Once Upon A Honeymoon.
I don't know which one of us thought of this brilliant idea. Quite frankly, ankle deep in sand somewhere on the remote beach in south eastern Brazil and sinking fast, I didn't actually care.
Adam and I had been married precisely for two days and 13 hours. Most of that time was spent in the airport or on the airplane. Another large chunk of it was travelling from the airport to the hotel and then of course much needed sleep, which I didn't really get because sleeping with a man for the first time, no matter how much you loved him or how tired you both were, was nerve racking. And you can stop your dirty minds right there, I literally mean sleeping. Knocking out, counting the 'z's whatever you want to call it!
"We don't need a guide!" Adam muttered, imitating my earlier statement with a voice way too high to be credibly mine. I rolled my eyes and tried not to move anything else lest I sink a little deeper but even that small movement buried my feet a little deeper. Adam chuckled almost hysterically and had to bend over to control it, shaking hands on his steady knees. You see, he wasn't in any sort of trouble. He cleverly looked down at the ground as we strolled while I was more interested in the palm trees and the beautiful sky.
"Oh Adam, we're about ten minutes from the town's tourist information place! We can wait for what's-his-name for an hour or so before we really need to start panicking," I said, feeling quite comfortable in the sand, still not up to my calves. 'What's-his-name' was actually some random guy from our hotel we'd befriended over breakfast that morning. Happy to hear an English voice in amidst the Portuguese we decided to explore the area together but I still couldn't remember his name. It was easy enough but I just couldn't make it stick in my memory!
"That's if he's coming back! I don't think he's taken too well to be called 'um' all day," Adam told me, sighing when his laughter quietened. I looked around and tried to find a solution to my predicament.
"Well, 'um' has to be better than 'what's-your-name' surely," I said defending my choices. Adam scoffed with incredulousness and looked at me from his bent over position. I tilted my head to one side and admired him. "You're really hot when you do that crinkly forehead thing, you know that?"
"Lee," he sighed standing up straighter and trying to control the smile. "I'm angry right now, sweetening me up isn't going to help."
"You're pretty hot when you're angry too," I said, noting that for future reference. This time he let out a laugh and a full blown smile. The one where his eyelashes came together, the one that I loved.
"I can't believe you! You're stuck in quicksand and you're being totally inappropriate!"
"How do you know not all dying thoughts are like this?" I questioned him playfully. "Maybe films and books just censor dying thought and really I'm being completely normal?"
"Please don't joke about dying," Adam said, succumbing to my current mood and sitting on the ground as close to me as he could without joining my peril. "We've only been married two days."
"How poetically tragic!"
"Really now," Adam muttered.
"You know I think I've stopped sinking," I said wiggling about to double check. Just below my knees and not getting any deeper. What happened to quicksand being so deep you could drown and suffocate in it? "Huh! I knew scriptwriters exaggerated things but that's just ridiculous! To think I was planning how to come back as a ghost to look after you after my death!"
"Khalila," he warned me quietly and I stopped annoying him about talk of my not-so-impending death.
"Habibi, I'm not going to die! What's-his-name will be here any sec with the cavalry," I assured him. Adam grunted and nodded.
"His name is Tristan."
"Tristan!" I repeated with relief. Seriously, why couldn't I remember it? Adam chuckled and shook his head at my antics.
I'll admit, and with great ease to anybody who knows me and my ignorant stereotypes, that I didn't think we'd see that much in Bolivia. I wrongly thought it would be a relaxing day break between all the travelling around Brazil we'd done in the past few days and all the excitement I was expecting in Argentina, a chance to finally get intimate with my husband or at least share our first kiss!
Well call me Incredibly Narrow Minded because walking down the Tarabuco Sunday market, I was thoroughly enthralled with everything I saw. The people here walked around in their traditional dress and followed old customs and traditions. The market's merchants came on these ancient dilapidated wooden trucks that were filled with whatever they were selling, fruits, vegetables and hand woven tapestries and textile material. The colours! They just sprung out and took over my sight.
"Look at the women!" I whispered to Adam as busy locals rushed passed our turtle-speed walking.
"Not sure if that's right," he joked, following my line of vision and seeing the women with their long thick braids of shiny black hair peeking out from under straw hats. Their skirts flared out around them as they weaved or cooked or bartered.
"Those are the coolest skirts ever!" I said, no room for dispute. Adam chuckled and held my hand tighter. "Look, that woman's staring at you!"
"The one old enough to be my grandmother?"
