WHAT? Where had that come from? That wasn't on the table. How could I say that? Why did I say that? Did I even say that? Judging by the look on her face, it was safe to assume I did.
"Sorry, that just came out, don't an-"
"-swer that. It ju.. What? Sorry, come again?"
YES? She said yes? No reaction, just an extremely confused look on my face. After that initial few seconds, YES I thought. I could not be happier. This was the moment I had waited for just under a year. She said yes. She said yes. But now everything was out in the open, it felt a little awkward for some obscure reason. As in, I love her, and the feeling is mutual, why was it awkward? I thought it might have just been a sense of embarrassment from both sides so in my attempt to break this uncomfortable silence, I asked her what would happen next. I just looked at her, she was looking down and her cheeks had gone red. Judging by the vacant looks on both our faces, we really didn't know what we were getting ourselves into. Neither of us had been in that situation before, and neither of us had a clue on what to expect from each other. I just knew I wanted to be with her for the remainder of my life and the life after, and looking at her go red and wearing that faultless smile of hers, I suspected that was her view too. We had a lot to talk about, and soon enough, the awkwardness died down and we were back to our usual lively chatter and laughter. We done a lot of talking, so much so, Enrico made it quite obvious that although I happened to be a friend of Diego's, he wasn't going to keep the place open all night for us. So we thanked him and left, and as an engagement present, he said we could do the engagement party at the restaurant were the engagement was first declared, which was extremely gracious of him.
The euphoria I felt from the previous night made me walk on air, but the problems in locating LuJayne were keeping me grounded. I had a meeting with my solicitor that day which over ran because they had put some form of legal barrier which stopped me from attempting to locate her and we were trying to find a way around that. That delay consequently turned into a gift from Allah as while we were in a heated debate about the situation, I had received a call from the kind nurse telling me that she had located her. It seemed like there was finally a door I could walk into, through the nurse of course. A few arrangements later and a lot of happiness, we arrived at LuJayne's location. She had been put into a Children's Home until her foster parents signed the papers. Mrs Vorssell, the lady in charge of the home, had allowed us to see LuJayne for a brief period of time. Maya and I were in the same wavelength again as both our dormant thoughts finally emerged; WE could be her foster parents. There will not be two people on God's green earth that would love her more than us, and she would not be happier anywhere else other than in our arms. It was the perfect solution. I had my dream home, my dream girl, my dream family, and my dream car.
We spoke to the Social Services the very same day, and told them of our plan. We had presented our case so convincingly, with the help of the very kind nurse and my trusted lawyer that Mrs Vorssell was blown away. She had been sympathetic with our struggle so far, and immediately wrote a letter of recommendation. We left the Children's Home with our hearts content while my lawyer stayed behind to finalise some stuff and where to take it from there. I took Maya to a meal to meet my friends after arranging to meet them to tell them the news of our engagement.
There was laughter and chatter all around, our hearts were gratified. My friends took an immediate liking to her, with one of them even threatening me if I ever mistreated Maya. She had that aura about her that drew everyone closer to her. She was my Sun, and everyone was helpless to her gravitational pull. The big question was finally asked:
"So, Ibrahim, tell us, who is the Best Man?"
Thankfully, this is not a must in the Arabic culture, we just don't have 'Best Man', but it is nice to have one anyway. That instance, I wish that wasn't the case, but true to my mysterious nature:
"All will be revealed in due time. Patience is a virtue." and left it as that.
A few weeks passed, and I had been working on my business plan while my lawyer prepared the legal documents for LuJayne. In the mean time, Maya was planning the wedding meticulously down to the smallest of details. Her and her trustee group of friends organised everything, which meant I could concentrate on making sure that I had a regular means of income without work being the only source. I needed to make sure that we would be comfortable enough to live to the means I have grown accustomed to and to prove I was responsible for LuJayne. Since looking for LuJayne was a full time, unpaid, job, I had to live on my savings for that whole time, but for legal reasons, I needed to make sure that my accounts were in check in order to prove I can provide for LuJayne. The only immediate fix I had was to call my ex-place of work and ask for my job back. My father had taught me from a very young age that there was no shame in earning honest money to make sure your family were comfortable. This was an honest job, and although I felt extremely small for asking for my old job back, I had my father's words in the back of my head guiding me in the right path. Thankfully, the CEO gave me my job back as he never really wanted me to leave anyway. Even though I now had my job back, I didn't really want to stay there forever, this was just temporary until my business picks up, and I could spend more time with my family, the only place I really wanted to be with.
