The bride looked so radiant her face filled with confused anticipation and uncertain excitement, in her beautiful red wedding dress, and as she sat there on the golden velvet chaise on the stage and awaited her groom who had now made his entrance into the hall surrounded by his mother, sisters and cousins and other female members of his family. He approached the stage amidst her sisters and cousins teasing and playing tricks, in which they demanded a price in order to be allowed to sit next to his new bride. But all was done in modesty and as was the custom of many American Muslim weddings, all the women not immediately related to the groom had their hair covered. But many of the customs of Pakistani wedding traditions were played out. And as he finally satisfied his sister in laws with a handsome price, the groom moved forward to sit next to his new bride.

As he approached the stage and came closer his breath got caught and he stopped for a second as he took in the lovely image of the first time viewing his wife without her hijab and dressed so beautifully. Ripples of giggles flowed through the hall and the bride clearly blushed a noticeable crimson color, and as her groom sat beside her and held her hand to slip the wedding ring on her finger, the emotions of the two were noticed and felt by all in the room, leaving the yet unwed to fantasize of their possible future day, and the married to reminisce fleetingly about days so long ago and in many cases buried away. But for me it drew pangs of an aching heart, one that would not be soothed later in the arms of my mate. I looked on as my dear cousin was given away to the handsome, young, new pediatrician , and could not help but feel the raw emotions, I was so happy. So happy that everything had worked out for Zeb. It had been a tough road to this point for my cousin, an internist resident physician herself, who had resisted the marriage for a long time, but finally all had come to happy conclusion, as could clearly be seen by the glow on Zeb's face. Job well done I told myself silently, all the months of prodding, encouraging, and supporting, had fallen to me. I had been handed this project of getting Zeb to agree to marry Dr. Shiraz Baig, which hadn't been easy considering the crazy world affairs I had to also deal with at the same time. Well, mission accomplished I told myself as I checked myself to be sure that none of my feelings were showing on my face.

As Shiraz left the hall, the women took off their hijabs and shawls, and the really party for the ladies began, the music came on and laughter and excitement filled the room as attention turned to exquisite outfits and new hairstyles all the ladies had turned out in, as it was only on such occasions, like weddings, where the men and women had separate all arrangements that they had a chance to come all decked out. I remembered times when I too would look forward to the coming of a wedding, as along with my friends, I would also plan weeks ahead on what I would wear and how I would do my hair. I used to look so much forward to Hassan seeing me all dressed up. A pang shot through me, it's just something I think I will never really get over. Even though had now been 2 years since I had lost my Hassan, and I had carried on with my life as best as I could and filled it with my children, family, friends and so much good work, events and nights like these emphasized the true state of my soul. Despite so many loved ones, and a great career, I was alone internally.

"Hey larki whats wrong with you, there playing our song, lets see that body move", I quickly composed myself and turned with a smile towards Missi, my best friend and also my cousin, she and my sisters Sophie and Rabia were approaching me and the looks on their face told me that I had not been able to fool them .

"Come Api, lets just have fun", and I smiled and determined to make this a wonderful night for our dear Zeb joined them on the dance floor and danced as if their wasn't a care in the world.

Afterwards I went and sat next to Zeb on the stage, "You look absolutely beautiful, sweetie"

"look who's talking, Huma Api, you look absolutely stunning tonight, and I'm not just saying that to make you feel good."

"Now don't go there" I knew where she was heading with this. Lately all these girls seemed to be on a mission or something.