"Uh-huh. What do you suppose she's thinking about?" I asked, watching her stare turn into a frown. I turned to him, grinning when he shuffled nervously from foot to foot.
"She's staring at you now," he told me. "Maybe she's wondering why we're staring at her and what we're talking about?"
"Hmm, funny!" I said with a sarcastic sigh, spotting an amazing tapestry on the same women's stall. I greeted the lady with my newly learnt Spanish and she returned it with a smile at my awful pronunciation.
"It's not getting better," I whispered to Adam in Arabic. Six months ago I started learning Spanish. Partly because I didn't want to be the odd one out in the Fernandez clan, partly because if my children learnt to speak it and I didn't they'd use it against me if my genetics had anything to do with it. But mostly it was because I liked to know what people where talking about and marrying Adam meant I'd be visiting a lot of Spanish speaking countries in our lives together, namely Cuba and Spain, and quite often.
"You're fine! Honestly you're just paranoid your accent sounds funny because you're not used to hearing it," he said. I looked at him briefly whilst looking through the various tapestries. I knew for certain my English accent came out whenever I spoke Arabic or French and they were my mother tongues so why not Spanish? He was just being nice to my ego.
I asked the lady who wouldn't stop staring how much the tapestries were and she replied very vaguely but with a price way too high to be right. She knew I thought that too and she smiled at me, just inviting me to haggle.
"How good are you at bargaining in Spanish?" I asked Adam as I'd not yet tested that out about him. All throughout engagement and wedding prep he'd made sure I was out of ear shot before paying for anything. I loved it about him, his generosity, but it was different now. I was his wife and I had to look after what was his. Besides, the woman's price was ridiculous!
"Leeloo, why do we have to bargain? Just get it at whatever price they say."
"They're extortionists! I mean what part of my heritage do you think allows for this type of concession?" I said moving closer to a tapestry I was interested in getting for Onoko's new room in Jimmy's house. "The tight-ass Syrian or the conniving Egyptian?"
"You're neither of those," Adam argued back, sighing as my countries of origin hadn't escaped the clutches of my stereotypes.
"Never too late!" I chimed.
"No, please don't," he warned me with a chuckle before turning his attention to the woman selling the tapestry. He turned on his charming smile and the hardcore bargaining began much to her enjoyment and his dismay. I couldn't hold back the smile, watching his face redden and the words stumble out of his mouth.
Fluent or not, this woman was tough and it required the work of an expert to break her down.
"50 is last price," I told her in my broken Spanish watching her smile grow.
"50!" She said with surprise before replying in Spanish, something I translated as 'I've got 50 children to feed'.
"50 kids!" I muttered reverting back to English. "Mashallah."
"She said 'I can't afford to feed my children with 50'," Adam translated more accurately.
"How much is that box of apples?" I asked her not letting my feeble understanding hinder my fight to bargain. I pointed to it in the stall beside her and she held up two fingers. "Exactly! You can afford to feed your kids!"
"60," she offered. Adam opened his mouth to accept, his hand slipping into his pocket to take out his wallet.
"55 and you throw in a couple of those apples?" I said before he could accept her terms or pay her. She chuckled and nodded, leaning over to pick up two of the best looking apples in the box.
She said something else to Adam as he handed her the money while thanking her. I'd caught onto the word fortuna and my ears perked up. He paused while taking the apples and the tapestry she'd already put in a bag for us. He turned to me for a moment and then shook his head to decline.
"What did she say?" I whispered to him when he stood back at my side. The woman smiled at me warmly, a look of knowing in them.
"She said I was lucky to have such a smart and beautiful wife," he replied, looking at me sideways.
"No, she didn't!" I said, taken aback. Adam laughed and nodded. I looked at her and saw she was still watching me so I smiled back and she repeated it more slowly for my benefit. I blushed and hid into Adam's side a little.
"We don't want our fortune's read," Adam replied to her when she insisted again by grabbing my hand forcefully but gently too. "We leave it up to God to decide."
"God has already decided," She said as she looked at my palm with interest and then flipped it over to see the back of it. "I'm just pointing it out!"
"Leeloo," Adam said pleadingly. I shrugged and pointed to where she had a firm grip of my hand. The truth was I was a little bit curious even if I didn't believe in fortune tellers.
"Your patience will be tested most in this life," She began, slowly for my benefit. "You have a lot of it and it will be stretched as a result but it is through perseverance you will be blessed and my all means, it is the greatest blessing one could receive!"
"What is it?" Adam asked, unable to curb his curiosity either. She just smiled at him and shook her finger at him.