My friends done everything they could to help in any way. They helped me paint my flat, throw old furniture out and put the new furniture in. They took time off work to help Maya fulfil some of the wedding plans where I couldn't take time off. I never really asked work for any time off as they were doing me a favour for allowing back in, and in a short time, I would take holiday time to have my wedding and honeymoon, so it seemed a little unjust to ask for the time off, even though I knew I would have been granted it.
Two months had passed since the day we found LuJayne, and with the wedding just around the corner, I had to choose my best man. The choice was quite easy as, although I had a group of friends that were there closest people I have to brothers, there were two that I had known for the better part of my life. They happened to be actual brothers from another mother, Karim and Ekrem. It was the obvious choice for me as they had been in my life through every trial and tribulation I had faced, and since I couldn't choose between them, I decided for both.
The wedding was coming up the following week, and still I had been adamant that I would not take any time off, despite the desperate cries from Maya. She wanted things to go so perfect, she didn't want to risk me not organising some of the last minute necessary details. I had just passed this responsibility on to my best men, after all, that was what they were there for. Dante, who lived in Spain due to a job offer that he couldn't refuse, had organised my honeymoon to be there. He got us the best villa with its own private beach at a slightly worrying cost, but I just thought of Maya in a bikini and without hesitation, I decided to go for it. Maya in a bikini, my imagination often ran away with me with that image.
Dante even managed to sneak in two wave-runners from a local guy for free, that was supposedly his wedding present for us. Diego and Enrico got the restaurant ready for our wedding as we had decided not to have an engagement party because of the lack of free time. I briefly saw the outline of the design and I couldn't thank Enrico enough, it was simply amazing. Karim and his wife managed to organise the Imam to oversee the marriage, and as a surprise, they brought in some of the most beautiful voices to recite Islamic songs of praise, but Ekrem tells me everything, so the surprise was foiled. Ekrem had gone back and forth with Maya and Dalia, one of her friends, running all the normal tasks that no one wanted to do, but I suspected he volunteered as eagerly as he did, as he took a liking to Dalia. Maya thought so too, but we didn't say anything at the time, we thought we'd get ourselves sorted out before trying to play matchmakers for others. Ms Willow had helped Maya pick the flowers and the arrangement for them, with Enrico's permission of course. He was a perfectionist. I had told Maya not to intervene with what Enrico had planned for the restaurant, to just leave it to him as it was already perfect. She just had to pick the flowers, but Maya wouldn't be Maya if she didn't have some sort of input into matters.
My nerves took the better of me. It was the moment I had been waiting for a long time, and with so much going on around me, it seemed all too surreal to me. I just saw things in fast forward. People seemed to walk so fast, I could just catch a glimpse. Karim and Ekrem had stayed the night with me just talking. They were there to make sure I didn't break down or something, I wasn't exactly sure what they were there for, but I was grateful anyway. That morning, Karim had returned home to get ready with his wife and he was going to meet me there. Ekrem stayed with me and we would go together to Enrico's little made up paradise for us. Ekrem had hired a car for us to travel in style to the hotel after the wedding, which meant we had to use the Aston to get to Enrico's, so he pointed out. I later found out this was a clever ploy deployed by Ekrem to get me to give him the keys to the Aston, and I didn't have a choice as it was too late for anything otherwise. Dalia had called me to make sure I was getting ready and that I wasn't going to be late, to which, I reassured her, and Maya, that everything was going well from my side. I also got reassured that things ran smoothly from their end too.