"No, really Api, you should see yourself from our eyes, you are still young and beautiful and we want to see your eyes sparkle again"

"I think my eyes are sparkling quite a bit tonight, to see you and Shiraz together and the way you looked so lovingly at each other, I feel so sincerely happy, for you my dear Zeb, May Allah bless you with all the happiness"

"Oh, thank you Api, but you are just trying to change the subject. Look it was you who made me see that I was being too stubborn and that I should give Shiraz a chance, and now look you won't even give an inch, to the possibility of maybe getting married again." I smiled "Maybe you are right Zeb, but enough about me, this is your night, and hey we haven't gotten you onto the dance floor yet, hey guys, lets make way for the Dulhan ." And off we wisked Zeb on to the dance floor and party we did until word came that the Shiraz had arrived with the male family members in tow, for the rukhsati, the official giving away of the bride, and as I helped Zeb into the limousine that night while tears rolled down our cheeks, as we bid our darling farewell, I made a silent prayer "May Allah bless you dear Zeb and Shiraz with a long life together and all the days you have together be filled with love and happiness."

I walked back into the hall to gather our stuff with Missi, Sophie and Rabia, our feet were so tired that we kicked off our heels and I flung off again my hijab as it was irritating me so as it had not been pinned properly. Missi and I joked with the girls not to throw the centerpieces and left over party favors away as we could be needing them for any one of their weddings, and they groaned "You two are just always preoccupied with getting us hitched."

"hey that's what our job is, to make sure you guys, are taken off our hands." I joked.

"well we think it is high time we started getting serious on our project" Sophie exclaimed confidently hands on her hips, "In fact we have come to our own little resolution, right Missi Api?" And now Missi was joining in with the two of them?

"oh yeah," I feinted dramatic concern "Now what would that be?"

"We are determined to get YOU married next."

I laughed and guffawed, "Good luck with that one, who's gonna want a 35 yeards old widow with 3 kids and a job that has her in all the headlines every single day?"

"Api don't sell your self short, you are so beautiful and 35 is still very young, most people here in America are just starting off on their families around that age, not to mention you don't look a day over 25, I mean look at you, any man who would see you in that black halter blouse and sexy sari will go ga ga over you"

"Oh Sophie, I just love you for that, but in Muslim Americans it is more difficult."

Missi plopped the box full of gifts left behind on the floor with a bang, and faced me with both hands on her waist, oh and that look she gave me, told me I was in for an earful.

"Only if you let it be, you need to take down those walls and barriers you have put up one your own, and give it a shot. And Huma, you are such an inspiration and role model for women, everywhere, not just Muslim women, I mean to be the first Muslim, not just Muslim woman, to be the press secretary for the President of the Unites States, I mean come on now, and all the work you did on CNN reporting from all over the world, you are just amazing. And you know that there are so many Muslim men who admire you so lets not get into that old stereotypical view that all Muslim men are dogs and would like their wives barefoot and pregnant and submissive to them, ok?, Because you girl of all people, you who has done so much for the image, and awareness of Muslims should not be moping around. None of the men in our families are like that, and the men who have married in, my hubby Sohaib, Shiraz, Yasmin Api's husband Ibrahim Bhai, and not let's not forget Hassan Bhai certainly was nothing like that." No doubt, what Missi was saying was true, and the men in our family weren't just from Pakistani background, we had Lebanese, Turkish, Egyptians, and Missi would know, as her first husband , was a mean man, and we had helped her kick him out, and it had taken us a long time to get her to see that all men were not like that, and finally it was Sohaib Bhai, whose parents were from Egypt, had made her realize that a man could love her and treat her with respect.

"And hey, no offence but you use to say you were such a passionate person, do you want to live the rest of your life without feeling that way again, and Hassan Bhai would not have wanted that for you, and you know that."

What Missi was saying was true, Hassan and I did have a very passionate relationship. Although we had a fairly up and down marriage, that was something that remained for most of our marriage. We used to joke that if either one of us had been a cold fish, God only knows what would have become of us. And yes I had felt the loneliness and the need for the companionship, but I did not want to go through that process again. And the truth was that even though I counseled these girls and encouraged them down the road to marriage, I was scared more than anything of that prospect myself. Not only was my situation so limiting but one thing was for sure, that if I ever did marry again, I would only marry someone who would be a companion for me, I didn't "need" a husband this time it would be only if I "wanted" one. As I was deep in my own thoughts, I had not fully understood the further conversation the girls carried on, I only caught the tail end of the last comment Sophie was making. "Raina just up and left kids and all, Allah only knows how Yusef Bhai must be feeling."