"For all the time you've stared at this hand you've not seen it?" she teased him. "All the times you've given it kisses?" Adam swallowed back the saliva and I watched his Adam's apple bob up and down, smiled at the irony and then concentrated at the present situation. She'd known of Adam's interest with my hand, that was pretty psychic in my opinion and more than made up for the vagueness of her first bit of information.
"Your first child should be named Benedicto," She told us. I scrunched up my nose. Really? She couldn't think of any other name? The women spoke again with a hint of outrage and urgency. Adam nodded in understanding but I didn't catch on to it. Her eyebrows shot up when she pointed to my stomach and then to him. Adam squeezed my hand tighter and then looked at me.
"She says that you must call him that as a gift to what God will bestow on you," Adam told me not explaining why she pointed to my stomach or why he tensed up. "That's what it means apparently. Blessed."
"Destiny is destiny in whatever language right? We'll translate it! Benedicto will be Rizq!" I said and he shrugged indiscernibly, thinking about something else. The woman took our word on it and waved happily as we walked away. I exchanged a look with Adam and let out an anxious sigh. "That was creepy! How'd she know about my hand?"
"Easy, she saw the beauty spot you have on your wedding finger and thought it was kissable, just like me," He said, kissing it. I smiled and leaned into him, happy I'd finally learned why he was so obsessed with it. I didn't even realise there was a beauty spot until I turned it to check.
"It's tiny," I said, frowning at it. "And somehow I don't think it's kissable to anyone but you Adam!"
"I'm telling you she wanted to kiss it. I saw her lips pucker up and everything!" he joked.
"That would've been so weird!" I shook my head in laughter.
"You know something weirder?" he said quietly. "She knew we hadn't...I mean she could tell you were still a...we haven't..." I closed my mouth, opened from stun.
"Creepy is about right," I mumbled.
"Good thing we don't believe in fortune tellers huh?" he said, his voice not sounding convinced at all as he swung the bag carrying the tapestry little. I nodded. Life was complicated enough without having some Bolivian woman's theories plaguing your actions.
"Definitely," I concurred with a grin.
There has been more than one situation in my life where I've been in a place and music was playing, whether live or on CD, and I've really wanted to dance to it. I'm not talking about swaying to the beat or anything mild like that. I'm talking about actually getting up, possibly on a table, and dancing. Full out dancing, flicking my hair, gyrating, spinning...it kind of depended on the music but the feeling was the same. Sanity often kicked in at the right time and saved me from extreme embarrassment because whether it was in my pre-scarf days or not, whether I was surrounded by friends or strangers, there was no doubt at all that I would have been embarrassed. Yes, it was that type of dancing, the type that was reserved strictly for solitude and in a locked bedroom.
This is one of those times.
An Argentinean street; locals circled the band and the tango song they were playing. Some devilish thought got in my head and made me believe I was a milonguera. Adam had his arms wrapped around me as he stood behind me and looked on, oblivious to what crazy ideas where running through my head.
A couple moved out of the crowd and swayed to the middle of the circle. They started dancing for themselves and for the enjoyment of the rest of us. I watched fixated on their feet, the playful battle and tried to memorise it but it was too fast, too perfect. Her legs flicked this way and that. His feet barely moved but when they did, they moved at exactly the right time and in the right place. My eyes roamed upwards and I saw the way her body leaned into his, the way his arms supported her but how well she held herself up, spinning on the ball of her foot, sliding her leg slowly and seductively up his.
"Leeloo," Adam whispered in my ear.
"Hmm?" I turned around to face him and saw his wide smile.
"You keep moving against me," he whispered burying his face in my shoulder when it clicked in my head. Yup you guessed it, we still hadn't quite gotten round to that kiss or the bit after! Note to all couples planning their honeymoon. Don't go travelling ok? Stick to one place and get to know each other all over instead of the world! "Please stop otherwise I'll have to do something very indecent and unIslamic."
I started giggling. Borderline hysterical. There I was thinking I was being so controlled at holding back my urges and yet I was unconsciously dancing on the spot. People around turned towards us with questioning looks on their faces.
"A dance?" one of the men in the band suggested. I wish! I shook my head dismissively and leaned back into Adam for emotional safety. He hugged me tighter and replied to the man in Spanish whispers. I didn't hear it but the man took whatever he said with a smile and played a little more enthusiastically than before and the couple continued to dance with the full attention of the crowd.
"God, you can't take me anywhere!" I muttered to Adam feeling embarrassed through and through. He chuckled deeply and kissed my cheek affectionately. Just my cheek...I sighed sadly. Heck, I hadn't been a good girl all my life to be one when I got married too!