When we finally got there, Enrico had really out done himself, the place was absolutely magical. He had thought of everything, the seating plans, the cake, the food, the place where the actual ceremony would take place, the two thrones were Maya and I would sit, down to the last detail. It was amazing. Maya would be so happy with this, she would be speechless, and that didn't happen often. Diego seemed pretty smug with himself as if he done all that himself, but if it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be blessed with this sight anyway.
I had been upset that Dante had already said he couldn't make it as work did not give him any time off, but I saw him chatting away to some of the guests and felt so happy, I thought my eyes might've been deceiving me. I was still at the entrance, finalising minute details so I hadn't had a chance to kill him for making me think that, but everything was so surreal I probably would have allowed him to get away with that.
That summed up the night in all honesty. No one had gotten us gifts as such; they were more like surprises disguised as gifts in an attempt to make it the most special of days, and it worked wonders. Diego had flown in enough authentic Italian ice cream from Sicily to fill each and every guest three times over. Karim had hired a pilot to fly his CEO's private jet to take us to Spain and bring us back. Ekrem had my suit made by my favourite designer. I didn't even know about that until the week before the wedding. Karim and I have exactly the same build, so he used him for measurements. He got me the whole thing, the suit, tie, shirt, cufflinks, and shoes. The rest was graciously left to me. Dante had gotten my favourite Iraqi singer to sing at the wedding. I later found out that he is one of Dante's clients' cousins. How he got him was the last thing on my mind, I was just so happy he was there. Zachariah had designed, alongside Maya, all the invitations for the wedding. Nadia was Maya's right hand girl, and was at the core of every decision made, and her present came in the form of the main attraction, the cake. She had handmade the 6-layered cake and all the icing and design by herself and presented it to us as a gift which she assures us will blow our minds away. Lily, who had been Maya's Manager in her previous work, was a photographer, and she had decided that she, and only she, would do the honour. She would package it in the usual wedding album, and she would have one main one enlarged to hang on our wall, although I wasn't too fond of that idea, but it was nice. She also decided that a nice picture was to taken right in the beginning; and she would ensure that her team would work in the back to print this onto small wooden box filled with small size Quran and Prayer book as complimentary bags.
Nadia's car pulled up outside and this blinding beauty walked out from the back seat that literally took my breath away. She had this magical power that hypnotised everyone. She walked in and the only sound to break the, what seemed like, minute's silence was the sound of my favourite Iraqi singer. He had prepared a song for this moment as a favour for his cousin, to which I was extremely grateful. He sang words so pure, so thaumaturgical; tears ran down from every understanding eye. His words were so enchanting, for a brief second, I took my gaze of awe away from Maya and transferred it to him, but only for that very, very brief second in time, then my gaze resumed to my one true love.
She was the very definition of true beauty. She did not walk; she glided across the pathway when she emerged from the car. Her glow rivalled the perfection of the setting of the Sun. Her dress accentuated her every curve, my mouth locked in a stance of awe. Her hair danced with the faint wind, even time had to take a moment to catch its breath. I was scared to death at this point. If I skipped anymore heartbeats, I would surely die there and then, but I would go down happy at least. Never before had one person has such control over me, never before had I loved one person with every fibre of my body. She was the essence that kept my heart beating, even though that was rare, the very breath that fills my lungs. She teased my soul; threatening me to escape into hers. She sent shivers down my spine, an angel glided before me. She slid her hands into mine, and the very touch of her soft bronze skin made my knees betray me. Deep inside, I was a mess, and I didn't even have the energy to walk to our thrones, I had used it all up watching her walk towards me. She squeezed my hand and rested her head against my shoulder, and looked up into my eyes, as if a transference of power flowed within me, I could walk again. Slowly, with privilege, I escorted my queen to our marital thrones.
The Imam started his speech about what marriage life entailed and what Islam required of us and all people in the world.
"A man and woman had been married for more than 60 years. They shared everything. They talked about everything. They kept no secrets from each other except that the little old woman had a shoebox in the top of her closet that she had cautioned her husband never to open or ask her about.
For all of these years, he never thought about the shoebox, but one day the little old woman got very sick and the doctor said she would not recover. In trying to sort out their affairs, the little old man took down the shoebox and took it to his wife's bedside. She agreed that it was time that he should know what was in the shoebox.
