smiles at me.
“Do you like it?” she asks quietly.
“You guys are the best!” I reply, smiling so wide that it hurts.
“Zee said he didn’t get much say in the decor, but he insisted there be fairy lights.”
My heart melts then, and again when I see that they hadn’t set aside a special table for me.
They’d made everything perfect, and in that moment I felt like the luckiest girl alive.
I’ve just spooned my last bit of chocolate mousse – another thing Zee insisted there be, Humairah had said, at which I had felt like my heart would burst – into my mouth when my phone rings.
“Assalaamu Alaykum,” I greet, smiling.
He replies my greeting, then asks if I’m ready to go.
“Do you know what I’m thinking?” I ask, ignoring his question for a moment.
He pauses for a few seconds, thinking.
“About the times I’d call and you’d be in a grumpy mood, so I’d trouble you and ask if you were expecting it to be your non-existent dishy boyfriend?” he guesses.
“Oh my gosh how did you know?!” I gasp, genuinely surprised.
I hadn’t expected him to get it right!
“Guess what?” he says.
I smile, and it makes sense then. Like him, somehow, I just know.
“My dishy boyfriend is no longer non-existent?” I guess, grinning. “I’m speaking to him right now??”
“Damn right, gorgeous,” he says. “Now I’m giving you two minutes to meet me at my unit.”
“Wait, where are we going?” I ask, trying to ignore my dancing heart.
But he has already ended the call.
Guess that second chocolate mousse would have to wait.