"Well, I've just dedicated the next song to you," he told me quietly as the band began to play a slower rhythm. He started us off swaying but I was too concerned with the onlookers that watched us with eyes that spoke of joy at our young love.
For shame. What had I put myself into? I almost died from humiliation, that was until Adam started singing softly in my ear. That was when all coherent thoughts rushed out of my head and I fell deeper in love. I had no idea what the song was, I wasn't focussed enough on translating it, he could've been cussing me down to the deepest circles of hell for all I knew and I didn't mind one bit.
"I could kiss you right now in front of all these people," he whispered during an instrumental bit. I sucked in a breath. Ok, maybe he wasn't cussing me exactly. I bit my lip before looking up at him and seeing his dark eyes look back.
"What people?" Adam smiled down at me and drew closer. Do I really need to mention all the thoughts that were running through my head in those ten seconds? I was nervous, excited, dizzy and every other happy emotion under the sun but all he did was give me a small peck on the lips before standing up straighter and loosening his grip around me. Holy fuming earholes Batman! Khalila married a tease!
Sitting back on a semi-comfortable sofa in our hotel room, leaning into Adam while we watched an old black and white movie, I was the epitome of contentment. Once Upon A Honeymoon of all things, I had thought for a moment that fate was being very literal and then I got the gist of the film.
"Would you ever fake you own death if I was a Nazi?" Adam asked, resting his head against mine as we watched it.
"What do you mean 'if', that's why I married you!" I joked. God forbid such a thing.
"Ok fine, what would you do if I...forced you to take off your scarf?" he asked, playing with my hair. I sighed, feeling the end of my contentment draw near. I sat up and looked at him carefully. Was he being random or was he trying to hint at something?
"Well I wouldn't fake my own death but there may be a funeral in someone's case," I said sternly.
"Don't look at me like that! It's a hypothetical question!" he said with a chuckle.
"It wasn't a nice hypothetical question!" I mumbled. "It's like me asking you what you would do if I forced you to stop speaking to your family!"
"It's not the same thing!" He said, sitting up straighter. "My family is a big part of my life."
"Well my Hijab is too!" I said, explaining my reasoning. "And it's a big part of our faith too!"
"Leeloo, I'm not disputing you. I love and respect that about you! I'd never ask you to do that," He said softly, worried that I was offended. To be honest I was a little. Hypothetical thinking only stirred up trouble. I nodded and held his hand.
"Inshallah," I said. God willing. He sucked in a breath and I looked up at him.
"It is Allah's will of course but I'm never going to do it," he said disturbed. "Never. I'd do the opposite." I swallowed back the saliva and nodded.
"I know," I reassured him. He frowned looking at me carefully and then sighed back into relaxation.
"Was that our first argument as husband and wife?" he asked casually.
"Hmm, I think so." I nodded repeatedly. A smile crept up his face.
"That was weird," He said, sitting back again, arms out and waiting for me to resume my position.
"Totally," I agreed slotting back in. He played with my hair with one hand and drew lazy circles on my arm with his other hand. I couldn't really concentrate on Cary Grant or Ginger Rogers. Our first fight! "Kind of an anticlimax don't you think?"
"Well, it's not the ending yet," he said referring to the movie. I rolled my eyes as how quickly he'd slotted back into it.
"I mean the 'fight' we just had," I said, pursing my lips. Where was the drama? The rage? The screams and doors banging shut?
"We could pretend if you like?" he suggested. I smiled and looked up at him.
"Pretend to have a fight?" I repeated making sure I'd got his suggestion right. He grinned and nodded. I was missing the play fights I used to have with the boys every week or less and I knew Adam liked to push Nancy around playfully too. We had been awfully well behaved with each other...I jumped out of the sofa and ran to one corner of the room, picking up a cushion as a weapon. Looking up I saw he had done the same.
"No throwing anything breakable or throwing anyone on anything breakable or...breaking anything in general. Bones most definitely included," he began naming his terms. My eyes narrowed and we began to circle the room, one slow step at a time.
"No amount of screaming will make the other stop. Tap out to give in and succumb to my will."
"Pfft," Adam said with a chuckle. "Your arse is mine!"
"Ok Fernandez," I said with slow nods and demented eyes. "We'll see about that!"
I was about to charge at him when a knock came from the door and we froze in place.
"Room service!" the Argentinean voice called out. Adam and I exchanged a look.