When he opened it, he found two crocheted dolls and a stack of money totalling £25,000. He asked her about the contents. "When we were to be married," she said, "my grandmother told me the secret of a happy marriage was to never argue. She told me that if I ever got angry with you, I should just keep quiet and crochet a doll."
The little old man was so moved; he had to fight back tears. Only two precious dolls were in the shoebox. She had only been angry with him two times in all those years of living and loving. He almost burst with happiness "Honey," he said, "that explains the doll, but what about all of this money? Where did it come from?" "Oh," the little old woman said, "That's the money I made from selling the dolls."
Rapturous laughter filled the place, but you could see in everyone's eye, they understood the meaning of the story. The time came when he declared we were husband and wife.
"Husband and Wife..." I thought to myself "...I'm her husband, and she's my wife. My wife."
The speeches followed after the shrill of joy from the women, and the stomping of the floor from the men. I just wanted to jump on her, to just embrace her. I have longed for this moment for a very long time, I didn't want to waste another minute, but my mother taught me better than that. I wished my mother was there, I had been thinking about her since the crash occurred. I just wanted to hug her so tight, to make her make me feel better about everything, to tell me that she would always be there for me when I needed her. She would have loved Maya, she would have treated Maya like her own daughter, and I know Maya would treat her like the mother she never knew. I guess some wishes, no matter how hard you want them to, would never come true. The singer started singing the traditional wedding songs while everyone came up to our thrones to congratulate us.
I thought about LuJayne at that time and thought about life with her. How would that be like? There were so many flashes from the cameras that everything became a blur. In between the flashes, from my confusion, I thought I could see LuJayne's face just smiling at us, running towards us with her thick black hair and fair face. She even spoke a little bit of Arabic and a lot of English by that time. During the flashes and the chatter and the laughter with friends and distant family from both sides, I received a sharp pain on my arm from Maya's pinch. She looked at me and pointed towards the singer. I looked closely, and it was LuJayne, her and my favourite Iraqi singer. I ran towards her clutching her so tightly. Joyous tears were building up in my now swollen eyes. That was the icing on top of the cake, that was the feeling of perfect weightlessness that people raved about in their most happy of moments. That was my most happy of moments. The kind nurse's wedding gift to us was the most special of all, it was the completion of my life's puzzle, and nothing could top this night, nothing.
The remainder of the night was spent eating, and dancing, and laughing and crying. It was Maya's perfect wedding come to life, and it was her smile that brought me to life. A good few hours and many tears later, we climbed into our chauffer driven Phantom, ready to embark on our journey of life together. Karim had secretly organised a bus to follow our car to perform the traditional wedding day celebrations in Iraq, loud music, shrilling, and the un-harmonious honking of the cars, but that was essentially what every wedding had to have to make it perfect, so much so, some people regard this as the main part of the ceremony. The constant portable party followed us with all its glory all the way to the hotel which we had decided to stay in until we left for Spain.
"Oh wow my stomach hurts. I haven't laughed like that for so long, I almost forgot this feeling. It was good, wasn't it?"
She was sitting on the chair in the hotel room taking off her shoes while I was lying on the bed face down, until she said those words. I smiled at her, content, happy that she was my wife.
"Good? No it wasn't, it was amazing. The place was beautiful, the food was delicious, the music was pumping, and everyone was genuinely happy. Not forgetting LuJayne of course, the icing on top of the cake. Oh yes, and the cake was delicious too. Besides, I looked beautiful, LuJayne looked beautiful, and you, well, you didn't look too bad I guess! So no, it wasn't good."
I just looked at her, she was looking down and her cheeks had gone red, smiling that famous cheeky smile of hers. No words needed to be said, we just communicated in that universal language of a thing called love. Maya. That one name freed me from all the weight and pain in life. Two hearts merged into one in the form of marriage, two souls merged into one was just pure fate.
"What lies behind us, and what lies before us are tiny matters to what lies within us" – Ralph Waldo Emerson.