Curiosity got the best of me, "What do you mean, didn't Raina just go for the summer to London, to visit her father?

"That's what she said when she was leaving, but now she has decided not to come back, and it's being said that she is so broken up over the death of her mom, that she can't bear to leave her family, and she has even told Yusef Bhai that she has no feelings for him as wife should have for her husband"

"Whoa, stop right there, don't go repeating things you just heard, we have no idea what is going on in their lives, and unless we hear from the horse's mouth we should not be indulging in the gossip we hear, because that is exactly what it is, it's just gossip."

"oh Api, so quick to defend the repo of Raina, or that of the gorgeous and wonderful Yusef Bhai?"

"Astaghfirallah" I blushed recalling the slip of my tongue once in front of the girls where, unconsciously it slipped out that what a gorgeous and absolutely wonderful man Yusef Kamran was after hearing him give one of the khutbas he sometimes gave at Friday prayers so long ago. And thus I was never able to live down that, even though I think I had manage to convince the girls that I just meant that of him as a pious and devout Muslim brother. But time to time they still teased me about it. It was the only slip I had ever made that might lead to the truth in my heart or the buried history that I would not even allow myself to ponder over. "Chalo, Chalo larkis, hurry up, I am soooo tired, and the kids will be waiting you know Afreen will be insisting on staying up until I get home, she must be giving Mom a real hard time. And I still have to check in with the President for any updates. I 'll get the trash bags and go put them in the kitchen and then I think we should be all set, why don't you Missi, go get the van, and Rabia and Sophie you guys carry the boxes out to the front, I'll meet you guys out there."

I carried the trash bags three at a time, and had taken the last batch into the kitchen and was having a hard time closing the lid of one of the big trash cans when I heard the jingling of keys, and thinking it might be one of the girls coming to see if I needed help, I called out "Hey help me with this lid, it won't stay ….." I gasped as I looked into the hazel eyes of Yusef Kamran, and I heard his breath stop and we just froze for a good sixty second or hours, it felt like forever, and then in realizing, he quickly covered his eyes, "Oh I am so sorry, so very sorry, I totally forgot that men were not allowed in here tonight."

"That's ok, you didn't mean it," I muttered clumsily as I tried to put the lid down as best I could, and then tried to get out the door, but he was still standing right in front of it, even though his back was to me, "I think you're gonna have to move a little so I can get by." As he shifted I quickly ran out the kitchen and back to the hall and quickly put my hijab on straight away.

As I pulled my long duster on, Sophie rushed in, "Api, what is taking so long we have been waiting, what happened, what's the matter?" I turned and tried to act normal as possible, "Nothing, nothing, let's go." I rushed out into the van.

"Oh no Api, you know you are never good at hiding your feelings, everything you feel comes right on your face, and you are flushed, are you feeling sick?" Rabia and Simi turned to look at me, and before I knew it blurted out.

"Yusef Kamran came into the kitchen while I was in there." Their faces were blank .

"Geesh guys, he saw me without my hijab and in this sari." They all screamed in unison.

"Oh my God."

"Don't worry Api," Sophie hurried to give me relief, "it was unintentional completely, Allah knows."

"Of course, I know, and May Allah forgive us as he is Merciful no doubt , but I feel so weird." Truth was I was more worried that I kind of liked the idea of what had just happened. Oh may Allah forgive me, and take these wrong thoughts out of my mind.


"Api" is a name in Urdu (language of Pakistan) used for older sisters or cousins, as a sign of respect and endearment for an older sister/cousin/in-law or even friend who is older but not too old

"larki(s)" means girl(s) in Urdu, here Huma uses it like "guys"

"Bhai" is used (in Urdu) for older brother/cousin/in-law/or any man who is older but not old enough to be an uncle