"Truce until after we eat?" I offered.
"Deal." I moved out of sight so Adam could answer the door and smiled happily to myself. Adam could have been a radioactive human for all I cared. I'd have stuck beside him and gladly accepted the carcinogenic consequences.
It started of innocently enough. We went to visit Lake Chungarà and the most amazing view of a natural landscape I'd ever witnessed and I'd seen a lot of places. The snow-peaked Parinacota Volcano and the brightest blue sky both reflected on the surface of the lake in front of it. A crystal clear mirror image, I couldn't decide which one to look at. Adam and I sat side by side, his arm draped around my waist like the way it had been for most of the almost two weeks we'd been married.
"Subhanallah," he said with a content sigh. I concurred with a silent nod and took a few pictures of the horizon and then a couple of close ups of Adam. He laughed at first, ignored me next and then started frowning. When I still didn't stop he started making funny faces and when I was laughing at the last one he pulled, a hybrid between a monkey and a rabbit, he stole the camera off me and returned the favour, though with all the flashes in my eye it was more like torture. After we'd made enough of a nuisance, we'd sobered up and looked back out at the volcano. "What do you think it might look like if it erupted?"
"Well, the first thing that would happen is that the snow would melt pre-eruption and it would be warning enough to evacuate all the people," I said, looking at it with a tilt of my head. He grinned and watched me as I continued with my concocted tale. "But the emergency services are stuck in traffic because of red tape procedures to block everybody out. They'd wait on the borders of the city for the green light but they'd be too late of course. So a brave team of locals would step in as volunteers to build a massive heat resistant wall around the town to save it from destruction and to give their neighbours and friends time to escape. Just before the cement could set...a rumble. The courageous men and women look at each other and know the end is near. Another rumble and the loudest creak they'd ever hear. The heroes bunch together and join hands in prayer. The earth moves, a rain of stone falls on top of them. A woman cries out-"
"I thought this was going to be a happy story!" Adam interrupted me with a shocked smile on his face.
"I was just getting to it!" I said with a giggle. A bus load of French tourists had just arrived and were taking lots of pictures and making even more noise but at least it was all appreciative of the view so I didn't really mind it.
"Alright how could it possibly be happy?" he asked playfully.
"I forgot where I was," I mumbled. He grinned and hugged me closer.
"A woman was screaming," he prompted me.
"Ah, so a woman cries out from the shock of it and is shielded by a nearby friend. 'Don't worry' another says. 'This is a good death I know, dying to save the ones you love' she replied fearlessly. The other shakes his head and points to the sky. 'The Helicopter's here to take us away!' and take them away it did!"
"That's not really a happy ending," Adam said after a moment.
"Their home got ruined!" he said with a chuckle when I failed to see it as he did.
"No! It became a natural wonder of the world, you see the lava and ash preserved it all Pompeii style. They made tons of money from visitors and heritage organisations and they lived happily ever after it their new homes with amazing hi-tech kitchens and luxurious bathrooms. They even sold tiles from the left over lava!"
"Lee," Adam managed to say before bursting into laughter much to the amusement of myself and the French tourists. A couple of middle aged women smiled at me and then spoke amongst themselves not knowing I could understand what they said. They spoke of how perfectly matched we looked, they wondered how a hijabi woman was allowed to marry a Latin man and how we communicated with each other. One of the women dirtily suggested it was all about the sex, how far from the truth she was. Eavesdropping on their banter, I couldn't help but think of my mother and Fatima's mum too. It was what I always imagined their private French conversation were about or at least the Islamic version. I thought of what they'd do if they were here and then I started crying.
"Hey, what's wrong?" Adam asked worriedly. I shook my head and pushed away from him. I didn't need to look up to see the look of hurt on his face to know it was there.
"I need a minute," I mumbled incoherently and shuffled away, allowing the tears to come out in full force. It wasn't that I was unhappy, in fact it was the complete opposite but they weren't exactly happy tears either. I was enjoying the beauty around us, my heart was filled with joy at the feeling that Adam gave me when he was with me but like a shooting star out of the sky, a pang shot out of that swelled up heart and in that instant I really missed my family and my life back home. Not just a fleeting thought, but like a build up of those homesick emotions that I'd been keeping buried inside. Loud sobs came out and a small part of my brain registered the other people there with us. Like I said, it wasn't that I wasn't having the best time of my life on my honeymoon with Adam, it was that it was such a good time that I kept wanting to share it with the boys. I couldn't pass a school without missing my mum, I couldn't look at a newspaper without feeling the empty space where my dad should've been. I know it was irrational and unfair to Adam but it sort of had a will of its own. I couldn't even think about how Adam would be feeling about it before bursting into renewed tears.
"My God, what did I do?" Adam asked worriedly, in a hushed tone in between my muted wails. I shook my head, hidden behind my hands and buried in my lap. Talk about over exaggerating, I couldn't tell him my reason for this melodramatic display of emotions without him seriously regretting his decision to marry me.
"Nothing," I squeaked, wiping away my tears and looking up at him. He had shinier than usual eyes and an impenetrable frown. I wrapped my arms around his waist and buried my head in his shoulder to prove that it wasn't him when my voice failed to do so.
"Well, it's something," he started again, stroking my scarf covered head calmingly. I nodded but said no more. I'd tell him later once I'd calmed down. I'd ruined this memorable journey enough already. Stupid girl moods.
"Hello Madre," I answered the phone trying my best not to lose my grip on it as I stood atop the ancient Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, balanced on the top of a lonely mountain.
"Hello Daugh-dre!" She said excitedly, adding a warble at the end the same way she had every time we spoke these two weeks.
"Not yet Ma," I said quietly. You see it was a code really. The warble was to celebrate the consummation of marriage. A little archaic in my opinion but my mother, mother-in-law, paternal grandmother and aunts all determined that it was essential for them to know, none of the details but just the occurrence. Something about tradition and how it was their right as female elders. Whatever, it's not like I had anything to report on anyway.
"What the hell is wrong with you two?" Mum said losing her happiness in an instant. "Waiting the first week is understandable but this is ridiculous! What are you doing wrong?"
"Nothing!" I said defensively. "Just leave things to happen naturally Mama."
"What natural?" She said with an Arabic twang to her accent. Oh crap. Trouble. "What is more natural than this? Your father and I were together within a couple of days!"
"Ok." I really didn't want to talk about it. Disturbing imagery to say the least.
"How is he treating you anyway?" she began on a different note.
"He's perfect Madre, I'm being spoilt rotten," I said truthfully. I mean I realised marriage wasn't all happy moments. It was just a series of moments, how we viewed them determined if they were happy or not. And more important than anything in my life, I was determined to view everything positively. One negative thought could sway the boat and condemn us both to a life of misery. We didn't deserve it or want it, so why allow it to happen? It wasn't as hard as it might seem because he wasn't mistreating me or anything like that but it was daunting. Adapting to any new life had its speed bumps. I smiled at Adam, seeing him approach with the camera in his hand, lens still out as he took pictures of everything and knew it would be difficult at times but I'd have a fulfilled life with him.
"Madre?" he whispered to me and I nodded. He grinned and waved happily.
"Adam sends his salams," I said interrupting my mother's not so private conversation with Allah about how her daughter was causing her problems even after she'd gotten rid of her. Nice huh?
"Wa-alaikum as-salam," she said with a sigh to show she was calm again. I relayed the message and he smiled graciously. "Well, I won't keep you. I just called to hear your voice and tell you we all miss you. The boys are getting a little restless and your dad's the worst one out of them!"
"Well, I'll ring them when they're back from school," I promised. I missed them like crazy.
"I'd like to speak to Adam," she said and I hesitated, registering it wasn't a question and I couldn't refuse. Like I could refuse anything my mum wanted anyway!
"Ok, I love you," I said passing the phone to Adam. His eyebrows shot up as he put the phone to his ear and my heart fell. Of all the possibilities of things my mother could be saying right now! "Wow! I didn't know you loved me that much!"
Oh thank God!
How could we not visit a city called Cali? Sure, the Colombians spelt it with a 'C' instead of my 'K' but who was in the mood to be picky? Not me!
It wasn't that breathtaking, if we were to be really honest. Some beautiful architecture and tree-lined river banks but they did have the most awesome Zoo I'd ever been too. Mostly home to South American wildlife I gawped and pointed like a little child as we strolled through it.
"It's a shame London Zoo back home is so depressing," I said offhandedly to Adam as we past the ape section.
"No! London Zoo is wicked," Adam said defending our hometown. "It's just the weather helps here."
"It's cleaner and the visitors are nicer," I pointed out with a sigh."If I was a caged exotic animal I'd want to live here! Wouldn't you?" Adam looked down at me and smiled.
"Oh, Um Benedicto!" he said, using his nickname-of-the-moment for me. 'Um' meaning mother of and of course 'Benedicto' our supposed future son. "If you were here then of course!" I fanned my hands melodramatically and he chuckled, pulling them back down. "Too much cheese?"
"Positively tangy but no worries, I'm in the mood for savoury," I giggled with a wink at him and then looked around at the other visitors. Mostly locals, this wasn't a very touristy town and that was what I liked most about it. "Is it just me or are the women here ridiculously beautiful?"
"Are you trying to catch me out or something? You keep telling me to look at women!" Adam said confused.
"No, I'm serious. They're all models or something," I said focussing on one woman and her beautiful facial features, long flowing hair and slender body. Adam refused to look up from the ground. "Fine! You be honourable. I'll find someone else to agree with me!"
"Let's find somewhere to eat instead," Adam said with a laugh.
"Must be years of mixing Spanish, African and Native genes together," I mused as we made our way out of the zoo, I couldn't take my eyes off the local women even though it got Adam annoyed a little.
"I really miss Arabic food," Adam said trying to change the subject. I missed it too, I liked vegetables but living on them for more than two weeks was starting to grate on my nerves.
"I really miss home cooked food too."
"Hmm, me too," Adam said, looking around for something that might take our fancy. I know we both just wanted some of our mothers' cooking but that was impossible in a town this small.
"Look Adam!" I said pointing to an oriental looking woman and he followed it.
"Still on the women Um Benedicto?" he said frustrated.
"Well yeah, but I only meant that she might know of a Thai place here!" I said, raising an eyebrow when his face loosened up.
"That might be an idea," he said picking up his head and searching for her. "I should've known you'd come up with a clichéd idea like that!"
"Whatever! I'll keep my clichés and stereotypes for as long as they lead us to food!" I joked as we paced towards her.
"It's really hard to believe you come up with such original ideas for your scripts," he said to me. I smiled back and watched him begin a friendly conversation with the woman. I was right of course, she knew the best Thai place in the city. She gave me a funny look, focussed on the scarf covering my head and then turned back to Adam and gave us directions before wishing us happy travel and walking off.
"Never seen a Muslim or what!" I said bitterly and with squinted eyes. Adam smiled and took my hand.
"Probably not. Lucky you're a good ambassador eh?" he soothed patiently. Still. Did she have to look at me like that? I pouted to myself as we walked down the small cobbled street, looking at all the shop windows with interest. I stopped when I saw the cinema in the corner.
A movie poster caught my attention.
"Oh my God!" I said drifting closer to it. "I've never seen anything like it!"
"Really?" Adam said with surprise. I looked at him shocked. Had he seen it before? "I would've thought you'd see it often at work!"
"No!" I said outraged, turning back to it and scrunching up my nose. "Is that really what it looks like?"
"I'm afraid so," Adam said with a sigh, his arm around my waist tightening. "Are you disappointed?"
"No," I said tilting my head to see if changing the angle made it look different. "It's actually pretty cool though."
"Yeah, it grows on a guy!" Adam said with a nod. I looked up and read the name of the cinema and then back at the poster. I looked around at the half full streets. It didn't seem so out of the ordinary here, I wondered if they enjoyed that sort of thing around here.
"Oda a New México," I read out with excitement, my film had reached Colombia! The poster was a little out-there; it had all the boys coming out of the waterfall and Susan pointing her gun dangerously in the direction of Leah who was not dressed in much. I wondered if she knew this existed, I certainly hadn't been shown it.
A flash took my out of my thoughts and I saw Adam grinning at the screen on the camera and putting it back in his pocket.
"Come on Um Benedicto!" he said, pulling me with him. "We'll watch it after food and laugh at the bad dubbing!"
Deep in the Vinales valley of western Cuba at the Fernandez farm, with acres of beautiful landscape and filled with even more beautiful people. We'd been there for four days and already I felt as if I belonged there. His grandmother hugged me so tightly I wanted to cry from how good it felt. His Uncle actually picked me up and carried me into the house when we arrived for fear I'd get my shoes dirty. I'd explained that physical contact wasn't allowed before the wedding when I saw most of them for the first time but they didn't understand it then and my second attempt fell short of success and it wasn't because of my bad Spanish. Adam told me that they thought of me exactly like they did of Nancy, nothing Haraam about it, but he hovered around me despite it, I think more for my own peace of mind than his.
All this joy and laughter made for some silly activities; we'd jumped off cliffs and into the lake, scarf and all! We'd cycled haphazardly through the fogged out valley between trees and bushes and had the scars to prove it, we played a giant game of chess using various members of the family and we'd laughed all the way throughout and all this had inadvertently led to the showdown of all showdowns.
Pick your side now! Boy vs Girl. Husband vs Wife. Fernandez vs Saqr.
I let out a triumphant scoff in the face of my opponent. The Saqrs always win.
The birds sung in the trees flying freely whilst the whole town was in church and there was an intense eye lock.
"You can tap out now," he said twirling his strawberry between his fingers. I narrowed my eyes menacingly.
"Give up? Pah! Never!" I spat out, throwing my Sharon fruit from one hand to the other and back again.
"Alright," he chimed, taking a closer step through the crops of his family's farm. I braced myself into attack position and jumped on him, rubbing the fruit in his face and smearing it. He chuckled and stumbled back a couple of steps but recovered quick enough to trap me to him and squash the strawberry on my lips and nose.
Howls and raucous laughs, he threw me to the soft ground and picked more strawberries off the plants and rubbed them on my face.
"Adam!" I screamed out, choking on the bits that came into my mouth.
"Give up?" he said, holding me down from all the writhing around, my scarf, already tied loosely had all but fallen off.
"You wish!" I said, shuffling from under him and rolling away. Forget clean clothes or presentation. This had gone beyond that. I took off my white scarf and noticed that he'd stained it with strawberry juice!
"Accident," he said holding his hands up but still ready to fight off any attacks.
"This is war Fernandez."
"Bring it Blondie!" he chuckled heartily. I picked two handfuls of strawberry and waited for him to attack. My approach last time had left me vulnerable and I never made the same mistake twice.
"You scared?" I coaxed him. He raised an eyebrow and picked up more fruit before lunging at me. I dodged his grip and jumped on his back, stuffing strawberry in his ears and nose and mouth. Dirty tactics, I'll admit, but he had a height advantage and Saqrs never lose. He coughed and gargled and rolled me off him. I started to crawl away from him and the wrath that would be coming my way but he grabbed onto my ankle and dragged me back to him before I could make my escape. One leg on either side of me to pin down my arms he hovered over me as he sprinkled juice on me, it dribbled down my neck feeling cool against the intense summer heat.
"Lime juice?" I said, tasting it and closing my eyes for fear they would start to sting. Adam started laughing and stopped torturing me for long enough that I could sit up and push him back, effectively swapping the position so that I was at the point of advantage. That's when my brain kicked into gear and realised our position; straddling him, dirty from head to toe and in the middle of his family's fruit crops. There was no way we'd be caught of course, not until the service finished in an hour or so but still the minute chance of it happening made me nervous.
Though not nervous enough to forgot propriety when he sat up straighter. We were nose to nose. He rubbed his against mine tentatively and smiled, biting his lip. His hand gripped my arms and he pressed his lips to my mouth. Before I could fully appreciate what it felt like to be kissed for the first time he pulled away quickly and smiled as he licked his lips.
"Fruit cocktail," he said looking at me through lowered lashes.
"Brings a whole new meaning to juicy lips," I said with a small smile. He burst into laughter and held my head in his hands.
"I love you," he said softly, moving closer and giving me the kiss I'd been waiting a very long time for.
I'd had the most excellent time exploring South America with Adam but Cuba was where I felt our honeymoon would peak and it was far from over. It was the warmth that exuberated from its people and it was the love I felt off the Fernandez clan despite them only barely knowing me. It was enough for them that Adam knew and loved me, they loved me too. I couldn't help but be humbled by all the attention and I knew that the joy of that feeling was more important that all the times I'd feel a little exasperated at life, or annoyed with Adam or bogged down with work from my boss or work in my home. I knew then that this was the life I wanted to have for the both of us, no matter where we lived or who we lived with, the life that made us want to run back home and into each other's arms.
Perhaps it was merely the wishful thinking of a newlywed but by Allah, I'd try and prove it for all I was worth.
Besides, Saqrs always win.
A/N - so...a small vignette to acompany Scarfy in the Middle written as a thank you to all the SitM readers, supporters, reviews...I love you guys. You may/may not have read it before...it's not essential but it gives you the background of the characters...it might seem odd otherwise but *shrugs*
so yes, it's a little bit different to SitM...but I hope you like it.
*celebratory ululating* SitM has won Innocence Award - Judges' pick at the Skow awards!! Woop woop!! *smiles manically*
Special thanks to Aderyn! A big fat kiss being sent via cyber space!
And again thanks to all readers and reviewers because I can't thank you enough!
PS - Adam and Khalila return in Part two of the Islamically-friendly tale: Scarfy in the Middle; Steps to Paradise Coming soon to a screen near you!